Women’s International Day – West African Earth Goddess
This International Women’s Day, we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight a big source of inspiration for Imọlẹ Candles: the West African earth goddess Ala.
We take a lot of our inspiration from Nigerian heritage and culture, and Ala is no exception. What’s more, spring is her time, so there couldn’t be a more perfect occasion to put her centre stage.
Who is Ala?
Ala is a deity (known as Alusi) in Odinani, which is the religious practice of the Igbo people from southern Nigeria. Her name means “ground” in the Igbo language, and she’s considered the highest deity in the Igbo pantheon. Unlike many religions, Odinani puts a woman ahead of men.
This is understandable considering Ala’s religious symbolism. She’s the goddess of the earth, fertility, morality, and creativity. The Igbo people know her as the mother of all things, but she is present at both the beginning and the end of the life cycle.
Ala is present when babies are born into the world, just as she is present in the fertile earth. But she is also there to welcome spirits of the dead into her womb at the end of life, just as she is present in the empty field after harvest.
She also rules over human morality and is in charge of Igbo law, known as Omenala. If someone commits a crime or moral injustice, they are said to have insulted Ala herself, known as nso Ala. Army ants do her bidding and attack those who have committed crimes, forcing them to repent for their behaviour.
You can probably see why Ala is considered the highest Alusi: she rules over life and death, but also morality and creativity. And what’s more important to human existence than the power of life and death?
Ala’s time is spring, but devotions are given during planting season, but also at first fruit and harvest. A village will typically have a shrine to Ala at its centre, which again highlights her cultural significance. Members of the village leave daily devotions to her during these important periods.
One of the most common ways to pay tribute to Ala is to light candles. If you light a candle in the morning and welcome Ala and spring, it’s believed that you’ll be blessed with fertility and creativity.
Celebrating Ala this International Women’s Day
It’s fair to say that there’s never been a more perfect time for us to look to Ala. While we celebrate the feminine every day of our lives, this year holds special significance.
As we begin to come out of lockdown, Ala reminds us to wash away the old and embrace the new. And after a year of stagnation and difficulty for us all, it’s fair to say we probably all need a bit of creativity in our lives.
So if you feel like welcoming Ala into your home this spring, pick up one of our candles to use as a devotive offering. Just remember to light it every morning a say a quick prayer to welcome her into your home.