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African Religions and Spirituality

by: Erika Ladd

African Religions and Spirituality HIST 005

Marketplace > Howard University > History > HIST 005 > African Religions and Spirituality
Erika Ladd

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About this Document

These notes look at the different types of religions in Africa and the different types of spirituality.
Intro to Black Diaspora 1
Neil Vaz
Class Notes
Africa, African Studies
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This 8 page Class Notes was uploaded by Erika Ladd on Wednesday September 14, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HIST 005 at Howard University taught by Neil Vaz in Spring 2015. Since its upload, it has received 3 views. For similar materials see Intro to Black Diaspora 1 in History at Howard University.


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Date Created: 09/14/16
Akan/Coromanti spirituality in the Americas • Obeah was practiced all throughout the British West Indies. • Akan People had a major influence in British West Indies starting in the eighteenth century, especially Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua, and British Guiana. • 1701-1807 Obean and Myalism in Jamaica • Obeah in Jamaica ecentually developed into the negative side of the supernatural realm. • Myalism in Jamaica was the positive side of the supernatural realm. (Probably came from the Hausa word maye “evil” and le “to take.”) The Term “Obeah” • Obeah has been used since the 17th century, used as a loose reference for whatever magical and supernatural work the Africans were doing. Poisonings and healing, as well as any form of spirit work and charms, were understood as obeah. • Obeah is difficult to define. • Obeah is a sorcerous art exercised by the one who possesses the “obi”—or power. • The most important realm for the Obeahmen and women is however the woods. The wortcunning (herbal wisdom) of the Africans and Creoles was famed and dreaded, as the “Pharmacopee Noire” fuses the use of plants for medicine and poisoning with a magical dimension that is impossible to separate from the use of plants. • A common mistake seen in referencing Obeah is that it is often presented as a unified practice, a system. • In Jamaica, it has a sinister image and was a power given by a pact with spirits. • In Trinidad, Obeahmen seek refuge of Sasabonsam, the protective spirit of the woods. Myalism • Myalism“under ideal circumstances, good prevails absolutely and exclusively, but in a real world of limited resources, where such perfection rarely exists, anyone enjoying unusual good fortune is suspected of doing so at the community’s expense.” • “Such antisocial people, placing personal goals above those of the community, are thought to employ ritual to satisfy their self-centered desires; they practice magic or sorcery, harnessing the malevolent forces believed to permeate the universe and produce evil.” • Myalists believe that natural dissension, poverty, corruption, illness, failure, and oppression are caused by sorcery. • Believing that sorcery causes these evils, this religious tradition claims to possess weapons with which to eradicate them, an arsenal that includes not merely ritual techniques, but constant assertion of community values, positive responses to social change, and maintenance of social order. Akan • Columbia during the 17th and 18th century. • Brazil in the 18th century. • Virginia Bight of Benin/Slave Coast • Dahomey(Fon) conquers Allada(Aja)in 1724 and then conquers Ouidah (Whydah) (Aja)in 1727. • The fall of the Oyo Empire (Yoruba) and subsequent slave raiding by Sokoto Caliphate from the 1790s until 1867. • Aja, Fon, Ewe, Yoruba (1790s) people. They believed that they were originally from Ile-Ife (present-day Nigeria). • Aja and Fon had a spiritual practice known as Vodon, which means spirit, god, or image. Ewe, Aja, and Fon in the Americas • Arada, Rada, Allada, Gege, Mahi, or Mina • In Saint Domingue (Haiti) one can find Voodoo practiced. • Louisiana • Martinique • Guadeloupe • To a lesser extent in Spanish America. • Very minimal influence in British America. Yoruba in the Americas th • Presence wasn’t major until the 19 century (1800s). • Cuba (lucumi) practiced Santeria • Brazil (Nago) practiced Candomble • Trinidad Yoruba practiced Shango Yoruba and the Religion of Ifa • Pantheon of deities known as Orishas. Ile-Ife Origin • Olodumare (supreme god): Olorun and Olofi (the holy trinity) ◦ Sons: Ododuwa (first king of Ile-Ife) and Obatala (Jesus Christ). Santeria/Candomble/Voodoo and Catholicism Parallels: • Pantheon of Orishas = Catholic Saints • Oludumare = God the Creator • Obatala = Jesus Christ • Shango = God of fire, thunder, and lightening (Santa Barbara and Saint Jerome) • Oshun = God of sweet water • Ochosi = God of hunters and bird • Ogun = God of iron and war (St. George) • Olurun = Sun God • Nana = Female deity of creation • Yemoja = Protector of Women and Children (Mary, mother of Jesus) • Osanyin = God of the leaves • Eshu = Mischievous God (devil) • Ashe = Energy of the universe • Ori = spirit • Syncretism: the amalgamation of two religions. Saint Domingue/Haiti Religions: • Loa • Ada (people from Bight of Benin) influence in voodoo. • Petro influence from the Congo Bight of Biafra: • Elem Kalabari, Bonny, Nembe, and Okrika were centralized states • The Aro merchants took control of trade that was, prior to the 1740s, controlled by the decentralized society. • Around the 1740s the Aro merchants made trade in Igbo land privately controlled. • The Aro carefully coordinated the oracle with the military and commercial institutions they controlled. • Igbo (in Cuba known as Carabali) • Ibibo (Moco or Moko in the Americas) • Oluudah Equiano is Igbo. He wrote a slave narrative after he was freed. Igbo: • From the 1740s, in the British West Indies, they had a very strong cultural influence along with the Akan. (1740s-1807) • Especially Jamaica, Dominica, and Grenada. • They also had a large cultural influence in Virginia. • The word Obeah in the British West Indies is also said to have derived from the Igbo word Obia. • The original Igbo faith was known as Odinani, which means “customs of the land.” Their spirituality was about living in harmony with nature (universe). • Obia is a tradition form of spiritual medicine. • Ndi Obia were the specialists who manufactured charms and hexes. Kromanti and Igbo Slaves: • Chromate from the Gold Coast and Igbo from the Bight of Biafra comprised of a largest portion of the enslaved Africans in the British West Indies. • These groups were often placed on plantations together and found similarities in their cultures and blended the two (i.e. Obayifo and Obia evolved into Obeah). West Central Africa: • The Port of Luanda in the Kingdom of Ndongo was established by the Portuguese in 1575 (South of the Congo River). • North of the Congo River ports at Loango, Malembo, and Cabinda were established and trade was conducted with the French and the British in the late 18th century. • They had more than half of the slaves during the transatlantic slave trade come from here. • Bakongo and Mbundu people • Sometimes all peoples coming from this region were either classified as “Congos” or “Angolas." Bakongo, Mbundu, and other Bantu: • Their presence was found all over the Americas (1500- 1867). • Brazil (Both Bakongo and Mbundu) • Haiti (Bakongo) • South Carolina and Georgia (Bakongo) • Bakongo in the British West Indies after abolition between 1807-1867 captured on illegal ships heading to Cuba or Brazil. Bakongo Cosmology: • Nzambi Mpungu is God Almighty. • Yowa (Kongo Cosmogram) The circle represents birth, maturity (Ntoto=earth or land), then death, then afterlife (Mpemba=white clay or midnight). After afterlife, you will be born again. Northern hemisphere represents maleness, the southern hemisphere represents femaleness. The middle line is called the Kalunga and is the color red and is associated with water and the horizon. African Spirituality: • God • Nature • Spirit • Healing spiritually, physically, and mentally • Reverence for Ancestors • Music and Dance • In many indigenous practices female deities are just as important as male deities. • The supernatural/metaphysical realm is just as real as the physical world. In Sum: • Senegambia, Sierra Leone, and Windward Coast = Muslims • Gold Coast = Obayifo (Obeah) • Bight of Benin = Vodun (Voodoo), Yoruba Religion (Santeria) • Bight of Biafra = Obia (Obeah) • West Central Africa = Petro side of Voodoo Ethnic Debates (Cultural Continuity vs. Lost Culture): Whether or not African culture completely disappeared or whether it survived. • Melville Herzkowitz vs. E. Franklin Frazier (1930s-40): Herkowitz argued that West African culture survived the Middle Passage and that African culture practices, or Africanisms, can be found amongst the descendants of Africans in the Americas today. Frazier argued that slavery destroyed the African culture in African Americans. • Sterling Stuckey vs. Sidney Mintz and Richard Price (1970s- 80): Stuckey writes about the practice of the ring shout in the U.S. and how this practice of the counterclockwise circular movement in ceremonies was linked to several parts of Africa. These particular aspects of the ring shout could be found in the peoples of the Kongo, Dahomey, Mende, Temme, Akan, and relatives of the Diaspora. Mintz and Price argued that African culture did not transfer to the Americas for two reasons: 1 Africans of diverse backgrounds were brought to a given colony. 2 The dominating European culture in the given colony was homogenous. Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: • David Richardson and David Eltis. • Some scholars, such as Richardson, believe that the ports in which the Africans embarked and the ports that the Africans disembarked represented on the database is a true representation of which Africans had a dominant influence in particular regions. • Other scholars, such as Gwendolyn Hall, believe that the database can only be used as a general guide, but does not take into account transshipments, clusters, or the trade from the African hinterland.


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