A benevolent goddess of the land, powerful and mighty! Art Illustration by Ugo Sirus
Ala (also known as Ani, Ana, Ale, and Ali in varying Igbo dialects) is the female Alusi (deity) of the earth, morality, fertility, and creativity in Odinani. She is the most important Alusi in the Igbo pantheon. In Odinani, Ala rules over the underworld and holds the deceased ancestors in her womb.
Her name literally translates to "ground" in the Igbo language, denoting her powers over the earth and her status as the ground itself. Ala is considered the highest Alusi in the Igbo pantheon. Ala's husband is Amadioha, the sky deity.
As the goddess of morality, Ala is involved in judging human actions and is in charge of Igbo law and customs known as omenala. Taboos and crimes among Igbo communities that are against the standard of Ala are called nsọ Ala. All ground is considered holy land as it is Ala herself. With human fertility, Ala is credited for the productivity of the land.
Ala's messenger and living agent on earth is the python (Igbo: éké), which is especially revered in many Igbo communities. In art, Ala is often represented as a regal figure seated on a throne, surrounded by her family. In the past, such figures took the form of life-size mud sculptures in special festive shrines dedicated to the deity and known as mbari.
Ala deity is most powerful of all deities as she is the earth mother who carries and gives birth to everything on earth. Everything we cultivate is done from earth. Everything we do is done on earth. Everything that has breath lives on earth. The walker walks on earth. The flyer takes off from the earth.
The dead is buried in the earth. With Earth man was made. The Holy Spirits of Chukwu Okike Abiama God moves on earth etc. As earth child; use the earth element to pray and extract her energy.
It is said that if a person commits a taboo in a community, that they have also desecrated or insulted Ala as the abomination (called ajo njo or Aru Ala, Alu Ani) was committed on her earth. Ala is also responsible for many aspects of Igbo society and guardianship of women and children in general.
She is often depicted with a small child in her arms and her symbol is the crescent moon. It is believed that the souls of the dead reside in her sacred womb. All in the community have to respect Ala as everybody lives on ala, the earth. It was sometimes believed that Ala could swallow people up into the underground. Ala is still worshiped by the Igbo of Nigeria and is annually paid homage to during the yam festival.
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 center, 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. While we celebrate the feminine every day of our lives, 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.
If you feel like welcoming Ala into your home this spring, pick up one of our candles to use as a devotion offering. Just remember to light it every morning and say a quick prayer to welcome her into your home.