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Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
In his chapter, “Religion in Africa,” Ambrose Moyo describes five central tenets of most African Traditional Religions. Those five central tenets are belief in a supreme being, belief in spirits/divinities, belief in life after death, religious personnel and sacred places and witchcraft and magic practices. In his novel, Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe provides illustrations of each of these tenets. Okonkwo’s interactions with various other characters in the novel are indicative of the belief in these five central tenets that are found in most African Traditional Relgions. It’s interesting to see how these tenets serve to govern almost every aspect of life or in some cases, death. The first commonality of most African Traditional Religions is the belief in a supreme being. The belief in a supreme being holds that there is one God who serves as the foundation of all existence. Moyo writes that in traditional societies, God is believed to be the creator and sustainer of the universe. Achebe illustrates this in the form of a conversation between Akunna and Mr. Brown about Chukwu, a God (179, 180). This gives reference to Christianity. Most African Traditional Religions also share a belief in spirits/divinities. According to Moyo, this belief is based on the notion that the Supreme Being is surrounded by a multitude of supernatural or spiritual powers. Achebe references the evil spirit, Obanje, in context to Enzima (77). Enzima is depicted as being afflicted by the evil spirit to whom she often lost her children to. Achebe also references the Chi, or personal god, to which most hold a firm belief in (131). Another commonality found in most African Traditional Religions is the belief in life after death. Most hold firm to the belief that God originally intended for humans to live forever through rejuvenation or resurrection (Moyo 323). This leads to the belief that life does extend past death in the form of reincarnation and the ancestral world. Illustrations found in TFA of the belief in life after death come in the form of the ancestral world. Egwugwu and Obanje are forms of the ancestors. Religious personnel and sacred places comprise another commonality of most African Traditional Religions. Moyo tells us that religious leaders can be several entities. Those entities include men or women (depending on function), Cultic Officials who preside at shrines of divinities, heads of families, spirit mediums, diviner, or kings/chiefs. According to Moyo, sacred mountains and caves are almost universal among African peoples. Chielo serves as an example of a spirit medium. As far as sacred places, these illustrations are given by Achebe in the discussion of the Oracle of the Hills and personal shrines. A final commonality described by Moyo is witchcraft and magic practices. Moyo writes that witches and sorcerers represent the evil elements of African society that use power for the purpose of destroying life. Magic, however, can be used to protect or harm. This belief is held primarily to offer an explanation of the causes of misfortune or social disorders. Because of the strong beliefs in witchcraft, the people of the village in Achebe’s novel mutilated the body of a stillborn infant in order to reverse the curse. Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, provides relevant examples often found in most African Traditional religion. As referenced above, each of the five central tenets outlined by Ambrose Moyo can be found through the vivid illustrations provided by Achebe. These tenets are very essential to the way of life found in most African traditions. As we see illustrated in Achebe’s novel these tenets provide a path for life or death.