Literally, ‘great spirit’. The supreme deity of the lbo of Eastern Nigeria. Chuku is ‘the first great cause’; also he is Chineke, ‘creator’. The lbo hold that he is essentially good and only good comes from him. The origin of death is explained by a messenger myth. Once Chuku sent a dog to men with the message that if anyone died, the body should lie upon the earth and be strewn with ashes, after which the dead person would come back to life. The dog was delayed by hunger and tiredness, so Chuku sent a sheep with the same message. The sheep, too, stopped on the way in order to eat, and on arrival it had forgotten the wording of the message, and said to men that a corpse was to be buried in the earth. When, now, the dog arrived with the correct message, it was not believed. ‘We have been told to bury the dead’, the lbo said, ‘and this is what we have already done.’. So death was established on the earth.
Certain trees are sacred to Chuku. Offerings and sacrifices take place in groves and beneath trees in home compounds. Assistance is also sought from Ale, the earth goddess and daughter of Chuku. And, like their West African neighbours, the lbo seek to propitiate their ancestors and other spirits.