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Title page




Table of content





1.1 statement of problem

1.2 aims of study

1.3 limitations of study

1.4 scope of study

1.5 research methodology 

1.6 clarification of terms

1.7 the significance of study

End notes


2.1 the historical background of the igbos

2.2 the political background of the igbos

2.3 the economic life of the igbos

2.4 the socio-cultural life of the igbos

2.5 traditional religion of the igbos

End notes

Chapter three


3.1 the worship and sacrifice to beings in igbo cosmology

3.1.1 veneration of ancestors

3.1.2 veneration of diunities

3.1.3 spirits in igbo cosmology

3.2 sacred people in igbo liturgical system

3.3 sacrifice in igbo traditional religion

3.3.1 types of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion

3.4 elements of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion

Chapter four


4.1 functions of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion

4.2 negative aspect of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion

4.3 positive aspect of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion

4.4 significance of sacrifice to igbo traditional religion

4.4.1 economic significance

4.4.2 political significance

4.4.3 social significance

4.4.4 psychological significance

4.4.5 health

Chapter five


5.1 evaluation

5.2 recommendation for modern approach and sign post for further studies

5.2.1 recommendation on the practice of sacrifice

2.3 conclusion



Sacrifice is religion in practice, a means of expressing one’s intension to a divinity believed to exist. Sacrifice is seen in almost all human communities and religion. It definitely will have a role to play in these societies and religion. The igbo traditional society is the community of people who share igbo world views and institutions. This works is to know the significance of sacrificial acts system and society. There are changes in igbo society and traditional practices now more than ever, we need to study the igbo traditional society and the institution and also belief that held the society to get the best of new society in this society to get the best of the two world without completely losing our identity. This is the reason why the role of the sacrifice in igbo traditional religion and society should be studied, to help correct the false impression people have about Igbo sacrifice and learn the significance of sacrifice in the igbo traditional society.




One of the perenennial concern of human beings is the need for peace, prosperity, and harmony in society, where people can truly fulfil their God-given mission in life. In othe words, there is a human desire for an environment, where lifa can be honestly celebrated in its fullness even while waiting its final consummation. The African traditional believers in his search for the realisation f such a noble aim and desire has often identified sacrifice as a cordinal instrument of societal transformation.

Sacrifice is important to any religion and igbo traditional religion in particular. In every community, sacrifice is used as a means for the individual or society to commune with spiritual beings. In the igbo traditional society, we believe these beings have power to sustain and destroy, a good reciprocal relationship with them is beneficial to man making sacrifice important to the religious and social life of the igbos. Sacrifice is also used to counteract the powers of destruction and evil spirit. To understand the significance of sacrifice, one has to put into consideration the igbo cosmology, sacrificial types, rites, essence, purpose of sacrifice in igbo traditional society compared to other living religions and its future in the modern igbo society.


Today there are many misceptions about the concept of sacrifice in igbo society even among the igbos. An average igbo youth especially people who live outside the igbo traditional community develop their idea of sacrifice as evil, diabolic and human acts that should be done away with and practiced by evil people.

The igbos are often associated with the evil act of blood money, cannibalism, human sacrifice and osu discrimination. The problem is to know the real native of sacrifice in igbo society and its contribution in sustaining the igbo traditional society. In other to correct the misconception and portray sacrifice not only as an important religious liturgical act but also significant in the individual and the society in almost all spheres of life.


The motive of the study is to give a detailed account of the concept of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion with an analysis of the significance of sacrifice in igbo traditional religion. The study shall also cover the reasons, types and elements, to achieve this aim, one will be faced with challenges that may hinder the production of a perfect writeup


This study is limited to thorough penusal neither African or igbo concept of sacrifice has received adequate exposition, some authors are biased, use exaggeration, they do not define sacrifice from traditional igbo perspective. The diversity of igbo culture, although they share similarity in structure and culture as one people, sacrifice social rites and system may change within geographical areas.

Finance: In term of transportation cost hindered the development of this research work, the payment in other to get access to library and measures the cost going to different higher institution of learning in the areas of the study to get first hand information from the right source. Also some information demands payments for thei knowledge.

Time limitation: the time constraint makes it impossible to fully observe all the sacrifice and present a detailed work before deadline of submission. Also, some sacrifice in igbo society fixed, others done yearly or when circumstances arise.

Illiteracy: these practitioners finds it difficult to explain their works to the researcher and provide first hand information and analysis because they receive little or no education.

The attitude fo respondent has also been a limitation to this study, not all wants to openly discuss issues like sacrifice or igbo traditional religion, in fear of castigationalist of being called a traditionalist or pegan.

Morreso, the death of current literature in this area of research also constituted a limitation to the study. Irresopective of the aforementioned challenges, i will make the best use of the materials available to me to produce the best possible result.


The cultural area of study as defined by onwuejiogwu is a geographical area occupied by people whose culture exhibits a significant degree of similarity with each others in belief system, worship, economy, language and social institutions.

The study deals with the igbo society. The igbo are an ethic group of south-eastern Nigeria-they can be found in other African countries like cameroun Equatorial Guinea, as well as outside Africa. The exact population outside Africa is known, but today many African American and Afro Caribbean’s are of igbo descent. The igbo are divided into subgroups such as: Aniom, Aro, Edda, Ekpeye, Etche, Ezza, Ika, Ikwerre, Ikwo, Ishielu, Izzi, Mbiase, Mgbo, Ngwa, Nkalu, Nri-igbo, Ogba, Ohafia, Ohuhu, Omuma, Onitsha, Oratta, Ubani, Ukwani. These areas are distinguishes by apparent cultural feature and system.


In my choice of research methods, i will make use of personal (individual) interview as well as questionnaire in the collection of data.

Literary works, field studies oral literature and also the dictionary and encyclopaedia used for definition and clarification of terms. Newspapers observations would be used to know the social and public opinions. Also primary instruments like library materials and other documents would be used as research tools.


The followings concept shall be clarified for proper understanding of this work.

Though all researchers agree on the centrality and importance of sacrifice in the religious life and practices of African traditional peoples. Authors differs when it comes to the definition of sacrifice, though they do not necessarily always conflict each necessarily always conflict each other there we shall consider the different views on the definition of sacrifice.

The encyclopaedia of religion and ethics defines sacrifice as “a rite in the forfeited or destroyed, its object being to establish relations between a source of spiritual strength and one in need of such spiritual strength for the benefit of the latter. Its also seen as a means of establishing and maintaining good relationship between two worlds, the worlds of spiritual strength and spiritual weakness.

James has tried to defined sacrifice in terms of its purpose according to him as quoted by Awolalu, sacrifice involve the destruction of a victim for the purpose of maintaining or restoring a right relationship of man to the sacred order.

For Ted Nelson Adjakpey, writing about the Ghanian-Ewe, sacrifice is the act of offering something to deity as an expression and manifestation of one’s total dependence an that deity (James 1933) regards sacrifice as a means of giving life to have life. E.B. Taylor says sacrifice serves as a means of bribing the gods or paying homage to them the same way men pay homage to overlords.

Westermack sees sacrifice as a means of providing food for the gods to encourage them to be kind to men to bestow blessing and avert danger. This work will view sacrifice from the religious perspective to mean the giving of animate or inanimate object and internal devotion to spiritual being beloved to exist for a particular purpose, essence and forms of expression petition considering the igbo world view in particular which we sacrifice as a form of reciprocal relations with the divine.


The centrality of sacrifice and reconciliation is not only peculiar to African traditional religion alone but is observed in other religions. Before we now move to the understanding of reconciliation in African traditional religion, let me quickly note here that sacrifice is closely tied to reconciliation, in fact the two are bed fellows. Reconciliation can therefore be described as a situation in which a person accepts or realise his guilt for an offence against a deity and then undertakes to perform the prescribed rites of propitiating the offended deity as atonement for the sin.

In practical terms reconciliation is viewed in cultural traditions as peace and the return to a share of harmony, manifested in a person’s interior and exterior state of being and devoid of harsh or rough conditions living. In igbo tradition, sacrifices and reconciliation rites are directed towards the deities and in an indirect way, towards God.


The two terms have been used interchangeably, authors have opined that sacrifice is a form of ritual and offerings. Mbiti is of the opinion that sacrifice involves destruction of life to present the victim in part or whole to the spirit offering, on the other hands do not involve killing or destruction rather a form of presentation of valued objects as a token of love and devotion. In this work, sacrifice offering and reconciliation will be used interchangeably to avoid confusion.


They are as follows:

To provide a detailed igbo traditional concept of sacrifice.

To know the role of sacrifice in the society, giving recommendations and unbiased analysis

To distinguish the positive and negative aspect of sacrifice in the society and the individuals.

Also to know the roles of sacrifice to the contemporatly traditional igbo society.

1 M. A. Onwhejeogwu. The social Anthropology of Africa. (IbadanHeinemann educational books 1992) p.20

2. ogbaa kalu. Cultural harmony i igbo land. The world of man nadthe world of the sprites (google source) greenwood publishingp.106.

3. A.M Fabogune research method (Ibadan: latern books 2007)p.40

4. nacctimaals 

5. the encyclopaedia of religion and ethics.

6. J.O.Awolalu, varuba beliefs and sacrificial rites (landar: longman group limited 1979) p.92

7. t.nelson-adjakpey penance and sacrifice among the ghanian-ebe and their relivance in Christian religion. (topographia . ovimpica 1982) p111

8. e.o james, origin of sacrifice, (London 19933) p.256

9. e.a westermack: early beliefs and their social influence, (macmillian, London, 1932), p 98

10 e.b taylor: religion in primitive culture, (newyork harpers, vol 2)p 461.

11. j.s mbiti: the prayers of African religion (southamptan: the camelor press 1969) p.59

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