Is this related to the idea
of reincarnation, or is it a different concept?
Yes, it must be related to reincarnation in some way.
Traditional religions take the view that generally those
who are now divine beings were once hard-working and dedicated
human beings. As a reward, they became divine beings after
they died. That divine beings are not abstract concepts
but rather beings that once lived and fulfilled certain
requirements demonstrates the idea that life is central
to the traditional religions.
Which is why after death they
are transformed into divine beings.
Another way to think of this is that their work and dedication
had a trajectory that led to this transformation. Many
times beings such as these have been called "creator ancestor,"
"first ancestor," or "original ancestor." Everything that
I am trying to explain here has content that is practical,
content that has been lived. It is not an abstraction.
Accordingly, these divine beings are very close to human
beings. This is why it is important to be aware that Africans
regard the Supreme Being as an abstract entity, a rational
entity. Because of this, they don't call upon the Supreme
Being when trying to solve everyday problems. Rather,
they call upon the divine beings that had the privilege
to live and to return in some way.
And who therefore have a close
relationship with the living.
Absolutely! Also, the fact that they once lived enables
them to better understand what is going on.
They know what they are dealing
In general, is there a need
for an intermediary between an average person and one
of these divine beings, or can the average person relate
directly to the being?
I think that to speak of intermediaries between the African
and the divinities would be to somehow disregard what
we have been saying about traditional religion. African
traditional religions constitute life itself. Consequently
life and everyday activities are immersed from the start
in a religious context-while one is eating, working or
relating to others. All of these acts are religious because
they are life, which is why it would be inappropriate
to speak of an intermediary (with regard to day-to-day
religion). However, while it is true that life and activities
are immersed in a religious context, there are priests
who can get closer to divine beings in given moments,
not just any moment, because of their initiation. They
interpret certain events or situations and ask of the
divinity solutions for problems.
There are no intermediaries
but there is a place for interpreters.
That's the way it is.
Each person has a direct relation
to the divinities in a religious realm, which is all of
life. In this context then, what type of situation would
require an interpreter?
One example could be a country where there has been no
rain for more than a year. In this event it is thought
that there is a reason for the drought, but the reason
is unknown. This takes us to another level because we
are no longer dealing with a common, everyday event such
as getting food. We are faced with a situation beyond
that, which threatens the stability of the group. What
is called for then is an interpretation of what is happening.
For this it is necessary to resort to someone who has
had some initiation or spiritual training, someone who
is versed in matters that go beyond the religious relationship
that the ordinary person has with the divinities and who
can give explanations of what is happening in critical
times. Such a person is one who has received an initiation
that enables him/her to penetrate the mysteries of creation.
Clearly, everyone does not resort to intermediaries for
the problems of everyday life. However, during critical
times such as the case of a prolonged drought, the people
may turn to those who can penetrate the mysteries of creation.
Only they are able to explain what is happening by virtue
of their intimate relationship with the divinities.