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The Importance Of The Python In Igbo Cosmology

Every part of the Igbo land has its own cosmology even before the coming of Christianity that made most people forget about the custom of their forebears. Each part of the Igbo group has its own totem that is sacred to them and is forbidden to be killed or harmed.

This belief of totemism, a system where humans are said to have a mystical relationship with a spirit-being, because of this belief and to avoid religious taboos, laws are made to control the socio-political activities of Igbo communities.

The Igbos generally revere certain plants and animals, but this varies depending on the part of Igboland for example, Crabs in Afikpo, Ebonyi State, a particular river that cannot be fished in Eha-Amufu, Enugu State, the special bush rat in Nnewi, etc.

In this post, we will dwell on the python in Igboland.

The python in Igboland

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Python is one of the biggest snakes known to man on Earth and is a member of nonvenomous snakes found in most parts of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Where in so many parts of Igboland, the Python is seen as a sacred totem and is not to be harmed or killed.

Some believe that Python was the landlord of the land, in some beliefs upon the creation of land from the water the Python emerges to guide the land making it its first occupant and the messenger of Ala (Gods of the land) so when humans emerge they have to negotiate with the python to inherit its land.

Read this – Everything we know about Igbo age-grade system 

But every now and then a python emerges and performs a function of touring their property, where the pythons meet, shrines are built because the presence of Ala is concentrated there.

In a large part of Anambra State, the python is loved, feared, and worshipped. Eke as it is known in Igboland, lives in harmony with the members of these towns. It is not even about these areas of Anambra State alone. It is so important in Igboland that they named the first of the four market days after the python.

The python while not harmful somethings eats the chicken eggs but the people do not take offence as it is a favour for the messenger of a powerful god to find your eggs worth eating.

The python and Idemili

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The name Idemili for which two local government areas in Anambra Central were named, was derived from the river that flows through the whole length of the area. This is the home of the python called Eke Idemili.

Eke is seen as the messenger of Idemili. Idemili is the Deity that holds the pillars separating the earth and the span of waters in space which falls in small quantities as rain. Without Idemili’s pillars, the earth would be submerged in water from heaven.

Most times, people who worship the python extend to it the adoration they have for Idemili who is the reason there is space, free of water, on earth for mankind.

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The people see the python as a source of protection and providence, employing it for wealth, fertility, and long life. To the people, Eke is a harmless being and it is actually harmless to those who do not kill it, and it symbolizes peace, prosperity, and abundance.

It is believed a child is born in this town the Python pays a visit to this newborn baby and intertwines itself around the baby offering protection against evil influences.

Just like the people of Idemili some parts of Imo State still see the Python as a feared and scared deity which they believed helped the natives to escape several dangers during the civil war.

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Some people believe we worship pythons or even the shrine are bad but not to these communities. They respect the python because it was there before their ancestors and seek to live in peace with it as tenets on this earth while the shrines indicate where spirits gather and the python being the messenger, knows where.

It is also believed that whoever kills these pythons in these communities is expected to perform burial rites as if the dead python was a human being.

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Written by Gabriel Eresiobi, Umudike

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