Things Fall Apart
How we cite our quotes:
Near the barn was a small house, the “medicine house” or shrine where Okonkwo kept the wooden symbols of his personal god and of his ancestral spirits. He worshipped them with sacrifices of kola nut, food and palm-wine, and offered prayers to them on behalf of himself, his three wives and eight children. (2.14)
The Igbo people pray to their gods through wooden idols of them. It’s important to note that the shrine is devoted both to a god, but also the spirits of Okonkwo’s ancestors. Family life is so important in Umuofia that ancestors take on a somewhat divine nature; they must be remembered and honored or the ancestors will bring bad fortune.
The story was told in Umuofia, of how his father, Unoka, had gone to consult the Oracle of the Hills and the Caves to find out way he always had a miserable harvest.
The Oracle was called Agbala, and people came from far and near to consult it. They came when misfortune dogged their steps or when they had a dispute with their neighbors. They came to discover what the future held for them or to consult the spirits of their departed fathers. (3.2-3)
The Oracle is widely believed to have foresight – being able to tell men about their destinies. Not only do the Igbo believe in oracles but ghosts of their “departed fathers” – who are thought to have tremendous wisdom to impart on the living.
At the most one could say that his chi or personal god was good. But the Ibo people have a proverb that when a man says yes his chi says yes also. Okonkwo said yes very strongly; so his chi agreed. (4.3)
The gods, especially one’s personal god (or chi), are not beyond the realm of human influence. One’s personal god can be affected by one’s willpower, as demonstrated in Okonkwo’s case. This means that a person doesn’t live a life completely dictated by fate or the chi they were born with.