TRADITIONAL WORSHIP SYSTEMS AMONG AGBAJA PEOPLE (A RELIGIO-HISTORICAL EXAMINATION)

TRADITIONAL WORSHIP SYSTEMS AMONG AGBAJA PEOPLE (A RELIGIO-HISTORICAL EXAMINATION)

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CHAPTER ONE

1.1 Background to the Study.

Man as an intellectual being has always questioned the origin, sustenance, and existence of the universe. In a like manner, these numerous questions on the mysteries of life have led to the discovery of religion, hence man is regarded as a homo religious. Unlike other religions namely; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that have (known) origins, African Traditional Religion has no one specific founder. Christianity for instance, according to the Bible in the second book of Luke popularly known as the Acts of Apostles, points to Antioch as the place of origin of the word “Christians. In other words Christ was the founder and the disciples were for first time called Christians in Acts 11:26. In the case of Islam, it was Mohammed who founded it. In this regard, Africans have no recorded founder (s) or initiator (s) of their religion. Yahwehism (Judaism) on the other side of the coin, according to Okwueze (1998:51) is suggested to be founded by Moses. African Religion is as old as the continent itself. This has contributed immensely to the nature of the religion with multivariate practices of this religion all over the continent. This idea was echoed by Arinze (1970) in his book, “sacrifice in Igbo


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Religion”. Arinze said this with regard to sacrifice but it is so in many aspects of the traditional religion. That is why there are a lot of variations from one smallest indivisible society of Africa to another. In this vein, Isichei (1977:13-14) posits that:

One should not neglect to mention the value of traditional religion...West African religion tend to hold that the Supreme God is benevolent but that he stays remote from affairs of men. It is therefore believed that worshippers should give most of their devotion to many lesser spirits… Because they did not write, their wisdom has usually died with them.

All things being equal, its concept of the divine ultimate or transcendent being revolves around the Belief in the Supreme Being, the Belief in Divinities, Belief in Spirits, Belief in Ancestors, and practice of Magic and Medicine (Ugwu and Ugwueye 2004:32-49), Idowu in Gbenda (2006:19), and Quarcoopome (1987:40-43). From this, we can understand the belief pattern of other nations or societies in Africa irrespective of their languages and cultures like the Igbo nation or society, and other sub-regions or sections within the Igbo world like the Agbaja people of Enugu State.

According to Ogugua (2005:68), “between the Supreme Being and man is a region inhabited by spirits. Onunwa


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(2005:35) places African Traditional Religion (human being), in a triangular form with man at the center where God (the Supreme Being) is at the apex, divinities and spiritual forces occupy other two sides of the isosceles triangle, and the ancestors are at the base.

GOD

DIVINITIES

SPIRITUAL FORCES

MAN

MAN

ANCESTORS

These writers tell us man’s relationship with the spiritual world. According to Abanuka (2004:5) there exists in Igbo Religion, symbols as Chi (reality); belief in Supreme Being (Chukwu), and gods (arusi/agbara) such as Anyanwu (sun god), Ala (earth goddess), Agwu (god of medicine and healing), Ahiajioku (god of yam), and Ikenga (god of achievement and success in life). He never kept aside the belief in ancestors (ndi-ichie/ndebunze). Ifesieh (1989:25-41) while treating the Igbo perception of the world which has religious bearing, relates the people’s belief in celestial/semi-celestial sphere: the sky (Igwe) star (kpakpando), sun (anyanwu) etc, as abode of Supreme God (Chineke), the


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‘Earth’ addressed as (mother of fertility) the mother and rituals. They say it (land) is a free gift from Chineke, the creator of man,

Onyinye Chukwu; spiritual significance are also given to trees

like the Ofo tree, Ogbu tree etc, mountains-Ugwu, rivers, irrational animals like mmuo okuko spirit of fowl, mmuo anu ofia-spirit of wild animals etc, spirit of family/kinship-mmuo uno or spirit of the house (domestic) etc. He calls all these spirits Igbo-four-arch-spirits, and the individual spirits-Ancestors (Nna Anyifa). Onuh (1992:21-28) views them thus: “Belief in Supreme God, Belief in Minor Deities namely the Sun Deity-Anyanwu, sky or Thunder Deity-Igwe or Amadioha, and the Earth goddess-Ala, the Belief in Ancestral veneration, and the Belief in Evil Spirits and Forces-Arusi.”. Madu (1997:5f) categorizes Igbo spiritual beings based on their vital ranks as follows:

...first, the Supreme Being (Chukwu, Chineke), The creator, second the Deities (mmuo) which include (a) Anyanwu-Lord of life and light, (b) Ala-the earth goddess mother of life and queen of morality (c) Amadioha-God’s orderly and agent of instant justice,

(d)    Muo-mmiri the divinely appointed temptress, (e) Ahiajioku-lord of agriculture, and (g) Agwu-nsi-lord of divination and healing. Third in his ranking is the spirit forces (Arusi/Alusi), fourth is the Ancestors (Ndichie), fifth is the medicine (Ogwu)


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Having seen these Igbo belief patterns, we ought to see in this work how the traditional Agbaja people as part of Igbo people pay reverence to some or all of those spiritual beings in form of worship from the past to the present. This is because this research is worried with the nomenclature given to the reverence Igbo (Agbaja) pay to the supernatural beings in form of worship from time immemorial. They are often misunderstood to have believed in some things barbaric, devilish, and heathen and of no value. They say traditionalist bow-down to man-made images and objects. On this background, there exists the need to address this worry.

1.2 Statement of Problem.

Worship is a very common language in religious studies or theology. Every religion has its systems of worship. The Nigerian foreign religions namely Christianity and Islam have their ways of worship and designated terminologies. In Christianity, they have different names for it namely services, mass, fellowship, litany, station of the cross, crusade etc, the Muslims have their “raka,” Jihad etc, formally organized liturgy.



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