People are governed by millions of beliefs, some believe in deities, mythological tales, legends, while others have gone ahead to created certain impressions of God. Many people have their own perception of God. Yet, at the end of every argument, we’ll all accept that most of us believe in something, whether; superficial, artificial, physically, or natural.
Atheist abounds who share similar skepticism about religion. Human existence is always plagued with the need to believe in something, a supernatural force to hold accountable when things go either right or wrong. Most people want to hang on to something when the easy gets rough and tough.
Some act tough when in the midst of strangers, but will act mellow and subdued, while praying to the high heavens for a sign that everything will be alright. We want to arm ourselves with that assurance that someone out there cares enough to deem us special.
Humans always want to believe dearly in a higher power that controls the sphere of their existence. We want leave this existence knowing it was for a reason and that it served a purpose.
It’s easier to convince someone who want to believe in something. Religion itself is a jumbled pieces of so many gray areas. A hall of shadows, what ifs and lies. A mixture between belief, fiction and desperation.
There is no thriving state under the face of earth that you’ll not find an Igbo man. He may have escaped the shores of Nigeria but deep down he’ll always believe in ‘Chukwu’. The omnipotent, and almighty. The creator of ‘Ala’ and the maker of the high heavens- ‘Elu Igwe’.
An Igbo believes highly in a life hereafter. The cultural undertone of reincarnation is carved into the fabrics of his society and belief system. There are bizzare confirmed incidents where a child comes out from the shores of birth with distinct tribal marks that was associated with a dead relative. One is forced to asked some sensitive questions. Is reincarnation a myth? How then will a child of a relative come into existence bearing a scar or tribal mark of some death relatives who died years back? Mind you, these strange occurances has no relation to genetics. Are wounds hereditary?
Such strange occurances were seen as unrefutable proof of incarnation. However, the coming of Christianity signalled the end of some of the belief systems in Igboland. Most of the traditional practices were deemed barbaric and highly primitive. Within time, due to some obvious similarities with Christian beliefs, the people were easily convinced to toe the line of Christianity. Most of the elders, even donated their lands for the British colonials to build churches. Some did this favours for mostly gains. They were rewarded with umbrellas, combs and mirrors.
Some of the barbaric beliefs, like; the killing of twins and slavery was abolished. It is pertinent to state that, even to this very day, when more than 90 percent of the Igbo population are Christians, there are still avid believers who are totally actively engrossed in African traditional practices and religion. Some have found a way to co-exist with the beliefs, hereby adopting a dual persona.
Anyone who have had the luxury of meeting an Igbo man will not be shocked hearing him saying ‘Chukwu’ , ‘Olisa’, or ‘Chi’. An Igbo man is very much interwoven with these names which are embedded in most of his names, and surenames. Hardly will you get to a family where such names are not well featured. Chi or Chukwu simply means God. Most non-indegenes get the wrong impression of mistaken Chi to mean a god. Far from it; to the Igbos , Chi is the almighty, the creator of all beings, and the maker of heaven and earth.
In fact, Chi is so reverend that, they (Igbos) find it impossible to call on Him directly. They believe He is too powerful to be approached. Thus, there was a need to create Arusi, to intercede on their behalf. It is a taboo to call on to Chi directly without going through the gods and goddesses- Amadioha (God of Thunder and Justice), ‘Ala or Ani‘, the Goddess of Fertility and Earth. ‘Ahianjoku‘ or ‘Ihenjoku‘ – God of Agriculture. These dieties all pay homage to Chukwu Abiama, the supreme edifice of existence. To an Igbo man, Chi has no equal, and can not be compared to mere gods. There is no representation of ‘Chi‘. Though it is worthy to note that the Igbo’s Chi is given a masculine persona.
These idols are usually housed in shrines, wherein, libations and sacrifices are poured on it. The chief priest, who is usually the custodian of the gods is in charge of the daily upkeep of the idols. However, in some places in Igbo land, the shrines are held by each head of the family. He is to make consultations on the community’s or family’s behalf, as the case may be.
The priest is saddled with so many responsibilities. He is expected to warn of impending doom and advice the community or his family on any action that may cause havoc or calamity. In the midst of all these drama, there is a twist to the ‘Chi’ belief in Igboland. To an Igbo man Chi can also be personalized to mean more like a ‘guarding angel’.
The Concept of Personal ‘Chi’
A typical Igbo man is rooted in so many ideologies that are similar to most African traditional beliefs and major religions of the world, yet it retains some originality in its content.
There is the two faced ‘Ikenga’, the God of Time and Beginning. Ikenga is a personal embodiment of human endeavor, achievement, success, and victory. Ikenga (literal meaning “strength of movement”) is a horned Alusi found among the Igbo people. Ikenga is grounded in the belief that the power for a man to accomplish things is in his right hand. The holder, must be outstanding in character and deeds. Every of his actions must toe the life of fairness and justice. It is a personal Chi. Thus, you must try at all times to feed it with positive vibes.
Ikenga requires consecration before usage, just like most Arusi. Normally, an Ikenga is consecrated in the presence of one’s kinsmen or agemates by lineage head. This is done with offerings of things like; chicken, yam, ram, wine, kolanuts, alligator pepper and dry gins like Schnapps which are used to pour libation to the gods, or their forefathers and fathers before. In the libation, the holder is expected to mutter his prayers, wish himself and family well and bless the community. The drink must touch the ground. It’s a mark, identifying the holder as the son of the soil. He calls on the forefathers and father’s before to intercede on their behalf and bless the holder in all his endeavours. The success of a holder depends soley on the holder’s personal Chi as represented by the Ikenga.
Consecrations can either be celebrated in an elaborate fashion or done on a budget, this is entirely dependent on the financial strength of the owner. If the owner is devoted, he feeds his Ikenga on a daily basis with Kola and wine. Sacrificial blood of ram or cock are spilled on the Ikenga to summon the spirit to help the holder succeed where others may fail.
The principled men of the old, the great Igbo warriors, and illustrious sons of the soil have all held high revernace for Chi, God. They never did anything without seeking for His’ guidance in the best way they knew how. At the end of the day, when all the deeds are done, I hope we’ll all stand at the halls and debate on who made the better choice. Till then, let it be known, Igbos are God people.
In conclusion, Igbos are highly religious people. They tend to tell their stories with the day-to-day activities which is very much rooted in their belief system and ethos which was handed down from one generation to the other.