Confusing Junction: The Fate of African Beliefs, East of Niger


For the Yoruba, the kola nut is a cash crop, an economic fruit and a source of income, for the Hausa it is an edible fruit, a delicious organic snack with sedative/recreational properties. But for the Igbo, the kola nut is an object of reverence, an organic ancestral relic with libation potential; an oblation offered to strengthen the communion between man and his Chi –an acceptable element of divine appellation. It is also a community fruit, the consumption of which promotes social unity between peoples.

She was held in such high esteem that it constitutes a customary aberration in Igbo land, to roughly handle kola nuts. It is abnormal to nibble on it with a careless attitude, or simply to consume it without showing some sense of the sacred, or pronouncing formal blessings, and invoking ancestral consent, whether in private or in public.

According to the spirit of the great playwright Ola Rotimi, “the cola nut lasts longer in the mouths of those who appreciate it”. For the majority of Africans, the bush rabbit (ewi) is a good source of protein in the diet.

But for a Nnewi from Anambra State, it is a sacred vicarious animal worshiped by the deity Édò (the ancestral deity of communal protection of the Nnewi people). It is against the custom of the country to kill him or even to treat him lightly. If, by accident, one kills a bush rabbit, one is bound by tradition to grant it a full funeral rite, to appease the gods.

The same goes for other cold-blooded wild animals such as reptiles – pythons, vipers (in many towns of Anambra), monkeys (in the case of the Oji River dwellers in the state of ‘Enugu) among many other communities in the southeast.

Some avoid certain species of animals, such as nocturnal creatures (owls, bats, chameleon, tortoise, etc.), due to their belief that they are impure/impure, and therefore even their sounds or sights represent a bad omen, while others do. even out of traditional religious piety.

This was not a patent of African Traditional Religion (ATR) alone, it was also a common practice among adherents of the Judaic religion (Lev. 11:1-48) in ancient Palestine, but when Christ came, he purified that belief system. , and enlightened them as to what should inform the conduct of their faith (Acts 10:9-15).

For a typical Fulani, cattle are a valued agricultural asset, valuable livestock, an economical agricultural product and a source of income.

But for African traditional religionists of Igbo descent (especially the northern Igbo provinces, e.g. Nsukka), cattle, especially the stunted-horned N’dama (Efi Igbo) cattle, are a sacrificial victim for the rest of the soul of the dead. You cannot claim to have arranged a proper burial/burial ceremony for your loved one without sacrificing cattle as a libation for his soul’s final transition to spiritual draft among his ancestors, in the lower realms.

Once purchased for this purpose, cattle are revered, honored, treated with solemn rituals for the welfare of the soul of the deceased.

So, you see, it is either a matter of perception, culture, or strict belief system, to accord a particular organism (plant or animal) reverence as an object of spiritual appellation.

Why the hell is there chaos between indigenous traditions and Christianity?

In Nsukka, for example, Catholics believe (like any other faithful Christian) that Christ is the sacrificial victim who guarantees the rest of the souls of his dead, so the cattle used in funeral rites are mere meat, a diet protein.

This sacrifice which Christ offered by using himself once for all (Heb. 10:1-18) replaced the old covenant sacrifices of the burnt offering; and it is reconstituted in every Holy Mass (1cor. 11:26). The precious blood of Christ and not the blood of cows saves.

Those who do not adhere to this belief but pass themselves off as Catholics (lukewarm Christians) betray their own faith and scandalize that of their Christian brothers faithful to their vocation.

They engage in syncretism (mixing elements of ATR and Christian religion). During the funeral rites, they will procure two cows, one for the ATR practices and one for the Christian community.

In Nnewi Diocese, Bishop Emeritus Odili Okeke in his various apostolic letters urged his people to avoid mixing elements of traditional principles with their Christian beliefs. “For you who are baptized and who keep the faith transmitted by Christ, the bush rabbit is a good source of protein. God of Jesus Christ protects you, not the Edò deity, so eat rabbits as you would other foods,” the Lord Bishop wrote.

If you believe in a religion, fully respect its teachings and allow those who do not believe in it to live their lives as they see fit, as long as this does not infringe on your rights.

Take a careful study of the interfaith clashes between ATR adherents and Christians in the Southeast, and you will see that it is the hypocrites among them who are causing trouble.

As captured earlier, some Catholic “Nicodemus” would buy two cows to celebrate the funerals of their loved ones, so while the church takes one as mere meat, the ATR will take the other in accordance with their religious rituals. They avoid hurting the sensitivity of the other.

Syncretism is just a word – an ungodly way out in any religious system.

Mixing elements of two religious beliefs is outrageous. It shows how superficial a person’s faith is, in what one claims to believe.

These guys confuse the beliefs of two separate religions. One uses the cow as simple meat, while the other as a sacrificial victim of intercession for the dead; a sine qua non for the rest of the souls of their dead.

This is why, the Diocesan Synod of Nsukka, has come to the decision that Christians are advised to use conventional horned cows for funeral ceremonies instead of the native N’dama (Efi Igbo) cattle that followers of the ATR usually use. Or they’d better use another prime cattle to avoid scandal.

Another important point is that this is a strict Christian belief that “it is appointed for man to die once, and after death judgment.” (Heb 9:27). Funeral ceremonies add next to nothing to a Christian’s eternal destination. The suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was enough.

Unlike a typical ATR devotee, who would consult the services of soothsayers or fortune tellers to find out how or why misfortunes linger his way, and would likely be told that his father’s soul does not rest in the ancestral realm , because he still owes him a dignified funeral and a cow! And unless that is realized, it will continue to wreak havoc on the family. That is to say, the temporal works will continue to visit him until he performs the funeral rituals, in retrospect.

Therefore, these two systems of faith are worlds apart in this regard; each with defined principles regarding burial/funeral.

In the end, what you believe in may be a little more important than how you profess and carry on with what you believe in.

Religious beliefs can limit one’s psycho-social complex only when one fixes one’s loyalty to a confused junction between two or more religions.

Know your faith and what it dictates.

May the light of day spare us!
Eze writes via+2348099062006 (WhatsApp/Sms)[email protected]


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