History of Odinala in Igbo land

History of Odinala in Igbo land

Odinani or Odinala; also known as Omenala, Omenana, Odinana, Ọmenani, Ọdịlalị, or Ọdịlala, are the traditional cultural beliefs and practices of the Igbo people of Biafra. These terms, as used here in the Igbo language, are synonymous with the traditional Igbo “religious system” which was not considered separate from the social norms of ancient or traditional Igbo societies.

Theocratic in nature, spirituality played a huge role in their everyday lives. Although it has largely been supplanted by Christianity, the indigenous belief system remains in strong effect among the rural and village populations of the Igbo, where it has at times influenced the colonial religions.

Odinani is a pantheistic and polytheistic faith, having a strong central deity at its head. All things spring from this deity. Although a pantheon of other gods and spirits, these being Ala, Amadiọha, Anyanwụ, Ekwensu, Ikenga, exists in the belief system, as it does in many other Traditional African religions, the lesser deities prevalent in Odinani serve as helpers or elements of Chukwu, the central deity.[4]

Lesser spirits known as ágbàrà or árúsí operate below the other gods and higher spirits. These lesser spirits represent natural forces; agbara as a divine force manifests as separate arụsị in the Igbo pantheon.

A concept of ‘the eye of sun or God’ (ányá ánwụ́) exists as a masculine and feminine solar deity which forms a part of the solar veneration among the Nri-Igbo in northern Igboland. Arụsị are mediated by Dibia and other priests who do not contact the high god directly.

Through áfà, ‘divination’, the laws and demands of the arụsị are communicated to the living. Arụsị are venerated in community shrines around roadsides and forests while smaller shrines are located in the household for ancestor veneration. Deceased ancestors live in the spirit world where they can be contacted. Below the arụsị are minor and more general spirits known as mmúọ loosely defined by their perceived malevolent or benign natures. These minor spirits are not venerated and are sometimes considered the lost souls of the dead. Ancestor worship and the worship of various gods and spirits, form the main component of the traditional Igbo religion, standing in contrast with Abrahamic religions.[5]

The number of people practicing Igbo religion decreased drastically in the 20th century with the influx of Christian missionaries under the auspices of the British colonial government in Nigeria. In some cases Igbo traditional religion was syncretised with Christianity, but in many cases indigenous rites were demonised by Christian missionaries who pointed out the practice of human sacrifice and some other cultural practices that were illegal under the colonial government. Earlier missionaries referred to many indigenous religious practices as juju. Igbo religion is most present today in harvest ceremonies such as new yam festival (ị́wá jí) and masquerading traditions such as mmanwụ and Ekpe.

Remnants of Igbo religious rites spread among African descendants in the Caribbean and North America in era of the Atlantic slave trade. Igbo ọ́bị̀à was transferred to the British West Indies and Guyana as obeah and aspects of Igbo masquerading traditions can be found among the festivals of the Garifuna people and jonkonnu in the West Indies and North Carolina.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *