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While writing Black History, I found that I would have to write a manuscript on the religious beliefs of at least five of the seven African nations of our Ancestors (the other two are imbedded in the story), in order to understand and use their worldview to analyze our history, called an Afrocentric approach.
Using the example of the things Christians do and believe in to bring love into their lives to save their souls through the father-son Gods of their Religion, Jesus Christ and Jehovah; the following is some of the things that the Ancient Igbo did and believed, in order to bring Social Equality and Personal Freedom into their lives to become a nation of families through the worship of the husband and wife, God and Goddess of their religion, Igwe and Ala. I used this as part of a foundation to write an Afrocentric history of African Americans.
The following is a section from the soon to be released book “The AfroSacredStar Story; Ancient West African Spirituality/Family Reunion with our Ancient African Ancestors” written by Orchester Benjamin. We believe there is more than enough information to cover the use of African-Traditional-Religion-at-work for people that are interested in going deeper into the subject.
From what Grandpa could find from a lot of different sources, the Igbo believe, CHINEKE, the Greatest of the Great Being, created the universe and all therein using parts of Him-her-Self. (This means that everything a person can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear is CHINEKE).
Another way of saying the same thing, the sum total of every thing in the universe, including the Gods and Goddesses, are the parts of one being, CHINEKE; like the parts of the human body, including the mind, is a part of one being, You.
This means that each of the CHINEKE’s parts are inter-dependent on each other, but each with a will and purpose of their own. On the other hand, we can say, the universe consists of the logical order of the parts of CHINEKE; for example like the heart, lungs, stomach etc, etc., of the human body. This is such an important concept in the Igbo’s religious beliefs; we should go into more detail.
From a sexual point of view, CHINEKE’s mind is divided into a female side and a male side, and each side is inter-dependent on the other, yet, each part has different functions.
The parts on one side are called Gods, and the other side are called Goddesses. However, both sides have the job of managing the affairs of the universe. The same way the left and right side of a person’s mind manages their affairs.
This means that Heaven is the Mind of CHINEKE, therefore the activities of the Gods and Goddesses show how that Mind works. The relationship of the Gods and Goddesses to each other symbolize the structure of the African Bush logic we mentioned.
For example, as a symbol of the unification of the mind, the Igbo believe, that in the center of heaven is a Holy Marketplace. This is where the Gods and Goddesses conduct all social, ritual, and economic business of managing the affairs of the universe.
Symbolizing how the Gods and Goddess relate to each other as a unit to form the logic of this Great Mind; the Holy Family harmony is a united state of mind. This shows that the Igbo believe that the universe is the body, and heaven is the mind of CHINEKE.
It is very interesting that the Igbo think of the center of heaven as a marketplace. We understand this to mean that there was a trade between the Gods and Goddesses in the name of harmony. Things were traded and wealth was accumulated on all sides in the trade; spiritually speaking.
Whereas a marketplace is the creator of wealth through trade, this means that CHINEKE is the Great Creator of trade for the purpose of creating wealth.
On the other hand, this means that each Igbo believes that they are also a part of CHINEKE, and their purpose in life is the same as the Gods and Goddesses.
Meanwhile, although we used bits and pieces of information about the Igbo beliefs from a large number of sources, the evidence is still solid and lays a foundation of the Igbo’s world view.
We will use this world view as evidence in constructing the Igbo creation story, and later verify the story when we investigate the Igbo’s social and economic lifestyle. Our purpose in doing things this way is to give a time line flow to our investigation.
Again, we must keep in mind that this is a story that Grandpa put together from things known as Igbo religious beliefs. For example, it is known that the Igbo believe that the God IGWE and Goddess ALA created mankind, and, the organization of Igbo society is based on how they believe heaven is organized. The story is as follows:
“For a long time things worked very well in heaven, however, all of the Gods and Goddesses lived in one place. However, each was individualistic, and therefore very independent. This was the cause of a big problem, jealousy and greed came in the picture.
It seems that each God began to want all of the powers of the other Gods. The question was, who had more authority. The Gods became greedy. The same thing happened on the female side, the Goddesses became jealous of each other‘s powers. Things got worse and worse.
Finally, it got so bad, the affairs of the universe began to suffer and became a threat to CHINEKE’s existence, who was about to be destroyed by parts of HIS-HER own mind (A super schizophrenic case).
CHINEKE began thinking of how to solve the problem, and came up with a Master Plan in the form of Laws of Social Equality and Personal Freedom, based on Equal Value of each of the Gods and Goddesses Values.
Thereafter, to establish the family, a God and Goddess were to pair up and build their own place in heaven, surrounding a market place. And, the families’ relationship was one of contract and trade, with the God EKWENSU, the Trickster, acting as an enforcer in the market place.
In other words, heaven was divided into equal parts, and each God and Goddess had a domain of their own, the Igbo call a Holy Homestead. And the Holy Marketplace is their symbol of social harmony.
Now we will focus on one of the pairs, the God EGWE and the Goddess ALA, whose domain consisted of the earth and sky.
Although they are like husband and wife, they do not live in the same house. IGWE lives in the sky, and ALA lives on the earth; to the Igbo, the earth and sky merge to form the Holy Homestead in which mankind was created.
ALA and IGWE created 8 people, 4 males and 4 females. In the process of creating mankind, IGWE and ALA used 4 kinds of material; sticks from the Ofo tree as bones and clay and chalk for flesh. After they were formed and dried in the sun, ALA wrapped them in Umune leaves from the Umune tree for nurturing the five senses and sexuality. And, as the creators, they had the responsibility of educating them as well, especially the 7 cycles-of-life, and the rituals related to the rites-of-passage that a person must past through in life;
(1) Sex-act and birth: (nine months)
(2) Babyhood: (Birth to about three years to the age)
(3) Childhood: (Three years to the age of twelve)
(4) Adulthood: (developed between the ages of thirteen and twenty)
(5) Parenthood: (twenty to forty year age group)
(6) Grandparenthood: (Forty to sixty years)
And (7), Great grandparenthood and Ancestor- hood: (Sixty years to forever after death).
In addition, they were taught about the substance-of-life that a person must have to live. This was taught by the preparation for the up coming celebration-of-human life.
ALA and IGWE went out in their garden-of-life to get the things necessary for the ceremony. The 4 women went with ALA to her garden and gathered corn, melons, okra, pumpkins, beans, peas, greens, cassava, coco yams, red pepper, rice, bananas, plantain, peanuts, and palm oil. Meanwhile, IGWE, and the 4 men went to his garden to gather palm wine, kola nuts, alligator pepper, yams, and a wild goat.
ALA, being the Great Mother of nurturing, retired to her domain to prepare the food, including the 8 yams and goat meat given to her by IGWE.
While the food was being prepared and cooked, ALA taught the 4 women the mysteries of womanhood, wisdom of the womb, and the rituals related to the female 7 cycles of life; symbolized by Umune leaves.
Meanwhile, IGWE retired to his domain where the men were his guest, to whom he showed hospitality, as he taught them the rituals related to the male 7 cycles of life, and the mysteries of manhood symbolized by Ikenga, a statue of a man with ram horns on his head. The men were also taught about OFO.
Then the 8 people were brought together where they were taught that the contribution of the energy of life, in the creation of mankind, comes from IGWE. Meaning, IGWE is Head of the Holy Homestead in the sense he has the power to keep the homestead spiritually alive and functioning. This makes IGWE the Chief Administrator of mankind’s Affairs.
On the other hand, ALA makes the rules of moral conduct; especially as related to the earth, called the laws of the land. Thus is the authority of Umune. And IGWE enforces these laws, meaning he is also the judge, police and priest, as well as a warrior-protector, thus is the Authority of OFO.
But just as important, as far as the men and women are concerned, each of them asked questions about what concerns them as individuals, and received individual answers. Thus the 8 people not only learned about their roles as men and women, but also their roles as independent beings unto him or her self, even in their relationship with ALA and IGWE, their Creation Mother and Father.
When the food was prepared, ALA and IGWE invited the God AMADIOHA (the thunder and lightning God), ANYANWU (the sun God), EKWENSU (the Trickster God), and the Goddess of the Moon. All gathered in the Holy Market Place.
This was followed by the ceremony called the celebration of life which was performed in the Holy Market Place, where there was a big festival of music, dancing, singing, talking, trading, and everybody having a good time.
After observing how the Gods and Goddesses related to each other as equals and traded with each other, and all made a profit, the people learned the laws of social and economic relationships based on social equality and personal freedom.
Meanwhile, the 8 people Chose a Destiny to become a Wealthy Nation based on Family Values and Trade; and to that effect IGWE drew up the Contract as 7 Articles of Faith;
1. The Great Creator, CHINEKE, Created the Universe and all therein using Parts of HIM-HER-SELF; and is known as the God of Wealth.
2. The major members of the Holy Family, Those that concern people, consist of ALA, IGWE, ANYANWU, AMADIOHA, EKWENSU, and the Goddess of Mysteries (the Moon Goddess); Who CHINEKE bonded together with Laws of Social Equality and Personal Freedom.
3. CHINEKE, The Great Creator, created the Human Spirit who is given a personal Chosen Destiny; this Spirit-Destiny is called a Person's CHI (which means the same as the Yoruba's ORI).
4. The Earth Goddess and Rain God, ALA and IGWE, are Husband and Wife and people are their Created children.
5. Ancestor Worship is the guide in building a nation.
6. Divine Manners of Kinship and Trade are the guide in life.
7. Negotiation, based on this Contract, is the Path-way to Spiritual and Economic Success; Wealth.
When the people, and the Gods and Goddesses put their seal of approval on this destiny, it became a Holy Contract between the spiritual world and a human being.
After the approval of this contract, the 8 people left the Holy Market place and went out into the world and multiplied into the Igbo nation. This chosen destiny later became the foundation of their religious beliefs and social lifestyle.
When the people reached the outside (of heaven), they took the names of the values of IGWE and ALA.
For example, the 4 women took the names Determination, Fortitude, Peace, and Unity, the men took the names Justice, Truth, Trust, and Righteousness. They got married, and formed the original 4 Igbo couples and families.
When IGWE and ALA created the original 8 people, they were pure in body and spirit. Even when they left the holy homestead and went out into the world, they had pure marriages, built pure homesteads, and raised pure families. Which grew into 4 pure clan towns, with a pure market place, and therefore created a pure society. (Here, pure means, copying the Holy Family).
People lived in perfect harmony, trade was perfect, and they were living in the paradise of the wealth of a perfect society. All of which was based on the 12 relationships that constitute a family (we will deal with constitution of family later).
Then, as the Yoruba say, jealousy and greed turned the perfect and pure society upside down, and destroyed the perfect family relationships.
Well GrandKids, let me tell you, when old jealousy and greed hit town, it was like a hurricane, every thing of value in society was being destroyed at a very rapid rate of speed. The town was falling apart, the original 8 people were not effected, they were too pure.
Because the original 8 people were the oldest Elders in society, all of the people held a meeting presided over by them. This is how the Igbo’s first government came into reality, and here, the original eight people came up with a master plan.
Their plan called for each of the original 8 people to create a ritual to restore people to the purity of the 8 values of society. Since the original 8 people were taught by IGWE and ALA in the Holy Homestead, they knew something about the ritual process. This means, it was they who created all Igbo purification rituals for fighting jealousy and greed.
For example, on the male side Mr. Righteousness created the ritual to restore righteousness. Mr. Justice created the ritual to restore justice to society. Mr. Truth created the ritual to restore truth to society. And Mr. Trust created the ritual to restore trust to society.
On the female side, Miss Determination created the ritual to restore determination to society. Miss Peace created the ritual to restore peace to society. Miss Unity created the ritual to restore unity to society. And Miss Fortitude created the ritual to restore fortitude to society.
After which, the original 8 people returned to live with IGWE and ALA in the Holy Homestead. And from there they became Messengers between the people of the world and the spiritual world. So, Ancestor worship is the ritual relationship to one of these 8 values. (End of story)
Well Fellow Detectives this completes Grandpa’s little creation story on how the Igbo believe the universe and mankind was created, as far as Grandpa could put together from bits and pieces of information found here and there in a large number of books about the Igbo. But it is well known that Africans build their religious beliefs and social lifestyle from their creation story.