Igbo perception of their world -Chp3

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  DIVINITIES AND DEITIES

However, the stronger belief in and pre-occupation with the divinities and deities, and patron spirits, are manifestly the most striking feature of Igbo traditional religion.

No matter what other writers say, polytheism (which means belief in or worship of many gods) is practised among the traditional Igbo. But it does no imply that all the local deities are of equal importance and power to the people. Although a lot of local variation exist in names, categories and details of belief in and worship of these divinities, a number of them are believed to be major divinities and are widely acknowledged. These include: Anyanwu (the sungod), Igwekaala (the sky god), Ala (Earth goddess), and Amadiọha/Kamalu (the god of thunder and lightning); others include Ahiajọkụ (god of agriculture), Ikenga (god of fortune and industry) and Agwunsi (god of divination and healing). Many other deities which constitute the Igbo pantheon are major deities to individual communities. For instance Ebumiri of Umunumu in Mbano, Ọfọ Itu in the Mbaise, Idemili in Uga, Aguata, Haba in Agulu, Nnagwurugwu of Isu in Arọchukwu, and Ọha Mmiri of Oguta and many, many others.

Of all the divinities Ala-the Earth goddess is generally worshipped in Igbo land as the arch-divinity and seen as the goddess of fertility and guardian of Igbo morality, a power which controls – divinities and a force which brings fortune and economic prosperity. There are numerous other lesser deities which constitute the dominant feature of Igbo religious cult. Many of these we personifications of natural forces and phenomena while others are man-made for the people’s survival and well being. This indicates the extent of the influence of ecology on Igbo religion. In addition, there exists myriads of lesser deities which are good or bad spirits which besiege the Igbo religious horizon. These spiritual entities inhabit physical realities like streams, forests, hills and animals. Some want to reincarnate in those to be born, others make life uncomfortable for the living causing calamities, barrenness, diseases and untimely death. Caught up in the midst of physical insecurity (which could also come from his fellows witches and sorceries) the Igbo resort to divination, sacrifices, traditional medicine and protective charms or amulets in order to cope with the uncertainties of life. They also resort to the ancestral spirits and some of the deities for protection and progress.

The Igbo belief in the ancestors is a clear expression of the people’s faith in “after-life” even though perceived in the context of external return to the earth again in reincarnation. And it is believed that one’s status in the after-life depends entirely on one’s status here on earth since the spirit- world is a mirror of the human world with same topography and similar organization. The motion of judgment which everyone is afraid of is clearly spelt out by the Igbo belief in reincarnation.

Seen from the anthropological perspective, Igbo traditional religion, as evident from the pantheon of spirits and deities acknowledged in worship in various localities, is a religion of structure, inextricably bound up with the total structure of Igbo traditional life. For the Igbo, man’s existence, his welfare and destiny are totally caught up the general behaviour of the forces above, under and around him, Igbo believe that the more man can control nature and the force, the more he is able to enjoy protection, longevity, progress, success and peace with God, the divinities and the ancestors. This perception of his world-view and control methods is borne out of the conviction about the constant interaction between the world of the spirit d the world of men. Igbo religion relies heavily on divination in this regard.

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