EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
In looking into the interesting symbol used by people in the Congo, the Nkisi Sarabanda (one of the primary deities of indigenous Congo religion) it is a 'cosmogram' configured exactly like the Jerusalem cross (attached).
This cross was significant as a coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the crusades (1099-1203 AD) and consisted of a cross potent with four small Greek crosses quartered.
It is notable that the Nkisi Sarabanda cosmogram is configured and consisting of the same crosses as the 'Jerusalem' cross.
While clearly many, perhaps even most, of the 'veve' (geometric device used to call on 'loa' or spirits) are later developed through the evolution of diasporic pantheons in the Americas and Caribbean through slave trafficking, it seems the Congo cosmogram may predate Portuguese arrivals in Africa.
The similarity to the distinct Jerusalem device is compelling, and we know that trade contact and diplomatic embassies between the Congo and probably other regions were extant as early as 1246AD with Tunis and Egypt as well as others. There are often adoptions of certain kinds of symbols and devices by disparate cultures without syncretic intent, and used with their own interpretations. Perhaps this was such a case with the Greek cross as seen here in Congo/West African context.
It seems that the tribal cultures in Africa in early times was much farther advanced than often realized in general, and that influences from Europe had diffused far into the interior and much of the Continent far before the European contacts recorded in exploration and colonization.