The Concepts Of Sacrifice In The Igbo Land Traditional Religion

Project and Seminar Material for Philosophy

The Concepts Of Sacrifice In The Igbo Land Traditional Religion


Abstract


Throughout the world, many adherents of different religious traditions still believe, especially in times of crisis, in the effectiveness of traditional religious sacrifices designed to meet their diverse needs. This study is a literary survey of the opinions of foremost anthropologists on the phenomenology of sacrifice. It reveals that sacrifice is a complex phenomenon that has been universally found in the earliest known forms of worship and that an offering does not become a sacrifice until a real change has been effected in the visible gift by slaying it, shedding its blood, burning it or pouring it out. The paper proposes that as the meaning and importance of sacrifice cannot be established by a priori methods, every admissible theory of sacrifice must shape itself in accordance with the sacrificial systems of each religious tradition.


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.1 Background Of Study

Dopamu (1985), argues that ever before the Europeans found themselves in Africa, Africans had their ways of life regarding their cultures, religious beliefs and practices, medical systems and other areas of life… He equally submit that even till today when the whole of Africa has equally been infiltrated by western culture and systems, the fact remains that African age old systems still persist enduringly (Dopamu 1985). In similar but different dimension Olupona (1990), opines that the nature of sacrifice cum ritual and its place in any belief system has always been a central theme of discussion among many scholars especially historians of religion. Mary Douglas, a British anthropologist, describes ritual as a viable means of communication (Douglas 1970). While another anthropologist Victor Turner described sacrifice as formal behavior prescribed for occasions not given over to technological routine that have reference to belief in mystical beings or power (Turner 1967).

According to Anyanwu (1999), the African, just like any other person easily perceives his imperfection, having seen the mysteries embedded in the world, the world order, and perhaps its hostile nature in human. Consequently, the idea of a supreme being who is responsible for the wonders of creation and the world order as a whole was concerned. Phenomena like; birth, life, death, day and right, natural disasters, rain and sunshine, are all enigmative to the human mind, since he cannot provide anysacrifice explanation to them. This is the origin of African traditional religion, which professes the existence of this Supreme Being, whom man tries to reach through the intermediaries of lesser deities and ancestors.

For Metu (1988), African Traditional religion is strictly linked with rituals, which are expressed in sacrifice, since it is only in sacrifice that the Supreme Being is reached and the gods and lesser divinities, appeased for man’s peaceful existence in the world. Ritual sacrifices, therefore are performed for purification, oath taking, prayer, medicine, cure or healing, increased fertility, defeat of enemies, changing of peoples destinies, warding off evil, revealing the future and so on sacrifices are also offered during festivals, and consecration of the living. Awolalu and Dopamu (1979), identify seven categories of sacrifice to include; meal and drink offering, thanksgiving or gift offering, votive offering, propitiation or expiation offering, substitutionary sacrifices or offering, preventive and foundation sacrifice.

Sacrifice is important to any religion and igbo traditional religion in particular. In every community, sacrifice is used as a means for the individual or society to commune with spiritual beings. In the igbo traditional society, we believe these beings have power to sustain and destroy, a good reciprocal relationship with them is beneficial to man making sacrifice important to the religious and social life of the igbos. Sacrifice is also used to counteract the powers of destruction and evil spirit. To understand the significance of sacrifice, one has to put into consideration the igbo cosmology, sacrificial types, rites, essence, purpose of sacrifice in igbo traditional society compared to other living religions and its future in the modern igbo society.


1.2 Statement Of Problems

Today there are many misceptions about the concept of sacrifice in igbo society even among the igbos. An average igbo youth especially people who live outside the igbo traditional community develop their idea of sacrifice as evil, diabolic and human acts that should be done away with and practiced by evil people. The igbos are often associated with the evil act of blood money, cannibalism, human sacrifice and osu discrimination. The problem is to know the real native of sacrifice in igbo society and its contribution in sustaining the igbo traditional society. In other to correct the misconception and portray sacrifice not only as an important religious liturgical act but also significant in the individual and the society in almost all spheres of life.


1.3 Aims Of Study

The main aim of this study is to investigate the concepts of sacrifice in the igbo land traditional religion, Nigeria.


1.4 Limitations Of Study

There is no study undertaken by a researcher that is perfect. The imperfection of any research is always due to some factors negatively affecting a researcher in the course of carrying out research. Therefore, time constraint has shown no mercy to the research. The limited time has to be shared among many alternative uses, which includes reading, attending lectures and writing of this research, also distance and its attendant costs of travelling to obtain information which may enhance the writing of this study was a major limitation.


1.5 Scope Of Study

This study concerns about the concepts of sacrifice in the igbo land traditional religion, Nigeria.


1.6 Research Methodology

In this study, the researcher will make use of personal (individual) interview as well as questionnaire in the collection of data. Literary works, field studies oral literature and also the dictionary and encyclopaedia used for definition and clarification of terms. Newspapers observations would be used to know the social and public opinions. Also primary instruments like library materials and other documents would be used as research tools.


1.7 Clarification Of Terms

The followings concept shall be clarified for proper understanding of this work. Though all researchers agree on the centrality and importance of sacrifice in the religious life and practices of African traditional peoples. Authors differs when it comes to the definition of sacrifice, though they do not necessarily always conflict each necessarily always conflict each other there we shall consider the different views on the definition of sacrifice. The encyclopaedia of religion and ethics defines sacrifice as “a rite in the forfeited or destroyed, its object being to establish relations between a source of spiritual strength and one in need of such spiritual strength for the benefit of the latter. Its also seen as a means of establishing and maintaining good relationship between two worlds, the worlds of spiritual strength and spiritual weakness.James has tried to defined sacrifice in terms of its purpose according to him as quoted by Awolalu, sacrifice involve the destruction of a victim for the purpose of maintaining or restoring a right relationship of man to the sacred order. For Ted Nelson Adjakpey, writing about the Ghanian-Ewe, sacrifice is the act of offering something to deity as an expression and manifestation of one’s total dependence an that deity (James 1933) regards sacrifice as a means of giving life to have life. E.B. Taylor says sacrifice serves as a means of bribing the gods or paying homage to them the same way men pay homage to overlords. Westermack sees sacrifice as a means of providing food for the gods to encourage them to be kind to men to bestow blessing and avert danger. This work will view sacrifice from the religious perspective to mean the giving of animate or inanimate object and internal devotion to spiritual being beloved to exist for a particular purpose, essence and forms of expression petition considering the igbo world view in particular which we sacrifice as a form of reciprocal relations with the divine.

Sacrifice And Reconcilation

The centrality of sacrifice and reconciliation is not only peculiar to African traditional religion alone but is observed in other religions. Before we now move to the understanding of reconciliation in African traditional religion, let me quickly note here that sacrifice is closely tied to reconciliation, in fact the two are bed fellows. Reconciliation can therefore be described as a situation in which a person accepts or realise his guilt for an offence against a deity and then undertakes to perform the prescribed rites of propitiating the offended deity as atonement for the sin. In practical terms reconciliation is viewed in cultural traditions as peace and the return to a share of harmony, manifested in a person’s interior and exterior state of being and devoid of harsh or rough conditions living. In igbo tradition, sacrifices and reconciliation rites are directed towards the deities and in an indirect way, towards God.

Sacrifices And Offering

The two terms have been used interchangeably, authors have opined that sacrifice is a form of ritual and offerings. Mbiti is of the opinion that sacrifice involves destruction of life to present the victim in part or whole to the spirit offering, on the other hands do not involve killing or destruction rather a form of presentation of valued objects as a token of love and devotion. In this work, sacrifice offering and reconciliation will be used interchangeably to avoid confusion.


1.8 The Significance Of The Study

They are as follows:

  1. To provide a detailed igbo traditional concept of sacrifice.
  2. To know the role of sacrifice in the society, giving recommendations and unbiased analysis
  3. To distinguish the positive and negative aspect of sacrifice in the society and the individuals.
  4. Also to know the roles of sacrifice to the contemporatly traditional igbo society.

Chapter Five


Conclusion And Recommendations

5.1 Conclusion

It is incontrovertible to assert that the use of religion has immensely contributed to the preservation of land in Igboland. The worship of the Earth-Goddess, the use of taboos, sacrilization of land and strict observance of religious festivals and rituals like the New Yam Festival have in no small measure helped to preserve the land at all times in Igboland. Land has remained a very important asset given to man by God. It has assisted man in many ways of human endeavours.

However, it can also be abused if people continue to commit abomination, which is disregarding of the taboos of the land and non worship of earth-goddess. Sacrilization of land is also relevant due to the fact some portions of the land are kept aside for future use. Thus the degradation of the environment and exploitation of the land by a few rich people is severely under heavy surveillance by community and the legal codes of the country.

Sacrifice is a complex phenomenon that has been universally found in the earliest known forms of worship. It is universally understood as the offering of a sense-perceptible gift to deity as an outward manifestation of veneration with the objective of attaining communion with deity. Their studies further reveal that an offering does not become a sacrifice until a real change has been effected in the visible gift (by slaying it, shedding its blood, burning it or pouring it out). As the meaning and importance of sacrifice cannot be established by a priori methods, every admissible theory of sacrifice must shape itself in accordance with the sacrificial systems of each religious tradition.
Sacrifices are not only directed to deities alone but also to the Supreme Being. The humanity has several reasons for offering sacrifice. It is also clear that there are materials for sacrifice as well as places where sacrifices are made. Sacrificial practices form the heart of religious adherents. Throughout the world, many adherents of different religious traditions still believe, especially in times of crisis, in the effectiveness of traditional religious sacrifices designed to meet their diverse needs. It would be grossly misleading, however, to conclude from this evidence that sacrifice is of value mainly or only for the pre-literate societies. Sacrifice, as noted by many scholars, is of the very essence of all known religions worldwide from the earliest times. Its purpose is variously to establish, regulate or rectify the relationship between humans and the divine or to appease the ancestors and the land. Through sacrifice, humans seek to encounter the divine, project themselves into the invisible world, penetrate into divine presence and commune with the deity. Sacrifice creates a bridge between humans and God and serves as a means of sustaining the established relationship. Its different forms depend on the nature of the relationship or favour sought from the deity. Ultimately, sacrifice is a human activity, its primary beneficiaries are the humans who offer them, not God or the deities to whom the offerings are made. Underlying the practice of sacrifice is the awareness that sin in its diverse forms (the destruction of right relationship with God, the ancestors, the land) creates a barrier between God, the invisible world and humans.


5.2 Recommendations

  1. The crucial step of trying to find solution to land issues in Igboland should start with the society recognizing that the need to revisit the traditional methods of land preservation.
  2. Since sacrifice entails interaction with the sacred, the priest who is imperfect, must enter gradually through recommended rituals into the sacred spheres which is traditional and recognized abode of the gods.

The Concepts Of Sacrifice In The Igbo Land Traditional Religion


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