IGBO ANCESTORS NEVER WORSHIPPED IDOLS
Nze Tobe Osigwe (Eze Ikolommụọ) took to his Facebook page to shed some light to the on the controversial topic everyone has always had in mind about Igbo ancestors and their worshipping of idols, here is what he said;
Overtime we have been made to believe that our ancestors were pagans who worshipped idols. By idols they mean carved woods. Like they say, what have eyes but cannot see, what have ears but cannot hear, what have mouth but cannot speak. This is a direct reference to carved Ikenga seen in an Igbo man’s Obi or carved Nkwu Muo seen in Igbo sacred temples.
Unfortunately, even I as onye Odinani (a traditional religion adherent) also make the mistake of saying we worship our ancestors (Ndi Ichie), our Chi and our clan power points.
I am writing this piece to correct this error which came from, one; language translation, two; from miseducation.
It was in one of my midnight classes with the unseen beings that Igbo ancestors explained to me why it is an insult to them to say they worshipped idols. They told me categorically that they never worshipped anything be it man or God(unseen forces). They told me that the right word to explain what they did with their Chi, Ezumezu, power points they created and the forces within the Cosmo was dialogue.
This teaching made me to quickly rush to the dictionary to see the meaning of the word worship. Merriam Webster dictionary gave these following definitions:
1: to honor or show reverence for as a divine being or supernatural power
2: to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion.
From the above definitions they asked me “why do Igbos mostly sit down and face whatever force they want to address?” They told me they did not kneel, lie down or bow down to any of the forces they dialogued with. If they did not show any extravagant respect to these forces how come we now accuse them of worshipping idols? They asked me “do you really sit down to talk to what you claim to honour?”
My teachers instructed me to tell their children that they should stop accusing them wrongly. That they were Gods, they couldn’t have worshipped their fellow Gods or Spirits.
They further directed me to dissect the Igbo word for what they did. These words were; Igo Muo or Igo Ofo ututu. I was asked if the word ‘Igo’ loosely translates to worship? The closest Igbo word that means worship is ‘ife’. They told me “anyi efero Muo, Muo ka anyi golu”.
This means once they sit before a force they dialogue with the force. If they sit in their Mpata in the morning, they dialogue with the forces in the universe, they dialogue with their departed ancestors, they dialogue with their personal Ezumezu, this is what Igo ofo ututu means.
They told me that if I understand these teaching then I will understand the reason behind the follow-come arrogance of an average Igbo man. They said, no true Igbo man can worship any force. Be it man or unseen being. They(Igbo) dialogue with you.
In conclusion, they told me ‘it is today Igbos that are doing what they never did. Present Ndi Igbo are the ones that worship foreign Gods, local Gods, man, ancestors, Chi, deities etc’.