Let me first start by saying that I am extremely happy to see such a large number of people, especially millennials, interested in returning to ancestral traditions that have been, for far too long, demonized and ridiculed. As African spiritual content floods social media, I can't help but notice an overemphasis on manifestation.
Let's define manifestation as the practice of using spirit to bring one's thoughts or desires into reality. This can include rituals aimed at bringing love into one's life, finding
a new job, becoming successful in business or anything else one desires.
While "manifestation" is a major part of many ATRs (African Traditional Religion), focusing on manifestation solely, leaves out some of the most essential and powerful components of these traditions.
Here's a short list of other important aspects of ATRs to consider:
It's impossible to separate ATRs from the cultures that birthed them. Anything having to do with Òrìṣà comes from Yorùbá culture. Yorùbá culture, like the parent cultures of most of the ATRs we are familiar with, has clear definitions for what it means to operate with good character. Yorùbá culture emphasizes humility, respect, patience, honesty etc. As a tradition Ifá speaks extensively about good character. While we focus on using Yorùbá spiritual technology to "manifest" the things we want we should also focus on the Yorùbá cultural understanding of righteous character. These teachings can help to guide our lives in a very useful way.
While manifestation is a part of many ATRs, it is not an isolated component that stands on its own. Most of the ATRs I've studied share the idea that we all come here with a unique destiny. The explanation of how we receive or choose this destiny varies from tradition to tradition. For example the Yorùbá believe that we choose our uniquely shaped Orí (head) before coming to earth while the Akan believe that we meet with Onyame (the creator) to choose our destiny. This is important because as ATR devotees most of the spiritual work we do to manifest things must take into account what aligns with our destiny.
3 Our two-way relationship with spirit
Another core tenet of ATRs is the idea that our connection with spirit (ancestors, Ifá, Òrìṣà, Ẹgbẹ́, Abosum, Lwa etc.) is strong in both directions. We pay homage to our guiding spirits, feed them and communicate with them constantly even when it has nothing to do with a request or petition. In the Yorùbá spiritual practice we have a calendar which directs us to feed our shrines on specific days. We also perform divination regularly. In the Akan spiritual tradition we feed our shrines regardless of what's going on and we regularly drum, dance and sing for them as well. When we focus too much on manifestation we ignore the fact that we have a "relationship" with spirit and that relationships work BOTH ways.
4 Family and community
It is extremely hard to practice ATRs in isolation for several reasons: (1) Family and lineage are key parts of the ritual work that we do. (2) Interdependence is enforced at many levels. In ATR communities around the world (Nigeria, Cuba, Haiti etc.), families are connected through an intergenerational web of student-teacher relationships. (3) There are so many unique roles that go into the spiritual rituals that need to be done. One person can't possibly play the role of drummer, dancer, singer, hunter, herbalist and priest/priestess of every single deity. We have to get along with each other and rely
on each other to get things done spiritually. Community building and maintenance are core components of most African spiritual traditions.
It's good to embrace the power of African spiritual technologies and their usefulness in manifesting the things we desire in life, however we must also embrace other important aspects of these traditions as well. Learn how to work with the ancestors to get that new job you want but also take time to study what African spiritual traditions have to say about good character, family and community.