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African DiasporaReligious Symbioses, Divinity, Ancestors, Spiritual Assets: Ase And Konesans, Leadership, Divination And Spirit Possession

The term African-derived religions (ADR) is used to identify various religions transplanted to the Americas with the enslavement of Africans. For simplicity, ADR will be used in this entry to denote Afro-Caribbean and Afro-Brazilian religions, whose traditions survived cultural and ideological assault and continued to provide spiritual resources for a civilization rooted in African cosmologies. Wide geographical distribution in the Americas reflects a similar distribution along the coast of West and Central Africa. African-derived religions are both an urban and a rural phenomenon, created in response to the existential realities of slavery and the derision of African spirituality. However, ADR inspired enslaved peoples in Haiti and provided inspiration for their revolution of 1791. ADR survived missionary attacks, ridicule, popular misunderstanding, and attempts to call into question their validity.

George Simpson grouped these religions into five types. First were the neo-African religions—Santería in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico; Vodun in Haiti; Shango in Trinidad and Grenada; and Candomblé in Brazil—drew from similar concepts and borrowed practices from Catholicism that reminded them of African realities. The second type were religions influenced by Protestant missionary activity in the region: Cumina and the Convince cult in Jamaica, The Big Drum Dance of Carriacou (Grenada), and Kele in St. Lucia. Third were groups influenced by Pentecostal groups from the United States. Religions that emphasize divination, healing, and spirit mediumship were the fourth type: Umbanda in Brazil, the Maria Lionza cult in Venezuela, and Espiritismo in Puerto Rico. The fifth type was Rastafarianism, a twentieth-century religion with a sociopolitical agenda.

Afro-Caribbean religions trace their origins to Africa.

  • Santería, which is practiced in Cuba and in many parts of the United States, is perhaps the most well known of the African-derived religions. It is also called Regla de Ocha or Regla Lucumi.
  • Regla de Palo, also called Palo Monte or Palo Mayombe, is linked to the religious traditions of Angola, Congo, and Gabon.
  • Regla Arara, also called Gaga, derives from the Dogon people in Mali.
  • Nanigo, also called Abakuka, is associated by practitioners with African thought, beliefs, and rituals.
  • Vodu (Vodun) is practiced in Haiti and in parts of the United States.
  • Kunina is practiced in Jamaica.
  • Winti, practiced in Suriname, is a multinational and multicultural religion that incorporates African, Indian, and Christian traditions.
  • Shango religion, practiced in Trinidad and Grenada, started in 1849, when indentured African laborers brought in from Ijesha in Nigeria began to practice Yoruba beliefs.
  • Kele is practiced on St. Lucia.
  • Drum Dance of Carriacou in the Grenadines, where worshippers dance and communicate with ancestors.
  • The Venezuelan cult of Maria Lionza draws upon spiritism, Amerindian mythology, and shamanism, as well as the Afro-Cuban Catholic tradition.
  • Confa Obeah religion is practiced in Guayana.
  • The twentieth-century Rastafarian movement is not an African-derived religion in the strictest sense, but because it considers the Imperial Majesty of Ethiopia a divine personality, members of its community have strong ties to Africa.

The term Afro-Brazilian religions is used for religious traditions practiced in Brazil.

  • Candomblé is a spirit-possession religion with strong ties to Africa and draws on Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Umbanda, and Brazilian mythology. It began when three women living in Bahia—Iyá Dêta, Iyá Kalá, and Iyá Nassô—started a house worship, which they called Engenho Velho. Disputes arose and led to the creation of Grantois and Axé Opó Afronjá. Roberto Motta has argued that Candomblé is being "churchified" through systematization and standardization at different levels and that this is reflected in several discourses and practices seeking to establish which community is authentic, who is the pureza nagô, who is the greatest babalorixá, which group offers the most social services in urban areas, and which theological literature stresses African roots and African memory and values. b. Umbanda grew out of a response to industrialization in Rio de Janeiro in the 1920s and spread to São Paulo. Members seek upward mobility, and their leaders are called pai-de-santo and mae-desanto.
  • Macumba, a syncretistic tradition, traces its roots to the Yoruba world. It is a ritual and dancing community led by priests (babalorixa) and priestesses (iyalorixa) who provide spiritual and psychological services to adherents.
  • Scholars question the qualification of Batuque as an African-derived religion because it has few African traits and no strong slave tradition in the area of Belem, where the religion is practiced.
  • Shango religions were created in honor of the orisha Shango.
  • Tambor de Mina, also called Nago.
  • Xango in Recife.

Originally, these nondoctrinaire and nontextual religions focused on a rich memory of African deities, rituals, morality, and practices that were passed on to younger generations. There is a wide range of scholarship on these religions, enabling broad descriptions of their spirituality.

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