(O.J. Lucas’ RELIGIONS IN WEST AFRICA AND ANCIENT EGYPT is the source of these ideas)
The evidence for Ancient Egyptian religion powerful influence on many African religions may be summarised under the following headings:
- Religious Ideas
- Religious Practices
- Bodily Mutilations
- Funeral Rites
- Social Practices
- Sacred Numbers
- Hieroglyphics and Emblems
The structure of the Egyptian language and some West African languages such as Yoruba are similar. Through similarity of root words, combinations of root words to form compound words, and a single word used for a variety of meanings, all these are used to show commonality with the Egyptian ancient language.
West African words derived from Ancient Egyptian are numerous; if these are withdrawn from the languages, only an unintelligible framework will be left.
Also reference may be made to the term Orisa, Orise, as Lisa, Leza, Arusi, Aruosa or Alusi, the use of which is widespread West Africa and in East Africa as the name of the Supreme Deity or deity or an idol. The word is derived from Horu-sa-Ast, The following passage written by Lord Raglan and dealing with the diffusion of religious illustrates what we mean:
We find in most parts of the world religious terms with a wide distribution Such are `god’ and its related forms in Northern Europe, Semitic-speaking lands, `jok’ in Central Africa, `atua’ in Polynesia. There are a great many other words which have a religious connatation and which in the same or similar forms cover hundreds or even thousands of miles. Since it cannot be an instinct which causes some people to call a divine being `god’ and others to call him ‘el,’ it follows that all who use one of these terms must have derived their ideas of the supernatural, vocabulary or religious terms from a common source, a common ancestor of all these similarly phrased words.
West African religious phraseology is deeply impregnated by Ancient Egyptian phraseology. Vocabulary exist in parts of West Africa and are similar to, or identical with, those of Ancient Egypt: hence the irresistible inference of a close connection between those parts of West Africa and Ancient Egypt. Orisa for example, is a religious term widely distributed over thousands of miles in West Africa and in East Africa, its source of diffusion being Ancient Egypt form of Osiris.
(i) The general religious ideas of the Ancient Egyptians have survived in West Africa. A supreme deity is recognized, but worship is given to the local deities and ancestors.
(ii) The Great Gods of Ancient Egypt. The great gods have survived in West Africa in name or attributes or in both. Special reference may be made to Osiris, Ra, Amen, Ptah, Min and Horus. all of whose ideas have survived in East and West African religions.
(iii) Ideas relating to the divinity of kings. such as the references to the Sed Festival are seen in East and West Africa.
(iv) Ideas relating to future life, to the judgment after death. and to the practice of making earthly provision for the requirements of the dead in the next world are recognized in several places. Particular attention should be paid to the doctrines of the Ka and of the Khu.
(v) Ideas relating to the pig and other sacred animals, the observance of festivals, the importance of dancing, the prominence given to singing and the efficacy of offerings suggest connections. The survival of the Mock King of Ancient Egypt has also suggested connections.
(vi) The Chapters on Magic in West Africa show how closely related to the Magical Ideas and Practices in Ancient Egypt are those of West Africa. The similarity and identity of amulets have been noted. The amulet of the head-rest in Ancient Egypt has survived in the Sika Gua, “The Golden Stool” of the Ashantis and other emblems in West Africa The distinction between Heka as White Magic and Hekat as Black Magic survives in West Africa.
Particular attention must be paid to the fact that some of the ideas mentioned above did not exist in the pre-dynastic periods and that the worship of the different gods which came into prominence during the respective dynastic periods survive in West Africa. Khnum, for example, Was probably a pre-dynastic deity, but it was during the dynastic period that the conception of him as a potter came into existence, and the old ideas associated with him had become lost before the Ptolemaic times. Khnum is known to West Africans only as a “Creator god, a Potter.”
The survival of religious practices is another indicator. These practices centre around
(a) places of worship,
(b) services in groves and shrines,
(d) use of music,
(e) training for the priesthood,
(f) priests and their functions,
(g) dedicated objects, and
Here again it may be observed that practices distinctive of the dynastic times, such as the ways of training candidates for the priesthood and the performance of mystery plays at Abydos, survive in West Africa. The wearing of the leopard’s skin by the Chief Priest in dynastic times also survives in West Africa. The “templum” idea, associated with the priesthood in Egypt and in West Africa, was a development of dynastic times.
The bodily mutilations are as follows:
A. Circumcision. The Ancient Egyptians attach great importance to this rite, especially among the priests.
B. Excision. This rite was also practised by the Ancient Egyptians. Piercing of ears and nose and tattooing. These practices started during the pre-historic period and were maintained during a great part of the dynastic times.
C. Shaving. This was one of the restrictions laid upon the priests. All these practices survive in West Africa.
The Ancient Egyptian funeral rites survive in West Africa. Starting tom the pre-historic rite of dismembering or unfleshing the body, to the practice of skull or heart removal and then on the practice of mummification, the traces of which survive in the practice of wrapping up dead bodies like mummies, the Ancient Egyptian rites survive in their different stages.
There has been survival of pottery, glass and glaze work, stone work, and metal work closely resembling those of the dynastic Egyptians.
The West African time measurement is based on Egyptian ideas. The four-day week and its extensions-the eight-day week or the sixteen-day week-are based on Egyptian ideas. The seven-day week is a survival of each section of the udjat (odjo-t) or the full moon period consisting of two sections, each of seven days.
The West African systems of numeration and the names of numbers provide their own evidence in support of the theory of contact with Ancient Egypt.
The social practices relating to salutations, respect for elders, importance of oaths, observance of moderation, and others as observed in West Africa are similar to those of Ancient Egypt. Several moral maxims have survived which are clearly derived from Ancient Egypt.
(a) The importance of names, as constituting an integral part of the human economy, is the same in West Africa as it was in Ancient Egypt This has been pointed out above.
(b) The names of the deities which survive in West Africa are numerous, including SOB-KU survives as the name of a tribe, that is, SOBO, in Southern Nigeria.as does MIN in the name of two tribes, that is MINA in Togo-land and Dahomey, and IGBO-MINA in Yorubaland and HA-OIRI-T survives as A-WO-RI, the name of a tribe in Yoruba land, U PTAH, “The living soul of Ptah” survives in Yorubaland as JAKUTA, and ADUMU survives as the name of the Supreme Deity of the Ijaws in Southern Nigeria.
(c) Names of animals. O.J. Lucas gives under “The Religion of the Yorubas” a list containing thirty names of animals which are derived from Ancient Egyptian words.
(d) Names of places. A select list of the Ancient Egyptian names of places which have survived in West Africa from Egypt is also given in O.J. Lucas’ book.
(e) Other names: DANGA, the name of dwarfs in Ancient Egypt, survives as DANGA in Yorubaland, e.g. to bi danga “go as quickly as a Danga dwarf.” KHAFRA survives in AFARA, e.g. ma je afara lit. “do not be afara,” that is, do not delay, otherwise you will be caught and pressed into compulsory service as King Khafra did in Ancient Egypt.
According to Professor E. Wallis Budge, the sacred numbers in Ancient Egypt are’ “3, 4, 7, 9, 27, 42, 75, 77, 110, etc. Thus we have three gods (the triad), the three divisions of the world, heaven, sky, and Tuat; four sons of Horus, four quarters of the world, four blazing flames. ..four stairs four doors of heaven, four rudders of heaven, four vessels of blood, our vessels of milk, seven Arits, seven hawks, seven-headed serpent, seven scorpions of Isis, seven Spirits; nine gods in a Company, nine chiefs, nine mutchis, nine nations who use the bow; twenty-seven gods (three Companies 9 x 3); forty-two nomes, forty-two assessors; seventy-five Aresses to Ra; seventy-seven in magical papyri; one hundred and ten years the limit of a man’s life.
Nearly all the above numbers are sacred in West Africa. According to Dr. Parrinder,
“Three and its multiples, and seven, are generally sacred- At Porto Novo, during funeral rites, a male corpse is placed nine times the grave before final rest, a female seven times; for nine evenings following a fire is kept up at the threshold of the funeral chamber, seven evenings for a woman; the same nine-seven motif is observed in infancy rites and in skull removal. The belief is current among Fort and Yoruba hat men have nine pairs of ribs and women seven.„L
To these maybe added the Ewe, Yoruba and lbo four-day week, the Ashanti seven-day week the forty-two days constituting an Adae ceremony period, the Yoruba expression meje-meje “seven-seven” and other examples of the redness of the numbers, notably the threefold and the fourfold formulae.
It is noteworthy that all the numbers are considered sacred by the dynastic Egyptians; there is no evidence that they were confined to the pre-dynastic period or that all the sacred numbers existed in that period. Many of the numbers (e.g. the forty-two assessors) relate to ideas which were developed only during the dynastic period.
Attention has been called to the similarity of the dress of priests in Ancient Egypt to that used by priests in West Africa. In Ancient Egypt the high priest used to wear the skin of a panther (black leopard). in West Africa the high priest as well as other priests wears the skin of a leopard.
Some of the pre-dynastic Egyptians, and even some dynastic Egyptians on occasions, go naked. Children, too, up to a certain age go naked. All these survive in West Africa as well as some of the types of clothing used in Ancient Egypt
Hieroglyphics and emblems used by the pre-dynastic Egyptians and the dynastic Egyptians survive in West Africa. They constitute a piece of evidence which opponents of the theory of Egyptian influence on West Africa have not been able to assail.
The Hieroglyphics and the emblems which survive in West Africa have been described by O.J. Lucas. Their origin is distinctly Egyptian-not “Phoenician” or “Atlantic,” not “Islamic” or “Arabian,” not “Mesopotamian” or “Oriental,” not “Hebraic” or “Palestinian,” not “unknown” or connected with some “primitive level of ideas, current in pre-historic Africa.”
CONCLUSION: (from O.J. Lucas):
The evidence has demonstrated the impress of Ancient Egyptian culture on West African culture. It has dispelled the thick mist surrounding the origin of several West African names, such as Fanti, Asanti, Foil, Yoruba Salug, which have hitherto been described as unknown. It has thrown light on several West African words hitherto described as inexplicable. It has led to the “decipherment” of Hieroglyphics in West Africa.
The evidence adduced in this work in support of the theory of Egyptian influence is cumulative; each piece of evidence is sufficiently strong to ensure the solidity of the whole of the evidential structure. The cumulative effect of the evidence makes it irrefragable. Efforts hitherto made to destroy some parts of the evidence have invariably resulted in the production of additional materials in support of the theory.
With one more important proof of the close relation existing between the Ancient Egyptian religion and the West African Religions this work can now close. It is the identity of the philosophical or the metaphysical atlook in both cases. In the case of the Ancient Egyptian religion Dr C- P. Tiele says,
“The leading thought of the Egyptian religion, that which ad on the whole most struck the Egyptian, and which he accordingly reproduced most prominently in his theology is: life in its eternal unchangeable foundation, and its innumerable modes of manifestation, Life, health, well-being’ (arch, uza, seneb) is his motto, the sum of all his wishes The indestructibleness of life, in spite of the hostile powers of death and destruction, was what constituted his whole faith and all his This was his great dogma, and all his innumerable symbols were ailed in to aid him in giving it expression.”‘
The Egyptian motto “Life, Health, Well-being” or “Life, Health, Strength,” survives in West African religious phraseology and exercises no less influence on West Africans than it did on the Ancient Egyptians. The idea of life, and the word expressive of it, figure prominently in West African religious conception The West African metaphysical outlook is identical with that of the Ancient Egyptians.
Writers on West African Religions have described the metaphysical or philosophical outlook in terms which are almost identical with those used by Dr Tiele in the passage quoted above. Writing about the African philosophy of life – a term which undoubtedly includes the West African philosophy of life – Dr Parrinder says:
“This metaphysical outlook has been clearly expressed by Father Temples. He introduces his thesis in these words: `There are, in the mouths of black people, certain words which recur incessantly. These are those which express the supreme values. They are like variations upon a leitmotiv which is found in their language, their thought and in all their deeds and gestures.
`This supreme value is force, forceful living, vital force.
`Of all the strange habits, of which we grasp neither the rhyme nor the reason, the Bantu say that they serve to acquire vigour or vital force, to live forcibly, to reinforce life, or to assure its continuity in their descendants.’
This conception is not only of the Bantu, but perhaps of most parts of Africa.
“Force, power, energy, vitality, life, dynamism, these are the operative notions behind prayers to God, invocations of divinities, offering to ancestors, everything that may be termed religion, including therein what we are pleased to designate `magic’ or `medicine.’ The aim of all these practices being to strengthen and affirm life.” A study of prayers. ..will reveal most often the chief characteristic to be a demand: “Give me life, force, increase of family.”
The words generally used by West Africans are the words of the Ancient Egyptian formula: “Life, Health, Strength.”
It is this great and uplifting metaphysical outlook that has enabled the West African peoples to face the difficulties of existence with fortitude, to survive such gruelling experiences as those which were caused by the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and to strengthen their faith with buoyant expectancy of a bright future. It is this philosophy of life that has prevented the indigenous religions from being swept away by the powerful current of western civilization- Indigenous religions will lose their hold only in proportion to the extent that Christianity, or for that matter any other religion, exercises sufficiently strong influence to satisfy this deepest longing of the West African mind for life and to effect a practical realization of the truth of the saying: “I have come that men may have life, and may have it in all its fullness.”
Some ridiculous criticisms of the theory:
Comparison of O.J. Lucas’ language arguments to people like Dan Crawford are being lame brain. Dan Crawford has identified Lesa, an African name for God with EL, the Israelites’ name for God, by an ingenious process. He suggests that the second syllable should be cast away and the first syllable LE. inverted to become EL. Then he asks, “What is LE but the wrong way o spelling the Semitic EL. The present theory, involving the derivation of words, customs and practice from Ancient Egypt, is not a repetition of the numerological method of explanation.
Some of the criticisms arise from the difficulty of checking up the origin of words from a dead or unfamiliar language. Whilst philologists can sometimes be able to trace the origin, the average reader unfamiliar wit the dead or foreign language is apt to treat the derivation as fantastic. The difficulty can also be great as in the case of a living or familiar language. For example:
(i) “Bikasi Gado ben lobbi ala soema so, tee a gi da won lobb Pikien vo hem abra; vo ala soema, disi bridebi na hem, no moe go Iasi ana vo dem habi liebi vo tugo:” °
(This is John 23 of the Bible in English of the Surinam nation ).
Other critics have said there is no unity in Ancient Egyptian religion.
“Each town, and indeed each village, honoured its own divinity, adored by the respective inhabitants.-.. The Egyptians believed that each place was inhabited by a great number of spirits, and that the lesser ones were subject to the chief spirit.”-
Dr Margaret A. Murray feels that “by dividing the deities of Egypt into four categories the bewildering pantheon becomes intelligible. The categories which are far from being watertight compartments, are as follows:
I. Local Gods, originally animals, later represented with human bodies and animal heads.
2. Osiris and the attendant deities.
3. Deities without temples, originally belonging to the Pharaoh only.
4. The sill, and other deities.
The forms of the religion according to the chronological order accepted by most of the leading Egyptologists are as follows:
1. The Religion of Thinis-Abydos.
The gods worshipped were: Osiris (Asiri, Osiri, or Ausar, Lord of Abydos, Sun-god, Son of Scb and Nu; later described as Horus the Elder), Isis (wife of Osiris); Horus the Younger (Horu-sa-Ast or Hori-se-Ast, son of Osiris and Isis; later husband of his mother); Nephthys (the sister of Isis and the [wife] of Set), Hathor ([Het-Heru, the wife of Heru, later] identified with Isis), Thoth (Tehuti or Zehu, god of time, eternity, righteousness and wisdom) and [Ma’at] the goddess of truth and righteousness.
2.The religion of Heliopolis:
The gods worshipped were: Ra (the sun god identified with Osiris and Horus). Atum (or Tum name for the same functional god in the Lower Kingdom), Shu the life giver born without a mother, and Tefnut his wife.
3. Religion under the Old Kingdom:
The capital was Memphis, and the chief gods were Ptah, Sechet (Bast), Neith.
4. Religion under the Middle Kingdom:
Munt, Chem (Min), Cheminis, Amon, Khnum, Sebek, Tannit, Hapi.
5. Religion under the New Kingdom:
Sutech (Set, as chief diety), Amun-Ra, Mut, Khonsu, Aten (Sun god) and Aten-Ra (another sun god).
6. Religion from fall of Thebes to the Persian Conquests:
Khnum was the chief god, god of creativity and life giving in general, Ra (the upper heavens) and Shu (air), Set (earth), and Osiris (underworld).
The fundamentals of the religion was (after Wallis Budge):
1. Belief in the immortality of the soul and the recognition of friends and relatives after death.
2. Belief in the resurrection of the spiritual body occurring after death.
3. Belief in the continued existence of the heart-soul, the Ka and it’s shadow.
4. Belief in transmutation of offerings and the efficiency of funerary sacrifices and gifts.
5. Belief in the power of words including names, incantations.
6. Belief in a judgment, the good rewarded with everlasting life, the evil destroyed totally.
It should also be noted that the common people were not often admitted to the temples of the great gods, and the practices of the common people differed from that religion rituals performed by the priests. Magic became explicitly entwined during the Roman period with the religion as it then existed.
Professor E. A. Wallis Budge says:
“Greek writers tell us that their own sages and philosophers Archimedes, Hecataeus, Plato, Pythagoras, Solon, Thales, went and studied in Egypt in order to become acquainted with the wisdom and learning of the Egyptians…. Stephen the Martyr, in his dying speech (Acts vii, 22) says that Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.”
It is clear that the influence of Egypt on civilizations in Europe, Asia and North Africa as well as America and Australia through Europe is acknowledged. This acknowledgment can be seen in several other works than those quoted above. Somehow, the influence of Egypt on African countries south of the Sahara has not received such attention from writers.,’ Some writers even question or deny the possibility of the existence of such an influence.` Others have lamented the absence of information on the subject and stressed the need for research.’ Others again have only pointed out what they regard as traces of Egyptian influence.
O.J. Lucas’ work emphasizes the influence of Ancient Egypt on West Africa. Valid criticism of his work notes that he selected evidence, but of a typical nature from the tribes, used in support of the theory. However Lucas is a native of the area he speaks most forcefully on, and he knows the language as only a native can.