The label of worship of suffering, understood in the strict sense of the West after the Enlightenment, does not sufficiently correspond to the cults of Central Africa. At the beginning of the 20th century, in the theatre of early colonialism, Ngoma groups offered a means of strengthening and celebrating the social categories of economic persecution (land, hunting, trade), social order and justice, and the very fabric of society (marriage, authority, women`s health, reproduction), as well as certain diseases in the strict sense of the word. The solemn and reflexive dimension of the Ngoma must also be emphasized. In some societies, especially in East Africa, Ngoma has served as a means of entertainment and competition, of sport, a role that is gaining more and more importance today. In fact, much of East Africa distinguishes between the therapeutic and entertaining types of Ngoma. Perhaps the underlying characterization of Ngoma`s historical orders is that they ritualized key points of the social and cultural fabric that were highly charged or seriously threatened. Difficulty or misfortune served only as a type of recruitment to lead and replicate expertise. Apart from these basic functions, the content of suffering cults varies greatly depending on the extent of the problems channeled into the format. It turns out that it can range from treating epidemics or chronic diseases and malformations to professional roles that require specific knowledge or that may be dangerous to people still needed in society. In a setting, the thematic area can be placed in a single ritual format; in others, thematic communities can become many designated orders or dances. These communities can in turn be organized into a decentralized series of local cells or overlapping networks. Alternatively, the dominant structure can become highly hierarchical, territorially centered on a fixed temple or a central administration. Economic and political factors often play a role in organizing the structure of suffering cults.
However, the taxonomy of the topics covered generally depends on environmental conditions or cult leaders, who often express their visions of solutions to human needs. The parameters of homogeneous and diverse structures, decentralized and centralized in the cults of suffering are best described by the sketch of several historical and contemporary places. The cults of distress reveal the greatest concentration of commonalities in the territory where linguistic homogeneity is the largest among Bantu societies – in a belt on the central continent, which ranges from Kikongo`s spokesmen in the west to the spokesmen of Swahili in the east. A brief comparison follows accounts of suffering cults between coastal congogos, Zambia`s Ndembu, Zaire`s Lunda and Tanzania`s Lake Victoria region, all decentralized societies. The cults of suffering deal with problems and answers that go far beyond the attempt to create an alternative community when relationships between loved ones are in disarray. An important function of all cults is the intellectual, analytical and diagnostic evaluation of the nature of life and the causes of misfortune. In this context, one often distinguishes between divination, intellectual analysis of a situation and ritual therapy, the attempt to intervene in the situation to change it.