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The Meaning Of Offerings And Sacrifices In African Tradition.

If you are African or if you are interested in Africa  and its culture you must surely notice that when Africans perform sacred rites, they make offerings. These offerings to God or his forms (divinities) can take the form of foods that are offered to or from animal sacrifices (chicken, etc …) that are offered. We will in this essay explain their meanings. We advise the reader to know beforehand the foundations of the African Spirituality in. It is also necessary to read the foundations of the veneration of the ancestors to better understand this article.

We recall that African culture and spirituality do not have the same vision of the world and things as the so-called revealed religions. That is why if you observe African spirituality with the angle of revealed religions, you will not understand the meaning of its practices. It goes without saying that African man does not have the same perception of God and the power of God, that the vision that the revealed religions have of the power of God. In Africa, God is not a person sitting in heaven who gives orders and to whom man only obeys and gives pleasure to reach heaven as in so-called revealed religions.

For the African it is the creator himself who, after having created the universe, himself gives his divine energy each day to make all creation live (nature, animals, plants, human beings, etc …) and maintain it. Thus all things are animated by divine energy. In other words, for the African, “God does not sleep” , since he works every day by sending sunlight, energy for all things and all beings, to make life live and make creation work. In short, the African perceives the Creator as a worker with activities and occupations. And it is this divine action that makes the world and all creation stand.

The thought of our ancestors is logical and simple. Let us recall that in Africa the human being is an emanation of the Creator. And since it is so, that is why the human being also has his activities (going to work, etc.) to maintain himself, like the creator who also has his activities.

And if we are in the image of God and vibrate with the same energy as he does, it means that when we work, we are exhausted and we are tired and we need to regain strength, is not it? Eh ben the African man thinks that if God to maintain the creation sends energy, gives light, force, makes vibrate things and beings, all this is work. Therefore the creator by spending his energy can also lose and get tired.

And if the creator gets tired then the whole creation is in danger because it is the creator who makes her live. The African thus makes offerings and sacrifices to the Creator so that he also nourishes himself spiritually in order to help him revitalize his energy, so that in return this Creator’s energy is always at the point of continuing to make beings work , things, the universe and keep it in balance.

The African is not from a point of view of belief, the African is in a perspective of knowledge and logic. And when one understands this logic, one understands that the African does not make offerings and sacrifices simply to please the Creator. The African makes offerings and sacrifices because it is perceived as useful and necessary for the harmony between the creator and the creation and the maintenance of it. That is the primary meaning of the offerings and sacrifices offered to the divinity.

Thus gesture is therefore an exchange of good processes between man and the Creator or his forms (divinities). Indeed, since it is considered that the creator has shared and shares with his creatures all that he possesses, since they receive strength, life, health and all sorts of benefits from the creator on a daily basis, ‘African judges normal and logical to give and share with the creator each time he owns, to get the fruit of his work and his efforts, etc … in other words since the creator gives things, so it is normal for us to give them in return, so that he will continue to give us and vice versa.

These exchanges of good processes between man and the Creator are also used to solve problems. Depending on the difficulties and / or problems encountered during the cycle of existence, our ancestors could resort to sacrifice or offerings to the spiritual world (creator, ancestors, etc.) in order to solve a problem, to repair a situation complex, etc. This is the second meaning of sacrifices and offerings in Africa.

Let us take the example of a woman who can not give birth. She will tell herself that the form of God responsible for fertility is weakened and she will nourish it by her offerings to regenerate that energy that will make her pregnant. In the same way, if a person experiences misfortunes, she will say that the energies of her ancestors, intermediate between her and God, are weakened. Through her offerings and sacrifices, she will nourish the ancestors to reinvigorate their strength and intercede in her favor with God.

The offerings can take two forms:

The offerings of food, incense, goods, etc., and the offerings of living beings (animal sacrifices, etc.)

Regarding the sacrifices of animals, the animals were not chosen by chance. They were chosen according to their spiritual nature (pure or impure spiritual nature, etc.) and according to the purpose of sacrifice (solving a problem or revitalizing creative energy). Our ancestors thought, however, that life is sacred and that therefore it was not necessary to kill. When we talk about killing here, we are talking about killing in the sense of harming life, doing evil, murdering, etc.

Thus our ancestors sacrificed animals only when it seemed necessary to them. The same is true when animals are killed for food or feed. This is necessary. That is why one who kills an animal for food does not consider himself a murderer or a criminal. So our ancestors by killing animals to feed God, did not consider that they were committing a crime, harming animals or murdering them.

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Animal sacrifice rituals are made to this day to appease the spirit of the animal that would be sacrificed. He is made to understand that he is not killed for pleasure or for nothing, but out of necessity. The so-called revealed religions, which were largely inspired by African spirituality, have resumed these practices of offerings and sacrifices of animals (eg sacrifice of sheep in Islam or paschal lamb for Judaism) associated rituals (Hallal rites in Islam or Hiding in Judaism).

It should also be said that in Africa there have been cases of human sacrifice. But as we said above, our ancestors knew that we should not kill (commit crimes, murders). One of the Maat’s 42 commands , the moral code of our ancestors recommends not to kill. So as in the animal sacrifice our ancestors did so if and only if it was necessary. This can be seen in the story of the celebrated Queen Pokou, who was obliged to sacrifice her own son because it seemed necessary.

However, it should be noted that because of considerations related to the relationship between man and animal, our ancestors have more often preferred to sacrifice animals in the place of man.

In short, for our ancestors the killing of a living being in the context of a sacrifice or an offering is not perceived as murder or murder, since it is the necessity of sacrifice that imposes this killing. In other words, at the base for our ancestors, as long as we do not make a sacrifice of a living being for the purpose of committing a murder or a crime (hence doing harm), we do a correct thing, a good thing. It is the same with material offerings (goods, food, etc.). As long as these things are not done in order to harm, we are not on the wrong path. But if these things are done with the aim of hurting one is on the wrong path (sorcery, etc.)

Revealed religions having largely inspired Africa, they have taken up these ideas of human sacrifices and as in Africa, have replaced humans to sacrifice not animal symbols. One can see it when in the Bible Abraham tries to sacrifice his own son and then finally sacrifices an animal instead of his son. The animal takes the place of man in the history of Abraham.

Christians also commemorate the human sacrifice of Christ, say that Christ sacrificed Himself, but assimilate it to an animal by calling it the sacrificed lamb, and eat his body and drink his blood every Sunday, and believe that this human sacrifice was necessary to save mankind. The figure of the sacrificial lamb becomes for Christians the figure of Christ. The animal here is also substituted for man (here Christ).

This is the time to raise the issue of ritual crimes in Africa. It has been a number of years since we heard about ritual crimes in Africa.

But what is a ritual crime? Well, it’s a murder, an assassination of a human being. A ritual crime is therefore a crime, a murder and therefore is different from a sacrifice (offering of material or living beings especially animals to the Creator). And why is it called ritual? Well it is because this murder is conceived as being a habit, a usage or a tradition in force. Speaking of ritual crimes in Africa, one tries in a sense to suggest that murder is common in African traditions.

Research shows that the only known case of ritual killing in Africa often affected rites related to kings. This was due to the fact that for our ancestors, the king has a number of responsibilities and tasks to fulfill on the physical (political administrative) and spiritual (sacred cults and rituals) for the maintenance of the kingdom. And in order to fulfill them, it was necessary that the king should be in full form as long as possible, for the vitality of the kingdom depended on the vitality of the king in the accomplishment of his tasks. We have explained in detail the symbolic and ontological status of the king in the African tradition here.

Thus if the king were not able to perform his duties properly to keep the kingdom in order, the kingdom might run to ruin with a weakened, weary or sick king. But the function of the king was not at all repose. So when time passed and the strength and vitality of the king declined because of age or old age, or if he was suffering from a disabling disease preventing him from performing the functions necessary for the maintenance of his kingdom, the king could be put to death, and someone younger, in full form and full possession of his physical and intellectual means, ascended the throne.

But over time, this ritual killing of the king was gradually transformed into a set of regeneration rituals during which the king reinforced his energy, and was no longer actually but symbolically killed, and thus could continue to even though his age was advancing.

Apart from this case of the actual and later symbolic killing of the king, all our ancestral traditions show that African traditions have a profound respect for life and human life. Recall that for African traditions, life comes from God and is therefore sacred, and the human being is a divine being because it is an emanation of the creator and possesses this life received from the creator in him.

Since for African tradition man and life come from God, the African tradition considers that committing crimes and murders means attacking the divine work (which is here man and life) and therefore to the one who makes the creatures live, and so to the creator himself. That is why committing crimes is a serious act prohibited by African tradition. Indeed, in Africa, when a person dies and is believed to have been the victim of a murder, there are rites of interrogating the deceased to find out who killed him find and punish the guilty.

All this to say that ritual crimes do not exist and are not customs or usages in the African tradition since the African tradition prohibits crimes. Therefore these so-called “ritual” crimes are not and have no connection with the African tradition!

It should be noted, however, that these massive crimes are often recurring each time during important moments in the political history of current African countries, or during periods of presidential elections in Africa, in many African countries where Freemasonry reigns (eg Gabon).

In short, offerings and sacrifices are made to nourish the spiritual world, ie the Creator, his forms (divinities), his intermediaries (ancestors); They are also made to solicit their assistance in case of problematic situation in the terrestrial world.

 

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Written by MT

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