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AfricaWorship Spaces

Worship takes place in a variety of sacred spaces and at shrines. A. I. Richards listed six types of shrines: personal huts, village shrines, places of deceased chiefs, natural-phenomena shrines, burial places of chiefs, and places containing the relics and paraphernalia of dead chiefs. Drawing on this, Van Binsbergen distinguished between shrines constructed by humans and natural shrines such as trees, hills, groves, pools, streams, falls, and rapids. Dominique Zahan calls these natural shrines of water, earth, air, and fire, "elementary cathedrals." Sacred places associated with water include streams, rivers, lakes, and springs. Those associated with the earth include the ground itself, rocks, crossroads, hollows, hills, and mountains, and those associated with air include trees and groves. In the village of Ntumbaw, the burial groves of chiefs are considered sacred ground, and the current chief enters this sacred place only to communicate with the departed chiefs.

Religious activities also take place in the public square. In Nigeria, Oshun festivals take place in the courtyard of the oba (king) as well as in the sacred grove of Oshun. Worship also takes place in individual homes. Blier argues that the vertical houses of the Batammaliba (which they consider places of worship) are designed to emphasize their belief that God is the highest one and are oriented in an east-west path to face Kuiyekulie, the dwelling place of Kuiye. Other parts of the house point to their sacrificial relationship to Kuiye's providence through human procreation, and to other deities in their religious system.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusReligion - Africa - Myth And Cosmology, Gods And Spirits, Religion And Possession, Religious Authorities, Worship Spaces