Repository logo

Beliefs in ancestral spirits : interpreting contemporary attitudes of the Baganda to the ancestors.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Ancestors represent a more enduring reality in the African world-view than deities, other non-human spirits, or amulets and charms. This thesis argues that many Baganda have beliefs in ancestors. Much of the knowledge on ancestors in Buganda is still confined to oral tradition. It can be useful to have some material on the ancestors in a written form. The time will come when those who know about the subject will die and much of the information will disappear with them for ever. Early European writers on Baganda people touched the topic of ancestors only briefly in their texts, without reaching great depth. The subject is given little space in their works. Hence, they missed some major and dynamic aspects of the Baganda religion and beliefs. Another point is that there are many changes that have taken place and influenced Baganda's beliefs since these writers produced their works. By highlighting those changes, this thesis tries to give a clear picture of what has transpired between the period when those early writers wrote and today (1996), as far as such beliefs are concerned. The early part of the thesis defines the word ancestor and other key concepts. It gives a general analysis of ancestors in Africa. Then it moves on to consider ancestors and the ancestral cult in Buganda. The thesis describes the earliest accounts of the cult of ancestors in the pre-colonial period after which it looks at ancestral observances. The effects of christianity, Islam, and political independence on Baganda ancestral beliefs are discussed. The final stage of the study covers my findings from fieldwork. This includes statements from some of the informants I interviewed during fieldwork and my own conclusions regarding change and the contemporary situation. In this study, I have reflected on the perspectives of recent academic findings in order to facilitate comprehensive descriptions, analysis, discussion and careful interpretation of the beliefs under investigation. The ability of the Baganda people to retain their traditional beliefs along with basic Christian, Muslim and modern beliefs has been described and discussed.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1997.


Theses--Religion., Ganda (African people)--Social life and customs., Ganda (African people)--Religion., Uganda--Social life and customs.