Historically, oracles had been known to the Igbo from time immemorial. Religion, morality and administrative law were interwoven in Igbo traditional culture. Events in the material world which cannot be explained or events shrouded in mystery, were explained in terms of mystical agents. Human affairs were believed to be under the government of an ordered levels of spirits and spiritual forces which either help man or work against him. This belief helped to mold the moral standards and to enforce social codes of conduct. Under this belief system, the settlement of disputes and punishment of criminals included purification of the land that has been desecrated by the evil they caused (Ikpu alu). The spiritual forces which govern the world, were attributed with well developed supernatural powers. Those who possess them can discover mysteries and secrets. The proper diagnosis of any misfortune consisted of appeals to these forces through divination and consultations at oracles. The diviners and priests of oracles were believed to have close association with the spiritual forces and are therefore disposed to ascertain the secrets and mysteries from the spiritual forces. Diviners and oracles confirmed their authenticity and reputation by the extent to which they could adequately and consistently solve the problems brought to them. Diagnosis were expected from oracles without any hints or prior information as to the circumstances of the matter. An accurate prediction confirmed the power of the oracle1 . This researcher heard from her uncle, the story of how a community decided on which dibia (medicine man) to employ to solve their problem. Each dibia that arrived, was given a fruited pumpkin and asked to consult his afa (oracle) and prophesy the number of seeds in the fruit. The pumpkin was then cut open and its seed counted. Any dibia that failed was chased away some were even sacrificed at the community’s shrine.
Within Igbo community, oracles and prophecy were devoted to divination. The dibia afa used his threaded seed pods (akwata) which he shook with both hands and then cast them out. While chanting some mystical words, he meditated at the exposed seeds, touching each of the ones that faced upwards with his sacred ofo totem. He does this several times within which he may ask the client some questions relating to the matter of inquiry. After several rounds of this sequence, he folds up his seed pods and narrates his findings and prescriptions. Professor Ekejuba mentions Igbo oracles as the Agballa at Awka, the Igwekala at Umunoha, the Onyili Ora near Nri and Ogbu Ogbunike. Two conditions for the establishment and development of oracles were; a quiet place remote from any routes and some natural features which inspired the sense of dread such as rocks, caves, steep valleys with water, groves or dense bush.2 Oracles and Prophecy in Arochukwu:
Arochukwu as an Igbo community, shared the same beliefs with respect to the spirit world and its controlling influence on all human affairs. To ascertain the causes of unexplained incidents, to forestall evil occurrences, to placate the spirit beings and to have insight into the future, they also consulted dibia afa (medicine man specialized in divining). Aro though had household god (Alaezi) and the god of commerce Inyamavia. . Diagnosis of problems by the dibia afa may be that the problem arose as a warning or penalty from the spirit world for offences against the laws of morality in the land. The remedy and prescriptions will be by way of propitiatory sacrifices. In some few very serious violations, no remedies are available other than death or prolonged illness, loss of wealth, childlessness, or other discomfort or deprivation. After the consultations at the dibia afa, placatory sacrifices are performed in the altars of either the Alaezi or Inyamavia.