Afro-American religion

Afro-American religion (also known as African diasporic religions) are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas in various nations of Latin America, the Caribbean, and the southern United States. They derive from traditional African religions with some influence from other religious traditions, notably Christianity.

Voodoo Altar New Orleans
Example of Louisiana Voodoo altar inside a temple in New Orleans.


Afro-American religions involve veneration of the dead, and include a creator deity along with a pantheon of divine spirits such as the Orisha, Loa, Nkisi, and Alusi, among others. In addition to the religious syncretism of these various African traditions, many also incorporate elements of Folk Catholicism, Native American religion, Spiritism, Spiritualism and European folklore.

List of traditions

Variations of African Religions in the Americas
Religion Location Ancestral roots Also practiced in Remarks
Candomblé Brazil Yoruba religion, Kongo religion, Dahomean religion Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, United States
Umbanda Brazil Yoruba religion Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, United States
Quimbanda Brazil Kongo religion Argentina, Uruguay, United States
Santería Cuba Yoruba religion Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Panama, Belize, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela
Cuban Vodú Cuba Dahomean religion Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, United States
Palo Cuba[1] Kongo religion Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, United States
Abakuá Cuba Ekpe United States Secret society of the Anaang, Efik, Ibibio, Ekoi, and Igbo peoples.
Dominican Vudú Dominican Republic Dahomean religion United States
Comfa Guyana Mixture of Odinani, Akan religion, Kongo religion, and Yoruba religion and knowledge traditions, along with indigenous American, Asian, and European elements. Trinidad and Tobago
Haitian Vodou Haiti Dahomean religion, Fon Canada, Dominican Republic, United States, France
Kumina Jamaica Kongo religion United States
Obeah Jamaica Akan religion, Odinani, Yoruba religion Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Virgin Islands, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia Similar to Hoodoo folk magic. Derives from the Igbo obia (or dibia, "doctoring") traditions.[2]
Winti Suriname Akan religion Guyana, Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Canada
Spiritual Baptist Trinidad and Tobago Yoruba religion the Bahamas, Barbados, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Guyana, Suriname, Canada, Jamaica, Belize, United States, United Kingdom, Australia
Trinidad Orisha Trinidad and Tobago[3] Yoruba religion United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia
Louisiana Voodoo Southern United States Dahomean religion United States

Other closely related regional faiths

See also


  1. ^ For an extended discussion on Palo's history, see: Dodson, Jualynne E. (2008). Sacred spaces and Religious Traditions in Oriente Cuba. UNM Press.
  2. ^ Eltis, David; Richardson, David (1997). Routes to slavery: direction, ethnicity, and mortality in the transatlantic slave trade. Routledge. p. 88. ISBN 0-7146-4820-5.
  3. ^ Houk, James (1995). Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion in Trinidad. Temple University Press.
  4. ^ Xango de Recife

External links


Comfa is a folk religion in Guyana also known as Spiritualism or Faithism. The word "Comfa" is used by non-practitioners as a generic term for spirit possession in Guyana. However, the word "Comfa" is also a term to define the greater folk religion involving spirit possession originating in Guyana.


Convince, also known as Bongo or Flenke is a religion from eastern Jamaica. It has roots in Kumina and Jamaican Maroon religion.

Cowrie-shell divination

Cowrie-shell divination refers to several distinct forms of divination using cowrie shells that are part of the rituals and religious beliefs of certain religions. Though best-documented in West Africa as well as in Afro-American religions, such as Santería, Candomblé, and Umbanda, cowrie-shell divination has also been recorded in other regions, notably East Africa and India.

Cuban Vodú

Cuban Vodú, also known as La Regla de Arará, is a syncretic religion of Caribbean origin which developed in the Spanish Empire. It is a religion formed from the blending of Fon and Ewe beliefs and Dahomey religion along with influences form Haitian Vodou. Loa are worshiped by the religion's practitioners. Even though much of the practices come from Haitian immigrants bringing Haitian Vodou to Cuba the Cuban practices differ in some ways. For instance: feats of strength are more common in ceremonies and dance movements differ. Cuban Vodú is composed of three divisions: the Indigenous American Division, whose spirits are of American origin (usually refers to Taíno spirits); the African Division, whose spirits are of African origin (usually Fon and Ewe spirits); and the European Division, whose spirits are of European origin (usually Spanish spirits).


In the Yoruba tradition, Erinlẹ was a great hunter who became an orisha. He is said to have conducted the first Olobu of Ilobu to the site of the town of Ilobu, and to have protected the people of the town from Fulani invasions.

He is usually described as a hunter but sometimes as a herbalist or a farmer. It is said that one day he sank into the earth near Ilobu and became a river.

He is known all over Yorùbáland.

The cult of Erinle is found in towns throughout the former Oyo Empire.

His shrines contain smooth, round stones from the Erinle River.

The name may be derived from erin (elephant) and ilẹ (earth), or from erin and ile (house).

known as Inle by the Lukumi in Cuba and as Ode Inle, sometimes Oxossi Ibualamo in Brazilian Candomble. The Erinle River, a tributary of the Oshun River, takes his name.


Ifá is a Yoruba religion and system of divination. Its literary corpus is the Odu Ifá. Orunmila is identified as the Grand Priest, as he is who revealed divinity and prophecy to the world. Babalawos or Iyanifas use either the divining chain known as Opele, or the sacred palm or kola nuts called Ikin, on the wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá.

Ifá is practiced throughout the Americas, West Africa, and the Canary Islands, in the form of a complex religious system, and plays a critical role in the traditions of Santería, Candomblé, Palo, Umbanda, Vodou, and other Afro-American faiths, as well as in some traditional African religions.

Jamaican Maroon religion

The traditional Jamaican Maroon religion otherwise known as Kumfu was developed by a mixing of West and Central African religious practices in Maroon communities. While the traditional religion of the Maroons was absorbed by Christianity due to conversions in Maroon communities, many old practices continued on. Some have speculated that Jamaican Maroon religion helped the development of Kumina and Convince. The religious Kromanti dance is still practiced today but not always with the full religious connotation as in the past.


Kumina is an Afro-Jamaican religion and practices that include secular ceremonies, dance and music that developed from the beliefs and traditions brought to the island by BaKongo enslaved people and indentured labourers, from the Congo region of West Central Africa, during the post-emancipation era. It is mostly associated with the parish of St. Thomas in the east of the island. However, the practice spread to the parishes of Portland, St. Mary and St. Catherine, and the city of Kingston.Kumina also gives it name to a drumming style, developed from the music that accompanied the spiritual ceremonies, that evolved in urban Kingston. The Kumina drumming style has a great influence on Rastafari music, especially the Nyabinghi drumming, and Jamaican popular music. Count Ossie was a notable pioneer of the drumming style in popular music and it continues to have a significant influence on contemporary genres such as reggae and dancehall.The Kumina riddim is a dancehall riddim produced by Sly & Robbie in 2002. It has featured in recordings of over 20 artists including Chaka Demus & Pliers and Tanya Stephens.

List of African mythological figures

This is a list of African spirits and/or deities found within the traditional African religions.

This list also covers spirits and/or deities found within the Afro-American religions—which mostly derives from traditional African religions.


Macumba (Portuguese pronunciation: [maˈkũᵐbɐ]) is a syncretic religion practiced in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It is sometimes considered by non-practitioners to be a form of witchcraft or black magic. Macumba was originally used to categorize all religions who practiced or believed in animistic-syncretism during the 1800s. In the 1900s Macumba became a slang term among Brazilians who aren’t affiliated with these religions. The religions that are referred to under the umbrella term Macumba are Candomblé, Giro, and Mesa Blanca. Although the word Macumba may be used among Afro-Brazilian religion praticioners to kindly refer to their practices, it is also used as a pejorative and even a racial slur by evangelical hate groups against these religions.


Myal is an Afro-Jamaican spirituality. Irt developed via the creolization of African religions during the slave era in Jamaica. It incorporates ritualistic magic, spiritual possession and dancing. Unlike Obeah, its practices focus more on the connection of spirits with humans. Over time, Myal began to meld with Christian practices and created the religious tradition known as Revivalism. Today, the term "myal" is commonly used to describe the state of possession by a spirit.

Obi divination

Obi divination is a system of divination used in the traditional Yoruba religion and in Yoruba-derived Afro-American religions. In Yorubaland, it uses palm or kola nuts; in Latin America and the Caribbean it uses four pieces of coconut.


An Opele (spelled Opuele or Ocuele in Latin America) is a divination chain used in traditional African and Afro-American religions, notably in Ifá and Yoruba tradition.A Babalawo (diviner) uses the Opele in order to communicate with the deity of wisdom/knowledge in the Yoruba tradition (Orunmila), who is able to identify the causes and solutions to personal and collective problems and restore harmony in the person's life through re-balancing of the person's destiny and/or Ori (personal deity). The Opele is the minor divination tool used by Babalawos for Ifa divination; it is believed to be an "assistant" or "slave" of Orunmila, who communicates Orunmila's desires to the Babalawo and from the Babalawo back to Orunmila. It is used for the majority of daily divination work. For divination regarding important ceremonial revelations or life-long information about a client or for very important decisions, Babalawos elect to use their Ikin seeds, which they consider to be the physical representation of Orunmila himself.


Òrìṣà (original spelling in the Yoruba language), known as orichá or orixá in Latin America, are the human form of the spirits (Irunmọlẹ) sent by Olodumare, Olorun, Olofi in Yoruba traditional identity. The Irunmọlẹ are meant to guide creation and particularly humanity on how to live and succeed on Earth (Ayé). Most Òrìṣà are said to be deities previously existing in the spirit world (Òrun) as Irunmọlẹ, while others are said to be humans who are recognized as deities upon their deaths due to extraordinary feats.Many Òrìṣà have found their way to most of the New World as a result of the Atlantic slave trade and are now expressed in practices as varied as Santería, Candomblé, Trinidad Orisha, Umbanda, and Oyotunji, among others. The concept of orisha is similar to those of deities in the traditional religions of the Bini people of Edo State in southern Nigeria, the Ewe people of Benin, Ghana, and Togo, and the Fon people of Benin.

Palo (religion)

Palo, also known as Las Reglas de Congo, is a religion with various denominations which developed in Cuba among Central African slaves and their descendants who originated in the Congo Basin. It is completely different from Santería and Ifa. Denominations often referred to as "branches" of Palo include Mayombe (or Mallombe), Monte, Briyumba (or Brillumba), and Kimbisa. The Spanish word palo "stick" was applied to the religion in Cuba due to the use of wooden sticks in the preparation of altars, which were also called la Nganga, el caldero, nkisi or la prenda. Priests of Palo are known as Paleros, Tatas (men), Yayas (women) or Nganguleros. Initiates are known as ngueyos or pino nuevo.


Santería, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla de Ifá, or Lucumí, is an Afro-American religion of Yoruba origin that developed in Cuba among West African descendants. Santería is a Spanish word that means the "worship of saints". Santería is influenced by and syncretized with Roman Catholicism. Its sacred language is the Lucumí language, a remnant of Yoruba language that is used in rituals but no longer spoken as a vernacular and mostly not understood by practitioners.

Tambor de Mina

Tambor de Mina is an Afro-Brazilian religious tradition, practiced mainly in Brazilian states of Maranhão, Piauí, Pará, and the Amazônia.


Winti is an Afro-Surinamese traditional religion that originated in South America and developed in the Dutch Empire; this resulted in the syncretization of the religious beliefs and practices of Akan and Fon slaves (with the gods such as Leba or Legba, Loko and Aisa or Ayizan) with Christianity. The foundation of Winti based on three principles: the belief in the supreme creator called Anana Kedyaman Kedyanpon; the belief in a pantheon of spirits called Winti; and the veneration of the ancestors. There is also a belief in Ampuku (also known as Apuku) which are anthropomorphic forest spirits. An Ampuku can possess people (both men and women) and can also pass itself off as another spirit. Ampuku can also be water spirits, and are known in such cases as Watra Ampuku.


Ọrunmila (Yoruba Ọ̀rúnmìlà, also Ọrúnla or Orúla in Nigeria and Latin America) is an Orisha. He is the Orisha of wisdom, knowledge, and divination. This source of knowledge is believed to have a keen understanding of the human form and of purity, and is therefore praised as often being more effective than other remedies.

Afro-American religion
Diverse roots
By geography
Wide issues

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