Little Known Facts About the Ijaws #15


The Proto-Ijo ancestors, the aborigines or autochthones of the Niger Delta known as the Oru, the Beni-Otu (water people, spiritual initiates) the ancestral gods settled the eastern Niger Delta. Ke was the main mother settlement from which other towns and villages sprang from.

Various Extracts (see reference at the end)

  1. “…The Krome (Korome) traditions imply that both they and the Endeme arrived at the settlement about the same time to meet apparently, autochthonous settlers. These settlers are referred to as gods, but may have been proto-Ijo, since the culture of the composite settlement became decidedly Ijo, and considering the Ijo origin and culture of all other communities in this part of the delta…”
  • “…The names by which the old city was known at different points in time may serve as some indication of changes within the body politic. Kengema, for example, has been acknowledged to be one of the fond names the Kalabaris attach to themselves, and could have referred to the aboriginal Ijo settlement…”
  • “….The Korome traditions, in their turn, suggest their ouster of a previous religious hierarchy. No specific political authority was claimed for their ancestor Opukoroye, but their god Owoamekaso is stated to have driven out of a well the spirits formerly lodged in it, apparently, at the request of the people of Elem Kalabari…”
  • “…Chief Dagogo Dibia. He identifies one of the spirits as Keniowiyeta, Odum or Ayadi, now served at the town of Ke. This marriage (implied in the name Aya-di) is another example of alliances with the forces being superseded…”
  • “…One such figure is Owamekaso who had trouble establishing her sovereignty over the autochthonous gods (water people) of New Calabar (Kalabari). Says Horton…”
  • “…Thus when Owamekaso wished to become ruler of New Calabar, the other heroes insisted that she must first drive out of the town well a terrible creature which was killing everyone who came to draw water there. When she went to the well she found water people in the guise of seven pythons. After much bargaining the head of the water people said that they would all leave the well if Owamekaso would marry him; and when she consented to this all seven pythons dashed from the town, carving out seven creeks as they went. In the village of Teinma, too, the head of the heroes is said to have established her reign only after fighting and coming to terms with a local water man. She sent a crocodile to steal the instruments he used for making bronze bangles; and the water man chased the thief back to his mistress. In his anger he started to threaten the village; but after she had compensated him with the gift of a woman he went away peacefully, leaving her to rule without further trouble…”

It is clear from the above extracts that the autochthones people referred to as water people or gods, were the aboriginal Ijo or Orus members of the lodge of the Adumu spiritual initiation system that first settled Ke and spread out to other parts of the eastern delta. They were the first to settle the Eastern Niger Delta. Although Eastern Ijo Ke traditions do not remember the exact location these ancestors came from as they migrated into the eastern delta, central Ijo traditions derive Adumu from the extinct Agadagba-bou. The number seven also features in these traditions of Adumu, and although it is related to founding ancestors, from the spiritual perspective it is understood that the number 7 relates to the 7 vehicles of Adumu the Supreme Intelligence (to be explained later).

  • “…Ke: The History of an Old Delta Community. The town of Ke in Kalabari Division of the Rivers State is evidently an old one. The people of Ke express the conviction of their town’s antiquity by stating that it had been founded by seven ancestors who descended from the sky. What they mean is that they believe themselves to be autochthonous to this part of the Eastern Niger Delta, and have no remembrance of a time when they were anywhere else. Some of their neighbours in the Delta also believe in the antiquity of Ke….A further evidence of the ancestral nature of the god Keni Opu Ala is the fact that the cult really refers to the worship of Odum, Adum or Adumu (the African python) one of the most widespread cults in the Eastern Niger Delta. The informant expressed the python base of the Keni-Ala cult in various ways; that the ancestor Keni-Opu-Ala and the others had been brought down from the sky by Odum [Adumu] that “the sacred totem of Keni-Opu-Ala was Odum (African Python)…It is never killed by the people; and that the Odum of Ke was the father of all other Odum cults in the Eastern Niger Delta. It is possible that the ancestor Keni Opu Ala was priest of the Odum cult of Ke, and that his name became identified with the cult…The priests and elders confirmed the Odum aspect of the Keni Opu Ala cult by their interpretation of the main motive of the bronzes at the shrine. The largest bronze was a plaque consisting of three standing figures flanked by two coiled snakes (identified as Odum) each swallowing an animal (identified to be ekpe, he-goats). The standing figures were said to represent three of the seven founding ancestors…”

Descending or coming down from the sky, can mean ‘being aborigines’, as well as being ‘spiritual initiates’, as it could simply mean coming from ‘heaven’, and being sent by the ‘Supreme Creator’. Therefore it is understood that Ke was founded by a set of seven spiritual initiate ancestors who were the first people or autochthones of the Niger Delta.

The settlement and foundation of Ke has been dated using scientific method and compared to its king list that covers a calculated span of 12 centuries, to about 700 AD (CE). Central Niger Delta Ijo ancestral traditions derive the Adumu lodge (Adimu, Odum) from the central Niger Delta exitinct city of Agadagba-bou, where it is stated that the priests of Adumu were sent to the eastern Niger Delta to guard and inhabit the region.

Further indirect evidence of the central Niger Delta of Wilberforce Island to have been settled since 800 BC (BCE), and we can conjecture that it was inhabited by ancient Ijo ancestors or Orus who were members of the following spiritual realisation temples or lodges – Adumu, Egbesu, Opuogula, Benikurukuru and Zibarau


  • “…In the olden days the spirit of such a woman used often to go down into the water [i.e. enter a trance state] for the space of seven days, after which she usually returned to her own people. When the serpent husband [i.e. the divine intelligence dwelling in the spiritual plane]  comes up to visit his wife he is invisible to ordinary eyes, but the priestess herself can see and talk with him in his shrine…”
  • “…Sacred serpents are carved on the statue, as also upon posts near by. Hither must come all those who aspire to become diviners or prophetesses or ORU-KORO-EREME as they are called by Kalabari. These women used to hold a great position in the tribe, and nothing of importance was done without their inspired counsel. Each of the chief families possessed one, while several are attached to the service of the dominant deity Awome-Ka-so. They are hedged around with many taboos and in ancient times were allowed no human husband, since they were regarded as wedded to one of the sacred serpents. The water-spirit is supposed to rise out of the river [i.e. spiritual realm or the inner recesses of mind] and visit the priestess every eighth day; on that day therefore she keeps herself untouched, sleeps alone, does not leave the house after dark, and pours libations before the Owu symbols, the chief one which appears to be a cone shaped piece of pottery surmounted by a head. Inside her shrine are pots and many kinds of curiously carved posts and staves, some called Nunuma representing serpents, whose loops are said to typify the whirling of the dance, the dancing frenzy of Adumu. It is the spirit of the sacred serpent which is said to enter the head of the Pythia [i.e. priestess] and causes her to gyrate in the mystic dance which always preceded the utterance of oracles…
  1. “…According to the belief of both the Ibo and Kalabari, the rainbow itself is the great snake of heaven…Among the Brass Ijaw, as with the Kalabari, Adumu is considered the head of the water spirits [divine intelligences].. Opu Adumu, the principle Bonny deity [divine intelligence] lives in the water [spiritual realm]. The word Opu means “great” and is added to his name in order to magnify him; Tololo, Oko Lobiebo, Adum-Ta and Ikpali; are his wives…”

  1. “…Ijo blessed Alagbarigha, offered him one of his Sea Gods (represented by the boa-constrictor) known as Adimu and dispatched him to that part of the delta to guard and rule there…”
  1. “…Ijo at his settlement adopted the name Adimu for one of his important deities represented by the boa constrictor [python] and the boa constrictor  became later known in Ijo as Adimu or Odumu…Adimu as a god is popular in Ijoland and known by different names….”
  1. “..the word Adimu itself, which is a survival of the Atumu or Adumu, the name of a well known [Ancient] Egyptian God…The reason for the divine honour paid to Adimu thus becomes obvious. Atumu or Adumu was one of the most revered Gods in Ancient Egypt…It  may be added that Atumu or Adumu survives not only among the Yorubas but also among other West African tribes. For example, an important deity among the Ijos is known as Adumu…” and also we have “..According to Egyptian mythology Tum [Tem], or Atumu [Adumu] was the god of the primordial ocean, the soul of the deep watery abyss..”

From the understanding of ancient African civilisation it is known that Adumu (Adimu, Odumu) is derived from the prehistoric past of ancient Africa when the conceptualisation of the Great Divine Intelligence was in the form of the spiralling motion symbolised by the Serpent. Let us trace Adumu (Atumu, Atum) further back to prehistoric and Ancient Africa.

  1. “…In Prehistoric Africa, the snake, because of its ability to shed its skin was a symbol of renewal, and since the python in particular was so often a tree dweller, serpent and tree were linked in a composite symbol that signified life, growth, and renewal. Originally, all this typology would have been feminine and maternal, of which Eve is but a late expression. What is all the more interesting is that the snake is also one of the forms of Atum, representing that which surges or rears up out of the primeval NUN in the first act of Kamite [Ancient Egyptian] creation…….”
  1. “…Atum is the aboriginal deity and ultimate but hidden godhead…Atum is essentially invisible……Atum was at first alone in the universe. He was not only God but all things to come…..There was this myth about a primeval serpent, but it is impossible to be precise about it because no text or picture yet discovered gives a detailed description of the origin of the world in terms of this symbol. The inscriptions of the later periods abound in references to ‘the Serpent in the Primeval Darkness’…..This manifestation of the High God in his emergent form was however, already known to the Pyramid Texts, for par. 1146 makes the Creator/Spirit say: ‘ I am the outflow of the Primeval Flood, he who emerged from the waters. I am the “Provider of Attributes” serpent with its many coils. I am the Scribe of the Divine Book which says what has been and effects what is yet to be.’ Here the serpent is the creator of multiplicity, God as the Spirit who assigns to everything its essence……The serpent is therefore a symbol for creation by word [intelligence], the belief that the universe in its variety is based on the realisation of the commands of a designing and conscious mind…..The Primeval Serpent came into being in the mist of the dark waters of the Abyss. In one sense he is the Atum figure of Heliopolis performing creation….In another he is the serpent whose coils delimit the creation-the outer coils of the serpent are the limits of the world. God is the serpent but he is also in the centre of the coils, where he devises the Logos the creative Word which lays down the laws of what is to be made. Hence the serpent in the Pyramid Text merges into the scribe of the divine book…….The serpent is an image [symbol] of God at the beginning, but God is not now manifest in this form, for it has been superseded. The serpent belongs to the mythological past. Chapter 175 of the Book of the Dead prophesies that at the end of time the world will revert to the primary state of undifferentiated chaos and Atum will become a serpent once more…..God the Serpent therefore exists at both ends of time, when the world emerged from the waters and when, at the end of the present dispensation it is engulfed in them once more….”

One of the reasons for the Ijos to settle the coastal islands was to focus on the Adumu (Adimu, Odumu, Odum) spiritual initiation system. Adumu is the term for the Supreme Intelligence and is symbolised by the Great Python. Adumu is symbolically the Sea God, Lord of the primordial ocean (dwells in the deep recesses of the Mind, the infinite realm of energy/matter)


Alagoa E J, Anozie F N, and Nzewunwa N. The Early History of the Niger Delta. (1988 Helnut-Buske verlag Hamburge

Alagoa E J. A History of the Niger Delta – an historical interpretation of Ijo oral traditions. (1972 University of Ibadan Press)

Finch C S. Echoes of the Old Darkland-Themes From the African Eden (1991)

Okpewho I. Myths in Africa-A study of its aesthetic and cultural relevance. (1983 Cambridge University Press)

Owonaro S K. The History of Ijo and her Neighbouring tribes in Nigeria (1949 Niger printing Press Lagos)

Rundle Clark R T. Myths and Symbols in Ancient Egypt (1959, 1993)

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