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Culture of West African Kingdoms

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-Religion of West African Kingdoms-

The West African kingdoms that arose in the early to middle part of the second millennium were very interesting peoples with unique ways of life. There were many different aspects of daily life that were important to these great kingdoms. Art, family and culture were all very rich and important to theses peoples. However, one of the main aspects of daily life was religion.

Since ancient times, there have been many ceremonies and customs practiced by African people. However, similar cultures usually shared similar beliefs about their religion. There was not one defined religion amongst all tribes, but there were many similarities in people's beliefs. The central idea behind African religion was that there is one "supreme" god, whom controlled everything. African people appealed to this God for help and wisdom. According to common belief, below the supreme god there were also lesser Gods to whom the people could ask for help. This idea is very similar to that of the Native American's. Africans also believed in ancestral veneration, the act asking your ancestors for help and guidance. All of these beliefs were passed down by oral tradition.

Peoples of the West African Kingdoms had various ways that they practiced their beliefs. Traditionally, there were ceremonies held by tribal elders, asking Gods and ancestors for help in hard times, and thanking them in prosperity. These ceremonies were the basis for worship amongst many people, but there were other ways in which worship was done. Art was of ten used as a sign of thanks to ancestors. Detailed dance "routines", were often practiced to honor the god's.

Religion was also very closely linked to government in the major West African cultures. The kings and chiefs usually ruled by divine law, and people thought that they were summoned by the spirits to lead. An example of this is the Oba, who ruled Benin City, and was thought of as divine by the people. Politics and religion are still mixed to this day.

Since ancient times, there has been some change in African religion. Today, most people are either Muslim or Christian. Those whom are not Christian or Muslim sometimes practice traditional African religion, with a few changes. Today, there are no sacrifices, and some extreme rituals have ceased to exist. However, dancing and singing to honor ancestors is still



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