Encyclopedia of African Religion



Editorial Board
Chinua Achebe
Bard College
Kwame Gyekye
University of Ghana
Maulana Karenga
California State University, Long Beach
Marta Moreno Vega
Caribbean Cultural Center
Isidore Okpewho
Binghamton University,
State University of New York

Kofi Asare Opoku
Lafayette College

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Book Details
 897 p
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 PDF format
 978-1-4129-3636-1 (cloth : alk. paper)
 2009 by SAGE Publications, Inc

About the Editors
Molefi Kete Asante is professor in the Department
of African American Studies at Temple University.
Dr. Asante has published 67 books; among the
most recent are Afrocentric Manifesto (2008);
The History of Africa: The Quest for Eternal
Harmony (2007); Cheikh Anta Diop: An
Intellectual Portrait (2006); Spear Masters: An
Introduction to African Religion (2006), coauthored
with Emeka Nwadiora; Handbook of
Black Studies (2005), coedited with Maulana
Karenga; Encyclopedia of Black Studies (2005),
coedited with Ama Mazama; Race, Rhetoric, and
Identity: The Architecton of Soul (2005); Erasing
Racism: The Survival of the American Nation
(2003); Ancient Egyptian Philosophers (2000);
Scattered to the Wind (2002); Custom and
Culture of Egypt (2002); and 100 Greatest
African Americans (2003).
He has recently been recognized as one of the
most widely cited scholars. In the 1990s, he was
recognized as one of the most influential leaders in
American education. Dr. Asante completed his
MA at Pepperdine and received his PhD from the
University of California, Los Angeles, at the age of
26, and was appointed a full professor at the age
of 30 at the State University of New York at
Buffalo. At Temple University, he created the first
PhD program in African American Studies in
1987. He has directed more than 140 PhD dissertations.
He has written more than 300 articles for
journals and magazines and is the founder of the
theory of Afrocentricity.
Dr. Asante was born in Valdosta, Georgia, in the
United States, of Sudanese and Nigerian heritage,
1 of 16 children. He is a poet, dramatist, and painter.
Hiswork on African language,multiculturalism, and
human culture and philosophy has been cited by
journals such as the Africalogical Perspectives,
Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journal of Black
Studies, Journal of Communication, American
Scholar,Daedalus,Western Journal of Black Studies,
and Africaological Perspectives. The Utne Reader
called him one of the “100 Leading Thinkers” in
America. Dr. Asante has appeared on more than 50
TV programs. In 2002, he received the distinguished
Douglas Ehninger Award for Rhetorical Scholarship
from the National Communication Association. He
regularly consults with the African Union. In 2004,
he was asked to give one of the keynote addresses at
the Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and the
Diaspora in Dakar, Senegal. He was inducted into
the Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African
Descent at the Gwendolyn Brooks Center at Chicago
State University in 2004, and he is the recipient of
more than 100 national and international awards,
including three honorary degrees.
Dr. Asante is the founding editor of the Journal
of Black Studies (1969) and was the president of
the civil rights organization, the Student Non-
Violent Coordinating Committee chapter at
UCLA, in the 1960s. In 1995, he was made a
traditional king, Nana Okru Asante Peasah,
Kyidomhene of Tafo, Akyem, Ghana.

Ama Mazama is associate professor of African
American Studies at Temple University. She was
born and grew up in Guadeloupe, Eastern
Caribbean. She received her PhD in Linguistics
from the University of La Sorbonne, Paris, at the
age of 26, with Highest Distinction. Before joining
Temple, Dr. Mazama taught at the University of
Texas, Austin, and Penn State, College Park, and
was a visiting professor at Georgetown University
and Howard University.
She has published eight books in French or English,
including The Afrocentric Paradigm (2003),
L’Impératif Afrocentrique (2003), The Encyclopedia
of Black Studies (2005) (coedited with Molefi Kete
Asante), and Africa in the 21st Century: Toward a
New Future (2007), as well as more than 60 articles
in French and English in national and international
journals. Dr. Mazama’s early work was on the
African roots of Caribbean creole languages.
Dr. Mazama is the associate editor of the
Journal of Black Studies, the top scholarly journal
in Black Studies. In 2007, the National Council of
Black Studies presented her with the Ana Julia
Cooper and CLR James Award for her contributions
to the advancement of the discipline of Black Studies.
Dr. Mazama has lectured nationally, throughout
the United States and internationally, in Paris,
Vienna, London, Birmingham, South America,
Benin,West Africa, Canada, and, of course, in the
Caribbean, her place of origin. She is a highly
sought after lecturer and workshop leader in the
field of African and African American infusion in
school curricula. An expert in linguistics and cultural
theory, Dr. Mazama has been cited by
numerous school districts for her work in Pan African culture.
In 2002, she was initiated in Haiti to
become a Mambo, that is, a Vodu priestess.
Thus, Ama Mazama’s knowledge of African
religion is not only academic but also, and
most important, stems from a lived experience.
The mother of three, Dr. Mazama is
committed to recording and transmitting
knowledge of the African cultural traditions
to present and future generations.

comprehensive work to assemble ideas, concepts,
discourses, and extensive essays on African religion.
Over the years, there have been numerous
encyclopedias on religion from other parts of the
world, but African religion has often been relegated
to “primitive religions,” “African mythologies,”
or “tribal religions” sections of such works
on religion. It is as if African religion is an afterthought
in the eyes of the authors and editors of
such volumes. Of course, these designations are
clearly based on outmoded and problematic
Western notions of Africa, and we have created
this encyclopedia as a monument to the memory
of those Africans who left us enough information
from which to rediscover for the world the original
beauty and majesty of African culture.

There were two objectives in advancing this
work to the public. First, we wanted to provide
the primary material necessary for further
research, analysis, and exposition of the concrete
beliefs of African people. Second, we sought to
elevate the discourse around African religion, suggesting
by the presentation of nearly 500 entries
that there was still much we did not know about
African culture. Africa is the second largest continent
in the world. Yet its intellectual and cultural
contributions remain among the least understood
if we take the written records about the continent
and its people as sources of knowledge about the
continent. There are still those whose knowledge
of Africa is grounded in the perceptions and attitudes
of missionaries, merchants, and marines
who have occupied the continent through foreign
religions, trade, or guns. The enormity of African
contribution to ideas of religion, spirituality, and
ethics has gone unappreciated by religious scholars,
although at the beginning of human history,
Africa makes its case for the origin of religion in
an official, formal manner. It is our hope that the
reflection on African religion occasioned by these
entries will enhance our understanding of the
African world and provide a new adventure for
comparative studies.

Unquestionably, a work as innovative and comprehensive
as this encyclopedia makes its mark in
the area of intellectual inquiry by staking out new
areas of knowledge. It provides the reader with
new metaphors, tropes, figures of speech, modes
of reasoning, etymologies, analogies, and cosmogonies
to satiate the intellect. Only in such an
encyclopedia as this can one truly grasp the enormity
of Africa’s contribution to religious ideas.
Thus, this work presents richly textured ideas of
spirituality, ritual, and initiation while advancing
new theological categories, cosmological narratives,
and ways to conceptualize ethical behavior.

Given that we viewed African religion as one
religion and the African continent as a whole, we
were inclined to introduce classical African religious
ideas, from the beginning of Kemet to the
arrival of Christianity and later Islam in Africa, as
significant forerunners of much of continental
African thought. The same appeal to ethics, based
on righteous character; the same search for eternal
life, found in living a life where good outweighs
evil; and the same openness to ancestral spirits,
kas, as remaining among the community of the living,
creates an appreciation of the recurring cycle
of humanity. Correspondences of language and
concept as with Amen, Amani, and Imani, which
are transgenerational and transcontinental, remain
vibrant parts of the African legacy of religion.
When the Akan use the words Kwame, Asare, and
Nkwa, they recall the more ancient Amen, Ausar,
and Ankh. Several books, starting with the older
works of Eva Meyerowitz, have examined these
correspondences. Of course, in more recent times,
Afrocentric authors such as Mubabinge Bilolo,
Chinweizu Chinweizu, and Theophile Obenga
have identified other correspondences in the religious
and philosophical traditions of Africa.

The fact that Western or Islamic categories,
which come much later than African religion, have
often been employed in the discourse on African
religion means that we have not yet established
enough concrete data for asserting the African religion.
Because of this reality, much of African religious
thought has been distorted and confused as
authors have tried to force newly discovered or
uncovered or different concepts into old and familiar
classes. Therefore, as editors, we have avoided
ironclad classificatory schemes and sought entries
that revealed as closely as possible the actualities of
African societies. What we wanted the entries to
reveal was the thinking of African people about
religion from the earliest of times.

Table of Contents
List of Entries vii
Reader’s Guide xi
About the Editors xv
Contributors xvii
Introduction xxi
A 1 N 439
B 85 O 469
C 149 P 517
D 191 Q 555
E 229 R 557
F 257 S 583
G 279 T 645
H 303
I 325
J 353
K 359
L 375
M 397
U 679
V 685
W 703
X 729
Y 731
Z 741
Appendix: African Names of God 747
Bibliography: African Religious Sources 751
Index 797

Encyclopedia of African Religion
Printed in the United States of America.

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