General Questions about Igbo Culture:

What is the difference between Odinani and Omenala?

Omenala are customs and traditions, and Odinani is the study of the sacred sciences of nature; both  inner (human nature) and outer (the world as we know it). In essence, Omenala is what is done, and Odinani is part of the reason why its done.

How old is Odinani?

As old as humanity itself

How many people study it?

More than you think. There are ALOT of people who study Odinani behind closed doors because of the negative stigma that is currently attached to it. But this is rapidly changing as more people are challenging the status quo.

Is it practiced in the Diaspora?

While there are no fully functioning Igbo derived systems in the Diaspora,  vestiges of Odinani and Omenala can be found in Haitian Voodoo, Jamaican & Trinidadian Obeah, African American Hoodoo/Rootwork, Cuban Abakua, African American Fraternal Organizations, Carribean Jonkonnu and Carnival festivals, etc

Is Odinani really about Devil worship?

There is no such thing as “The Devil” in Odinani

What about human sacrifice?

Human sacrifice is something that has been observed in all societies in one form or another. There are three main kinds of human sacrifice. The first and most prominent involves sacrifice as a form of capital punishment. The second was the sacrifice of slaves/P.O.W’s at special ceremonies such as royal funerals  or festivals. The third type is a ritual murder in order to gain money or power.  The last two are condemned by every society on the planet.  Omenala condones capital punishment.

What about animal sacrifice?

Omenala typically involves ritual animal sacrifice, but so does Thanksgiving 🙂

What is the name of God in Odinani?

The word that is used for God in Igbo is Chi. It is a reference to the individual spark of divinity that exists within everyone.  The collective spirit of everyone and everything is known as Chukwu. It is a contraction of two words: Chi (God) and Ukwu (great or large in size). Literally, Chi-Ukwu or Chukwu means the Great God or the Great Spirit.

What are the practitioners of  Odinani known as?

Ndi Igbo (Igbo people) did not refer to themselves as servants, followers or slaves of any spirit or deity. Instead, they considered themselves to be Umu (children) of the Mmuo (Spirits).  Since the Universal Spirit was known as Chukwu, the most appropriate name for practitioners of Odinani would be Umuchukwu (Children of the Great God). A singular form of this would be Nwachukwu (Child of  the Great God).

Is there a Heaven or Hell in the Igbo afterlife? What happens after one dies? The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed,  it just changes forms. Likewise, there is no such thing as an “afterlife” in Igbo cosmology, as the spirit world is seen as the unseen part of the physical world. When you “die”, you just transition the same way that liquid water  makes its transition to water vapor when its heated at a high enough temperature.  If one chooses to, you can return to the earth plane, the same way that water vapor condenses to rain. Furthermore, Heaven and Hell are seen as states of mind that are experienced while you are “alive”,  rather than after you “die”

Did the Igbo people come from Israel or Egypt? Igbos did not come from Israel or Egypt. The only people that say that they come from Israel are Christians (including the Christians who masquerade as Igbo Jews). Please scroll down to see the  section dedicated to this for more information. In regards to the second question, Igboland has been occupied since pre-dynastic times, so no.

What does Igbo cosmology say about the first incarnated family? Did we all come from 1 man & 1 womb-man or were there 7 pairs of incarnated humans?

To my knowledge, I have seen at least 3 stories about the first human beings. The first comes from After God is Dibia Volume 1, the second comes from the Nkomii, and the third comes from this site.  

Questions about Igbos and Jews:

Many statements have been made in recent years about the  similarities between Igbo people and the Israelites/Hebrews/Jews of the Bible. What we want to do to correct some of these misconceptions, is to put each statement made about these alleged similarities to the test and see if they hold up:

Does the Igbo traditional diet mirror that of the Levitical Code?

Animals that part of the traditional Igbo diet that explicitly were deemed unclean in Leviticus: snail (ejuna), lizard (ngwele), bush pig (ezi ofia/ohia), crayfish (isha/usha), crab (igbeni, nshiko), beetle (ebe), rabbit (ewi), Animals that part of the traditional Igbo diet that were not named, but would have been deemed unclean by the standards set in Leviticus: squirrel (ssa/osia, uze, ukpepe), dog (nkita), hyena (edi), snake (agwo), porcupine (ebinitu)

SOURCE: “Igbo Traditional Food System: Documentation, Uses and Research Needs” by Onyeka et all (Department of Home Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria)

Do Igbos really circumcise their males after 8 days, just like the Jews do?

The delay (which could range from 1-8 days after birth) of both the circumcision and naming of the child in Igbo culture was done mainly because of the high infant mortality rate in the days before colonialism, and that practice was shared amongst many African groups. There is no covenant whatsoever mentioned when the rite is done, and the foreskin is not even preserved, as it often is in the Jewish rite. Furthermore, the burial of the umbilical cord (Ili Alo) actually has far more significance than circumcision and actually does represent a covenant, between the child and Ala (the Earth deity), as well as the ancestors

SOURCE: “Infancy Rites among the Igbo of Nigeria” by Christian Onyenaucheya Uchegbue (Department of Religious and Cultural Studies, University of Calabar, Nigeria)

Do Igbos have a history of observing the Shabat (Sabbath) Day of Rest?

There was no such thing as a Shabat (Sabbath) in Omenala. In fact, Igbos didn’t even have a 7 day week, they had a 4 day week (comprised of Eke, Orie, Afor, and Nkwo respectively). The “sacred day” not only differed by town, but also was particular to the deity in which a person was dedicated to. For example, devotees of Amadioha or Anyanwu would perform certain rituals on Afor day. Titled men and women also had their respective days of rest and meditation.

SOURCE: “Worship in Ibo Traditional Religion” by Edmund Ilogu (Numen, Vol. 20)

Check back on this page frequently as its constantly being updated

Feel free to ask more questions!

48 responses »

  1. This is a good start. A new magazine called Odinala has just debuted in Abuja. It opens some vital discourse on issues of Odinani/Odinala and reviews serious questions about the lost civilization of Igbo Ukwu which the British excavated (and, according to the journal, looted?)
    It’s good to know that people are opening up interest in Igbo sacred traditions. Keep it up. However, considering that issues of Science and History (including history of world religions vis a vis African religions) continue to confront Africans and the Diaspora, the Catherine Acholonu Research Center has done tons of work that provide answers to these questions and we invite questing Africans and non Africans to feast on these materials. Acholonu’s Adam Trilogy (three-volumes of published research work) is available on Amazon, but her recent lectures on West African origins of humanity, religion and civilization can be watched on U-Tube under the titles “They Lived Before Adam: Prehistoric Origins of the Igbo – C-Span Book TV”, and “The Lost Testament of the Ancestors of Adam – Lecture at University of Nigeria”. They Lived Before Adam won the International Book Awards in USA in 2009.

  2. To all

    what can I say…..Excellent resource excellent intentions. It is only a matter of time as many can see the apex of the tide. How beautiful….guidance to all, may your chi guide you- see through the perversions, the desecration the abomination, purge ourselves from the degree of ‘sickness’ we all exude in one form or another.

    listen to you chi….. because no matter what, where or whom is reading, digesting, monitoring and metalogically analysing the integrity of which this is written.

    Undermine to your detriment :

    Eziokwu dika efifie, Anaghị eli eziokwu n’ala, Eziokwu na’elu ilu,
    Eziokwu na’elu ilu,Ezi okwu bụ ndụ, ase.

    Truth is bitter

    -Truth is like noonday

    -Truth cannot be buried in the ground

    -Truth is bitter.

    -Truth is life


  3. Hello. Your blog off the chain. I am so proud that people are doing this kind of work. I have been reading heavily with respect to my roots (spirituality). I came across your site due to my search with respect to African and Atlantis. I would like to hear from you, for i have a lot to learn from you. Thank you for your great work and contribute. African, Igbo has to raise up it is time. Like one of you blog stated our difficulties is not money, it is societies or the world as a matter of fact. It is our lack of acknowledgment of our chi, our ancestors and taking up other people’s God.

  4. Water is life. There is no life without water. Water may also bring death. Water is awesome. Water is male and female. Let us respect the divine forces of nature. Let us maintain balance as we are told by the ancient Igbo sages–not try to dominate one another.

  5. Hello Afrikan Family,

    I am extremely interested in learning so much more about Odinala. There are several questions I would like to ask you. Could you contact me via email??

  6. interesting to see that our roots are not lost after all. i am glad to see the old religion brought to the internet limelight. please i need information on how to practice, especially worship of amadioha. how do i start and all that. please feel free to reach me by my mail above. thank you.

  7. what bothers me abt this igbo/jew connection is this: if the igbo are descendants of jews, how come igbo forgot jewish language, writing forms, architecture, etc. major question is does travel make one forget his language, writing forms nd other attributes? similarity in names, for example – Eri in the Holy Bible nd Eri in igboland – does not indicate same meanings nd cannot be a basis to link igbos to jews.

  8. Thank you for giving us this valuable resource exposing our age-old belief system. I have a question. Any idea of the specific belief system of Ndi Mbaise?

  9. Hi Mazi Omenka,

    I have just returned from my sojourn and I was seeking our email exchange from the past (as well as the comment section where I discussed my upcoming talk at the Igbo Conference. Do you think you could email me, please?

  10. Please can anybody direct me on becoming a practitioner of odinani? I mean true igbo traditional religion and not the ones hiding behind Christianity. I want to go back to my roots.

  11. Is there a way to practice odinani/omenala? I would like to learn more about this but my parents are extreme Catholics (as many Igbo adults are) and refuse to touch the subject. This is of course very frustrating for me and information is very hard to come by so I wondered if you knew any online sources readily available.

  12. Do you know of any Odinani practitioners in the Philadelphia area, or in the Northeast generally? I have been told that me ancestors practiced Odinani and I would love to reconnect with my traditions.

      • There is not a religious center or anything like that. Odinani is a philosophy, a way of life. So right now, the best way to get in touch with other practitioners of this way of life is via facebook. The guy who is leading the movement is on facebook at ancient wisdom.

    I really think that stopping at seeing Odinani as merely a way of life or a philosophy and stopping short of adopting the religion that is at the core of the philosophy is at best a half measure. I understand that traditional worship has virtually disappeared from most Igbo societies, but in certain communities there can still be found the lone figures who persist with the worship. So, the first thing to do for interested devotees or prospective returnees to the way of the forefathers is to study the philosophy and methodology of Odinani– the internet and ethnographical writings from old and current writers– will do . Next, they have to adopt the practices, following the examples of surviving devotees. Note, however, that aspects of the ancient faith which survive into the present time have largely been estranged from the totality of the philosophical environment which gave the faith its distinctive character and prevented the abuse widely observed in such practices as is seen today in money rituals and pervasive use of charms in Igbo communities to eliminate perceived adversaries. A good place to start may be in crafting your ikenga or household gods and spiritually preparing them for their roles as religious symbols to connect you to the long line of history that have been abandoned in the long break with the past. Then, venerating your ancestors, and subscribing to the Igbo belief in reincarnation are other practices and beliefs to adopt. Similarly, learn to pray the Igbo way, pour libation, and when you share kola nuts, do not forget to throw the ancestors their share. Those wholesome traditional values of respect for the land, the family and the dead, as well as the basic moral values such as sanctity of life, the pride of place given to blood relationships and family, clean honest living, and the weight of one’s words, among others, should not be neglected.
    However, it is obvious that many of the pillars of Odinani are built on a platform of communal participation. Community is a critical element in Odinani. It is connected with the destiny of society and seeks the balance of man with cosmic elements that dominates his intellectual, emotional and physical environment. It is unlike Christianity which is vague in its social reference. Odinani seeks to control the earth, the water, the air and the sky – everything, including man, his joys, problems, and aspirations within these realms. Usually, the sway of deities and divinities are unquestioned within the geographical areas they are prevalent. Obviously, to thrive as a viable religion, Odinani requires to gain a critical mass .
    A very important element in achieving this position is to treat Igbo language, which is the medium of worship and thought of Odinani, as capable of carrying modern thoughts and dealing with modern realities. Respecting and elevating the language, not paying lip service to it or wailing about the need for it, but taking steps to make it a fit and attractive vehicle for expressing modern ideas and realities is essential in making Odinala more attractive to the Igbo person, who may likely adopt the revamped religion, given the obvious failures of Western religion to explain our realities satisfactorily. Thus, though most will deny any connection with Odinani, many will readily subscribe to its easily manipulable elements of sorcery, witchcraft, charms and money rituals to achieve an existential purpose, such as satisfying a need or solving a problem. We have to make Odinani more attractive so as to win back its people; since, it’s the religion of the land and its people, no foreign religion can carry their aspirations or answer their questions about life , death and the afterlife better. To be able to come back to a relatively influential position, scholars and advocates of Odinani must first take cognizance of the factors that made Christianity attractive and Odinani to lose face. From such a study, it will then become clear which factors are still pertinent now and how differently Odinani could be repackaged or ‘re-envisioned’ to gain that attention of Igbo people, with as little as possible of the nonessential or necessary odious aspects of the faith and way of life. Nobody can ignore the unfashionable, bloody , retrogressive, fetish and devilish tags that became associated with Odinani, over time.
    Above all, there is the issue of narrative. It is incontrovertible that one of the most attractive elements of Christianity and Islam to prospective converts is the extraordinary inspirational stories they sell: On the one hand, the charmingly complex tale of a God who so loved the world that he allowed his only son to die for their sins that whosoever believed in Him shall have eternal life. Islam, on the other hand, reveals the story of a simple but forbidding God who sends his final prophet, whose message has to be obeyed if one has to gain the chance of making paradise or avoiding Hell. Fortunately, Odinani is not necessarily crippled by the absence of such a unified message. This is clear from Hinduism, which thrives in India, in spite of lacking such a sexy singular message of hope and redemption– what Hinduism lack by way of unity of message, it more than made up for in philosophical writings, theological thinkers and a body of worship practices and social customs which are resilient enough to resist modern pressures and yet so total to hold the attention of worshippers and satisfactorily provide the answers they need to life’s questions.
    There has to be a coherent explanation of what the Odinani religion offers to the believer who subscribes to it. In this direction, we need a prophet or prophets, poets, theologians, etc., who are intellectually equipped to compete in the diverse religious climate, where a multiplicity of religions competes for followers.
    At the risk of sounding pessimistic, it should be clear that Odinani may never regain its former dominant position in Igboland. However, even mere visibility should be a worthy prize for a virtually extinct religion. This can be a viable working target for now for every lover of Odinani. A return to the roots will curb such defects in the Igbo nation such as unmitigated individualism, recourse to money rituals and other abuses of manipulable agents of Odinani spiritual essence, heartless mercantilism, utter lack of a social vision, and a palpable absence of political direction in politics and governance.
    —ONAH EJIOFOR (Poet &Thinker, Lagos).

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