Elements of Religious Traditions

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The Basic Components of Traditional Religion

Religious traditions are practices, philosophy, systems, attitudes beliefs, guidelines and rules that are observed by a group of people and are taught from the older generations to the younger generations. These guidelines form the acceptable way of life and governs every aspect of the human being such as birth, marriage and even death rituals. They also form the basic relationship, fear and worship to the sacred being. Some are drawn from the holy books such as the Bible or Koran, while some were just created by the founders of the traditions and are then passed on. Those that are drawn from the holy books are taken to be the ultimate truth while those that are created by individuals are taken to be untrue by the outsiders but are strictly believed and followed by the followers of that religious group. Traditional religions always have an acceptable code of ethics and worship. Worship involves song and dance, offering of sacrifice, devotion and spiritual revelations from the spiritual realm or from the sacred being. Sacrifices are often offered at sacred places of worships or shrines and involve the slaughter of animals, burning of incense and pouring of libations.

The sacred being is known as God and is described as mysterious, divine, unlimited, unchallenged, active, pure, omnipotent and most powerful being. There are various categories of traditional religions that include animal worship and ancient worships. They also include interaction and worship of spirits also known as Shamanism. This paper seeks to expound on the basic components of traditional religion and their relationship to the sacred. It includes specific examples various traditional religions such as The Ancient Egyptian religion and the traditional African religion among others.

Religious Traditional Teachings

Traditional religious teachings are doctrines passed on from one generation to the other and which are normally not questioned and hence are hardly modified. An event may occur in the society prompting a need to form a ‘rule’ which can help to guide such an occurrence in future. From there onwards a practice or belief is formed and is then practiced over and over again until it becomes a traditional teaching which is them passed on through the generations. Most teaching is revolved around discipline and good mannerisms, good relationships with the society and coexistence, respect, how to please the sacred being and how to worship.

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They also included warnings to correct those that did not adhere to the religious traditional teachings. Events which trigger the formation of traditional teaching include war, drought, slavery, theft, marriages etc. For example, in the ancient Igbo religion well known as Odinani, children were taught to be respectful to the elderly and they were supposed to refer to them with a respectful word such as Mazi or Dede. These teaching have been passed on and even up to date in the modern catholic Igbo this tradition is still upheld. The Igbo priests who were known as Dibia main duty was to teach about the Odinani traditions. Their other teachings include teachings about Chuku the supreme God and about the smaller gods known as Alusi. Also in the ancient traditional religion, the priests were the teachers who guided the society. In most of the cases traditional religious teachings were the same as the society moral teachings.


Texts are writing of the traditional teachings that show the history, commandments, rules and regulations. They also keep a record of important dates and events. Most of the traditional religions did not have written references for their teachings. The teachings were learnt verbally, recited, memorized and remembered. They were taught through song and dance, proverbs, stories and myths. These teachings were sometimes engraved on stones, carvings, ornaments and buildings. In the Egyptian traditional religion holy word were stored on stone tablets and were referred to from time to time. There were several scripture writing that provided insight into the religion. These scriptures are in the original Egyptian language such as hymns, funeral programs poems and history. Stories were also told to pass knowledge from one generation to the other. They always had moral teachings. Myths were stories that tried to explain how the supernatural interacted with the human beings. Among the most famous myths include the death and creation stories. The myth goes that the world appeared as an empty space. However when the god of the sun appeared there became life on the earth.

Traditional Religious Worship

Worship is an act of praise or thanksgiving to the sacred being. Some of the common worship acts include song and dance, giving of sacrifices such as the slaughter of animals and the pouring of libation. In some traditional worship, worship was extreme and it even involved sacrifice of children or adult human beings. People were also supposed to include such acts as facing a certain direction or being in specific places known as shrines in order to worship. This is critical since the superpower was believed to be omnipresent. In the Egyptian religion worship was divided into two. One was the type that was strictly performed by the priests only. The priests were supposed to feed the sacred being daily and the ceremony was only performed in the sanctuary or temple which was believed to be the only location of the god. The priest and the king pharaoh would also offer sacrifices to please the god and intercede for the ordinary Egyptians. Ordinary Egyptians were allowed to only participate in religious festivals and worships.

Death and Marriage

These were important aspects of traditional religion. This is because they were believed to the actions of the supreme god. Egyptians believed that death was only a transition into the next life. The bodies were preserved upon death in order to provide the spirit a place of dwelling. The Igbo on the other hand believed in reincarnation. The dead were believed to be reborn as children. It was however a taboo or bad luck for a male deceased to be reborn as a female and vice versa. Marriages were believed to be god’s way of recreation and hence were believed to be sacred. Many practiced polygamous marriages and believed that it was god who gave them the children.

In conclusion, traditional religion does not have much difference with religion. Most of its practices are drawn from the Holy Scriptures and their teachings mainly instill good relations within the society. It is characterized by material sacrifices, devotion, rituals and spiritual revelations. It’s a fact that the human beings are controlled by a supernatural power.

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