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Question for Eja: West African Ancestralism

I'm directing this one to you because you are from this region and have made reference to it, although I would like to hear from anyone else who has knowledge on the matter.

They showed a documentary on Anjelique Kidjo the other evening, she was visiting her native Ouidah ( yes, the same where they had the Slave Trade) and she attended ancestralist ceremonies. I could not help noticing glaring differences between the ancestralist practices of the region, and those of mine.

I noted that:

1. She had a choice as to which of her relatives became her guiding spirit. In Zimbabwe, it has to be a Patriarch. For example, if I died today, childless, there is no way I could graduate to become an ancestral spirit no matter how much I love I have for my family. My late father qualifies, but he cannot be evoked unless my grandfather is evoked, and he can't unless his father is evoked.

2. Anjelique's family was matriarchial. That wouldn't work in Zimbabwean society and I found that very hard to understand. In our society, daughters take after their paternal aunts. A guiding spirit from one's mother would likely be a male- her brother, father etc. The reason is not rooted in sexism, but in the intricacy of our totem/praisename system, which is always patrilineal.

3. The ceremony was for her alone. In my culture, it is proper to have as many members of the family as possible, or at least notify them of the event. Neglecting to do so may constitute reasonable grounds for the excluded relatives to suspect intent to contact the spiritual realm on a more sinister level....

There was another TV show, where they had Black Americans conduct an ancestral evocation ceremony. They were naming Malcom X etc. In my culture, it would be sacrilege to evoke names that have no blood ties to oneself.

I aslo noticed that there is a Pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, besides the ancestors. In Zimbabwe, there is only one God. He (I am using the gender signifier, but in my language the pronouns only designate size, quantity and reverence) is called MWARI (" [He]Exists" as in I AM), YAWEH and such titles as SAMATENGA ("He who abides in the Heavens"). The latter title is peculiar because the ancestors, who are supposed to be mediators between their descendants and God are also known as VEPASI ("They who abide in the Underworld")

Anyway, to cut it short, I would like to know about West African ancestralism. I am assuming that Anjelique's Fon culture is similar to your Yoruba, as much as mine is closely related to the Tswana, Nguni etc of this region. If you have any links to any interesting sites, I would really appreciate any information.

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Question for Eja: West African Ancestralism
Re: Question for Eja: West African Ancestralism

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