Tag Archives: Amadioha

Prayer to Amadioha

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Amadioha

Nna Amadioha, god of our forefathers and foremothers: We come before you with clear consciences, unburdened hearts and clean hands.

We pray that you help us to remember that good judgement and good character is more valuable than any amount of money or power, and that with your help, we can work to develop both.

We humbly ask that we may never turn a blind eye to injustice, for we know that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. May we work to right what has been wronged, and fix what has been spoiled.

Give us the wisdom to know the right thing to do, and the courage to actually do it. Unbind our lips so we may speak the truth in this world of illusions.

May your lightning strike fear in the hearts of those who do evil, and your thunder remind us of the collective power we have inside us.

Ya Gazie! (May we prosper)

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Amadioha Strikes

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Neo-Nsibidi Symbol for Amadioha

“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.

“Amadioha!”

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.”

“You mean..”

“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…”

“Which is?”

“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

Amadioha: The Igbo God of Thunder and Lightning

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by Omenka Egwuatu Nwa-Ikenga

Last week, I had the luxury of seeing the movie Thor. I was very excited to see the movie for a number of different reasons. For one, I am a very big  fan of superheroes, and love to watch both animated and live action movies and television series based off them. Secondly, I also happen to be a huge fan of mythology (In particular, Graeco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, Hindu and of course , the various ones of Africa) and I think that one of the best ways to understand a peoples culture and values is to read their mythology.  So since this movie was a mixture of two of the things I love most, it was at the top of the list for on my “movies to watch” list.

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The comic book character Thor was based off the Norse God of Thunder by the same name. According to Stan Lee, he had been looking for a hero that could compete with the Hulk, and he figured that since no man could, he would have to use a god…literally. So he adapted various characters from the mythology of  the Nordic and Germanic people into comic book characters.

The Mighty Thor

Thor was said to  rule over thunder, lightning, and storms. He was associated with oak trees, strength, destruction, fertility, healing, and was seen by his worshipers as the protector of mankind against the Jötunn, a race of malevolent nature spirits.  The day of the week Thursday actually stems from his sacred day, and literally means “Thor’s day.” He carried a large hammer called Mjölnir which is still worn today as a pendant by many European neo-pagans.

Hammer of Thor

But the most compelling reason that I was drawn to see this movie (more so than most of the other superhero films that were coming out this year such as Captain America and the Green Lantern was the fact that Thor reminds me ALOT of another God of Thunder that also happens to be one of my favorites: Amadioha.

Artist’s depiction of Amadioha

Amadioha is one of the most popular of the Igbo deities. In fact, right after water spirits, the gods of thunder and lightning like Shango, Siete Rayos, Nzaji, etc  seem to be the most well known and liked of all the deities all over Africa and its diaspora.  Although he is usually referred to as Amadioha, that is not really a name, but one of his many epithets, which also include Igwe, Ofufe, and Igwekaala. The proper name of this entity would actually be Kamalu, or Kalu Akanu, and that’s the name that I use personally when referring to him.

Much of what is said about the other gods of thunder and lightning can be said about Amadioha: They serve as agents of justice, they are associated with war and aggression, and their colors tend to be red and white.  People who have been accused of crimes go to their shrines to declare their innocence, less they be struck by lightning.

Unlike his fellow thunder and lightning deities, Amadioha doesn’t carry an object of power like Thor carries his hammer or like his second cousin Shango carries his axe. If he did carry something, I would assume it would be an Ogu stick, seeing as though its the symbol of justice. The ram is sacred to alot of the African thunder and lightning gods, both as a sacrifice and as a symbol. In fact, Amadioha at times appears to people in the form of a large white ram.

Amadioha

Amadioha in the form of a ram

Even though the vast majority of Igbo people profess to be Bible believing Christians, belief in Amadioha still remains strong. I remember a conversation I had with a traditional ruler  a few years ago while he was visiting the states about when he described an evening when he went outside during a storm and saw his the grass near his compound on fire, but not burning. Afterwards, a white ram appeared out of nowhere. When it was all over, it was like nothing had happened.

Amadioha is also still used to curse people or threaten them. I can’t count the number of times that I have heard the phrase “thunder fire you!” or “Amadioha magbukwa gi!” (Amadioha will punish you!) Just the other day, I read an article where one of the priests of Amadioha proclaimed that the deity would punish any of the candidates if they dared try to rig the Governorship or House of Assembly polls in Nigeria.  I personally would have more confidence in elected officials in Nigeria if they had to swear oaths at Amadioha’s shrine instead of swearing them on the Bible or Koran, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that sentiment.

What tends to happen when folks swear on the Bible/Quran

Although I was raised as a Christian, I was always very curious about what my ancestors believed and practiced. So I took it upon myself to actually research it. When I read about the Igbo deities, Amadioha was one that really stuck out to me for some odd reason. That affinity towards him never went away, and to this day, he’s one of my favorite of the Igbo Alusi.

When I was in the early days of my traditional practice, I was trying to figure out how I would make shrines and alters for the different deities. I asked some elders for images of the different Alusi  and the response I got was one of amusement. They explained to me that trying to find an image of a Mmuo (spirit) was like trying to find an image of the wind, and that each picture or carving that you’ve ever seen of any of them is just an artistic representation of an invisible force.

Wind Blowing

Wind Blowing

Furthermore, the vast majority of the times, most of the shrines  to the different forces of nature weren’t carvings or images at all, but rather plants, trees, or simple combination of rocks and wood. For example, one  examples of a traditional shrine to Amadioha would be a log resting on two large bamboo posts. I didn’t get the lessons at first, but one day it hit me:  My ancestors were very artistic in the way they created their shrines, and the spirits that they represented would always appear to my ancestors in ways that they could recognize them. So I asked myself, how would I want them to appear to me? I’m a young man growing up in the age of Youtube, Facebook and Iphones. What would a supernatural being look like to me? Perhaps a superhero? A superhero representation for Amadioha was the first one that came to mind. It was pretty easy too:

The Man of Steel (John Henry Irons)

Steel (also known as the Man of Steel) is a comic book character in the DC universe. His alter ego is Dr. John Henry Irons, a brilliant weapons engineer who creates a high powered suit of armor to fight crime after Superman gets killed by Doomsday. This character was inspired by the legendary African American folkhero John Henry. He is very similar to Marvel’s Iron Man.  Although he has no superpowers, but his suit grants him flight, enhanced strength, and endurance.

Steel was the image that I decided to use to represent Amadioha for my shrine. If he were to appear to me in a vision or dream, that is how he would look like, combined with the abilities of Thor. What I did was very similar to what alot of enslaved Africand did in Santeria, Voodoo and Palo Mayombe when they placed pictures of Catholic Saints to represent their deities in order to avoid religious persecution. However, since I could never see myself using images of my enemy to represent my deities, I choose to use comic book characters instead.

After I made one for Amadioha, I started making similar shrines for other Alusi, using various comic book characters. If one went into my room and didn’t know any better, you would think I was just obsessed with comic books and nothing more 🙂 Another comic book character I used to represent an Alusi was The Human Torch. He is the image I use to represent Anyanwu, which is the spirit of the Sun. I will go in depth in the near future on the process of syncretism and how one can start to create shrines and images that work for them.

The Human Torch

While we are on the topic of symbolism, lets break down what Amadioha really means. Metaphysically, Amadioha represents the collective will of the people. An analysis of his name says so much. The name is a combination of Amadi and Oha. The first word, Amadi, is a name given to freeborn males. Oha  is a concept that deals with the power community. Traditionally, Igbo communities were not ruled by monarchs, and made their decision by using Ohas (community assemblies). Whatever they agreed on, the community was responsible for enforcing. From my understanding, the Oha title is also supposed to be the last highest level of the Ozo title system. And its one that is virtually impossible to get, because it belongs to the people!  So as the rules are made by the Earth Mother Ani (who metaphysically represents the unity of the people), they are enforced by Amadioha (their collective willpower) through lightning and thunder.

In other words, the Amadioha shrine, along with the other similar ones in Africa were said to be an indigenous form of weather manipulation. Besides being used to bring rain (which exists in just about EVERY society in the form of  a rain dance/prayer…even until today!), it also was used to enforce the rules and regulations that were made by the community. While people have conspiracy theories about alleged government weather warfare programs like HAARP, some Africans in the bush might have claimed to be successful in doing naturally what modern scientists  have attempted to do with machines. The power of Amadioha really makes me wonder what else Africans could do if they decided to come together. It also brings a whole new meaning to the phrase: “The Power to the People!”

Black Power!!!

“Conversations with the African Gods” Review

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Conversations with the African Gods

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of reviewing another book written by an Igbo author who goes by the name Nwaonishe Ezenwanyi, entitled Conversations with the African Gods. Many of you might be familiar with the similarly titled “Conversations with God” series, written by Neale Donald Walsch, in which he has a number of conversations with “God.” To say that this book is the African version of that would be an understatement. Conversations with the African Gods is a journey for anyone who reads it, on humanity’s past, present, and future, from an African point of view. For far too long, perspectives, philosophies, and religions have been placed into a  false dichotomy of being either Eastern or Western, with Africa being excluded.  This book challenges that false dualism and brings forth commentary on world events from African gods and ancestors.

False Dichotomy

The author begins by describing her personal journey.  Like many of us born during the African Dark Ages, she was raised as a Christian (specifically Catholic), but was still extremely curious about the other religious and spiritual traditions in the world. Her journey took her to exploring Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, amongst others. Eventually, after doing a lot of seeking and searching, her journey didn’t lead to her finding the “right” tradition, but to the tradition “finding” her. In fact, she  ended up  listening to the voices that had been calling her all along. She claimed her birthright and began practicing the spiritual science of her ancestors, Odinani.

Her spiritual awakening has also lead to her becoming aware of and developing different abilities such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc.  One of the most interesting gifts that she learned was how to invoke spirits.  The one that she was able to invoke the most was Onishe, who happened to be her “head deity”, or the one most in control of her life.  For that reason, she goes by the name Nwaonishe, which means a child of Onishe. She also happens to be the spirit that makes the most commentary. She opens up the dialogue by stating:

“I am a prophetess, a chosen one, selected apart by god/dess to speak the words of god/dess. I am manifestation of god/dess as I surrender each moment to my essential nature. I am speaker of life and death. Avenger for the just, the pure, the clean. There is only one Onishe and she is here and now, in you, and in many. I am the word. Atu. Word that forms everything. Logos. Mami Wata, Supreme Water, Essence liquid, Nut of Khemet. I am the word of Nut, the goddess of creation.”

Statue associated with Onishe in Asaba

While Onishe is the Igbo Alusi (spiritual force) that speaks the most, others also make their voices heard including Eke, Ikenga, Amadioha, Ani, and Anyanwu. Two other African Gods who are typically associated with Ancient Egypt also make substantial contributions: Ausar (Osiris) and Auset (Isis).

Ausar and Auset: Real Love

Contrary to popular belief, while  the gods of Ancient KMT (Egypt), especially Ausar and Auset, might have been popularized by that particular nation, they are actually much, much older than it and can be found all around the continent under different names and titles. This will be elaborated on in future posts.

These African Gods, as well as other ones including the popular ones made popular by Hinduism, Kali and Krishna (who both have names that mean “the Black One” ), as well Tehuti (Thoth) and Heru (Horus),  make commentary on a wide range of issues, including the ancient “Golden Age” civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, climate change, 2012, colonization, slavery, civil rights as well as the possible “Golden Age” to come. The discourse on how Africa (and Nigeria in particular) should structure their economies and governments to actually work for the benefit of the people (for once) is very enlightening, but is sure to shock a few people (Ikenga’s comments in particular).

Kali is not one to mess with

Commentary is made on the lives of difference ancestors as well, with some of them even commenting on where they are currently in the spiritual realm. Some of these ancestors include Fela Kuti, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, Olaudah Equiano, and others.  I found Fela’s mother, Funmilayo’s statements in reference to the Fela play to be pretty funny.

Olaudah Equiano

Another added bonus to the book is the use not only of the Nsibidi symbols associated with the different Alusi, but also practical rituals that one can do to commune with the Ndichie (ancestors) and Alusi, as well as attract abundance in one’s life.  I totally recommend this book to all  people of African decent, but it can speak to anyone  interested in advancing on their spiritual path. To order the book, click here.

SPECIAL BONUS:

To hear an interview with the author, on Igbo Kwenu Radio, click here.

 

The Transmission of Odinani & Omenala in Pre-Colonial and Modern Society (Part 1)

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by Omenka Egwuatu Nwa-Ikenga

A good portion of the people of the world today attribute their beliefs and practices from one or more texts that they consider to be sacred. These “holy books”, as they are called, contain the cosmogony, proverbs, traditions, mythology, laws, customs, and other characteristics of a group of people, and are often considered to be either the “Word of God(s)” or the words of men that were “divinely inspired.”

“Holy” Book

Ndi Igbo (Igbo people) on the other hand, did not limit the transmission of their Odinani and Omenala on scriptures written by men. The reason for it is simple. When a group of people is able to see the Divine in everything, they do not place limits on how they transmit their points of view (the fundamental definition of a cosmogony is how a people see the world). While the transmission of Odinani and Omenala are found in every walk of Igbo life, this series of articles will only focus on some of the main avenues, which include: aha (names), ilu (proverbs), egwu (music), ukabuilu (parables), ifuru (mythology), okwa nka(art), and kentoaja(rituals)/mmemme (festivals). Modern additions such as literature, movies, poetry, and comic books/graphic novels will also be discussed.

(Aha) Names

Alot of information could be gathered from an Igbo name, as each one carries some significance and meaning. From an Igbo name, one could gather information such as the market day someone was born (Okafor means a male born on Afor day), their clan (Nwaneri means a descendant of Eri), the profession of their father (Ezeana means the descendant of a priest of Ani), as well as the circumstances around their birth (Ijeagha refers to a child born during war). Besides these things, alot of Igbo philosophy is apparent in many names. Take for example, the meanings of these names:

Afulukwe: “Seeing is believing”

Akobundu: “Wisdom is Life”

Azikiwe: “To turn one’s back is better than getting angry”

Chibueze: “God is King”

Ezinne: “Good Mother”

Jideofor: “Hold on to righteousness”

Nneka: “Mother is Supreme”

Nkeiruka: “The future is greater”

Nwachukwu: “Child of God”

Onyemobi: Who knows the heart?

Onwuasoanya: “Death respects no one”

Tabansi: “Have the patience (of a vulture)”

A more extensive list of Igbo names and their meanings can be found at this site as well as this one.

People were not the only things that were given special names, the Igbo Alusi (spiritual forces) were also given names that revealed alot about them and their functions in the society:

Chukwu: “The Big God” (the sum total of everything)

Amadioha: “Freewill of the people”

Anyanwu: “Eye of the Sun”

Idemilli: “Pillar of water”

Ikenga: “Place of strength”

More time will be spent in future posts explaining the meaning of the names of the Alusi as well as their attributes.

Ilu (Proverbs)

An Igbo proverb about proverbs states: “Ilu bu mmanu e ji eri okwu” (Proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten). There are not many things that can teach you alot about a group in such a concise manner as a proverb, and Ndi Igbo (Igbo people) are amongst the most prolific in the world at producing them. In fact, I would go as far as to say that its probably impossible to have a full conversation with an elder Igbo person without hearing at least one. It makes you wonder whether ancient Igbos spoke in nothing but proverbs like Yoda.  Here are a couple that  give a taste of Igbo philosophy:

Eze mbe si na nsogbu bu nke ya, ya jiri kworo ya n’azu” (The tortoise said that trouble is its own; that’s why it carries trouble on its back)

Explanation:  One should try and shoulder one’s own burden

Nwaanyi muta ite ofe mmiri mmiri, di ya amuta ipi utara aka were suru ofe” (If a woman decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the fufu before dipping it into the soup)
Explanation: One should learn to change tactics to suit a situation.

Madu bu chi ibe ya” (Man is God to his fellow Man)
Explanation: God works through human beings

Onye ahala nwanne ya” (Never leave your brothers and sisters behind)
Self explanatory

Aku m diri Ubani” (My wealth lies in the good in my community and what I do to bring it forth)
Self explanatory

Ebuno jị ibi éjé ogụ” (The ram goes into a fight head first)
Explanation: One must plunge into a venture in order to succeed.

E gbuo dike n’ogu uno, e ruo n’ogu agu e lote ya” (Kill a warrior during skirmishes at home, and you will remember him when fighting enemies)
Explanation: Don’t destroy your leaders.

Ugo chara  acha adi(ghi) echu echu” (A mature eagle feather will ever remain pure)
Explanation: One well trained will stand the test of time.

Ome nta ome imo, ya gwuo-nu ala lia onwe ya!” (A man who believes that he can do everything, let him dig a grave and bury himself!)
Explanation: Its not wise to believe that one is without limitations

Amara akagh ngburu oke madu.  Akaa anugh ngburu onye ogbede” (Knowing (the truth) but not telling it is what kills old men.  Hearing (the truth) but not heeding it is what kills young men.)
Self explanatory

Egbe belu-Ugo belu. Nke si ibe ya ebena, nku tije ya” (Let the kite (type of bird) perch and the hawk perch, and if one rejects the perching of the other, may his wings be broken)
Explanation: Live your life and let others life their lives

More Igbo proverbs can be found here and here.

Egwu (Music)

Ndi Igbo, much like other African peoples, had a soundtrack for every occasion in their life. They had songs for children being born, songs for marriage, and for when people were being laid to rest. They had songs for work and for play. They had songs to prepare for war, songs to celebrate or call for peace, and songs to show discontent.

One such way of showing discontent through song was demonstrated through the act of “sitting on a man”, which Igbo women used to protest a man who they had felt that wronged them. “Sitting on a man” or a woman, boycotts and strikes were the women’s main weapons. To “sit on” or “make war on” a man involved gathering at his compound, sometimes late at night, dancing, singing scurrilous songs which detailed the women’s grievances against him and often called his manhood into question, banging on his hut with the pestles women used for pounding yams, and perhaps demolishing his hut or plastering it with mud and roughing him up a bit. A man might be sanctioned in this way for mistreating his wife, for violating the women’s market rules, or for letting his cows eat the women’s crops. The women would stay at his hut throughout the day, and late into the night, if necessary, until he repented and promised to mend his ways.Although this could hardly have been a pleasant experience for the offending man, it was considered legitimate and no man would consider intervening. (van Allen, Judith. “Sitting on a Man”: Colonialism and the Lost Political Institutions of Igbo Women. Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 6)

Songs dedicated to the birth of children were a bit more positive than the ones that dealt with “sitting on a man.” These songs, which were referred to as omumu nwa songs are sung by groups of women after a successful childbirth. It is also usually accompanied by a dance. Below are two contrasting examples:

Uha (Lies)

Ye-ye-ye-yeo mumuo ma (Ye-ye-ye-ye good childbirth)

Uha-a aha we uha, uha (Lies, they are telling lies, lies)

Omumu otuotuo oluilu (Childbirth sweet and bitter)

Uha-a aha we uha, uha (Lies, they are telling lies, lies)

Omumuo ririu darao cha (Childbirth eater of ripened udara fruit)

Uha-a aha we uha, uha (Lies, they are telling lies, lies)

Aha we uha ekwu we r’ezi (Whether they are lying or telling the truth)

Uha-a aha we uha, uha. (Lies, they are telling lies, lies)

According to the article, “The Birth Song as a Medium for Communicating Woman’s Maternal Destiny in the Traditional Community” by Grace Okere: “This song is an expression of joyful disbelief by the mother of a woman who has successfully and safely delivered her child. They must be telling lies, she sings, although she wishes and knows that they are telling the truth. Apart from the rhythmic effect of the repetitive refrain, “uha-a aha we uha, uha” (“lies, they are telling lies, lies”), the song exploits the literary devices of paradox and imagery to effectively communicate meaning. Childbirth is paradoxically said to be “sweet and bitter.” This is so because it can bring boundless joy to the household into which a pregnant woman safely bears a child. On the other hand, it is “bitter” if the woman dies in childbirth. Then, there would be no songs of joy but sorrow and tears. Childbirth is also personified as “eater of ripened udara fruit.” This is an apt image used to communicate the fact that childbirth can kill a woman in her prime. This euphemistically expresses the sorrowful side of childbirth, when a woman dies in the process. The song brings out the antithetical qualities of childbirth- it is sweet but can be bitter, good but can send a young woman to an early grave” (Okereke, Grace Eche. “The Birth Song as a Medium for Communicating Woman’s Maternal Destiny in the Traditional Community” Research in African Literatures, Vol. 25, No. 3, Women as Oral Artists (Autumn, 1994), pp. 19-32)

This song offers a very different perspective:

Ah Nwa (The War of Childbirth)
Aha nwas u r’abalii si, osur ‘ogorowu (If the war of childbirth happens  in the night, it happens in the afternoon)
Niyi aso egwu, oha era (Do not be afraid owners of breast )
Aha nwaa yie jebekwae je (The war of childbirth we must go)
Ejem eje, ala m ala (I will go, I will return)
Aha nwaa yie jebekwae je (The war of childbirth we must go)
Ma m’eje aha nwa (If I don’t fight the war of childbirth)
Mbia ji agbu enyi nkwu? (Shall I use rope to climb palm tree?)
Aha nwaa yie jebekwae je (The war of childbirth we must go)
Ma m’eje aha nwa (If I don’t fight the war of childbirth)
Mbia ji egbe eje ogu e-e? (Shall I use gun to fight e-e?)
Aha nwaa yie jebekwae je (The war of childbirth we must go)
Aha nwa bu ogu egbe ndi iyom (The war of childbirth  is the gunfight of women)
Aha nwaa yie jebekwae je. (The war of childbirth we must go.)

Regarding this song, Okereke states that: “a stylistic analysis of the song reveals a rich exploitation of literary devices like metaphor and imagery, rhetorical questions and reversal of word order. All these combine to generate a solemn effect on the audience, especially the women themselves. The epithet “oha era,” literally meaning “owners of breast,”is a synecdochic expression used to praise women and challenge them to action in matters of grave importance affecting them or the entire community. By aptly using the image of war to describe childbirth, the song brings out the physical  strength and valor required of women in parturition . It also brings out the suffering and danger of losing one’s life during childbirth as in war.The women’s courage, confidence, and determination to achieve victory in this “war” are brought out in the repetitive emphasis  of and resolve in the words” I will go, I will return.” This determination and certain victory derive from the fact that most women throughout history have fought the war of childbirth and have returned victorious-alive with their babies. This positive mental attitude can go a long way in aiding a woman’s safe delivery.

The reversal of the word order in the refrain,”ahan wa ayi ejebekwa eje” (“the war of childbirth we must go”) gives the song a militant rhythm, which raises it to the status of a war song. This befits the war situation of childbirth….The rhetorical questions “If I don’t fight the war of childbirth/ShalI l use rope to climb palm tree?/ …/ Shall I use gun to fight e -e?,” not only spur woman to victory, but further reinforce woman’s view of her relevance in the traditional community as being anchored on childbearing. The double metaphor in the expression ” the war of childbirth is the gunfight of women” shows how highly women value this duty, and how they see it as their “crowning glory,” as the greatest of all their achievements. Like men in war, childbirth is the arena in which women prove their worth and valor; it is the achievement that will etch a notch on a woman’s bow of honor, just as the number of human heads a man brought home from battle determined the number of notches in his bow in the old days o f inter-ethnic wars. (Okereke, Grace Eche. “The Birth Song as a Medium for Communicating Woman’s Maternal Destiny in the Traditional Community” Research in African Literatures, Vol. 25, No. 3, Women as Oral Artists (Autumn, 1994), pp. 19-32)

Igbo musicians

It is my opinion that music is the most effective and efficient way of transmitting a culture. From this single tool, you can transmit a language, history, proverbs, mythology, dances, rituals and much much more. Music is perhaps the one thing that people of African descent have not regressed on, in fact, its the one area that I believe we have even outdone our ancestors in. Despite the abominable state that we have found ourselves in worldwide , nobody can say that we are not the best in the world at making music. If we are to create the new systems that can meet the needs of our people and elevate us to a higher level, music must play a critical role in their development and implementation.