What were we doing BEFORE Christianity?

I’m half Nigerian and half Jamaican…I know crazy mix right (or so I’ve been told). I love my rich mix of culture but growing up I’ve been told “You’re Jamaican because you grew up with your mum” or “You’re Nigerian because your father is Nigerian”. I do believe that your fathers linage is important for any blood line and the bible will tell you this when you see the endless genealogies written in Genesis and Numbers. I just found it funny how when it got to Jesus it changes to his mother. Although he was Joseph’s son, he didn’t actually come from his loins, yet he is suppose to be of the blood line of David. So which is it? Did he come from Mary and if so he is not from the line of David or does he come from Joseph? (I think I’ve already answered my own question). I raised this question because I’m curious as to what we were doing before Christianity.

I recently read a book called “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. It immediately got me thinking about my heritage. I’m not a historian but I know that my Jamaican heritage has African roots, but I’ve always wondered which part of Africa and what language did we speak. I know that the slaves that were brought over in the transatlantic slave trade were taken from west Africa in places that we now know as Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. They were a range of tribes such as Mandinka, Akan, Igbo and Yoruba. Unfortunately  my search has come to a halt with my mothers side of the family however I do know that my father is Igbo, so this is a good place to start. In “Things Fall Apart” it tells the story of an Igbo man named Okonkwo who is  very prominent in his community, he has a warrior spirit and is very proud of his position in his community. The story then goes on to describe the superstitions that the people held about an evil forest but it also talks about who the people worshiped. In Igbo the name of God is  Chukwu or Chineke. The word for spirit is Chi and so the name Chukwu (pronounced Chi-ukwu?) translates as the Big Chi, this is the supreme God, the creator of all things. The Igbo traditional belief is that everybody has a chi assigned to them at birth and this concept can be compared to the ideology of a guardian angel in christianity. The name Chineke has a dual meaning and encompasses the male and female aspects of God. Chukwu is also referred to as Chineke which is a compound of the words chí the divine masculine force and ékè the creative and divisive feminine force. When I read this it immediately struck a chord with me because I’ve always thought of God as male and female, having both aspects of yin and yang. Why? Simply because of the scripture “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1v27), and then further down in Genesis it say’s “For this reason a man should leave his father and his mother and they shall become one flesh” (2v24). My theory is that the mystery that the bible talks about is that we return to the oneness we originally was whenever we join together in a relationship. In the Igbo tradition “Eke came out of the hands of Chi but are considered one; Chi created the world while Eke divided it incorporating a divisive trickster energy that introduced death and suffering”Cole, Herbert M. (1982).

Anyway back to the story, the Igbo people worshiped Chineke and underneath the creator were other lesser spirits (or chi), called Agbara or Alusi that are in charge of or represent natural elements such as the sun who is called ányá ánwụ́ , Ala is the female alusi of the earth, and Ahia Njoku who is responsible for yams, an important food in the Igbo diet. They also revered their ancestors known as Ndichie and certain shrines would be made for them.

Then the white missionaries came over with their message of christianity, they already had a few converts from the Igbo tribe, who were seen as outcasts in the community. At first the people thought the missionaries were harmless especially when they asked for a piece of land in the evil forest. The belief of the Igbo people was that once they set up camp there, they would be dead in a few days (the evil forest is where the community discards evil things including dead bodies). When the people saw that the christian missionaries were not dead after a number of days they gained more members to their church. I don’t want to give the whole story away but bottom line was, the traditions and culture of the Igbo people and other tribes were taken over by the British government, under the guise of christian theology and here we are today.

Odinani is the name used to describe the cultural practices and religious beliefs of the Igbo people. It can be seen as monotheistic although some would describe it as polytheistic due to the shrines made to the lesser spirits. A similar practice can be found in Yoruba culture who also have a supreme being as a creator but under the name of Olurun. African spirituality has often been demonised or dismissed as voodoo, hocus pocus or juju, but could it be that these ideologies could be the very foundation of christianity today? From what I read in “Things Fall Apart” Christianity had a beginning, and it began sometime in the 1800’s in Africa, so where did they get it from? What do you think?

Gidi gidi bu ugwu eze. An Igbo proverb which means Unity is strength.

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4 thoughts on “What were we doing BEFORE Christianity?

  1. This is a great article! You bought me right back to the book.
    As a born again Christian, I have had a personal encounter with Jesus and that is how my journey begun.
    However, prior to that I had watched Zeitgeist and heard about the Isis Papers which states that Christianity was imposed on us from when we were slaves in order to control us. Although , to an extent, it may seem logical and makes sense. I think that unless we have a personal encounter ourselves with the Holy Spirit, it is only then that you become a believer.
    Trying to convince others of your beliefs simply doesn’t work!
    In addition, Laila Afrika states that due to the melanin in our skin, black people do tend to be more spiritual. I think this is true. Most black women (older) that I know, can smell bad vibes a mile off and can predict things! For definite, we are more spiritually in tune and for that reason we tend to be more likely to be religious.
    Again, we can only speak for ourselves as individuals as we all experience our own spiritual journeys.

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    1. You’re absolutely right Natalie, we are a highly spiritual people. Its for that reason why the message of Christianity works for us, we are spiritual by default, so much so that we believe in christianity more than the people who gave it to us.

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  2. Great post, I love the Nigerian and Jamaican mix. I wish there was more because like you said Jamaicans know very little about their past and where in Africa we are from which makes them afraid of being African. My boyfriend a proud Ghanaian has shown me so much more about black culture particularly the religions. And I know for a fact Yoruba, is one of the most powerful religions. It involves speaking to the Chi’s and spirits like you said. Christianity is a mark of oppression not a religion. These people were scared to let our ancestors remain with there knowledge it was so powerful it was taken away from us. I think you should read up on the Yoruba Orishas their fascinating. I love topics like this it gets us all thinking xxxx.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, I’m fascinated by this topic also. I’ve heard about the Orisha but I haven’t looked into it much however I know that its quite similar to igbo spirituality. Do you recommend any books or websites?

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