Remy Ilona’s position on Monotheism in Igbo Culture
If we are not completely satisfied that asusu Igbo does not give us incontrovertible evidence that ndi Igbo hadn’t other gods, we can try to find out if the Igbos actually have other gods beside Chi-ukwu (Chukwu) Who is also addressed as Chi-neke with other tools.
We can try to look for the ‘gods’ themselves in Igboland. I tried to find them, and till date they have remained elusive. The things that many Igbo believe that they are also the gods of the Igbos never stood for deities to our fathers when they practiced pure Omenana. John Munonye referred to the ofo as a god in his masterpiece “The Only Son”. He referred to one of the Igbo symbols of authority (much like the popes mitre) as a god because that was what he heard the missionaries who (mis)educated the Igbos calling it. Most Igbos of this generation and the ones before them, completely disconnected from Omenana, who read the book believed that the ofo was/is actually a god.
In my parts the ikenga stood for a staff of strength . I never heard that it was/is regarded as a god by any Igbo people.
Some Igbo writers have repeatedly written about the ‘earth goddess’. I have heard also that some Igbos have a goddess called ana. If you consider the Igbo religion carefully you’ll understand why and how the Igbos can see (if not create) a god called the earth goddess. In authentic Omenana when the Igbos refer to the relationship between the Igbo person and ana, the ana that they mean is certainly and categorically not the ground or the earth, but the land/country/society/community. When Sir Warrior said ala Owerri he didn’t mean the earth or ground of Owerri, but Owerri as a community. When we say the Land of Israel we mean the country, society of Israel.
We know what happens to people who violate certain norms. For example when we were governed by the rules of Omenana, if an Igboman inadvertently slew a kinsman he had to flee from the clan, because he had transgressed the rules of the land/clan, and not because he had offended the earth/ground. Its not beyond clever charlatans to misinterpret and exploit this fear of offending the land/clan, and create a god called the earth goddess out of this mistaken understanding of our culture.
Another tool that we can, and should rely on is Jewish Studies. Decades ago G.T .Basden advised his fellow missionaries that came to work among the Igbos to familiarize themselves with Judaism. We can’t say that many Igbos have tried to use this tool, because factors ranging from lack of awareness, afro-centrism, anti-semitism, racism, have combined to make most Igbos to be unaware that Jewish Studies remain the only reliable primer for Igbo Studies.
However as there is growing unanimity in the positions of the two groups which hold divergent opinions on the origins of the Igbos with Professor Catherine Acholonu’s unequivocal declaration in this Igboville that she believes that the Jews are blood relatives of the Igbos, we can be optimistic that we can begin to plumb into the very rich trove of Jewish Studies to know more about the Igbos.
What do the Jews think of the notion that other gods, besides YHWH (mistranslated in English as Jehovah) and acknowledged by Jews, Christians and Moslems as the Supreme Being, exist? Israel saw it as extreme foolishness for one to believe that things created by the Creator or things formed by the hands of men can be viewed as gods. But Israel was aware even in very ancient times that among the other nations that there was the belief that gods other than the God of Israel; the God that much of humanity has come to accept as the One True God, exist.