Igbo - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Although many Igbo people are now Christians, traditional Igbo religious practices still abound. The traditional Igbo religion includes an uncontested general reverence for Ala or Ana, the earth goddess, and beliefs and rituals related to numerous other male and female deities, spirits, and ancestors, who protect their living descendants. Revelation of the will of certain deities is sought through oracles and divination. The claim that the Igbo acknowledge a creator God or Supreme Being, Chukwu or Chineka, is, however, contested. Some see it as historical within the context of centralized political formations, borrowings from Islam and Christianity, and the invention of sky (Igwe) gods. The primordial earth goddess and other deified spirits have shrines and temples of worship and affect the living in very real and direct ways, but there are none dedicated to Chukwu. Ala encapsulates both politics and religion in Igbo society by fusing together space, custom, and ethics ( omenala); some refer to Ala as the constitutional deity of the Igbo.

The Igbo concept of personhood and the dialectic between individual choice/freedom and destiny or fate is embodied in the notion of chi, variously interpreted as spirit double, guardian angel, personal deity, personality soul, or divine nature. Igbo have varied accounts of myths of origin because there are many gods and goddesses. According to one Igbo worldview, Chukwu created the visible universe, uwa. The universe is divided into two levels: the natural level, uwa, or human world, and the spiritual level of spirits, which include Anyanwu, the sun; Igwe, the sky; Andala (or Ana), the earth; women's water spirits/goddesses, and forest spirits. Through taboos, the Igbo forge a mediatory category of relations with nature and certain animals such as pythons, crocodiles, tigers, tortoises, and fish.

Religious Practitioners. There are two different kinds of priests: the hereditary lineage priests and priests who are chosen by particular deities for their service. Diviners and priests—those empowered with ofo, the symbol of authority, truth, and justice—interpret the wishes of the spirits, who bless and favor devotees as well as punish social offenders and those who unwittingly infringe their privileges, and placate the spirits with ceremonial sacrifices.

Death and Afterlife. The living, the dead, and the unborn form part of a continuum. Enshrined ancestors are those who lived their lives well and died in a socially acceptable manner (i.e., were given the proper burial rites). These ancestors live in one of the worlds of the dead that mirrors the world of the living. The living pay tribute to their ancestors by honoring them through sacrifices.

Also read article about Igbo from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Roma Felix
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Sep 15, 2010 @ 11:11 am
Thank you for the information. May I know the author and the year in which this was written? Thank you!
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Jan 20, 2011 @ 10:22 pm
This article will be very helpful with my religion paper. One thing I need to know is the author and when the piece was written, to give credit where credit is due!
Nzeh Christian
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Oct 17, 2012 @ 8:08 am
Thanks for a work well done. Please may i know the author, and year this piece was written.
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Feb 6, 2013 @ 9:21 pm
this a great writing, and i can i please know who wrote this and when it was published?
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Feb 25, 2013 @ 7:19 pm
May i please know the date that this was published?
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Apr 21, 2013 @ 11:23 pm
Great Job! But would like to cite it. If I could get the information, that would be awesome.
Karl Van Wart
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Sep 12, 2013 @ 9:09 am
This is a very well written article and i appreiate the effort you must have put into it to make it possible.
A random African
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Nov 24, 2013 @ 5:17 pm
This is a very interesting article. One correction, though. You might want to erase that 'tiger' bit and replace it with 'leopard' instead. Considering that most Africans didn't see tigers before the later 20th century due to its being endemic to eastern asia, I think it's hardly unlikely that it would be revered in precolonial igbo culture.
It's a common mistake we make here in Africa, largely due to the popularity of the striped beast compared to other felids. As a result, the term 'tiger' is usually used to depict a panther, the lion being the exception because of its distinct mane. Conclusion: the animal yu must be refering to here is the leopard.
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Feb 12, 2016 @ 6:18 pm
A very big thanks and applause to the author of this article,having no sense of history is same as remaining a child,thanks for bringing me out of childhood.
A Student
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Oct 25, 2018 @ 4:04 am
Im suprised you did not use any other Igbo terms like ogbanje or iyi-uwa but ohter than that i is very helpful

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