The TRADITIONAL BERBER RELIGION is the ancient and native set of
beliefs and deities adhered to by the Berber autochthones of North
Africa . Many ancient Berber beliefs were developed locally whereas
others were influenced over time through contact with other
traditional African religions (such as the Ancient Egyptian religion
), or borrowed during antiquity from the Punic religion ,
Iberian mythology , and the
Hellenistic religion . The most recent
influence came from
* 1 Funerary practices * 2 Cult of the dead * 3 Ancient Berber tombs * 4 Megalithic culture
* 5 Berber-Egyptian beliefs
* 5.1 Egyptian deities * 5.2 Berber deities * 5.3 Ammon as a common deity
* 6 Phoenician-Berber beliefs
* 6.1 Before the Battle of Himera (480 BC) * 6.2 After the Battle of Himera
* 7 Greek-Berber beliefs
* 7.1 Before the Battle of Irassa (570 BC) * 7.2 After the Battle of Irassa
* 8 Roman-Berber beliefs
* 8.1 The Imperial Period
* 9 See also * 10 References and notes * 11 External links
Archaeological research on prehistoric tombs in the Maghreb shows that the bodies of the dead were painted with ochre . While this practice was known to the Iberomaurusians , this culture seems to have been primarily a Capsian industry. The dead were also sometimes buried with shells of ostrich eggs, jewelry , and weapons . Bodies were usually buried in a fetal position .
Unlike the majority of mainland Berbers, the Guanches mummified the dead. Additionally, Fabrizio Mori discovered a Libyan mummy older than any comparable Ancient Egyptian mummy in 1958.
CULT OF THE DEAD
The authors of the book The
Berbers stated that the cult of the dead
was one of the distinguishing characteristics of the
They swear by the men among themselves who are reported to have been the most righteous and brave, by these, I say, laying hands upon their tombs; and they divine by visiting the sepulchral mounds of their ancestors and lying down to sleep upon them after having prayed; and whatsoever thing the man sees in his dream, this he accepts.
The Berbers worshiped their kings, too. The tombs of the Numidian kings are among the most notable monuments left by the Classical Berbers.
The veneration (not worship) of saints which exists among the modern Berbers in the form of Maraboutism —which is widespread in northwest Africa—may or may not contain traces of prior beliefs or customs concerning the dead.
ANCIENT BERBER TOMBS
The mausoleum of
The tombs of the early people and their ancestors indicate that the Berbers and their forebears (the Numidians and Mauretanians ) believed in an afterlife . The prehistoric people of northwest Africa buried bodies in little holes. When they realized that bodies buried in unsecured holes were dug up by wild animals, they began to bury them in deeper ones. Later, they buried the dead in caves, tumuli, tombs in rocks, mounds, and other types of tombs.
These tombs evolved from primitive structures to much more elaborate ones, such as the pyramidal tombs spread throughout Northern Africa. The honor of being buried in such a tomb appears to have been reserved for those who were most important to their communities.
These pyramid tombs have attracted the attention of some scholars,
Mohamed Chafik who wrote a book discussing the history of
several of the tombs that have survived into modern times. He tried to
relate the pyramidal Berber tombs with the great
Egyptian pyramids on
the basis of the etymological and historical data. The best known
Berber pyramids are the 19-meter pre-Roman Numidian pyramid of the
Medracen and the 30-meter ancient Mauretanian pyramid. The Numidian
pyramid in Tipaza is also known as Kbour-er-Roumia or
Augustine of Hippo mentioned that the polytheistic Africans worshipped the rocks. Apuleius stated as well that rocks were worshipped in the second century. The megalithic culture may have been part of a cult of the dead or of star-worship.
The monument of
Msoura is the best-known megalithic monument in
northwest Africa. It is composed of a circle of megaliths surrounding
a tumulus . The highest megalith is longer than 5 meters. According to
legend, it is the sepulchre of the mythical Berber king
Another megalithic monument was discovered in 1926 to south of
They begin with the ear of the victim, which they cut off and throw
over their house: this done, they kill the animal by twisting the
neck. They sacrifice to the
When I (Scipio ) was introduced to him, the old man (Massinissa , king of Massyle ) embraced me, shed tears, and then, looking up to heaven, exclaimed I thank thee, O supreme Sun, and you also, you other celestial beings, that before I departed from this life I behold in my kingdom, and in my palace, Publius Cornelius Scipio ....
There were some Latin inscriptions found in Northwest Africa
dedicated to the sun-god. An example is the inscription found in Souk
Ahras (the birthplace of Augustine;
The Berber pantheon also contained multiple gods, known as the Dii Mauri, represented on reliefs and also the subject of dedications. During the Roman period, Saturn was the focus of an important cult, subsuming that of Baal Hammon , a deity of Punic origin.
The Ancient Egyptians were the neighbors of the Berbers. Therefore, it is sometimes supposed that some deities were originally worshipped by the Ancient Egyptians and the Ancient Libyans (Berbers) as well. The Egyptian-Berber gods and goddesses can be distinguished according to their origin.
Cow's flesh, however, none of these tribes ever taste, but abstain from it for the same reason as the Egyptians, neither do they any of them breed swine. Even at Cyrene, the women think it wrong to eat the flesh of the cow, honoring in this Isis, the Egyptian goddess, whom they worship both with fasts and festivals. The Barcaean women abstain, not from cow's flesh only, but also from the flesh of swine.
Those Berbers supposedly did not eat the flesh of swine, because it was associated with Set , while they did not eat the cow's flesh, because it was associated with Isis.
The Egyptians considered some Egyptian deities to have had a Libyan
origin, such as
It is also notable that some Egyptian deities were depicted with Berber (ancient Libyan) characters. The goddess Ament was thus portrayed with two feathers, which were the normal ornaments of the Ancient Libyans as they were drawn by the Ancient Egyptians.
AMMON AS A COMMON DEITY
The most remarkable common god of the
Berbers and the Egyptians was
Ammon . This god is hard to attribute to only one pantheon . Although
most modern sources ignore the existence of Ammon in Berber mythology,
he was maybe the greatest ancient Berber god. He was honored by the
Ancient Greeks in Cyrenaica, and was united with the Phoenician god
The Phoenicians were originally a
Semitic people that inhabited the
coasts of modern
BEFORE THE BATTLE OF HIMERA (480 BC)
When the Phoenicians established in Northwest Africa, they stayed in
the coastal regions to avoid wars with the Berbers. They maintained
their deities which they brought from their homelands. The early
Carthaginians had two important deities,
AFTER THE BATTLE OF HIMERA
The ancient Greeks established colonies in
BEFORE THE BATTLE OF IRASSA (570 BC)
The first notable appearance of Libyan influence on the
Cyrenaican-Greek beliefs is the name
The Greeks of
The ancient historians mentioned that some Greek deities were of
Libyan origin. The daughter of
Herodotus also stated that
these I think received their naming from the Pelasgians, except
Poseidon; but about this god the Hellenes learnt from the Libyans, for
no people except the Libyans have had the name of
Some other Greek deities were related to
AFTER THE BATTLE OF IRASSA
The Greeks and the Massyle began to break their harmony in the period
of Battus II. Battus II began secretly to invite other Greek groups to
Some historians believe that the myth of
Antaeus was a reflection of
those wars between the Libyans and Greeks. The legend tells that
Antaeus was the undefeatable protector of the Massyle. He was the son
of the god
THE IMPERIAL PERIOD
According to Pliny the Elder , the Libyans honored the war goddess Ifri or Africa, who was considered to be the protector of her worshipers (and seemed to have been an influential goddess in North Africa), and depicted her on the Berber coins. This goddess was represented in diverse ways on Numidian coins from the first century BC. When the Romans conquered Northwest Africa, she appeared in sculpture and on the coins of the Roman states in North Africa.
The Roman pantheon seems to have been adopted generally, although the cult of Saturn, as mentioned above, was perhaps the most important.
A new god appears in later texts, identified with tribes such as the
Austuriani outside the Roman frontiers of Libya. Gurzil was a war god
who identified with the son of Ammon. He was taken by the
their battles against the Byzantines. Corippus mentioned that the
chiefs of the Laguata took their god Gurzil into battle against the
* Berbers portal
REFERENCES AND NOTES
* ^ A B Ouachi, Moustapha. “The
Berbers and the death.”
* ^ The mystery of the Black Mummy
* ^ Brett, Michael, and Elizabeth Fentress. 1996. The Berbers.
Oxford: Blackwell, p. 35
* ^ Brett, Michael, and Elizabeth Fentress p. 35
* ^ Herodotus, Histories, Book 4, 170
* ^ James Hastings,
Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 4 - p.
* ^ Tawalt, Libyan Massyle Site (in Arabic), Chafik, Mohammed.
Revue Tifinagh. Elements lexicaux Berberes pouvant apporter un
eclairage dans la recherche des origines prehistoriques des
* ^ A B Chafik, Mohammed. Revue Tifinagh. Elements lexicaux
Berberes pouvant apporter un eclairage dans la recherche des origines
prehistoriques des pyramides
* ^ A B C D . “The
Berbers and rocks.”
* ^ Tertre de M\'zora (in French)
* ^ Herodotus, Histories, book IV, 168–198.
* ^ M. Tullius