The African traditional religious community, being a polytheistic one, believes in the hierarchy of beings.
In the traditional religious African view, it’s conceived perceived of all spiritual beings to be of hierarchical order. The Supreme Being as the highest in the radar and the greatest. Then, follows the lesser beings, such as gods and divinities, they occupy a lower position but higher than the humans do.
Africans understand and belive the universe to consist of two parts.
The visible, which is the one the eyes can see—the earth.
The invisible, the sky, is regarded as the home of God, and those the eyes can’t see.
Africans believe that the universe has a specific order of created beings, with God, the creator occupying the highest rank.
It can be divided into these categories as follows;
GOD: The Supreme being responsible for the existence and sustenance of human beings and all other beings.
DIVINITIES: The gods, considered to be spirits created by God to help in running the universe.
SPIRITS: Belonging to people who died a long time ago.
LIVING DEAD/ ANCESTORS: They act as intermediaries between human beings who are alive and the spirit world.
HUMAN BEINGS: Include those who are physically alive and those yet to be born.
This above hierarchical ordering is what is referred to as the hierarchy of beings.
It’s believed in the African religious view that human beings can’t interact with the supreme being directly. They have to follow this radar to reach to him, and it’s believed that we are interconnected.
The authority, power, influence, and legitimacy of these spirit beings depend upon their position within the ontological hierarchy. Spirit beings operate by their positions and the roles attached to their positions within the ontological order; they dispense and control the activities of spiritual and mystical powers and forces. They also influence the morality and ethics of human societies.
Traditional Africans respond to these spirit beings according to their positions in their place of ontological hierarchy, power, influence, and role. Religious values, activities, practices, morality, and ethics are accorded to each spirit being in the proportion of authority, power, influence, territoriality, and legitimacy. That is, in the African traditional religious worldview, spirit beings are graded.
This concept of hierarchy in traditional African religions greatly influences how traditional Africans define the role and function of the Supreme Being, lesser beings, divinities, and ancestors in an African community.