(i) The meaning of life and its wholeness in the traditional African society

  • In TAS, God is the source of life.
  • Life is a rhythm which recycles itself.
  • There are several dimensions of life i.e.
  • Physical dimensions.
  • Social dimension.
  • Spiritual dimension.
  • Environmental dimension.
  • Physical dimension of life refers to the material state of human beings.
  • Social dimensions comprises of relation of living with others in a community.
  • Spiritual dimensions link human beings with spiritual power e.g. God, spirits andAncestors.
  • Environmental dimension of life is the relation between the physical environment and humans.
  • Life is enhanced through observance of rituals, taboos and regulations.
  • Life is promoted through transitional stages e.g. birth, initiation, marriage and death.
  • It is perpetuated through marriage for the continuation of the community.
  • Death transforms an individual from physical life to the spiritual one.

(ii). The African concept of community and kinship system

(a) Meaning of a community

  • A community is a group of people occupying one geographical location and guided by common values.
  • An African community consists of the living, living-dead and the yet to be born.
  • Each community is governed by specific rules, regulations and traditions.
  • Survival of the community depends on God and other spiritual powers.
  • A community believes that it is God who created the first human being.
  • God gave them a place to settle in and responsibilities to fulfill.
  • Leadership is provided by heads of families, elders and religious specialists.
  • Social structure of the community comprises family units which form a clan, and several clans make a community.
  • Members are expected to show concern for one another and foster the common good.
  • The community promotes a sense of belonging and identity for its members thus making individuals feel secure.

(b) African concept of Kinship

  • Kinship refers to relationship between people through blood, marriage or adoption.
  • Kinship ties are strong bonds that exist among community members.
  • Those related by blood have common ancestors. They feel a strong bond towards each other because they are tied by kinship relationships to one another.

Importance of kinship ties to TAS

  1. They determine how members relate to one another.
  2. They bond together the entire life of a community i.e. the living, the living dead, the unborn.
  3. They assist the people to live together in peace and harmony.
  4. They provide a sense of security to all members at all times.
  5. They regulate marital customs, rules and regulations.
  6. They give an individual a deep sense of belonging identity.
  7. They enable people to face hardship together.
  8. They safeguard the communities’ traditions and customs.
  9. They enhance unity among community members.
  10. They determine punishment for the offenders.


They include;

(i) Political ties.

  • Power and authority is exercised and shared among clan leaders and elders.
  • This enhances a peaceful co-existence among community members.


(ii) Communal ownership of property.

  • Land and other resources are owned by community

(iii) Division of labour.

  • Done according to age, gender and social status.
  • Ensures that all members participate in the activities of the community.

(iv) Communal worship.

  • All members are to pray and worship together and during times of crisis e.g. when there is a disaster, epidemic or serious sickness, people gather to offer sacrifices to God and ancestors/ spirits in order to appease them.
  • Common beliefs about God and spirits are passed on from one generation to another and are held dearly.
  • Members of the community try to live in harmony and peace with the departed and unborn.
  • Every activity in life has a religious dimension.

(v) Marriage.

  • Strengthens and fosters closer ties among different families.
  • Exchange of gifts is a sign of friendship, acceptance and mutual responsibility.

(vi)  Leisure activities.

  • People come together to sing, dance and be entertained.
  • In TAC leisure is integrated with other activities although after work, people rest and share jokes.
  • In the evening, men are entertained by the youth.
  • Elders correct the youth accordingly and identify talents among performers.
  • Beer-drinking parties are forms of leisure activities.
  • During leisure activities people discuss family and community affairs

(vii) Children.

  • The birth of children cements relationships, because in some communities, marriage is not complete without children.

(viii) Rites of passage.

  • Ceremonies marking birth, naming and initiation and bring families and community members together and create a source of unity and collective responsibility.

(ix) Observation of taboos.

  • Guides individuals in moral behaviour and maintains discipline and harmony.

(x) Rules and regulations.

  • Rules dictate and govern the roles and duties of all members in the community depending on age, gender and social status.
  • Breaking of rules results to punishment.
  • Elders maintain law and order by settling disputes and reminding members of what is expected of them.

(xi) Belief of a common ancestry.

  • This promotes a sense of brotherhood among members of the community.

(xii) Sharing.

  • Genuine concern for each individual within the nuclear and extended family is common.
  • Cooking and eating is done at household level and all share in feasting and rejoicing in some communities.
  • Marriage gifts such as animals and foodstuffs are shared among relatives of the bride’s family.
  • Land in T.A.C is communally owned and is used collectively by members of a given clan or family.
  • People work together on such land and share the proceeds.
  • This creates a strong bond of unity among the people.

(xiii) Social norms.

  • People grow in T.A.C. knowing what is right and wrong.
  • Rules and regulations are established to govern and regulate people’s behavior.
  • Everyone understands the virtues they should uphold i.e. Friendship, love, honesty, courage, bravery, compassion among others.
  • People are discouraged from developing vices i.e. cheating, theft, selfishness, greed and dishonesty.
  • Social norms keep the community from disintegrating and they provide peace to the individual and society.


  • Are important events in a person’s life beginning from conception until after death.
  • They are marked by celebrations.
  • Most of the ceremonies are religious and have the following common characteristics;
  1. All of them involved separation/ seclusion. In death one is forever separated from the community.
  2. Transitions. An individual undergoes some physical, social and emotional changes.
  • Incorporation. One is brought back to the community after seclusion and is given full rights in his/her new status.  An individual becomes an active participant in the community.  In death he/she is incorporated in the spirit world.

Rites of passage are:

  • Birth and naming
  • Initiation
  • Marriage
  • Death



  • It is the 1st stage of life; the whole community is involved including the ancestors.
  •  Having children is considered so important that a barren woman is despised and made an outcast.
  • From the time of pregnancy, there is rejoicing in the community.  The expectant mother is accorded a lot of respect and is given special treatment including;
    1. Eating special food and avoiding some i.e. eggs and fatty meat which may make the baby too big hence creating complications during delivery.
    2. Refraining from heavy tasks e.g. splitting firewood, carrying heavy loads.
    3. Refraining from sexual intercourse because pregnancy is believed to make the woman ritually unclean.
    4. Avoiding handling iron tools in the house for fear that such tools may cause injury.
    5. Not speaking to her husband directly but can only do so through an intermediary.
    6. Returning to her home to give birth there and coming back after weaning her baby.
    7. The mother carries protective charms to protect her from people with evil eyes and bad omen such as sorcerers.
    8. The midwives assist the woman in delivery and the sex of the baby is announced i.e. 4 ululations for a boy and 3for a girl.

Rituals observed after child birth


  • The child belonged to the community.
  • The birth of the baby is witnessed by the elderly women who act as midwives.
  • Men are not allowed to go near the delivery place.
  • When the baby arrives, its sex is announced by shouts/ululations

The rituals observed during childbirth are:

  1. The placenta and the umbilical cord are disposed off ceremoniously. i.e.
  2. Thrown into a running stream/river
  3. Dried up and kept for rituals performed later
  4. Carefully buried near the homestead or in uncultivated field/ shamba with bananas/cereals.
  5. Hung in the house to symbolize the continuity of life.
    • It should be noted that these ceremonies are observed so that the womb may remain fertile / to ensure continuity of life.
  6. A purification/cleansing ritual is done on the mother and the child by a medicine man/diviner to prepare the mother for the birth of the next child including ritualistic washing.
  7. Protective rites, performed by the local medicine person.  They are meant to protect the child from evils i.e. magic, malicious spirits, sorcery, witchcraft and evil eyes.
  8. The baby is committed to God for protection and to bring good fortune. An object is tied round the neck, waist, or wrist as a physical sign of the ceremony.
  9. Thanksgiving ceremony performed to show gratitude to God for the safe arrival of the baby.
  10. Prayers offered for continued blessings for both the mother and child
  11. The baby’s hair is shaved after sometime as a sign of purification and newness.  When new hair grows it will signify a new phase of life for the baby.
  12. Mother’s hair was also shaved to show that she has cast off that pregnancy. New hair symbolizes new life.
  13. In some communities the mother and the baby are secluded from the rest of the community, so as to give the mother time to rest.
  14. The whole community celebrates this rite of passage by rejoicing, singing, dancing and bringing gifts to the mother and the child.

The importance of rituals performed during a naming ceremony in Traditional Africa Communities

  1. Bathing of the child sets in the beginning of a new life.
  2. Shaving of the mother and baby’s hair symbolizes a new status.
  3. Choosing of an appropriate name to give to the baby is for identification/ incorporation into the wider community.
  4.  Feeding of the baby symolizes a new life/ growth.
  5. Holding of the baby by members of the community shows concern for it/ shared responsibility.
  6. Saying prayers/ words of blessings for the mother and baby signifies long life.
  7. Slaughtering of an animal signifies thanksgiving.
  8. Feasting is a sign of of joy/ socialism/ welcoming the baby.
  9. Giving presents to the baby and mother is a sign of goodwill.
  10. Wearing of charms signifies protection to the baby and the mother.


The significance of naming includes:

  1. Gives the new born baby an identity.
  2. Indicates that the child is an accepted society member.
  3. Through naming, they show gratitude to God.
  4. Reflects part of the personality of the child.
  5. Naming children after the departed relatives appeases the spirits.
  6. The name can reflect a remembrance of a certain event that was memorable at the time of birth.
  7. Naming customs differ from one community to another. Some names are chosen before birth others are given immediately they are born, others are named after a few days.
  8. Sometimes children are given more names as they grow.

How names are given to children in T.A.S

  1. Children are named after relatives, e.g.
  • Grandparents
  • Uncles
  • Aunties
  1. According to the time of day, season, and place.
  2. Named after great leaders and heroes.
  3. After important historical events.
  4. Animal names.
  5. Names that reveal physical features.
  6. Religious names i.e. names of God.
  7. Reflect the difficult time the mother experienced in labor.
  8. Names that reveal internal qualities of a child.
  9. Gender of the child.
  10. Parent’s choice.
  11. Twins had special names.
  12. 1st born child of the family could have a special.


  • It is no longer a communal affair.
  • The sex of the child is no-longer announced by ululations.
  • The role of a midwife is no-longer important.
  • The pregnant mother is no-longer secluded.
  • Some rituals are no-longer performed e.g. purifying rituals.
  • Shaving rituals are no longer practiced.
  • Wearing protective charms is no longer a common practice.
  • Some naming patters/models are no longer adhered to.
  • The attitude towards the sex of the child is no longer the same/discriminative.

Metods used to solve the problem of childlessnessin T.A.C

  1. Offering sacrifices to ancestors to appease them.
  2. Seeking the services of a diviner to find out the causes and offer solutions.
  3. Marrying another wife.
  4. Praying for God to reverse the situation.
  5. Allowing the woman to get children with a relative of the husband if the problem is with him.
  6. The couple may adopt children.
  7. Children may be given as a gift to a childless couple by relatives.

Role of birth in naming and inculcating moral values (virtues)

Respect: The mother is respected.  The traditions are respected through performing rituals.

Love: Through the acceptance of the baby.  The parents respect each other.

Care and mutual responsibility:  The mother and the baby are cared for.  The parents have a responsibility to taking care of the newborn.

Obedience: To the community’s traditions.

Harmony: Is restored between community members i.e. joining the living and the non-living through naming.

Unity:   The people come together to celebrate the birth of a new child.

Patriotism: The people name their children after community heroes.


  • It mainly marks the transition from childhood – adulthood.
  • It prepares someone to face adulthood and gain skills.
  • The different forms of initiation are:
  • Removal of teeth.
  • Piercing the chin and ears.


  1. Offering sacrifices to ancestors to appease them and bless the initiates.
  2. Blood was left to drain on the ground as a connection between the initiates and ancestors.
  3. Seclusion is done during initiation for several reasons that include;
  4. To receive education on;
    1. Human sexuality.
    2. The community’s secrets.
    3. Skills and knowledge.
  5. For healing.
    1. To give time for bonding together.
    2. To be well fed.
  6. Give time to allow preparation for celebrations to welcome them back to the society.
  7. Singing and dancing is done during initiation for the following purposes:
    1. Celebrate the occasion.
    2. Encourage them.
    3. As an act of worship.
    4. Express solidarity.
    5. Praise the heroes.
    6. Mock the cowards.
  8. Gifts and presents were given as a sign of appreciation and congratulation.
  9. Washing and shaving was done so as to:
    1. Shed off the former status.
    2. Cleanse the initiates.
  10. Giving names and wearing new clothes.


  1. To make them full members of a community.
  2. Introduce individuals to the community secrets and traditions.
  3. For them to acquire new life status i.e. adults.
  4. To give them an opportunity to access high responsibilities in life e.g.
    1. Become clan warriors.
    2. Be allowed to marry.
    3. Allowed to own property.
    4. Assume some leadership posts.
  5. Train the initiates to acquire important virtues of courage and endurance.
  6. To be linked with the ancestors through shedding of blood.
  7. For the unity of community members.
  8. Prayers and sacrifices offered are acts of worship.
  9. It is a gate-way to marriage.
  10. Creates a bond of unity and friendship between age mates which is lifelong.

The three stages they undergo are:

  • Separation
  • Seclusion
  • Incorporation

The reasons for singing and dancing during initiation ceremonies in Traditional African Communities

  1. The songs inform the participants of the history of the community/ preserving culture/ importance of initiation.
  2. They provide an opportunity for the members to socialise/ welcome ancestors.
  3. It diverts the initiates’ minds from the impending pain.
  4. The songs teach the initiates important moral values.
  5. The songs educate the participants of gender roles/ relationships.
  6. Through singing and dancing members exercise their bodies.
  7. The songs encourage the initiates to face the challenge/ rebuke cowardice.
  8. It exposes those with leadership qualities/ skills/ talents/ singers.
  9. They are used to mark the various stages of the initiation ceremonies.
  10. It is a form of prayer for the initiates/ drive away evil spirits/ invoking spirits.
  11. Singing and dancing is a form of entertainment.


(i) Respect.

  • The initiates gain respect and they are also expected to show respect to the community members.

(ii) Loyalty.

  • Developed through the initiates keeping the community secrets.
  • Through the initiates becoming clan warriors.

(iii) Endurance and courage.

  • Developed during pain bearing, tolerance and perseverance.

(iv)  Sharing.

  • Through sharing ideas, food and resources during seclusion.

(v) Chastity.

  • Through the sex education they get.
  • Female cut to reduce sexual desire in women.

(vi)  Self control.

  • Through being taught against unhealthy sexual relations.
  • Through pain bearing, endurance, tolerance and perseverance.

(vii) Solidarity/unity.

  • The community come together to sing and dance.
  • They come together to prepare the celebration.
  • They come together to welcome back the initiates to the community.

Ways in which initiation rites have changed today

  1. Some initiation rites have been abandoned, e.g. removal of teeth and
  2. The rites are less elaborate.
  3. Some communities have adopted initiation rites from others.
  4. The times for intiation have been shipted due to formal education.
  5. Many prefer to go for circumcision in hospitals.
  6. The age of initiation has shifted from adolescent to young children.
  7. It is carried out at family level and not communal level in most cases.
  8. Female genital mutilation (F.G.M) has been outlawed.


  • It T.A.C, marriage is looked upon as sacred and ordained by God.-It is a requirement and an obligation for every normal person to get married and have children

Importance of marriage:

  • Creates new relationship bonds when two families come together and so expand kinship ties.
  • Promotes social status of those involved.
  • Source of wealth due to dowry payment made by the wife’s family.
  • Meeting point of the departed, the living and the yet to be born.
  • Religious obligation through which human life is preserved, propagated and perpetuated since it is sacred.
  • Promotes immortality because parents are remembered by their children when they die. They perpetuate the name of the family.
  • Gives identity, a sense of belonging and completeness.
  • Allows the individuals to have sex.
  • Gives men and women new roles and responsibilities.
  • It is in marriage that children are born into the community.
  • Communal affair that brings people to work and feast together.
  • Provides security to parents especially in their old age when their children take care of them and inherit their wealth.


  • Creates respect and confidence since it promotes the social status of those involved.
  • Promotes co-operation when two families come together to help sustain it.- Promotes hospitality and sharing when the families visit each other, share food, services and bride wealth.
  • Brings together the living, the departed and the unborn encouraging unity.
  • When children are named after ancestors and the departed, loyalty and obedience is promoted.
  • It is compulsory for all which creates obedience.
  • Promotes chastity since sex is only allowed in marriage.
  • Encourages self control because adultery is forbidden and couples have to follow all the rules of marriage.
  • Marriage comes with new roles and duties thus promoting responsibility.
  • Those dishonest in marriage are punished; this helps to instill honesty, integrity and faithfulness.
  • The first duty is procreation which calls for love in the upbringing of the children.
  • All have roles to play. This calls for handwork so that harmony is maintained.


– The last rite of passage.

– In many African communities, it is said to be caused by:

  • Witchcraft – Sorcery
  • Curses – Evil magic
  • Diseases – Evil spirits
  • Old age – Breaking of taboos/binding oath
  • Death is feared and resented. The dead continue to be part of the family and they are remembered through naming of children after them.
  • The importance of the funeral rite is determined by the status, sex and the age of the person being buried e.g.
  • Young children and unmarried people are simple and attended by few people
  • For leaders, the rich and heroes in the community it will be elaborate and attended by many people.
  • Normal duties are disrupted on the burial day so as to allow many people to attend such funerals.


  • In some communities, the corpse is washed using water and herbal medicine in order to preserve and send it clean to the spirit world.
  • In some communities, the dead are buried with their belonging e.g. food, animals, bows, arrows. They believe that the dead will need those things in the spirit world.
  • Pregnant women and children are not allowed to touch or come in close contact with the corpse so that misfortunes do not befall them.
  • -The dead are buried in a carefully selected place in the ancestral land so that the spirits continue to be close to the family.
  • The body is carefully placed in the grave facing an appropriate direction according to the customs of the people.
  • In some communities the bodies are properly dressed before disposal while others e.g. among the Abagusii the dead are buried naked in the belief that they will be reborn in the spirit world.
  • -The grave is respected by being protected and made a family shrine particularly in cases where the dead were the head of the family. People avoid walking over the grave.
  • – Before and during burial, the members of the family and all relatives enter a period of mourning. Normal activities are temporarily halted in some communities this period is marked by people smearing their bodies with white clay; others stop washing their bodies, stop eating or refrain from sexual intercourse.
  • During this period there is singing and dancing of mourning songs as a way of expressing sorrow and sending off the departed to the next world.
  • In some communities there is feasting and beer drinking.
  • After burial, close relatives shave their hair as a sign that one of their members has been separated from them and for cleansing impurities. The new hair grown shows that life continues after death.
  • Sacrifices are offered to introduce the deceased to the spirit world.
  • Most communities pour libation to their dead ancestors.
  • In some communities a symbolic fire is lit near the grave and the graveyard is guarded by the mourners.
  • A widow’s inheritance is divided by the husband’s kinsman.


  1. Creates co-operation since the whole community is involved.
  2. All mourners are given food supplied by the family of the deceased or outsiders also help in providing and promoting hospitality and sharing.
  • Africans are careful to follow all the funeral rites so as to promote obedience.
  1. In some communities, the affected are not supposed to indulge in sexual intercourse encouraging chastity and self control.
  2. Members of the deceased mourn and have to come to terms with their grief promoting perseverance.
  3. By following all the wishes of the dead person, death encourages respect.
  • The dead body is carefully disposed of to avoid any haunting and the grave is respected promoting respect.
  • When the society takes care of the widows and orphans, they show love.
  1. Children, pregnant women and witches are not allowed near the corpse and this shows responsibility.

Reasons why death is feared in Traditional African Communities

  1. It disrupts the rhythm of humanactivity/ life.
  2. It is irrevocable/ inescabable.
  3. It brings impurity to the family.
  4. It deprives the community of members.
  5. It involves too many rituals.
  6. It comes unannounced.
  7. Seperates one from the loved ones/ end of life on earth.
  8. Nobody knows about the after liofe.
  9. It may cause misunderstanding in the community.
  10. Death rites reveal people’s characteristics.
  11. It may bring poverty to the family

Practices in T.A.C that show their belief in life after death

  1. Naming children after the dead.
  2.  Invoking the names of the dead during problems./ inviting them to important occasions.
  3. Burrying the dead with some property.
  4.  Offering sacrifices to the dead.
  5. Pouring libation to the living-dead.
  6. Taking care of their graveyards.
  7. Fulfillingthe wishes / will of the dead/ carrying out the demands of the dead.
  8. Talking of the dead as having gone for a walk.
  9.  Washing the dead body/ oiling/ giving a descent burial to the dead.
  10. Holding commemoration ceremonies.
  11. Burrying the dead in a particular position/ direction/ in ancestral land.


The religious specialists include:

  1. Medicine people.
  2. Mediums.
  3. Diviners.
  4. Priests.
  5. Rainmakers.
  6. Prophets.
  7. Elders.

How the Religious specialists acquire their skills

The religious specialits acquire their skills through the following ways depending on their specialisation:

  1. Nheritance.
  2. Apprenticeship.
  3. Dreams and visions.
  4. Being possessed by the spirits.
  5. Receiving a call from God/ ancestors.
  6. Observation of the work of other specialists.

(a) Medicine people

They are also known as healers, herbalists, traditional doctors.

They perform the following functions;

  • Identify illness and their causes.
  • Identify appropriate treatment and prevention measures for the illnesses.
  • They avert the effects of a curse.
  • Offer sacrifices and prayers to God and ancestors.
  • Prepare charms for protection against witchcraft and evil spirits.
  • Give medicine to increase fertility in both people and animals.
  • Act as counselors, guiding people on all issues of life.

Relevance in modern society

  1. Medical doctors and scientific researchers today work side by side with traditional healers to alleviate human suffering. Herbs are used to make modern medicine.
  2. Some people still believe that there are some illnesses that cannot be treated in hospitals hence turn to herbalists.
  • Some people also believe that medicine people who practice magic have the power to change their fate e.g. they are consulted to influence political fortunes, legal matters and enhance academic performance.

(b) Mediums

  • Are people though who spirits and ancestors communicated with the living.
  • They give the cause, nature and treatment of a disease or misfortune.
  • They reveal messages from the spirit world on behalf of the living.
  • They give information concerning lost articles or theft.  They only acted when they were spirit possessed.

Relevance today

  1. Are not common in Kenya today but they are in the West African countries.
  2. There are people who still believe in the messages revealed through mediums.  However, their role has been eroded by the influence of Christianity.

(c) Diviners

  • Are people who reveal secret information from the past or the future.
  • -Get their power through inheritance or divine calling.
  • The use divination objects, common sense and insight.
  • Unveil mysteries by interpreting the information received from the spirits.
  • Help the society to solve issues that are difficult for them to understand.
  • The do the work of counselors, judges, advisers, comforters, assurers during crises.
  • They also play the role of priests, seers and fortune tellers.
  • Diviners are still consulted in Kenya today particularly during moments of crises.
  • -They, however, face many challenges:
  • Divination is condemned in the Bible (Deuteronomy 18:10 – 11)
  • Science and technology have further diminished their importance since many mysteries can be explained through science and technology.

(d) Rainmakers

  • Are highly respected.
  • Get their power through supernatural endowment and apprenticeship.
  • They observe the behavior of plants, insects and animals.  They study the sky, stars, moon, clouds, wind movement and their body senses to predict weather.
  • They use sacred objects in rainmaking.
  • They act as intermediaries between God, the spirits and human beings.
  • They beseech God either to bring rain when there is a drought or to stop rain when there are floods.
  • Some rainmakers practice as diviners, medicine people, medium and priests.
  • They give offerings and sacrifices to God and pray on behalf of the people.

Functions of Rainmakers

  1. They perform rituals to cause rain.
  2. Have the ability to stop destructive rain.
  • They predict weather conditions by studying the skies and behaviour of plants and animals.
  1. They preside over religious functions.
  2. They advise the community on both religious and social issues.
  3. They give blessings to the members of the community.
  • They mediate between people and God.

Relevance today:

  1. Rainmakers are often engaged during public gatherings and other big events to delay the rain until the event is over.
  2. Christianity has eroded people’s believe in rainmakers.
  3. Christians believe that only God is able to resolve a difficult situation.
  4. Meteorological departments now give information on the weather and seasonal changes.

(e) Priests

  • Perform religious duties.  They either inherit the position or receive a divine call.
  • Offer sacrifices and offerings and preside over rituals and prayers.
  • Take care of religious places i.e. shrines.
  • They act as judges, advisers and experts in traditional rituals and rules.
  • They pour libation, offer prayers of petition, repentance and thanksgiving to God.
  • They intercede for human beings before God, the spirits and the ancestors.
  • They are made to be in charge of royal graves.
  • They install kings and chiefs.
  • They symbolize God’s presence in the African society.
  • They act as guardians of community knowledge, taboos, religion and oral history.
  • Sometimes they perform rainmaking ceremonies and conduct fertility festivals.
  • They drive away witches, appease spirits, reverse curses and protect people from danger and harm. 

Relevance today:

  1. Their roles has been diminished by several influences e.g. Christianity and formal education.
  2. African priests no longer play major religious roles in the community.  Their duties have been replaced by those of religious leaders i.e. bishops, pastors and priests in Christian   churches.
  3. Traditional priests are sometimes invited for national public functions to offer prayers.

(f) Prophets/ seers

  • Prophets are also referred to as seers.
  • A prophet is a person who can foretell the future by revealing visions, dreams or messages from God.
  • They foretell invasions i.e. war, drought or epidemics.
  • They communicate God’s message to the community and predict the will of God.
  • Prophets often play the role of political leaders, diviners, ritual leaders, mediums and legal and moral advisers to the community.
  • They perform religious duties which were beyond priests and medicine people.
  • They receive messages from the ancestors and the spirits through dreams and spirit possession.
  • They carry out cleansing rituals.
  • Tey advise people on religious matters.
  • They pray to God on behalf of the people.
  • They act as judges and preside over disputes.
  • They are guardians of the community’s customs and traditions.
  • They act as the spokesmen of their communities.

Relevance today

  1. People still consult prophets before making important decisions.
  2. Today people prophesy in churches or Christian fellowships through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
  3. Many people take their religious leaders as prophets because they act as the conscience of the society to tell the people what God expects from them.

(g) Elders

  • Are senior members of the community.
  • In charge of families, villages and clans.
  • Are people who are morally upright.
  • They settle disputes in the community.
  • They are custodians of the community property and decide how it would be shared.
  • They are custodians of the traditional values, customs and history of the people.
  • They offer guidance and counseling to the members of the community.
  • Elders console the community in times of distress i.e. war, famine and other calamities.
  • They are consulted by the individuals before making families decisions.
  • They stipulate the rules and regulations to be followed for the maintenance of law and order.
  • They lead the community during important functions such as the rites of passage and religious ceremonies.

Relevance today:

  1. Elders today help in settling disputes which are too culturally defined for the courts e.g. family rows and land disputes.
  2. Elders have been called by the Kenyan government to help solve land disputes and ethnic clashes.
  3. Elders still carry out rites of passage i.e. initiation.
  4. Elders are useful in maintaining the African culture through oral narratives, songs, poetry, proverbs and riddles.
  5. Elders provide useful information to researchers in History and Anthropology.
  6. They give general guidance to individuals, family and the community as a whole.

Factors that have undermined the status of elders in African Communities today

  1. New government structures where administrative officials have taken over the roles of elders in law maintainance.
  2. Most of the judicial duties have been taken over by the law courts.
  3. Education has brought new values/ ideas and the authority of the elders is no longer regarded with high esteem or is even questioned.
  4. People have migrated to new areas where they do not respect local leaders.
  5. The influence from other religions ( Chritianity and Islam) with their leadership structures; with their adherents respecting their religious leadres more than the community leaders.
  6. Urbanization has undermined the role of of the elders as it becomes difficult for elders to operate as the people come from different backgrounds.
  7. Estern norms/ values which promote individualism.
  8. Schooling where children spend most of their time with teachers depriving them the time to be with elders
  9. Permissiveness in the society has eroded the respect of elders.
  10. Economic factors where the worth of a person is judged by the wealth/ property one possesses.
  11. Political power/ decision making has shifted from the elders to politicians/ political leaders to whom people look upon for leadership.

Factors that have negatively influenced the role of the religious specialists

  1. The influence of Christianity; it associates the practices of these leaders with magic and witchcraft. Christian leaders are also given prominence over the tradtional leaders.
  2. The new government structures and political systems have taken over the roles of traditional leaders.
  3. Formal education is used as a tool in choosing leaders as opposed to age, wisdom and experience used in traditional African communities.
  4. Through migration, people from different cultures mix up and may not recognise local leaders.
  5. Science and technology provides solutions to problems related to weather conditions and medical treatments. This disregards the work of rainmakers and herbalists.
  6. Increased poverty makes some people engage in work of specialists without the necessary skills in their effort to earn a living.


Moral values are acts/deeds that are acceptable or good in the society and they are;


  • This refers to generosity and kindness to guests and strangers in homes.
  • Africans welcomed visitors at any time.  They were treated to plenty of food, drink and entertainment.
  • Today there is a tendency towards individualism especially in the case of those living in urban centers.


– Means being truthful.

– It was taught to children as they grow up to ensure they become dependable people who always tell the truth.


  • Refers to politeness and good manners.
  • – In A.T.S there were rules that guided the behavior of individuals towards others based on age, gender and status of a person.

Tolerance and perseverance

  • Tolerance means to endure somebody/something without complaining.
  • Perseverance is a steady effort to achieve a goal without giving up.
  •  People in A.T.S valued these qualities as they aided one to go through hardships courageously.
  • These values were reinforced during initiation.


  • Being true and faithful in supporting somebody or a particular cause.
  • Children are taught values of the community which they are expected to keep and protect.
  • They are taught not to betray the family and friends and always stick together.


  • This is having good sexual morals.
  • Unmarried people were expected to keep their chastity or virginity until marriage while adultery was forbidden for the married.


  • Polite behavior to oneself and others where one recognizes other’s rights and status.
  • Children are taught to recognize the status of their parents, elders and leaders.


  • Caring attitude towards others that leads one to help them.
  • Africans helped one another.


  • A strong feeling of affection towards somebody or something which was expressed in actions in A.T.S.
  • Love is equated with protection, loyalty, co-operation, generosity and hospitality which were important in T.A.S.


  • This is working together for a common purpose.
  • In T.A.S people worked together in all circumstances which made work and life easier for them.
  • In T.A.S, people co-operated to accomplish tasks for the good of all.


  • It is the quality of having strong moral values.
  • People of integrity do not give up on their beliefs and values even in the face of intense pressure.
  • People of integrity are respected and will often be given positions of leadership.

Unity solidarity

  • This is to join together.
  • Africans united in all aspects.



  • An African community consisted of the living, dead and the unborn.
  • Each community had common characteristics such as common ancestors, unique language, a particular geographical area, a culture and distinct social, economic and political structure.
  • Today, the understanding of community has changed due to such factors as; education, urbanization, migration, natural consciousness and religion.
  • Urbanization has brought together people of different background.
  • Formal education has promoted new loyalties based on new social status and academic and professional qualifications.
  • New political systems and forms of Government have changed the traditional African community.

Old age and the aged

  • In A.T.C, old people were well taken care of and highly respected.
  • They did light duties e.g. looking after young children while others worked.
  • They were members of the council of elders who settled disputes and were consulted for advice.
  • The elders were custodians of community values, customs and religious beliefs.
  • Today due to urbanization, many elderly people are left alone in the rural areas with no- one to take care of them.
  • Sometimes they end up in homes for the aged or begging on the streets.
  • – Old people are important because they have wealth of knowledge to share. We should take care of them.


  • Was special and highly valued.
  • It was a source of food for the people and their animals and herbs for medicine.
  • Land was believed to be God given.
  • Land was communal.
  • – There were land allocations to each family for farming. The men were the guardians of the land.
  • Land was not sold and there were no landless people.
  • Today land is only communally owned in nomadic communities since most of it is individually owned.
  • An individual can buy land and settle anywhere and is not bound to the ancestral land.
  • Land ownership is evidenced by a little deed or land allotment letter issued by the Government.
  • Today, some land is set apart by the government for public use like establishment of game parks, roads, schools, cattle dips and market places.


  • is anything owned or possessed by a person.
  • In A.T.S., property could be individual or communal.
  • Women and children contributed to the accumulations of wealth by working on farms and grazing cattle.
  • Women and children were not allowed to own property.
  • Today, property can be owned by a man/ woman/ child.
  • There are various ways of acquiring wealth other than agriculture and keeping animals.
  • African economies have been influenced greatly by the western money-based economies where money is seen to satisfy or fulfill all needs.

Widows and orphans

  • A widow is a woman whose husband is dead.
  • An orphan is a child whose both parents are dead.
  • In A.T.S., a widow was inherited either by her husband’s brother or cousin to ensure that the late brother’s family would not suffer.
  • A woman not only belonged to her husband but also to his kin.
  • Any of his brothers takes over the household in his absence.
  • The children born after his death were still referred to as his children.
  • A man who inherits the wife takes over all the duties of the dead man e.g. protecting and providing for the family.
  • Today the spread of HIV/AIDS has raised a lot of debate over the practice of widow inheritance.
  • Due to individualism and lose family ties, it has become hard to care for members of the extended family.
  • A child who lost one or both of parents in T.A.C. was easily adopted into the family.
  • Orphans didn’t find it hard surviving because of the strong kinship system.
  • -Widowhood or being orphaned is very painful experiences for the people today.
  • Many widows have found themselves and their children going without food especially if the husband was the only provider.
  • Some children have dropped out of school to take care of their siblings.
  • Many orphans have ended up in the streets for lack of a caretaker.
  • A number of organizations have started to build children homes or orphanages to cater for the orphans especially with HIV/AIDS.


  • In TAC clothes were made from animal skin, bark, feathers, reeds/and sisal.
  • Every community had a way of dressing, depending on the climate in their region and their way of life.
  • Age, gender, status would always determine the type of clothing one wore.
  • Ornaments i.e. bangles, necklaces, anklets and ear plugs/ rings were part of the traditional dress.
  • The Maasai, Turkana and Giriama have to raid for livestock to maintain their traditional dress.
  • Today dress undergoes a lot of change because fashion changes with peoples tastes.
  • Today we have a national costume whose design is base on traditional costumes.

Dowry or bride price

  • This is a gift of property that a groom gives to the bride’s family.
  • Bride price was given in terms of cattle, goats, sheep, and honey and food stuff.
  • Today, the concept of bride price has been commercialized.
  • Sometimes conflicts arise between parents and those intending to marry.
  • Dowry should be used appropriately to cement relationship.


  • Medicine was provided by medicine people who diagnosed and treated sicknesses.
  • Their medicine was in the form of herbs, minerals, powder and seeds and also spiritual.
  • Today, people take the sick to hospitals for proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified medical doctors.
  • Christians also offer prayers for the quick recovery of the sick.


  • This is free time for one to enjoy/ spend.
  • In T.A.C. leisure was integrated in the daily life of the community.
  • People would work and have leisure at the same time e.g. singing while digging.
  • They had leisure in form of festivals and rites which involved singing, eating, drinking and dancing.
  • Some leisure activities were free of charge and mostly communal.
  • Some leisure activities were specific to certain gender age group.
  • Today leisure is separated from work.
  • People engage in various activities e.g. listening to the radio, watching television, reading   magazines or visiting friends.
  • Some leisure acts today are very expensive.
  • Some people misuse their leisure time abusing drugs or engaging in sexual immorality.
  • Some people help the needy visit the sick, do voluntary community and church work during their leisure time.
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