5 Beliefs And Taboos In Ancient Igboland

The Igbo is a tribe from south-eastern Nigeria. In ancient times the rules and beliefs were changed to maintain the purity of the earth and not the wrath of the gods. Many beliefs are born out of fear of the unknown. Although they are thousands of years old, many people still believe and practice them.

1. Wine Carrying

In the old days and till now, when a man is interested in marrying a woman, he calls his kinsmen, takes a calabash of fresh palm wine and walks to the girl’s house to ask her father for her hand. He carries the keg on his head till he gets to the house. It is considered a taboo for his calabash of wine to fall to the ground before he gets to his destination. If this happens, he is to turn back immediately and desist from his plans to marry from that particular house.

2. Ogbanje

Ogbanje refer to people who are believed to cycle rapidly and repeatedly through birth and death. A consecutive births and deaths of infants is construed as the same child dying and being born over and over again. In things fall apart, Chinua Achebe states that Ogbanje is ” a ‘wicked’ child who continually re-enters its mother’s womb only to die again and again, causing its parents grief”.

3. Eke (Python)

Pythons are generally sacred in Igboland and must not be killed or eaten. Pythons are believed to be the reincarnation of ancestors, and regarded as “our father.” They are also believed to be Ala, the guardian of the land/underworld. Killing a python is like killing one’s own father, and apart from drawing the ire of the whole community, it could also draw the ire of the gods.

4. Sucide

This is also common to Yoruba people as well. Killing oneself or is a taboo in Igboland, and so much frowned upon by both the people and gods that the victim of suicide must never be buried within the community. His body is cursed and must never be buried in the land, but in the Forbidden Forest or outside the town to prevent such evils from befalling others in the community.

5. Using The Left Hand

This is a generalized belief in Nigeria at large. Using “aka ekpe”, or left hand to do anything is forbidden in Igboland and strictly prohibited regardless of the fact that the individual may be left-handed. A left-handed individual is trained or oriented to learn the use of the right hand in eating, writing, giving and accepting things. Elders deeply frown on giving or taking things with the left hand because it is considered most disrespectful and unfortunate. 

Leave a Reply