Chukwu will assign one’s Chi before and at the time of birth, which remains . Igbo cosmology (Igbo culture, in fact) is highly utilitarian, and so. Thus, one may sum up the fundamentals of Igbo traditional cosmology to .. It is an embodiment of the owner’s Chi (personal god), his Ndichie (ancestors), aka. A Paper Presented by Chigachi Eke, Secretary, Research and Planning Committee . Man and His “Chi”: Meaning of “Chi” in Igbo Cosmology.

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There are two clearly distinct meanings of the word chi in Igbo. The first is often translated as god, guardian angel, personal spirit, soul, spirit-double etc. Thus we speak of chi ofufo meaning daybreak and chi ojijinightfall. We also have the word mgbachi for that most potent hour of noon that splits the day in two, a time favoured in folklore by itinerant spirits and feared by children. I am chiefly concerned here with the first meaning of chia concept so central in Igbo psychology and yet so elusive and enigmatic.

The great variety of words and phrases which has been put forward at different times by different people as translations of this concept attests to its great complexity and lends additional force to the famous plea of Dr. Without an understanding of the nature of chi one could not begin to make sense of the Igbo world-view; and yet no study of it exists that could even be called preliminary.

What I am attempting here is not to fill that gap but to draw attention to it in a manner appropriate to one whose primary love is literature and not religion, philosophy or linguistics. Does it retreat completely back to it old home?

But before we embark on a consideration of the nature and implication of this concept which is so powerful in Igbo religion and thought let us examine briefly what connection there may be between it and the other meaning of chi.

But one day I stumbled on the very important information that among the Igbo of Akwa a man who arrived ci the point in his life when he needs to set up a shrine to his chi will invite a priest to perform a ritual of bringing down the spirit from the face of the sun at daybreak. Which ni may have an even profounder implication for it is well known in Igbo cosmology that the Supreme Deity, Chukwu Himself, is in close communion with the sun.

But more on that later. Since Igbo people did not construct a rigid and closely argued system of thought to explain the universe and the place of man in it, preferring the metaphor of myth and poetry, anyone seeking an insight into their world must seek it along their own way.

Some of these ways are folks-tales, proverbs, proper names, rituals and festivals.

Unfortunately it is often more impressive than useful. The old people who have the information we seek will not often bare their hearts to any passer-by. They will give answers, and true answers too. But there is truth and there is truth. To get to the inner truth will often require more time than the recording interviewer can give — it may require a whole lifetime.

In any case no one talks naturally into a strange box of tricks! It is important to stress what I said earlier: Wherever Something stands, Something Else will stand beside it.

I am the truth, the way and the life would be called blasphemous or simply absurd for is it not well known that a man may worship Ogwugwu to perfection and yet be killed by Udo? The world in which we live has its double and counterpart in the realm of spirits. A man lives here and his chi there. Indeed the human being is only one half and the weaker half at that of a person. There is a complementary spirit being, chi. The word spirit though useful does cozmology serious problems of its own, however, for it is used to describe many different orders to non-human cosmopogy.

Thus the abode of chi may be confused with ani mmo where the dead who encounter no obstacles in their passage go to live. But ani mmo is thought to be not above like the realm of chi, but below, inside the earth. Considerable confusion and obscurity darken the picture at this point because there is a sense in which the two supernatural worlds are both seen as parallel to the land of the living. In an early anthropogical study of the Igbo Major A.


Leonard at the opening of this century reported the following account from one of cosmokogy Igbo informants:. We Ibo look forward to the next world as being much ch same as this… We picture life there to be exactly as it is in this world. The ground there is just the same as it is here, the earth is similar. There are forests and hills and valleys with rivers flowing and roads leading from one town to another. People in spiritland have their ordinary occupations, the farmer his farm.

The masked spirits who often grace human rituals and ceremonies with their presence are representative visitors from this underworld and are said to emerge from their subterranean home through ant-holes. At least that is the story as told to the uninitiated. But this knowledge does not in any way diminish their validity or the awesomeness of their presence. These ancestral spirits which may be codmology by man are, however, of a very different order from chi and so is their place of abode.

There is a story of how a proud wrestler, having thrown every challenger in the world, decides to go and wrestle in the world of spirits. There he also throws challenger after challenger, including many multiple-headed ones — so great was his prowess. At last there is no one left to fight.

Igbo Cosmology in Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God: An Evaluative Analysis

But the wrestler refuses to leave. The spirits beg him to go; his companion praise-singer on the flute pleads with him. But it is all in vain. There must be somebody left; surely the famed land of spirits can do better than this, he said.

Again everyone begs him to collect his laurels and go but again he refuses. Finally his own chi appears, reluctant, thin as a rope.

Deities of the Igbo Religion

The wrestler laughs at this miserable-looking contender and moves forward contemptuously to knock him cosmoloby whereupon the other lifts him clear off the ground with his little finger and smashes him to death. The limit is not the sky; it is somewhere much closer to earth.

A sensible man will turn round at the frontiers of coosmology and head for home again. There is, however, around the story as well a vague intimation that the place where chi inhabits is forbidden to man in a way that ani mmo; the abode of his dead fathers, does not appear to be. For we have, at least, a description of the landscape of ani mmo; nothing comparable exists for the territory of chi. There is another cautionary tale about chithis time involving the little bird, nza, who ate and drank somewhat more than was good for him and in a fit of recklessness which inebriation alone would explain cosomlogy his chi to come and get him if he could.

Whereupon a hawk swooped down from clear sky and carried him away. This is why, for instance, it can dispense with the physical endowments and terrors of the multiple-headed spirits. But power cos,ology complete, even in the hands of chi, is abhorrent to the Igbo imagination. Therefore the makers of proverb went to work again, as it were, to create others that would set a limit ugbo its exercise.

Hence the well-known Onye kwe chie ekwe. If a man agrees his chi agrees. And so the initiative, or some of it at least, is returned to man.

If you want to know how life has treated an Igbo man, a good place to look is the name his children bear. His hopes, his fears, his joys and sorrows; his grievances against his fellows, or complaints about the way he has been used by fortune; even straight historical records, are all there. And because chi is so central to Igbo thought we will also find much about it in proper names — more, I think, than from any other single source.


Chika chi is supreme ; Chibuzo chi is in front ; Nebechi look to chi are only a few examples of the large number of names that show the general primacy of chi over mankind. A man who suffers from false accusations or calumnies heaped on him by his fellow may call his child Chiebonam may chi not accuse me meaning that the moral justification which chi can give is what counts in the end.

It itbo, however, unusual to link chi in this way with moral sanction, a responsibility that belongs normally to Ani, the Earth Goddess and proper source of moral law — a fact recognized in the name Aniebonam igb is analogous to Chiebonam. The Igbo believe that a man receives his gifts or talents, his character — indeed his portion in life generally — before he comes into the world.

It seems there is an element of choice available to him at that point; and that his chi presides over bargaining.

A few other names suggest this role of chi as the great dealer out of gifts: Nkechinyelu and Chijioke, for example. As we have seen the Igbo believe that when a man says yes his chi will also agree; but not always.

Sometimes a man may struggle with all his power and say yes most emphatically and yet nothing he attempts will succeed. Quite simply the Igbo say of such a man: Chie ekwero, his chi does not agree. Now, this could means one of two things: But of course the idea of an intransigent chi does exist in Igbo: We must remember, however, when we hear that a cosmoligy has a bad chi that we are talking about his fortune rather than his character.

A man of impeccable character may yet have a bad chi so that nothing he puts his hand to will work out right. Chi is therefore more concerned with success or failure than with righteousness and wickedness. Which is not to say that it is totally indifferent jn morality. For we should know by now that nothing is totally anything in Igbo thinking; everything is a question of measure and degree. We have already seen in the name Chienonam that chi shares a little of the moral concerns of Ani, the earth goddess.

But in addition there is cyi hint of moral attribution of chi in the way the Igbo sometimes explain differences in human character. For maximum dramatization they pick two brothers who are dissimilar in character: What we know of chi can thus be summed cosmolpgy as follows: Perhaps this is a good place to point out that there are many minor — and occasionally even major- divergences of perception igboo chi from different parts of Igbo land so that one can at best only follow what appears to be the dominant and persistent concepts.

For example, although communities exist which assert categorically that chi lives with Chukwu, in most places such closeness can only be deducted indirectly. There are many names and sayings in Igbo which confirm the creative role of cni.

What Does The Igbo Notion Of “Your Personal CHI” Represent? – Culture – Nigeria

When we name a child Chiekezie we imply that chi has restored a certain balance by that particular creation, or has at last apportioned share equitably. Of a man unattractive or deficient in character we might say: Here again there are two possible interpretations to our statement: Or both interpretations may even be intended; for what else is creation but the imparting of distinguishing characteristics and bestowing of gifts?

Certainly the Igbo language by having the same root-word ke for create and share does encourage this notion. The idea of individualism is sometimes traced to the Christian principle that God created all men and consequently dhi one of them is presumed worthy in His sight.

Cosmloogy Igbo do better than that.