Traditional religions must
be those which have been practiced in certain places for
a long time but which do not have a revelation book.
Yes, evidently they are of an oral nature, and although
they have theoretical components, they are transmitted
orally. These traditional religions believe in two worlds:
the world that we are in at the present moment, which
is the world of the living, and the world of the dead.
There is a duality, but what is interesting is that the
two worlds are complementary. The complementary relationship
is so important, so essential, that each act carried out
in this life requires the blessing of the other world
in order to unfold fully. This underscores the interdependence
of these two worlds.
The third thing that unifies African religions is respect
for hierarchy, not only for the hierarchy that we can
see in a community, but also for the hierarchy of the
Cosmos. Thus, there are two fundamental elements with
respect to the hierarchy that must always be considered:
the community and the Cosmos. There is a certain order
which must govern the whole mechanism and which must be
respected in order to avoid the risk of disequilibrium.
This is why this hierarchy is fundamental.
Later we can discuss the presence of the cult or the ritual
in African religions. All these religions have a ritual
aspect. This is because ritual is the definitive means
by which the human enlivens, refreshes, revives and revitalizes
life, but always passing through the original point, the
original beginning. This would be the way of giving more
energy, more strength, and more vitality to life.
What is this original point?
The original point is the original creation. When we make
reference to it through ritual, what we are searching
for is precisely to re-energize ourselves, to draw energy
from that original force of creation.
This leads me to believe that
we are aware of the danger of empty ritual if it is not
in contact with that original force. Empty ritual could
become a form bereft of meaning.
That depends on the way one thinks about ritual. In traditional
African religions, ritual always is related to that force.
This is because every aspect of the ritual is taken from
the characteristics of that force. Because this original
force is manifested in the ritual, there can be no ritual
that does not have its characteristics. Therefore, there
is little risk that the ritual will become empty. Now,
if our intention is to give ourselves energy and strength
through ritual, then surely we are aware of the interdependence
of the two worlds. It follows that we cannot solve problems
alone. Hence, the fundamental idea of the two worlds being
One is the world of the living,
and the other is the world of the dead. Does the latter
in some way encompass all that has been until the present?
We could say that the world of the living is the present
world and that the world of the dead is the world of the
past. This leads us to the interesting subject of the
concept of time in these religions. First of all, there
is a concept of circularity within which ritual makes
sense and has a place. For example, when performing a
ritual, the idea is to get to the origin, i.e., to depart
from a point along a path that leads back to the same
point. The circle symbolizes this. It is interesting to
note that within the concept of circularity the past is
very long, and the present and future are virtually non-existent.
Why is there virtually no
We will come back to this point later. What is interesting
here is that the past is very long, and the present is
short in comparison. This allows us to deduce the importance
of the past as a cemetery, as a time of myth. In these
religions, myth has the definite function of serving as
an ontological base, the foundation of all that takes
place in life.
The place from which everything
Everything, it is the time of the end. This is important
in the perspective of traditional religions for this present
is a part of the past. Also, this same present becomes
It becomes the past instantly.
It becomes the past instantly, but at the same time it
has the possibility to be the present because the function
of ritual is precisely to bring the past to the present.
There is an overlap between the present and the past;
hence this circularity. In this sense it is clear that
one who leaves returns, and therefore nothing is lost.
This is not the linear time that leads us to believe that
what goes never returns. There is virtually no future.