Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964623 | Print ISBN: 9781412936361 | Online ISBN: 9781412964623| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Molefi Kete Asante
Ancestors are those who once lived in human society and, having fulfilled certain conditions, are now in the realm of the spirits. One becomes an ancestor by living and dying in a particular way. In African religion, to become an ancestor, one must have lived an exemplary life, shown devotion to one's own ancestors, respected the elders, and had children. Among various ethnic groups, to become an ancestor, one must have died a good death, that is, one's death must not have been by suicide, accident, or other forms of violence, with the possible exception of heroic deaths on the battlefield. In most societies, those dying of epilepsy, leprosy, and lunacy cannot be considered candidates for ancestorhood. This entry discusses the general importance of ancestors in African religion and morality and then looks at particular ways that reverence is shown. It concludes with an examination of how ancestor devotion influences ...