Who is Oshimmiri? (Nne Mmiri)
This video explains the Arushi of the Waters. What her powers are in the physical and spiritual world, and how to determine if you are a water element.
Who is Oshimmiri? (Nne Mmiri)
This video explains the Arushi of the Waters. What her powers are in the physical and spiritual world, and how to determine if you are a water element.
In Igbo mythology, the Ogbanje are spirits that cause a child to die, and reincarnate just to die again. The Ogbanje is a mischief maker in the spirit world that sneaks into the world of the living through the womb of a woman. But there is more to the Ogbanje than what is popularly known, as many are walking among us today.
In the past,only a few men and women lived on the earth. Thick forests, seas and trees covered other parts of the universe. The big trees became the abode of many spirits, fairies and gods. Some gods, occupied trees, rivers and streams. Some big trees were feared and respected as the abode of the gods. Besides, because of frequent harassment by human beings, the spirits and gods decided to live in the forests where they enjoyed alot of quiet and uninterrupted peace. Most men and women would always bring minor or major problems to the gods by visiting the shrines of the gods and local spirits in the forest. This constituted a sort of nuisance to the spirits and gods.
The animals on the other hand decided to live in the forests to escape man’s constant attack on them. Men went out daily to hunt animals for food. This put many animals at risk of extinction. So many of their species decided to live far inside the bush to escape the attack from man. It was only the cow, dog, sheep and fowls that live in the home with humans. Other animals that live in the bush feel threatened. Although humans eat the domestic animals, which also serve as pets ,they do no kill them at the rate they hunt the wild ones.
A man went out to hung game on one sunny afternoon. He chased an antelope, which ran very fast into a big bush to escape being killed. The man persisted in his chase and came to a part of the bush which looked like an open hall where the animals used as a rendezvous where they would meet to relax when they were not looking for food or when they were not running away from hunters. The hunter did not find any human being there, not was there any animal. He suspected that the space was so beautiful that it must be a center where people gathered for games or refreshments. He hid himself behind some big trees to wait for the people who meet there to assemble. After a while, the forest spirits began to assemble there for their usual evening party. Many other spirits and gods also came along with their wives and children. They began to sing, clap, dance, and enjoy some jokes.
Some of the birds sang beautifully while some of the animals played some musical instruments that produced melodious sounds. It was an evening of great joy and merriment for the animals, while the gods shook their bodies and moved their legs in rhythmic and regular steps. Some of the young birds played flutes and whistles. The melody was very gorgeous. The hunter was thrilled as he watched the program from his hiding place. he did not want any of the guests to notice that he was there. Many of the animals, and birds were so carried away in the party that they did not know that someone was hiding and spying on them from somewhere.
The guests at the party dispersed at the end of the program and each went home. The hunter did not move immediately. He kept quiet until everyone present had left. he finally left and on his way, began to imitate the spirits and gods by humming some of the songs he heard. He moved his steps up and down, shook his body, hands, and his head. Then he began to practice what he saw the spirits and animals do in the forest. The hunter later got home that night and woke up to his family that had already gone to bed. He taught the wife and children how to sing, dance and play some of the instruments. He improvised the drums and bands with pots, tables, stools and plats that he had in his house.
The members of the family enjoyed the late night entertainment the hunter brought home to them. So every evening, the family met, played some music, danced, smiled and entertained themselves. The words of the music did not matter so much to them. They concentrated on getting the rhythm right and the steps correspond with the rhythm. Some younger members of the family added some melody to the songs and the harmony was absolutely interesting. Thus this is how humans learned music and dance.
From “African Spirituality: An Anthology of Igbo Religious Myths” by Udobata R Onunwa
“And now we will begin seating the guests at the high table”, the emcee of the Nigerian function bellowed in the microphone as a song by Osita Osadebe blared in the background.
“Please clap for Dr. Augustus MD and Ngozi PharmD.”
Ngozi and her husband stood up and took their seats at the “high table”, which seemed to be mandatory at nearly any Nigerian function happening in America. She thought having a high table at a non-wedding event was a pretty asinine thing to do, but regardless, her husband loved the vanity of paying to sit in what most Nigerians would consider the VIP section, in front of the “lesser people”.
From the outside looking in, one would think that Ngozi had it all. A marriage to a man at the top of the social ladder in the Nigerian-American community; who just recently had been given a chieftaincy title in his village in Enugu state; a successful career as a pharmacist; three healthy, beautiful children all on the honor roll. But beyond the weekend galas, fancy designer clothing, and expensive cars lay a secret that was slowly killing her.
She went through great lengths to conceal her secret, in more ways than one. The makeup she spent alot of time on in the morning; the designer long sleeved shirts and pants. Ngozi was a masterful actress. When she was young, she had mastered the art of putting on whatever face she needed to put on in order to get what she wanted. Since she got married, she had been suffering, but smiling.
But even if she did have the courage to tell other people her secret, who would believe her? She was married to Prophet Dr. Augustus M.D, the second most powerful pastor to the local ministry of “Miracles & Healing.” The man known to his nephews and nieces to be the most generous uncle they had? Who would believe that this same man whose hands that gave so much to so many people would be capable of using those same hands to harm her?
For most of the marriage, she had convinced herself that it was her fault. Surely, there must have been something that she had done to cause him to change from being the charming, dashing medical student who had swept her off her feet to becoming the man who would smack her for putting too much pepper in his soup. In the good old days, he used to brag about how he bullied some of the younger medical students during his residency, but he always treated her like a queen. She never imagined that he would eventually start bullying her?
The first time he slapped her, it caught her off guard. She shrugged it off and figured that he was just under stress from examinations. But the slaps became frequent, and then they turned to punches, then all out beatings. She saw a different side of him, as well of herself. She learned that color correcting concealer was very good for covering black eyes. For a busted lip, coral lipstick worked wonders. And any other physical injury could easy be explained by her playing racquetball.
Ngozi didn’t know who to turn to. Her parents had passed away not long before the beatings began. As a pastor’s wife, the gossiping “market women” that attended their church were out of the question, and her siblings mooched off her husband too much and would probably beat her themselves if she did anything to get in the way of access to the money of their “rich” #1 in law. The only family members she felt she could turn to were the ones in spirit. Like a large portion of Igbos, She grew up Catholic, she had been raised to pray “to” Saints in her time of need. She figured that if she could pray to dead European who lived good lives, she could surely pray to dead Africans who did the same. She called out the names of her deceased relatives, both the ones she knew personally and the ones she didn’t know. As she called their names out in Igbo, tears were streaming down her cheeks mixing with the bruises. She wept, and wailed, and cried to them for support, for guidance, for protection. And then something very strange happened; Ngozi heard a reply to her prayers.
For her entire life, Ngozi had been extremely prayerful. She recited the Lord’s Prayer everyday, and in her youth, the entire Rosary on a regular basis. She still prayed to the Saints and to Mother Mary. But never had she actually heard any of them reply back. She paused. Maybe it was just her mind playing tricks on her. Then she heard the voice again reply.
There was only person who called her that. She recognized the voice and felt the presence of her late uncle Mazi Kalu Okoro Kalu, who had recently passed last year. Despite her Christian upbringing, Uncle Kalu was the uncle she was closest to, even though he was a dedicated eze (priest) of Amadioha, the God of Thunder and Lightning. Despite the warnings of her parents, and the rest of her uncles and aunts against her “heathen, wayward” uncle, she always considered Uncle Kalu her favorite. They were so close that he even said that they must have been siblings in a past life. She was the most devastated when he joined the rest of the ancestors after a long battle with cancer. But here he was speaking to her as though he were right there.
“I have seen what your husband has done to you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t protect you. But I will send you a spirit of truth and justice that will. The Amadioha priesthood has been in our family for generations, ever since its inception at Ozuzu. While others may call upon the spirit to fight on their behalf, our relationship with it goes far deeper. We are the only ones that have the capacity for the spirit to possess our bodies and not kill us in the process. The power of Amadioha runs strong in our family. Your father had that gift but ran away from it. I have it and I embraced it. And now you have it, and I shall teach you how to develop your gifts. Once you learn how to control this energy, no man will ever harm you again.”
Ngozi listened diligently to the words of her uncle. She took notes on all of the materials that she would have to gather to build the shrine.
Bamboo poles: Check
White cloth: Check
She dedicated a secluded area in the forest behind her backyard to construct it and set up a long bamboo pole that was being held up by two forked sticks. On the bamboo pole, hung the white cloth, as well as medicinal grass and charms she had made. The process was actually more enjoyable than she imagined it would be and really brought out her artistic side. That is, until it came time to sanctify the shrine using the best way possible…via blood sacrifice.
She hadn’t actually seen any animal killed since she was a young girl growing up in the village in Nigeria, and the thought of actually killing a chicken nowadays made her quite squeamish. Plus, she did not want to break any of her nails. Nonetheless, it was the final step in activating the shrine so she did what she needed to do.
There had been no rain in the weather forecast that week, but not too long after the shrine was consecrated, a thunderstorm rocked the town on a scale that hadn’t been seen in generations. It was so torrential that nearly everyone in her area lost power. There were rumblings that it would take days to restore it all. Luckily, all the members of Ngozi’s family made it home safe and sound. And despite the fact that they lived in a country with 24 hours of constant electricity, the Nigerian habit of having a generator handy is one that they never lost.
That night, she had a vivid dream like no other she experienced before in her life. It felt at the same time, both strange and familiar. Dark blue clouds enveloped her and she almost felt as though she was standing on top of them. Around her were flashes of lightning and incredibly strong winds blowing, yet in the midst of all of these things she was still and at peace. Then she heard it, a thunderous voice that filled the heavens:
“Our daughter. Welcome home.”
A flash of lightning bold illuminated the sky and Ngozi could see that she was surrounded by various celestial spirits, including many of her deceased family members. Despite the fact that their faces were obscured by masks, both small and pale as well as large and dark, she still somehow recognized them. The voice continued:
“To those who are innocent, I am their defender and avenger. And to the guilty, I am judge, jury and executioner.”
Without even saying it, she knew she was standing face to face with Amadioha, who said to her:
“My daughter show me your hands.”
Ngozi obeyed the command. Jolts of lightning akin to static shocks on steroids leaped onto her fingers. The boisterous voice told her:
“You have come to me with clean hands. I shall walk with you as I walked with your ancestors.”
Amadioha then uttered to her his secret, ineffable name in the form of a chant and told her to only sing it in matters of life and death. The sky lit up once more and Ngozi found herself back in bed She felt different upon waking than she did when she went to bed. Her hands in particular, were much much warmer than usual.
Over the next couple of weeks, things seemed surreal for Ngozi. The first week, she gained the ability to tell whether a person was being dishonest or not. She would be able to pick up the inflections in their voice, the change in pitch, and even hear their heartbeat speeding up. At the job, she deduced that a number of the customers had fake prescriptions and also that the real reason that one of her coworkers was working the last shift was so they could steal pills to resell them on the street.
On week two, things that were once hidden began to be brought to light. She found jewelry, socks, business cards and other things she thought she would never see again. She also found drug paraphernalia that her middle child had gone through great lengths to keep hidden from her.
The changes on week three were the most dramatic. She began to see oddities on the faces & bodies of various people. After a couple of days, especially spending time with people she knew very well, she began to understand what they meant. People who constantly stole appeared to have red colored hands, as though they had been dipped in bright red dye. Extremely envious people would appear to have enormous dark blue eys. Pathological liars had abnormally long Pinnochio-like noses. Treacherous people would have both sides of their face look radically different.
Ngozi began to become a bit overwhelmed with the sheer amount of treacherous people that surrounded her on a day to day basis. It was already bad enough at work dealing with inconsiderate customers, but church became an even bigger circus than it was before. Despite their ostentatious displays, she saw all of them for what they were.
At the same time that her abilities were growing, her already strained relationship with her husband was getting worse. It was almost as though he could sense that she was getting more powerful, and it was making him tense. His barking became more ferocious and his threats became more intense. Things that would have earned her a slap got her a solid punch to the ribs. The same darkness that she saw in others she saw on him. His inward appearance was so distorted, it didn’t even look real.
Augustus had once been a good man, with flaws, like all of us. A man with dreams of becoming a medical professional and serving his community both in America and back home in Nigeria. But after many years of hard work, he started to care more about what he could gain than what he could give. When they moved to America, he had trouble getting re-certified to practice medicine, and spent alot of his free time in church. Augustus too had been raised Catholic, but after attending a revival, he not only received the calling to convert to a Pentecostal church, but felt as though he had been called by Jesus Christ himself to start his own ministry.
He made up for his inability to practice medicine in America by spearheading yearly medical missions to their home state of Enugu in Nigeria, where he could still practice medicine without much drama. But as time passed, the frequency of these missions decreased. It got to a point where Augustus would only set up the medical missions to embezzle funds and trade treatment for sex.
At the church, he set up a weekly “healing list” whereby people could add the names of people that needed healing from various ailments, and convinced them that they would have to give elaborate offerings for the healing to actually commence. Augustus did this with full medical knowledge of how to actually either alleviate or downright put an end to their suffering. Regardless, he had now convinced himself that he indeed did the anointing by the Holy Spirit and deserved to be compensated handsomely for it. And when the conditions worsened (as they usually did without medical attention), Augustus would simply insist that it was because they had not been giving enough.
For years, Ngozi had been blinded by the prestige that came along with being a wife of one of the pastors. She did not allow herself to see the abuse and corruption in her mist..until now. As her eyes opened to what was in front of her, things that were hidden also began to appear. She discovered that Augustus had been planning to blackmail the head pastor into resigning, so that he could take his position. On top of that, Augustus had impregnated a few of the ladies that came to see him for counseling, and had used the “healing list” fund to pay for their abortions. After discovering the paperwork he had sloppily disposed of, she decided that enough was enough, and she was going to confront him face to face.
Ngozi had arranged for the kids to spend this week away at her brother’s house, to avoid them witnessing the showdown. She pushed open the door to his home office and tossed the manila folder that contained the smoking gun on top of his desk while he was leading a prayer line. In the middle of leading a “return to sender” prayer, Augustus excused himself, and placed his telephone down as he yelled at her:
“Woman can’t you see that I am busy? What on earth is this? “
He opened the folder and saw the abortion paperwork he thought he had thrown away. Augustus tossed the folder on the ground and sat silently.
“I am finished! This is it. I’m leaving you and taking the kids with me”, Ngozi said with a conviction she didn’t even think she had in her.
“You’re not going anywhere.” Augustus said in a cool, relaxed manner. “You will die before you leave me.”
Ngozi froze. She didn’t know what to say or do next.
Augustus got up and walked towards her.
“Do you hear me?”, his voice grew louder. “You will DIE before I let you go.”
As Augustus’ voice became louder, Ngozi heard the sound of a beating drum in the background also getting louder. He lurched at her and put his hands around her neck. Ngozi began to see her life flash before her eyes, and felt that if she didn’t do something quickly, she’d become the next person killed by their spouse. She remembered her dream, and whispered the secret name that had been given to her. She sang it very quietly. Suddenly the entire sky erupted in lightning. And she felt a presence in her body like nothing she had ever experienced in her life.
Augustus throw Ngozi against the wall and started pummeling her. With each strike, Augustus looked more and more like the monster he really was. He raised his fist to strike a knockout blow, and as it came down, it was met with something that neither of them expected….her palm. Ngozi caught his fist and squeezed it as she picked herself off the floor. The look on Augustus face was pain mixed with total shock. Could this really happening? Ngozi looked him in the eye and said one word:
But it was not just Ngozi that was behind those words, but also the God of Thunder and Lightning that her possessed her body. Augustus immediately tried to swing with his free hand was met with a kick that sent him flying across the room. This wasn’t possible!
“Ngozi! What is wrong with you? Are you possessed?” he shouted.
“Yes. But the only unclean spirit in this room is yours,” she replied.
Chills ran down Augustus spine as he heard his wife’s voice blended with a thunderous booming one. He got himself up and pointed his finger at her.
“SATAN I REBUKE THEE! As an anointed man of God, I command thee to depart!” He proclaimed.
Through Ngozi, Amadioha spoke: “I am called many names. Igwe. Ezenu. Ubochi. Kamalu. Amadioha. However, Satan isn’t one of them. But whatever name you know me by, just know this: To those who are innocent, I am their defender and avenger. And to the guilty, I am judge, jury and executioner.”
“Is this how you talk to a man who has taken care of you and all of your useless siblings for all of these years? Have you suddenly forgotten the type of life you lived before I rescued you? You should be bowing at my feet everyday you ungrateful witch!” he yelled in response.
“You were blessed with those hands to give healing. Instead you used them to cause pain and take from others,” The God of Thunder & Lightning replied calmly.
Augustus became indignant.
“Don’t you know who I am? I am anointed! A holy man of God! The soon to be head Prophet of his ministry. Bow before me you unclean spirit!” He yelled as he charged towards her.
Immediately Ngozi’s body levitated out of the way and Augustus ran head first into the wall.
“And because you abused your gifts, your punishment must be more severe,” Amadioha bellowed out.
Ngozi, still possessed by Amadioha, picked him up and tossed him all the way through the wall, and stepped through the hole she had made. Shaken, Augustus got up and picking up a bar that was laying in the hallway, charged at her. Ngozi rewarded him with a kick in the stomach, and a 1-2 punch to the face that send him flying to the other end.
“I am the punishment of God,” Amadioha spoke, “If you had not committed abominations, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you.”
Ngozi walked over to him laying on the hallway and picked him up by his hands. The God of Thunder & Lightning spoke through her once more: “You are not worthy of these gifts. These unclean hands will never harm anyone again.”
As Ngozi was holding him, her hands began getting so hot that they began to burn Augustus’s fingers. She looked him in his eyes and told him, “And soon the world will see you for what you really are.” Ngozi let go and immediately collapsed. She was transported back to the realm of the God of Thunder and Lightning. Her ancestors, dressed in elaborate masks, were again present. The voice from the Heavens said to her: “Our daughter. Well done. You may go in peace.”
And with that, she woke up to a policewoman shining a light in her eyes.
“She’s awakened,” she yelled out to the rest of the officers.
“What happened?” Ngozi asked.
The policewoman replied: “Apparently your husband had forgotten to put the phone on mute while he attempted to pummel you. The people on the prayer line heard what he said and when the the phone line cut off, a member of your church called 911.”
“Where is he?”, Ngozi inquired.
The policewoman pointed to the bottom of the stairs. Augustus was still breathing, but seem partially paralyzed.
“I guess he slipped and took a tumble,” the policewoman responded. “From the looks of him, he won’t be a danger to anyone any longer.”
Ngozi smiled, and for the first time in a long time, no longer suffered.
by Chukwuka Nduneseokwu
Many centuries ago, when black men lived in harmony with the wild beasts and subtle cattle in the jungles of Africa, before the great war in the animal kingdom and the invasion by the white cavemen, before man lost the trust and love of beasts – the Leopard was the king of the Animal kingdom. He was loved by all, both humans and animals alike. He was blessed with wisdom, beauty and strength. He was the envy of the entire animal realm. The Leopard King was of a royal blood line, as the animal kingdom practised a true and absolute monarchy. His closest allies were the Tiger (Agu) and the Lion (Odum), who were chiefs and members of a noble lineage of cats. Although Chief Odum was not particularly on the kings good books – he was tolerated, as his great grand father had played a great role in the last war with the first wave of the white cavemen who crossed into their land.
Deep in the Igbo hinterlands, on the dawn of the Afor market, the Leopard King, Agu-Okpo, was just returning from an early morning hunt with his royal escorts, the best of his generals. The hair on their jaws bore a beautiful mosaic of blood mixed with the mirror looking drops of the morning dew. Riding directly behind them was a small contingency of younger Leopards carrying the mornings proceeds of anu nchi. They all matched into Agu-Okpo’s palace with grace, as the kings wives and children ran out to welcome him. The clouds were gathering in the sky and it seemed like it was going to be a dark and rainy day, as the jungle was thick with giant trees which often were seen reaching out to touch the skies.
Igwe Agu-Okpo moved his subjects into safety from the coming rain and storm. He was about to retire to get a little rest when the ever busy Fox, who was the royal messenger, ran into the royal quarters with his breath pacing and his tail bitten off and bleeding. He had just started telling the king of the scene of a gathering of Lions and wolves, plotting to overthrow him which he saw, and of how they attacked him. He had not finished when Ugo (the Eagle), who was the leader of the kingdoms air force, landed with great anger and glory. He landed with over 400 of his best men, as they mounted defences round the kings domain. Ugo went into the kings chamber and confirm the Fox’s report. He was already mapping out battle strategies when the wise and strong leopard king busted out into a loud laughter to the surprise of the Eagle and the Fox. He told them of how the Lions and Wolves have been trying to overthrow his family lineage for centuries. He told them not to worry that he had a large infantry to defend himself and the kingdom. Ugo reassured the king of his loyalty – although he was not satisfied with their numbers – for the army of Lions and wolves he saw from the sky was something he had never seen in his 80 years of guarding the integrity of the realm.
On the plane valley of the ‘ugwu ocha‘ mountain – Odum had summoned an army of over four thousand Lions, the finest his clan could boast of. The wolf his ally came with almost the same number of fierce looking and battle ready warriors. They had been planning this overthrow for years. The collusion of their roars and barks echoed round the kingdom as the thunder in the sky bellowed in preparation for a downpour.
Back at the Leopard kings palace and domain – there was huge preparations. Word had been sent out to all the leaders of the clans to assemble their armies. Defences were reinforced and new barricades built. The army was assembling the biggest force ever in the history of the realm – not for a war against man but against it’s own. Agu-Okpo summoned one of his oldest and most trusted allies – Agu the Tiger, who had a legion of three thousand two hundred strong women archers and infantry men. The women of his clan were known for their gallantry in battle. The Rhinoceros came with 500 of his 2 horned warriors and the gorilla had assembled 1000 of his biggest and fiercest tribes men. Agu-iyi (the crocodile) who was the leader of the kingdoms navy readied his clan as they lined the banks of the lakes and ponds and laid in wait for any enemy who would dare cross into the lands from the sea. The Leopard King had 5000 iron claw warriors from his clan – they were the last defence of the realm.
The kingdom had a land, air and water force of over 15 thousand beasts, birds, and reptiles. The Leopard King gave the signal for the battle drums and trumpets to be sounded. And so 15 thousand strong male and female of the kings Army matched out unto the valley of Ugwu Ocha to meet Odum the lion and his allies in battle. The Rhinoceros and his tribes men, together with the Gorilla’s formed the front line of attack – as they charged, the earth beneath them trembled. The Eagle (Ugo) was already in the sky, getting ready to descend on the enemies with Iron claws when he saw a large contingent of white cavemen advancing from the bushes behind the enemy. They carried all sorts of weapons as they wore lion skins. The Eagle was shocked at the sight – so he sent his first son who was a captain in the air force to make haste and inform the king of the humans fighting on the enemies side. The Leopard king on getting the news was paranoid – he never expected the Lion to be that desperate as to bring Men into their war. He paced around the battle ground for a while. And after a few hard thoughts, he dispatched four of his fastest warriors to the domain of men. The Black King of Ala Igbo, had always been a good friend of the Leopard king – and so when the four warriors arrived to tell him of the invading white cavemen, and that Agu-Okpo needed his help – the Black king immediately summoned a fighting force of 1000 men to accompany the Leopards to the battle grounds, while he took the rest of the day to assemble his entire army.
The battle at Ugwu Ocha had started off like every other battle in the realm. There were huge casualties on both sides as the white cavemen had hauled arrows and stones on the Leopard kings Army. The heavens had just started pouring down rain and the battle ground was a mash of mud and blood. The storms got heavy and every side had to withdraw to their camps in preparation for the next days battle. The rains had suddenly come to a halt towards the evening – when the four warriors returned with an angry army of 1000 men. Throughout the night the generals on the Leopard kings Army and black kings army laid out their plans of attack and battle. It was a beautiful sight to behold – an alliance of men and beasts – all in a room – in deep discussions as to how to save Africa from the woe which the Lions and wolves greed had brought upon them. They all had a quick meal and went to sleep, so as to gain their strengths before the dawn of the next day. At dawn every section of the army was awake and started marching out in formation. From the right flank of the camp matched in the Black King with an extra 2000 infantry men. At the sight of this the entire army raised their voices in cheers as the king pointed his staff towards the battle field. Their spirits were lifted as every beast and man alike rode out to meet the enemy on the battle ground.
The Lions and wolves were about to get into formation when they saw the Black King riding beside the Leopard King and his friend the Tiger. At the sight of the mighty army before it – their men started to tremble. For the Black king had never lost any battle – and was renowned for coming to battle with the powers of his god, Amadioha. It was not long before the white cavemen engaged the black men of Africa in close combat. The white cavemen were outnumbered four to one and so before noon they had been subdued. The Lion leader Odum, had also sustained a head injury and it was clear that the his side was loosing the war. Before evening on that day, the battle field was filled with dead Lions and wolves. And so Odum having weighed his chances – signalled his son to sound the drum for retreat and surrender. The drums were sounded as he and his allies started retreating into the mountains. There was heavy jubilation in the camp of the Leopard King and the Black Human King. Some of the war hungry beasts chased the Lions and wolves into the mountains as they hacked them down and killed them.
Soon news reached the villages and hamlets in the kingdom of the victory and there was great jubilation. The battle for the throne was over. Later the following day the Leopard, the Tiger and his human allies had a meeting to discuss the future of the realm. They all agreed that the clans of Lion and wolves who took part in the uprising should be banished from the Kingdom. And so the white cavemen took Odum and his kins men back to their land beyond the seas, with false tales of how they had won the war – and how the Lion wanted to expand his kingdom to the forests of the white man. They cooked up stories to make the Lion look supreme and so began the Legend of the LION KING. But in Africa the Leopard was still King and reigned supreme. The Leopard was given the title “Agu na eche mba” and from then till date the Igbo of the hinterlands have used the Leopard as the symbol of strength and military might.
From “African Spirituality: An Anthology of Igbo Religious Myths” by Udobata R Onunwa
In the distant past, Chukwu wanted to create human beings after he had created all other things in the universe. he created a man and a woman. He asked the man to marry the women and both of them lived as husband and wife. They looked very beautiful and elegant. Chukwu was happy to see them look good and strong. When he spoke to them, they responded and this gladdened Chukwu’s heart. He asked them not the move out too far from the beautiful compound he lived with them. The man had a very long nose. His wife also had a long nose. That day, the Sun was not shining. The weather was cool and Chukwu asked the man and his wife to stay indoors or in a cool shade. Later the Sun came out and saw the beautiful work Chukwu had made. He went close to them and his presence hardened their bodies and darkened them. Their pointed nose became shortened and broadened. The man and his wife became very hard and strong and turned black because of the Sun’s close visit to them.
Chukwu created another couple the next day since the first batch of man and woman was a good work. He brought out his clay and began the work of molding again. When he had finished putting the shape in order, he placed the figures – male and female – in another shade. The Sun did not see the second beautiful work their master (Chukwu) had produced again. This Sun did not come very close to this new set. They remained in the cool shed for a long time and it took time before they got properly dry. Later when they were brought, they did not see the Sun that had gone away. The pointed nose of this second set of couple remained in tact. Their body remained bright and soft. When Chukwu later asked the Sun why he came out to disturb his first creatures, the Sun apologized and promised that he would from that day take care of the couple by providing them with warmth, light and and making sure that they remain strong and have strong bodies, bones and good hard food. The other couple did not get the same benefits from the Sun like the first couple. Chukwu sent them out to a far place where the Sun scarcely gets to them. They lived in extreme cold, never smiled, and never visited each other.They locked themselves in shed and huts trying to keep warm by whatever covering they could find.
Whenever the first couple came out to work or play outside, they enjoyed the rays of the Sun and its light and warmth which made them smile to one another and exchange greetings with friends and neighbors. They became the ancestors of the Black Race who are friendly, warm, cheerful and strong. The other couple became the ancestors of the White people who are a bit withdrawn, individualistic, locked up, gloomy and shaking with cold every time, soft bones and when they came to the Sun, they go out burnt.
Today, many Blacks have resisted the heat of the Sun while the White skinned people fear excess heat. Even in wet season, the Sun would come out to check whether the Igbo are warm enough. He made the promise to Chukwu that he would look after the Igbo at all times. The Igbo in appreciation of the benevolence of the Sun, established a cult of him and today there are people who worship the Sun as a deity of cheerfulness and bright nature and success. “May your Sun shine for ever” is a blessing people give to those they love. “May your Sun never set” is a wish and pray of long life for people.
From “After God is Dibia: Volume 2”, pages 34-35
During Uga Chi (the second age), death came to the world for the first time. The earth dwellers then who were still able, like the Uga Aka (first age) earth dwellers, to see and speak face to face with Chukwu (God) were so perplexed and disturbed by this new phenomenon called death that they quickly conferred amongst themselves and elected the dog and the chameleon to meet God immediately on their behalf and tell him what they had witnessed and plead with him that whoever died must wake up. In other words, death should strictly be like sleep. It was the origin of Ula bulu onye ma ya e buna uche ya (sleep should carry one without one’s uche). In other words, at the end of the time measured allotted to death, on the same principle as sleep is time measured, the dead will wake up and resume normal appearance, constitution and life.
True to Igbo (early) addiction to dualities, two messages were sent to God,namely: That when someone dies the person should not wake up and live again; and that when someone dies, the person should wake up and live again. They gave the latter message to the fast running dog to deliver and the former message to the slow moving chameleon to deliver. The earth dwellers were very optimistic that the fast running dog will deliver the positive message with despatch and bring back God’s favorable grant of their request soonest. Unfortunately, the dog, enroute to God’s residence (Be Chukwu), chanced upon a woman who was pounding and extracting fresh and appetizing palm oil and descended to help itself with the palatable fresh palm oil. In the interim, the slow moving chameleon had crawled to God’s residence and delivered the shattering message, and by the time the dog remembered its important message and raced to God’s residence to deliver the positive message, the chameleon had already gone back to the earth dwellers with the negative grant. God said to the dog that he regretted that He could not grant the second request because the first message that got to God is the one that God grants and the grant had already been made on the negative choice.
God being a merciful God, He did not want to send the dog back to earth empty handed. He informed the dog that the phenomenon of death which has now descended upon earth dwellers, among other things, carried with it ozu na ola iwi corpse, ola and iwi (i.e, corpse, staleness, and great loss) which will now condition the earth’s environment so much that the incredible physical, spiritual feats performed by the earth dwellers during the Uga Aka age would now be gradually lost to humanity at least for countless centuries to come. Particularly, one of the feats mentioned was the direct exploitation of solar energy for automatic cooking. He therefore gave Oku (fire) to the dog to send back to humanity.
Direct contact with God will also fizzle out to a trickle, therefore God will, in addition to the concession, be sending many Spirits, Principalities, and intermediaries to help humanity communicate with Him. Finally, was the grant of partial waking up from death, by the way of reincarnation in this plane: Uwa Mu assa, Uwa mu asato (Mu’s world reincarnated in this place), a maximum of seven or eight times before Mu moves back to the deathless plane subject to Mu’s spiritual earning and provided Mu did not earn perpetual damnation by Ida Ikelekwum Mmuo (i.e falling into the bottomless spiritual abyss or pit).
“Congratulations! you are now homeowners”
The couple sitting at the desk hugged each other as Tobenna spoke to them. He had just closed on another mortgage, and he was having the best month all year.
“Thank you so much Mr. Onwuhara!” the wife said, “We couldn’t have done this without you.”
“It was my pleasure”, he replied, with a grin on his face.
“God bless you my brother!” the husband said as he and his wife left the office.
Tobenna Onwuhara was one of the rising stars at Bank of USA. Business was booming, and they were practically giving mortgages away. Whether people were really qualified or not was not their main concern. They made far more off selling the mortgage backed securities on the secondary market. As he was starting to prepare for his next appointment, he heard a knock at the door. One of the clerks came then into his office.
“One of your previous clients is here to see you” she said.
“Tell her to come in”, Tobenna replied.
In walked a light skin woman holding the hand of a young child.
Tobenna rose up and exclaimed “My sister! How you dey?” while reaching out his right hand for her to shake.
The woman gave him a mean look and asked him “So now all of a sudden I’m your sister?”
He paused and remembered why the woman was angry.
“Mrs. Kalu, I’m so sorry that I couldn’t help you keep your house. You know I did all I could…”
“Mechionu (Shut up)!!! You are a liar!” Mrs. Kalu continued, ” The only reason I’m here now is because you stopped picking up my calls and returning my emails.”
Tobenna attempted to say something but was cut off again before he could utter any more words.
“Ever since the untimely death of my husband, you knew full well how hard it’s been for me and my son. You assured me that everything was going to be ok when I fell a little behind on my payments, and that you would do everything you could to help me explore my options. But I can see that it was all a lie. You probably made more money by the bank seizing my house than by letting me keep it. I can’t prove it yet, but I know what your bank did against me was fraudulent.”
How’d she guess? Tobenna thought to himself. He replied:
“Well unfortunately madam, there’s not much I can do for you now. Again, I’m very sorry”, Tobenna said to her, “Now if you don’t mind, I have an appointment that’s about to walk in the door any second now…”
The woman looked at him, raised two fingers in his directions and shouted: “Onwuhara! Amadioha magbukwa gi! (Onwuhara! Amadioha will punish you!”)
Tobenna started to laugh at her. “Old woman. Where do you think we are? In the village? Those things don’t work over here.”
She gave him another piercing stare, grabbed the hand of her son and briskly walked out the door. Although Tobenna had laughed at her when she had cursed him, there was something about her statement that had sent chills down his spine. Growing up in Nigeria, he had been told stories of how Amadioha had terrorized wrong doers in the days before the coming of the white man, but had all but disappeared in modern days. On occasions, one would still hear accounts of a white ram with flaming red eyes appearing before some calamity was unleashed on someone accused of wrongdoing, but those were simply stories right? Anyways, he figured, he was in America now, and as they say, juju no cross wata.
A few weeks had passed and Tobenna had completely forgotten about the entire account. He was sitting home on a very Thursday night getting some work done on his computer when all of a sudden it began to rain. That’s funny, Tobenna thought to himself, he didn’t remember seeing rain in the forecast.
He recalled that he had left his car windows down and immediately rushed out to wind them up. As soon as he got outside, the rains became a lot heavier, and thunder and lightning followed. Tobenna wound up his windows and rushed inside…now dripping wet.
All of a sudden, the sky was totally lit up by a flash of lightning and the power in Tobenna’s house was out. He cursed as he tried to remember where he had placed his flashlight. He found his flashlight on top of the fridge, and began to walk to the basement, where the fuse box was. As he walked to the staircase, he peered out of a window and noticed that his was actually the only house on the block that had actually lost power.
He went down the stairs and turned the power back on. Walking up the stairs, he started to smell smoke and immediately ran to the direction it was coming from. He entered his home office and observed that the lightning had not only destroyed his surge protector but also had totally fried his laptop, which had valuable files that he had been working on for the last several weeks. Tobenna shouted some four letter words as he tried boot up the machine in vain.
But before he knew it, thunder filled the air and plunged him in darkness again. Frustrated, Tobenna went down the stairs to turn the fuse box and discovered that the power was not coming back either.
Today was not his day, Tobenna thought to himself and made his way to his bedroom. He threw himself on the bed and closed his eyes. As he lay in bed calculating how long it would take to catch back up with the weeks of work he had lost, he began to hear a thumping sound downstairs.
His fiancee was still away on a business trip, and his mistress wasn’t supposed to come over until tomorrow. Fearing the worst, Tobenna grabbed the gun he had stored under the bed, and loaded it with ammunition. He didn’t think anyone would actually try to commit a robbery during a thunderstorm, but crazier things had happened.
As he headed down the stairs, Tobenna had his back against the wall, and shouted “Whose there?” No response. He kept going down the stairs, inching closer to where the sound was emanating from. “I’m armed!” He shouted as he tried his best to sound tough, but this was the first time he had ever even pulled out the gun since he purchased it and he never anticipated that he might actually have to use it.
By the time Tobnenna got to the bottom of the stairs, his heartbeat was so intense that he could barely differentiate between it and the sounds. Holding the gun firmly with both hands, he turned the corner and was confronted with a red light in a sea of darkness. The source of the sound was revealed to be…his stereo.
Relieved, he started to laugh as he walked closer to the stereo and heard the sounds of intense drumming coming from them. Tobenna recognized the album, Sun Ra Live at Montreux, track 6, his favorite one from that CD. He hadn’t listened to that album in years! As he walked closer, the drumming not only got louder, but more intensified. His amusement turned to more confusion as it dawned on him that the stereo was on despite everything else being turned off.
He hit the power button to no avail. Was he going mad? He started hitting the button harder, and then finally reached behind and unplugged the machine. To his amazement, it was still on! And now the drumming was even more intense than earlier on. When he tried to turn the volume down, it actually got louder. In fact, it was so loud, it was starting to hurt his ears. All of a sudden, he heard a deep thunderous voice speaking over the track that said to him:
“Perhaps you’re wondering if this is a nightmare and if you will wake up soon. But I want to let you know that only one of those answers is yes.”
Tobenna froze in his tracks. He actually would have preferred dealing with robbers than whatever was happening now. Holding his gun up, he turned around and shouted:
“I don’t know who or what you are or how you’re doing this, but in the name of Jesus, I banish you from this place!”
To his amazement, the music stopped. Tobenna was relieved and surprised that it actually worked. All of a sudden the voice thundered:
“What do you think this is, a Nollywood movie?”
Immediately he rushed for the front door and was shocked…quite literally as soon as his hand touched the knob.
“You think you can escape so easily?”, the voice said.
“Who are you?”, Tobenna screamed as he was still cringing from the jolt that he received.
“To those who are innocent, I am their defender and avenger. And to the guilty, I am judge, jury and executioner.”
Tobenna’s stomach dropped as he figured out whose voice he was hearing.
As Tobenna spoke that ominous name, there was a flash of lightning outside. Could this really be Amadioha? The god of thunder and lightning that he had heard so many stories about in his youth?
“But this can’t be! You only exist in the village! And its only old people that speak about you!” Tobenna shouted. To any bystander, it would have appeared as though he had gone mad.
“I get around”Amadioha replied.
“Oh really? Where have you been as the born agains destroyed your shrines and as all the politicians have been chopping our money?”
“Why should I care? Your ancestors used to revere me, but as soon as the oyibo man came with his tricks and gadgets, they began to forget about me. So I forgot about you too. While you have been praying to your imported gods to no avail, I have been silently transforming into something brand new. Any recent stories you’ve heard have only been my shadow, my previous forms. Today, your entire lives depend on electricity…which I have mastery over. I no longer have any need for those old shrines. My presence can be felt in any electrical device on this planet. I am actually more powerful and deadly than I have ever been”
Amadioha began laughing. Tobenna had enough. Without thinking of how much it would cost to replace it, he lunged towards his stereo set and threw it to the ground. As he kicked his sub woofers, the laughter began to fade away. He was relieved.
Suddenly Tobenna’s flat screen plasma television came on. On the screen was the image of a white ram with bulging red eyes…in high definition.
Tobenna screamed: “What did I do to deserve this?”
In surround sound, the white ram answered: “You wronged one of my daughters. And now you will pay the price.”
Tobenna immediately recalled what he had done to Mrs. Kalu.
“Ok look. I’m sorry for what I did to her. I promise that I will call her first thing tomorrow and see what I can do to find good accommodations for her and her son.”
The ram did not look amused. “No need to worry. I’ve already found a new place for her” , he said.
Tobenna was confused. “What do you mean?”
The ram replied “Yours. Its not like you’re gonna need it after I’m done with you.”
Tobenna screamed: “Over my dead body!”
The ram smiled and said “Be careful what you wish for.”
Tobenna attempted to fire his gun at the screen, but for some reason, it wouldn’t fire. He suddenly felt a jolt of electricity in the hand that he was holding the gun, and dropped it to the ground. Frustrated, he picked it up and threw it at the screen, shattering it in many pieces. Immediately, he ran back upstairs and went to seek refuge in his bathroom.
As soon as he got inside, he locked the door. There were no electronic devices plugged in here, and he felt this was perhaps the safest place that he could be in the entire house. This whole ordeal was extremely traumatic, and he needed to clear his head and figure out his next move. He removed his clothing and hopped into his shower.
“Thank god for my gas water heating.” Tobenna thought to himself as the warm water poured on him. What was he going to do? Calling the police was out of the question, and anyone else he called would recommend that he be placed in an asylum. The only solution would be an escape.
As he has been pondering, the water temperature had begun to rise, without Tobenna turning the knob. It suddenly became so hot that it started to burn his skin. He reached to turn down the heat, but the water only continued to getting hotter. In his attempt to shut the water off, he nearly slipped and fell in the tub. Luckily, he jumped out of the shower before it became scalding. Tobenna realized that if he wanted to stay alive, he would have to leave his house.
He immediately got dressed and began to survey how he would escape. Tobenna had always seen on T.V how people would climb out of a window using knotted bed sheet, maybe it would work for him. He began to knot his bed sheets together, and then tied it at the base of his bed. He opened his window and threw the line out. Despite the pouring rain outside, he felt this was a safer alternative than trying to deal with Amadioha.
Tobenna stepped down on the roof area, and began to lower himself down the line. About a quarter way down, the line broke and he tumbled the rest of the way down. The wet grass broke his fall, but he felt that it also broke his tail bone. Stumbling up, he limped to his SUV and got inside. Safe at last….
He didn’t know where he was gonna drive to…all he knew was that he had to get as far away from his house as possible. He turned on the radio to calm his nerves as he entered the highway. “The next song is by special request, and is dedicated to Tobe Onwuhara”, the DJ announced.
Tobenna wondered who had dedicated the song to him. “Turn out the lights” by Teddy Pendergrass began to play. It must have been his mistress, Sheila. He could pay her a surprise visit until he would figure out his next move.
To his amazement, his headlights went out and he was thrown into pitch blackness. Tobenna began to hear the same drumming he had heard in his house, accompanied by a deep voice laughing. The last thing he remembered was Amadioha saying “I have the power to give life and to take life, and for you I will do both”, before he veered off the road and slammed into a large tree…
…The ambulance arrived and luckily, the paramedics were able to remove his body from the wreckage. “He’s still breathing!”, shouted one of the female EMTs. They loaded Tobenna’s body in the back, and began to speed towards the hospital. He was hooked up to a machine that monitored his heart rate. After a few minutes, it began to get weaker, before suddenly flat lining.
The male EMT brought out the defibrillator machine, and shouted “clear” before applying it to Tobenna’s chest. After the 3rd time, his heart beat returned….
…”Well the good news is that your son is speaking again Mrs. O”, Tobenna’s lawyer was doing his best to console his mother over the phone. “And since you left, his recovery has been progressing too, although the large black mark on his forehead doesn’t seem to be healing at all. Yesterday, we did have a close call though. His ex-fiancée and another woman, his former mistress I would assume, attempted to throw hot grits on him before one of the security guards who was an avid Al Green fan, stopped them before they entered the room.”
“And the bad?” Tobenna’s mother asked the lawyer.
The lawyer sighed before saying: “Well, for one, the bank is gonna settle the lawsuit against them for all of the illegal foreclosures they had done. In doing so, they are also throwing your son and all of the other employees that played major roles in the fraud under the bus, and seizing the property they acquired through bank financing.”
“Yes, he is losing his house. And ironically, one of his former clients says she is gonna purchase it with the settlement money she’s gonna receive.”
“Well can I at least talk to him? “
“Well yes, you can, but there’s a minor dilemma…”
“Well since he regained full consciousness, he hasn’t been acting sane. He twitches sporadically, and when he speaks, all he’s been doing is raving like a madman, and repeating a strange word over and over again. Madam who is or what is an Amadioha?”
There was silence on the phone.
“To those who are innocent, I am their defender and avenger. And to the guilty, I am judge, jury and executioner.” – Amadioha
by Nze Izo Omenigbo
“Anyanwu rie asaa kwuru,
Ala ejiri Edeuli kwado ya”
If the Sun consumes seven and survives,
The Earth will back it with Uli expressions”
—Igbo Mystical Axiom
The Expression of the Sacred in Igbo Culture
The nature of expression (divine/sacred, mundane, mystical, occult and aesthetic) in Igbo culture is captured in many well-known Igbo proverbs. The following three examples are very key in this particular sense, “Onye n’akwa nka na adu ihu: the artist/craft-adept often appears to wear a frown in the process of their work”, “Edeala mara mma bu umeala onye dere ya: the beauty of Edeala sacred expression lies in the calmness of its scribe” and “Ube nkiti nwa nnunu bere n’ohia bu izu mmuo gbaara Dibia: the most simple expression of a bird is wisdom to the Dibia—coming from the spirit world”.
In all three axioms, it can be observed that a certain trait appears to be deep rooted in the traditional Igbo mind, and this is the act of often equating mundane observations with spiritual/phenomenal origins/qualities. To the contemporary mind, of course, this will seem ridiculous. However, in many provable ways, this pattern of understanding has been recognized as a major intellectual catalyst in some of the world’s earliest artistic/scribal traditions and societies.
In pre-modern times—contrary to conventional notions—there were at least four existing Igbo scripts, these were Edeala, Uli, Ukara and Nsibiri/Nsibidi. There is no known single origin of the scribal tradition in Igbo culture and most of the available accounts are heavily couched in myths as is the tradition; the better part of which are reserved for the highest initiates. However, some of these mythic narrations (given their heavy roles in the enculturation process of the general society) were often modified by the priests and passed on to the community griots—who later narrated these stories to the young/old of the society.
Also, significant of mention is the existence of many other cult symbol scripts, many of which are yet to be written down or even conventionally known. In a nut shell, it’s a well-accepted fact (at least within honest academic circles) that the scribal tradition has its roots in Africa. Yet often than not, there have also been adverse arguments as to whether such preserved/discovered inscriptions are of direct/literal or symbolic orientations; in other words, if they qualify as “writings” as we understand them today. Needless to say, this approach of judgment is highly biased; since strictly speaking, most ancient societies understood human expression—and expression generally—to be symbolic in its primary nature.
Resolvedly, most of the less esoteric cult teachings of the time were expressed through highly complex symbol systems—from which originated some of the mundane writing traditions of the modern world. Therefore any attempt to understand the communicative modes of ancient societies without an initial, dedicated understanding of their worldview—as concisely shown here—is erroneous by default. In the course of this discourse, insights will be drawn from two of such mythic narrations. As well, few snippets will be equally utilized from one of the aforementioned esoteric myths.
The Principle of the “First Word” in Igbo Cosmology
The archetypal Igbo society held that words were so potent that one must ensure to count their “teeth with their tongue” before or after any question. It is an advice for one to find out something for oneself, especially when one is indulging in self deceit and is seeking for answers from some other person instead of self-reflection. Usually the person advicing will say “i choro ka m gwa gi ya; were ire gi guo eze gi onu–Do you expect me to tell it to you? Count your teeth with your tongue.” However, in dealing with written expressions, the potency inevitably doubles, since the idea being communicated will now (supposedly) outlive its author. There is also the mystical tradition of “the first word” i.e. okwu izizi. In many ways, this ancient principle encapsulates—in totality—the Igbo cosmic orientation of life in relation to the Divine. The mystery of the first word is well illuminated in the classical Igbo tale about the journey that was undertaken by the Dog (Nkita) and the Tortoise (Mbekwu Nwa Aniga).
In this tale, it is held that the Dog and the Tortoise were both sent by humans to deliver two important messages to Chukwu; from which will be determined whether human beings will live to achieve immortality or die at a certain age. To the Dog was given the message of immortality, while the Tortoise was given the message of impermanence. As they both set out for Chukwu’s house, the Dog—priding itself with its ability of swiftness—was said to have stopped several times along the way to sleep, scout for bones or even a mating partner, while the persevering Tortoise continued on its path, undistracted. In the end, the classic endurance of the Tortoise led it to Chukwu’s house, long before the Dog—who was outraced during its many short breaks to sleep or explore the road sides.
Hence, Mbekwu Nwa Aniga (the Tortoise) delivered its message of “Death for the Humans” and thus was the mystery of death introduced into human life. Of course, the Dog did arrive later on—totally convinced that it was the first to reach Chukwu’s house, only to be told that “Chukwu and the Spirit World” does not accept second “Words”. Hence originated the Igbo mystical phrase “okwu izizi erugo be Chukwu: the first word has reached God’s house”.
From this particular tale, a great deal of Igbo cosmological principles dealing with expressions—can be illuminated. Firstly, there is the duality of life as represented by the two choice animals. The principle of duality remains a core aspect of Igbo life and spiritual practices till this very day. And then there is the principle of pre-duality or unified existence. In other words, creation: although dual in nature proceeds from a unified point of One. Hence, the Dog was told that Chukwu and the Spirit World do not accept the second “Word”. The second word here symbolizes physical creation, realized in the sacred number Two.
Also, there is the principle of Uncontrolled Motion/Chaos and Controlled Motion/Order. Both principles were symbolized in the specific choice of animals used in the narration; where the Dog’s undisciplined swiftness stood for chaotic motion and the disciplined fortitude of the Tortoise stood for ordered motion. Both principles were further made potent in their meanings by the messages that both animals were meant to deliver. In the case of the Dog (embodied chaos) the message was immortality (unending spiritual enlightenment), while for the Tortoise (embodied order) the message was impermanence (interrupted spiritual enlightenment).
The Spiritual and Aesthetic Potency of Human Expressions
As the Dog was late to reach Chukwu’s house, it then resulted that human life (as a mortal opportunity for spiritual learning) will be eternally teased with the mystical potency of Ndu Ebi-Ebi (Everlasting Life/Immortality). Just as the delivered message of the Tortoise meant that human beings (indeed all creations) will be forever bound to the physical responsibility of observing/maintaining Divine order.
This dual expression most likely gave rise to such classical Igbo thoughts as “okirikiri k’eji ari ukwu ose: the pepper tree is only climbed by means of cautious encirclement” and “nwayo-nwayo k’eji aracha ofe di oku: a hot soup can only be consumed gently”. Furthermore, the Dog symbolism is equally characteristic of the archetypal Ego (the precarious pride that originated with the Dog’s knowledge of its swift abilities). While the Tortoise in this sense, symbolizes the Super Ego (the self-regulating aspect of us that strives for perfection and orderliness). Although, this last feature is essentially interpretational, the instructional nature of the original tale however supports its validity.
In a sense then, it can be observed that the Igbo worldview fundamentally perceives human expressions/expressions generally as a holistic exercise. Indeed, the greater implication of this conviction is that no expression of creation/life is devoid of meaning and no human expression is devoid of sense; regardless of how “senseless” that expression might seem. This notion is well established by another ancient Igbo principle (stemming from another mythic account) which holds that Chukwu created the world using two words, Ọm and Om.
These two Divine expressions, according to ancient Igbo mystics, became “The Two Sacred Words” i.e. Okwu abuo Chukwu ji were ke uwa”. Again, the basic notion here is duality—but specifically this time; duality dealing with the two Igbo mystical principles of Akwu na Obi (Stillness and Motion). It is remarkable to note that these two principles unified, remains one of the most utilized and infinitely explored of all Igbo mystery teachings. The “Two Sacred Words” as explored in another Igbo mystery cult is also held as the “Two Primordial Sounds”. In this respect, it expresses one of the most esoterically studied of all Divine expressions i.e. sound. In Igbo mystery circles, the naturally produced human-sound (phonetically molded continuously from birth, eventually condensed into a specific lingual form as the child matures) is held to be a mystery of its own. Hence, the ancients explored it in a separate, dedicated cult where its latent creative powers were synthesized for use in invocations, spiritual chants and several forms of oracular practices.
It can therefore be noted that the mystical/occult potencies of human expressions (in a very broad and in-depth sense) have always occupied a place of great significance in Igbo mystery traditions as well as, Igbo culture proper. In this sense, ancient Igbo mystics, after much in-depth observations, were able to ascertain that our voiced expressions do not merely stem from some innate human tendencies to communicate archetypal emotions, as is conventionally held today. But rather, every word we utter and each syllabic expression thereof is actually a released potency. The same goes for aesthetic/artistic expressions; as all forms of human articulations are essentially generated from one point of activity in the mind and charged forth with spiritual potency—at the point of release, whether consciously meant or otherwise.
It is for this great reason that another ancient Igbo axiom maintains that “okwu Igbo/uke bu n’ilu n’ilu: the Igbo language/cult communication is expressed through aphorisms”. Suffice it to say that the ancients well-considered the potency of their expressions/language (indeed the Igbo language in this case) apparently too heavy for any mere direct conveyance of ideas; given the possibility of unanticipated manifestations resulting from careless utterances. Hence, their language/voiced expressions had to be communicated by means of proverbs and indirect insinuations, colored once in a while by plain riddles and chants. Remarkably, this pattern of communication is still observed by the Afa, Mmonwu, Ekpe and Agwu cults (some other Igbo cults inclusive) till today.
It is also interesting to note that even the non-human naming tradition also followed this principle in the past. So that animals, trees, mountains, rivers and other forms of creation were not merely named through direct articulations of their perceivable essences. Rather, it was through a metaphorical intellection of their place in the greater scale of life that their names were articulated. For instance, the Chameleon (in Igbo culture) didn’t get its name from its immediate perceivable characteristic of rapid coloration. Instead, its name “Ogwumagana” literally translates as “If it sinks, I shall not step”. Hence, the name metaphorically denotes the ancient belief among the Igbo that the Chameleon was created at a time when the Earth was still wet. Thus it literally had to enquire from Ala (The Earth Goddess) before making each step, lest it sinks.
Also interesting is the fact that the Chameleon is sacred to Ogwugwu, an Igbo fertility Goddess. The name “Ogwugwu” also denotes a hole or the act of digging. Remarkably, conventional science has been able to determine that matter is basically a hole dug by sub-atomic propellants in space (ether). Therefore, the obvious connection between the Chameleon and this Goddess—as was long established by ancient Igbo mystics—not only preceded modern scientific thought, but unlike the latter, was more clearly expressed and aptly symbolized; so much so that even a youngster could grasp the concept. This tradition, so obeyed, extended even into the designation/articulation of numerical principles, planetary bodies and highly abstract undertakings such as astronomical calibrations.
Furthermore, the aesthetic principle of expression in Igbo culture is also embodied in the aforementioned Uli body-painting/inscribing tradition. The Edeuli or Uli, for short, is a sacred, linear-oriented body-inscribing aesthetic employed by women in pre-contemporary Igbo society. It’s highly attractive and intricately executed expressions were regarded deeply by women and young girls—even beyond the Igbo cultural area. Among other things, it is also a key feature of the Ala (Earth Goddess) cult.
Conclusively, as the name of this discuss states, “Chukwu bu Ulidereuwa: God embodies the Divine Script through which all creation was expressed”. In other words, the expressive nature of Chukwu as the primal aesthetist, as the most accomplished author that will ever be, as the first and original artist of all creative forms that ever was, is and will ever exist—is here underscored. From the ongoing, it is not only made clear that the tradition of expression in Igbo culture is apparently complex in both scope and depth, but also, the inexhaustible nature of indigenous knowledge preserved in Igbo culture is equally made evident here.
by Nze Izo Omenigbo
“Uzu amaro akpu ogene, ya nee egbe anya n’odu” (A blacksmith who does not know how to fashion a twin gong—should observe the kite’s tail) —Igbo Proverb
A Primal Birth
Quite plainly, Ahobinagu or Obinagu is identifiable as the Igbo Alusi (Deity) that is spiritually inherent in the flora, fauna and extensive wildlife of the forest. A brief etymological assessment of the word itself reveals Obinagu as an essentially aggregated Deity. In other words, it is a spirit-guild of the countless, highly diversified essences immanent in the ecosystem of forest life. However, this definition should not–by any means–be seen as a cementing point of the obviously far more complex nature of this Deity. Perhaps, a very convenient way to comprehend the nature of this unique Alusi is to picture a host of spirits, each embodying a specifically assigned purpose in its nature, but all sharing one great cognitive head. Also, the somewhat similar image of an octopus might come to mind. But surely, an octopus is no contestable match for Obinagu, any day.
For a credible theogonical account (Deific Birth) of this Alusi, it is only right to refer to one of the two well-known and comprehensive cosmogonies of the Igbo world. In one of these ancient creation stories (or unified field theories as they’re branded today), both the known and unperceivable dimensions of the universe (Uwa) were considered to be in a unified state of rest at one time. A state simply referred to as “the primal house” in this cosmogony. In this immensely unifying house—once existed the “secret project” of Chi-Ukwu, the colossal God. However, given the very curios nature of Chi-Ukwu’s wife—Komosu, this “secret project” was consequently made known when she bravely ventured to peep into Chi-Ukwu’s coveted Obi or sacred enclave, which was located right in the middle of the larger “primal house”.
Subsequently, beautiful Komosu was martyred by the impact of the immense primal energy that escaped from this private enclave, and thus—the known world was born! In other words, it is essentially in this great outburst of dynamic manifestation that the basic building blocks of life were seeded or brought into being. However, as the Divine being that she is, Komosu consequently reincarnated back on Earth, as Ala, the Igbo Earth Goddess.
So, following a brief analysis, it becomes rather logical that the very earliest “seeds” to have possibly emerged from Komosu’s initial mischance should be the immanent spirits/essences, incarnated in the infinity of created life across the universe, especially as is observable here on Earth. In this sense, the Alusi known as Obinagu is principally one of such primal incarnations. Moreover, as an indispensible ally of Ala, it is only proper that Obinagu should share one of the Earth Goddess’s imperative attributes, namely, an eco-system.
Given the discovery of what must’ve seemed an incredible bond, the ancient Igbos most likely proceeded to place Obinagu in the readily acknowledged position which it continues to inhabit today in the larger Igbo Cosmo-theological system. In a more summative analysis of this multifaceted Deity—then, one can briefly consider Obinagu as partly serving as a well-realized “Spiritual Locus” of the Earth Deity within the intricate natural network of the forest. Hence, the dual meaning of the name: Obi-n’agu (I) That which lives in the forest (II) The heart of the forest.
An Inherent Operative Synchronicity
In the many Igbo traditions where this Deity is highly revered, such as in Udi—Enugwu State, there are many associated activities that are considered sacred to it. One of such is the Egwu Obinagu, which literally means, Obinagu music. This sacred music is also known as Igede Obinagu, in other parts of Udi. It is essentially flute music (Egwu Oja). But the accompaniment of other wooden Igbo musical instruments is not entirely forbidden. However, the use of metallic musical instruments such as Ogene (twin gong) appears to be excluded from that opportunity.
Indeed, if one would only stop to consider the profound and unrelenting reverence that ancient Igbos had for nature, then the much deeper mysteries behind the resource-specific instrumental selection of Egwu Obinagu will become evident. An important remark is the fact that the Oja (flute) is an instrument that is totally carved out of wood. And wood itself being a resource that can only be naturally acquired from the forest—strikes a note of great importance, in relation to the forest Deity itself. Hence, the reason for excluding the Ogene and other metal-honed musical instruments in the accepted implements for making the Obinagu sacred music.
It is also important to point out that the primal resident spirits that inhabit the various streams and springs that course through forests—are not left out in this intricate synchronicity of spiritual forces, which in turn aggregates into Obinagu. This becomes further obvious, following a recognition of the indispensible union between water and the boundless, naturally-laid network of trees, herbs and shrubs—all layered out in profound harmony, with the rest organic/inorganic presences in Earth’s ecosystem.
Indeed, life feels itself and in return, it progresses to express what it feels through nature. However, beyond the overt, mundane and maneuverable aspect of a Deity such as Obinagu, there exists a core spiritual dynamic to nature that has continued to escape contemporary awareness. Yet this simple core can be appreciated once again through the grasp of a very ancient language. This language is no other than the sacred cosmic language, Afa. The amazing thing is that we’re told by the ancients that humanity once spoke in Afa. And even at that time, it was considered a sacred tongue, just as it’s still considered today. In other words, according to Igbo mythic account, if humanity had once regarded the language of Afa a sacred one, then surely, we must’ve—at one time—also viewed ourselves, the speakers of this language—as sacred beings.
We’re also told that among other things, Afa is also fundamentally a language of nature; a language of the gods. However, since nature is also our only viable means of interfacing with the gods—through Afa, then Afa is also a cosmic language, because all the higher Deities are principally cosmic beings. Now one might ask, what then is the basis of such a language and how did it come to be spoken by man? Well, the simple secret is that Afa language was patterned after the brilliant, vibratory harmony that is found in nature. And since it is held to be life’s very first language—spoken by the gods themselves—then it was destined that humanity should inherit this cosmic tongue from the gods, just as it inherited other wonderful gifts of civilization from them.
We don’t know how we came to forget or lose the ability of this divine tongue. But a very mystifying fact about Afa is that it is a language that can only be understood by nature; which means that we once spoke and communicated with nature, much like we do with ourselves today. Interesting isn’t it? Well, actually not all of us have lost this ability. Our Ndi Dibia still retain it and in fact, they still employ a great deal of it in their work. Notice that Afa proves to be an all-encompassing and all-knowing language—as a result of its ability to interface with all of nature, hence interfacing with all of life. At this juncture, the spirituality of nature and the bonding nature of spirituality is made evident, as one makes the connection to the earlier stated harmonic-essence that is fundamental of the Obinagu Deity.
Now whether in Igboland or elsewhere in the world, we might have succeeded in convincing ourselves that there are certain, extant members of creation that are strictly known as plants. However, the truth is that, at one time, man himself was also a plant in the garden of nature! Specifically, we were once “man-plants” or what is known as Akwu. A linguistic variation of this name is still used for the palm-tree in Igboland today. Moreover, the palm-tree is also considered sacred all over Africa, especially in its aspect as the tree of life. So, in contrast to the ‘exceptionist’ perception of most people today—in respect to the place of man in nature, Afa tells us that we once viewed ourselves as merely members of the colossal, cosmic organism known as life, whose outer ornament is the awe-inspiring nature.
For the keen-eyed observer, a plethora of clues abound in Igbo life and culture to substantiate the mystic remnants of Igbo antiquity, in respect to nature and how ancient Igbo societies related to nature. One of the most obvious of these is the Igbo word for name: Afa (pronounced differently). Already, one can sense the overt etymological relationship between Afa, the name and Afa, the tongue. Still, it becomes even more obvious when we consider that in Igbo culture (indeed in many African cultures) one’s name is believed to embody their existential lot or destiny in a given life-time—in addition to serving as their natural compass. In other words, one’s Afa (name) essentially becomes a dual conception; especially in the Igbo sense. Firstly, as their sacred individual ‘code’ for assessing nature’s existential allotment for them (destiny) and then, as their divinely-accorded compass for identifying their place amidst nature (distinction). Hence, without even recognizing it, one’s name is essentially their own unique cryptogram; their cosmic code for relating to Chukwu and the gods. And even more, one’s name is their first Afa (divination).
Without diving too deep into the mystical dimensions of this fact, it can be observed that humanity actually has no choice but to recognize its sacredness once again—as part of the divine ornamentation that is nature. Therefore, as privileged and responsible members of this endless festivity of life, our role is precisely that of caretakers and not squanderers. Furthermore, in relation to this inherent role of custodianship, another sublime parallel exists here between man and Obinagu—as the custodian Deity of natural life in the forest. However, in the end, it appears that even more responsibility is expected of man as Mma Ndu, the crown of creation.
Igbo Antiquity and Ecotheology
Regarding the sheer, immense reverence that ancient Igbo societies had for their natural environment, the opening axiom of this discourse makes it even clearer with its instructional diction—recommending that humanity should turn to nature for her absolute wisdom. In fact, it is arguably only out of such similar, passionate and overwhelming reverence that the ancient Igbos went as far as condemning the conception of twins, which they innocently considered an undoing of a primal modus in their cosmology of the human reproductive system—in relation to the larger paradigm of nature. All this were done in their honest efforts of preserving the essentialities of what they considered as highly sacred, the Earth.
However, they also came to realize in the end, out of ensuing wisdom that “When something stands, another thing stands beside it”. Curiously, till this very day, this monumental amendment (termination of the twin taboo) along with its many theological and cosmological triumphs—remains one of many such profound turning points in Odinala and Igbo culture in general, that have managed to pass by without any epically recognized or institutionalized celebration of it, for unaccountable reasons.
At this point, it is also highly important to point out that even at the time when this act was still practiced, the twins were not exactly killed—in the literal sense of that word—but were merely taken to the very thickest parts of the forest, where they were plausibly left in the care of Ala and the forest Deity. An observable reason for this decision being that—instead of having to bear the more recognizable karma that comes with conventionally taking a life, one would rather have the fate of such children determined by the Deities themselves.
Still, what is far deeply inherent here is that, in this monumental case of theological defeat, the operative synchronicity of Obinagu and Ala is made even more evident, as one recognizes the explicit irony behind the act of handing over these children to two Deities whom were both considered as Divine Nurturers. At this point, we can imagine the outright perplexity that must’ve overwhelmed the ancients. However, in their infinite wisdom, they would guiltily return back home—only to mourn these same children and offer copious sacrifices to appease Ala for the mind-boggling act that had just transpired.
Essentially, the very multi-faceted and primal status enjoyed by Obinagu, as a custodian Alusi of the forest is almost unquantifiable. However, one only needs to be reminded of the highly agrarian nature of Igbo society prior this age to make the connection. Hence, given the very predictable preference for well-nurtured wildlife and agricultural yields at the time, there surely couldn’t have been a better role for this Deity.
The Imperative Need for Re-Consecration
The Deities (in their aspects as Gods and Goddesses) are profoundly influential by nature, and countless in number. However, since the very beginning of time, humanity as Mma-ndu (the crown of creation) have unarguably enjoyed a God-given right to explore, harness and negotiate the potentialities of these various incarnated forces. But just as even the most mundane of life’s activity requires a procedural edict/code of conduct, so does the consecration of these higher forces require a spiritually sound arena to be made very effective.
Obinagu, for instance, cannot be “aligned” or brought into operation in a naturally deprived environment, because it is a Deity that operates simultaneously with nature herself, in the capacity of its custodian. Also, the mere knowledge of the esoteric operatives used in sacred science is not necessarily enough to potentiate a Deity. Just as an actual car will require a competent mechanical engineer to be present from its creation process to the manufacturing process—so as to ensure optimal performance in the finished product—in the same way, a potential Deity requires a competent Dibia Ogwu to be present from its creation (or negotiatory process, depending on the Deific hierarchy) to the erection and final dedication process. More importantly, a very spiritually disciplined mind/population is also imperative for such universal principles to be brought down—in the first place—to earthly dimensions and even more, to make them abide for a very long time. This is the inherent strength and genius of ancient Igbo societies. The discipline of their time should be a strong fascination for any clear minded Igbo person today.
In fact, one of the utmost advantages of deific consecration to man is that, unlike modern scientific results and its technological triumphs that often waiver in their abilities, mystical/spiritual potencies (whether they come in the form of a massive “Esere-Ese/spiritual inscription”, a massive pyramid or even in the form of a simple tree-post) are still essentially non-third dimensional in their potency. Hence, they’re essentially predisposed to influence (positively) or mercilessly interfere with anything below their dimensions of origin; just as one cannot help but experience the inevitable presence of rain and sunshine here on earth, regardless of their personal opinions about these two perceivable forces of nature, whose origins are well beyond the third dimension.
So, in consecrating or aligning these Deities, we automatically implore them to oversee and influence our third dimensional experiences. But in other to be able to operate these higher forces (especially the more manipulative lesser deities), a sacred state of being is imperative. In other words, Igboland has to be re-consecrated once again, because our Deities cannot do much for us collectively at this point, until we jointly reinstitute our traditional ethics and re-consecrate the land for them to be able to co-inhabit it with us.
Fortunately, considerable efforts are been made towards this agenda, at this point in time. But there is no denying the intensity of the task ahead. Nonetheless, it is only common sense that Igbos all over the world should begin to see themselves as returning prodigals, in the most productive sense of that expression. Because eventually, one cannot grow too far from their roots, anyway.
—Nze Izo Omenigbo—
Including excerpted sections from “Sacred Earth: The Divinities of Odinala”
(A work in the making)