Original Research - Special Collection: Africa Platform for NT Scholars

Environmental determinant of religious names: A study of Úgwú and naming among the Nsukka-Igbo people of Nigeria

Paulinus O. Agbo, Christian Opata, Malachy Okwueze
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 3 | a6977 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i3.6977 | © 2022 Paulinus O. Agbo, Christian Opata, Malachy Okwueze | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 July 2021 | Published: 10 June 2022

About the author(s)

Paulinus O. Agbo, Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Humanities Unit, School of General Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Christian Opata, Department of History and International Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Malachy Okwueze, Department of Religion and Cultural Studies, Faculty of the Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

This article makes a contribution towards understanding the correlation between Úgwú (hill or mountain) and personal names among the Igbo people of Nigeria. Sacralisation of the natural environment which include hills or mountains is a belief that cuts across religions. Among the Igbo, the perceived sacred value placed on such natural environment prompted a series of socio-cultural changes. Personal names are usually drawn from deified entities such as the earth, sun, rivers, and so on. Studies on Igbo personal names portrayed the environmental determinant for personal names in different Igbo-subcultures. However, the pattern of Nsukka-Igbo names, influenced specifically by Úgwú has hardly gotten any scholarly attention. This study, therefore, provided evidence that Úgwú is the single most environmental element that shaped the culture of naming among the Nsukka-Igbo people with its psycho-social and economic implications. Drawing from the theory of sacralisation, which stresses on placing religious values on objects, this article showed that the deified Úgwú environment influenced an unprecedented frequency and exclusive nature of Úgwú personal names in the study area. Documentary research, observation and interview methods were used to collect and analyse secondary, as well as primary data for this study. The article drew attention to the increasing influence of Úgwú on personal names in Nsukka-Igbo, and its effects which include the conservation of the environment occasioned by the deification of Úgwú.

Contribution: This article shows that the deification of natural environment of Úgwú influenced the increasing frequency of Úgwú personal names and its associated variants among the Nsukka-Igbo people of Nigeria.


Keywords

Úgwú; hill; mountain; personal names; sacralisation; environment; conservation; taboos

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