Indigenous Traditions in Nigeria

Nigeria’s ancient indigenous traditions continue to adapt and survive, though they also continue to be challenged by religious and political forces that seek to diminish their power. There are countless of these traditions in Nigeria, but the number of practitioners is difficult to determine, and is probably underestimated because religious identity numbers do not account for the many Nigerians who claim multiple religious identities.

The theology of these religious systems include an emphasis on ancestor worship and a veneration of primordial spirits, the supernatural entities that inhabit a particular locale and are embodied in its geographical and natural features. Each of these religions has its own complex teachings of morality, and intricate traditions of healing and divination.

These traditions tend to resist the categories and concepts of Western religions (for example, many have elements of monotheism and of polytheism, with a supreme deity or creator God, such as Osanobua, Chineke, or Olodumare, and also a multitude of other deities, orisa in the Yoruba language). These traditions remain particularly strong in southwestern Yorubaland, where the city of Ile-Ife has long served as a sacred center for religious experience, including festivals, rituals, artistic expressions, and healing ceremonies.

Image Credits:

"Egungun masquerade dance garment," The Children's Museum of Indianapolis, from Wikimedia Commons.