Religion and Ecology in African Culture and Society

Jacob K. Olupona

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Ecology

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780195178722
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Religion and Ecology in African Culture and Society


The study of Africa's traditional religion and the environment can be termed the ecology of religion. The complexity of the relationship between environment and religion in indigenous and contemporary African cultures and societies requires a more multidisciplinary approach that draws from a variety of sources, approaches, and epistemological positions: phenomenology, ecology, geography of religion, indigenous hermeneutics, and traditional anthropological theories under which religion and spirituality is normally studied. This article examines the environmental referentiality of lived religion, especially rituals, in Africa. It argues that the core of religious worldview and the origins of ritual and the cycles of nature—the regularities and repetitions as phenomenon of nature—may account for the origins of ritual. Indeed, it may not be out of place to speak of the ritualization of the environment as a way to describe the intricate relationship between ritual and environment in African cosmology and religion. This article also looks at shrines and temples in Africa.

Keywords: Africa; ecology; religion; rituals; nature; cosmology; environment; indigenous hermeneutics; shrines; temples

Article.  10243 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies

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