African indigenous religions
DOI link for African indigenous religions
African indigenous religions book
This chapter introduces African indigenous religions. It begins by discussing some problems regarding terminology and approach. Although the traditions, when considered together, are sometimes referred to as African Traditional Religion in the singular, the chapter argues that African indigenous religions are actually innumerable as they are entwined with ethnicity. This chapter also problematizes the term “traditional” and prefers the term “indigenous” because these religions originate from the continent, are dynamic and a vital part of contemporary Africa. The chapter further takes issue with scholars who have been slow to acknowledge African indigenous systems of belief and practice as “religion” because these did not appear to fit the Western definition of what “religion” is. Instead, this chapter focuses on what religions do: they orient practitioners to what is sacred and significant; they reveal and engage the invisible sources of spiritual power; they distinguish adherents by establishing their unique identity in relation to divinity; and they empower practitioners. This is demonstrated with reference to characteristic ritual practices, like initiation, divination and possession trance, critical mythological themes, like Tricksters as co-creators and mediators, as well as associated material forms, like altars and masks. The chapter thus helps avoid reifying “religion” as something distinct from lived engagement. By emphasizing the concrete reality of all religions in practice, we do not mean to suggest that religious philosophy, ethics, or other formal systems of thought are non-existent or unimportant. Rather, by shifting the focus of attention from religious ortho-doxy (right thinking) to ortho-praxy (right practice), we can better appreciate ways in which African indigenous religions are commensurate with the so-called world religions.