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Volume V, Number 1, Spring 2009

The Way of Orisa: Empowering Your Life Through the Ancient African Religion of Ifa

According to Ibn Battuta , the explorer who accompanied one of the caravans, the average size per caravan was 1, camels; some caravans were as large as 12, The survival of a caravan was precarious and would rely on careful coordination. Runners would be sent ahead to oases so that water could be shipped out to the caravan when it was still several days away, as the caravans could not easily carry enough with them to make the full journey.

In the middle of the 14th century Ibn Battuta crossed the desert from Sijilmasa via the salt mines at Taghaza to the oasis of Oualata. A guide was sent ahead and water was brought on a journey of four days from Oualata to meet the caravan. Culture and religion were also exchanged on the Trans-Saharan Trade Route.

Religion Compass: Vol 5, No 5

These colonies eventually adopted the language and region of the country and became absorbed into the Muslim world. Bovill's book were Christian captives who were brought to Africa as slaves and eventually they converted to Islam and became part of the Muslim population. Like some other people in Africa, there were some benefits of becoming part of the Muslim population. Ancient trade spanned the northeastern corner of the Sahara in the Naqadan era.

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Predynastic Egyptians in the Naqada I period traded with Nubia to the south, the oases of the Western Desert to the west, and the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean to the east. Many trading routes went from oasis to oasis to resupply on both food and water. These oases were very important. The overland route through the Wadi Hammamat from the Nile to the Red Sea was known as early as predynastic times; [ citation needed ] drawings depicting Egyptian reed boats have been found along the path dating to BC. The Darb el-Arbain trade route, passing through Kharga in the south and Asyut in the north, was used from as early as the Old Kingdom for the transport and trade of gold , ivory , spices , wheat , animals and plants.

The westernmost of the three central routes was the Ghadames Road, which ran from the Niger River at Gao north to Ghat and Ghadames before terminating at Tripoli.

Next was the easiest of the three routes: the Garamantean Road, named after the former rulers of the land it passed through and also called the Bilma Trail. The Garamantean Road passed south of the desert near Murzuk before turning north to pass between the Alhaggar and Tibesti Mountains before reaching the oasis at Kawar. From Kawar, caravans would pass over the great sand dunes of Bilma , where rock salt was mined in great quantities for trade, before reaching the savanna north of Lake Chad.

This was the shortest of the routes, and the primary exchanges were slaves and ivory from the south for salt. To the east, three ancient routes connected the south to the Mediterranean. The herdsmen of the Fezzan of Libya , known as the Garamantes , controlled these routes as early as BC. From their capital of Germa in the Wadi Ajal , the Garamantean Empire raided north to the sea and south into the Sahel.

By the 4th century BC, the independent city-states of Phoenecia had expanded their control to the territory and routes once held by the Garamantes. Founded c. West Africa received salt, cloth, beads, and metal goods. Shillington proceeds to identify this trade route as the source for West African iron smelting. Although there are Classical references to direct travel from the Mediterranean to West Africa Daniels, p.

Herodotus had spoken of the Garamantes hunting the Ethiopian Troglodytes with their chariots ; this account was associated with depictions of horses drawing chariots in contemporary cave art in southern Morocco and the Fezzan , giving origin to a theory that the Garamantes, or some other Saran people, had created chariot routes to provide Rome and Carthage with gold and ivory.

However, it has been argued that no horse skeletons have been found dating from this early period in the region, and chariots would have been unlikely vehicles for trading purposes due to their small capacity. The earliest evidence for domesticated camels in the region dates from the 3rd century. Used by the Berber people , they enabled more regular contact across the entire width of the Sahara, but regular trade routes did not develop until the beginnings of the Islamic conversion of West Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The first ran through the western desert from modern Morocco to the Niger Bend , the second from modern Tunisia to the Lake Chad area. These stretches were relatively short and had the essential network of occasional oases that established the routing as inexorably as pins in a map. Further east of the Fezzan with its trade route through the valley of Kaouar to Lake Chad, Libya was impassable due to its lack of oases and fierce sandstorms. The rise of the Ghana Empire , now called Mali, Senegal, and southern Mauritania , paralleled the increase in trans-Saharan trade.


Mediterranean economies were short of gold but could supply salt, taken by places like the African salt mine of Taghaza , whereas West African countries like Wangara had plenty of gold but needed salt. The trans-Saharan slave trade was also important because large numbers of Africans were sent north, generally to serve as domestic servants or slave concubines. It has been estimated that from the 10th to the 19th century some 6, to 7, slaves were transported north each year. There, and in other North African cities, Berber traders had increased contact with Islam, encouraging conversions, and by the 8th century, Muslims were traveling to Ghana.

Many in Ghana converted to Islam, and it is likely that the Empire's trade was privileged as a result.

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Around , Ghana lost Aoudaghost to the Almoravids , but new goldmines around Bure reduced trade through the city, instead benefiting the Malinke of the south, who later founded the Mali Empire. Unlike Ghana, Mali was a Muslim kingdom since his foundation, and under it, the gold—salt trade continued. Other, less important trade goods were slaves, kola nuts from the south and slave beads and cowry shells from the north for use as currency. The eastern trans-Saharan route led to the development of the long-lived Kanem—Bornu Empire as well as the Ghana, Mali, and Songhai empires, centred on the Lake Chad area.

This trade route was somewhat less efficient and only rose to great prominence when there was turmoil in the west such as during the Almohad conquests. By the early 16th century, European trading bases, the factories established on the coast since , and trade with the wealthier Europeans became of prime importance to West Africa. North Africa had declined in both political and economic importance, while the Saharan crossing remained long and treacherous. However, the major blow to trans-Saharan trade was the Battle of Tondibi of — Morocco sent troops across the Sahara and attacked Timbuktu, Gao and some other important trading centres, destroying buildings and property and exiling prominent citizens.

This disruption to trade led to a dramatic decline in the importance of these cities and the resulting animosity reduced trade considerably. Although much reduced, trans-Saharan trade continued. But trade routes to the West African coast became increasingly easy, particularly after the French invasion of the Sahel in the s and subsequent construction of railways to the interior. A railway line from Dakar to Algiers via the Niger bend was planned but never constructed.

More often than not clear spirits are chosen on important occasions: gin in Ghana, clairin in Haiti, white rum in Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad, and other places. This predominant choice is almost certainly because of the physical resemblance between clear spirits and pure water, for the latter has always been regarded by Africans as the ultimate agent of both physical and spiritual purification.

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I, , p. It is sweet liquor if it is Damballa, rum for Ogun, Loco or Legba.

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It is red wine or any home made wine or babash Trinidad moonshine for Shango in Trinidad. In African practice there is a sharp distinction between some things that are done with the right hand and other things that are to be done only with the left hand. Libation is poured with the right hand because this is the hand reserved by African tradition for such activity as offering, eating and drinking. A libation often accompanies offerings of food and other things considered good and worthy of the higher powers, but libation should not be confused with those other offerings or with entire ceremonies of which it may form a part.

For example, from the earliest known times, libations are always poured as part of the rituals which mark the African cycle of life: Naming Ceremonies, Initiation Ceremonies, Marriage Ceremonies and Transition Ceremonies funerals. If properly done, the person, the family, the clan, the community or the nation i. They may benefit through being fortified by the renewal and or restoration which this ritual offers.

They may also receive benefit through the security that comes from the knowledge of the spiritual connection and oneness with the Supreme One, with the divinities, with the ancestors, among themselves singly and collectively, and with the physical environment. It is the preservation of these connections and the beneficial results of understanding and maintaining them that this ritual represents and promotes.

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Libation, like any activity that is at once both sacred and communal, is useful and important because it helps to overcome fears, anxieties and frustrations. It promotes knowledge of and respect for elders and the Ancestors, hope and healing, unity and harmony, all through the reinforcement of common bonds. It also lends itself towards the achievement of solidarity, which results from common participation in any such communal activity. Libation also functions beneficially by helping those present to be psychologically prepared for a task at hand, especially through the self-confidence that grows from the knowledge — not only that all is well in their relationships with the higher and lesser powers in the cosmic order, but also by becoming focused upon what is to be done during a specific forthcoming undertaking.

In a similar way libation is also helpful because it empowers us to focus upon all the tasks and expected challenges in a particular venture or during a specific day — or indeed within any time period — that may be unfolding before us and which may be addressed in the libation Statement. In short, libation helps to create an enabling psychological climate for forthcoming action. However, libation must not be a substitute for human labour or human struggle, as prayers are sometimes viewed.

A particular libation may be part of an occasion specifically devoted to the Supreme Being, or to a particular divinity, or to an Ancestor, or even to a living leader, but every part of African society is usually acknowledged in the statement accompanying the pouring, including families, clans and the entire collective.

History of African Philosophy

In addition to the occasions mentioned above, libation is generally made at the beginning of the day, of a meal, or of a special ceremony to honour the Supreme Being, or a particular divinity, or an Ancestor. Libation may also be an important part of a ceremony arranged specifically to mark the commencement of an important piece of work e.

It was the same from as far back as in Kemet. The recognition and acknowledgement of our Ancestors, the divinities and The Supreme One, as well as our connection with them, is always a very special occasion for Africans. It is not therefore necessary to have a special earthly occasion for one to pour libation. So individuals and groups may pour libation at any time they have the urge to do so. A particular libation may be addressed to any divinity or Ancestor to whom the person or group feels close or perceives the need to contact and propitiate.

The compulsion to live in harmony with the environment is a principle of African existence that arises from the even more fundamental principle of the oneness of the beings and things in the cosmos and the importance of maintaining Maat. This principle expresses itself in values, attitudes and behaviours of Africans and is often expressed through institutions.

Examples include names and naming, where from time immemorial, Africans have been named for qualities admired and or respected in other animals. It may also be observed in a system of totems and taboos leading to a natural and comprehensive form of species protection, without fences, that spread itself across the land. These aspects of African culture share the same roots in the African world view as libation. White Supremacy does not care about marching and meeting Libation is a ritual practiced throughout the African world.