Stepping Back In Time: Visiting Igbo Ancestors And Their Gods [Part I]
By Iwedi Ojinmah 2 months ago
As we know the Igbo are a deeply religious people. The imprint of Christianity, when compared to the ratio of a population, is amongst the highest in the world.
However, with the advent of the blossoming of Christianity, it is lost to many that this belief in an overseeing spiritual second force influencing our lives has always existed.
It is the famous tradition known as Odinani.
It was there long before we became hunter-gathers and eventually evolved into the 'civilised' society that we are today.
The Igbo have always had their gods to whom they prayed, depending on the event or particular gist of the conversation. While it was not as complex or turbulent as what we saw in ancient Greek and Roman mythology, it was respected and deeply embedded.
These gods or translated as Alusi (Arushi, Anusi or Arusi in differing dialects) are spirits worshipped and served throughout Igbo land extending out of Nigeria and reaching as far as Haiti.
At the top of the pantheon of Igbo gods is the supreme deity known as “Chukwu”, meaning “great in size”. However, there are lesser deities in Odinani, each of whom is responsible for a specific aspect of nature or abstract concepts.
In the Igbo folklore, these lesser Alusi, as elements of Chukwu, have their purpose, unique traits, attributes and functions. You can simply call it a religious division of labour.
In this visit with these old traditional gods we shall attempt to spotlight the specific roles they were assigned within the community as well as how Christianity and the passage of time have distorted fact, and in most instances, corrupted that way we look at these deities.
We have selected 10 and in this part one of our series, we will talk about our first two.
Amadioha (meaning free will of the people) in the Igbo folklore is referred to as the deity of justice, thunder, lightning and the sky. He is known as Kamalu, Kamanu, Kalu among the Aro and other Cross River Igbo people, Igwe among the Isuama Igbo and in northwestern Igboland, and Ofufe in certain parts of Igboland.
His governing planetary body is the Sun.
His colour is red and its symbol is a white ram. Amadioha also represents the collective will of the people and is the expression of divine justice and wrath against taboos and crimes; in oaths, he is sworn by and strikes down those who swear falsely with thunder and lightning.
His European equivalent would be Mars in Rome and Ares in Greece.
Ikenga (literally means place of strength) is regarded as a cult figure of the right hand and success found among the northern Igbo people. Ikenga is a revered deity and is the icon of meditation exclusive to men and owners of the sculpture dedicate and refer to it as their ‘right hand’ which is considered instrumental to personal power and success.
At burials, a man’s Ikenga is broken into two with one piece buried with him and the other destroyed. Part II Ala and Ekwensu
Ikenga is also a source of knowledge resolved through psychological principles. The image of Ikenga comprises someone’s chi (‘personal god’), his ndichie (ancestors), aka Ikenga (right hand), ike (power) as well as spiritual activation through prayer and sacrifice. Ikenga is mostly maintained, kept or owned by men and occasionally by women of high reputation and integrity in the society Related: Imo State Government Makes Igbo Language Compulsory In Schools
His European equivalent would be Hercules in Rome and Kratos in Greece.
At burials, a man’s Ikenga is broken into two with one piece buried with him and the other destroyed.
Part II Ala and Ekwensu