Series: Traditional Indigenous African Spirituality Part 5 Paganism

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As was established in the last post of this series, animism means breath or soul. It is one of the oldest believe systems on the planet. Animism as a belief dates as far back as the paleolithic (cave man) times. It came before any organized religion. It is the belief that everything has a spirit and a soul and is infinity connected to all. The spirit of the trees. The spirit of the frog. The spirit of the water etc. Animism gave way to shamanism. The shaman or Babalawo (priest) / Iyalawo (priestess) in West Africa, is an oracle that communes and communicates the will of the Great Spirit (respectively), and is a healer. Some of the ways that these indigenous beliefs were spread throughout the continent was by merchants trading goods, tools and information.

This is a good time to catch up if you haven’t read any previous parts of this series.

Part 1: Series: Traditional Indigenous African Spirituality Part 1

Part 2: Series: Traditional Indigenous African Spirituality Part 2

Part 3: Series: Traditional Indigenous African Spirituality Part 3

Part 4: Series: Traditional Indigenous African Spirituality Part 4 Animism

Animism birthed paganism. African Paganism is the indigenous religious beliefs and practices of African peoples, especially of West Africa, and includes various traditions. Generalizing  these religions is difficult at best, due to the diversity of African cultures, they do have some characteristics in common though. In general, they are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme being, belief in spirits and other divinities, veneration of ancestors, use of magick, and traditional medicine. Humanities purpose is generally to live in harmony with nature as well as the supernatural.

Ma’at is the ancient concept of right and righteousness, justice and harmony, balance, respect, and human dignity. Ma’at is the key idea in the traditional African approach to life. It is a common thread throughout African societies. It  perpetuates the fundamental principles of harmony between humans, in relation to the environment, and the spirit world.

From the Carnegie Museum of Natural History:

“Of all the deities, the goddess Maat was the most important in perpetuating the status quo. The Egyptians believed that when the gods formed the land of Egypt out of chaos, Maat was created to embody truth, justice, and the basic orderly arrangement of the world. Maat personified the perfect state of the god-created world, and all that people had to do in order to live and prosper in the world was to honor and preserve Maat. On a national level, it was the king’s responsibility to preserve Maat through daily offerings given at the temples. On an individual level, the goal of every Egyptian was to lead an honorable life that would allow entrance into the afterlife after death.”

 

How did the ancient spiritual beliefs and practices spread throughout different parts of Africa? According to Olumide J. Luque, “the Yoruba, during antiquity, lived in ancient Egypt before migrating to the Atlantic coast.” He uses as demonstration the similarity of identity of languages, religious beliefs, customs, and names of persons, places and things. In addition, many ancient papyri discovered by archaeologists hint at an Egyptian origin. The Yoruba history begins with the migration of an East African population across the trans-African route leading from the mid-Nile river area to the mid-Niger. Archaeologists inform us that the Nigerian region was inhabited more than forty thousand years ago, or as far back as 65,000 B.C.

During this period, the Nok culture occupied the region. The Nok culture was visited by the people of Yoruba between 2000 and 500 B.C. The Yoruba people settled in the already established Ile-Ife, the sacred city of the indigenous Nok people. This time period is known as the Bronze Age, a time of high civilization of both of these groups. These ancient Egyptians carried with them animism and ma’at beliefs and practices as they migrated, merged, and morphed.

Early in its history and its development, Nile Valley civilization created a basic way of life that attracted teachers, and priests from other parts of Africa, with the shared focus of continually enriching the original composition of the Nile Valley. The Yoruba people made their journey to the Nile Valley, under the inspiration of mystic prophet Orunmila and combined their religious and cultural customs with the knowledge and wisdom of the Nile civilization as well as some customs of the early Nok peoples.

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Through the guidance of Orunmila, the principles of Yoruba Cosmology evolved: “The Self-Existent Being (Oludumare), or the One Source, who is believed to be responsible for creation and maintenance of heaven and earth, of man and women, and who also brought into being divinities and spirits (Orisha) who are believed to be his functionaries as intermediaries between mankind and the Self-Existent Being.”

The cosmology suggests that through the Ashe (Nature) that matter and forces of creation evolved for a divine purpose. The union of the Orisha (angelic forces) and Aba, (human development) gave birth to the dual potentiality of the human spirit. It is the goal of man to align his earthly consciousness with Ori (the physical and spiritual head) in order to connect with his divinity.

As stated, the Orisha can be thought of as angelic forces. Orisha  is actually the combination of two Yoruba words “Ori” which is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded in human essence, and “sha” which is the ultimate potentiality of that consciousness to enter into or assimilate itself into the divine consciousness. The concept of Orisha can be likened the ancient Kemetic concept of the seven opening of the head.

It appears that Indigenous African religion and spirituality is a blanket term for the diverse pagan beliefs of the many tribes Africa. Many Africans on the continent still have indigenous pagan beliefs even though Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are widely practiced. These abrahamic religions and so many more are practices throughout the African Dispora of the world.

No matter your spiritual path in modern society, having even the slightest understanding of the practices of others can give insight and even expand your mysticism. Many people can only trace their ancestral roots back but so far before they hit a dead end, or are being lied to by these “heritage tracers” out here for hire. To that point, if you feel drawn to certain African deities, although your African roots may not be apparent, don’t dismiss the unction right away. It could be plain curiosity, or it could be your ancestors remembering and re-claiming you.

To those who are clearly of African descent, learning and understanding your cultural history is your birthright. I encourage you to study more. Learn more. Travel more. Reconnect.

I will conclude this series here for now. There is so much more on the topic but I do not want to veer too far away from my purpose in the Triple Moon Alchemy space. If you want to delve deeper into the subject of Indigenous Traditional Spirituality, look out for my book!

Until next time. Blessed be. Ashe!!

 

cocc.ed; africandiasporaforum; southafricanhistoryonline

 


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