Igụ Ọfọ Ụtụtụ: Igbo Morning Prayers versus Western Morning Affirmations

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For a several years now I have followed a Canadian man named Stefan James on youtube. His brand is Projec Life Mastery. I have watched him go from average Joe to internet millionaire by dedicating his life to self improvement. Early in his life transformation, he came up with a morning ritual that he practiced every day.

He changes his morning ritual sometimes to suit his life circumstances, but a morning ritual has always been a part of his day since he went from living on his friend’s couch to making thousands to millions on the internet. Here is one of his first morning ritual videos:

Stefan is just one of many success gurus online who promote the use of morning rituals for success. They call them different things, like morning affirmations, setting the intentions for the day, visualizing or scripting. Many of these people’s focus is on setting a goal, and using the “Law of Attraction” to bring it towards you by focusing on achieving it. This often involves reciting the goals you have set for yourself, expressing gratitude by thanking spiritual forces (like the Universe) for giving you what you need and helping you achieve past goals). Getting into an emotional state of positivity is another important part of many of these Western rituals. What is important is that the practitioners of these often center these rituals around a goal or some goals they have for their life. While the traditional Igbo practice of Igụ ọfọ ụtụtụ is not exactly like positive affirmations or setting the intentions of the day, I can’t help but note some similarities.

The ọfọ in Igbo culture is like a contract, the symbolic manifestation being a staff/rod passed down a family lineage. The staff (sometimes called the “staff of justice”) represents the rights of the holder which they often inherit from previous generations. It may be called upon during disputes (much like a written contract which, in Western cultures, is analyzed line by line to see the agreed upon terms and conditions and decide who should be awarded the rights during a trial). Igụ ọfọ ụtụtụ (a morning prayer in traditional Igbo land) calls upon ancestors and spiritual guardians to participate in the day’s activities of the the Igbo.

ọfọ bundle of sticks and other sacred objects
ọfọ bundle of sticks and other sacred objects

The Igbo’s “goals” (as the Westerners would say), are determined by those of his forebearers. In a way, certain members (especially the oldest son, or Ọkpara) are tasked with taking up the duties where their parents left off. So, they can not set a goal without taking into account that which he currently holds in his hand as a duty.

Often times, Westerners set seemingly arbitrary goals. “I want to be a millionaire,” or “I want to lose weight.” These goals are often not tied to any divine purpose rather than vain desires and selfish ambitions. The makers of the goals, most times have nothing driving them to achieve the goal, and it is noted that 90% of people do not achieve their “new years resolution” (which is a common goal-setting time in the Western world). However, since Igbo goals are often tied to a greater calling, often one passed down from their ancestors, or parents. The duty of achievement is more integral to their very way of life.

One response »

  1. I learned something from this article. Igu Ofo Ututu is everyday duty. I have made prayers as my humble duty for many years. It works for me. Thanks

    On Sat, Jan 2, 2021, 11:09 AM Odinani: The Sacred Arts & Sciences of the Igbo Peop

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