Deities in igboland: From myth to culture

July 14, 2023

It is only possible to discuss the origin of the Igbo people by discussing their culture, and religion. Like every other tribe, the Igbo tribe is shrouded in myths and rooted in religion. Many rituals and practises in Igboland involve the belief of spiritual beings. The practice or worship of deities like Anyanwu, Sun, Mmili, Water, Oku, Fire, and many more is still in existence. The culture or practice of the Igbo people, known as Odinala, is not considered separate from their religion.

The evolution of religion and adoption of Christianity among the Igbos has not completely erased the worship of deities. Knowingly and unknowingly, Igbo still uphold their deities through their surnames, market days, folktales and beliefs which are passed down from generation to generation. More than a myth, the worship and reverence of gods have become a culture and an indoctrination into a system of belief.  

This list of some Igbo deities reveals the reverence, submission, and devoutness of the Igbos towards their deities.


Chukwu is believed to be the creator of all things including the other gods.  This explains why he is also referred to as Chineke, the god that creates.  According to Igbos, Chukwu is all-powerful and all-knowing. It is believed that nothing can be hidden in the presence of Chukwu. Chukwu has no form and lives in the sky or heavens. The origin of Chukwu remains a mystery neither is he believed to have an end.


Ala is the goddess of the earth. She works closely with Chukwu to preserve all that he created. She must ensure the enforcement of all rules set by Chukwu. The Igbos are known for their farming and cultivation skills; hence the worship of Ala plays a significant role in their prosperity and harvest. Sacrifices are rendered to her during

planting and harvesting seasons.   Believed to be the mother of all, Ala is regarded as the wife of Amadioha.


Chi is a divinity, an interminable spirit representation of Chkwu, said to live in every human. Chi is also known as "The Great Spirit" because everyone’s Chi comes from Chukwu. The Igbo believe that the presence of Chi in every man makes him a partaker of divinity. The symbol of this could be a statue of Ikenga or a tree decorated to represent a person’s Chi. Chi is believed to be the most important deity after Chukwu and Ala. It is also believed that a person's Chi directs their path and tells them what to do, hence a person’s Chi is credited for his bad or good luck.


Amadioha means ‘free will of the people’ hence he tends to represent the will of his people. He is the god of thunder and lightning believed to be a gentle god who only gets violent when provoked. Also known as Kamalu, Kamanu, Kalu Akanu and Ofufe, he is regarded as the most popular god in Igboland. He speaks through thunder and strikes with lightning. It is believed that Amadioha's skin colour is red and his symbol is a white ram.


Ikenga the god of strength and war is regarded as one of the most powerful gods in Igboland. Ikenga is horned Alusi, and his name means "place of strength". In Igboland, Ikenga is mainly owned by men and women of great reputation. It comprises one's personal Chi, and Ndichie (his ancestors). Ikenga is a two-faced god of time, one face looking at the past and the other looking at the present.


As her name implies, the goddess of the sea and oceans is from Nnobi in Idemmili South local government, Anambra state. She is also known as Eke Mili "Python of the sea". When a baby is born, the Python pays a visit and crawls around the child harmlessly to

welcome the child. The killing of the python or Eke as it is called, is a taboo in areas where this belief is still upheld. The visitation of snakes in people's houses can mean different things whether good or bad.


Ekwensu is feared as much as Chukwu is respected. Ekwensu is the devil or Ajo Mmuo, Evil Spirit, as the Igbo calls him.  Ekwensu is the father of all sorcery, works with tricks and has a cunning personality. Ekwensu is also known as the god of war and is feared for his gruesome vengeance. It is believed that anyone who possesses Ekwensu can commit an evil act against Chukwu. Such inhuman acts as the Igbo believed can only be inspired by evil supernatural beings like Ekwensu and his partner Ogbunabali (the one that kills at night).


Anyanwu is the goddess of the sun, it means eyes of the sun or eyes of light. It is believed Anyanwu is "God's eyes" on earth as she sees the unseeable. The popular adage "Nothing can be hidden under the sun’, is rooted in the worship of Anyanwu.  Anyanwu is also the goddess of productivity, sound health and well-being of her people on earth. In Igboland Anyanwu is held in very high esteem, that's why some Igbos got their surname from her.  Anyanwu is still worshipped up to date.

Most of the popular festivals held to date in Igboland are held in honour and gratitude to the gods or deities. The New Yam Festival is widely celebrated even among Christians, and it is celebrated in honour of Ahiajoku, the yam God and Ala, the goddess of the earth. According to the folktales, during a time of great famine, Ibo or Igbo was once a man who was instructed by a spirit to sacrifice his son and daughter to save his family from starvation. Ibo’s son was Ahiajoku while his daughter was Ada. After killing his children, the spirit instructed Ibo to cut and bury their flesh. The story goes on to claim that the flesh of Ahiajoku germinated to produce yam while the flesh of Ada produced cocoyam. Hence the New Yam festival is celebrated at the end

of every rainy season, which is also the beginning of harvest, in honour of Ahiajoku, the yam god and Ada also known as Ala or Ani, the goddess of harvest.

In conclusion, Christianity may be the most dominant religion among the Igbos today, but some practices, beliefs and rituals of deities cannot be erased or replaced. The mode of worship of deities has evolved and is no longer carried out in shrines or with statues but the belief still rings through across all of Igbo land.


Isichei, Elizabeth Allo (1977). “Igbo worlds: an anthology of oral histories and historical descriptions”. Macmillan. pp. 27, 334.

Ogbuene, Chigekwu G. (1999). “The concept of man in Igbo myths”. Peter Lang. p. 207.

Omenuwa, Onyema (2007). TheWeek. Republished by Philip Emeagwali (2009). Igbo Festival: In Honour of New Yam.

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