Wooden and metal sculptures, pottery, textiles, and earthen bas-reliefs often dominate the windowless rooms, lit only by the sunlight that enters through the open doorframe. Africa Lyrics: I hear the drums echoing tonight / But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation / She's coming in, 12:30 flight / Her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me Working in pairs, each diviner casts his two chains. Adults were bound and gagged and infants were sometimes thrown into sacks. The topic of silence has fascinated me for many years. Luba diviners in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also work in pairs (opening photo, at top). Africa: Civic Rights Were Eroded Across Africa in 2020 - allAfrica.com Search Mothers have held rare protests in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere, demanding to know the fate of their children who originally were sent to Eritrea for military training. Jean Margaret Laurence CC (née Wemyss; 1926–1987) was a Canadian novelist and short story writer, and is one of the major figures in Canadian literature.She was also a founder of the Writers' Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to … For diviners this is even more critical. Note the liminality in space and time—a common feature of many African divination systems. Africa - Africa - People: Africa is now widely recognized as the birthplace of the Hominidae, the taxonomic family to which modern humans belong. They are not mutually exclusive. Indigenous African religions are pragmatic. The Yoruba system of Ifa is rigorous and demanding, with diviners trained for at least sixteen years; but also on the Ifa tray is the face of Eshu the Trickster, who is the messenger between humans and the other world and who can affect all divination sessions. Posted by 3 years ago. Since hearing is greater than sight for the pangolin, it reminds us that, universally, there are many blind "seers" or diviners, but few, if any, deaf diviners. For example, an African amulet might have inside of it a written verse from either the Koran or Christian Bible. the seers. I should add that without claiming to be full members of indigenous traditions, there are many professed Christians and Muslims who participate in one form of indigenous religious rituals and practices or another. While chameleons are not, to my knowledge, directly employed in divination, they are frequently portrayed in their role as trusted messengers to the other world on iron shrine staffs outside diviner's shrines in West Africa. Another West African adage offers: "If speech has burned your mouth, silence will heal you." in a trance or by throwing bones) the causes of misfortune and to prescribe remedies. Ellen Suthers, "Perception, Knowledge, and Divination in Djimini Society, Ivory Coast" (PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1987), 11-12, 16. The award allows Olupona a year of study and research in Germany; he is on leave this year (2015–16).Much of Olupona's work is an attempt to provide a fuller understanding of the complexity and richness of African indigenous thought and practice by viewing it not as a foil or as a useful comparative to better understand Western religions, but as a system of thought and belief that should be valued and understood for its own ideas and contribution to global religions.Harvard Gazette: How would you define indigenous African religions?JO: Indigenous African religions refer to the indigenous or native religious beliefs of the African people before the Christian and Islamic colonization of Africa. Health lays the foundation for vibrant and productive communities, stronger economies, safer nations and a better world. Corn kernels are scattered in the dish and the top is replaced on the container. Thus, akin to the Lobi thila, an otherwise mute but knowledgeable entity is only given voice through divination in order to aid humans. In some other Central African divination systems, marked pangolin scales are cast and read by diviners. The final diagnosis and plan for action are rendered collectively by the diviner and the client(s).1. The two European countries who occupied the land were the Netherlands (1652-1795 and 1803-1806) and Great Britain (1795-1803 and 1806-1961). The Zulu were originally a major clan in what is today Northern KwaZulu-Natal, founded ca. I also celebrate and honor the king's festivals and ceremonies in my hometown and other places where I live and do research. WHO has supported clinical trials, leading 14 countries to issue marketing authorization for 89 traditional medicine products which have met international and national requirements for registration. The monitor [lizard] is like this too, and cannot be heard, but it is a powerful animal and it has a forked tongue, as well, which people feel is a bizarrerie. Another broad category among African peoples that might inform us about choices of divinatory agents is that of the trickster figure. Morag Gunn is a writer in her mid-forties who lives in a riverside farm in East Ontario. But after braving that first blizzard in a land far from his native Nigeria, Olupona stuck it out and earned his Ph.D. My last example is the pangolin, another rather rare animal whose observed behavior seems ready for symbolic interpretation. Also demonstrating the value of nonverbal interaction, "silent" animals are used in these critical cross-world communications because their normal silence serves as a reminder of the wisdom of the quiet elder, the person of few but important words. The top chamber holds the divination device: a small tortoise shell with ten chicken wing bones or, better, bat wing bones. The amount of devotees to indigenous practices has dwindled as Islam and Christianity have both spread and gained influence throughout the continent.According to all the major surveys, Christianity and Islam each represent approximately 40 percent of the African population. His research has helped to introduce and popularize new concepts in religious studies, such as the term "reverse missionaries," referring to African prelates sent to Europe and the United States.The recipient of many prestigious academic honors and research fellowships, Olupona also received the 2015–2016 Reimar Lust Award for International and Cultural Exchange, considered one of Germany's most prestigious academic honors. Diviner definition, a person who divines; soothsayer; prophet. It is the reticent person who is the sage. Although the silence and slow speed of snails does not seem to recommend them as divinatory agents, they are encountered in divinatory paraphernalia throughout Africa, as with diviners in Mozambique. For that reason, "twins do not need speech to communicate with each other or with a host of spiritual entities"; further, the Senufo hold that "too much talk obstructs the passage of knowledge. The full list is shown in the table below, with current population and subregion (based on the United Nations official statistics). Diviners strongboxes were a lot more fun when they weren't rarer than exalted orbs. Once this perspective is recognized, many representations of it can be found. Intriguingly, this system overlays the fox's nonverbal answers onto the human's nonverbal questions. The Yoruba, however, do have a concept of a supreme being, called Olorun or Olodumare, and this creator god of the universe is empowered by the various orisa [deities] to create the earth and carry out all its related functions, including receiving the prayers and supplications of the Yoruba people.Gazette: What is the state of indigenous African religions today?JO: That's a mixed bag. Moreover, the religions developed in the Americas impact Africa in that devotees of the African diaspora have significant influence on practices in Africa. Additionally, I will not discourage, disparage, or try and convert those who practice their form of African indigenous religions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (1981) and Ph.D. (1983) in the history of religions from Boston University.Authoring or editing more than half a dozen books on religion and African culture (including the recent African Religions: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press), Olupona has researched topics ranging from the indigenous religions of Africa to the religious practices of Africans who have settled in America. Archaeological evidence indicates that the continent has been inhabited by humans and their forebears for some 4,000,000 years or more. Ritual sacrifices and witchcraft beliefs are still common. C.Diviners were employed by kings to protect the interests of the king but not the king's people. Ancestors can offer advice and bestow good fortune and honor to their living dependents, but they can also make demands, such as insisting that their shrines be properly maintained and propitiated. Female masked spirits featured prominently as judicial courts and judges of moral conduct. For example, followers can seek spiritual direction and relief from healers, medicine men and women, charms [adornments often worn to incur good luck], amulets [adornments often used to ward off evil], and diviners [spiritual advisers].I should also state that there are signs of the revival of African indigenous practices in many parts of Africa. The hunter ran and told the king that he had found a skull that talked. Throughout Africa, the talkative, verbose individual is considered neither wise nor knowledgeable. "African spirituality simply acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. (iv) They predict on future occurrences. HARVARD DIVINITY SCHOOL45 Francis Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138   617.495.5761, my.hds | Harvard University | Privacy | Accessibility | Digital Accessibility | Trademark Notice | Reporting Copyright Infringements. Indigenous African religions are by nature plural, varied, and usually informed by one’s ethnic identity, where one's family came from in Africa. Because good speech, wise words, and deliberate communication are so highly valued, the one who seldom speaks is the one to whom we should listen. It's about getting tangible results.Gazette: What allows African indigenous religions to be so accommodating?JO: One of the basic reasons is that indigenous African spiritual beliefs are not bound by a written text, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. They do this by having Africans increasingly identify themselves as either Muslim or Christian, thus denying their unique African worldview that has always viewed—as evidenced in their creation myths—everything as unified and connected to the land, the place were one's clan, lineage, and people were cosmically birthed. The World Health Organization (WHO) is building a better future for people everywhere. A follower of African diaspora religions has many choices in terms of seeking spiritual help or succor. Lions and elephants rarely figure in divination, nor do parrots or other creatures whose calls we often mimic. Silence is not simply an emblem of royal power, however. Not only do complex relations develop around the psychological dynamics between diviners and clients, but there is often a literal, physical bonding of the two to ensure a successful divination session. We usually assume "communication" in divination entails audible speech, although we do secondarily acknowledge a number of nonverbal modes of communication. Owls are wise to Europeans but are witches for many Africans. The Isoko provide a wonderful example of how a "speechless" creature aids human speech: they use snails to cure stuttering. That testifies to the enduring power of indigenous religion and its ability to domesticate Christianity and Islam in modern Africa.The success of Christianity and Islam on the African continent in the last 100 years has been extraordinary, but it has been, unfortunately, at the expense of African indigenous religions.Gazette: But yet you said it's a mixed bag?JO: Yes, it's a mixed bag because in the African diaspora—mostly due to the slave trade starting in the fifteenth century—indigenous African religions have spread and taken root all over the world, including in the United States and Europe. While Islam and Christianity tend to be overtly resistant to adopting traditional African religious ideas or practices, indigenous African religions have always accommodated other beliefs. Specialized diviners called Ob'guega (doctor of Oguega oracle), as well as Ob'Oronmila (doctor of Oronmila oracle) from the Edo people of West Africa for thousands, have used divination as a means of foretelling the past, present and future. "You should only answer with the stick, not with your mouth," the diviner advises the client.9. The defining line between deities and ancestors is often contested, but overall, ancestors are believed to occupy a higher level of existence than living human beings and are believed to be able to bestow either blessings or illness upon their living descendants.Gazette: In trying to understand African spirituality, is it helpful to refer to it as polytheistic or monotheistic?JO: No, this type of binary thinking is simplistic. Years ago, Benneta Jules-Rosette17 discussed the similarities between anthropology and divination; both pursuits attempt to sort out foreign cultures, to determine meaningful utterances from background noise, and to translate from one system to another. Among its external decorations are a porcupine tail and red duiker horns—from creatures who are both silent and nocturnal (another frequent characteristic of creatures linked to divination). Most African societies hold that individuals must maintain proper relations with their spirit doubles (as well as other entities) in order to live a good life. One aspect has particularly fascinated me: the use of "silent" objects and creatures as agents of communication between worlds. It is difficult to know a snake's voice. "Twinning" occurs not only in the relationships of diviners and spirits, but between diviners and clients. The Lobi maintain that the thila (protective spirits) have no tongues and can only communicate through humans—but only by means of the joined hands of the diviner and client during divination.8 The Batammaliba of Togo also engage in "silent" communication through divination, as the diviner interprets the movements of the staff he and the client hold as it responds to their questions. Please follow our Commentary Guidelines when engaging in discussion on this site. A divination system based on the spider exists in Cameroon. It goes on land and in the water, and so is above other animals.13. Although these are not exactly the creatures which first come to mind when we think of oral communication (one cannot be much quieter than a spider), for the Ashanti, all these creatures are associated with wisdom. In fact, hares appear to be silent creatures, a quality which Karugu also associate with wisdom. The top is removed and the diviner reads the resultant pattern. Many of the creatures linked to divination are ambiguous, anomalous, seemingly "betwixt and between" cultural classifications. When threatened, the pangolin rolls up into a ball, presenting only its large, hard scales to its enemies. Throughout Africa, religious and political leaders are distinguished by having others who speak for them. This knowledge may or may not be literally expressed during the interpretation of the oracular message. Perhaps this is another reminder of the dangers of verbal communication and the importance of silence. While my discussion here deals with creatures actually employed in divination systems, accenting the "silent" component must be seen as an argument from my own academic perspective. Comments Michael Regan/Getty Images . One of Jacob Olupona's earliest memories in Massachusetts is of nearly freezing in his apartment as a graduate student at Boston University during the great snowstorm of 1978. 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