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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: africa



The second-largest continent, Africa has a wide variety of lands, flora and fauna, and people. The population lives in everything from vast, modern cities to very primitive conditions. Composed of 53 independent countries, many scientists believe the human race began here.

At its northeastern point is Egypt. Its capitol, Cairo, is the content’s most populous city with a population of over 9.2 million. Egyptian culture goes back thousands of years and heavily influenced Judaism (founded circa 2000 BCE) and, to a lesser extent, Christianity. Its amazing, advanced civilization so long ago fascinated occultists, especially those of the late 19th century such as members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, AMORC, and Aleister Crowley, and they adopted what they believed were Egyptian concepts and rituals.

Africans came to the American colonies, probably as indentured servants (agreeing to work for a certain period in exchange for passage, room, and board), but by the early 18th century, this evolved into true slavery and existed until the end of the American Civil War in 1865. During this period, millions were transported by force from West Africa. Initially, they were forbidden religion, but they secretly kept their own religions that were marked by a Supreme Being and creator, lesser spiritual entities, and the ability to appeal to them for help. Later, they were indoctrinated into Christianity, but many blended their own faiths with the Christian, equating spiritual powers with Christian saints.

This blended system is the source of such faiths as Voudou (spelled in a variety of ways), Santeria, Hoodoo, Palo Mayombe, Umbanda, Candomble, and others. Because the slaves often stopped off or ended in Haiti, Cuba, etc., these magic-religious faiths are also known as Afro-Caribbean religions.

Donald Michael Kraig

Also See: African


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