Kongo religion

Kongo religion (KiKongo: BuKongo) encompasses the traditional beliefs of the Bakongo people. Some smaller ethnic groups in the region, like the Chokwe, have adopted Bakongo spirituality.[1][2] The faith bases itself on a complex animistic system and a pantheon of various gods and spirits. The principle creator of the world is Nzambi Mpungu, the sovereign master.[1] Belief in Nzambi Mpungu, who gave birth to all the other gods, the world and spirits who inhabit it, is common, but Ancestor worship builds up the main religious beliefs.[3] Shamanly doctors, known as Nganga, try to mediate between the spirit realms and the physical world, as well as heal followers' minds and bodies. Mediatory roles like being a Nganga require legitimization from the other world of spirits and ancestors.[4] The universe is split between two worlds, one of the living (nza yayi) and a world of the dead (nsi a bafwa), where spirits and gods exist, these worlds are split by a metaphorical body of water.[5]

HistoryEdit

The traditional spirituality has its roots in Bantu speaking peoples in Africa. As the faith traveled to the Americas it retained various traditions but often mixed with other faiths. Some surviving traditions include possession by the dead to learn wisdom from the ancestors, and working with Nkisi. The religions that have preserved Kongo traditions include Palo Monte, Lumbalú, Kumina, Haitian Vodou, Candomblé Bantu, Venezuelan Yuyu and Hoodoo.[6][7][8]

Creation and cosmologyEdit

The Bakongo (or Mukongo) believe that in the beginning, the world was circular void, or mbûngi, with no life.[1]

According to researcher Molefi Kete Asante, "Another important characteristic of Bakongo cosmology is the sun and its movements. The rising, peaking, setting, and absence of the sun provide the essential pattern for Bakongo religious culture. These “four moments of the sun” equate with the four stages of life: conception, birth, maturity, and death. For the Bakongo, everything transitions through these stages: planets, plants, animals, people, societies, and even ideas. This vital cycle is depicted by a circle with a cross inside. In this cosmogram or dikenga, the meeting point of the two lines of the cross is the most powerful point and where the person stands."[1]

KalûngaEdit

 
Yowa, the Kongo Cosmogram symbol

BeliefsEdit

General beliefsEdit

The religion of the Kongo is deeply complex. According to historian John K. Thornton "Central Africans have probably never agreed among themselves as to what their cosmology is in detail, a product of what I called the process of continuous revelation and precarious priesthood."[9] The Kongo people had diverse views, with traditional religious thought best developed in the northern Kikongo-speaking area.[9] There is plenty of description about Kongo religious ideas in the Christian missionary and colonial era records, but as Thornton states, "these are written with a hostile bias and their reliability is problematic".[10] Kongo beliefs included Kilundu as Nzambi (god) or Jinzambi (gods, deities).[11]

In general, according to the Kongo cosmogram, the highest god, next to other high gods, reside at the top of the world, the spirits and other deities living below, followed by the physical realm populated by humans and animals, with water existing in the middle where the two worlds meet.[12]

Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural and passed down from one generation to another through folk tales, songs, and festivals,[13][14][15] include belief in an amount of higher and lower gods, sometimes including a supreme creator or force, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional African medicine. Kongo mythology, next to other nearby traditional religions can be described as animistic[16][17] with various polytheistic and pantheistic aspects.[18][1][19] Animism builds the core concept of the all Bantu religious traditions, including the Kongo religious beliefs, similar to other traditional African religions. This includes the worship of tutelary deities, nature worship, ancestor worship and the belief in an afterlife. While some religions adopted a pantheistic worldview, most follow a polytheistic system with various gods, spirits and other supernatural beings.[20] Traditional African religions also have elements of fetishism, shamanism and veneration of relics, and have a high complexity, comparable to Japanese Shinto or Hinduism.[21]

Spirits as well as dead ancestors could be communed with and those with authority got special rights to such communing. The priestly Nganga can interact with such spirits and ancestors. They would use spiritual cures to battle black magic in the world, sometimes using Nkisi. Nganga are not allowed to use black magic and only assisted clients to bring upon good fortune.[22]

Practices and charmsEdit

Humans may manipulate the universe through the use of charms called Nkisi. Within these charms are natural objects since it is believed all natural things contain a soul. These charms protect humans either by embodying a spirit or by directing a spirit to hunt evil.[12]

SpiritsEdit

After death a person's soul leaves the body to become a ghost and usually enters the land of the dead (Kalunga). Those who have done evil in life (such as witches) cannot enter the land of the dead and instead roam the Earth as spirits. Ancestors can become gods, but in most cases are revered as Ancestral spirits, which protect and guide living relatives. The dead communicate with the living in different ways; for example, they talk to them in dreams, send omens, or can be addressed by specially gifted seers.

A practitioner may commune with their family's ancestor spirits in a linear fashion, they may not commune with spirits who are not their ancestors , Unless they pray first.[12]

However, a lot of practitioners worshiped spirits of nature, whereas they don'tu from their lineage. There is lot of spirits who surrounds Nzambi a Mpungu like Nzambici, his wife (spirit of earth), Nzazi (the spirit of thunder and lightning), Ngonda (spirit of moon and menstruations) and his brother Ntangu (spirit of time and sun), Chicamassichinuinji (ruler of seas and oceans), Mpulu Bunzi or Bunzi (male or female spirit of rain), Mbumba (rainbow serpent) and his wife Funza (female spirit of waters, twin phenomenon, malformations in children) or Kalunga (spirit of death and sea).

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Asante, Molefi Kete; Mazama, Ama (2009). Encyclopedia of African Religion. SAGE Publications. pp. 120–124, 165–166, 361. ISBN 978-1412936361.
  2. ^ "NPS Ethnography: African American Heritage & Ethnography". www.nps.gov. Retrieved 2023-01-03.
  3. ^ Muyingi, Mbangu Anicet (2014-07-02). "The Place of African Traditional Religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the Advent of Christianity". Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 5 (14): 539. ISSN 2039-2117.
  4. ^ "Kongo Religion". encyclopedia.com. 2005.
  5. ^ "Kongo Religion". philatar.ac.uk.
  6. ^ "Kongo religion". meta-religion.com.
  7. ^ Thompson, Robert Farris (1983). Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 9780307874337.
  8. ^ Mary Margaret McCurnin. "From the Old to the New World: The Transformation of Kongo Minkisi in African American Art". Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU Scholars Compass). p. 11. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b John Thornton, "Religious and Ceremonial Life in the Kongo and Mbundu Areas," in Linda M. Heywood (ed) Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Diaspora (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), ISBN 978-0-521-00278-3, pp. 73-74.
  10. ^ John Thornton (2002), "Religious and Ceremonial Life," Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-00278-3, pp. 72-73.
  11. ^ John Thornton (2002), "Religious and Ceremonial Life," Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-00278-3, pp. 74-77
  12. ^ a b c Gibson, Kean (2001). Comfa Religion and Creole Language in a Caribbean Community. ISBN 9780791449608.
  13. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark (2006). The Oxford Handbook Of Global Religions. ISBN 0-19-513798-1.
  14. ^ S. Mbiti, John (1991). Introduction to African religion. ISBN 0-435-94002-3.
  15. ^ "The Place of African Traditional Religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the Advent of Christianity | Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences". 2020-08-06. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Kimmerle, Heinz (2006-04-11). "The world of spirits and the respect for nature: towards a new appreciation of animism". The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa. 2 (2): 15. doi:10.4102/td.v2i2.277. ISSN 2415-2005.
  17. ^ Vontress, Clemmont E. (2005), "Animism: Foundation of Traditional Healing in Sub-Saharan Africa", Integrating Traditional Healing Practices into Counseling and Psychotherapy, SAGE Publications, Inc., pp. 124–137, doi:10.4135/9781452231648, ISBN 9780761930471, retrieved 2019-10-31
  18. ^ An African Story BBC Archived November 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "The Place of African Traditional Religion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the Advent of Christianity | Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences". 2020-08-06. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ Kimmerle, Heinz (2006-04-11). "The world of spirits and the respect for nature: towards a new appreciation of animism". The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa. 2 (2): 15. doi:10.4102/td.v2i2.277. ISSN 2415-2005.
  21. ^ Asukwo (2013). "The Need to Re-Conceptualize African Traditional Religion".
  22. ^ Erwan Dianteill. Kongo in Cuba: the Transformations of an African Religion. Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religious Phenomena. pp. 59–80.