Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": The Supreme Being of the Isoko (of Southern Nigeria)


Isoko Religion begins with Cghene the Supreme Being, who is believed to have created the world and all peoples, including the Isoko. He lives in the sky which is a part of him, sends rain and sunshine, and shows his anger through thunder. Cghene is entirely beyond human comprehension, has never been seen, is sexless, and is only known by his actions, which have led men to speak of Cghene as 'him', because he is thought of as the creator and therefore the father of all the Isokos. He is spoken of as Our Father never as My Father. Cghene always punishes evil and rewards good, a belief that leads the Isokos to blame witchcraft for any evil which may happen to a good man. As however Cghene is so distant and unknowable, he has no temples or priests, and no prayers or sacrifices are offered to him direct. To bridge the gulf between himself and man, Cghene appointed an intermediary called oyise, which is reffered to as uko Cghene or 'messenger of Cghene.' This oyise is a pole about eight feet long made from the oyise tree, erected after a seven-fold offering to Cghene, in the compound of the oldest member of the family, and only in his. Before this pole the family elder throws his used chewing stick each morning and offers prayer for the family and town. Through oyise, Cghene can be invoked in case of calamity or need.


James W. Telch, 'The Isoko Tribe,' Africa VII (1934), pp 160-73; quotation from p. 163

More on African Mythologies:

Books by Mircea Eliade:

Gods, Goddesses and Supernatural Beings | Main Menu | Keyword Search