African Traditional Religion: Triumphs of Rituals
by Kwabena Dei Ofori-Attah
The bedrock of African traditional religion is faith; faith based upon dogmatism. It is that kind of faith that does not call for any hard evidence. Again, it is that kind of faith that does not engage in metaphysics. It is simply "what was will be." In most cases, perception, intuition or the presence of a perplexing event can have a compelling effect on the belief system. Nothing is taken for granted when it comes to traditional religion. An individual may challenge the gods at his or her own risk. This does not in any way mean that all Africans have a common traditional religious practices. There are variations but they are not strong enough to blur the common strands that give Africa its distinctive religious practices.
Another important aspect of African traditional religion is the presence of spirits. In the African world, spirits are everywhere-in persons, trees, rivers, animals, rocks, mountains, and even in automobiles and other personal effects. The presence of these spirits in the African society offers a serious challenge to the behavior patterns of the people on the continent and elsewhere because traditional religious practices permeates every aspect of life on the continent. These spirits in many ways act as moral entrepreneurs of the African society. They abhor crimes like adultery, stealing, cheating, and suicide.These spirits communcate their wishes, demands and prescriptions to the larger society through the traditional priests. These traditonal priests are able to satisfy their clients through the performance of rituals. On the African continent, every major event has its own ritual, a ritual that may never be overlooked for any reason. The rituals are often performed through
dance, music, libation or art. In the presence of other religious practices on the continent, these rituals have survived in one form or another.
African spirits draw their strength, inspiration and wisdom from God. In African traditional Religion, God is seen as the author of life, the maker of everything. African traditional religion belief does not offer any other version of the creation. It is simply the work of God, the omnipotent, the everlasting, ever faithful, and mercyful Father of all.
Symbols figure prominently in the African society. These are transfered into the religious realm to establish a strong link between the unseen "spirits" and the living. It is common to see some of these symbols on the walls of the shrines or in the clothes worn by the traditional priests and other people who wish to express their mood through any of these symbols.
As you journey through these links, and as you select what to read, it is important to bear in mind that what you read may not be the case in every society on the African continent. There are variations in the religious practices of Africans. These variations do not in any way make Africans alter their strong belief in God. They are, in point of fact, less than the common threads that link Africans as a people.