by Onyi Anyiwo The spiritual system of Ndi Igbo (the Igbo people) is one of the oldest on Earth. The roots of Igbo spirituality is the same as the roots of every other African one; that is, in Africa. Igbo spirituality predates Islam, Christianity, Judaism and every other -ism that one can think of. If there are any similarities between the traditional practices of the Igbo and those of other religions, it is because they were borrowed from our ancestors, and not the other way around. The ancient spirituality of the Ndi Igbo, like most other traditional African spiritual systems, has been misunderstood and demonized unjustly. Evangelical churches, with the help of Nollywood movies, have helped to paint a negative picture of traditional Igbo spirituality that dates back to the arrival of the Europeans in Alaigbo (Igboland). It is quite unfortunate that most of the people who condemn Igbo spirituality do not know much about it, and base their most of their information from the lies of the very same people who wanted to destroy it and everything about our culture. While all the misconceptions about the traditional practices cannot be corrected in one article, this introduction to Igbo Spirituality will help clear a few things up. The basis of Igbo Spirituality is the concept of “Chi.” Similar to the “Ori” of the Yoruba, and the “Ka” of Ancient Egyptians, Chi was the fundamental force of creation. Everyone and everything has a Chi. Ndi Igbo, like other Africans, worshiped one Creator, who is known by many names: Obasi Dielu (The Supreme God), Chi di ebere (God the merciful), Odenigwe (The Ruler of Heavens), etc. The two most popular names for Supreme Being used in Alaigbo were Chukwu and Chineke. The dominant name, Chukwu, which is a combination of the Igbo words “Chi” and “Ukwu”, literally means “The Big Chi”, and shows that Igbos believed that the Supreme Being was omnipresent and all-pervading. Chineke, which most people translate as “God the Creator” actually has a deeper meaning. Chi is the masculine aspect of God and Eke is the feminine aspect. Ndi Igbo knew that it took male and female to create life, so the Creator of everything would have to encompass both parts. Because Ndi Igbo believed that everything in it had a chi, they also gave names to the Chi found in nature (the Alusi). The Alusi of the sky was known as Igwe. The Alusi of the yams (the most important crop of Ndi Igbo) was called Ahiajoku. The Alusi of the Sun was called Anyanwu. The most important of the forces of Nature was Ani, which was the feminine force that presided over the Earth. The Alusi were not limited to natural forces; metaphysical and supernatural forces and principles also had their own names and attributes. Ikenga was the Alusi of strength and Agwu was the Alusi of wisdom and healing. Each Alusi had its invididual personality and function, but they all were still parts of Chukwu. The Ndiichie (esteemed ancestor spirits) also held a high place in traditional Igbo society. Elders have always been revered in Igbo society, and even more so after they passed onto Be Mmuo (the land of the spirits). The Nddichie would often be consulted to offer advice to their descendants and appeal to the Alusi on their behalf. Ndi Igbo have never worshiped their ancestors, only venerated them, which is no different then what Catholics do to their saints or what every country does to its national heroes. Respect and honor for the Nddichie was shown in one way by pouring of libations while chanting incantations. Ndi Igbo believed in the concept of reincarnation, and felt that the Nddiichie often reincarnated back on Earth. In fact, all Mmadu (human beings) were believed to reincarnate seven or eight times, and that depending on your karma, one either ascends or descends into another spiritual plane. The personal relationship between God and Man in Igbo spirituality is as close as it can get. Ndi Igbo did not believe that they were separate from their Creator, and felt that the Chi that resided within them kept them connected. Igbo felt that their Chi was unique and personal and served as a guide and protector to them. A person’s destiny was also guided by their Chi. Those with a strong Chi would have prosperity, good health and good fortune, while those with a weak Chi would be prone to sickness, poverty and bad luck. Even though the Igbo are largely Christian now, their traditional spiritual beliefs still live on. Along with these beliefs, a fundamental part of Igbo philosophy was “Biri Ka'm Biri” (live and let live). Ndi Igbo did not believe in fighting wars over religion. In their view, everybody should be able to worship God as they see fit. If there is any lesson from Igbo spirituality that we must not forget, it is this one.