Sacred places and things in Igbo traditional religion


In Igbo traditional religion, there are certain places and things that are considered highly sacred. These “sacred” places or things could either be a piece of land, a certain kind of animal, specific water bodies, masquerades etc.

The specific places or things we, Igbos, consider sacred in our traditional religion are relative to particular communities. Here’s what I mean; what is considered sacred in Ogidi community may not be held in sacredness at Abakaliki. Hence, we, Igbos, have saying that goes: “Ihe ndi na-eri, ka ndi na-aso,” which literally translates into “what some eat, others consider sacred.Igbo traditional religion

However, whatsoever a particular Igbo community considers sacred in Igbo traditional religion has a very significant and interesting story behind it which has informed the adoption of that belief. For instance, in Agulu community, crocodiles are considered sacred and should not be hunted for any reason, because Agulu people believe crocodiles were messengers of Chukwu sent to protect the people from attacks emanating from enemy communities.

Now, let us considered some category of things we, Igbos, consider sacred in our traditional religion.

    Some animals we regard as sacred in Igbo traditional religion include; tortoise, monkey, python, fish, crocodile etc. As we have noted earlier, it is not every one of these animals that are regarded sacred in every community in Igboland. An animal that may be sacred here may not be sacred there. Let’s take Awka community as an example. Igbos who hail from Awka hold the monkey as sacred, because they believe it is an animal that is owned by their traditional deity – Imooka. Whereas, Igbos who hail from Nimo consider the monkey as “ordinary” and rear it as pet or, for commercial purpose.
  • TREES:
    In every community in Igboland, you are bound to see certain trees that are condoned off with either red or white cloth indicating that members of the community consider such trees sacred. The kinds of trees you’ll find condoned off in such a manner could either be ogirisi, ofo, oji, udara, and akpu These kinds of trees have huge significance in Igbo traditional religion. For instance; ogirisi and ofo are highly respected as sacred, because they are used for spiritual purposes such as; taming insanity, offering sacrifices to the gods, sealing judicial decisions, blessing and cursing people.
    All over Igboland, masquerades are considered sacred and holy. They are highly respected, and women are not allowed to enjoy close proximity with them because we, Igbos, in our traditional religion, assume masquerades are visitors from the spiritual world who are sent carry out a mission on earth.
  • OSU:
    Osu are people who have been considered servants of any of the traditional deities we have in Igboland, and as such, these people are considered as sacred persons who should not be hurt, injured or murdered for any reason. Please note; it is not the individual osu that is revered but the deity he or she belongs to and serves.
    We, Igbos, in all our communities, have certain places we consider sacred points in line with our general wish. For instance; places considered as shrines or, forests of particular deities are considered sacred places. And, most often, women are not allowed full access to these places.
    In Igbo traditional religion, a sacred water body could be a lake, river or, stream which has been generally accepted as belonging to a specific deity. Such sacred water bodies are points of spiritual activities. For instance; rivers Njaaba in Imo state, Idemmili in Obosi, Ngene in Amawbia, Edem in Ezira, Agulu lake in Agulu etc are all considered sacred water bodies in Igbo traditional religion.

Written by Dunu Okigbo


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