African Studies, Essays

Igbo belief system and its nomenclatural anthropomorphism

The principle of individuation can said to be synonymous to  Igbo belief system because a reality remains in the mind or in the world of forms according to Plato, except when it has been differentiated from other realities by assigning a name to it. From the above one will understand why Igbos attaches great importance to the names of things and persons. To them nothing is said to exist until that thing is named. Names are not just abstract terms couched in indefiniteness; they are not mere labels. But they are pregnant with meaningful and symbolic reflections and usually descriptive.  The Igbo nation like every other traditional  African tribes name realities around them based on circumstances and those reflects the meaning of the name and opine with apt clarity and intelligibility what the person giving the name has in mind. The names brings to mind the worldview of the people and as it is these names as given accentuates and situates the significance or otherwise of an experience, an event or a phenomenon.A name from the point of view of most cultural heritages depicts the nature and life of a corporate personality, body, organization or reality, to a great length one is influenced by the name he or she carries. Among the Igbos their names depicts their worldview and constitute an integral part of human existence. They are means of arousing, defining, manifesting and establishing the expectations, aspirations and consciousness of the bearers.So, names given to children are usually descriptive. They describe the circumstances surrounding their birth, the type of life they will lead, their future and character. The names convey sentiments or truth, faith in Deity, belief in and about divinities and super-sensible world, assurances and hopes of men, and belief in the hereafter.  Name of God in Igbo belief have the same striking significance.
First, what the people believe to be God is enshrined in the meaning of His name. Such names tell something about the people’s concept of God. They describe the nature and character of God as well as the divinities as if God is man with flesh and blood. In them, many of what we know about God – His attributes, His works, His purpose, His relationship to man and divinities are found. Secondly, Igbo names of God convey the faith of men in God, their hopes and expectations, with reference to God, the divinities, ancestors, the super-sensible world, and the hereafter. Among the Igbo there two principal names of God. The principal one is  Chukwu and it is commonly found in the proper name given to children among the Igbo.  For example, Ngozichukwu , Kenechukwu, Chukwuemeka and Chukwumuche. Chukwu has two elements: Chi – Source Being or the Source of being as in Yoruba ‘Ori’. It can also means ‘spirit’. Ukwu means “great”, “immense” or “superlative”. Chukwu then means “the Great source Being or spirit. It connotes “the Great one from whom being originates”. But Chineke, another Igbo name has three parts. Chi means “Source Being or Spirit”, ne means “who” or which, ke means “Creator” or “to create”. The name therefore means “The spirit that create” or the source being who creates all things.”  Igbo religion distinguishes between three types of supernatural beings: God, the spirits, and the ancestors. Ndigbo believe that there is only one supreme being, who is variously known in different parts of Igboland as Chukwu, Chineke, Ezechitoke, Osebuluwa or Obasi di n’elu. Each name privileges certain attributes. He created the world and sustains it from above, and one of his praise names is “the one who is known but never fully known.” Igbo parents honor Chukwu by naming their children in praise of his power: Chukwudi (“God lives”), Chukwunyelu (“God gave”), Chukwuneke (“God creates”), Chukwuma (“God knows”), Chukwuka (“God is greater”), Ifeanyichukwu (“nothing impossible with God”), Chukwuemeka (“God has been very kind”), Kenechukwu (“thank God”), Ngozichukwu (“blessing of God”), Chukwumailo (“God knows my enemies”), and Chukwujioke (“God is the sharer”). Chukwu is seen as a powerful, munificent God, the one who holds the knife and the yam and provides people with wealth, rain, and children, and who is merciful toward rich and poor, male and female, child and aged. Every morning the father of the family offers prayers to the Supreme Being. Chukwu does not intervene in the minor details of human existence, however; such matters he leaves to the spirits and ancestors, who are often described as his messengers. it becomes very striking and peculiar how the Igbo man describes, relates and sees this God, he attributes to Him all that is human as if he is but all these are ways he tries to show he has a personal relationship with his God. Another reason is that he has no other language or way to describe his realities which God is one of them.   
There are words or phrases ascribing traits, properties, qualities or characteristics to the Supreme Being which make God appear to be a man who lives somewhere. Man has, at all times, found satisfaction in a Deity who lives, who acts, who directs, who hears, who sees, who controls, who speaks, who saves, who blesses, who commands, who rules, who judges, and who does all that a person of the highest authority will do. It is also important to note that the concept of the Supreme Being in Igbo religion is found not only in the names and attributes of God, but also in the songs, proverbs, sayings, recitals and liturgies of the people. 
Igbo people believe that in creating the world; the supreme Deity delegated or commissioned certain divinities to carry out specific assignments. The Igbo call God Chineke in His capacity as creator. The Yoruba call Him Eledaa “Creator”, or “the owner of creation”. The Edo people call God Osanobwa, meaning “the source Being, who carries and sustain the universe”. The Ijaw name of God, Tamuno also connotes one who creates all things.  GOD IS KINGThe Igbo refer to God as Ezechitaoke “the king that creates” or Eze enuigwe “king of Heaven”. As a king, God is regarded as the sovereign ruler of the universe, this is similar to Yoruba description of God as Oba Orun “the King in Heaven”, God is all – Powerful, the Igbo people believe that He rules and controls the universe absolutely in his almightiness. 
In Igbo land, there are certain divinities that represent the wrath of God. These are anti-wickedness divinities. Among the Igbo and Yoruba they are called Amadioha and Sango (the thunder divinity) respectively. It is believed that God uses these divinities, as instruments of punishments, for sinners will not go unpunished. Any affliction that comes as a result of human sin is regarded as coming from God, for His judgment transcends all loyalties. For the same purpose God is conceived as being the source of morality, social and moral orders are His ordinances. He punishes and rewards. He is the last court of appeal to whom all human supplications go.    GOD IS IMMORTAL The Igbo people believe that God should live forever to satisfy the human soul. They know that if the supreme Deity ceases to be, nothing else will remain. Hence they hold the supreme Deity is the Ever-living Reality whose Being stretches to eternity. In this regard, the Igbo call God Chukwu Ebighi ebi just as the Yoruba call Him Oyigiyi Oba Aiku – the mighty, immovable, hard, ancient, durable rock that never dies.  GOD IS OMNIPOTENT Igbo people believe that the world is under the unitary control of God. He is the absolute ruler of the world – Chi na- achi Uwa nile. This name for God shows that He is the Almighty, the most Powerful in heaven and on earth, who is able to do all thing, anything and everything. He is king with unique crown and absolute authority. 
The Igbo say that God is one “Chibuotu”. God sees both the inside and outside (of man), the discerner of heart,” -Chi n’ahu n’ihe na-ahukwa na nzuzo. This is to say that God is All-seeing, All-knowing, All-wise and All-hearing. Thus to offenders the Igbo say “God sees you” or if the earthly king does not see you, the heavenly king is looking at you.”  GOD IS TRANSCENDENT People believe that God is high and majestic. But He is also immanent. To the Igbo people, the transcendence and immanence of God are two divine attributes that are paradoxically complementary. This is what has been emphasized in the Igbo song “Chukwu no ebe di anya, chukwu no n’iru, chukwu no n’ azu, meaning “God is far away, God is in front. He is at the back” In other words, God present always, and everywhere, The Igbo praise God as “He who ensures for ever. The Igbo call God “Chi nke bi n’ eligwe”, Yoruba call God Oba Oke what they are implying is just “king above” or “the king of heaven.” But to show that God is also immanent and sees everything, the Igbo ask Kedu ihe Iga-eme anya chuwku apughi ihu gi? That is “what can you do in concealment that God’s eyes do not reach? And they also say, “He who steals under concealment, even though the eyes of the earthly ruler do not see him, those of the king of Heaven are looking at him. In some situations people are referred to as agbara in describing an almost impossible feat performed by them. In a common phrase the igbo people will say Bekee wu agbara. This means the white man is spirit. This is usually in amazement at the scientific inventions of the white man.   WRAP UPThe Igbo are a profoundly religious people who believe in a benevolent creator, usually known as Chukwu, who created the visible universe (uwa).
Opposing this force for good is agbara, meaning spirit or supernatural being. Each person also has a personalized providence, which comes from Chukwu, and returns to him at the time of death, that is a chi, this chi may be good or bad. Religion is regarded with great seriousness, and this can be seen in their attitudes to sacrifices, which were not of the token kind. Religious taboos, especially those surrounding priests and titled men, involved a great deal of asceticism. The Igbo expected in their prayers and sacrifices, blessings such as long, healthy, and prosperous lives, and especially children, who were considered the greatest blessing of all. The desire to offer the most precious sacrifice of all led to human sacrifice – slaves were often sacrificed at funerals in order to provide a retinue for the dead man in life to come. There was no shrine to Chukwu, nor were sacrifices made directly to him, but he was conceived as the ultimate receiver of all sacrifices made to the minor deities. These minor deities claimed an enormous part of the daily lives of the people. The belief was that these gods could protect them and serve their interests. If the gods performed these duties, they were rewarded with the continuing faith of the tribe. Different regions of Igboland have varying versions of these minor deities. Below are some of the most common:Ala – the earth-goddess, the spirit of fertility (of man and the productivity of the land).Igwe – the sky-god. This god was not appealed to for rain however, that was the full-time profession of the rain-makers, Igbo tribesmen who were thought to be able to call and dismiss rain.Imo miri – the spirit of the river. The Igbo believe that a big river has a spiritual aspect; it is forbidden to fish in such deified rivers.Mbatuku– the spirit of wealth.Agwo – a spirit envious of other’s wealth, always in need of servitors.Aha njuku or Ifejioku – the yam spirit. Ikoro – the drum spirit.
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 CGN: 63626-2008-18-57
Egbufoama Chike

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