A. Hierarchy of beings
(i) The visible/ earth.
(ii) The invisible/ sky which is regarded as the home of God.
The universe has a specific order of created beings, with God the creator occupying the highest rank.
This ordering is what is referred to as the hierarchy of beings.
It can be divided into seven categories as follows;
- GOD (Supreme being responsible for the existence and sustenance of human beings and all other beings).
- DIVINITIES (Are spirits created by God).
- SPIRITS (Belonging to people who died a long time ago).
- LIVING DEAD/ ANCESTORS (Act as intermediaries between human beings who are alive and the spirit world).
- HUMAN BEINGS (Include those who are physically alive and those yet to be born).
- PLANTS & ANIMALS (They are used by human beings in their natural and religious life as food and sacrifice).
- NON-LIVING THINGS (Natural and artificial beings e.g. rain, rivers, mountains, rocks and all other lifeless bodies).
Inter-relationship of all things, living and non-living
- According to the African view of the universe, all created things depend on each other and God.
- The universe is viewed in totality of existence.
- It is also viewed in a religious context.
(i) Human Beings and God
- They depend on God for the most essential requirements of life e.g. rain, air and sunshine.
- Are less powerful than God.
- Must obey God’s laws and commandments.
- Failure to heed these regulations may lead to punishment. Those who obey prosper.
- Must offer sacrifices to God to maintain a good relationship with him.
- Natural calamities e.g. drought, famine, floods and earthquakes are believed to be controlled by God and are beyond people’s power.
(ii) Human Beings and animals
The following are the uses of animals to human beings;
- Domestic animals like cattle, sheep and goats are used for food.
- Payment of dowry and settlement of disputes.
- Possession of animals is seen as a sign of prestige and wealth.
- Skins are used as clothes.
- Used to make music instruments e.g. drums.
- Used as sacrifices to God.
- Used as payment of a fine from an offender to God/ancestors or the offended.
- Used to predict weather patterns. Some of them are used to communicate the social standards expected of people e.g.
Hare - Used to discourage trickery.
Tortoise - Illustrates the importance of being slow but wise.
Snake - Not killed by some communities, it is believed to be immortal and that the ancestors may visit the living from it.
- Some animals and birds are treated as totems by communities. Plants and animals are used as a symbol of a family.
(iii) Human beings and plants
- Construction of buildings.
- Medicinal purposes.
- Some trees are used as sacred places of worship.
- Pasture for their animals.
- Provision of shelter.
(iv) Human beings and non-living things
- Non-living things e.g. rain, rocks, mountains, hills, rivers, moon and sun are given religious significance e.g. rain is a great blessing from God while thunder is seen as God’s movement or voice.
- Rocks and mountains are viewed as God’s manifestation to humankind and also as dwelling places for the living dead and spirits. Such places are used for the worship of God and are treated as sacred.
- Heavenly bodies help human beings to determine times and seasons.
- Human beings depend on the sun for sunlight during the day and on the moon and stars for light at night.