Traditional religion as well as religious beliefs and practices are important issues which are discussed in ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe. The major theme focuses on the conflict between the Igbo society and culture as well as the religion of the colonists.
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The Umuofia society is religious as it is characterized by the worship of Chuckwu the chief the god, spirits and the ancestors. It is clear that the religion practiced in Umuofia is animistic in nature similar to other traditional religions in other parts of Africa. The people of Umuofia believed that most of both the living and non living things had the ability of possessing souls and the spirits.
For instance, members of the society believed that forests like the evil forests had sprits of evil and that is why twins were abandoned there as they were considered to carry bad luck. Further studies indicate that it was possible for a man to buy a craving in the market and make it to be an object of worship after invoking his spirit in it. There were other spirits like the spirits of rivers, lakes, wells and the earth, to name just a few.
In the Umuofia society, men and women were regarded differently as they did not hold the same positions. For instance, men were rulers as well as leaders while women were considered as servants.
Therefore, the spirits of women were inferior to the spirits of men although women were also allowed to carry out religious rituals since they could become priests. According to Achebe (pp. 30), the Umuofia community had a female deity who was known as ‘Ani’. In addition, there was also a male deity who was known as Agbala or the ‘Oracle of the Hills and the Caves’ (Achebe pp.30).
According to Achebe, (pp. xxxv) ‘chi’ was a personal god for an individual which had the ability to follow people throughout their whole life. One of the major characteristic of ‘chi’ was the fact that it was capable of either being good or bad. Such a characteristic was very important because it determined the success of an individual.
Therefore, incase someone had a good ‘chi’, such a person ended up being successful while people with a bad chi were full of misfortunes. However, although ‘chi’ was powerful, a person had the power of determining his destiny. In addition, medicine men could intervene and help someone with a bad ‘chi’ to become successful.
The Umoufia society was powerful among its neighbors and was greatly feared. The neighbors considered going into war with it as a last option, incase all the other options failed. The priests and medicine men who were vey powerful contributed greatly to its superiority. Its source of the military power was the war medicine although the age of the same was not known. The medicine which was the source of the strength was known as agadi-nwayi which meant an old woman.
Villagers believed that an old woman with one leg was often seen by someone who passed by the shrine which was centrally placed in the evenings. Since the villagers believed that she was sacrificed when the village was being formed, that explains why she was capable of being powerful. In addition, the villagers believed that performing religious practices and rituals made someone to be powerful. As a result, the woman could have derived her power from the sacrifices that took place during the formation of the village.
Achebe, Chinua. Things fall apart. Oxford: Heinemann, 1996. Print.