Pre colonial Nigeria religion

Pre colonial Nigeria religion

The Pre colonial Nigerian society is considered to be a subject of a lot of researches. Even if Nigeria looks to be a united country, it experiences struggles from the inside. One of the reasons for this struggle is religion. Today we will try to find out the roots of religion for every major tribe in Nigeria. Continue reading to learn more!

Pre colonial Nigeria religion

Hausa religion in pre colonial Nigeria

Hausa religion in pre colonial Nigeria

Hausa is one of the predominant tribes in Nigeria. These days, they are mostly the representatives of the Islam religion. It`s interesting that Hausa is the least influenced by traditional religious beliefs. The reason for that is Islam. Muslims came to Hausaland in the 11th century. The Hausas accepted and supported the spread of Islam. Hausa received the Islamic religion from traders of Guinea, Mali, Borno and North Africa.

Islam religion is part of what helped Hausa to be a dominant tribe in the West Africa. They created the Sokoto Caliphate, which even tried to fight against colonial powers in the 19th century. However, they failed and became a part of the British Empire.

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Maguzawa and Hausa

Maguzawa and Hausa

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Hausa people also had traditional African Beliefs. Their traditional religion is called Maguzawa. In pre-colonial Nigeria history, this religion was mainly nurtured in remote areas of Hausaland. Maguzawa is also a subgroup of Hausa people in modern times. They believe in spirits (iskoki). There are three thousand iskoki in their religion. All of them are divided into two groups:

☛ The Gona – farm spirits;

☛ The Daji – Bush Spirits.

There are also six major spirits in this religion:

There are also six major spirits in this religion

☛ Bagiro – this spirit can devour souls;

☛ Manzo – the name can be translated as “messenger.” This spirit is described as a dog who can torture souls;

☛ Babban Maza – his name translates as “great among men.” Therefore, this spirit is usually described with a pestle;

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☛ Waziri – this spirit provides gifts to people;

☛ Mai`iali – she is the queen of spirits. She is generally portrayed wearing a large cloth with children;

☛ Sarki Aljah – he is a king of all spirits.

Bori and Hausa

Bori and Hausa

Bori is another Hausa religion which can be seen in pre colonial Nigerian culture. The main characteristic of this religion is spirit possession. For example, they used spirits to heal illnesses. They performed adoricism to achieve this. Adoricism is an opposite side of exorcism. In this case, Bori priests “tamed” spirits so they can use them in healing practices. The highest rank was held by a woman. She was called “Inna,” which translates as the mother of us all.

Igbo Religion

Igbo Religion

In Pre Colonial Era in Nigeria, Igbo people believed in Odinani. It`s the common name for the traditional Igbo religious practices. The main characteristic of this religion is a monotheistic attribute. They believed in one God, but he also had a lot of spirits (Alusi).

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Igbo`s traditional beliefs in some contextual meaning can resemble Christian cosmology. They believed in one God called Chineke. He was a creator of everything on the Earth. At the same time, the world was divided into Human and Spirit world. When people died, they traveled to the spirit world.

Igbo`s traditional cosmolog

Each person has a guardian spirit which was called Chi. Chineke or Chukwu assigned these spirits to every person. The closest concept to Chi spirit is the guardian angel in Christianity. This spirit also follows the person into the world of spirits. Igbo people believed that they could speak with ancestors who lived in the spirit world.

Alongside with Chukwu as a supreme spirit, there were other lesser spirits:

- Anyanwu – it`s the sun god. Together with Amadioha, he controls the weather;

- Amadioha – it`s the god of Sky. He was also a god of justice and lightening;

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- Ana or Anada (can also be called Ani or Ala)– it`s the Earth Goddess;

- Ikenga – It`s the god of time and achievements. He had control over blacksmithing and farming;

- Ekwensu – It`s the god of war that was mostly honoured amongst warriors.

Igbo in Pre Colonial Nigeria

Igbo in Pre Colonial Nigeria also had a system of priests. They were divided into two types:

- Hereditary priests. They were mere servants of one particular god or spirit.

- Seers. These priests were empowered with justice functions. They had symbols of power and almost limitless authority.

Igbo people also had ancestral shrines. They tried to keep in touch with their ancestors by providing them offerings.

Yoruba Pre Colonial Nigeria Religion

Yoruba Pre Colonial Nigeria Religion

Yoruba tribe continues to perform their practices which are connected with pre colonial religion in Nigeria. According to Yoruba cosmology, they are all part of Itan. It`s the complex cultural aspect that connects all Yoruba.

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The key element of this religion is “Ayanmo” (destiny) which is possessed by every human being. It`s traditionally believed that the “Ayanmo” will be connected to the creator after death.


The main gods of Yoruba are Olodumare/Eledumare, Olorun and Olofi. Yoruba refer to these spirits as “it” or “they,” because they have no gender or number.

- Olodumare created everything in the world. When people die, their “Ayanmo” connects with the creator;

- Olorun is the ruler of heavens.

- Olofi serves as the conduit between two worlds. Orun or Heaven is the place where all gods and spirits live. Aye or Earth is the place for all humans.


There are also so-called Orisha. They are spirits which can travel between Orun and Aye. They can be servants of gods as well as just independent spirits. There are also Irunmole. These spirits are servants of Olorun. They are the messengers to the human realm.

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Pre Colonial and Post Colonial Nigeria Religion

Pre Colonial and Post Colonial Nigeria Religion

Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world. The current religious beliefs often tend to have the same characteristics of their previous religion. Nigerians must know their culture and religion. Without preserving the culture, it is not possible to preserve the nation.

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