As a man of 80 plus years, I am closer to my ancestors than most. I am also closer to their history than many individuals younger than I am. In today’s article, I will talk about that history particularly as it relates to the religion of those closest to me, my religion, our culture and heritage. These are things that go as far back as millions of years particularly in many African countries and are basically anchored on evolution which in essence explains that humans and all the other inhabitants on planet Earth evolved from the Land. The land is not called Mother Earth for no reason, examples exist in some villages in my hometown where worship of the land is still very much practiced, some worship the water or some special stone in my beloved ethnic group.
In the Igbo land, we have Ala also known as Ani, Ana & Ale in numerous dialects; a female god that represents the earth, fertility, creativity and morality. We also have many other gods like:
Amadioha: This is the most popular god in Igbo-land thanks to our film, music, arts and the entire entertainment industry. He is the god of thunder & lightning very similar to Sango of the Yoruba’s.
Ikenga: This is the god of strength and war as its name literally means “Place of Strength.” It is a horned deity and is one of the most powerful and respected gods in Igbo-land.
Agwu Nsi: This is the god of health and divination. This god is one of the basic theological concepts, used in explaining good and bad, health and sickness, poverty and wealth in Igbo land.
Igwekala: This is the name of a popular god, which visited every 4 years as a masquerade around the December period.
Anyanwu: This is the goddess of the sun. As exist in almost all ancient religions and traditions, there is always a deity in respect of the sun.
Njoku ji : This is the guardian deity of yam in Igbo-land. (Yes, yams) Yams hold a very important place in Igbo culture and history. It was a standard of measuring wealth and riches back in the day. In fact, my name ‘Jibunoh’ literally translates to the house of Yams, so permit my extra fondness for this particular god. In many parts of Igbo-land, rituals were made in honour of the goddess of yams, also known as Ifejioku.
Idemmili: The goddess of the ocean & the seas. It is believed to have found the idemmili community in Anambra state.
Ogbunabali: I don’t think this list will be complete without a god of death. The literal meaning of his name is “the one that kills at night.” He is known as the death deity.
In Yoruba land, there are at least 401 recognized Orisha, or gods, in the Yoruba pantheon. Many of these Orisha are localized ancestral spirits or nature gods and are worshiped in relatively small areas. But some of the most popularly worshipped and revered ones are these 4 listed below:
Sango: Sango is one of the ancestral fathers and Orishas of the Yoruba, Caribbean and some Latin American people. He is the highly reverenced god of Thunder.
Ogun: The god of iron, war and the chase. He is pre-eminently the patron divinity of blacksmiths, hunters, warriors, drivers and all who deal in iron.
Esu: The god of natural justice and messenger of Orunmila (the god of divination and oracles). He is also an adviser and friend of Obatala.
Osun: She is a river goddess of water, purity, fertility, love, and sensuality meaning that she rules over the sweet waters of the world, the brooks, lakes, rivers, seas and oceans.
The Hausa land also has it’s very rich and interesting traditional religion, I however do not have deep knowledge about the Hausa religion except for what I read or have discussed with some of my friends, but thanks to Google I was able to come up a few. They are Jato – a disreputable spirit, Kuri – chief god of the pagan Hausas, Mai-Ja-Chikki and Dan Jigo
All these gods have a long line of history rooted in the land, interestingly; these gods all have a shared history of being humans at some point and walking on land.
You may be wondering where I am going with all these, pray stay with me, I am as I earlier said telling you about the religion closest to me and my ancestors
The benefits of the land, soil, earth are so important because the air we breathe, food we eat and the water we drink all come from the land. The land will be our last resting place for our mortal bodies. Plant earth is also the only planet in the entire solar system that has and supports life. The climate change crisis experienced today, the strong winds and extremely hot temperatures, erupting volcanoes, uncontrollable floods and fire, desert storms, sand dunes and cases of encroachment, tornadoes and hurricanes, earthquakes and massive mud slides; all come as a direct result of the little or no respect accorded to the land.
Then, there is the Almighty God in Heaven, The Alpha and The Omega, The Omnipotent, the Omniscience spirit that sees and controls everything including the land. He gives life and takes it as well, he holds the absolute power to judge and will determine who goes where. Many of my friends serve and worship God, the God aligned with the coming of Christ over 2000 years ago. It matters little to them that the birthplace of Christ was Israel and yet the Jews did not and still do not accept the doctrines and teaching of Christ. Or that their early knowledge of God in heaven and Christ come from teachings of foreigners.
Oftentimes, I catch myself wondering why we chose foreigners’ religion over ours. According to history, everyone killed for their religion, why was ours then termed barbaric, demonic and if the birthplace of Christianity is yet to accept the religion, what convinced us to accept it?
Why was our reverence for the land deemed backwards and our objects described as fetish? Are they any different from rosaries and crosses? Why was our regard for sacred lands, forests and shrines seen as ignorant yet we were taxed to build homes for their God and call it a church? Our backwards, barbaric and demonic reference for the land and its inhabitants pleased mother earth because her trees were left alone, most of her animals were either worshipped or only killed as needed and the rest of her children could roam around within their own habitants almost freely.
We sacrificed our gods for foreigners and in so doing our culture and tradition instead of allowing them evolve naturally.
This is not an altar call for Njoku ji. Woe betides me to say do away with God. Rather, this is a plea for the Earth who is much closer to us than most others and has given us everything. If we can’t worship her, we can at least take better care of her.