That ‘ancestors’ bear great significance in the lives of their African descendants is evident throughout African anthropology and theology. They are deemed to be, “patrons of society” that hold incredible power over human destiny (Shorter, 1991). They are the guardians of a descendant’s fate, and as many key African scholars have found – in traditional societies descendants obey and observe the rituals of their ancestors dutifully (Ayittey, 1991). In addition, ancient Dogon oral tradition informs that our maternal ancestors are responsible for our futures, as paternal lines control our bloodline. It is through venerating both sides that African descendants can avoid misfortune in life.
Even outside indigenous African customs, one’s lineage is considered to be of immense importance. In Chinese culture ancestral worship is found to have a “ubiquitous” position (Lakos, 2010). In his comparative analysis of Hindu, Islamic, African and Chinese legal systems Professor Werner Menski makes a compelling case for the analogous bearing that these cultures give to their ancestors (Menski, 2009). Even less known are the many European communities such as the Slavic and Finno-Ugric groups; who enjoyed a well-rooted observance of lineal rituals (Honko, 1999). In these groups their ancestors are not viewed as the latent beings in the ground, “they very much dwell in the natural world” (Ozukum).