Amadịọha is one of the most popular Igbo deities, popularized by the movie industry.

Amid all that romanticism and fictitious stories, a lot has been obscured in its history and origin.

Popular pictorial depictions of Amadioha as a man holding a double-headed axe or having specific planets is modern imaginative embellishment based on European folklore around the figure Thor and the Western zodiac.

1. The Cult of Amadịọha originated and spread from Ozuzu Etche in present-day Rivers State.

Amadioha is the divine principle or spirit of Justice and retribution.

2. The deity is exclusive to the Southern Igbo (Ọhaji, Owere Ngọ, Etche, Mbieri, Ikeduru, Mbaise, Ngwa, Ụkwa, ikwere)
The cult of Amadịọha remained relatively unknown to the communities in what is today’s Orlu, Anambra, and Enugwu States.

3. Amadioha and Kamalu are two different deities with different origins

To understand its history and origin, one must understand the social structure and political organization of southern Igbo communities.

1. It was a purely republican society, there were no kings

At the topmost was the Nde Ọha also sometimes known as Nze(Nzerem) referred as venerable men, not chosen by men but handpicked by the gods,

They were the chief adjudicators of the community. They passed the final judgment on cases and officially ended disputes.
The group of Nzes is known as Ọha. it functioned as the town judiciary.

2. The Amaala/Amaali was the town legislature. They were made up of the heads of each family unit or kindreds (oji ọhọ ọpara), and they enacted the laws of the land.

The earth(Ala, Ali) in the cosmology of the southern part of Igbo land is the supreme divinity. Mother Earth is hallowed and sacred(Alịnsọ) therefore all the laws of the land, rites, ceremonies, traditions, and rituals reflect and protect the sacredness of the earth.

This is why to break the law or taboo or to do something evil is known as ‘imerụ ala’ or ‘ịrụ ala’

The Amaala were the custodians of the earth (the traditional religion) and their sacred laws.

Under the Amala were the freeborn young men known as Amadi, Amadi is the arbitrator and law enforcement, they were the sons of the soil.

They ensured that the laws and religious ordinances were kept and they punished or exacted penance on detractors. The word Amadi translates as Ama dị “may the lineage/compound/town continue in existence(be)”

There were other parallel governments such as the various Ezes (Chief priests to different deities), and titular priests known as Osu/Duru but that is not the scope of this discourse.

Amadịọha comes from the term Ama ndi-ọha, ama is the Echie word for thunder thus it means thunder of the ọhas
Amadioha in this sense is the chief law enforcer of the Earth(Ala).

It is a deity of justice and retribution who brings instant justice to those who befoul the earth.

The cult of Amadịọha is believed to have originated somewhere in the Southern Igbo land between Ehuda(Ahoada) and Etche. Still, somehow it is domiciled at Ozuzu Etche where its major shrine is located.

For centuries, plaintiffs sued their adversaries to Ozuzu to redress grievances and obtain justice, the guilty it was believed were struck down by the deity either by sudden death, lightning a strange disease, etc.

Ozuzu Etche clan grew in power and influence that Amadịọha shrines spread to neighboring communities where satellite shrines were established…such as Amadịọha Eziama.

It was well established and championed by Northern Ikwerre clans (who by the way have ancestral links to Ozuzu) and they prided themselves as nde Iwhuruoha.

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This propagation of Amadịọha was carried out by Ozuzu priests who recognized early on its lucrative capabilities.

It was in this era that powerful Ozuzu priests in the Ochichi migration and Okpo Nwagidi moved from Ozuzu to found Elele and Isiokpo respectively. (The same reason why elele, Isiokpo, Apani, Ozuọha, and Ipo celebrate “Ogba-ige” at Ozuzu)

Later on, another Ozuzu priest Okechi Nnoha would move up North from Ozuzu to establish the town of Ụmụnọha near Owere. He left Ozuzu with an oracle he obtained nearby called Igwe which he established at Ụmụnọha over a preexisting Ala shrine, the new shrine known as Igwekaala soon became associated with Amadịọha because it was modeled exactly after the one at Ozuzu, with the result that the two cults became merged.

Amadịọha shrines were designated huts (ụlọ Amadịọha) or grooves in front of which a forked stick was impaled into the ground, he was also represented by a white linen cloth tied to two forked sticks mounted in the ground, it was also represented by two forked sticks driven into the ground across which a horizontal bamboo bar would be placed and on it hung all sort of ritual items.

© Kaycee Alozie.

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