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Your Questions About Animism in Africa

Nederzetting van een paar families Bosjesmanne...

Animism is the oldest spiritual belief system that anthropologists and archeologists have been able to find. There is evidence for animism going back at least 70,000 years in East Africa, and it is probably much, much older than that.

For more info on animism, see

Jenny asks…

What do you know about animism?

I would really like to know the family rituals of animism. How do they express their religion? Do they pray, worship, celebrate anything?

And where in africa is animism most abundant?

admin answers:

Animism is not a religion – it is a type of belief that pervades many cultures. Here is one definition:

“This is a religious/spiritual view which asserts that everything in the universe, whether animate or inanimate, is embued with some psychological/spiritual consciousness. …”

For more information on animism, go to

While animists beliefs and practices worldwide vary greatly, yes, they celebrate many things. Unlike modern religions, though, they tend not to separate life into work vs worship. Most animist cultures seem to strive to live in a sacred manner at all times.

If you are specifically interested in African tribal traditions that are animistic, then your best bet would be to start researching various traditions. You will find a huge variety in Africa, and it can be confusing, as many African countries each encompass multiple tribes with multiple religions. For example, some peoples are Muslim but retain some animist beliefs and practices, some are Christian and animist, and so on. And then families and individuals vary in their beliefs within a tribe.

You may want to narrow it down to a region, such as East Africa or West Africa, South Africa or Central Africa, etc. Africa has a huge variety of peoples, languages, terrains and cultures. They cannot all be summed up in a few sentences.

That said, sub-Saharan Africa, especially Central Africa, might be the best place to start your research. In particular, some of the so-called Bushmen and some of the so-called Pigmies in various areas may still keep their traditional animist ways.

Mark asks…

Picture of animism?

i need a picture of where animism spread in West Africa . please.

admin answers:

Animism evolved as humans did. It is the oldest spiritual belief system. I guess you could say that it spread as people spread out across Africa. But animism is not a single belief system and certainly not a religion. It is a type of belief system, the oldest type of belief system known.

So you might want to look for a map of where humans are thought to have first evolved a modern human brain, and how the modern humans spread out from there into West Africa.

However, I don’t believe there is any evidence that older human species did not have spiritual beliefs. For example, we know the Neanderthals did. There is evidence of that. So it would be very hard to know when humans started having spiritual beliefs.

But you may be able to find out when and how modern humans spread through West Africa. You can safely assume that they were animists, because everyone was, as far as we know, until after agriculture was invented, about 10,000 years ago, and lifestyles and beliefs slowly started to change.

However, Google is very helpful nowadays. Go wild:

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