The Serer religion, or a ƭat Roog (“the way of the Divine”), is the original religious beliefs, practices, and teachings of the Serer people of Senegal in West Africa.
The Serer people are a group of more than one million people in West Africa. They are the third-largest ethnic group in Senegal, making up 15% of the Senegalese population. Members of this ethnic group are unified by a common ethnic religion background and they speak a language also called Serer.
The Serer people are found throughout the Senegambia (Senegal & Gambia) region. Prior to the 20th century serers mostly practiced their traditional religion but when the colonizers came, most Serers converted to Islam and Christianity, but many still follow the Serer religion.
Serer Traditional Religion
Traditional Serer religious practices encompass ancient chants and poems, veneration of and offerings to deities at the foot of trees, such as the sacred baobab tree, the sea, the river such as the sacred River Sine, in people’s own homes or community shrine etc.
Serer tradition deals with various dimensions of life, death, space and time, ancestral spirit communications and cosmology. The Serer people have many gods, such as the god Tiurakh – god of wealth, and the god Takhar – god of justice or vengeance and Pangool (the Serer saints and ancestral spirits), but one supreme God called Roog sometimes referred to as Roog Sene (“Roog The Immensity” or “The Merciful God”), the Lord of creation.
Traditionalists in Serer believe that Roog is the creator and fashioner of the Universe and everything in it. Serer creation story is intricately linked to the first trees created on Planet Earth by Roog. Earth’s formation began with a swamp. The Earth was not formed until long after the creation of the first three worlds: the waters of the underworld; the air which included the higher world (i.e. the sun, the moon and the stars) and earth.
In Serer, Roog Sene is the lifeblood to which the incorruptible and sanctified soul returns to eternal peace after they depart the living world. Roog Sene is reachable by high priests and priestesses, who have been initiated and possess the knowledge and power to organise their thoughts into a single cohesive unit.
Offerings are made to Roog at the foot of trees, such as the sacred baobab tree, the sea, the river such as the sacred River Sine, in people’s own homes or community shrine etc.
The Serer also perform a divination ceremony called Xooy. The ceremony is organized in village squares at night prior to the rainy season and is chaired by a master seer (Saltigues).
During this ceremony, the Saltigues (master seers) step into designated circles and give favorable predictions while a drum beats in the background. This ceremony gives answers to issues such as rain, illness, plagues, and remedies.
The Saltigues are in charge of preserving and transmitting the information needed to perform the ceremony. Other duties of Saltigues are to intercede between people, the Supreme Being, nature and genies, regulating society, and ensuring harmony between men, women, and the environment. The Saltigues also have knowledge of plants allowing them to perform traditional therapies to alleviate suffering.
In the Serer traditional religion, it is believed that Roog Sene sees, knows and hears everything, but does not interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the living world. Instead, lesser gods and goddesses act as Roog’s assistants in the physical world. Individuals have the free will to either live a good and spiritually fulfilled life in accordance with Serer religious doctrines or waver from such doctrines by living an unsanctified lifestyle in the physical world. Those who live their lives contrary to the teachings will be rightfully punished in the afterlife.