Introduction to African Religion

African History Project – African Religions (2) copy

Africa, as the origin of humanity, is the origin of all religion. The earliest cosmologies, concepts of eternal life, systems of ethics, and conversations with the divine are found within the African tradition.

As such, African religious thought has made an unprecedented contribution to our understanding of what it is to be human, to be conscious, and to be agents of our lives in the particular iteration of the space-time continuum we find ourselves in.

This engaging short course introduces students to the nature, place, and function of religion in the African tradition. Students will explore the African philosophy of religion and dive into the theologies, episcopacies, and practices of two leading African religions, Yoruba Ifa and Haitian Vodou. By combining an exploration of both a continental and a diasporic religion, this course will facilitate philosophical, theological and historical analyses of African religious life, allowing students to explore the political and social utility of religion in the African consciousness.

The short course can be taken as a standalone course or as part of the Foundation Certificate in Black Political Thought and Culture.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, students are expected to understand:

  1. What is religion, why humans developed it, and the role it continues to play in our personal and public lives;
  2. African concepts of the divine including an understanding of African cosmologies, deities (including deified ancestors) and supreme beings;
  3. Forms of divination and veneration in the African tradition and how these are used to communicate with the divine;
  4. Religious leaders, communities and places of veneration in the African tradition;
  5. The moral philosophies and social utilities of African religion. 



Apeike Umolu is the founder of the African History Project. She is an educator and historian with over 15 years of experience supporting students in the attainment of academic excellence. Specialising in African history, she is a passionate historian and has undertaken historical studies at the University of Oxford. She researches extensively on West African political history and is working on her first book On Black Consciousness.


Course Outline

  • Module 1: Introduction to African Religion
  • Module 2: Divine and Supreme Beings – Pantheons of Orisha and Lwa
  • Module 3: African Cosmologies and Ontologies
  • Module 4: Oracles and Divination in the African Tradition
  • Module 5: Episcopacies, Cults and Shrines
  • Module 6: Moral Philosophy and Deity Agency in the African Tradition

Couse Delivery and Assessment

This course is delivered through 10 hours of online learning via video lectures and coursework. The course should take 4 – 6 weeks to complete. Students work at their own pace and will have access to course materials for 6 weeks from enrolment. 

Students are also encouraged to attend any public lectures and seminars that take place in the School while they are enrolled.

The course is assessed by a 1000-word essay and an exam.


On successful completion of the course, participants will be issued with a Certificate of Completion and be eligible for an academic reference. 

Course Aims

The course aims to give students a robust understanding of the building blocks of religious belief and practice in the African tradition. Students will gain an understanding of the nature of divinity and the social utility of religion in African societies. They will explore the theologies, philosophies and episcopacies of Africa to understand the foundations of African social and political thought. 


Course Title: An Introduction to African Religion

Department: Department of Black Political Thought and Culture

Duration: 6 weeks 

Format: Online, Recorded Lectures, Public Lectures, Individual or Group Seminars

Assessment: 1000-word essay (50%), 1-hour open-book exam (50%)

Course Features

  • Lectures 5
  • Quizzes 0
  • Duration 6 weeks
  • Skill level All levels
  • Language English
  • Students 24
  • Assessments Yes

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