Traditional African Religion

African Traditional and Diasporic Religion


African Traditional Religions are those practiced by the original inhabitants of Africa and can be divided into four different groups: the Nilo-Saharan, the Niger-Congo, the Khoisan and the Afro-Asiatic Religious Traditions. African Diasporic Religions, on the other hand, are those that developed when the African Traditional Religions practiced by African slaves in new world countries like the southern USA, Latin America and the Caribbean Islands were mixed with the religions being practiced in those countries at that time.


There are many different Traditional and Diasporic Religions and each have their own history and specific origin. For the Traditional Religions, one Nilo-Saharan group was monotheistic while another was non theistic (as were the Khoisan groups), the Niger-Congo group was concerned with the manifestation of spirit in nature and the Afro-Asiatic group was henotheistic. Diasporic Religions represent the merging of whatever Traditional Religion was now being practiced in a specific new world country with whatever religion was already being practiced in that country, like, for instance, Catholicism, Kardecist Spiritism or Native American traditional mythology.

Different people have been responsible for influencing the development of the different Traditional and Diasporic Religions. In the Yoruba Traditional Religion, for instance, one of the present leaders in the faith is Prince (Babalawo) Adigun Osolun and he is also the High Priest of several other sects, including Oke, Egbe and Obatala. Another example is the influence that Marie Laveau and her daughter had on the development of the Diasporic Religion Voudou in 19th Century New Orleans.

Reach & Spirituality

Taken together, the Traditional Religions and the Diasporic Religions have been designated as a 'major religious group' and are believed to have approximately 100 million adherents worldwide. Approximately 45% of the people living in Africa today are followers of the Traditional Religions although this figure may be significantly higher as some of the people who are deemed to adhere to Islamic tradition also still follow Yoruban religious traditions. The Diasporic Religions are also still extensively practiced today in the American south, Central America and South America.

How basic religious concepts are defined in the African Traditional Religions and the African Diasporic Religions also differs from religion to religion. The Diasporic language of Winti as practiced in Suriname, for instance, is based on a belief in the personification of supernatural spirits while the Traditional Yoruban religion believes that it is the manifest destiny of all human beings to merge with the divine creator.