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Native American and African Religions

Religion has existed since antiquity. While different communities practiced different religions, they nonetheless have a common ground when it comes to the unity of the material and spiritual world. According to Toropov and Buckles, within the Native American spirituality, all processes whether human or non human (spiritual), are linked. Native American religion does not differentiate between natural and supernatural events (2004). Accordingly, Native American spirituality honors mother earth and the coexistence of life with nature and animals. It is for this reason that the Native Americans believe that spirits walk, coexist and interact with the humans rather than inhabit their own separate world. Native American and African religions teach that spirits walk on the earth openly interacting with humans. There are good and bad spirits; those that harm and those that protect including spirits that have taken human and/or animal appearances (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

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Religious leaders are an integral part of both the African and the Native American religions. The priests serve the primal function of officiating over religious ceremonies and rituals. In other instances, they are used to commune with the spirit world. The priests, who are given different titles depending on the people, are often the intermediaries between the material world and the spirit world. One of the most famous religions practices by the native Americans was Shamanism (Shamanism, N.d.). Their religious leaders who are known as Shamans often slip into a state of altered consciousness by using hallucinogenic drugs so as to able to effectively communicate with the spirit world asking for divination and healing (Shamanism, N.d.).

For purposes of communicating with the spiritual world, it is expected that the person first slips into a state of altered consciousness. Trancing is an important of African and Native American religious rituals. This is achieved through the inhalation of certain vapors, rhythm chanting, inflicting self torture, meditation, drumming and dancing. Sometimes this practice is reserved for the religious leaders only for instance, the shamans in the Native American religions (Shamanism, N.d.). Through the dancing, chanting and the drug taking, the religious leaders are able to transform themselves. That said, while the Shaman or priest is in this trance-like state, their movements to the drumming become more animal like. They also make bizarre sounds and noises. These rituals are also involved in initiation rites. During the performance of such rituals it is imperative that costumes are worn. These costumes not only signify the sacred nature of the ritual but also depict the spiritual journeys (O’Neill, 2004).

Both African and Native American religions have different rituals that serve different purposes but primarily for communicating with the spirits (Smoley, 1999). For instance, the Native Americans, observe the Shamanic ritual called Goot involving an elaborate setting of food, music and dance. As is common with most Shamanic rituals, during the dancing the Shaman or the people performing the ritual may get into a trance like state with the help of hallucinogens. This ritual is used by the Shamanic religious followers for material/physical wishes purposes. In this case, the people would be asking the spirits for such things as physical health, longevity, male births and even physical wealth (Kim, 2000). In the African religions, after long periods of drought, the rain making ceremony was always organized. A special priest who had the title of rainmaker, slipped into trance like state so as to communicate with the spirits in a bid to explain the drought. after the cause of the drought had been established, the spirits then provided the rainmaker with a solution. It involved the offering of libations to the spirits that had caused the drought as away of appeasing them and seeking forgiveness for transgressions (Exploring Africa, N.d.).

Native American and African religions may be practiced in different parts of the world but they still share the aspect of a unified natural and spiritual world.


Hyde, D. (2007). Native American religion, a rainbow of spirituality. Web.

Indigenous African religions. (N.d.). Exploring Africa. Web.

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Kim, A. (2000). Christianity, Shamanism and modernization in South Korea. Cross Currents.

O’Neill, D. (2004). Anthropology of religion. Web.

Native American and African Religions. (2009). Encyclopedia Britannica.

Shamanism. (N.d.). Web.

Smoley, R. (1999). The purpose of ritual. Ancient Wisdom. Web.

Toropov, B. & buckles, L. (2004). Complete idiots guide to world religions. New York: Alpha Books.

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