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Traditional Religion

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 14:00, views: 2 713


Iko Ute Shrine of Owok ute village, EsseneIko Ute Shrine of Owok ute village, EsseneIbibio Prayer to Abasi Isua
(the god of the year):


Our father's god, boundaries. Let no crop make our farms clean, purify people's farms. Drive evil things outside our of ours fail to harvest. Let no leopard harm our animals. (Talbot, 1923: 267)


The people's belief in life after death and in a power greater than man (Akpabio, 1991: 13-20) lies in the basis of traditional religion in Ikot Abasi. This was expressed in the worship of the Heavenly God (Abasi Ibom), the deities (mme ndem, abasi isong, abasi isua, abasi inwang, etc.), and the ancestors (mbukpo ikaan). For the Obolo, the supreme God is Yok Obolo, which possesses attributes similar to Abasi Ibom. As with Africans elsewhere, religion pervaded the lives of the peoples of Opobo Division. As far as the traditional religion was concerned, the principal features, as Professor Bolaji Idowu has indicated, are belief in God, belief in the divinities, belief in spirits, belief in the ancestors, and the practice of magic and medicine, each with its own consequent, attendant cult (Idowu, 1973: 139).


The Ibibio supreme God is Abasi Ibom, identified also with Abasi Enyong (God of the firmament or universe), creator and ruler of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. The Ibibio lesser divinities, which are reflections of Abasi Ibom, include abasi isong (goddess of the earth), responsible for the fertility of crops, abasi ekong (god of war), ebe abasi (a deified husband).


Worship in Traditional Religion involved performance of rites and rituals by priests and elders, observance of festivals by the community, offering of sacrifices, particularly of fowls, goats and sheep, and the individual's obligation to live a good life.


Traditional religion played a great role in social control. Among other things, the belief that the Heavenly God would punish any deviation from His tenets and the annual visitation and constant supervision of the communal affairs by his intermediaries, the ancestral spirits (symbolised in the Ekpo Nyoho cult and masquerades), constituted a powerful mechanism of social control (Ibid.).


Each person, family and community had their own shrines at which regular consultations with the ancestors were held after the appropriate appeasement with prayers, offerings and rituals.

Each human activity - from farming to wood carving, recreation, procreation or, even, adultery, had its controlling deity, which brooked no deviation from the established rules, or acts of transgression against the individual or communal welfare. Any potential threat to the peaceful and harmonious existence of the group was promptly and severely dealt with by one of the many organs of social control - age/ gender/cultural/interest or religious groups or the various unit heads and councils. In cases of uncertainty, the assistance of the Idiong priests, the keepers of knowledge, was sought to consult and interpret the wishes of the appropriate deity, or seek assistance through the ancestors' spirits.


The Ibibio Model of a Good Person
One who is hospitable, sociable, mild, self-controlled, respectful to social superiors, generous, transparently honest, brave, dextrous at farm work, reserved in manner, but endowed with great need for individual achievements, among other qualities.
The Man
The ideal man is popular among his own people and with others. He is sexually potent and prolific. He is the pillar of his extended family; he pays fees for their children, as well as buys clothes and other things for them, and also looks after his immediate family, including his wife or wives. He must take excellent care of his parents, particularly if they are aged.
The Woman
The ideal woman has the common gender traits of being hospitable, mild, self-controlled, and a good cook, in addition to being obedient and sexually faithful to her husband.
The Child

Among the most important traits of the ideal child are the willingness to run errands, being non-violent, and imitating his/her parents. Girls in particular, are expected to be diligent and dutiful. 
(Offiong, 1991: 109).

The ancestors, as guardians and intermediaries, were highly revered, care being taken not to offend them. Special cyclic rituals were observed to prepare suitable upright elders, both men and women, from the community for elevation to the semi-deity state through the medium of the Inam society.


Traditional Farming and Festival Calendar



Farming Time Table


Cultural Activities


Last season's yam harvest completed; planting of compound plots

Ekpo obobom/ekpo nyoho a. ufaka usung ekpo/udot ekpo

Ekpo masquerades (exclusively male) Reaffirmation of law and order


Last season's yam harvest completed; planting of compound plots

b. ukpat ekpo
c. ikot isong ye ukong edong

Purification rites and sacrificial offerings to to the gods of the land made at the new farms before clearing the bush


Ini nlem ye ikang isong Bush clearing, burning




Ini uto nkpo Intensive planting of farm crops by women and children, after the first rains
ini ndisa
yam vines staked and trained by men




ini uwaak mbied weeding of the farms by women




Training of the yam vines on the farms by men




Fresh maize harvest Period of rest, enter­tainment and craft-work; rains

ekpo abakpa (corn harvest)

Harvesting of a corn ear from each farm for the Ekpo society


Farming Time Table


Cultural Activities


Fresh maize harvest Period of rest, enter­tainment and craft-work: rains

usoro abasi (festival of prayers)

Sacrifices at the ancestral shrines, prayers and appeasement to the gods of the land for a good harvest and fertility


Ini ubek udia
First harvest corn, eben,
melon, first yams

usuk udia (Food harvest)

Thanksgiving to gods and ancestors, purification rites and first harvest festivities



Usoro Idiong (Idiong festival)

Idiong society annual rites and initiation


ebre yam harvest

usoro ebre (ebre festival)

Ebre yam harvest and women festivities



a. udongo ebre/ udia ebre (fertility rites)

iboro shrine offerings, feeding of the ancestors; fertility rites and rituals



b. ubuno ikwa ino (anti-crime rites)
ndise mboppo (Mboppo festival)

Symbolic breaking of the thief's machete
Public reception of the marriageable girls


ini idok Full harvest (Chief's farm harvested first)

usoro ekpo (ancestral festival) a. udok iboro ('feeding the ancestors')

Initiation into ekpo nsabok, etc women's societies
Commemoration of the ancestors
Sacrificial offerings at the ancestral shrines


enem, edomo, fluted pumpkin, beans, etc. collected and stored

b. udia usoro ekpo (reunion feast)

Reunion festivities of family and clan members



Ubop-obiobio (masquerade plays) a. ekong usoro ekpo (Ekong festival)

Reaffirmation of the clan unity, traditional rites and masquerade plays by male groups


ini idok Full harvest (Chief's farm harvested first)

b. ikwot

Youth masquerade


enem, edomo, fluted pumpkin, beans, etc. collected and stored




ini idok Full harvest (Chief's farm harvested first)

c. ntuk ekong

Children masquerade


enem, edomo. fluted pumpkin, beans, etc. collected and stored





ekpo udia (ekpo yam harvest)

Harvesting a yam tuber from each farm for the Ekpo society.



Usoro ndok (end-of-year celebration)

Thanksgiving rites for a good harvest; various cultural groups perform at their traditionally appointed days



Utuak ndok (end-of-year purification)

Bad spirits, ghosts and misfortunes are driven out of town with a din, food is emptied, com pounds are swept and rubbish cleared


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Category: Tradition and Culture

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