Ancient Africa

Religions: There are many religions in Ancient Africa.  Often, each tribe practices their own unique religion.  However these religions do have traits in common.

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                Tribal Ceremony Mask                         Example of Divination

Beliefs and Ceremonies: Most religious ceremonies involve a ritualistic chant and dance.  Participants often excite themselves so much that they get into a hypnotized state while they chant.  Tribal Religions are often regional and similar to each other in various geographic areas of Africa (Northeastern, for example).  

        One common Bantu Ceremony involves changing, singing, dancing and role playing as various gods and spirits.  This ceremony is conducted for the entire tribe.  Detailed masks (like the one above and to the left) are worn to symbolize the gods, spirits, and sometimes even important ancestors.  These rituals are carefully prepared for and carried out.

Most tribal religions are polytheistic, although many believe that one god is supreme to all others, much like in Ancient Greek and Roman Society.  Other religions have the belief of a dual god and goddess, which exist together.  Most religions also recognize ancestors as important spirits.  They are often prayed to and called upon in ceremonies.

Most religions believe in a cyclic nature of being.  They believe there is a link between their ancestors and future generations.  Most tribes also heavily believe in symbols that can be found in nature such as moon phases, tides, and storms.  They believe these symbolize the gods and their wishes.

Divination: Divination is the process of trying to determine what gods want.  In most Ancient African Tribes, this was practiced by Oracles.  While the exact method of Divination varied greatly in ancient societies, most Oracles use items found in nature to determine the gods’ will.  Most religious symbols in Ancient Africa directly have to do with Divination.

Life and Death

        Most tribes believe that upon death, those who have lived a good life become an ancestor spirit.  These spirits can communicate with and influence the living.  There are specific ceremonies for communicating with the spirits.  Like most other religious beliefs, while they are slightly different from tribe to tribe, these ceremonies often have more similarities than differences.  They also are most similar within the same geographic region of Ancient Africa.