Igbo People: Exploring the Nigerian Tribe’s Language, Culture and Religion

There have been several debates about the origins of Igbo people, but according to ancient shamanic records and narrations; The Igbo people originated from the place currently known as Igbo land. They are not a by-product of any empire or conquered civilizations. This has backings both in the aforementioned cosmology and archeological backings from several findings in present-day Igbo land, which we shall learn about in this article.

It is believed that before time and space, before the earth took its current form, there lived in the  First Star, a male and a female entity entwined in the same vessel. They are Chukwu and Komosu. Chukwu and Komosu were Male and Female yet living in one vessel. Chukwu had his Sacred Obi (his sacred “man cave”) in the first Star, where he manifested himself in his element, but Komosu was not allowed to go into that sacred Obi. But one day, out of Curiosity to find out what her counterpart was up to, Komosu peeped into the sacred Obi. Her action caused a great explosion and a split, and as such, she descended from the first Star into a void. As she descended into the void, her parts scattered all over the Void. Chukwu, in his sorrow, wept, and as he wept, his tears resurrected Komosu, and out of her, sprung the earth, her children(Igbo People) forests, and everything else that became the earth as it is.

Thus Chukwu manifested as Chi as he resurrected her and gave her a life force. Then Komosu Manifested into Eke as she became a creator because her children( Igbo people) and everything on earth was created out of her. This is the Cosmology of the Igbo Genesis according to the ancient shamanic narrations of the origin of the Igbo people.

Who are the Igbo people, and where are they from?

Also referred to as Ndi Igbo, the Igbo people originated from the lands known today as Igbo land, which is in the southeastern part of Nigeria, also known as the Bight of Biafra. There are no other factual records of the Igbo people originating from anywhere else, rather as it is the nature of Igbo people, they have spread and migrated from the present-day Igbo land to other places in the world. Currently, there are five major states referred to as Igbo land in Nigeria, and they are Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Abia, and Ebonyi. However, the Igbo people inhabit several parts of Rivers States, Delta, and even some parts of Benue.

Outside the country Nigeria, the Igbo People have been found in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, and Jamaica (Red Eboe). The Igbo language is also spoken in Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Belize, and Jamaica. The Igbo language heavily influences the Jamaican patois.

Archeological Backings Of The Origins Of The Igbo People

Several archeological findings on ancient historical sites back up the origins of Igbo people as being the original inhabitants of the area known as Igbo land/ Bight Of Biafra.

Stones from Ugwu Ele

Ugwu Ele:

Ugwu Ele, which translates to the Mountain Of The God Ele, is a community in Abia state Nigeria, which houses a Stone Age Civilization evidence of over 250,000 years ago. One of the oldest civilizations in the world. All the excavations carried out showed that the original inhabitants were Igbo people.


Lejja Iron Smelting:

For long, it was believed that Iron smelting started about 1500 years ago in Asia; however, carbon-dated iron slags from the Lejja community of Enugu state were over 2000 years ago. This has shown that the world’s oldest iron smelting site is in Igbo land and the iron smelters are Igbo people.

Igbo ukwu Torus

Igbo Ukwu Artifacts:

First Discovered in 1939 by a local inhabitant of the Igbo Ukwu area of Anambra state; the Igbo Ukwu bronze artifacts are the oldest in Africa; castes with sophistication and intricacy that supersedes the European bronze artifacts of contemporary casting. These artifacts date up to the 9th century and are the most intricate bronze castings ever made and especially of that time. Artifacts like the Igbo Ukwu Torus hold the knowledge of the ancient Igbo people on the Geometry of the universe.

Igbo People: Exploring the Nigerian Tribe’s Language, Culture and Religion
Uto Nsude Pyramids

Uto Nsude Pyramids:

Egypt and Sudan are known as the land of pyramids; however, there is a  discovery of Ten and Five stepped pyramids in Igbo land. How they were built is still a mystery, but local accounts say that they were built in honor of an Igbo God, Uto. These pyramids are very ancient are even said to be older than some of the Egyptian Pyramids.

Igbo People: Exploring the Nigerian Tribe’s Language, Culture and Religion
Ijele Masquerade

These and many more archeological findings have provided proof that the Igbo people have always inhabited the Bight Of Biafra. There is no evidence whatsoever that traces any joint Igbo and Hebrew origins. Igbo people were never Jews, Hebrews, or Israelites. These Igbo Hebrew theories are promulgated due to the increasing number of Igbo people converting to the Jewish religion. There are no other backings or evidence other than mere assumptions or theories of Igbos originating from Israelites. Rather, the Igbo culture and its influence have been felt in other cultures, which most likely learned it from the Igbo Nri Priesthood, who journeyed the ancient world.

Are Jamaicans Igbos?

From the early 18th century, Igbo people captured as slaves were shipped to Jamaica and Virginia, Jamaica being the most common stop for slave ships that departed from Igbo land/Bight Of Biafra. Due to this relatively large number of Igbo slaves in Jamaica, much of Jamaica’s evolved culture became heavily influenced by the original Igbo culture. Bear in mind that the original inhabitants of the land known as Jamaica in the Caribbeans are the people referred to as Red Indians.

However, after Europeans conquered the region and imported slaves from all over West Africa, Jamaica, and by large, the Caribbeans became a melting pot of several cultures, tribes, and people. And in Jamaica, a large number of them were from Igbo land. Due to the color of their skin, these Igbo slaves were referred to as Red Eboe/ Red Ibo; a term still used to date in Jamaica.

Influences Of Igbo language and Culture In Jamaica 

Due to the strong presence of Igbo slaves in Jamaica, there are several instances of the heavy influence of Igbo culture. Examples are:

The masquerade festival in Jamaica is known as junkanoo, which is part of the celebration of the new yam festival. The new yam festival is a major Igbo festival attributed to the God Of Yam, Njoku Ji.

Igbo People: Exploring the Nigerian Tribe’s Language, Culture and Religion
Igbo people of Jamaica

Jamaicans also practice pouring libations or offering libations just like the Igbo people do.
Some patois words derived from the Igbo language include:

Soso: Means “only” both in Igbo and patois.

Domot: Loosely and directly translated from the Igbo phrase Onu Uzo which means Door Mouth (Domot)

Unu: Means “you” or “you people” both in Igbo and patois

Chinch: Means “Bedbug” which is chinchi in Igbo

And so many other words in the Jamaican patois.

The Igbo Language

The language which the Igbo people speak is called the Igbo language. The Igbo language is a tonal language with several dialects. Igbo belongs to the major Kwa language of the Niger-Congo Language Family. Several linguistic and phonological studies have discovered that the Igbo language is an ancient language and cannot be said to have broken off from any other language; rather, there are other “Igboid” languages with their roots in the Igbo language.

Religion And Spirituality Of The Igbo People

Like all other parts of Africa, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were introduced by the Europeans and Arabs through colonialism or conquest. Presently, Christianity is the most widely practiced religion in Igbo land. There is a very minute population of Igbo people that are practicing Islam. Judaism has been introduced to Igbo land in recent years, and presently Jewish synagogues are being built in some Igbo states.

Some sacred Igbo sculptures

Also, several Igbo people are still practicing the aboriginal spirituality of Igbo land known as Odinani/Odinala, including the latest influx of new converts into the original Igbo spirituality in recent times. Odinani/Odinala is the aboriginal spirituality of the Igbo people. This spirituality is rooted in nature knowledge, and spiritual physics manifested through several deities in Igbo lands.

Deities In Igbo Land

Odinani is the spirituality of Igbo people, and the practice of the doctrines of Odinani/Odinala is known as Omenala. The aboriginal Igbo spirituality is shamanic, the belief in nature, physics, and metaphysics. There are thousands of Igbo deities that channel the various manifestations of the Odinani spirituality. Because we cannot mention all the Igbo deities, here are a few.

Igbo People: Exploring the Nigerian Tribe’s Language, Culture and Religion
Artistic depictions of some Igbo deities by Sirius Ugo Art


IDEMMILI:
The Pillars Of The Water Of Creation. Often also represented as a water Goddess. She appears in the form of a python.

Ele: The Infinite watcher of the universe.

Ikenga: The god of time, energy, and force.

Ogwugwu: The goddess of dark energy and fertility.

Njoku-Ji: The god of yam. Yam is a revered crop in Igbo land.

Arobinagu/Ahobinagu: god of agriculture, nature, ecosystem, and wildlife.

Ala: The Mother Goddess, Goddess Of The Earth, The Primordial Mother, And the goddess of nature and fertility.

Amadioha: The god Of thunder.

Amuma Igwe: goddess of lightning.

Urashi: god of the sea, oceans, and Magic.

Ekwensu: god of war (Ekwensu is not the Satan in Christianity).

Nnechukwu: The Source of the universe.

Nne Ete: The Goddess of crafts and weaving.

Nne Atu: The Goddess of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Chukwu: The Omnipotent and the Source.

Udo: The God of peace and the preserver.

Igbudu: The Destroyer, The Creator, and the Primordial Darkness.

Nneono: The Mother who existed before time and space.

Oma: The Goddess of the moon, purity, Morality.

The Culture Of The Igbo People And What They Are Known For

There are five original clans of Igbo people… every Igbo person is a descendant of one of those clans. These clans are Isu, Idu, Agbaja, Nri, and Oru. Each of these clans is known for special principles and peculiar customs. For Example, the Nri clan is the clan of Priesthood, the Agbaja clan spearhead farming, The Isu is the Iron smelters, the oru is the marine people, and the Idu clans being the warrior clan. This means that every part of Igbo land has customs that are very peculiar to them, according to their original ancestral clan.  However, Igbo land has general customs that make up the culture that Igbo people are known for. Such customs are;

The Spiritualization of the Kolanut.

There are no other people that revere the Kolanut. The Igbo people see Kolanut as the nut of the spirits and representing life. That’s why the Igbo people say, “he who brings Kola brings life.” The Igbo people use the Kolanut to pray to God and also call on their ancestors.

The Wine Carrying Marriage Ceremony.

The Igbo traditional marriage ceremony centers around the presentation of palm wine by the bride to the groom. Called the Igba Nkwu, the Igbo wine-carrying ceremony is a very outstanding culture of the Igbo people.

The New Yam Festival 

The New yam festival is the most widely celebrated Igbo festival. Every year, before the newly harvested yams, are consumed, the new yam festival is celebrated in honor of the gods of agriculture and yam.

The Four Sacred Market Days

Eke, Orie, Afor, and Nkwo are the sacred market days in Igbo land. Each day represents an element; Eke represents Fire, Orie-water, Afor-earth, and Nkwo representing air. Every occasion in Igboland is carefully calculated with these four days in mind. These four days are the weekdays of the Igbo people.

The 13 Month Calendar

The Igbo calendar is lunar. And consists of 13 months in contrast to the solar 12 months. All major events in Igbo land are calculated according to the lunar 13 months.

Masquerade Initiation Ceremony

In Igbo land, there is an initiation into the masquerade cult for young boys. It marks the beginning of adulthood for young boys and paves a transition from boyhood into manhood.

Igba Afa

Afa is the spiritual divination system of the Igbo people. It is the method in which Igbo shamans and seers seek answers from The Gods and Ancestors. The process of this divination is called “Igba Afa.”

Umu Ada and Umu Nna

The Igbo culture recognizes the balance of the place of both genders, and as such, the Umu ada tend to the affairs of the women, and the Umu nna tend to the affairs of men. Each of them playing a complementary role in keeping the customs and traditions of the Igbo people.

Uli, Nsibidi and Aka Agu

Uli On Walls

These are the writing systems of the ancient Igbo people. Whilst Uli is drawn on homes and the body (for beautification), Nsibidi and Aka Agu are used in recording events and important messages. These writing systems are cosmic and not ordinary. They all carry deep meanings.

Masquerade Festivals

Masquerades are regarded as spirits, and as such, there are festivals set aside to celebrate them.

Igbo People: Exploring the Nigerian Tribe’s Language, Culture and Religion

Despite the introduction of Christianity and other foreign religions, the aforementioned cultural practices in Igbo land are still widely practiced and have not changed much.

Political and economic influence

The Igbo People are widely known as business people. Their political and economic influence is rooted deep in the inborn commercial, marketing, and business prowess. Nobody doubts the abilities of the Igbo people when it comes to business, and that’s why they are found in all corners of the world. The Igbo people are the Major contributors to the Nigerian economy in terms of commercial activities.

As one of the most educated people, Igbo land also holds educational influence as southeast Nigeria is home to several tertiary institutions. The influence of the Igbo people in the area of business is recognized globally. The Igbo apprenticeship system has gained global recognition even at Harvard as a sustainable mode of wealth management and creation.

Despite the impact of the Biafran war, which set the whole Igbo land aback, and each Igbo family only had 20 pounds to their name after the Biafran War, which was barely about 5 decades ago, The Igbos have still risen as the most powerful group in terms of business and commercial activities. With investments strewn all over Nigeria, it is safe to say that the economic influence of the Igbo people is the key sustenance of Nigeria. In Entertainment, Nollywood was established by the advent of Igbo Home Videos, and even at present, much of what is known as Nollywood is controlled by Igbo people.

Although they have been confined in a mere number of 5 states, there is no important sector of Nigeria that you would not find a strong Igbo hold, and when it comes down to elections, the Igbo people contribute part of the highest numbers.

The influence of the Igbo people is spreading; even the struggle for the Republic of Biafra by the organization known as IPOB is recognized worldwide. There have been talks of an Igbo presidency in Nigeria. However, based on some public opinions, due to a certain “fear” of the Igbo people, the emergence of an Igbo Nigerian President is “carefully avoided.” But that has not deterred the Igbo people from wielding their influence despite being the most marginalized region in Nigeria due to the civil war and its aftermath.

The Igbo people of Nigeria are peculiar; their music (Highlife, Ogene), Dance, food, and cultural attires are easily identified. There is no case of mistaken identity when it comes to Igbo land and the Igbo people.

Ada
Ada is a Writer, professional actor for stage and film, TV/Radio host and a Mental Health Counselor.
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