Buy Books on African Spirituality
West and Central Africa
Ultimately, we are all Africans.
Studies of mitochondrial DNA have proven that all human beings
are descended from a small population (less than a hundred individuals)
that emerged from Africa about 60,000 years ago.
The earliest written religious texts as well as
the first documented monotheistic religion also developed in Africa.
During the European dark ages, many ancient manuscripts were preserved
in African libraries in places such as Ethiopia and Timbuctoo.
This section has texts on the traditional spirituality of
Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as their descendants in the New World.
Finding books about African religion and spiritual beliefs
in the public domain was not difficult.
These books have a great amount of useful information on this topic,
some of it written before colonialism destroyed or greatly modified
aspects of traditional culture.
The problem with these works is that they were for the large part
written by Europeans with their particular biases and agendas.
For this reason, we encourage you to 'read between the lines'.
The texts here are provided for scholarly purposes.
They may contain racist characterizations, errors of interpretation,
or misrepresentations of traditional culture.
For instance, the term 'Kaffir', which is used in many of
these texts to refer to the Xhosa (Nelson Mandela's tribe),
is now considered derogatory.
This page also has texts and books with alternate views, primarily written
by African-Americans, which, in our opinion, also deserve consideration.
Africa is home to a rich religious tradition.
The Religious System of the Amazulu
by Henry Callaway 
Specimens of Bushman Folklore
by W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd 
South African Folk-Tales
by James A. Honey 
Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore
by George McCall Theal 
Myths and Legends of the Bantu
by Alice Werner 
The rich traditions of the Bantu.
Most of the books below also have material
on the Bantu of West Africa.
The West African area is important because this is where the majority of
slaves departed for the New World. Hence large elements of
West African, particularly Yoruba, religion (blended with Catholicism)
can be found in religions such as Vodun (also known as Voodoo) (Haiti),
Candomblè (Brazil) and Santeria (Carribean).
For more information on New World African-derived religions, refer to the
The Santeria page
at Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance.
Myths of Ífè
by John Wyndham 
Notes on the Folklore of the Fjort
by R. E. Dennett 
Storytelling from the Congo, a key source for West African folklore.
At the Back of the Black Man's Mind
by R. E. Dennett 
Reveals a complex system of sacred lands, rivers, trees, and omens among the West Africans.
Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria
By Elphinstone Dayrell, Introduction by Andrew Lang. 
Fetichism in West Africa
by Rev. Robert Hamill Nassau. 
by Maalam Shaihu,
translated by R. Sutherland Rattray. 
Nigerian folklore from an indigenous storyteller, with a rich Islamic background.
Woman's Mysteries of a Primitive People
by D. Amaury Talbot 
A woman ethnographer's unique perspective on a West African tribe.
The Yoruba Speaking Peoples
by A.B. Ellis 
by M. I. Ogumefu 
Religion and Myth
by James Macdonald 
One of the first comparative studies of African spirituality.
Drums and Shadows
Georgia Writer's Project; Work Projects Administration, Mary Granger supervisor 
Coastal Georgia folklore from the 1930s and connections to African spiritual practices.
Jamaica Anansi Stories
by Martha Warren Beckwith .
Jamaican folklore, music and riddles, featuring an indominable trickster hero.
The Kebra Nagast
translated by E. A. Wallis Budge 
The legendary history of Ethiopia.
The Holy Piby
by Robert Athlyi Rogers [1924-8]
A classic--and very rare--Afrocentric religious text from the early 20th century, acclaimed by many Rastafarians as a forerunner of their beliefs.
The Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy
By Fitz Balintine Pettersburg [1926?]
A rare proto-Rastafarian text from Jamaica.
The Promised Key
By G.G. Maragh (Leonard Percival Howell) [1935?]
Howell advanced ideas similar to later Rastafarian beliefs, particularly casting Haile Selassie as the Black Messiah.
A heavily edited version of the Royal Parchment Scroll.
The Wisdom of Rastafari
by Haile Selassie
A short anthology of quotes from Haile Selassie compiled by a Rastafarian group.
Two short articles by Lafcadio Hearn about New Orleans Voodoo.
Hearn, a New Orleans native, also wrote extensive works about Japan,
available in the Shinto section.
Last of the Voudoos
New Orleans Superstitions
Here are two books relating to Haitian Voodoo (Vodun).
They were written by an outsider to the religion who was
ultimately unable to penetrate its inner mysteries; however
both of these books has strengths as historical and
ethnographic background on the topic:
Voodoo and Obeahs
By Joseph J. Williams 
Important historical context for Vodun, with extensive quotes from contemporary accounts.
Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica
By Joseph J. Williams. 
A study of supernatural activity in Jamaica, including the abusive duppy...
by W.E.B. Du Bois 
A great introduction to Black history by a noted African-American activist and scholar.
Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire
by Drusilla Dunjee Houston 
A pioneering work of Afrocentric history.
by George G.M. James 
Did the Greeks steal classical philosophy from an Ancient Egyptian mystery tradition?