Stepping Back In Time: Visiting Igbo Ancestors And Their Gods [Part IV]
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 deitiesRelated: Imo State Government Makes Igbo Language Compulsory In Schools
We have selected 10 and in this part four of our series, we will talk about our next two after initially discussing Ikenga, Amadioha, Ala, Ekwensu, Anyanwu and Idemili
Njoku Ji is the god (deity) in charge of agriculture, specifically staple crops like yam and cassava. He also controls the fire that is used as a tool for deforestation.
In parts of Igboland, there are still annual rituals in honour of the yam deity known as Ifejioku. In some parts, children who were dedicated to the service of this deity were named Njoku and expected to grow up to be successful yam farmers.
His European equivalent would be none in Rome as Agriculture is ruled by a Goddess, Ceres. The same thing goes for Greece where Agriculture is again ruled by a Goddess, Demeter.
Agwu Nsi is the Igbo deity of health and divination, and one of the basic theological concepts employed to explain good and bad, health and sickness, wealth and poverty, failure and success.
Belief in the Agwu was widespread in the past.
Most communities had some Agwu people, who were considered victims of its malignant powers or recipients of its positive influences, such as priest-diviners and physicians.
He’s also the patron deity of the diviners popularly referred to as “Dibia”.
His European equivalent would be none in both Rome and Greece as healing and health, in general, is ruled by the same Goddess Hygeia.