No religious system or belief is static. Pressures of cultural contacts, social, educational, financial and other factors all tend to influence one another and the religious life of a given entity. For the religious thought-patterns are adjustable. This is applicable also to the cult of the shades (the forefathers) in Zulu society.
It is very difficult to get a coherent picture of any aspect of Bushman culture, because the Bushmen were in the past spread over vast areas of South and South West Africa, mainly in family groups. In every area, and on a smaller scale in every family group, certain customs and traditional concepts developed in various ways. Thus we find that the same folk tale is not recorded in the same way by different research workers in different areas. Hence it is not always possible to obtain from such tales a total picture of particular customs and concepts.
The ancestor cult plays a central role in the religion of the African. It is directly linked with traditional belief in a Supreme Being and also influencing magic practices. Although the Supreme Beingï¿½s dealings with the individual ate experienced only indirectly or sporadically and magic is practised by specialists, interchange with the world of spirits pervades the existence of the traditionalist.
There seems to be a great variety of approaches to the problem on problem on African belief in ancestors. Basically however, they can be reduced to three groups, namely, a syncretistic, a rationalistic-pietistic and a classic-protestant group.
Despite a concerted effort on the part of at least some church leaders in at least some parts of Africa (certainly in South Africa) to eradicate any remains of the traditional ancestor cult among Black Christian, African believers continue to reverence their departed forebears.