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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Forgotten Igbo Deities: A Lost Chapter in Nigerian History

The forgotten gods of the Igbo lands were long-aged worshipped by ancestors of the Igbo tribe; Long before the white missionaries came and introduced their religion to the Igbos. Most present-day Igbos have forgotten their roots because of colonialism since the advent of Christianity.

The Chukwu of the Igbo land has similar dominance and definition to that of the Whiteman’s God. Although the White men rejected the comparison, it, however, adopted the name Chukwu to be referred to as the Igbo name of God.

In Igbo mythology and Christian religion; God, a Supreme Spirit, is the creator of everything in the world and in the spirit realm. No one equals him in power. He knows and sees everything. God is altogether good and merciful and does harm to no one. He sends rain and especially to children. It is from him that each individual derives his personal ‘chi’ in Igbo mythology.

There are over 100 gods in Igbo culture, both powerful and less powerful. The Igbo cultural religion, like many other cultures and religious groupings, is veiled in great oral myth and legend. Here is a list of forgotten Igbo deities.

Watch What You Need to Know About Forgotten deities in Igbo Land

Igbo god – Chukwu 

Chukwu also referred to as Chi Ukwu is a supreme god whose name is translated to as “The Great Spirit”. He transcends the multitude of gods in Igbo mythology. Chukwu is regarded by Igbo religionists as an all-powerful, all-knowing divinity; who formed the cosmos and all the minor gods who make up the Igbo pantheon. 

This supreme spirit created many inferior spirits who are nearer to man and through whom man normally offers his worship to Him.  

Igbo deity – Ikenga 

Ikenga as its name implies the ‘place of power’ is the god of strength and conflict. It is a horned deity and one of the Igbo land’s most powerful and revered gods. 

Men of good character, money, and morality are bestowed on the  Ikenga title. 

Click to learn more about the Ikenga and the title bestowed on prominent men 

Igbo deity – Nsi Agwu 

Nsi Agwu is the god of healing and prophecy. Nsi Agwu is one of the most fundamental religious gods in the Igbo land. He is used in explaining the good and bad, health and sickness, poverty and wealth of a human or clan. 

Nsi Agwu is one of the forgotten gods of the Igbo culture, even though his works are highly important to the society

Most Igbo communities had Agwu priests who doubled as physicians in the area. The god was believed to be prevalent before Christianity. 

Igbo god – Igwekala 

Igwekala is the name of the popular god who comes to town for a masquerade every four years in December.  

Igwekala is a feared and revered divinity, as no one can come close to it once it entered society. 

Its shrine is in Umunoha, a town in Imo state close to the city of Owerri. 

Igbo deity – Ala 

This female god, also known as Ani, Ana, and Ale in various dialects; embodies the soil, fertility, creativity, and morality. She is one of the most revered gods in Igboland. 

Ala is the wife of Amadioha, the sky god. Ala is represented with symbols like python and the crescent moon. 

Download Chinua Achebe Arrow of god to learn more about the Igbo gods. 

Igbo deity – Anyanwu 

Anyanwa is the goddess of the sun. Practically all old religions and traditions around the world have diety termed as the sun god and the Igbo cultures aren’t exempted from this.

Anyanwu meaning, ‘The Eye of the Light’ is a combination of two Igbo words. The first word Anya which means ‘eye’ and anwu which means ‘the light’

However, Anyawu means the sun, when going beyond the literal meaning.

The goddess also encourages productivity, hard labour, and people’s overall well-being. 

Many families adopt the good name as their surname, because of the high regard held to the diety. 

Igbo deity – Ji Njoku  

Ahianjoku is the yam guardian deity.

Rituals are performed in numerous parts of the Igbo nation in honour of the goddess of yams. Ahiajoku is called Ji Njoku or Ifenjoku as pronounced by different dialects.

During the farming season, she is prayed to for increased yield. 

Njoku is a name given to children who are consecrated to the goddess. They are believed to flourish in life. 

Click to read more about Ahiajoku, the God of Yam 

Igbo deity – Agbala 

Agbala is one of the forgotten Igbo gods. She is the priestess of Ala. She is responsible for carrying out punishments against persons who commit behaviours that society considers immoral, in addition to directing the community’s ritual offerings to Ala. Atrocities such as murder, witchcraft, and perjury, as well as other sins, are thought to be offences against the goddess of the earth.  

Igbo deity – Agwu 

Agwu, also known as Agwusi, is an Igbo trickster god who is related to the Akan god, Ananse and the Yoruba god, Esu. It’s unclear whether any of these gods are male or female. The trickster, on the other hand, is thought to be capable of being any sex at any time, even both at the same time, or neither sex at all. Agwu is both respected and feared, and he is known for spreading confusion in the minds of those around him.  

Igbo deity – Idemmili 

The goddess of the ocean & the seas. The god is mostly worshipped in the Idemmili community in Anambra state. 

Her shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Igbo land 

It is a secret shine, where the worship of pythons (eke) is taken place. As a result, the killing of pythons in that area is prohibited by the people of the community.

Igbo deity – Ogbunabali 

Literally means “the one that kills at night”. He is known as the death deity. 

His victims are said to be criminals and those who have committed abominations in the land. Ogbunabali kills his victims in the most ruthless manner, often carried out at night time.

There are high rich tones of great and valour African history. The African culture is soaked in courage, respect, and honour. While this could be overlooked, we hope it inspires more Africans to embrace their cultures, even when they can’t fully practice them. We should learn our history, so we can tell it as it is, without adulteration to the world and to new generations to come. 

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