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.