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The Bijagos Religions

Page history last edited by Josh Campos 9 years, 6 months ago

By: Josh Campos - joshcampos@yahoo.com - PDF: Bijagos Religions


The Bijagos Religions


-Approximately 30% of the people are Muslim.
Predominantly in the larger and more populated cities of Guninea.
-Less than 10% are Christians.
-The remaining 60% retain their animist indigenous religion.

Animist Beliefs remain strong among the coastal islands and have not been influenced by outside religions,

though Christians and Muslims incorporate many of the animist beliefs into their religions.

Definition of an•i•mism

1. The belief in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit natural objects and phenomena.
2. The belief in the existence of spiritual beings that are separable or separate from bodies.
3. The hypothesis holding that an immaterial force animates the universe.


A. The Story of Creation 


In 1882, M. M. Barros, a native priest of Guinea suggested that Bijogo culture had been
shaped by a warlike life and a deep faith in the transmigration of their souls. Scantamburlo
proposed that the various island groups have distinct cultures, traditions, and origins. He
suggested four divisions, possibly correlating with the four distinct Bijogo clan origins.
Scantamburlo described,

"According to many inhabitants on the islands of Bubaque, nobody knows for sure
when and from where all the Bijagós derive. One informant told me: ‘they only
saw the sacred stool and the guardian spirit already there’. Neither
report much about the time and how the world started. It is a common belief among
them, however, that it was Orebok, an intermediary between the Supreme Being,
and the Bijagós, who began the world.The first human being was a woman, called
Maria. This name originated from the first word her son told her, while lying hopeless
and naked on the seashore, ‘come, take me’. Maria had four children, called
Urácuma, Oraga, Onoca or Ogubane, and Ominca. They are the four mythological
ancestors of the four matrilineal clans of the Bijagós. Most Bijagós can usually agree on
these traditions. When asked, however, to specify more particulars, a variety of
opinions, according to the provenance of the informants may be heard. (1978)"


B. The Elders



Religion is embedded so much into their culture and tradition that there is no separate between their beliefs and their daily lives.

They live each day according to strict traditional guidelines passed down to the younger generations from the elders of the villages.

The elders dictate most religious practices and traditions and keep the entire community unified in common thought.

The elders have a direct connection with the Gods and if disobeyed it is said that you will be killed by magical means. 

They command respect and have almost all the privileges in the village.


Women also play a large role in most villages, as the elder women enforce the religious sanctions placed on the chief or king.

Some of the tribes have kings while most have chiefs. The main difference is that the King inherits his position while the chief is

chosen by the people and a group of elders.


C. Dance and Ritual


Dance and music is usually incorporated into most community rituals where the drums sounds are a medium in which the

people can communicate with the Gods. Words like Spirits, magic, gods, and fate are common within the Bijogos people

and connect each person with the spirit world in a unique way. 


The coastal groups believe that ancestor spirits exercise power over their living descendants, and those spirits are recognized in

household shrines at which periodic offerings are made. In every village, there are dozens of shrines to tutelary or guardian spirits.

These spirits are recognized at public ceremonies in which food and alcohol offerings are made and animals are sacrificed.

Such spirits are thought to protect the community against misfortune. Individuals visit the shrines to request personal favors.

Certain shrines have gained a transethnic reputation for reliability and power. Guineans abroad continue to return to those shrines

and send money to pay for sacrifices and ceremonies.




The rites or ceremonies are commonly divided by gender and are in place for almost every major point in a man or woman’s life

which are overseen by the village elders. The main rites are coming of age, Marriage, gaining the acceptance of the elders, and death.


D. Documentary and Sources




A 45 minute documentary on the daily life of one couple and their hardships.




-West Africa By Anthony Ham



Comments (1)

Annette Diniz said

at 9:51 am on Feb 2, 2011

Josh! You research guru! This information is great.

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