ALUSI – THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
To the white invaders, Alusi, was a term for idol which they did not only see as primitive but as a competition to the white man’s religion. And for the early church to survive, this indigenous altar – like a dog – was given a bad name, soaked in the muddy water, and what was once the hope and defender of Ndi Igbo repulses the people whose fathers it protected. This led to the renunciation of Alusi by the first generation of Igbo Christians – and the generation that followed the first mentioned the name with nauseous contempt. For nearly a century, the modern people of ndi Igbo remain distracted from deeply understanding the institution of Alusi and why it was necessary to our ancestors.
HOW WAS THE NAME ‘ALUSI’ COINED?
The word Alusi is a marriage of two words Aluu and Si. Aluu simply means abomination, but the watchword in the term is the attached word ‘Si’. This ‘Si’ is all that matters in the term above.
Si: The Terminator.
In Igbo terminology, the affix ‘Si’ is used as stop words. Take for example:
The word ‘Kwu’ means Stand; however, it could be used as moving aimlessly like in the sentence: O na aKWUghali (He/She is wandering around.)
The word ‘KwuSi’ means Standstill/ stop moving.
‘Ezo’ means raining (mmiri na Ezo – it is raining)
‘EzoSigo’ means the end of the rain
‘Gwa’ is to talk to (Gi ka m na aGWA – I am talking to you)
‘GwaSia’ – finished talking.
Bringing it into our discussion, joining the two words together – ‘Aluu’ (Abomination) and ‘Si’ (The end) – the new term formed literally becomes (Si) the end of (Aluu) abomination: the termination of impunity.
That’s why till this day, people still go by the name: Nwalusi, Ulasi, Idemili, NwaOgwu, Agbala, Nweke, Nwoye and names that are directly linked to great Deities of our fathers. To understand the concept of Alusi, one must appreciate how our ancestors viewed this God of Hope.
THE INSTALLATION OF THE ULU DEITY
Chinua Achebe’s classic: Arrow of God, simplifies the concept of Alusi and how the people of Umuora set up the shrine of Ulu. The record goes thus:
Then, the hired soldiers of Abam used to strike in the dead of the night, set fire to the houses and carry men, women and children into slavery. Things were so bad for the six villages that their fathers came together to save themselves. They hired a strong team of medicine-men to install a common deity for them. This deity which the fathers of the six villages made was called Ulu. Half of the medicine was buried at a place which became Nkwo market and the other half thrown into the stream which became Mili Ulu. The six villages took the name of Umuaro, and the priest of Ulu became their Chief Priest. From THAT DAY, they were never again beaten by their enemy.
(Arrow of God – pg 14 – 15)
In the passage above, Alusi Ulu was the savior of the people of Umuaro. The passage added how they sanctified their river and rebaptised it to Mili Ulu (Ulu River), and they sanctified their market and renamed it Nkwo. It’s indisputable that every customary market in Igbo land (Eke, Orie, Afor, Nkwo market) has its foundation with charms of good luck from a powerful Alusi and so does every river in Igbo land. This will lead us to the question: who needs Alusi?
ALUSI: THE MERCIFUL.
As the healthy have no need for a physician, Alusi is of no use to the great and mighty. The concept of Alusi was never to serve the strong but to protect the weak. The passage we read from Arrow of God explained that how the oppressed needed a Deity, it did not tell us that the people of Abam were in need of one.
To simplify the above axiom let me use this analogy:
If in my presence, a weaker man walks into my house to carry my pot of soup, I will not call the neighbours before curing his madness. But if an Army General does the same, in agony, I will permit him to take the stew in the fridge also. I will become the victim and definitely will seek for salvation – maybe from the court or making it a post on Social Media.
Just take it that the Court or the Social Media is to me what Alusi was to our fathers: a place of redress, a citadel of hope.
No wonder, Chinua Achebe remembered to add this essential part of the story:
When the six villages came together they offered the priesthood of Ulu to the WEAKEST among them to ensure that none in the alliance became more powerful.
(Arrow of God – pg 15)
Alusi, in Igbo spiritualism, is the only place you can take your problem to when men prove incapacitated. It is the spiritual ground where justice is never delayed. A place of comfort for the oppressed that saved the widows and the fatherless and brought bountiful harvests to our fathers.
Next time you hear the word ALUSI, just know that it is the sound of hope: THE LIGHT IN YOUR DARKNESS