The Igbo people are native to Nigeria and are divided by the Niger River into two equal sections, eastern and western. They are one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa with roughly 34 million people. Pottery, similar to later Igbo work, has been found in the area in which the Igbo reside, dating back to 2500BC. Sculptures have been identified dating to 900AD.


The Igbo have an oral history that tells of their origins having come from a ‘sky being’ whom they call Eri. Eri was sent by Chikwu (God) down to Earth. When Eri first landed, he sat on an ant-hill looking at a marshy landscape. He began to complain about the conditions, so Chikwu sent a blacksmith who used bellows and charcoal to dry the land. Eri and his people lived plentiful until his death, in which all food ceased. One of Eri’s sons, Nri, objected to the lack of food, in which Chikwu’s reply was for him to sacrifice his first son and daughter and bury them in separate graves. 12 days after Nri complied, yams grew from his son’s grave and coco yam from his daughter’s. Later, Nri decided to kill a male and female slave, burying them the same way he did his children. Again, after 12 days, oil palm grew from the male slave’s grave while a fruit tree grew from that of the female slave. Since the creation of this Igbo oral tradition, all kings trace their origin back to the founding ancestor Eri and each king is a ritual reproduction of him.


Today, most Igbo are Christian, while some have converted to Islam and others to Judaism. Traditional Igbo religion is known as Odinani, with the supreme god being Chukwu, as everything has come from him and is under his control. The name Chukwu is believed to be a compound of the words Chi (spiritual being) and Ukwu (great in size). The Igbo believe that everyone is born with a Chi to help guide and guard them. Deities, known as Alusi, are also worshiped until they are no longer needed, in which they are discarded. Another aspect of traditional Igbo beliefs is reincarnation. They believe that when a person dies, that they will reincarnate back into the same family in which they came. A diviner is often used to help determine which ancestor a child is reincarnated from.