Step 5: Akaraka

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

Welcome back to the 13 Steps. As a recap, in Step 1, you learned how remembrance is the basis for all of the other steps. In Step 2, you recalled when your Chi na Eke were in harmony with one another, and began to make plans on how to get them back in sync. In Step 3, you learned what an Ikenga was, and how to make one that works for you. In Step 4, you learned that you’re always receiving spiritual messages in your dreams and you must learn how to recall, and eventually direct them. 

Today, we will discuss a topic has crossed all of our minds at some point of time. Each and everyone of us has thought about our future. As a child you had likely had a list of the things you wanted to be when you grew up. And as you got older, you had an ever growing list of things you wanted to do and places you wanted to go. Perhaps you’ve achieved a fair amount of it by now. Or maybe you haven’t. Regardless, when it comes to one’s future, one can say that there’s a tug of war between what some folks will call “free will”, and one called destiny or fate. For this topic, we will deal with the second half of the equation. 

What is destiny? 

The word for destiny in Igbo is akaraka. And one of the literal translations is “hand in hand.” It comes from the idea that your future was written in your palms. 

For the purpose of this step, let us say that your palms are like a map. If you read a map, you will notice multiple paths to get to your destination, your destiny. There will be some paths that will be smoother and some that will be more rocky. Some paths that will be quicker and some longer. However you choose to get there, the end destination remains the same. 

What is your personal destiny? 

Philippe de Champaigne’s Vanitas

Well my brothers and sisters, to your surprise, I will be able to give you two answers to this question. As a warning, the first answer is tough to hear, but its one that you cannot afford to ignore. The first answer is that you are destined to die. For those of us that have a day of birth, an accompanying day of death is one of the few things in life that is guaranteed to occur. So whatever you decide to do in life (or not do), keep in mind you don’t have all the time in the world to do it. With that being said, the second answer is that happens between the day you arrived in this world and the day you depart is actually in your hands, up to and including when and how you die. However, that is a lesson that will have to come in the future.

“Onwu si, ‘Cheta kwam mgbe nile’ (Death says, “Always remember me”)

What is the source of your destiny? 

Well it would be the Chi na Eke of Step 2. If you recall, Chi can be described as your potential energy, and Eke as your kinetic energy. On the map, the destination is supplied by the Chi. Your direction and velocity (speed) are fueled by your Eke. And the vehicle that you will be driving in this journey is your Ikenga

Ikenga Mk III (1969). Yes there was an actual car named after Ikenga.

How do you find this destiny? 

I cannot emphasize this enough. There is likely no easier place to experience the divine than in the dreamscape. Stories abound in various mythologies whereby aspects of one’s destiny or fate were revealed in dreams. However other practices used in Igbo culture include divination near the time of birth (before or after), palmistry as mentioned before (known as amμmμ banyere akaraka), as well as observations of certain things that one has a natural inclination, talent and/or passion for. There are many real life examples of people whose talent was discovered at a very young age. 

Can you control this destiny?

If one is in a vehicle, the control of it is a steering wheel. Let’s call this the wheel of fortune. And this wheel of fortune has a driver. When you are born, your driver is your parents (and the co-driver would be “society”). However, over time, as one grows stronger and wiser, you will have the opportunity to get out of the passenger chair, and get behind the wheel. If you make that choice, you have now truly passed step 3. 

“Wheel of Fortune” Tarot Card

Can you change your destiny?

Igbos believe that destiny can be renegotiated. If you are indeed behind the wheel of the vehicle (Ikenga), you have options like making a U-turn, choosing where to turn at a crossroads, and plotting a new course altogether. Likewise, even if you’ve gone down a particular path that you know realize is a wrong one, you can indeed start heading in a new direction, right here, right now. You are not handcuffed to your past. Even if you were on a course that was driven by your parents and the parents of your parents (also known as your ancestors), you are by no means handcuffed to that destination, and can change course at any time. You are not handcuffed to the past of your parents or their parents (ancestors). Furthermore, you can also at any time change your Ikenga to suit your needs. The tank-like Ikenga that carried you through a very rough and turbulent road may not be the best vehicle for the smooth and narrow road that may be ahead of you.

Can others influence your destiny?

Yes. Along the way towards our destination, we will cross paths with others. Quite a few of them will distract us, slowing us down during our main journey. However, we can encounter those who will not only share our destiny, but those also accelerate it. For this reason, be careful when one selects your friends as well as life partners. And also be extra mindful in your dealings with strangers. A chance encounter could help make or break you. 

Can your destiny be taken from you?

Contrary to what some Nigerian pastors and prophets may have told you, your destiny cannot be taken or stolen from you. You can however surrender control of the wheel to others (i.e societal pressure). And most of you probably don’t have any type of “ancestral curse.” You’re likely simply refusing to take control of the wheel and switch course from the negative one that your ancestors set.

Driving off a cliff…don’t do this

How do you know the best way to reach your destiny? 

The same way that most of us find the best route to our location: We use a GPS. Yes, you read that right. You do indeed have a GPS system for your destiny. But you will have to wait until step 6 to learn how to access it. 

Step 5: I declare that my destiny is in my hands. I am not handcuffed to my past or that of my ancestors, nor am I cursed. I am welcome to change course at any time. No one can steal my destiny, but they can distract me from it.

Action items

Make an honest assessment of where you think your life is headed and compare that to where you would like it to go.

Recall the things that you were naturally good at as a child, as well as what you had alot of passion about.

If you’ve made an Ikenga, think about whether its the right type at this moment to get you the results you’re looking for in life.

Take a look at your dream journal and see if you notice any patterns or prominent symbols. 

Take an inventory of those who have the biggest influence on you (friends and family). Are they assisting you be the best version of yourself or hindering you? 

Mark your calendars for step 6, which is coming out Jan 13 of next year. Yagazie! 

“Our Journey” by Obiora Udechukwu

4 responses »

  1. Pingback: Step 6: Ako bu Ije | Odinani: The Sacred Arts & Sciences of the Igbo People

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