Igbuchu ahu in igbo culture and spirituality

Ash Wednesday Vs Igbo Traditional Practice of Igbuchi Ahu.

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     Still on the discussion of the Ash Wednesday, what does it mean, what does the crucifix signify and what occasions can the Ash (Ntu) be used in traditional Igbo rituals?

The Ash Wednesday is a symbol of repentance, mortality, and hope of resurrection. It serves as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and the hope of salvation that comes through faith in Him, hence, dust to dust, ash to ash. The significance of the crucifix mark with the ash is a symbol of solidarity with others who are seeking to live out their faith during the season of Lent. By visibly displaying the ashes, Christians can support and encourage one another in their journey of faith and remind each other of the hope and promise of Christ’s resurrection.

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In Igbo Cosmological Science, the Ash serves a different function such as; the practice of igbuchi ahu or ikanye ogwu. Igbuchi ahu is the ancestral practice of fortification against malignant forces, such as; amosu, ndi-ogboma, and ndi nsi na aja, this practice is also used as fortification against poison and ajo ogwu. This practice of Igbuchi ahu entails making incisions into the body with an ogwu that was prepared using Ntu/Ash, these incisions ultimately leave dark spots. This practice of Igbuchi ahu, also manifest as “Akara/Akala” ogbanje, it is tiny incisions made around the eye region. This mark is said to identify an ogbanje child and this act is said to save the life of the child from “Igba Nje” (Dying).

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In reference to Ash Wednesday, our ancestors have this aphorism “Aka mara nzu anaghi ama unyi”, hence the ash is the opposite of what emboldens Ndi-Igbo. Nonetheless, while Nzu indicates purity, the Ash is perceived to be dark and unwanted, nonetheless, the Ash has other functions as well and in this case, it is added into fortification charms that ward off unwanted energies. That is to say that in Igbo cosmology, nothing is entirely good nor evil, it is simply the human usage of such tool, that would determine its effect.

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