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Religion has always been central to people's lives in Africa. Although the majority of Africans are now Muslim or Christian, traditional religions have endured and still play a big role. Religion runs like a thread through daily life, marked by prayers of gratitude in times of plenty and prayers of supplication in times of need. Religion confirms identity on the individual and the group.

There are a huge number of different religious practices on the continent. They share some common features: a belief in one God above a host of lesser gods or semi-divine figures; a belief in ancestral spirits; the idea of sacrifice, often involving the death of a living thing, to ensure divine protection and generosity; the need to undergo rites of passage to move from childhood to adulthood, from life to death.

In the history of the continent, religion has had a powerful effect on political change: spirit mediums have led revolts against European and African rulers, ancestral spirits have commanded acts of destruction and called for the overthrow of rulers and chiefs. People have sought the help of priests and medicine men to achieve power and wealth.

Listen hereListen to Traditional Religions, the fifth programme in the BBC landmark radio series The Story of Africa, presented by Hugh Quarshie