The Nigerian Priest Who Saves Igbo Deities

In the past, the Igbo people openly worshipped and revered their deities.  These deities are artifacts that are central to the traditional religion. The people believe these dieties are sacred, and possess supernatural powers.

The advent of Christianity has forced many to turn away from worshiping idols.

In Eastern Nigeria, many Pentecostal preachers had destroyed these statues regarded as symbols of idolatry. However,  one Catholic priest  is currently collecting them instead.

Reverend Paul Obayi, known as “fire that burns” runs a Deities Museum in Nsukka. He has a three-roomed museum inside Saint Theresa’s Catholic Cathedral. The museum boasts of over hundreds of totems, masks, stuffed lions,  and carvings of different deities.

Many Pentecostal churches in the east, usually burn the artifacts. They believe that these idols contradict their faith. They insists that these artifacts symbolize evil spirits and bring bad luck to the people. People believe that when a community abandons their traditional religious beliefs, they are punished.

An Igbo proverb says “If a god becomes too troublesome, it becomes wood for the fireplace.” Many worshippers of these dieties often burn their deities.

However, Reverend Obayi collects these artifacts of the rejected gods and goddesses. He said that he makes use of his power as a Reverend father to cast away their supposed supernatural abilities.

This has earned him the name Okunerere, which means “the fire that burns idols in the spirit.”

Reverend Obayi insists that his mission is to save and preserve these artifacts. He does not want these artifacts to leave the shores of Africa and sold in any western country.

Comparing it to a Catholic-owned museum in Italy, the cathedral’s administrator, Reverend Father Eugene Odo, supports his initiative.

In Rome, there is a museum that preserves items that the Romans used as pagans. People from all over the world go there to see the different stages of human development.

Although the Deities Museum receives many visitors who come to see some of the tagged items from several states in Nigeria, the museum is in dire need of care and attention. Some of these artifacts are over a hundred years old, are strewn across the museum’s floor, and caked in the dust while some have even been destroyed by termites.

Regardless of the condition of the artifacts in the museum, it is a treasure trove of Igbo deities. You can find items such as :


I.) The pièce de résistance. This is the Adaada leja, a raffia-covered headless goddess, worshipped by barren or childless women seeking children. According to Reverend Obayi, the deity is almost 200 years old.


II.) A deity used by tricksters. This deity had two oblong-shaped objects held together by string. It  was used in the past to solve mysteries such as catching a thief. The deity had hidden levers which were operated by the trickster to control the movement of the objects. So when the names of the suspects were called out, it would look like there was an invisible force who had discovered the thief when it was just a fake scheme


Source from BBC