"Ala" (also known in other dialects as Ali, Ana, and Ani) is the name of the Igbo earth goddess, the mother of all living things. The Igbo consider her among the most significant of their deities because it is believed that she is the source of their well-being, fertility, and sustenance. Being an agrarian society, the Igbo regard Ala with utmost respect and reverence because she, being the earth, supplies food and grains, sexual fertility, and offers comfort and a place for burial. Grievous sins such as theft, murder, and incest are referred to as "aruru ala" (literally meaning "crimes/abominations against the earth"), because it is believed that such acts violate the sanctity of Ala. In order to avoid rousing the anger of Ala, expensive earth-cleansing rituals are performed in order to "wash away" such sins. In the rare cases in which such sins go unwashed, Ala may express her hot anger in the form of earthquakes, droughts, and famines.
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