Kongo religion

Kongo religion is a broad set of traditional beliefs from the KiKongo speaking peoples. The faith bases itself in the idea of a main creator god named Nzambi Mpungu who made the world and spirits who inhabit it. Priestly doctors known as Nganga try to heal followers minds and bodies. Mediatory roles like being a Nganga require legitimization from the other world of spirits and ancestors.[1] The universe is split between two worlds, one of the living (nza yayi) and a world of the dead (nsi a bafwa), these worlds are split by a body of water. Humans continually pass through these worlds in cycle.[2]


The traditional religion has its roots in Bantu speaking peoples in Africa. As the faith came to the Americas it retained various traditions but often mixed with other faiths. Some surviving traditions include possession by the dead to learn wisdom from the ancestors, and working with Nkisi. The religions that have preserved Kongo traditions include Palo Mayombe, Kumina, Haitian Vodou, Lumbalú and Candomblé.[3]


General cosmology

The religion of the Kongo is deeply complex. According to historian John K. Thornton "Central Africans have probably never agreed among themselves as to what their cosmology is in detail, a product of what I called the process of continuous revelation and precarious priesthood."[4] The Kongo people had diverse views, with traditional religious thought best developed in the northern Kikongo-speaking area.[4] There is plenty of description about Kongo religious ideas in the Christian missionary and colonial era records, but as Thornton states, "these are written with a hostile bias and their reliability is problematic".[5] Kongo beliefs included Kilundu as Nzambi (god) or Jinzambi (gods, deities), all had only limited powers.[6]

In general, according to the Kongo cosmogram, the creator god resides at the top of the world, the spirits living bellow and water existing in the middle where the two worlds meet.[7]

Spirits as well as dead ancestors could be communed with and those with authority got special rights to such communing. The priestly Nganga can interact with such spirits and ancestors. They would use spiritual cures to battle black magic in the world, sometimes using Nkisi. Nganga are not allowed to use black magic and only assisted clients to bring upon good fortune.[8]

Practices and charms

Humans may manipulate the universe through the use of charms called Nkisi. Within these charms are natural objects since it is believed all natural things contain a soul. These charms protect humans either by embodying a spirit or by directing a spirit to hunt evil.[7]


After death a persons soul leaves the body to become a ghost and usually enters the land of the dead. Those who have done evil in life (such as witches) cannot enter the land of the dead and instead roam the Earth. A practitioner may commune with their family's ancestor spirits in a linear fashion, they may not commune with spirits who are not their ancestors.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Kongo Religion". encyclopedia.com. 2005.
  2. ^ "Kongo Religion". philatar.ac.uk.
  3. ^ "Kongo religion". meta-religion.com.
  4. ^ a b John Thornton, "Religious and Ceremonial Life in the Kongo and Mbundu Areas," in Linda M. Heywood (ed) Central Africans and Cultural Transformations in the American Disapora (London and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), ISBN 978-0-521-00278-3, pp. 73-74.
  5. ^ John Thornton (2002), "Religious and Ceremonial Life," Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-00278-3, pp. 72-73.
  6. ^ John Thornton (2002), "Religious and Ceremonial Life," Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-00278-3, pp. 74-77
  7. ^ a b c Gibson, Kean (2001). Comfa Religion and Creole Language in a Caribbean Community.
  8. ^ Erwan Dianteill. Kongo in Cuba: the Transformations of an African Religion. Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religious Phenomena. pp. 59–80.
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.

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.

Candomblé Bantu

Candomblé Bantu (also called Candomblé Batuque or Angola) is one of the major branches (nations) of the Candomblé religious belief system. It developed in the Portuguese Empire among Kongo and Mbundu slaves who spoke Kikongo and Kimbundu) languages. The supreme and creative god is Nzambi or Nzambi Mpungu. Below him are the Jinkisi or Minkisi, deities of Bantu mythology. These deities resemble Olorun and the other orishas of the Yoruba religion. Minkisi is a Kongo language term: it is the plural of Nkisi, meaning "receptacle". Akixi comes from the Kimbundu language term Mukixi.


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.


Espiritismo (Portuguese and Spanish for "Spiritism") is a term used in Latin America and the Caribbean to refer to the popular belief that good and evil spirits can affect health, luck and other aspects of human life.

John M. Janzen

John M. Janzen is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. He has been a leading figure on issues of health, illness, and healing in Southern and Central Africa since the 1960s and has dedicated much of his career to providing a better understanding of African society. Janzen’s knowledge of the Kikongo language and his intermittent visits to the lower Congo region between 1964 and 2013 have paved the way for a contextual understanding of the roots of Western Equatorial African approaches to sickness and healing, combining African and Western derived biomedical therapies. Janzen’s research has expanded to include other African countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Sudan. He is the former director of the Kansas African Studies Center at the University of Kansas. .

João I of Kongo

João I of Kongo (died 1509), alias Nzinga a Nkuwu or Nkuwu Nzinga, was ruler of the Kingdom of Kongo between 1470 and 1509. He was baptized as João on 3 May 1491 by Portuguese missionaries. Due to his interest in Portugal and its culture, he initiated a major cultural initiative in 1485 upon the arrival of Diogo Cão. It was under these conditions that the first Atlantic Creole emerged, forming in both Central Africa and in Portugal.

Kingdom of Kongo

The Kingdom of Kongo (Kongo: Kongo dya Ntotila or Wene wa Kongo; Portuguese: Reino do Congo) was a kingdom located in west central Africa in present-day northern Angola, the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo as well as the southernmost part of Gabon. At its greatest extent it reached from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Kwango River in the east, and from the Congo River in the north to the Kwanza River in the south. The kingdom consisted of several core provinces ruled by the Manikongo, the Portuguese version of the Kongo title Mwene Kongo, meaning "lord or ruler of the Kongo kingdom", but its sphere of influence extended to neighbouring kingdoms, such as Ngoyo, Kakongo, Loango, Ndongo and Matamba, the last two located in what is Angola today.From c. 1390 to 1857 it was mostly an independent state. From 1857 to 1914 it functioned as a vassal state of the Kingdom of Portugal. In 1914, following the Portuguese suppression of a Kongo revolt, Portugal abolished the titular monarchy. The remaining territories of the kingdom were assimilated into the colony of Angola and the Protectorate of Cabinda respectively. The modern-day Bundu dia Kongo sect favors reviving the kingdom through secession from Angola, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Gabon.

Kongo cosmogram

The cosmogram was a core symbol of the Kongo culture. An ideographic religious symbol, the cosmogram was called dikenga dia Kongo or tendwa kia nza-n' Kongo in the KiKongo language. Ethnohistorical sources and material culture demonstrate that the Kongo cosmogram existed as a long-standing symbolic tradition within the BaKongo culture before European contact in 1482, and that it continued in use in West Central Africa through the early twentieth century. In its fullest embellishment, this symbol served as an emblematic representation of the Kongo people and summarized a broad array of ideas and metaphoric messages that comprised their sense of identity within the cosmos.Robert Farris Thompson describes it as thus: "Coded as a cross, a quartered circle or diamond, a seashell spiral, or a special cross with solar emblems at each ending - the sign of the four moments of the sun is the Kongo emblem of spiritual continuity and renaissance par excellence. In certain rites it is written on the earth, and a person stands upon it to take an oath, or to signify that he or she understands the meaning of life as a process shared with the dead below the river or the sea - the real sources of earthly power and prestige, in Kongo thinking... The intimation, by shorthand geometric statements, of mirrored worlds within the spiritual journey of the sun, is the source and illumination of some of the more important sculptural gestures and decorative signs pertaining to funerary monuments and objects designated for deposit on the surface of funerary tombs, or otherwise connected with funerary ceremonies and the end of life."


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. 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 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.


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.


Nganga is a Kikongo language term for herbalist or spiritual healer in many African societies and also in many societies of the African diaspora such as those in Haiti, Brazil, and Cuba. It is derived from *-ganga in proto-Njila, an early branch of the Bantu family. The verb form related to it, -gang- relates to wisdom, knowledge and skill.

As this term is a multiple reflex of a Proto-Bantu root, there are slight variations on the term throughout the entire Bantu-speaking world.


Nkisi or Nkishi (plural varies: minkisi, zinkisi, or nkisi) are spirits, or an object that a spirit inhabits. It is frequently applied to a variety of objects used throughout the Congo Basin in Central Africa especially in the Territory of Cabinda that are believed to contain spiritual powers or spirits. The term and its concept have passed with the Atlantic slave trade to the Americas.


Nkondi (plural varies minkondi, zinkondi, or ninkondi) are mystical idols made by the Kongo people of the Congo region. Nkondi are a subclass of minkisi that are considered aggressive. The name nkondi derives from the verb -konda, meaning "to hunt" and thus nkondi means "hunter" because they can hunt down and attack wrong-doers, witches, or enemies.

Nzambi a Mpungu

Nzambi a Mpungu is the Kongolese name for a high creator god. The idea of such a god spread from Central Africa into other Kongo related religions.

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.


Witchcraft or witchery is the practice of magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups.

Belief in witchcraft is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view. It often occupies a religious divinatory or medicinal role.Witchcraft is a broad term that varies culturally and societally, and thus can be difficult to define with precision, and cross-cultural assumptions about the meaning or significance of the term should be applied with caution.

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