Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"We shall fight for our farmland and for the contempt Okperi has poured on us. Let us not listen to anyone trying to frighten us with eh name of Ulu. If a man says yes his chi also says yes. And we have all heard how the people of Aninta dealt with their deity when he failed them. Did they not carry him to the boundary between them and their neighbours and set fire on him? I salute you." (2.101)
Though Igbos always say that you should not challenge your chi, the competing, paradoxical principle in Igbo religion is articulated here by Nwaka: if you say yes, your chi will also say yes. Western culture has a similar saying – "God helps those who help themselves."
"But if it is the sickness of the Spirits, as you say, there is no medicine for it – except camwood and fire."
"That is so," said Akuebue, "but we cannot put our hands between our laps and watch a sick man for twelve days. We must grope about until what must happen does happen." (11.45-46).
In Igbo religious thought, some sicknesses can be healed. But if the spirits have decided it's your time to die, there is no effective healing ceremony. This suggests a certain fatalism and acceptance of death within Igbo traditional religion. Yet Akuebue points out that even if you know the man is going to die, you must do something for him to help alleviate his suffering.
"Do not make me laugh," he said. "If someone came to you and said that Ezeulu sent his son to a strange religion so as to please another man what would you tell him? I say don't make me laugh. Shall I tell you why I sent my son? Then listen. A disease that has never been seen before cannot be cured with everyday herbs. When we want to make a charm we look for the animal whose blood can match its power; if a chicken cannot do it we look for a goat or a ram; if that is not sufficient we send for a bull. But sometimes even a bull does not suffice, then we must look for a human. Do you think it is the sound of the death-cry gurgling through blood that we want to hear? No, my friend, we do it because we have reached the very end of things and we know that neither a cock nor a goat nor even a bull will do. And our fathers have told us that it may even happen to an unfortunate generation that they are pushed beyond the end of things, and their back is broken and hung over a fire. When this happens they may sacrifice their own blood. This is what our sages meant when they said that a man who has nowhere else to put his hand for support puts it on his own knee. That was why our ancestors when they were pushed beyond the end of things by the warriors of Abam sacrificed not a stranger but one of themselves and made the great medicine which they called Ulu." (12.89)
One of the principles of Igbo religion is the necessity of sacrifice in order to cure illness or protect again illness. In this case, Ezeulu examines what the white man is bringing and he compares it to a disease. But because it is a disease he has never seen before, to cure it, the sacrifice must be great – it must be greater than a goat, or a chicken, or a cow. He has come to the "end of things" and he must sacrifice his own son in order to gain the power he needs to confront this new religion.