Arrow of God
by Chinua Achebe
Arrow of God Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
There were few priests in the history of Umuaro in whose body priest hood met with medicine and magic as they did in the body of the last Ezeulu. When it happened the man's power was boundless.
Okeke Onenyi always said that the cause of the coolness between him and the present Ezeulu, his half-brother, was the latter's resentment at the splitting of powers between them. "He forgets," says Okeke Onenyi, "that the knowledge of herbs and anwansi is something inscribed in the lines of a man's palm. He thinks that our father deliberately took it from him and gave to me. Has he heard me complaining that the priesthood went to him?" (13.46-47)
In Igbo religion, a chief priest of a deity might not have all the powers at his disposal. In this case, we learn that Ezeulu does not have the power of herbal knowledge or of healing. He appears to resent this; in other passages, he indicates the disdain he holds for medicine men. The contempt he feels for healers might come from the fact that this healing power is closed to him.
"I did not ask you what anybody said. I asked what you were saying. Or do you want me to get up from here before you answer?"
"We were saying: Python, run! There is a Christian here."
"And what does it mean?"
"Akwuba told us that a python runs away as soon as it hears that."
Ezeulu broke into a long, loud laughter. Nwafo's relief beamed all over his grimy face.
"Did it run away when you said it?"
"It ran away fiam like an ordinary snake." (18.30-36)
Ezeulu enjoys hearing that the sacred python is scared of Christians. It suggests that his god, Ulu, is stronger than Idemili, the god of the sacred python. It also suggests that the Christian god is stronger than Idemili. Though Ezeulu doesn't realize it, that won't bode well for Ulu.
Because no one came near enough to him to see his anguish – and if they had seen it they would not have understood – they imagined that he sat in his hut gloating over the distress of Umuaro. But although he would not for any reason now see the present trend reversed he carried more punishment and more suffering than all his fellows. What troubled him most – and he alone seemed to be aware of it at present – was that the punishment was not for now alone but for all time. It would afflict Umuaro like an ogulu-aro disease which counts a year and returns to its victim. Beneath all anger in his mind lay a deeper compassion for Umuaro, the clan which long, long ago when lizards were in ones and twos chose his ancestor to carry their deity and go before them challenging every obstacle and confronting every danger on their behalf. (19.10)
Though Ezeulu is insistent in following what he believes his god is telling him to do, he recognizes that failure to call the Feast of the New Yam probably marks the demise of the god that Umuaro had taken up so long ago because of its need for protection. In short, it also marks the demise of the Umuaro religion.