Artefact from Anatolia Hittite Empire
Ala is the Ibo Fertility Goddess of the earth. The Ibo people of Nigeria call her the mother of all things, but she is both the fertile earth and the empty field after the harvest. She is present at the beginning of the cycle of life, making children grow in their mother’s womb, and she is there at the end of the cycle, to receive the souls of the dead into her own womb. Ala also gives laws to the people, emphasizing the importance of honesty and respect. Temples to Ala called mbari are built in the center of villages, and contain a mud statue of Ala which is then painted in bright colors. These statues usually show Ala with a long torso and long thick neck, which are considered to be signs of beauty among the Ibo. She is joined by other deities and animals. Ala is also known as Ale, Ani, Ana, Alla, and Ane. She is the most important Alusi in the Igbo pantheon.
Ala (also known as Ani, Ana, Ale, and Ali in varying Igbo dialects) is the female Alusi (deity) of the earth, morality, death, and fertility in Odinani. She is the most important Alusi in the Igbo pantheon. In Odinani, Ala rules over the underworld which 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 and was the first Alusi created by Chukwu, God almighty. Ala’s husband is Amadioha, the sky god.
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 ns? Ala. All ground is considered ‘Holy land’ as it is Ala herself. With human fertility, Ala is credited for the productivity of land. Ala’s messenger and living agent on earth is the python (Igbo: éké), it is and animal especially revered in many Igbo communities. In Odinani art, Ala’s image is mostly depicted in clay Mbari temples.
She is often depicted as a mother with a child sitting on her lap, sometimes she wields a sword in her right hand; her consort, Amadi Oha, the god of thunder, is often dressed in a topee.
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. It is also believed that she can be Chukwu’s wife or daughter. 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 you up into the underground.
Ala is still worshipped by the Igbo of Nigeria and is annually paid homage to during the Yam festival.