The history of the traditional Africans is a revelation of how man deeply believed in the existence of a supreme being to whom they owed their existence. This was reflected in their daily activities.

There was a deep belief in the existence of a supreme being  whom they referred to as God. This belief in God was expressed and known in different ways.

God was believed to be real. He was given various names and different names by different societies. He was known to be "Rubanga" by the Luo, "Ruhanga" by the Banyoro, Banyankole and the Batooro and "Katonda" by the Baganda.

God was the creator and the most high. They owed the existence of the universe to God. Among the Acholi people, he was and is still described as "Lacwec" to mean the creator.

God was believed to be unique. No one could draw his image and neither could he be compared to anything. However, the people could only make symbols to represent him through pottery work and works of art and craft.

God was believed to be one. The same God made each and every one. The same God was believed to be found in all comers of the world and that all the human beings were of equal value to him.

God was believed to be the controller of the world. They believed that he owned and conserved everything. He could punish the human beings for their evils and that his presence could be felt by everyone.

How the Traditional Africans Showed Them Belief in God

The people in African traditional society showed their belief in God in the following ways:

The traditional Africans believed in the existence of a supreme being whom they named "God". The Supreme Being was given different names to explain who he was. He was known to be the creator and the provider among others.

Sacrifices were given to spiritual beings. This involved giving of material things like food stuff for different reasons like seeking for blessings or preventing curses.

Shrines were built in each and every African homestead. These were places where religious functions like offering sacrifices were performed. Such places were respected and considered to be holy.

The Africans used to pray in showing their belief in God. In their prayers, they expressed their faith and trust in God.

The Africans believed in and consulted divinities (lesser gods). These gods were believed to have direct contact with the supreme God. Each of these divinities was responsible for a particular life experience.

The Africans believed in and respected spiritual or sacred objects like the drums, spears and beads among others.

Names in Africa reflected belief in the existence of God. The names explained among other things the goodness of God.

Religious specialists existed among the Africans. They included the priest, the diviners, and the fortune tellers among others. These people responsible were linking their people with God.

The Africans believed in and consulted the spirits. The spirits were invisible beings and they were believed to be nearer to God.

The Africans believed in mystical powers like magic and witchcraft. Such powers were believed to be granted and given by God.

The Africans praised and worshiped God. This was through songs in which expressed their deep belief in God.

The Africans had a belief in the ancestors. These were dead people and they were believed to be nearer to the supreme God.

The Africans respected and fulfilled the demand of the spirits. Such demand as blood from an animal or    a human being had to be given to the spirit with intention pleasing them.

Africans respected certain places which they regarded to be holy or sacred included hills, mountains and under big trees.

The Africans believed in life after death. They held a belief that after death one could join the spiritual world.

The Belief and the Understanding of Divinities in Traditional Africa

A divinity is any creature with godly qualities. The belief in divinities was common in Africa and it characterized the African way of life"

Divinities were known to be lesser gods. They were directly below the supreme God and they had powers above that of human beings.

The Africans believed that the spirit of a family or a community member could later turn into a divinity.

Divinities were the mediators between God and human beings. The people believed that the sinful man could only approach God through divinities.

Divinities were believed to be very active in human affairs. They could bless or curse human beings. This depended on the kind of relationship they had with the divinities. This was the reason they had to appease them through offering sacrifices.

Each divinity was responsible for a particular life experience like for farming, hunting and rain among others. Therefore, the people had to consult them whenever they had wanted a particular need to be satisfied. In Buganda, Ddungu was responsible for hunting.

The Supreme Being God was believed to be involved in the human affairs through divinities. Divinities were believed to be created by God himself just like the human beings. However, God gave them greater power than that of the human brings.

Divinities were believed to be semi-human and semi-spiritual. They possessed some qualities of human beings and others of God. They could get annoyed and feel hungry.

Divinities were believed to act independently in some extreme cases. In such cases, they could do things on their own without authority or permission from God.

However, the people believed that divinities were barrier to communication between God and human beings. Instead of consulting God, the people could consult the divinities.

The Africans used to pray to God through the divinities who in turn would present their needs to the Supreme Being.

Children were named after divinities for different reasons like recognizing their presence among the human beings, their work and as a means of showing respect to them.

Divinities were believed to possess human beings. The possessed could do extra-ordinary things that a normal person could not do. They could become too strong and speak in tongues among another.

Some divinities were believed to exist on their own hence no dependence on the Supreme God.

Divinities were believed to show their presence in different terms or ways like through human beings, animals and insects.

Divinities were under the direct control of the Supreme God. They acted as his servants.

Revision Questions:

Explain the African understanding of divinities.

Beliefs in and the understanding of spirits and spiritual world in traditional Africa

The belief in spirits and spiritual world was wide spread in African traditional Society.

The Africans showed their belief in spirit by believing in the existence of two worlds. The visible occupied by the human beings and the invisible world occupied spiritual beings.

The word spirit was used and understood in many ways with different meanings and categories.

God was a spirit in African Traditional Society. His presence was only felt by the people without seeing him.

Divinities as well as the living dead were also part of the spiritual world. The people could only explain their existence without seeing them physically.

The Africans believed that spirits were continually present. They could move in and around the world an time.

The spirits were believed to occupy the invisible part of the world. This was an imaginary world.

The Africans turned to the spiritual beings in time of need. This was through offering sacrifices which had different reasons like seeking for blessing and protection among others.

The Africans believed that the spirits had true human characteristics like emotions (feelings). The Africans greatly feared and respected the spirits. No one was allowed to speak ill of them because spirits could cause harm to human beings,

The spirits existed in hierarchy. God was at the top, followed by the divinities then the ancestors.

Spirits were believed to be immortal. They could live forever in their different forms. The Africans believed that human beings could be possessed by the spirits. However, belief was that a spirit of a person could only possess surviving family member.

The Africans believed that each human being had a spirit within the body. However, could escape from the body at death since it was considered immortal.

Spirits were believed to do good as well as evil. The human beings knew they could and curse one depending on the relationship they had with them.

Importance of prayers in traditional Africa

Prayers among the traditional 'Africans were one of the most common methods of approaching and communicating with God. Prayers were conducted verbally, quietly, privately, individually and communally. Prayers served the following purpose in traditional Africa.

Prayer was a way of approaching and communicating with God. This was for different purposes like showing respect for him as the Supreme Being.

Africans expressed their gratitude fIX any achievement in life through prayers. This included giving birth and victories in wars among others.

Africans made their requests known to God through prayers. Among others, they would request for protection, blessings and long life.

Prayers helped Africans to open up and surrender themselves to God. In doing so, they expressed their feelings to the Supreme Being as they tried to explain their existence.

The Africans expressed the work of the community through prayers. Such work as planting and harvesting were put in the hands of God for his blessings.

How God Revealed Himself in Traditional Africa

        Through a voice especially at night.

        Through dreams

        Religious objects

        Through nature like rocks, big trees which the people respected.

        Through visions received by the religious personalities especially.

        Through misfortune and calamities like death or drought among others which the people look at as a form of punishment from the Supreme Being.

        Through life achievements like hunting and good harvesting since they had different gods responsible for a particular life experience.

        Through diviners some of whom were human beings with the ability to do something extra ordinary.

        Through religious leaders like the priest and foretellers.

        Through the spirits of the living dead whom the people consulted for different reasons.

The Major Aspects of African Traditional Religion That Are Found In Christianity

Both believe in the oneness of God. The Africans as well as Christians believe in the existence of a supreme God having absolute existence.

Both African religion and Christianity believe in the existence of the spirits. These spirits are invisible in nature and are immortal.

Both religious participate in prayers as a way of communicating with God. There is offering of sacrifices to the spiritual beings in both religions.

There is a belief in life after death in both religions. They believe that at death, the immortal spirit of a person leaves the body and goes into the next world.

There is also a belief in the existence of two worlds. The visible world occupied by the human beings and the invisible world occupied by the spirits of the living dead.

Both religions believe in sacred objects like the drums and spears for the Africans and the Bible and rosary for the Christians.

There is a belief in the ancestors in both religions. The Africans believe that their ancestors were the living dead and the Christians believe in personalities like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as their ancestors.

There is a belief in sacred places like the shrines in both African religion and Christianity. Such places carry religious meanings.

There is a belief in divine calling that people can be called to the work of God. Such people are the priests, and the diviners for Africans.

Both religions believe in spiritual possession. A human being can be over taken by a spiritual being and in the process he or she can do something that is humanly impossible.

Both of them believe in morality as an important aspect in keeping a good relationship between the human beings and God

Licensed under the Developing Nations 2.0

A complete talking Book for Uganda certificate of Education