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Monday, May 29, 2023

What is Ikenga?-Forgotten African Deity, Igbo Cosmology and Mythology

Masculine energy, drive, success, motivation, God force.

“Destiny urges me to a goal of which I am ignorant
Until that goal is attained, I am invulnerable and unassailable.
When Destiny has accomplished her purpose in me,
A fly may suffice to destroy me.” 

Igbo cosmologists say that Ikenga is the phenomenon behind the quote above. The philosophy behind the idea is how to understand and identify the Ikenga in us, and how to unlock it. In trying to understand the philosophy behind the Ikenga, let us start with asking what Ikenga is.

What really is Ikenga? 

The right hand’s order is ikenga. It’s sometimes referred to as “the gift of my Chi.” It is the ember of strength, courage, confidence, and drive. It is an ability that humans possess when they have the courage to follow their calling. It happens when you develop a stronger version of yourself, which emerges each time you fearlessly confront the obstacle standing in the way of your future today. When you realize the power of the God inside you, you are functioning to the fullest extent of your abilities. Ikenga is you as a natural force.

Our ancestral experience since our most ancient times regarded the right hand as our agency and ability to enforce our will upon the universe around us. It is the animating energy in all things in existence and beyond. This gives us an insight into the power of our individual consciousness, being responsible for our individual and collective experiences and manifestation into the material world. 

In Igbo cosmology;

Ikenga is the spirit of industry, enterprise, agency, inner strength, success, movement, and triumph. Before undertaking major projects, a person needs spend time mastering and uniting this part within themselves. This is due to the fact that it is what drives you to achieve victory.

Ikenga means you have control of your faith, as you are bestowed with that all-powerful right hand that God used in creating the universe. According to a proverb from our ancestors, “As long as my Ikenga is active, I can wrestle in the world of spirits,” sums up Ikenga’s ability to help you through every obstacle and doubt in life.

The Role of the Ofo in Igbo Cosmology 

In Igbo cosmology, authority is in two forms. The first is the Ofo which is the Staff of Authority a person receives from Chi’ukwu (Chukwu) and their Chi from their ancestors. The Ofo moves down from generation to generation. The elders use it to bless kin, place oaths, earn seats, and wield authority in the congress of elders.  

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It allows the individual to be a representative of the dead and the living. And encourages you to consider the community and the ancestors when making decisions or speaking truths. It represents the communal aspect of authority. 

Read More on Forgotten Igbo gods …

The Philosophy… 

As the Ofo bonds the whole, Ikenga differentiates the individual. Unlike the Ofo, you don’t inherit the Ikenga. Each Ikenga is built within the lifetime of its owner and destroyed upon death.  

Ikenga is symbolized by the number three in Igbo numerology. In Igbo mythology, the number three is viewed as incomplete, but the number four is viewed as completion. Ikenga transforms into the kinetic spiritual and physical energy that drives you to your Chi to find completion.

Ikenga is hence a compound term that means “Ike (Strength) Nga (Movement) – Strength of Movement.” Ikenga can be found in people, rivers, towns, and even other deities. This is the energy that emerges from them over all of space and time and beyond. The secret to unlocking your Ikenga, however, comes in recognizing your destiny because you are incomplete and were born to progress towards your Chi for fulfillment.

Understanding the Ikenga  

One must look at your Ikenga in order to understand it. As a result, it is preferred that it be in a material form of craft. Ikengas are distinguished mostly by their heads and their right and left hands. It almost always has two noticeable horns on its head. Depending on who you are as a person, the horns have different styles.


To help you understand the meaning of the horn on the Ikenga, this ancestral proverb would shed some light, “The ram enters battle headfirst.”  

Symbolisms of the Features of a Crafted Ikenga 

They are there to remind you that you have what it takes to enter the battle headfirst. It also seeks to remind you that your Ikenga needs to unlock when you are charging headfirst into whatever battle you are facing.   

The right-hand features an individual’s instrument of action. The instrument of action is a symbol that encourages the individual to learn what they do best and wield it as a guide or tool towards reaching their destiny. 

In the left-hand seats the product of whatever the right hand produces. Sometimes it is the human skull, which depicts mastery over the obstacle or opponent. The philosophy of the Ikenga lies intimately with competition, either between oneself or engaging with the enemy headfirst. Encouraging you to see life as a set of challenges and obstacles, and to remind you that your Chi gives you everything you need to overcome them. 

It is stated that your destiny won’t be handed to you; rather, you must seek it out on earth through the power of your will. It’s also critical to remember that your Ikenga is a representation of you and a tool for discovering your inner strength. This is a guide on how to unlock it as well.

See Ikenga and its significance in Igbo culture 

Unlocking your Ikenga 

The ceremony term for unlocking your Ikenga is, Imachaa Ikenga (ceremony for unlocking the right hand). In many ancient communities it was a right to manhood for many young boys. A Dibia (Chief Priest) performs the ceremony, and it involves casting into the spirits to understand the nature of your Chi.

It also requires righteousness to keep active once activated. Participating in activities that will offend your Chi breaks the connection you have established between you and your Chi, which is your Ikenga.  

When an Ikenga is not working, an individual is encouraged to look unto his own actions, thoughts, and intentions to see where the alignment was broken. A physical Ikenga that is said to not be working is also destroyed by its owner and another one is crafted. Thus, the saying, “An Ikenga that fails its master should be used as firewood.”  

Final Thoughts… 

My general understanding is that we create the world and experiences we live through. We have the power to create the world we want if we actually do what we ought to do. Mostly, our misalignment from our Chi sinks us into an ocean of disarray and mindless consciousness. This could be the manifestation of the environment our country exists in today. Metaphysics isn’t new to Africans, as Africa has been at the foundation of alchemy, cosmology, metaphysics, science, spirituality, and more since the dawn of time.

The Ikenga concept might be interpreted as meaning that all you wish to do in the world must be carried out by you. The right hand Ikenga represents is like the right hand of God. The guiding idea is that anything God can accomplish for you, you can accomplish for yourself. You are the supernatural intervention you need to bring about the future you can create.

Shoutout to TheMedicineShell on YouTube for the great insight on this concept.




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