The ancestors have special place among the Igbo people. They are given their due honour and respect among the people and community. The primary duty of the ancestors is to guide and promote the welfare of the people/community members.
In Igbo worldview, it is believed communion and communication go on between the dead ancestors and living. (Uchendu 1965 : 102). The ancestors are part of the invisible segment of the community (Abanuka 2004 : 44). The ancestors are considered as not very far removed from the living.
The ancestor detest abominations such as theft, murder and incest. They exercise protective and corrective duties on the family, kindred and umunna/community. (Mbiti 1970 : 83) states the roles of the ancestors as guardians of family affairs, traditional, ethics and activities.
The Igbo people offer sacrifices to the dead ancestor. Cardinal Arinze (1970: 17 – 18) believes that the family is not made up of only those members who are still alive and that the invisible ancestors or the living dead members are very much a part of it.
The ancestors are honoured and not worshipped. The respect and reverence they receive depend on their accomplishment. According to Abanuka, there are three levels of ancestors.
The first, those who died in a good ripe old age are considered as ancestors when they die. Secondly, those who died young, but have achieved significant roles in life are also considered as ancestors. Third, which could be referred to anonymous ancestors, i.e those who did not cause any problem nor make any significant accomplishment when they were alive. For Field; (1961 : 197) customary rites and ceremonies are good links the living have with the dead who instituted these legacies. The dead ancestors watch to ensure that the living preserve the traditions and customs of their progenitors.
According to Uchendu no elaborate sacrifices are made to the ancestors when there are continuous deaths in the family, crop and business failures.
For the Igbo people, sacrifices is a way to express gratitude for blessings received, hope for future favours, as well as to ask for protection from the gods and ancestors against wicked people and spirits.
In the Igbo tradition, not all the ancestors are worshipped, defied and honoured.
Written by Nwafor Michael Ililochukwu (Oboncho)
Reference: Abanuka; Uchendu; Cardinal Arinze; Field; Mbiti.
Photo credits: Google images.