Original Research

Ancestral beliefs in modern cultural and religious practices – The case of the Bapedi tribe

Morakeng E.K. Lebaka
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5173 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5173 | © 2019 MORAKENG E.K. LEBAKA | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 July 2018 | Published: 20 June 2019

About the author(s)

Morakeng E.K. Lebaka, Department of Art and Music, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


There is no consensus among scholars of myth as to how the central concept of their field should be defined. What is a ‘myth’ and how does it differ from a ‘belief’? Moreover, scholars have argued for a homological relationship between myth and ritual. Semantically, the word ‘myth’ has a connotation of disbelief in ‘superstition’, and the word ‘belief’ should be substituted when talking about religious practices. Likewise, the word ‘ritual’ may be substituted with ‘ceremonial’, which has connotations that are more positive. Earlier publications that associate ancestral veneration with the words ‘myth’ or ‘superstition’ display a judgemental view of the beliefs of other cultures. In this article, the author attempts, via recourse to the use of the word ‘myth’, to describe and interpret traditional and cultural belief systems among the Bapedi people of Limpopo Province in South Africa. It is argued that myth should not be reduced to ritual nor ritual to myth. Belief and ritual, in Bapedi religion and belief systems, complete and complement each other, thus allowing the harmonious unison of meta and paralinguistic elements in religiocultural discourse. The focus of this study is to explore and document these links within the context of the Bapedi culture.


Pedi; Religiocultural discourse; Belief systems; Ancestor veneration; Myths; Rituals


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