African spirituality acknowledges that beliefs and practices touch on and inform every facet of human life, and therefore African religion cannot be separated from the everyday or mundane. African spirituality is truly holistic. For example, sickness in the indigenous African worldview is not only an imbalance of the body but also an imbalance in one’s social life, which can be linked to a breakdown in one’s kinship and family relations or even to one’s relationship with one’s ancestors.
The role of ancestors in African cosmology has always been significant. Ancestors can offer advice and bestow good fortune and honour to their living dependents, but they can also make demands. A belief in ancestors also testifies to the inclusive nature of traditional African spirituality by positing that deceased progenitors still play a role in the lives of their living descendants.
Are ancestors considered deities in the traditional African cosmology?
The question underscores an important facet about African spirituality: It is not a closed theological system. It doesn’t have a fixed creed, like in some forms of Christianity or Islam. Consequently, traditional Africans have different ideas on what role the ancestors play in the lives of living descendants. Some Africans believe that ancestors are equal in power to deities, while others believe they are not. The defining line between deities and ancestors is often contested, but overall, ancestors are believed to occupy a higher level of existence than living human beings and are believed to be able to bestow either blessings or illness upon their living descendants.
While cultural experts argue that culture is not static and changes according to the times, it has been often asked how an ancient spiritual practice, such as spiritual healing is transforming in the digital era making it relatable and accessible. Gone are the days when people used to walk or drive long distances to consult sangomas. Now, they have access, to a new breed of tech-savvy sangomas who are available online.
Apartheid came with different religions that colonized people to shun away from their traditional beliefs. The interest by millennial shown online shows that young people are beginning to reclaim their heritage and that those with a calling are not ashamed of it, practicing openly and proudly.