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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Magic, Religion and Iron Technology in Pre-Colonial Northwestern Igboland
Author:Njoku, Onwuka N.
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:Nigeria
rites of passage
metalworking industry
iron and steel industry
Religion and Witchcraft
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Anthropology and Archaeology
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1580821.pdf
Abstract:The precolonial iron technology of the Igbo of Nigeria was embedded in a web of rituals and religious ideas. This paper first outlines traditional Igbo conceptions of the powers of iron, the ritual acquisition of the means to handle iron by the smith, and his initiation. Subsequently, the production process is described, indicating how Igbo metal-craftsmen forged a working synthesis between technology and the supernatural. There were two main phases in traditional iron production, namely smelting and smithing. There were four main stages in smelting: wood fuel production, furnace construction, ore preparation, and the loading and firing of the furnace charge. Each of these stages was preceded by magico-religious observances in which the god of iron was called upon to supervise the process to ensure a successful smelt. The smithy was treated not just as a manufactory per se, but also as an abode of the iron deity. Finally, the inner logic of the magico-religious phenomena of the industry is explored. The author concludes that Igbo metalworkers must have been quite aware that nothing, not even the benevolence of the deities, could substitute for practical knowledge and skill. The ritualization of technology, however, served at least two purposes: it was a means of restricting the knowledge to themselves; and it was a means of ensuring the preservation and transmission of an invaluable body of knowledge from generation to generation. Ref.