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One religious ceremony practiced in Gabon and Cameroon is the Okuyi , practiced by several Bantu ethnic groups.
In this state, depending upon the region, drumming or instrumental rhythms played by respected musicians each of which is unique to a given deity or ancestor , participants embody a deity or ancestor, energy or state of mind by performing distinct ritual movements or dances which further enhance their elevated consciousness. When this trance-like state is witnessed and understood, adherents are privy to a way of contemplating the pure or symbolic embodiment of a particular mindset or frame of reference. This builds skills at separating the feelings elicited by this mindset from their situational manifestations in daily life.
Such separation and subsequent contemplation of the nature and sources of pure energy or feelings serves to help participants manage and accept them when they arise in mundane contexts.
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This facilitates better control and transformation of these energies into positive, culturally appropriate behavior, thought, and speech. Also, this practice can also give rise to those in these trances uttering words which, when interpreted by a culturally educated initiate or diviner, can provide insight into appropriate directions which the community or individual might take in accomplishing its goal. Followers of traditional African religions pray to various spirits as well as to their ancestors.
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These secondary spirits serve as intermediaries between humans and the primary God, also referred to as the Supreme Deity. There are more similarities than differences in all traditional African religions. The deities and spirits are honored through libation , sacrifice of animals , vegetables, cooked food, flowers, semi-precious stones and precious metals. The will of the Supreme Deity is sought by the believer also through consultation of divinities or divination. The living stand between their ancestors and the unborn. According to Gottlieb and Mbiti:.
The environment and nature are infused in every aspect of traditional African religions and culture. This is largely because cosmology and beliefs are intricately intertwined with the natural phenomena and environment.
All aspects of weather, thunder, lightning, rain, day, moon, sun, stars, and so on may become amenable to control through the cosmology of African people. Natural phenomena are responsible for providing people with their daily needs.
For example, in the Serer religion , one of the most sacred stars in the cosmos is called Yoonir the Star of Sirius. Traditional healers are common in most areas, and their practices include a religious element to varying degrees. Since Africa is a large continent with many ethnic groups and cultures, there is not one single technique of casting divination. The practice of casting may be done with small objects, such as bones, cowrie shells, stones, strips of leather, or flat pieces of wood. Some castings are done using sacred divination plates made of wood or performed on the ground often within a circle.
In traditional African societies, many people seek out diviners on a regular basis. There are generally no prohibitions against the practice. Diviner also known as priest are also sought for their wisdom as counselors in life and for their knowledge of herbal medicine. Virtue in traditional African religion is often connected with carrying out obligations of the communal aspect of life. Examples include social behaviors such as the respect for parents and elders, raising children appropriately, providing hospitality, and being honest, trustworthy, and courageous.
At burials, a mans Ikenga is broken into two with one piece buried with him and the other destroyed. This Alusi was adept at bargains and trade, and praying to Ekwensu was said to guarantee victory in negotiations. As a force of change and chaos, Ekwensu also represented the spirit of war among the Igbo, invoked during times of conflict and banished during peacetime to avoid his influences inciting bloodshed in the community, warriors set up shrines to Ekwensu to help war efforts. Ekwensu was a bringer of violence and possessed people with anger.
Mmuo is a broad class of minor spirits or divinities manifesting in natural elements under the class of elder divinities with major cults. Feminine mmuo inhabit earth and water and masculine mmuo inhabit fire and air. Dibia are the mystic mediators between the human world and the spirit world and act as healers, scribes, teachers, diviners and advisors of people in the community.
They are usually consulted at the shrine of a communities major deity. The dibia sees the spiritual world at any time and interprets what messages being sent and sees the spiritual problems of living people. They are given the power by the spirit world to identify any alusi by name and the possible ways of placating and negotiating with the deity. Dibia are thought to be revealed to possess the power over one of three elements namely water and large bodies of water , fire and vegetation.
Dibia whose elements are vegetation can go on to become herbalists by their supposed instinctual knowledge of the health benefits of certain plants they are instinctually drawn to, fire element dibia can handle fire unscathed during their initiation, and water element dibia do not drown. Dibia can partially enter the spirit world and communicate this by rubbing chalk on one half of their face. These animals are prized for their rarity, price and therefore the journey taken to obtain. Chameleons and rats are used for more stronger medicines and deadly poisons, and antidotes can include lambs, small chickens, eggs, and oils.
The patriarchal head of the household is in charge of venerating the patriarchal ancestors through libations and offerings, through this the living maintain contact with the dead.
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Only a patriarch whose father is dead, and therefore in the spirit world where they await reincarnation into the community, were able to venerate ancestors. At the funeral of a mans father there is a hierarchy in Igbo culture of animals that will be killed and eaten in his honor. Usually this depended on the rarity and price of the animal, so a goat or a sheep were common and relatively cheaper, and therefore carried less prestige, while a cow is considered a great honor, and a horse the most exceptional.
Horses cannot be given for women. A number of major masking institutions exist around Igboland that honour ancestors and reflect the spirit world in the land of the living. These masks are performed at festivals at agricultural cycles and at funerals of prominent individuals in the society. The saluter addresses their personal god or chi as well as alusi and their ancestors. The bowl and kola nut rite is used to welcome visitors into a household.
The kola is supposed to cut by hand, but more recently knives have become acceptable.
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O wetalu oji wetalu ndu — 'one who brings kola brings life' is a popular saying that points to the auspiciousness of the kola rite. Ndi mgbe are secluded from the community for a couple of months during the rites of building the mbari to a deity. Mbari are requested by a deity who the diviner tells the community feels neglected and cannot feel pride in the face of other deities in the spirit world. A string of unusual and unfortunate events befalling the community is linked to the aggrieved deity.
An mbari is commissioned and artists are chosen. After the completion of the mbari the spirit workers are reincorporated into the community and a feast is held for the opening of the mbari house where elders and the community come to exhibit the critique the expensive mbari. The mbari house is not a source of worship and is left to dilapidate, being reabsorbed by nature in symbolic sense related to Ala.
Before the twentieth century, circular stepped pyramids were built in reverence of Ala at the town of Nsude in northern Igboland. Circular stacks continued, till it reached the top. A stick was placed at the top to represent the god's residence. The structures were laid in groups of five parallel to each other.
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But as we have seen, there are other elements [besides monotheistic ones] which tend towards polytheism or pantheism. What, we may ask, accounts for these different tendencies? Rather, the totality of elements in each religious system can be viewed from different internal perspectives according to different contextual alignments.
What is misleading is to seize upon one perspective or tendency and make it the dominant framework. This may satisfy the observer's own theological preferences, e. Symbol, Ritual, and Community.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the traditional spiritual practices of the Igbo people. For their traditional cultural practices in general, see Igbo culture. Mmuo Ogu na Ofo Inouwa Ogbanje. Earth Aguleri Ibini Ukpabi. Igbo portal Religion portal Spirituality portal.
Our Culture, Our Future , April 03, Igbo Africans in Virginia. The river flows on: Black resistance, culture, and identity formation in early America. The concept of man in Igbo myths. Igbo Funeral Rites Today: Anthropological and Theological Perspectives. Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria.
Retrieved 26 July The traditional African concept of God and the Christian concept of God: African Image of the Ultimate Reality: Africa and the New Face of Mission: Univiversity Press of America.
Women in Igbo Life and Thought. Art and the Life Among the Owerri Igbo.