Ibo Traditional Religion and Religious Change
Rita Melkis Reimanis
J. Congress Mbata
Thesis DT 3.5 1979 R363
147 leaves; 28 cm.
The present study examined the reasons why large numbers of Ibos of southeastern Nigeria turned to Christianity of some form after 1900 and the establishment of colonial rule, when there had been disinterest and even hostility to the Christian missionaries in the preceding fifty year period. Ibo traditional religion and religious change were explored within the framework of Robin Horton's theory of conversion.
Horton's model is based on a two-tiered structure of the typical traditional cosmology, consisting of the supreme being and the lesser spirits. The present study examined these for the Ibos. Horton proposes that as individuals progress from microcosms into macrocosms, the supreme being will become more developed, while the lesser spirits will receive less attention. Ibo history was examined in the precolonial period and the colonial period to determine the extent to which Ibos moved from small local communities (microcosms) to the larger world (macrocosms). In particular, three factors were investigated: geographic mobility, trade and commercial activities, and communications.
It was discovered that in Ibo traditional religion the supreme being occupied a prominent position of superiority and benevolence; he was omnipresent, omniscient, and all-encompassing. Numerous other spiritual beings also were important. Examination of the historical material revealed that colonialism was accompanied by a variety of components which encouraged movement from the microcosm to the macrocosm.
Horton's theory of conversion, although extremely stimulating and thought provoking, was found to be inadequate to explain religious change among the Ibos. Economic, political, social, and psychological motivations were found to be significant factors for Ibos turning to Christianity. There were indications that in the religious realm a variety of responses were possible in times of disruptive social changes. Religious change, in general, was seen as a multidimensional and complex process, and although influenced by external factors, was largely determined by preexisting cultural patterns. Continuity of the traditional religious system amidst change was found to be a pervasive concept in the present study.