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The Story of Amadioha – The Igbo God of Thunder

The Story of Amadioha – The Igbo God of Thunder |By Onyeka Nwelue

Amadioha (also known as Kamalu) is a major Igbo God and considered the God of Thunder. He is arguably the most popular Igbo Deity, among all the Gods in Igbo cosmology.

Amadioha (also known as Kamalu) is a major Igbo God and considered the God of Thunder. He is arguably the most popular Igbo Deity, among all the Gods in Igbo cosmology. 

Amadioha’s life was full of adventures, from his battle with a lion at the age of 6 and leading the Battle of Isikwuato, which involved the people of Ndi-Okoroukwu, Isiagu and Ihube. This was also known as the Defeat at Okigwe. He led the battle at the age of 17, draped in his dada hair and hairy chest. It was during this war that Urashi, his friend of many years, was killed. The murder of Urashi was orchestrated by Ugwu, the God of Pride, who was later struck dead at night by Amadioha, out of anger and vengeance for the murder of Urashi. 

The Igbo sacred text, Isi Mbido, was destroyed in Enugwu, on one of the hills, by one of the monarchs of Legge, who tried to bury the text in Nsukka. Once again, Amadioha led a battle to retrieve the text, and ended up, killing the monarch. 

Amadioha was quick to anger. 

For him, Isi Mbido represented so many things. Today, the text, written in logographic format, was stolen by invaders and smuggled to Ikot-Ekpene and when Amadioha found out, he led another war to the raffia city and destroyed the city. He captured the Isi Mbido, which he took back to Uturu, where victory was celebrated.

The most important text of the Igbos, is Isi Mbido, the sacred collection of texts, detailing the Creation of the Igbo by Eluigwe, where Amadioha’s father, Nka, had been created from the taproot of an oji tree. The text, which is today lost, described Supreme Being, Eluigwe, the Universe, Chukwuabiama and creator of the universe, Orisa.

The most ancient tales of Amadioha involve his adventures with the water spirits, the three headed lions that he killed, the Battle at Isikwuato, the War at Okigwe, the Conquest of Ikot-Ekpene, the Battle of Mbano, the marriage of Amadioha and Uhammiri, the death of Urashi, the Murder of Ugwu and many other incredibly colored narratives, whilst later, stories accumulated over the centuries which describe his eventful youth, when Amadioha used his proficient weapons skills to good effect to defeat a host of fearsome enemies, demons and monsters.

FAMILY & ADVENTUROUS YOUTH

According to tradition, Amadioha belonged to the Diala caste  – known as the Free Born caste  – and the God’s birth has not been picturesquely described anywhere, as there are different versions of his birth. However, there is a consistency in the narrative that he had dada hair and was always going around with a ram, which is why the ram is a symbol of Amadioha. Amadioha and his ram spent time travelling through the green hills and valleys, drinking from same gourds of water.  

One day Nka, the great Igbo God, sat by the root of an oji tree right at the centre of Nkwo-Achara and sang to Anyawnu (God of the Sun) and Nwanyianyanwu (Goddess of the Sun) and his wife, Achara (Amadioha’s mother), conceived Amadioha. This was how the child was planted into the womb of Achara, at Nkwo-Achara, the biggest market in Uturu. Unfortunately for Amadioha, his mother’s brother, Onuma (God of Mercy), had just been killed at a war. So, it was assumed Amadioha had reincarnated as Onuma. 

There were messages that warned that Achara’s first child would be killed, like his uncle, so Nka, took his son and a ram to make sacrifices to the Sun God in the Forest of Ihube.  Fortunately, Achara and Nka took the precaution of hiding Amadioha in the remote village of Ihube after the sacrifices, where the boy was brought up as a simple cowherd. There he spent an idyllic childhood and stirred the hearts of many men and women; he only reared rams, because rams represented determination, action, initiative, and leadership. The ram is also a symbol of Aries, which is an astral symbol of rulership. 

Amadioha had good looks, playful charm, dada hair and played music and danced a lot. 

Thus, the story of Amadioha contains a double concealment – Amadioha is both a God disguised as a mortal and a prince disguised as a commoner. Accordingly, the myths contain many metaphors of disguise, such as a spark within a pile of ashes or a mighty sword in its scabbard, a thunder-strike and a heavy rain pour. And these hint at Amadioha’s dual purpose as the punisher of human deeds but also as a bringer of enlightenment.

Amadioha’s favourite wife was Uhammiri, with whom he had a son, Ndanike and daughter Kwokomoshi, but tradition has it that the God actually acquired 1,108 wives and fathered 70,000 sons, after Uhammiri drowned in the Lake.  

Amadioha was involved in many escapades in his adventurous youth. Notable amongst these are his various killings and thrashings of prominent enemies such as the ogress Ara, a giant dragon, a python that stayed by his side at night, and the horse with two heads. Also swiftly dealt with was the scheming tyrant Ikenga (God of War) – after whose beheading Amadioha established himself as king of Uturu.

Amadioha killed many demons: Ororonjo (the God of Ugliness) and his 1,000 sons and daughters,  Arusi (the God of Karma) – who Amadioha beat up using only his fists, Nwala – son of the Earth and who had accumulated a harem of 8,000 captured women, and the sea-demon Mmiri,  who looked like a conch shell and who lost his magic shell to Amadioha which the hero carried thereafter and used as a trumpet.

Amadioha also found time to lift the Enugwu, the God of Hills and Valleys, to foil a terrible deluge sent by Kpakpando (the Star), to Ikot-Ekpene, the floating mafia city of the Invaders, got the better of the sea-god Urashi, and even managed to steal the divine discuss possessed by the fire-god, Oku. Against mere mortals Amadioha also wreaked havoc amongst the Osus, the Umes and the Ohus. He captured them and gifted them to himself. They became his consorts and slaves. 

AMADIOHA & URASHI 

Amadioha acted as the warrior-prince Urashi’s charioteer in the Great War, the Battle at Okigwe, between Ndi Igbo (whom Amadioha supported) and Ndi Nri (the Invaders who tried to capture Igbo-Ukwu). It was on the eve of this battle that Amadioha recounted the sacred song of the Isi Mbido to Urashi.  Amadioha boasted that he created all the universe and that everything existed within him. Urashi, who had a long flowing hair and was considered to be either man or woman, also said that it was divine and omnipresent.

In other adventures Amadioha built the great fortress city of Uturu to how it is today, in Isikwuato. Seven days after Amadioha was accidentally killed by a hunter’s arrow striking his heel while his favourite ram, named, Aguba watched, Uturu was submerged beneath the ocean and swallowed up, leaving the debris of a once vibrant town into nothing. Amadioha had also stolen the sacred oha tree from Mbano, defeating the God of Possession, Agwu in the process. Amadioha planted the tree at Uturu, but upon his death, it was returned to Agbaja in Ehime Mbano.  

WORSHIP & REPRESENTATION IN ART

The worship of Amadioha may have started as early as the 5th century BCE. Today he is worshipped as the supreme Igbo god by many believers, and he is especially revered in Mbano and Uturu in eastern Nigeria.  One of the many festivals held in his honour is the Ibu Uzo Festival in Ehime Mbano, which is only done during the dry season. Funerals are avoided during rainy seasons, because Amadioha is believed to appear riding on a ram.

Ibo Uzo (or Mbom Uzo) festivals commemorate Uhammiri’s successful attempt to persuade Amadioha to return to Mbano, after the Conquest of Ikot-Ekpene, which happened during harvest. Perhaps this is the most widely observed festival regarding Amadioha, (early and mid-December) which involves devotees getting drunk, marching from one village to another, offering people with mkpurusu and, at midnight, lighting mpanaka and ederi. 

Amadioha is typically portrayed in Igbo art with dark skin and he may carry the ram on his shoulder and hold a sword.  He typically wears a white robe. In reference to his occupation as a cowherd in his youth, Amadioha is often accompanied by cows. 

Article Written by Onyeka Nwelue

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