What is the religion of the Igbo tribe?

Last Updated on May 18, 2023

the religion of the Igbo tribe

The traditional religion of the Igbo people is predicated on the idea that there is a single creator, often known as Chineke or Chukwu. The god of thunder (Amadioha) is the most famous example of how other gods and spirits that take the appearance of natural objects might communicate with the creator.

There is also the notion that ancestors oversee rain, harvest, health, and children while guarding their present offspring. Tableaux of painted soil can be found inside the shrines, known as Mbari, which are built in honour of the earth spirit. Other sanctuaries maintain wooden statues of their patrons and ancestors. The evidence of these shrines, oracles, and traditional priests in the villages still emphasise people’s beliefs, even though Christianity has assumed a more predominant position in contemporary Igboland due to the impact of the west.

Today, Enugu State is home to several churches, mosques, and places of worship for traditional religions. There is no animosity among the followers of the various religions in the state, which is predominately made up of Christians (although others say that Igbos are sprung from Israelites).

In Enugu, there are roughly equally as many catholic and protestant churches. The Holy Ghost Cathedral is located in the city near Ogbete Main Market, and Nsukka is home to the other catholic cathedral in Enugu State. As a result of their strict attendance rules, the majority of people find it difficult to accept the presence of “free thinkers,” or those who do not identify with any one religion.

Igbo Jews

Members of the Jewish Igbo community claim they are descended from Jews who travelled to western Africa over a long period of time by travelling through North Africa and as far south as sub-Saharan Africa, probably following the route of the Arab conquests.

Some Nigerian Jews believe that some of the families in the community are descended from the Jewish priests and their servants known as Kohanim and Levites, who lived in West Africa during the reigns of the Songhai, Mali, and Ghana empires and served in the Temple of Jerusalem.

Native religious beliefs

The Igbo follow the retributive justice principles of Ofo and Ogu. These principles defend the innocent, provided “his hands are clean”. Only supporters of Ogu-na-Ofo can invoke it in prayer, else they risk angering Amadioha, the thunder and lightning god.

The Igbo believe that a personal god, or Chi, determines each person’s fortune or misfortune, a belief linked to redistributive justice.

Beyond the natural universe, the Igbo perceive the alusi, a realm inhabited by spiritual energies. These lesser gods can bring good or evil, contingent on the situation.

They punish both social transgressions and inadvertent god-privilege violations. Diviners can interact with this spiritual plane and interpret the alusi’s wishes.

The clergy also communicate with the alusi, appeasing them with sacrifices. A priest may be chosen through ancestral lineage or selected by a particular god, usually after several mystical experiences.


Due to the notion that minor deities may be used to manipulate larger deities in order to defend and advance the interests of the populace, minor deities claimed a significant portion of peoples’ everyday lives. Among the most typical ones are Amadioha, the god of thunder, Ala, the goddess of the earth who represents both human fertility and agricultural productivity. The sky god, Igwe. However, unlike the rain-makers, who made rain their full-time job, this god is not prayed to for rain. Imo miri, the river’s spirit. Fishing is prohibited in large rivers that the Igbo consider to be deified because of their spiritual significance. The spirit of wealth is Mbatuku. Agwo is a spirit that is always in need of servants and is envious of others’ wealth. The yam spirit, Aha njuku or Ifejioku. Ikoro, the drum spirit and Ekwu, the hearth spirit, which is a woman’s domestic spirit.

Amadioha, the Igbo god of thunder

Amadioha, the thunder god, manifests the Supreme Being’s wrath. He symbolizes a thunderbolt or meteorite, used to punish the wicked.

Amadioha falls under the war deities category, often depicted in the Mbari house as a man wielding a rifle. Various Nigerian ethnic groups, including the Igbo, recognize battle or thunder gods with regional names such as Sokogba, Ogiuwu, Eto, Itiri, Egba, Sango, Jakuta, and Oramfe.

Igbo people believe Amadioha wields immense military power, earning the title “General” of Igboland’s deities. They also view him as a military strategist and weapon bearer.

“Omuma igwe” (Lightning), linked to Amadioha, signals impending disaster or divine wrath. To avoid harm, locals steer clear of its tracks. They believe “Egbe elu-igwe” (thunder), Amadioha’s messenger, destroys evildoers, their homes, and trees concealing harmful substances.

Sometimes, thunder strikes down malevolent individuals importing deadly charms and poisons to harm others over disputes. Many farmlands also suffer from thunder damage due to buried malicious charms.

The Igbos revered and worshipped Amadioha for protection and victory during ancestral times of inter-tribal warfare. This practice remains prevalent across the former Owerri province and its surroundings, maintaining his legacy.

Modern Religion

Traditional Igbo religion is still practised by certain Igbo. Due to the heavy presence of missionaries in Nigeria, the Igbo have mostly become Christians; yet, indigenous belief systems still have a significant impact, especially in suburban and rural villages. Like the majority of Christianized peoples, the Igbos deemphasized the origins of many indigenous values, practices, and traditions in favour of incorporating them into their own systems of Christian worship. The majority of Igbo Christians identify as Catholics.

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