Before the advent of white men, Africans had a religion. This religion was known as African traditional religion. This religion was adhered to strongly. What made it different from other forms of religion was that the adherents worshiped different gods. This worship was tied to the cultures and people. When the westerners conquered Africa and instituted their own form of religion which is Christianity; a greater percentage of the African population embraced the religion. Prior to this era, the traditional religion in Africa was characterized by Idol worshiping. This practice has lingered up till date. A handful of Africans still worship Idols and deities.
This discourse will x-ray the features of idol worshiping in Africa. Idols are symbols or effigies that represent a supreme being. The worshipers have enormous faith in the might of the Idols. To demonstrate how much they believe in these Idols, most of them give their petitions to the Idols followed with pledges to be redeemed when their prayers are answered. They must fulfill these pledges whenever they feel that their prayers have been answered, for it is believed that defaulting has grievous consequences. They refer to these statues and masks as their gods.
An Idol worshiper devotes time in his worship. There are always specific dates mapped out for the worship. This worship is always celebrated as a feast. Idols are normally offered animal blood, kola nuts, Palm wine, food etc. History has it that some worshipers offered human sacrifice to the Idols in the olden days, but nobody knows how true this is.
In Africa, people believe that these Idols are powerful and dangerous, though Christians categorize them as dead gods but it is clear that most of them do have some powers. It is always a delight to watch where the rituals are being performed. It reminds one of what the primitive man of the Stone Age looked liked. A shrine which is a collection of many Idols is always a great tourist attraction. It possesses some elements of fear, because of the frightening masks, statues, metals, stones etc. that are used to decorate them.E These Idols are also associated with creepy masquerades. Some of these masquerades are the symbols of the gods. They appear whenever it is the season for the worshiping of the Idol. It is only men that wear these masquerades, though their identity are always hidden. Women are not allowed to come close where the masquerade ritual is taking place. Most of them are rated very high that it is believed that any woman who sees them at the shrine will die instantly. Because of this, the venue is always barricaded to prevent any intruder from trespassing.
Some of these worshipers are classified as herbalists. These people are believed to have special powers to perform extraordinary things, such communing with the spirits, healing various ailments or diseases, sooth saying, making native bullet proof etc. This may sound unbelievable but anyone who seeks to verify should feel free to visit any part of Sub Saharan Africa to see things for oneself. I recommend Enugu-ezike, a town in Enugu state, south East Nigeria. The town has a strong history in respect to African traditional religion. Apart from the herbalists, each shrine has a Chief Priest. He is in charge of daily running of the shrine. He offers sacrifice to the shrine and serves as the link between the gods and the worshipers. Major shrines also have messengers and servants that run errands for the Chief Priest.
Africa has a rich cultural heritage. This Idol worshiping is one of the few cultural practices that are very much in existence, though its survival is being threatened by Christianity as many devotees are being converted to Christian religion on daily basis.