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Hold the world's wisdom in the palm of your hand with the ISTA Flash 9.0. The most comprehensive collection of books on religion, mythology, folklore, and the esoteric ever assembled. An incredible value, with over 1700 sacred books, many of which are rare and hard to find.

Zimbabwe: Image (c) Copyright J.B. Hare 1999, All Rights Reserved African Religion 

South Africa  The Bantu  West and Central Africa
Comparative  African-American  Caribbean  Rastafarianism  Vodun

Ultimately, we are all Africans. Studies of mitochondrial DNA have proven that all human beings are descended from a small population (less than a hundred individuals) that emerged from Africa about 60,000 years ago. The earliest written religious texts as well as the first documented monotheistic religion also developed in Africa. During the European dark ages, many ancient manuscripts were preserved in African libraries in places such as Ethiopia and Timbuctoo.

This section has texts on the traditional spirituality of Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as their descendants in the New World.

Finding books about African religion and spiritual beliefs in the public domain was not difficult. These books have a great amount of useful information on this topic, some of it written before colonialism destroyed or greatly modified aspects of traditional culture. The problem with these works is that they were for the large part written by Europeans with their particular biases and agendas. For this reason, we encourage you to ‘read between the lines’.

The texts here are provided for scholarly purposes. They may contain racist characterizations, errors of interpretation, or misrepresentations of traditional culture. For instance, the term ‘Kaffir’, which is used in many of these texts to refer to the Xhosa (Nelson Mandela’s tribe), is now considered derogatory.

This page also has texts and books with alternate views, primarily written by African-Americans, which, in our opinion, also deserve consideration.

Africa is home to a rich religious tradition. Refer to Ancient EgyptIslam, and Christianity.


South Africa

 The Religious System of the Amazulu
by Henry Callaway [1870]

 Specimens of Bushman Folklore
by W.H.I. Bleek and L.C. Lloyd [1911]

 South African Folk-Tales
by James A. Honey [1910]

 Kaffir (Xhosa) Folk-Lore
by George McCall Theal [1886]

The Bantu

 Myths and Legends of the Bantu
by Alice Werner [1933]
The rich traditions of the Bantu.
Most of the books below also have material on the Bantu of West Africa.

West and Central Africa

The West African area is important because this is where the majority of slaves departed for the New World. Hence large elements of West African, particularly Yoruba, religion (blended with Catholicism) can be found in religions such as Vodun (also known as Voodoo) (Haiti), Candomblè (Brazil) and Santeria (Carribean). For more information on New World African-derived religions, refer to the The Santeria page at Ontario Consultants for Religious Tolerance.

 Myths of Ífè
by John Wyndham [1921]

 Notes on the Folklore of the Fjort
by R. E. Dennett [1898]
Storytelling from the Congo, a key source for West African folklore.

 At the Back of the Black Man’s Mind
by R. E. Dennett [1906]
Reveals a complex system of sacred lands, rivers, trees, and omens among the West Africans.

 Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria
By Elphinstone Dayrell, Introduction by Andrew Lang. [1910]

 Fetichism in West Africa
by Rev. Robert Hamill Nassau. [1904]

 Hausa Folklore
by Maalam Shaihu, translated by R. Sutherland Rattray. [1913]
Nigerian folklore from an indigenous storyteller, with a rich Islamic background.

 Woman’s Mysteries of a Primitive People
by D. Amaury Talbot [1915]
A woman ethnographer’s unique perspective on a West African tribe.

 The Yoruba Speaking Peoples
by A.B. Ellis [1894]

 Yoruba Legends
by M. I. Ogumefu [1929]


 Religion and Myth
by James Macdonald [1883]
One of the first comparative studies of African spirituality.


 Drums and Shadows
Georgia Writer’s Project; Work Projects Administration, Mary Granger supervisor [1940]
Coastal Georgia folklore from the 1930s and connections to African spiritual practices.


 Jamaica Anansi Stories
by Martha Warren Beckwith [1924].
Jamaican folklore, music and riddles, featuring an indominable trickster hero.



 The Kebra Nagast
translated by E. A. Wallis Budge [1922]
The legendary history of Ethiopia.

 The Holy Piby
by Robert Athlyi Rogers [1924-8]
A classic–and very rare–Afrocentric religious text from the early 20th century, acclaimed by many Rastafarians as a forerunner of their beliefs.

 The Royal Parchment Scroll of Black Supremacy
By Fitz Balintine Pettersburg [1926?]
A rare proto-Rastafarian text from Jamaica.

 The Promised Key
By G.G. Maragh (Leonard Percival Howell) [1935?]
Howell advanced ideas similar to later Rastafarian beliefs, particularly casting Haile Selassie as the Black Messiah.
A heavily edited version of the Royal Parchment Scroll.

The Wisdom of Rastafari
by Haile Selassie
A short anthology of quotes from Haile Selassie compiled by a Rastafarian group.


Two short articles by Lafcadio Hearn about New Orleans Voodoo. Hearn, a New Orleans native, also wrote extensive works about Japan, available in the Shinto section.
 Last of the Voudoos [1885]
 New Orleans Superstitions [1886]


Here are two books relating to Haitian Voodoo (Vodun). They were written by an outsider to the religion who was ultimately unable to penetrate its inner mysteries; however both of these books has strengths as historical and ethnographic background on the topic:

 Voodoo and Obeahs
By Joseph J. Williams [1932]
Important historical context for Vodun, with extensive quotes from contemporary accounts.

 Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica
By Joseph J. Williams. [1934]
A study of supernatural activity in Jamaica, including the abusive duppy…


Afrocentric Historians

 The Negro
by W.E.B. Du Bois [1915]
A great introduction to Black history by a noted African-American activist and scholar.

 Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empire
by Drusilla Dunjee Houston [1927]
A pioneering work of Afrocentric history.

 Stolen Legacy
by George G.M. James [1954]
Did the Greeks steal classical philosophy from an Ancient Egyptian mystery tradition?