Ala - Meet Igbo Deities


Parallel to the idea of Chukwu as a masculine deity associated with the Sun is the idea that the Moon is feminine and closely associated with the goddess Ala—Earth. While Chukwu is in charge of creation, Ala is in charge of conserving that which is created. While Chukwu is the giver of the moral law, Ala is the enforcer of the law. Ala is also the “womb” that holds and nurtures and renews when necessary. The Igbo , an agrarian people, regard her as the “mother” of all crops. Before planting and harvest, they hold days of ritual ceremonies to appease Ala so she will facilitate the growth of healthy crops or to thank her for making possible the abundant harvest soon to begin. In a year of drought or other agricultural misfortunes, the people undertake ritual processes meant to examine how they may have angered Ala and caused her to withhold her blessings. After they look for wrongdoing on the part of humans, they seek scientific explanations for crop failures. When religious and natural explanations conflict, mythical narratives are used to overcome contradictions.

Duality. Chukwu and Ala are meant to represent the differences and complementarity between the sexes in Igbo culture. This principle of duality extends to minor gods as well. Some of these deities are “male” gods associated with masculine rituals such as circumcision or with male-dominated professions such as iron smithing and carving. Others are “female” deities, such as those associated with protecting vegetable traders and cloth weavers—who in the Igbo traditional world tended to be dominated by women.
Agbala. Agbala is the priestess of Ala. In addition to leading the community’s ritual sacrifices to Ala, she is in charge of executing punishments against individuals who commit acts the community considers immoral (Murder, witchcraft, and perjury). These and similar crimes are believed to be transgressions against the earth goddess.


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