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Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo - Culture - Nairaland

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Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 4:46pm On Mar 07, 2020
WARNING: This might be a long post for some of you, and if you aren't interested in this sort of topic, you might get bored rather quickly.

There is something I've been thinking about for a long while now, regarding the ethnoreligious dynamics of Igbo. Of course, I mean pre-Christian, which we can essentially think of as anything prior to 1900s. Granted, Christianization was blotchy and a notable number of communities survived up to the mid 1900s before experiencing the wave of Christianity. However, for the sake of truly divorcing the effects of Christian dogma on traditional worldview[s], I want to focus on what we know about pre-1900s.

We now have this "Odinani" cultural wave that has been growing since 2010 or so. It's quickly morphed into a romanticization of pre-colonial Igbo "religion" as a monolithic, pan-Igbo belief system with a defined pantheon and mythologies. But anyone who digs deeply enough will see many inconsistencies that reflect some underlying disparities and regional diversities, and that is what I would like some help unraveling. Let's take the famous "Chileke" for example.

Years ago, here on NL, we curiously discovered that "chi" was adopted into spiritual use due to sun-worship. In other words, the "chi" that is used for "Chileke" and for one's interaction with destiny, was not the original term for that spirituality/philosophy. The original term was in fact more along the lines of "isi" (not head, but rather source). Sun-worship displaced "isi" and associated the philosophy with "chi". However, sun-worship is really only a known feature of the northern Igbo culture zone and any communities that were directly impacted by the socio-religious influences of that region.

For instance, the cult of Anyanwu is heavily associated with the northern Igbo culture zone. The worship is highly developed along with various mythologies linking Anyanwu with a great Sky-god (or Anyanwu being the Sky-god itself). In the southern and eastern cultural zones, we see individual who bear the name, Anyanwu, but with no indications of any associated rituals, beliefs or practices. For many southern communities especially, it is really just a name to indicate that someone was born on a particular day and it is even known in some communities that knowledge of Anyanwu is recent. As a case-in-point, Nkwerre and Awka traders are considered responsible for introducing Anyanwu into my region, possibly a century before the advent of colonial rule. In the same vein, Igbo historians, anthropologists, and linguists have noticed an uneven distribution in the use of "chi" between the northern Igbo cultural zone and everywhere else.

This is what I am mostly interested in. I would like to know just how deeply sun-worship runs in the northern Igbo cultural zones. From all indications, it seems highly developed (so much so, that it even displaced previous terminology). And if I am to be more specific, I am interested in knowing just how much of sun-worship impacted (or contributed to) the current "Chileke" ontology, as well as how (and why) communities without evidence of sun-worship also use "chi" with similar (if not the same) ontology. I have a working hypothesis that "Chileke" might be the result of convergence between two or more socio-religious philosophies, and I would like the assistance of anyone familiar with northern Igbo worldviews to help unravel this relationship (if there is one).

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by nlPoster: 5:10pm On Mar 07, 2020
I don't know if "sun worship" would be a prominent aspect of Igbo cosmology because typically in Africa/Nigeria, "darkness worship" is equally strong.

I'm not Igbo however, so I wouldn't know much about these things.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 9:22pm On Mar 07, 2020
Exactly. Some weeks ago, I recalled a conversation I had years ago with my late uncle. He was a traditionalist his whole life. He explained our reincarnation and destiny beliefs and associated them with them moon. I mean, it makes sense. Our calendar is lunar. Our agricultural cycles are lunar. Communal worship is traditionally an evening/night affair. Traditional rituals and ritual ceremonies are often practiced/performed at night. Much of our worldview is tied with the moon.

Now, I'm certain similar lunar practices also hold true for the northern Igbo cultural zone, but sun worship really shined (pun intended) here, and I believe that has affected modern day interpretations of various aspects of aggregated Igbo cosmology.

It would be enlightening if we could discover the intersect where/how these various pre-1900s spiritualities converged.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by nlPoster: 9:52pm On Mar 07, 2020
Sun worship versus moon/dark worship is an integral part of ATR.

However, in Africa I think it's defined with physical features, I'm not sure if this applies to Igbo ATR also.
Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by RedboneSmith(m): 11:02pm On Mar 07, 2020
Hmmm.

This one pass me. Igbo pundits on Nairaland. Come and tackle this.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by AjaanaOka(m): 10:12pm On May 13, 2020
I fear that my contribution here will be less than solid. grin

In Awka and its neighbouring towns, Anyanwu is seen as one of the four manifestations of the high god. The other three, being Agbala (Fertility), Okike (the Creative Force) and Chi (The Life Force, but ---as we established ---etymologically connected with dawn/light). Chi is often viewed as emanating from Anyanwu.

Paired names derived from these are often used among us as ascriptive names for the high god. Thus you'll sometimes hear during rituals like breaking of kola (among traditionalists): Anyanwu-na-Agbala or Chi Okike/Chukwu Okike.

Funny thing though, even though they are supposed to be just manifestations of the high god, they are also often represented as deities in their own right. Okike (symbolised by a tusk), Anyanwu and Chi (symbolised by the ogbu tree) are all personal tutelary deities.

I don't know much about Anyanwu as a personal deity (that part of our traditional religion probably declined so long ago that there is little information one can obtain about it), but Northcote Thomas' book has a picture of a personal shrine to Anyanwu at Awka made of what appears to be bottles of gin. grin

This is all Thomas has to say on the subject: "Ainyanwu means literally the eye of the sun, and it is explained that he is the messenger of Cuku. His position is perhaps best explained by terming him a personal tutelary deity. In Obu [the family reception hall cum shrine] the ikenga takes his place."

One more thing, when a man dies, it is believed his chi returns to Anyanwu. There's a ceremony where the chi is recalled from the Sun and accorded a place among the family's guiding ancestral spirits. So, it does appear there is some connection between chi and Anyanwu.

It is inviting to speculate (based on your post and the little I know of an Anyanwu-Chi link) that latter-day contacts with visitors and migrants from the North may have had something to do with the introduction of chi in the south, even if the personal tutelary deity Anyanwu didn't take much root there. But I'd rather hold off from speculating on that yet.

However, that speculation may help me understand something that puzzles me about the North-Eastern Igbo (i.e., the Abakiliki-cluster Igbo and their immediate neighbours.) The concept of chi appears to be either absent or not as developed there as in other areas. Another concept, the concept of uwa, seems to take the place of chi. Based on how uwa is described for the Northeastern Igbo in the literature I have seen, it is apparently a very similar concept to chi. I'm looking now at a book on the Izi written by some Dutch missionary. He writes that even though the Izi of his day call the high god Chileke or Chipfu (Izi variant of Chukwu), the old people told him in the old days, the high god was called Oke k'Uwa. Ther's no single mention of chi in the book. It's place is taken by uwa and Oke k'Uwa.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by Nobody: 11:27pm On May 13, 2020
The idea of Chukwu came from the Aro people.

It means the "great chi"

That is the same way they refer to themselves as "Aro oke igbo"

Which means "great igbo"

If not for the distraction of the white men, the Aros would have colonised the whole of Igbo land and beyond with their religion and way of life.

Chukwu is not a general igbo name or word; it came from a part of Igboland called Arochukwu and that is why you don't see aged people, here, answering it as name.
Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 6:31am On May 15, 2020
AjaanaOka, as my uncle once said, "no [piece of] knowledge is useless". The [piece of] being my own emphasis. Thank you for the response. Like you, I anticipated that initial thoughts on this would seem shaky. There are many many many aspects and features of pre-colonial Igbo life and worldview[s] that remain unexplored (from a historical and anthropological angle). At best, I am just hoping for at least a peek into the past, so any relics, remnants, and even ruins that might be used to explore that picture is welcomed.

I am not so much speculating that migrants from the north introduced the Chi aspect of the ontology. As a matter of fact, there are at least two Chileke shrines within the Ngwa-Mbaise complex dedicated to the deity that created the people. Details such as this complicate the matter and make it difficult to confidently speculate that Chi was introduced by migrants from further north.

Granted, if more exploratory analysis suggests such a migratory effect, then I can give it more thought, but for now, I'm more so focused on understanding the Chi ontology, sun worship and the disparities. Your statements about Izi are actually interesting. It reminds me of something was shared with me. I was told that where we (communities within my axis) use Chi, we could use Eke, but use of Chi has come to dominate for one reason or another. They could not tell me why that is the case though (I suspect it is part pre-colonial and part Christianity).

Indeed though, when I dug deeper, with proverbs, names, and even in reference, we can effectively replace Chi with Eke and the ontology remains the undistorted. I am not sure the extent to which this applies to communities outside of my axis though.

Now that I think about it, I wonder why we have the Chi and Eke dualism (paired names, as you put it), when we can conceive as Eke as interchangeable with Chi. Clearly, there are dynamic parts here, which is part of my frustration. Lol. I don't even where to begin to unravel this thread. Perhaps I need to gather my thoughts some more and revisit the subject--and figure out a good point of entry in all of this.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by AjaanaOka(m): 11:14am On May 15, 2020
ChinenyeN, do you have Chi-na-Aka dualism in the south?
Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by Igboid: 11:49am On May 15, 2020
Good topic. The way you lots use THE NORTH and THE SOUTH here, onlookers might start thinking you are referring to Northern Nigeria and to Southern Nigeria. Not knowing you are speaking of Northern and Southern Igbo.

As for the topic, I will be back later with my own contribution.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 3:06pm On May 15, 2020
AjaanaOka, to the best of my knowledge, I have not heard of it as a philosophy/spirituality among Mbaise, Ngwa, Asa, Ndoki, Echie and Ikwerre. However, I have seen it as a name, much like how Anyanwu is a name commonly borne in the area. Granted, in Ngwa, it is believed that anyone who bears Chilaka (whether as a first name or surname) is either ohnuhnu (not the Mbaise Ohnuhnu) or their family had an earlier relationship with ohnuhnu.

Igboid, I'd be very much interested in hearing what you have to contribute. Any onlookers who make the misinterpretation that north and south refer to Nigeria, simply chose to not read for comprehension. grin Since I stated "northern Igbo cultural zone" multiple times in my initial post, it should be easy to infer what "north" and "south" refer to within the context of this discussion.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by MelesZenawi: 7:34pm On May 15, 2020
Chileke??

Meaning what..


Some languages needs to be rooted out of Igboland.

It sucks.


Chineke is the standard word and not some kind of inferior multilation.


If you want to write, do so with sound words and not some kind of outdated stratas.
Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 7:52pm On May 15, 2020
*clears throat*

Gama nye ọhnụhnụ ahnaa to la snị wịka. I hope that gets the point across. cheesy

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by AjaanaOka(m): 8:04am On May 16, 2020
MelesZenawi:
Chileke??

Meaning what..


Some languages needs to be rooted out of Igboland.

It sucks.



Chineke is the standard word and not some kind of inferior multilation.


If you want to write, do so with sound words and not some kind of outdated stratas.

Yet we wonder why some people from the Igbo-speaking flanks are apprehensive about Pan-Igboism. Keep this up, sir. cheesy

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 5:51pm On May 16, 2020
What exactly is Chi na Aka, by the way? Based off the pronunciation I'm familiar with (the name Chilaka), I interpret it along the lines of "chi is in the business of saying". I don't know anything about it beyond that.

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by ChinenyeN(m): 6:49pm On May 16, 2020
Ah. Aka is destiny or fate? Yeah, that's not a term we use in our community.

So, "Chi na Aka" is similarly as redundant as "Chi na Eke" (at least, based off my current understand). Man, this only adding more to the tangled nature of this thread. undecided

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Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by AjaanaOka(m): 2:03pm On May 17, 2020
ChinenyeN:
Ah. Aka is destiny or fate? Yeah, that's not a term we use in our community.

So, "Chi na Aka" is similarly as redundant as "Chi na Eke" (at least, based off my current understand). Man, this only adding more to the tangled nature of this thread. undecided

Lol. Yea, I meant Chi-and-Aka, not "Chi proclaims". You know, a part of me thought there's a possibility you didn't understand. grin
Re: Trying To Peek Into The Ethnoreligious History Of Igbo by Chukwualuka: 6:01pm On Jun 24, 2020
ChinenyeN:


Now that I think about it, I wonder why we have the Chi and Eke dualism (paired names, as you put it), when we can conceive as Eke as interchangeable with Chi. Clearly, there are dynamic parts here, which is part of my frustration. Lol. I don't even where to begin to unravel this thread. Perhaps I need to gather my thoughts some more and revisit the subject--and figure out a good point of entry in all of this.

Regarding the chi and eke dualism, I think Chinua Achebe's thoughts may be helpful

https://youngafrikanpioneers./2014/03/20/chi-in-igbo-cosmology/

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