Ọdịnanị : The Sacred Arts and Science of the Igbo People – Agwu

In our bid to revive African consciousness, we believe that we are nothing without our ancient spirituality and ways of worship. This practices kept our ancestors for tens of thousands of years.

With the coming of many foreign religions, our ancient ways of worship were termed evil, and frustrated. But there are still many who practice the golden ancient ways of our ancestors. The Igbo people remain one of the tribes in Africa who hold their ancient ways of Ọdịnanị sacred.

Although many would not practice Ọdịnanị today, it is important we learn and know where we are coming from, and what we need to do, to better our society.

So today we are going to talk about “AGWU” in Igbo Odinani.

1. What is Agwu? 

2. What is Ịru Agwu?

3. What are steps to Iru Agwụ?

4. Is Ritual Involved?

5. Can a person do it by himself or must it be a Dibia that will do it?


In traditional Igbo anyị kwenyere in the existence of Agwu.

Agwu is believed to be a type of spirit that manifests itself in an individual who is possessed. There are Certain characters, abnormalities and some behaviors that take place in the life of a person which attributed to Agwu.

For instance, one who is fond of not knowing how he or she uses his or her money or one who gets brain-fag without any observable cause, are attributed to Agwu.

When such a thing is noticed constantly in one’s behavior, a way for normalcy is sought. Some inquiries are made; rituals and other ceremonies are performed.

Those rituals are observed in the shrine of Agwu.

AGWỤ comes to people in different ways. Sometimes, it comes through liquidation in one’s business, or any other dimension. It is believed that a person who is so possessed can be holding a key in his hand and be searching for it in his room.

Agwu is believed to be a spirit of giddiness, rascality, confusion, and forgetfulness, among others. It brings worries to an individual, in other words, it causes a person an emotional trauma and generally psychological disorder.

Any person who is possessed by the spirit of Agwu does not make any progress in business unless the spirit is appeased.

Again, based on the understanding that Agwu is the spirit of rascality and confusion and so on, some contemporary Igbo have argued in favour of the fact that Agwu can be likened to the spirit of Demon, since the spirit of Demon is similar to that of Agwu; while for some, it is the spirit of God because the spirit of God is, among other things, benevolent, and Agwu is in a way benevolent. These varieties of arguments have led to misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Agwu among the Igbo People.

It is also believed that between God and human beings, there are other beings that populate the universe. These are the spirits.

There are many types of spirits. God is their creator first as he is the creator of all human beings. The spirits have a status between God and man, and are not identical with either and some of them may be used to do certain things.

It is one of God’s creatures that he uses to do certain things.

Like other deities/forces, Agwu may defy any definition (or source). It borders on the mysterious. Whether from the point of view of its connotation or denotation, the problem remains the same.Agwu is an influential force that animates victims for special duties, especially in medical knowledge and divination.

Agwu is the god of medicine and divination. He is worshipped by every person during a person’s Iru Agwu ceremony particularly males, if they are to behave well and have common sense. To him is assigned the responsibility of men who act as if they have no common sense.

AGWU is a Spirit which has the power over the behavior of an individual. And it means that Agwu has the power of influencing human behavior in which case the solution is ỊRỤ AGWỤ.

AGWỤ Part 2

Iji wee bido ebe anyị kwụsịrị na ihe nkụzi nke gara aga… Anyị ga emetụta aka na okwu akpụ na ọnụ nke mbụ wee gbadata na nke abụọ.

We Discussed earlier on our previous Lecture that Agwu are ambivalent in their character. They reveal the secrets of the invisible and visible world to traditional medicine men called dibia, in the mystical code of divination called afa and are also responsible for mental illness.

Nevertheless, Agwu can be understood as a forgotten spirit of mediation between God and man who then struggles for recognition, by inflicting a person with calamities so that it would be appeased.

Moreover, worship or sacrifice is one of the elements of religion found in any religion and this is applicable to Agwu. In the central sub-cultural zone of Igbo land, the symbol of Agwu is ogilisi or ogbu tree. This is usually planted near the Agwu shrine.

Agwu is fed every morning with kola, portion of food and hot wine as the case may be. When Agwu possesses a person, it is placated through the process of iru Agwu.

And that brings us to ỊRỤ AGWỤ


In some cases, Agwu is not destructive especially when a person complies with its demands. Compliance to the demands of Agwu brings good fortune. That is why any dibia who seeks the protection and guidance of Agwu should first of all comply with its demands. The demands of Agwu of which refusal brings condemnation to people are:

1. If one is appointed by the ancestral spirits to serve as medicine man, and

2. The performance of iru Agwu ritual as and when due.

Like every other deity, Agwu has its own shrine. All rituals for this deity must be performed in its shrine.

Certain trees like ogbu, oha, or ogilisi are used for symbols. They represent the Agwu performed for a particular person.

Some plants are used in offering worships to the idols, e.g. ogilisi, ogbu; ogilisi is particularly very important, all okpesi are made from it, many idols including Ikenga are carved from it and pieces of it are placed in front of idols before sacrifices are offered to them.

The plants used for the shrines of Agwu differ according to town.

oha, ogilisi and ogbu are mostly used, these plants are regarded as sacred trees where people meet God and are not felled or tampered with like any other tree.

In traditional Igbo society all deities have their attendants who are called priests. The word priest suggests one who mediates between God and man, and who serves a particular deity or spirit.

It categorizes the IGBO PRIEST into FOUR Groups.

1. Okpala (family head) who is the priest of ancestral shrines,

2. Isi mmuo (head of spirit cults) who takes charge of the shrines,

3. The Eze ala (the chief priest of Ala deity), and

4. Eze Nri or Nri priest (the priest king of Nri town) who is as it were the high priest of cult of Ala for a large part of Igbo land.

A priest is a servant of one particular shrine and no other. For instance, there is a priest of Udo, Aro, or Idemili, who ministers to the respective deities. So, there is a priest of one particular shrine of Agwu. The Agwu priest sees to every sacrifice the villagers want to offer to their Agwu or the iru Agwu ritual. It is the responsibility of the Agwu priest to administer the needed sacrifices whenever it is demanded for.

The Agwu personnel are not given a particular training; rather, the Agwu itself teaches the victim in dream how to perform the rituals. But if the person is called to the office of a dibia, it becomes a different thing. However, any male born in the family of Agwu people learns much pertaining to Agwu.

This is done whenever Agwu personnel are performing the ritual. Hence, whenever the man begins or goes to perform the ritual, the male in such a family accompanies him so as to observe how it is performed and learn from it.

Remember Agwu has no preference for the first born son (okpala) as in the case of a priest. Sometimes the candidate is already known from boyhood when he picks up certain seed called mkpulu afa (seeds for divining).

The iru Agwu ritual is performed for the victim so that he would be free from the embarrassment of Agwu. When some abnormalities are noticed in a person, his kinsmen would take him to a dibia afa (diviner) to find out the will of the gods for the person. It is then the responsibility of the Agwu personnel (Priest ofAgwu) to perform the ritual of iru Agwu.


1. A chicken that has not laid any egg (adidi okuko),

2. Ogilisi plant.

3. About eight pieces of yam,

4. Eight pieces of coins,

5. Round dry fish (mgbokolu azu),

6. Salt 

7. Bottle of palm oil, and

8. Small earthen pot or a plate.

When these are complete and placed in Ukpa in front of the ogilisi tree already planted on the ground, the officiating Priest of Agwu would then begin with some incantations, while preparing some concoction which is eventually put inside the small earthen pot and placed at the seat of the Agwu.

Having done these, the chicken and other items brought for the ritual would be slaughtered and cooked.

The chicken would be placed on the fire until it is done.

The sacrificial food would be placed on ogilisi leaves for the children to share among themselves; while the elders would eat the bigger part not placed on the ogilisi leaves.

To Be Continued >>> wait for Part 3

Article Written By Nwanyanwu Amadioha

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Liberty Writers Africa

Liberty Writers Africa

Our mission is to raise the collective consciousness of Africans all over the world. And also giving an account of our uniqueness, we hope to reintroduce Africa to the rest of the world. At the core of our vision, is to liberate the African mind - to make Africans discover their voice through literature.

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