Dinka religion

Dinka mythology refers to the traditional religion and folk tales of the Dinka, or Muonyjang, ethnic group of South Sudan.


The supreme, creator god, Nhialic, is the god of the sky and rain, and the ruler of all the spirits.[1] He is believed to be present in all of creation, and to control the destiny of every human, plant and animal on Earth. Nhialic is also known as Jaak, Juong or Dyokin by other Nilotic groups such as the Nuer and Shilluk. Nhialac created ex-nihilo and rarely involves itself with the affairs of humans.[2]

There are several versions of the Dinka creation myth which mainly concerns itself with the creation of humans. The first humans are Garang and Abuk. In some cases Nhialac created humans by blowing them out of its nose, other accounts say humans originated from the sky and were placed in the river where they came as fully formed adults. Other accounts say that humans were molded as clay figures and placed to mature in pots.[2] Garang and Abuk were made out of the clay of Sudan.[3]

Nhialac told them to multiply and that their children would die but would come back to life within 15 days. Garang protested that if nobody dies permanently then there won't be enough food. Nhialac then introduced permanent death.[2] Nhialac commanded them to only plant one seed of grain a day or gave them one grain to eat a day.[3][2] Being hungry everyday Abuk made a paste with the grain to make it last more.[3] However when Abuk disobeyed and planted more Nhialac cut the rope that connected Heaven and Earth.[2]


The Dinka have a pantheon of deities.

Dengdit or Deng, is the sky god of rain and fertility, empowered by Nhialic.[4] Deng's mother is Abuk, the patron goddess of gardening and all women, represented by a snake.[5] Garang, another deity, is believed or assumed by some Dinka to be a god suppressed by Deng whose spirits can cause most Dinka women, and some men, to scream. The term "Jok" refers to a group of ancestral spirits.

Invocation of Prayer

The Dinka address their prayers first to the Supreme Being Nhialic then invoke other deities.[6]

The Dinka offer prayers for receiving mild weather. They also pray for good harvest, protection of people and cattle recovery form illness and good hunting.[6]

Sacrifices of a bull or ox are offered to Nhialic. The Dinka perform sacrifices along with prayers. The invokes all clan-divinities, free-divinities and ancestral spirits and at times Nhialic. Those who are saying the prayers hold a fishing spear in their hands. Short phrases expressing the need are chanted while the spear is thrust at the animal to be sacrificed. The participants repeat the words of the leader. At times of crisis or an important occasion the Dinka will continue to pray and sacrifice for long periods of time.[6]

Stages of sacrificial prayer.[6]

1. The Leader describes the issue the people are facing.

2. The Leader and all present Acknowledge past sins.

3. Praise is offered singing hymns of honor or ox-songs.

4. Expulsion of the misfortune to the sacrificial animal.


The Dinka are also animists. Dinka inherit a totem from both their parents. The faithful are expected to make offerings to their totem force and maintain positive relations with members. Eating or hurting your totem animal is a bad omen for those who share a totem. Some totems are believed to endow powers. The owl totem, for example, is believed to give the power of providence. Totems are not exclusively animals, although most are; some Dinka having as their totem a metallic ore or element.

In the Dinka language, a totem is known as a kuar. Dinka do not worship their totems but rather speak of being "related" to them. The case of a snake relationship is described below.


Some Dinka people respect African puff adders. The most commonly respected snakes are Atemyath, Biar keroor, and Maluang. These snakes are given offerings of locally-made melted cheese to appease them, after which they are released into the forest. Killing snakes is believed to be a bad omen for the community or the individual, with the assumption that spirits may strike the killer.


  1. ^ Lienhardt, p 29
  2. ^ a b c d e Leeming, David (December 18, 2009). Creation Myths of the World: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1 (2nd ed.). ABC-CLIO. pp. 95–96. ISBN 978-1598841749.
  3. ^ a b c Asante, Molefi Mazama, Ama, eds. (November 26, 2008). Encyclopedia of African Religion, Volume 1 (1st ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-1412936361.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
  4. ^ Lienhardt, p 104
  5. ^ Lienhardt, p 90
  6. ^ a b c d George, Vensus (June 15, 2008). Paths to the Divine: Ancient and Indian. Council for Research in Values & Philosophy. ISBN 978-1565182486.


External links

Absolute (philosophy)

The concept of the Absolute, also known as The (Unconditioned) Ultimate, The Wholly Other, The Supreme Being, The Absolute/Ultimate Reality, The Ground of Being, Urgrund, The Absolute Principle, The Source/Fountain/Well/Center/Foundation of Reality, The Ultimate Oneness/Whole, The Absolute God of The Universe, and other names, titles, aliases, and epithets, is the thing, being, entity, power, force, reality, presence, law, principle, etc. that possesses maximal ontological status, existential ranking, existential greatness, or existentiality. In layman's terms, this is the entity that is the greatest, highest, or "truest" being, existence, or reality.

There are many conceptions of the Absolute in various fields and subjects, such as philosophy, religion, spiritual traditions, formal science (such as mathematics), and even natural science. The nature of these conceptions can range from "merely" encompassing all physical existence, nature, or reality, to being completely unconditioned existentially, transcending all concepts, notions, objects, entities, and types, kinds, and categories of being.

The Absolute is often thought of as generating manifestations that interact with lower or lesser types, kinds, and categories of being. This is either done passively, through emanations, or actively, through avatars and incarnations. These existential manifestations, which themselves can possess transcendent attributes, only contain minuscule or infinitesimal portions of the true essence of the Absolute.

The term itself was not in use in ancient or medieval philosophy, but closely related to the description of God as actus purus in scholasticism. It was introduced in modern philosophy, notably by Hegel, for "the sum of all being, actual and potential".

The term has since also been adopted in perennial philosophy.


Deng may refer to:

Deng (company), is a Danish engineering, electrical, solar power and sales company in Accra, Ghana

Deng (state), an ancient Chinese state

Deng (surname), originated from the state

Deng Xiaoping, leader of China

Deng (ethnic group), an ethnic group of Tibet

Another name for the Mayan god Denka

Doctor of Engineering degree, D.Eng.

the sky god of the Dinka religion

an alien race from the Bolo universe


Deng, also known as Denka, is a sky, rain, and fertility god in Dinka mythology for the Dinka people of Sudan and South Sudan. He is the son of the goddess Abuk.Among the Nuer, Deng is considered to be "a foreign deity" and "a bringer of disease." His daughter is the moon goddess. In Dinka religion, he is a storm and fertility god bringing lightning, rain and thunder.

The word deng mean rain' in Thuɔŋjäŋ.

Among its followers, Deng is regarded as the intermediary between humans and the supreme being. Closely linked with the supreme god Nhialic, he was regarded as the son of god, and sometimes as the son of the goddess Abuk. In some areas of Dinka country, Deng and Nhialic are "regarded as one and the same".

Dinka people

The Dinka people (Dinka: Jiɛ̈ɛ̈ŋ) are a Nilotic ethnic group native to South Sudan, but also having a sizable diaspora population. They mostly live along the Nile, from Mangalla to Renk, in regions of Bahr el Ghazal, Upper Nile (former two of three Southern Provinces in Sudan) and Abyei Area of the Ngok Dinka in South Sudan.

The Dinka mainly live on traditional agriculture and pastoralism, relying on cattle husbandry as a cultural pride, not for commercial profit or for meat, but cultural demonstrations, rituals, marriages' dowries and milk feedings for all ages. The Dinka cultivate food crops and cash crops. The food crops are grains, mainly sorghum and millet. The cash crops include groundnuts, sesame and gum-arabic. Cattle are confined to riversides, the Sudd and grass areas during the dry season, but are taken to high grounds in order to avoid floods and water during the rainy season.

They number around 4.5 million people according to the 2008 Sudan census, constituting about 18% of the population of the entire country, and the largest ethnic tribe in South Sudan. Dinka, or as they refer to themselves, Muonyjang (singular) and jieng (plural), make up one of the branches of the River Lake Nilotes (mainly sedentary agripastoral peoples of the Nile Valley and African Great Lakes region who speak Nilotic languages, including the Nuer and Luo). Dinka are sometimes noted for their height. With the Tutsi of Rwanda, they are believed to be the tallest people in Africa. Roberts and Bainbridge reported the average height of 182.6 cm (5 ft 11.9 in) in a sample of 52 Dinka Agaar and 181.3 cm (5 ft 11.4 in) in 227 Dinka Ruweng measured in 1953–1954. However, it seems the stature of today's Dinka males is lower, possibly as a consequence of undernutrition and conflicts. An anthropometric survey of Dinka men, war refugees in Ethiopia, published in 1995 found a mean height of 176.4 cm (5 ft 9.4 in). Other studies of comparative historical height data and nutrition place the Dinka as the tallest people in the world.The Dinka people have no centralised political authority, instead comprising many independent but interlinked clans. Some of those clans traditionally provide ritual chiefs, known as the "masters of the fishing spear" or beny bith, who provide leadership for the entire people and appear to be at least in part hereditary.

Their language, called Dinka or "Thuɔŋjäŋ" (Thoŋ ë Muɔnyjäŋ), is one of the Nilotic languages of the eastern Sudanic language family. The name means "people" in the Dinka language. It is written using the Latin alphabet with a few additions.

First Sudanese Civil War

The First Sudanese Civil War (also known as the Anyanya Rebellion or Anyanya I, after the name of the rebels, a term in the Madi language which means 'snake venom') was a conflict from 1955 to 1972 between the northern part of Sudan and the southern Sudan region that demanded representation and more regional autonomy. Half a million people died over the 17 years of war, which may be divided into three stages: initial guerrilla war, Anyanya, and South Sudan Liberation Movement.

However, the agreement that ended the First Sudanese Civil War's fighting in 1972 failed to completely dispel the tensions that had originally caused it, leading to a reigniting of the north-south conflict during the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2005. The period between 1955 and 2005 is thus sometimes considered to be a single conflict with an eleven-year ceasefire that separates two violent phases.

List of religions and spiritual traditions

While religion is hard to define, one standard model of religion, used in religious studies courses, was proposed by Clifford Geertz, who defined it as a

[…] system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." A critique of Geertz's model by Talal Asad categorized religion as "an anthropological category." Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with "faith" or "belief system", but religion differs from private belief in that it has a public aspect. Most religions have organized behaviours, including clerical hierarchies, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, congregations of laity, regular meetings or services for the purposes of veneration of a deity or for prayer, holy places (either natural or architectural) or religious texts. Certain religions also have a sacred language often used in liturgical services. The practice of a religion may also include sermons, commemoration of the activities of a god or gods, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, rituals, rites, ceremonies, worship, initiations, funerals, marriages, meditation, invocation, mediumship, music, art, dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religious beliefs have also been used to explain parapsychological phenomena such as out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and reincarnation, along with many other paranormal and supernatural experiences.Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories: world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international faiths; indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific or nation-specific religious groups; and new religious movements, which refers to recently developed faiths. One modern academic theory of religion, social constructionism, says that religion is a modern concept that suggests all spiritual practice and worship follows a model similar to the Abrahamic religions as an orientation system that helps to interpret reality and define human beings, and thus religion, as a concept, has been applied inappropriately to non-Western cultures that are not based upon such systems, or in which these systems are a substantially simpler construct.

Nilotic peoples

The Nilotic peoples are peoples indigenous to the Nile Valley who speak Nilotic languages, which constitute a large sub-group of the Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and northern Tanzania. In a more general sense, the Nilotic peoples include all descendants of the original Nilo-Saharan speakers. Among these are the Luo, Sara, Maasai, Kalenjin, Dinka, Nuer, Shilluk, Ateker, and the Maa-speaking peoples, each of which is a cluster of several ethnic groups. Some ethnic groups in West Africa such as the Serer people of Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania have been reported as being of Nilotic origin.The Nilotes constitute the majority of the population in South Sudan, an area that is believed to be their original point of dispersal. After the Bantu peoples, they constitute the second-most numerous group of peoples inhabiting the African Great Lakes region around the Eastern Great Rift. They make up a notable part of the population of southwestern Ethiopia as well.

The Nilote peoples primarily adhere to Christianity and traditional faiths, including the Dinka religion.


Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divine, sacred things, faith, a supernatural being or supernatural beings or "some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life". Religious practices may include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities), sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trances, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art, dance, public service, or other aspects of human culture. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred scriptures, and symbols and holy places, that aim mostly to give a meaning to life. Religions may contain symbolic stories, which are sometimes said by followers to be true, that have the side purpose of explaining the origin of life, the universe, and other things. Traditionally, faith, in addition to reason, has been considered a source of religious beliefs.There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, but about 84% of the world's population is affiliated with one of the five largest religion groups, namely Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or forms of folk religion. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics. While the religiously unaffiliated have grown globally, many of the religiously unaffiliated still have various religious beliefs.The study of religion encompasses a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theology, comparative religion and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for the origins and workings of religion, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.

Traditional African religions

The traditional African religions (or traditional beliefs and practices of African people) are a set of highly diverse beliefs that include various ethnic religions. Generally, these traditions are oral rather than scriptural, include belief in a supreme creator, belief in spirits, veneration of the dead, use of magic and traditional African medicine. The role of humanity is generally seen as one of harmonising nature with the supernatural. According to Lugira, "it is the only religion that can claim to have originated in Africa. Other religions found in Africa have their origins in other parts of the world."

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