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African Religions: Recovering Spiritual Roots

This article was written on November 01, 2004 posted under Pagan

The steady rhythm of an ancient pulse beats deep at the core of our spirits, a sacred tempo that carries with it time immemorial when our ancestors honored, through daily ritual, the great Spirit of shadow and light. Many of us have tried to reclaim this dancing part of our spirits; few of us realize how accessible it truly is. Only recently, mystical practices, spiritual teachings, and unique traditions have become as accessible as the click of a button, the leafing through a book or the purchase of a plane ticket. With a celestial bridge now connecting every continent, we have become intimate with profound healing practices such as yoga, meditation, and ritual. Primarily, we have been able to access sacred texts and information through the written word. However, a huge, vacuous hole exists in the body of our global understanding and knowledge about the deep and powerful teachings of our oral traditions. From the birthplace of humanity, Africa’s sacred wisdom remains, even today, clouded in mystery and secrecy. Fears of the unknown have resulted in distortions and misunderstandings about African Traditional Religions (ATR). Yet, the seeds of many of the world’s philosophies and religions sprouted in the fertile and rich metaphysical gardens of the Motherland.

Motivated by our deep and abiding love for Africa and her teachings, guided by our firm belief in her healing practices and timeless wisdom, concerned about the realization that many of these oral teachings are not being passed onto the global community at large, we were inspired to write about some of the cherished beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, and healing practices of the West African spiritual tradition. With great determination and diligence, we spent the last five years recording everything that we were able to convey with clarity and precision. We write not only about the basic customs and rituals around daily living in Mande cultures, we also discuss the rites of passages including birthing ceremonies, marriage, and funerals, as well as share our knowledge of the popular proverbs, stories, and songs—never yet recorded. We include traditional beliefs about nature and wildlife, and some of the mystical beliefs about Spirit and spirit-relationships. Until now, little information has been made available about the purpose of spirits or divinities in African life, and the great reverence of the One Spirit. Little has been acknowledged about the substantial Goddess traditions that permeate African existence. Not much was known about the important function of the energy of Spirit, or nyama, and its crucial role in the very fabric of daily existence. Inaccurate labels, such as spirit-possessions, juju, and fetish became a part of the global vernacular to describe African practices. These are all misunderstandings of the deep and powerful expressions of love and devotion for Spirit, humanity, and creation within African cultures. West Africans live with the understanding that the energy of Spirit permeates everything in nature, and it is within our very reach to work with this exceptional force. We only must stay connected to her steady tempo, and allow ourselves to be gently led by her rhythmic guidance.

Passionately moved by our own inner tempos that resound of ancestral wisdom, we write with the hope that The Way of the Elders will give our readers the opportunity to deepen their understanding of African spirituality, enhance their own practices, as well as help take them back to the place where the beginning seeds of life first germinated and developed, a place where they can dance in exuberance to the beats of her steady pulse, the heartbeat of Mother Africa.


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