Afro-American religion

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Example of Louisiana-Tradition Voodoo altar inside a temple in New Orleans.

Afro-American religions (also African diasporic religions) are a number of related religions that developed in the Americas among enslaved Africans and their descendants in various countries of Latin America, the Caribbean, and parts of the southern United States. They derive from African traditional religions, especially of West and Central Africa.


These religions usually involve ancestor veneration and/or a pantheon of divine spirits, such as the loas of Haitian Vodou, or the orishas of Santería. Similar divine spirits are also found in the Central and West African traditions from which they derive — the orishas of Yoruba cultures, the nkisi of Bantu (Kongo) traditions, and the Vodun of Dahomey (Benin), Togo, southern Ghana, and Burkina Faso. In addition to mixing these various but related African traditions, many Afro-American religions incorporate elements of Christian, indigenous American, Kardecist, Spiritualist and even Islamic traditions. This mixing of traditions is known as religious syncretism.

List of traditions[edit]

Afro-American Religions
Religion Developed in* Ancestral roots Also practiced in Remarks
Candomblé Brazil Yoruba Some elements of Dahomey Vodun (deities) and Kongo nkisi. Also called Batuque.
Umbanda Brazil Yoruba (mainly) Uruguay
Syncretism. Mixed the Yoruba's deities (Orishas) with the Bantu's veneration of ancestral spirits (Preto Velho), indigenous elements (Caboclos and Caciques), Allan Kardec's Spiritism and Catholicism. Founded in the early 20th century.
Quimbanda Brazil Kongo
Brazilian Shamanism
  Veneration of ancestral spirits called Exu and Pomba Gira
Santería Cuba Yoruba Puerto Rico, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, USA Catholicism Syncretism
Regla de Arará Cuba Fon Puerto Rico  
Regla de Palo Cuba[1] Kongo nkisi Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, USA, Venezuela Also called Palo Mayombe,
Las Reglas del Congo, Palo Monte
Haitian Vodou Haiti Fon Cuba, Dominican Republic, USA, Canada  
21 Divisiones Dominican Republic Taino, Fon, Yoruba, Kongo Dominican Republic, USA
Louisiana Voodoo Southern USA Fon USA
Obeah Jamaica Igbo Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Grenada, Barbados, Guyana, Suriname, Belize Related to Hoodoo folk magic. Derives from the Igbo 'obia' (or dibia, Igbo: doctoring) traditions.[2]
Winti Suriname Akan, Yoruba, Kongo  
Kumina Jamaica Kongo  
Spiritual Baptist Trinidad and Tobago Yoruba Jamaica, Bahamas, USA Protestantism Syncretism, since the early 19th century
Abakua Cuba Ekpe   society of the Annang, Efik, Ibibio, Ekoi and Igbo
Orisha Trinidad Yoruba New York City originally Yoruba, later syncretized with Catholicism.[3]

* Does not refer to the religions' indigenous origins in continental Africa, but only to their development in the New World.

Other closely related regional faiths include:

New religious movements[edit]

Some syncretic new religious movements have elements of these African religions, but are predominantly rooted in other spiritual traditions. A first wave of such movements originated in the early twentieth century:

A second wave of new movements originated in the 1960s to 1970s, in the context of the emergence of New Age and Neopaganism in the United States:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For an extended discussion on Palo's history, see: Dodson, Jualynne E. (2008). Sacred spaces and Religious Traditions in Oriente Cuba. UNM Press.
  2. ^ Eltis, David; Richardson, David (1997). Routes to slavery: direction, ethnicity, and mortality in the transatlantic slave trade. Routledge. p. 88. ISBN 0-7146-4820-5. 
  3. ^ Houk, James (1995). Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion in Trinidad. Temple University Press. 
  4. ^ Xango de Recife

External links[edit]