Nzambi Mpungu
Venerated inKongo religion
SymbolSun
Ethnic groupBakongo
ConsortNzambici
Equivalents
Roman equivalentJupiterSol
Igbo equivalentChukwu
Nubian equivalentApedemak
Egyptian equivalentAmunRa
Bantu equivalentNyambe

Nzambi a Mpungu (also Nzambi and Nzambi Mpungu) is the Supreme God, eternal Sky Father and God of the Sun (fire) in traditional Kongo spirituality.[1] His female counterpart is Nzambici, the Sky Mother and Goddess of the Moon. Among other Central African Bantu peoples, such as the Chokwe, and in the Kingdom of Ndongo, Nzambi Mpungu was also called Kalunga, the god of fire and change. This may have a connection to an element of Bakongo cosmology called Kalûnga. It was seen as the spark of fire that begot all life in the universe.[1] After Portuguese colonization, Nzambi Mpungu became synonymous with the Christian God and existed chiefly as the Creator God.[2]

History

See also: Kongo religion

Nzambi Mpungu was recorded as the name of the God of the Kongo people as early as the early sixteenth century by Portuguese who visited the Kingdom of Kongo.[1][2]

European missionaries along with Kongo intellectuals (including King Afonso I of Kongo) set out to render European Christian religious concepts into Kikongo and they chose this name to represent God. Jesuit missionaries in the 1540s noted the acceptance of this relationship as well, and it was probably included in the now lost catechism produced by Carmelites in Kikongo in 1557. Certainly, it was used for God in the catechism of 1624, a translation by the "best masters of the church" in Kongo under the supervision of the Jesuit priest Mateus Cardoso.[citation needed]

Prior to European colonization, Nzambi Mpungu and his female counterpart, Nzambici, were perceived as the "Marvels of Marvels" who existed everywhere simultaneously and gave life to all things.[2] Nzambi Mpungu was the "sovereign master," the God of the sun (fire) and change.[3] It was believed that Nzambi Mpungu/Nzambici created the universe, the spiritual world (Ku Mpémba) and the physical world (Ku Nseke). Contrary to what the title "the Great Spirit" implies, Nzambi Mpungu/Nzambici and the spiritual nature of the Kongo people did not exist under the same confines of hierarchy as the omnipotent God of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). All spirits within Kongo spirituality were believed to be equally significant and each had their own purpose across both worlds.[2]

After the introduction of Catholicism by the Portuguese, there was a massive effort to convert Central Africans by creating connections between Christianity and their traditional African religions. While it was largely a failure for ethnic groups, like the Mbundu in the Kingdom of Ndongo, the Portuguese were able to persuade many Bakongo in the Kingdom of Kongo that Nzambi Mpungu was the Christian God and that the other spirits were similar to angels, who were subservient to God. Not only did this act make way for an easier conversion of the Bakongo people to Christianity, it also created a hierarchy in Bakongo spirituality that reduced other spirits like Nzambici, simbi and nkisi to "lesser spirits" that no longer had relevant voices in spiritual matters.[2]

One Kikongo saying is "Ku tombi Nzambi ko, kadi ka kena ye nitu ko." It means "Don’t look for God, He does not have a body."[1]

Nzambi in the African diaspora

See also: Nyambe

Candomblé Bantu

In the religion of Candomblé Bantu, Nzambi is the "sovereign master". He created the earth and then withdrew from the world. Nzambi Mpungu remains responsible for rainfall and health.[citation needed]

Kumina

In the religion of Kumina there is a high creator god is known as "King Zombi" which is a derivative of Nzambi Mpungu.[4]

Palo

In the religion of Palo, "Nzambi" is the god who created the universe and animates it. Nzambi resides in all natural things, and the spirits of the dead. Long deceased ancestors who have become spirits will over a long period of time become enveloped in the natural elements and thus Nzambi himself. The natural powers of Nzambi can be harnessed by a Nganga and in common ceremonies.[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Asante, Molefi; Mazama, Ama (2009). Encyclopedia of African Religion, Volume 1. ISBN 9781412936361.
  2. ^ a b c d e Brown, Ras Michael (2012). African-Atlantic Cultures and the South Carolina Lowcountry (1st ed.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 26, 27, 90–102, 106–110, 119–121, 123. ISBN 978-1-107-66882-9.
  3. ^ Asante, Molefi Kete; Mazama, Ama (2009). Encyclopedia of African Religion. SAGE Publications. pp. 120–124, 165–166, 361. ISBN 978-1412936361.
  4. ^ Nathaniel Samuel Murrell (2010). Afro-Caribbean Religions: An Introduction to Their Historical, Cultural, and Sacred Traditions. Temple University Press. ISBN 9781439901755.