The Rituals of African Religions

There is a common thread in the rituals throughout Africa. This is especially true with those concerned with progress throughout life.

Birth

An expectant mother is an important person. As in the United States a child may grow up to be president, in Africa a male child may grow up to be a chief. The actual birth rarely takes place in the presence of a man. The child is anointed by a priest. Naming the child is very important and usually consists of a given name, followed by the name of the father, then the grand-father's name. After the ceremony, there will be songs, dancing, and a feast.

Puberty

Both circumcisions and clitoridectomies are performed. The justification for what some people call genital mutilation is that it is an important means of establishing gender — that there should be no indication of androgyny. Boys often have their faces painted in preparation for the coming-of-age rite of circumcision.

Marriage

A woman who is to be married is very powerful. For one, she may give birth to a warrior or chief. In some areas, after the wedding has been planned, the groom's family must move to the bride's village. Gifts will be exchanged and in some cultures, an offering is made to the gods. Sometimes a sacrifice will be made, too.

The actual wedding ceremony will include both families, and sometimes the entire village. Not surprisingly, there will be much celebration. For several weeks after the consummation of the marriage, the couple will continue their celebrations.

Death

Death is not seen as the final stage of life, but as going to a place to be with deceased loved ones. The corpse is cleaned and dressed, then placed in the grave with special artifacts to aid in the journey. The corpse will be buried, and afterward there may be an exchange of gifts between family members and an animal sacrifice.

Some tribes initiate girls in what we in the west would call domestic science. This even extends to sexual etiquette and the religious significance of womanhood and female power. Boys may be led by the wise men in the village to a specially secluded place and stay there for up to a year while they learn secret information about becoming a man.

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