Indigenous deities are generally referred to as Arusi [Alusi in some accents] in Igbo land. The mention of this name means different things to different people; something of dread and reverence to the adherents of the native religion; something of an evil nature to other Igbo people who are Christians. However, due to the waning awareness of Igbo people and many African people to their culture and history, few people really know the origin of many of these names.
The name, Arusi which in Igbo roughly translates to deity is not an original name. In the Pre-colonial times, when the indigenous religion was very predominant, there were times when problems usually arose in the communities which required human sacrifice to the deities. A message was usually passed round through the town criers to make known the sacrificial demands of the high deity. There were times in history when people volunteered to be sacrificed for the sake of their communities. Then the sacrifices were usually performed at a spot where a tree was planted, according to the dictates of the gods. This sacrifice is usually expected to be the end of whatever evil that had been plaguing the land. The person who was sacrificed wwas then canonized into a deity, that spot was made his shrine and it was usually said about such a place, Aru kwusiri Eba which translates to “evil ended here”.
But with the advent of colonialism and the encounter between the Europeans and African language came many changes which have been passed down to younger generation today. According to the chief priest of the goddess, Uto whom we met in Umuase village in Onicha, the white men had difficulties in pronouncing Aru kwusiri and it was as a result of this difficulty that the term Arusi was born. This was because the indigenes too at a point began to use it to ease communication between them and their colonial masters and of course, with the introduction of western education, many other native terms were affected. We would do well to bring you a comprehensive list of these changes in our subsequent posts.
Know your history.