Category: Indigenous people
To group the spiritual beliefs of the peoples of an entire continent into one section may seem ridiculous, but there is a remarkable homogeneity about the beliefs of all the African peoples. If we exclude Northern Africa, cut off by the Sahara from the rest of Africa, and where the Ancient Egyptian culture influenced much of the rest of this area - the African continent contains a set of belief systems that, despite language differences and ethnicity, seems almost universal in its common understanding of the spiritual realm.
Superficially, at first sight, there can appear to be significant differences, but these, on further study, are because different names are given to the same thing. There has also been a slow erosion of some beliefs due to the spread of Islam and Christianity, but in those areas which have managed to remain free of these systems, the belief systems are common.
Rather intriguingly, the belief systems have remained strong and active in the West Indies in areas like Haiti, where vodou predominates. Perhaps even more intriguingly they share a great deal with cultures like that of the Australian aborigine and other largely shamanic cultures.
I have separated out the observations of two very influential and prominent African men from the ones in this section, Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, who is a Zulu Sangoma and Sanusi from South Africa, and Ogotemmeli, who was a blind 'wise man' from the Dogon in Africa. Credo Mutwa has written a number of excellent books that describe his practise; and Professor Griaule, an anthropologist, after a period of over 15 years of study of the Dogon culture, was granted a series of conversations with Ogotemmeli over a 33 day time span which is documented in a series of books.
What marks out the observations in this section is that they have been predominantly made by non Africans, which is less than satisfactory, but was the best I could do given the paucity of information from local Africans themselves. There are two reasons for this. First, many locals do not speak or write English or a European language. Secondly, Africans live their beliefs, they have little need to write them down for the benefit of anyone else.
Given their experience of Europeans, who came, saw, conquered and then in some cases plundered and attempted to convert them to their own culture without in any way attempting to learn anything of theirs, I have great sympathy for them in their resistance to recording anything. Why bother to devote long hours telling some academic with not an ounce of spiritual feeling in his dry old bones about your beliefs. What point is there? A materialistic academic simply wouldn't understand.
There are exceptions, in 1989 David Wilson, who has an academic background in law, traveled to southwest Nigeria where he became a member of Egbe Ifa Ogun ti Ode Remo which is a society of Yoruba diviners living in the west African rain forest. At this time he was given the name AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi and has continued his study of traditional Yoruba spirituality on four subsequent trips to Nigeria.
And Adrian Bosher, also immersed himself in the culture of the people he met and learnt a great deal. It was left to Lyall Watson to document what Adrian learnt however; it seems that those who live the life of Africa, simply want to revel in that life and feel no compunction to write about it.
Africa is the world's second-largest continent. At about 30.2 million km² (11.7 million sq mi) including adjacent islands, it covers six percent of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4 percent of the total land area. Africa straddles the equator and encompasses numerous climate areas; it is the only continent to stretch from the northern temperate to southern temperate zones
As of 2013, it was the second-most-populous continent, with 1.1 billion people, about 15% of the world's human population. Africa's population is the youngest among all the continents; 50% of Africans are 19 years old or younger.
Politically, the continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos and has 54 fully recognized sovereign states ("countries"), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. Algeria is Africa's largest country by area, and Nigeria is the largest by population.
Political boundaries do not match linguistic boundaries, which has of course caused considerable tensions in the area. Nor do they match ethnic groups, another source of conflict. Ethnic groups in Africa number in the thousands, each generally having its own language (or dialect of a language) and culture.
The largest ethnic groups mostly originate from major historic political kingdoms, such as in West Africa with the Sahelian kingdoms of the medieval period, like that of the Akan, deriving from Bonoman (11th century) then the Kingdom of Ashanti (17th century) and in Central Africa with the Kanuri of the Kanem and Bornu Empires.
Africans may bemoan the impact of the Europeans on their political boundaries, but problems like this are worldwide. The Scottish in Great Britain consider themselves a separate nation from the English and have been campaigning to become independent ever since I was a toddler. The French speaking and Flemish speaking in Belgium have long wished to become separate entities. That's politics for you.
Wikipedia has a reasonable entry for the Ethnic groups in Africa and has a number of tables showing ethnic names, language, country and population. If I list the ethnic groups with a population of over 20 million we have
- Oromo in Ethiopia (ca. 33 million)
- Amhara in Ethiopia (ca. 25 million)
- Berber in Mauritania, Morocco (including Western Sahara), Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya (ca. 150 million)
- Copt in Egypt and Sudan (ca. 40 million)
- Hausa in Nigeria, Niger, Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Chad and Sudan (ca. 50 million)
- Fula in Guinea, Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Chad, Sudan, Togo and Ivory Coast (ca. 40 million)
- Yoruba in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Sierra Leone (ca. 40 million)
- Igbo in Nigeria (ca. 30 million)
- Mande peoples in The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Mauritania and Chad (ca. 30 million)
- Akan in Ghana and Ivory Coast (ca. 20 million)
To put this in perspective the Hausa as an ethnic group has almost the same population of people as the entire UK. This 1996 map of the major ethnolinguistic groups of Africa, is from the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division (substantially based on G.P. Murdock, Africa, its peoples and their cultural history, 1959). Color-coded are major 15 ethnolinguistic super-groups, as follows:
Witch doctors and sorcerors
A witch doctor in African tribal society is a shaman, healer, and a person capable of dealing with 'evil'. This evil can be the scourge of disease or the evil of men, a sorceror being a shaman who has turned 'evil', whose actions hurt and harm his fellow men and creatures. A witch doctor in contrast is supposed to follow the path of Love and 'don't hurt'. He or she is there to help his fellow men and women and creatures.
Those marked out to become witch doctors go through an extremely lengthy initiation process with numerous stages, not dissimilar to many of the Mystery religions. A child may be identified because of their inherited genes, or because of an illness. Epilepsy was at one time an indicator of great potential power to African tribal cultures and was channelled into productive use, as was blindness and what we in the west term autistic behaviour. On the whole, the more unusual the child the better.
The observations provide a good overview of beliefs, linking as they do to the generic concepts found in all spiritually based belief systems. Briefly however, the belief systems in Africa are based on the existence of the Egg which is formed of the customary and identical levels and layers recognised in other systems. The centre of the Egg has the Ultimate Intelligence, which has a host of different names, but is always defined in the same way.
The actual creation and the ongoing evolution, creation and destruction of the universe has been delegated to the Intelligences, organised in exactly the way I have described in the section on the Intelligence hierarchy.
If we take just one example from African tribal beliefs, the Loa spirits in Voudoo are just like the spirits in Shinto or the Intelligences in the Hindu religion. The purpose of the Loa is to bring order to the cosmos, as such they are the same as Intelligences. In Voudoo there well are over 500 Loas, with a recognition that as there is ‘contrast’ in creation, there are ‘good and bad’ loas, meaning good or bad from the point of view of men. These Intelligences have a personality just as they do in the Greek, Roman, Indian, Tibetan etc systems. For example
- Baron – caretaker of the dead and father of ancestors
- Erzulie – the Loa of love and protection
- Gran Bwa – god of forests and Nature natural healer
- La Sirene – the queen of the underwater world
- Agive – the ocean god who holds in balance the sky and the sea
- Ogoun – a warrior
One can see a direct correspondence at times between the characteristics and the Planets.
Needless to say the existence of Spirit, Energy and Chaos is hardly even questioned, it is a given. Whatever debate occurs revolves around the Tree of life - the Intelligence hierarchy and what Intelligences actually exist rather than the existence of a spirit realm.
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- African shaman performing levitation
- African tribal art - Orans
- Alfred Watkins - Ugandan ley lines
- Andrew Lang - Malagasy far seeing
- Andrew Lang - Off to see the elephants
- AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi - And the concept of 'alien' spirits
- AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi - Dogs are the messengers of the wind
- AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi - Making rain and lightning
- AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi - Ifa, the Wisdom of Nature
- AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi - Rekindling kundalini to invoke new powers
- AwoFa'lokun Fatunmbi - Yoruba martial arts
- Bambara - the 'Sirius system'
- Blacking, Professor John – How musical is man? - Venda dancing, drumming and the trance state
- Blacking, Professor John – How musical is man? - Venda dancing, tshilombe and spirit possession
- Blacking, Professor John – How musical is man? - Venda music and the search for transcendence
- David Lewis-Williams - the Xam and Rain
- David Lewis-Williams - the Xam and the Unmoving mover
- David Lewis-Williams - Bull roarers
- David Lewis-Williams - Ju hoansi San
- David Lewis-Williams - The San go down the rabbit hole
- David Lewis-Williams - The San [Xam] bushmen and the thread of life
- David Livingstone - The matokwane smokers and cannabis
- Dogon - And Digitaria
- Dogon - The features of Digitaria - the 'seed'
- Dogon - The Order of creation
- Dogon - The system of Initiation into the Mysteries
- Doris Green & Tracy Snipe - N’Deup
- Doris Green - The Takai of Ghana
- Dr Allan Hamilton - In the Gabon, meets Outeen
- Dr J C Barker - Saved from a death prayer by a special medicine
- Dr J C Barker - The auto-suggestive power of curses and death prayers
- Dr Robert Crookall - More Astral projections – Gold Coast Natives
- Dr Stephen Black - The trances of the babalawos, or witch doctors, of the Yoruba people
- Dr William Sargant - The Traditional healers of the Luo tribe in Kenya
- Dr William Sargant - The Traditional healing of the Samburu
- Dr William Sargant – On the use of making love and drumming in curing neuroses
- Dr William Sargant – She realized that she had climbed Jacob's Ladder into Heaven
- Dr William Sargant – The Initiation ceremony of the Macumba of Brazil and Orisha cult, from Nigeria and Dahomey
- Dr William Sargant – The priest put out his tongue and drove a large iron spike through it
- Dr William Sargant – Using plants to heal and dreams to diagnose
- Dr William Sargant – Voodoo in Haiti and being 'mounted' by the loa
- Dr William Sargant – Voodoo in Haiti and the possession of Lavinia Williams
- Dr William Sargant – Voodoo in Haiti. And their gods live in them and they live in their gods
- Dr William Sargant – Zar healing
- Engel, C - On the role of magicians
- Engel, C - The Khoikhoi and celestial music
- Felix Begho - Aladura
- Friedson, Steven M - Dancing the disease; music and trance in Tumbuku healing – Part 01
- Friedson, Steven M - Dancing the disease; music and trance in Tumbuku healing – Part 02
- Friedson, Steven M - Dancing the disease; music and trance in Tumbuku healing – Part 03
- Ghanaian Khente cloth
- Hans Peter Duerr - The Aurraninkalla of the Bambara
- Haunted by ghosts: Prevalence, predictors and outcomes of spirit possession experiences among former child soldiers and war-affected civilians in Northern Uganda
- Hogons of Dyon - The Shoemaker
- Ian Cunnison - Hallucinations caused by giraffes
- Janzen, John M - Theories of music in African ngoma healing – Part 1
- Janzen, John M - Theories of music in African ngoma healing – Part 2
- Janzen, John M - Theories of music in African ngoma healing – Part 3
- Janzen, John M - Theories of music in African ngoma healing – The symbolism of the crab
- Joseph Campbell - Kung dancing
- Konso - Waga statues
- Laubscher, B J F - Constable laGrange was hit over the head with a broom while no one was anywhere near him
- Laubscher, B J F - Outa Jantjes and the case of the phantom woman and child
- Laubscher, B J F - Outa Jantjes and the dead folk with arms of wind
- Laubscher, B J F - Outa Jantjes, the Bushman and going OBE in his dreams
- Laubscher, B J F – The amaxhwele herbalists, the amagqira healers and the isanuses
- Laubscher, B J F – The amazing powers of Soloman Daba
- Laubscher, B J F – The amazing powers of Soloman Daba, and the dance with ukwombelela
- Laubscher, B J F – The amazing powers of Soloman Daba, prophecy
- Laubscher, B J F – The diviners or isanuses among the Amaxosa people
- Laubscher, B J F – The schizophrenics and epileptics who are ukutwasa and the rites associated with the Abantubomlambo
- Lemba - And the disease of capitalism
- Lyall Watson - Aido-Hwedo
- Lyall Watson - Diviners and initiation by water beings
- Lyall Watson - Drumming for rain
- Lyall Watson - Makgabeng
- Lyall Watson - On African totem groups
- Lyall Watson - Snakes
- Lyall Watson - The Lightning Bird
- Lyall Watson - Trance dancing as a cure
- Mary Kingsley - Charms from a Bantu medicine man
- Melville Jean Herskovits - The Dahomey god of snake like things
- Mircea Eliade - African tribal beliefs of God
- Mircea Eliade - On rain, thunder and lightning
- Mircea Eliade - Pygmy Moon festival
- Mircea Eliade - The Bantu cosmology
- Mircea Eliade – The Antaivandrika
- Mircea Eliade – The Tree in Africa and the Indus valley
- Momo Wandel Soumah - Felenko Yefe
- Music therapy - The Gnawa, the hadra, gumbri, ganga, and qeraqeb
- Nigerian girl sees her distant dying father
- Omari and Isa Hassan - On the role of ngoma healing [tr Emmanuel Makala]
- Omofolabo Soyinka Ajayi - The Sango mounts his horse
- Omofolabo Soyinka Ajayi - The transcendental dance
- Paul Devereux - Num and shape shifting
- Paul Devereux - The Bushmen of the Kalahari
- Paul Devereux - The Giraffe Dance, Drum Dance and Trees Dance
- PubMed paper - Beer and anaemia
- PubMed paper - Naawtal, spells and wind
- PubMed paper - Sleeping sickness and psychosis
- PubMed paper - Xhosa healing using drumming and ritual
- Rev J H Bernau - from Missionary Labours in British Guiana
- Rev J H Bernau - Incantations in British Guiana
- Richard Katz - Kung healer
- Robert Farris Thompson - On Challenging gravity
- Robert W Nicholls - Hausa Bori
- Robert W Nicholls - Masebe
- Ross Heaven - Vodou Bat guerre
- Ross Heaven - Vodou, Hobs and the Loa
- Tales of the Trickster
- The Calculation of the Sigui - By the Dogon, the Bambara, the Bozo and the Minianka
- The Healing Wisdom of Birds – Lesley Morris - Feather fans
- The NDE of Curma the Senator
- The Rev.W. Matiti - a Basuto evangelist - had seen his physical body surrounded by mourners
- The Thembalethu AIDs/HIV support centre in South Africa – Music and dance to help the carers
- Tracy D Snipe - Shango
- Vimbuza - from S. Friedson – Dancing prophets
- Wikipedia - The Fon creation myth
- William Seabrook - Describes Vodou
- William Seabrook - Nago-ba metaphysics and the nature of the universe
- William Seabrook - The Hougoun and the Trinity
- William Seabrook - White monk of Timbuctoo
- Xam bushmen - And the moon
- Xam bushmen - And tunnels
- Xam bushmen - Anteater and lynx
- Xam bushmen - Creating the sun
- Xam bushmen - Creation myth
- Xam bushmen - Footpaths in the sky
- Xam bushmen - Goes underwater
- Xam bushmen - Hollow mountain
- Xam bushmen - Num dom
- Xam bushmen - Story of the hare
- Xam bushmen - The moon that was once his shoe
- Xam bushmen - The sun's penis
- Yoruba creation myth