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Form 1 CRE Notes On African Moral And Cultural Values Meaning And Wholeness Of Life

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- In the African traditional society, life is believed to originate from God.
- Life also progress from one stage to another.
- There are rites of passage that one has to undergo. These include birth, initiation, marriage and death.
- Life also continues after death, death does not mark the end of life but is just a change of state. When one dies, he joins the world of the living dead.
- Life is also seen as communal. Everybody is a part of the other.
- Life is also considered to be more precious and highly valued. No one is allowed to take the life of another.
How the of rites passage inculcate moral values
In the traditional African communities, people learn the moral values through every day’s activities and through education provided.
The education provided is a lifelong process. It starts at birth and continues through to death.
The moral values learnt include:-
-Obedience/loyalty. At childhood children are taught to obey parents and the elderly. Through this, they believed they could receive blessings.
- Respect. Young people are trained to have respect for others and self-respect.
- Honesty. Young men are taught to be honest in all their undertakings. For example honesty is expected in marriage.
- Courage. The youth are taught to be courageous in order to be able to face challenges in life e.g. the pain the initiates underwent.
- Hardworking. Everybody in the community is expected to work hard. Those who are lazy are ridiculed.
- Patriotism. Young men are taught to develop self-love and love for the community it provides a sense of belonging.
-The spirit of sharing. Through the kinship system, people learn the importance of sharing what they have with others.
-Responsibility. Young initiates are trained to be responsible husbands and wives in future.
- Generosity. In difficult times such as during famine, those who have share what they have with their relatives.
- Thankfulness. People learn to be thankful to God, parents, relatives and one another
African community is used to refer to a group of people occupying a particular geographical area, share common interest and practices a sense of togetherness.
Characteristics of African community
1. They are people who claim a common ancestry and are related by blood.
2. They live in one Geographical area.
3. Are made up of smaller units called clan. The size of the clan could differ from one to the other.
4. A clan is made up of a family who either are related by blood and marriage.
5. A community has distinct beliefs, customs and cultural practices.
6. Each community has a distinct political and social organization.

- Kinship refers to being related to another either by blood or marriage.
- In African traditional society, each individual is related to the other.
Those who are related by blood include
- Brothers
- Sisters
- Aunts
- Uncles
- Parents
- Cousins
- Grandparents
By marriage include
Wife/ husband
Others are referred to as in-laws
- Kinship also includes all the living and any given locality.
- Also include the dead and those yet to be born and the departed relatives.
- The departed relatives are kept alive through naming.
Importance of Kinship
- Kinship system defines how members relate to one another i.e. it governs behavior towards each other
- Kinship binds together the entire life of a community, the departed and those yet to be born.
- Kinship ties assist people to live peacefully and in harmony with others.
- Kinship ties also provide security to all concerned. All the members come together in times of need.
- It also regulates marriage relations, before marriage one has to find the back ground of the other. It is also a taboo to marry close relative. The tie reduces cases of incest.
- Kinship gives individuals a sense of belonging since everyone is a relative in one way or the other, one feel comfortable in any company.
- Kinship helps to prevent the spread of hereditary diseases.
- Kinship helps to care for the less fortunate members of the society e.g. in cases of death, the whole community mourn.
- Kinship defines and enforces duties and responsibilities of individuals.
- Kinship system provides the peaceful ways of settling disputes in a community as all are treated as brothers and sisters.
Factors that have affected Kinship system
1. Christianity: Christianity has weakened African Kinship ties by introducing new ties by the Christian family.
2. Urbanization: Those who move away from home to towns in search of Jobs are drawn from their ancestral homes.
3. Western Culture: Has provided the spirit of individualization.
4. Land Ownership: It is no longer communal affair but a private affair. People nowadays migrate and buy lands in far places.
5. The introduction of formal education – Formal education has weakened the role of parents and grandparents. Education of children has been left to teachers.
6. Marriage: Has been individualized and is no longer a communal affair.
7. People nowadays try to show their loyalty to state and not the society.
8. Economic hardships that has been due to introduction of money economy.

Factors contributing to harmony and Mutual Responsibility in African Traditional Societies
In traditional African Society, every individual is related to all. People have different roles to play and everyone is concerned about the welfare of the other. This is brought by the following factors:-
1. Division of labor in African societies, labor is divided according to sexes. Grandparents are charged with the duty of counseling. Grandmothers teach girls their roles and grandfathers maintain law and order .Young unmarried men provide security in form of warriors while boys look after the animals. Girls take care of the babies and fetch firewood.
2. Communal worship – prayers are offered to God to thank Him for whatever he has done. Prayers are offered also during time of calamities. Prayers also connect the living and the dead.
3. Leisure Activities: This is the time that one has at his disposal. Such occasions include beer drinking, wrestling, playing football, singing and dancing etc.
4. Rites of passage: These are ceremonies that are performed to a group of people to mark important stages of life. Such include: -
- Birth
- Initiation
- Marriage
- Death
5. Spirit of sharing: In African Traditional Community there is the spirit of sharing of resources among the members of a community e.g. food, beer drinking.
6. Communal activities: People participate in communal activities e.g. in the garden or when one is building a new house.
7. Rules and Regulations: People in the community are governed by rules and regulations, which are strictly followed. This helps to control people’s behaviors.
8. Religion: People have some religious beliefs, which promote unity, and every community believes in the existence of one God.
9. Same ancestry: People of a particular community believe that they have the same origin e.g. the Agikuyu the ancestors are Mumbi and Gikuyu were created by Ngai.
10. Land ownership: The ancestral land is communally owned and nobody is allowed to sell it. This ensured that nobody remained landless.
11. Extended Family: It ensures that children, orphans and the widows are well taken care of by the other members of the extended family. It could also help in paying of the dowry.
12. Members of a community could also come together when defending the community against outside invaders.
These are important stages in life that one has to undergo. They include;-
1. Birth and naming
2. Initiation
3. Marriage
4. Death
-The rites or ceremonies conducted on such occasions differ from one community to another.
Most of these ceremonies are religious.
- This is the first stage in the life of a person. Life is seen to begin from the time of conception since unborn children are taken as part of the community.
- When a woman learns that she is pregnant, she becomes very happy and she becomes a special person in the community and receives special treatment.
- This special treatment starts before and continues after childbirth.
- In some communities, marriage is not recognized without children. This shows that children seals marriage.
- It also shows that the woman is fully integrated to the husband’s family
- There are certain rules and regulations she is expected to observe. These rules would differ from one community to another.
1. In some communities as soon as a woman realizes she is expecting, she and the husband completely stops having sexual intercourse until after birth.
2. Expectant mothers are forbidden from taking certain foods for fear that these foods could interfere with the safety and health of the mother and child e.g. among the Akamba pregnant women are not supposed to eat fats, beans or animals killed using poison.
3. Pregnant women are not allowed to handle certain types of tools. Among the Akamba and the Agikuyu. For example, all weapons and iron implements are removed from the house of an expectant mother. They believe iron implements attract lightning.
4. They are not supposed to take part in heavy duties or carry heavy loads.
5. In some communities, a pregnant women returns to her parents when the time for giving birth draws near.
6. Yet in some communities when a woman is pregnant she is not allowed to talk to her husband directly. They would only speak through intermediaries.
7. There are societies where prayers are made to the mother and the child.
Actual birth
- During birth there are certain rituals that are performed to introduce the chills to the immediate and extended members of the family.
- The practices vary from one community to another.
- There are traditional midwives who help in delivery.
The midwives perform the following:-
1. They advise the expectant mother on how to take care of herself.
2. The midwife also monitors the development of the foetus.
3. Would provide medical care e.g. giving the expectant mother certain herbs.
4. Midwife could assist the mother in actual delivery to ensure the safety of the baby.
5. They would also announce the sex of the child.
6. The mid wife checks any abnormalities on the babies at the correct time.
7. They could also clean newly born baby.
8. She organizes the disposal of the placenta (after birth).
9. The midwife advises on post-natal care of the mother and the baby.
- Different communities have different rules on where the delivery should take place. In some communities, it may be done in the forest while others the expectant mother would go back to their parents while others could also be done in the house of the in-law.
- Men are not allowed to go next to the delivery places.
- When the baby arrives, the sex of the baby is announced by ululations. This shows concern that they have for the child.
- The placenta is disposed of ceremoniously e.g. in some communities it is thrown to uncultivated land to show fertility.
- In some communities it would be thrown in rivers, forest in Banana plantations.
- In some communities e.g. Agikuyu umbilical cord is kept to symbolize the link between the mother and the child.
- Purification rites are performed for the mother and the child to make the child pure.
- In most communities the child and the mother are kept in seclusion for a number of days, depending on the sex of the baby.
- Protection charms are tied around the neck or the waist of the child.
- Prayers are also offered to God for protection.
- The hair of the mother and the child is shaved. This symbolizes new life.
- The naming of the child takes place some days after birth. The name gives the child identity.
- Presents are given to the baby and mother as a sign of good will.
Importance of seclusion period
1. To give the mother time to heal.
2. To protect the child from evil eyes.
3. To give the mother instructions on how to take care of the child.
4. It symbolized death and resurrection.
5. Both the mother and the child are given charms to protect them.
6. To give the mother time to recover the lost energy.
Nearly all-African names have a meaning.
The naming of a child is therefore an important occasion, which is often marked with ceremonies.
Importance of Naming
1. Naming gives identity to a person before a child is given a name she or he is not considered as having full identity.
2. Names are also given in honor of ancestors. Children could be named after their dead relatives.
3. It is also a way of remembering important events in the society.
4. It is also a sign of acceptance of the children into the new family.
5. Naming ceremonies also provide opportunity to teach the culture of the youth.
6. Names could also depict the character of the child.
7. It is also a way of showing respect to God for the gift of the children.
8. Naming ceremonies also bring unity among the people whenever a new child is born, members of extended family would come to celebrate together.
How Names are given in the traditional African societies
1. Some names are given according to the time one was born.
2. Other names can be given according to important events that take place in the community e.g. a person born during locusts’ invasion can be called Adede among the luo.
3. Other names may also refer to the characteristics of the mother’s pregnancy or the nature of delivery e.g. among the Luos a person who comes out with the placenta would be called Obiero or Awino.
4. Other names can refer to place of birth e.g. among the Kisii, a person born crossing the river could be called Kwamboka.
5. Some reflect the condition of weather or season at the time of birth.
6. Others reflect the problems the parents faced e.g. a child born after a long period of childless marriage is called Ogwedhi among the Luo.
7. Some names are given in the remembrance of the departed relatives. It is believed that the dead relatives continue to live through children.
8. Twins are also given special names e.g. Opiyo and Odongo among the Luo.
Changing attitudes to birth and naming
1. The birth of a child is no longer a communal affair but a family affair.
2. Majority of women today give birth in hospitals.
3. The mother and the child is no longer secluded.
4. Many of the rituals that were performed to the mother and the child are today seen as unnecessary.
5. Many people today acquire Christian names.
6. The attitude of the parents towards the sex of the child is also changing.
- This is the second major important stage in one’s life.
- Initiation rites have certain symbolic meanings.
There are several forms of Initiation; these include:-
i. Circumcision
ii. Clitoridectomy – Female circumcision.
iii. Removal of teeth.
iv. Piercing of the ear.
v. Marking of the body (scarification)
- During initiation, the initiates are removed from the rest of the community.
- They would stay overnight and the following day they would go to bathe in the river with cold water.
- The bathing symbolizes the beginning of a new state in life. Courage is usually praised.
- After the cutting of the skin, the initiates are put in special huts for a period of time.
- During this period of seclusion:-
i. They are given time to heal.
ii. They are taught about morals of the society.
iii. They are made aware of their responsibilities in adulthood.
iv. They are also given special instructions that prepare them for marriage life.
v. They are taught secrets of the society.
Importance of Initiation
i. It marks change from childhood to adulthood. Before initiation, one is viewed as a child no matter the age.
ii. It is a sign of belonging to the society or identification. Before initiation one is not fully considered belonging to the community.
iii. After initiation one is now free to marry and has a right to inherit his father’s property.
iv. It shows an act of bravery and hardship one I s to meet in life.
v. It brings people together; relatives and friends co me together hence strengthening kinship ties. It symbolizes the union between the living and the dead. The blood the binds the initiates and ancestors.
vi. During initiation the initiates are given special instructions that prepare them for future life.
vii. The youth are ritually introduced to the communal living. People of the same age set consider themselves as brothers and sisters.
Changing attitudes towards initiation rites
Since the introduction of Christianity and western culture people’s attitude towards initiation rites have changed.
1. Seclusion nowadays is not very possible because of limited time.
2. It is not possible to gather initiates together in some communities.
3. Circumcision is carried out at times in hospitals for health reasons.
4. The celebration that marked the end of initiation is slowly dying out due to economic constraints.
5. Today initiation is not done at particular stage in life. Some are circumcised when they are still infants.
6. Some communities have abandoned initiation rites like among the luo; removal of six lower teeth is a practice of the past.
7. Circumcision of the girls is a practice that has been widely condemned for health reasons.
Why the practice female circumcision is dying out.
- It is against Christian teaching on circumcision because God instructed Abraham to circumcise male descendants
- It lowers the dignity of the individual (dehumanizing)
- One can contract dangerous diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
- It causes physical injury to the victim.
- Can interfere with an individual’s reproductive system.
- A lot of bleeding can lead to the death of an individual.
This is the third rite that an individual is expected to go through in life. After initiation, one has the right to marry.
During initiation the young adults are taught matters relating to sex and adulthood.
Everyone has an obligation to marry or get married.
Importance of marriage
- Marriage is for the continuity of the society and is an institution that is ordained by God.
- It is through marriage that children are born to the community.
- Marriage raised the status of the couples once somebody was married he was given a lot of respect.
- Marriage extended relationship and therefore enlarged kinship ties.
- Marriage was a source of wealth for the family. Girls brought wealth in form of cattle to marriage.
- Marriage brought unity in the society. Marriage ceremonies brought people together as they came together to rejoice.
- Children born out of marriage inherit their parents’ property.
- Children made marriage complete. In the traditional African Community, marriage was considered incomplete without children.
- Children born out of marriage also provide security to the homes.
- Marriage also unites the living and the dead.
- Through marriage, the living dead and those yet to be born are brought together.
- Marriage enables one to assume leadership rules an unmarried person would not be chosen a leader.
- Marriage ensures that children are not born outside wedlock.
- Marriage brings completeness in a person. Once somebody is married he got fully integrated to the society.
Choosing of a marriage partner
This differs from one community to another.
i. In some communities the choice is made by the parents. This can begin as early as childhood or before the children are born.
ii. In some instances a go between would be used to identify a suitable partner.
iii. At times force could be applied to get a reluctant young girl marry the partner.
iv. In some societies it is young people themselves who make their own choices and after wards informs their parents about it.
v. In some cases if a man is married and wants another wife his first or other wives would be involved in making the proposal.
vi. In some communities if a woman is barren, she would bring another woman to bring children on her behalf.
vii. A mock wrestling sometimes would be organized between the boy and the girl.
viii. At times girls could be given to repay debts.
ix. In some communities girls are given to kings or chiefs as gifts.
Once the proposals are made, the parents and relatives would begin marriage negotiations. If there is agreement, this marks the beginning of courtship period.
Importance of courtship
1. It gives the couple time to study the character of the partner and find out if he or she is the best.
2. Courtship gives the two families’ time to prepare in advance for the real marriage.
3. It also gives them time to find out the background of the partners e.g. to find out if they are related.
4. It gives the man’s family time to prepare for the dowry payment.
5. During this period, the couples are given special instructions that prepare them for marriage life.
6. It cements the relationship between the two families through the exchange of gifts.
Once the negotiations are over then dowry payment would begin.
Significance of dowry payment
The custom of paying personal gifts to the bride’s people is practiced all over Africa sometimes referred to as Bride wealth or Bride price. However, it is not a form of payment as is mistaken by others. Dowry is important in that:-
1. It is a token of appreciation in the part of the bridegroom’s people to those of the bride for the care over her.
2. It is a way of compensating the bride’s family for the loss of a member. The gift replaces her reminding the family that she has left her people yet she is not dead.
3. Payment of dowry shows how the bridegroom values the wife.
4. Dowry seals marriage, before dowry is paid marriage is considered as incomplete.
5. The gifts also act as security in case the marriage breaks then the gifts could be returned.
6. It could also show how the bridegroom is capable of taking care of the bride.
7. It is also a symbolic act of breaking the bride completely from the state of unmarried life – once dowry is paid she becomes full and mature person.
Wedding ceremony
- After the negotiation the wedding ceremonies are arranged.
- They are many types of the wedding ceremonies.
- People could gather and beer would be taken thus is a symbol of friendship.
- In some communities it would last for several days.
- In others the bridegroom and its party have to fight the bride’s party in order to get her.
- Among the Luo the bride could be accompanied by her other sisters and on the first night, the people would witness the breaking of virginity.
- A white bed sheet is spread this is to collect blood during the breaking of virginity.
- The girls would take back the sheet with a lot of ululation and rejoicing and one girl would remain behind to study the character of the man.
- Virginity is highly valued and girls who are not found virgin are ridiculed.
- In some communities such a girl would be stabbed by an arrow and killed while in others she would be married to an old man. However dowry payment has been hindered by several factors today e.g.
1. Economic hardships – many people are not able to raise money to pay dowry.
2. Dowry payment is no longer a communal affair but an individual affair.
3. Marriage has been commercialized - many people demand higher payment for their daughter.
4. There has been a lot of interference from Christian religious beliefs.
5. Modern education and western culture has affected dowry payment in that many educated attach little value to dowry payment.
6. The permissive society has also encouraged trial marriages.
7. There are also cases of inter-tribal marriages.
8. Many people have migrated to towns where people come from different backgrounds.
Changing attitudes towards marriage
1. Western culture and education has really affected marriage.
2. Marriage is no longer a must and many people decide not to marry.
3. Virginity is not highly valued and many people break their virginity at stage of adolescence.
4. Today choosing of a marriage partner is individualized and the parents do nowadays not choose the marriage partner.
5. Today marriage is for companionship and it is considered to be complete even if there are no children.
6. Polygamy was preferred in African Traditional societies but today many people prefer monogamy marriage mainly due to economic hardship.
7. Bride wealth has lost its original meaning and has been commercialized.
Measures that are taken to make sure virginity is preserved
i).Virginity is highly valued and a girl is meant to preserve her virginity until marriage.
ii. Early marriages are encountered to reduce fornication.
iii. There are strict rules and taboos governing sex.
iv. Those who abuse sex are heavily punished.
v. Polygamy is encouraged for sexual satisfaction for men.
vi. During seclusion there is sex education, which is meant for girls and boys for marriage.
vii. Boys and girls are not allowed to mix freely unless under supervision.
viii. Divorce and separation are discouraged.
ix. The purpose of sex is purely for procreation hence this discouraged sex before marriage.
x. Elders act as role models to the youth i.e. children born out of wed-lock are killed or abandoned.
Death is the last rite in one’s life and unlike other rites like initiation, naming. It is feared and marked with a lot of sorrow. This is because;
1 It is unavoidable. That is one cannot escape it
2 It brings impurity to the family and thus several rites are observed after death
3 It deprives the family and the community of the individual.
4 It disrupts normal human activities.
5 It comes unannounced. It does not give warning.
6 It separates one from the loved ones.
7 Nobody knows what happens after life on earth here.
8 It brings poverty to the family involved as sometimes it takes the bread winner
9 At times it brings misunderstanding in the community when the cause of death is blamed on someone or some people.
It is believed that after death one continues to live in the spirit world and therefore the dead relatives are to be given descent burial so that they cannot harm the living.
Death always strikes unexpectedly. Death is believed to be a next journey to the world of the spirits.
Rituals associated with death vary from one community to another.
In the African understanding, it is believed that there is no natural death. Death must have a cause.
There are physical (visible) causes of death and religious (invisible) causes.
Physical causes of death
i. Mothers and children would die at childbirth to cases where there is no skilled mid-wife.
ii. Diseases such as epidemics would kill people.
iii. People could also die due to shortage of food.
iv. There are also accidental deaths e.g. attack by wild animals.
v. Others would also be killed for crimes such as murder.
vi. Yet others could also die due to old age.
Religious (invisible) causes of death
They included:
i. A curse by a senior relative. If one fails to show respect to such seniors.
ii. One could also die due to breaking a taboo in such instances elders would identify the offender and perform an act of cleansing.
iii. A curse by the community.
iv. Angering the living dead and the spirits e.g. if a person may not have been buried properly.
v. Taking oaths falsely.
vi. Dishonoring or insulting God. These could be through words or deeds.
vii. Magic, sorcery and witchcraft. The degree of which witchcraft as a cause of death is emphasized varies from one community to another.
Some people believe casting of an evil eye would cause bodily harm to somebody.
When a person dies, members of the family gather at the home of the deceased and leave their everyday commitments for a while.
a. There is wailing in the house to show how the fellow was dear to them.
b. In some communities there is feasting and drinking of beer.
c. The corpse is washed using water. This is meant to send it clean into the world of the living dead.
d. If it is a man, the wife is supposed to stay around the corpse among them show clearly she would miss the husband.
e. In certain communities pregnant women and children are not allowed to go near touch the corpse to avoid misfortunes.
f. The grave is dug in a special place e.g. among the Luos the man is buried at the right and woman is buried the left.
g. The body is carefully placed in the grave facing an appropriate direction according to the customs of the people.
h. Among the Luos animals are driven over the graveside, people run in the homestead with spears. This means that they are looking for death to kill it.
i. Others bury the dead with property with a belief that they would continue to use them in the next world.
j. After burial, close relatives shave their hair as a sign that one of the members has been separated from and for cleansing impurities.
The new hair that grows shows the beginning of new life.
Changing attitude towards death rites
Some of the death and funeral rites are still being practiced however some are slowly dying out.
1. Today the dead can be buried in cemeteries in towns. This may be due to urbanization and economic constraints.
2. Some of the celebrations like beer drinking are slowly dying out.
3. People who have become educated consider the shaving of the hair unnecessary.
4. The belief in Christianity has also affected traditional beliefs in death to believe that death is a gateway to heaven and there is resurrection of the body.
-They are those who are believed to be endowed with special powers. They are experts in particular religious fields. They include:
i. Rain makers
ii. Diviners and mediums
iii. Elders
iv. Priests/prophets
v. Blacksmiths

The religious specialists acquire their skills through:-
i. Inheritance from a relative
ii. Through supernatural powers
iii. Through apprenticeship
iv. Through dreams and vision
v. Through observation and practice
They have the knowledge of healing certain diseases in the community. Their roles include the following:-
i. They act as counselors and guide the people on all issues of life.
ii. They also play the role of priests and pray for people.
iii. They heal various diseases using herbs.
iv. The medicine men lead the community in religious rituals.
v. They drive a way witches and evil spirits.
vi. They could also warn of impending danger.
vii. They could also give aid to increase productivity e.g. in women.
The traditional healers are still important today especially to those who had let down by medicine prescribed by doctors.
People like politicians and students consult medicine men to succeed in the careers.
Some herbalists have been legalized by the government and have opened clinics e.g. Makini.
Challenges facing herbalists
1. They face challenges from medical practitioners who argue that they should go for formal training.
2. There is no proper dosage of the herbs.
3. There is a lot of secrecy surrounding the knowledge of herbs.
4. Sometimes people mistake that they are witch doctors especially Christians.
5. They are those who do not believe in traditional medicine.
6. Due to de-forestation, some herbs are becoming extinct.
7. Herbalists find it difficult to carry out research due to financial constraints.

- Rain in traditional Africa is understood to come directly from God.
- Rainmakers are special people who have the ability to make rain. They also have the ability to stop rain.
- Rainmakers observe the behavior of insects, birds and animals to predict the nature of rain.
- They could also observe the weather conduction and interpret the movement of clouds and wind.
- They could also feel their body senses to predict rain.

Today many people do not believe in rainmakers. There are meteorologists who predict the weather conditions.
- Mediums are people through which ancestors and spirits communicate with the living.
- Diviners are people who are believed to have the ability to reveal hidden things by use of magical powers
Role of mediums and diviners in the societies
i. Mediums link the living, spirits and the ancestors.
ii. They give information concerning cause, nature and treatment of diseases.
iii. Diviners also have religious functions and perform duties of priests such as offering of sacrifice.
iv. They have the ability to foretell what would happen in the future.
v. They are also consulted in terms of crisis e.g. drought, famine etc.
vi. They play the role of counselors and advisors to the community.
vii. They can also reveal-hidden information e.g. a diviner would be called when something was stolen.
Relevance of diviners and medicine men today
1) Diviners and Mediums are still important in Kenya today. They are consulted in cases where western medicine has failed.
2) Some students also consult them to succeed in exams and career.
3) They are fortunetellers and palm readers. However, the influence of mediums and diviners has been affected by Christianity, which is against consulting any power apart from God.
4) Some people who falsely claim to be diviners today simply exploit the ignorance of the people.
5) Modern science and technology also discourage people from believing mysterical powers.
6) There is problem of correct dosage of traditional medicine.
7) Many of the traditional medicine men are not willing to divulge information to others (a lot of secrecy surrounding traditional medicine)
8) Those who are educated also do not believe in the powers of diviners and mediums.
9) The practice has also been affected by belief in conventional medicine.
- These are other religious specialists who play a special role as intermediaries between God and human beings.
- They can foretell the future by receiving visions, dreams or words from God.
Role of priests, prophets and seers
1. They act as intermediaries between God and human beings.
2. They act as judges in certain circumstances.
3. They also do the work of advisors e.g. could advice on when to go to war.
4. They can foretell the future e.g. the outcome of a war
5. They may receive messages from the spirits and ancestors.
6. They lead people to communal prayer in time of crisis.
7. They also lead the community in offering sacrifices to God.
8. Prophets or priests also have political role e.g. they are consulted before installation of a new king in some communities.
Their relevance today
Some people still consult prophets on seers – some couples may consult in case of barrenness.
Some people also consult them before making important decisions e.g. politicians.
However, the role of these traditional religious leaders has been greatly affected by influence of Christianity, western culture and formal education.
Religious leaders such as bishop and pastor have replaced their duties.
They are people who are elderly in society. They are senior members of the community. They are important because they have a lot of experience.
Responsibility of elders:
- They help in the settlement of disputes.
- They are concerned with maintenance of law and order in the community.
- They preside over important occasions such as initiation, planting and marriage.
- They ensure the values and culture of the community is observed.
- They help the priests to performing certain rituals such as sacrifices.
- They give direction on funeral ceremonies and advise on what should be done about the ceremony.
- They oversee the division of property in the community after death.
- They negotiate for peace in time of war with another community.
- They act as a court of law to errant members of the society.
- They give instructions to the younger generation on their roles and duties.
- They counsel and guide the youth on matters of sex and marriage
Why guiding and counseling was done by elders
1. They were believed to have a lot of experience in life.
2. The youth are believed to be free with them.
3. The houses of grandparents form their sleeping places.
4. They are regarded as honest.
5. They are believed to be full of wisdom.
6. They are free most of them and can get time for the younger generation.
Problems that the elderly face today
1. The elderly are physically in active.
2. Most of the time they suffer from old age diseases.
3. They are neglected by their children especially those working in the towns.
4. They do not have good food or accommodation.
5. People who have gone to school see the aged as old fashioned (generation gap)
6. They at times suffer from loneliness and psychological problems
How the aged are taken care of today
1. The government, the church and non-governmental organizations have built homes for the aged.
2. The government has also set up insurance and pension schemes to enable people who are employed continue to get a decent life after retirement e.g. N.S.S.F.
3. The church also gives them food, and clothing and their daily needs.
4. There are counselors that give the aged hope and love.
Today many people talk of the way things were sometimes back many factors have affected the African culture. Most of these changes in most cases are in conflict with the African customs.
These changes have been brought about by:-
i. Economy e.g. the introduction of money economy.
ii. Urbanization: Where people of different cultures interact with one another.
iii. The developments in science and technology.
iv. Religion: Africans now get identified with new groupings e.g. fellow Christians.
v. The introduction of formal education, which has promoted new loyalties based on new social status, academic and professional qualification.
vi. Politics: New political systems and forms of government have changed the traditional community.
In the traditional African society, people had a lot of attachment to land.
This was because: -
i. Africans believe that land was given to them by God.
ii. It is a source of food for the people and the animals.
iii. It was used to bury the dead, the spirits were believed to dwell on land or below the ground.
iv. Land was also a source of medicine in the form of herbs and minerals.
v. The land was believed to belong to the ancestors and nobody was allowed to sell or lease it out without the consent of the other members of the family.
vi. The land belonged to the whole community.
vii. Land was also the habitat of people, animals and plants.

As such disputes over land ownership were rare, this is because:-
i. Land was owned by the community. It was a signed to individuals by the elders.
ii. There were clear guidelines, rules and regulations on the use and ownership of land.
iii. Those who did not have were assisted to acquire property by the community.
iv. The community disciplined those who showed traits of greed over ownership of property.
v. There was a lot of fairness in the distribution of property.
vi. Laziness was condemned or punished to ensure that people owned what they had actually worked for.
vii. The wishes of parents and the dead were honored.
viii. People in the traditional African communities were afraid of acquiring property unlawfully for fear of curse.
Changes that have affected land ownership
- Today it’s a requirement by the government that one must possess a land title deed.
- There is individual ownership of property. Land is owned by individuals.
- Many people have moved and have settled in foreign lands, which are not their ancestral lands.
- With the introduction of money economy it is possible to sell land.
- People do not have a lot of attachment to land, as there are other means of survival.
- There are cases of destruction of land and environment through dumping of wastes.
- Some pieces of land are being regarded as public land.
In the traditional African community anything that was owned is referred to as part of property or wealth. Property could be owned by community, individuals or families.
Those who had not been initiated were not allowed to own property.
There was fair distribution of wealth to even those who did not have.
Women were not allowed to own property. In fact a woman was part of the property of the man. Wealth was seen in terms of:
1. Many children
2. Many wives
3. Large tracts of land
4 Large herds of cattle.
Ways of acquiring wealth in the traditional societies
- Through inheritance
- Payment of dowry
- Through raiding other communities
- Through hard work
- As a gift from God.
Changes that have affected ownership of property and wealth
- Women and children are allowed to own property.
- People tend to be individualized.
- Some people acquire wealth through dishonest means e.g. bribery, robbery and stealing.
- Wealth is no longer determined in terms of the number of wives or children.
- The introduction of money economy has reduced the value of land.
- People write wills to share or decide who should inherit their property.
- Property can be owned outside one’s ancestral home.
- Land can now be sold or auctioned.
- A widow is a woman whose husband is dead.
- An orphan is a child whose both parents are dead.
- In most African communities a widow was inherited by the husband’s close relatives.
- It was a common belief that a woman belonged to the whole community.
- Wife inheritance ensured that the late man’s family would not suffer.
- The children born after his death were still referred to as his.
- A child who remained an orphan was easily adopted into another family.
- However the practice of looking after widows and orphans is dying out.
Problems experienced by widows and orphans
- They suffer from lack of company because they feel abandoned.
- Some widows and children are not accepted or welcomed in their new homes.
- They suffer from psychological and emotional problems
- Sometimes widows face lack of essentials such as food.
- Wife inheritance has become risky due to HIV/AIDS.
- The wife or orphans sometimes get mistreated.
- Sometimes the orphans and widows have their property destroyed or snatched.
- Widows and orphans feel dehumanized.
How the widows and orphans are supported
- Church members offer them guidance and counseling (giving them hope)
- They are prayed for.
- They are given financial assistance.
- The government and churches have built homes for them
- They are given food etc.
- They are kept company.
- The government assists widows to get their husband’s benefits.
- Religious organizations assist widows to start income generating projects.
Leisure is the free time that an individual has at his disposal when he is not bound by duty.
There are two main types of leisure:
(1) Passive leisure: This is where there is minimal use of physical energy.
(2) Active leisure: This involves the use of the physical energy.
Some of the traditional forms of leisure include.
- Playing football
- Wresting
- Beer drinking
- Wedding ceremonies
- Riddles
- Folktales
- Tongue twisters
Today several changes have affected leisure activities. This has been due to western culture, industrialization, urbanization Christianity, limited time and economic constraints.
Many people spend their leisure time watching videos, Television and films,
Certain leisure activities such as soccer have been turned into well-paying professions.
There are serious cases of misuse of leisure in the form of;
- Watching and reading pornographic literature.
- Taking of dangerous drugs.
- Alcoholism.
- Attending discos and nightclubs.
- Gambling.
- Misuse of sex.
The dress code differed from one community to another in the traditional African setup.
Many communities made clothes from animal skins, bark of trees, sisal and leaves.
However the mode of dressing has seriously changed due to western influence.
Many women today put on trousers that initially were meant for men.
Some communities such as the Maasai still maintain their traditional way of dressing.
Certain countries have also adopted national dress code

Revision question
Discus certain aspects of African ways of worship that have been incorporated in Christian


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