Spiritual practices throughout the Kingdom of Kongo has changed over time with the exposure of Christianity. But, the spiritual practices were the foundation of the vastly growing kingdom.
In pre-Catholic Kongo society, the religious authority of the mani Kongo stemmed from forces beyond the royal household. In traditional Kongo society, religious and medical experts called banganga performed innumerable rituals of protection and healing at places in the village or on its outskirts where two roads intersected. Also, legal officials frequently inscribed the image of crossed axes on the ground, on the center of which people would stand to give assurance of truthfulness in the act of testifying in court or making some other oath. In addition to these specialized ritual and legal contexts, the image also appears widely in what has survived of classical Kongo art: on royal scepters, and swords of authority, on terracotta columns and stone figures that rested on the tombs of the nobility, on the oversized funerary mannequins that housed the mummified bodies of the important dead, which villagers carried to their graves in celebratory musical processions.
This cruciform, known as yowo, the most fundamental sacred space of Kongo culture and therefore serves as a basic cosmogram, an essential image of reality.
The intersection of its two axes marks the energy-charged location where the world of ordinary experience comes into contact with the realm of the spirits. The horizontal axis, called the kalunga line, signifies the body of water that serves as a boundary between the spheres of existence, and that the soul of the dead person must pass through on its journey to the other world. The vertical axis is meaningfully ambiguous: on one reading, it connects humankind with the unsurpassed spiritual power of Nzambi Mpungi, God Almighty; on a second reading, it connects God with the generations of the deceased ancestors; and on yet a third reading, it spans the hiatus between the living and the dead. In accordance with the last interpretation, the BaKongo imagined the kalunga line as separating two mirrored mountains, opposed to one another at their bases. The mountain reaching above the line is that of the earth or the world of the living. The mountain extending below the line is that of the world of the dead; it is made of kaolin, a white clay found in river beds, whose hue is the polar opposite of the color of living bodies and in that sense its mirror image. Each terminal point of the cross as defined by the two axes represents a stage in the life cycle of the individual person linked with a position of the sun.
The importance of the spiritual world of the Kingdom of Kongo is just as important as in any other country. The spiritual world sets up a foundation which establishes a country. The uniqueness of the spiritual world in the Kingdom of Kongo, to me, has set itself apart form the rest of the Atlantic world.