Step 9: Iwa Ọjị

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“Onye wetara oji, wetara ndu” – (The one who brings kola, brings life)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. In the previous step, you learned one secret about abundance and in this step, you will learn another. If you recall, you were taught about the power of counting blessings, transformation and sharing. Today we will dive deeper as to The Source of the blessings of your life, and 5 ways that you increase your Aku na Uba even further. 

Ultimately, the source of all your blessings is your Chi. According to Igbo philosophy, while your Chi is the most pertinent in your life, there is a collective Chi that all derive from. Some Igbos call this Chukwu (Chi + Ukwu), which translates to  the great Chi. Some also call it Obasi. Regardless of the name, the actual meaning is the same; Chukwu is ultimately the source of all good things (Aku na Uba). 

In many traditions, The Source of All Good Things (whom many called God or The Creator) needs your offerings and worship. However this raises a paradox. What would the source of all good things actually need from you? Nothing! However, just because The Source does not need something does not mean that you have nothing to give. And one of the main symbols of giving to those who are the source of the good things in life would be iwa oji (giving kola), and that happens to be the name of this step.

Oji (kola) is an integral part of Igbo culture. It’s the first thing broken and offered to one’s ancestors in the morning. Oji is also always offered to guests by their hosts. And during any type of public event, the event cannot begin without it being broken and distributed. However, before continuing any further, I would like to callback to the previous step. If one counted their blessings (igbako ngozi) , one thing that they would come to realize is how many things they had that were given to them by other people.

“Ngalaba mmadu kariri ngalaba osisi” – (Human connections are more useful than tree branches)

If you are alive now, it’s because someone brought you into this world. You were also given food, clothing and shelter for long enough until you could provide these things on your own. You’re still alive because someone was protecting you when you could not, as well as taught you how to protect yourself when you could. If you’re reading this article (or listening to it), then you were taught how to read and hear in this particular language.  When one properly counts their blessings, they will come to realize that most of the good things in their life were made possible either directly or indirectly by other people. Just like there is a Source of all Good Things, there are different sources for the good things in your life. 

Niger-Benue River Confluence

There are at least 5 things that one can give to the sources of blessings in their lives:

The first thing is giving attention. For you to properly be taught something, you have to give the person teaching you your attention, preferably undivided. This could be applied to your first teacher, who usually was a parent or another family member (older sibling, uncle or aunt or grandparent), as well as the other teachers you’ve had in life. Paying attention to their instruction is the main price that they ask of you.

The second thing that you can give is priority. What this means is that when given a choice, you will nearly always give priority to a particular person, group or people or thing over others. This is sometimes called deference.

The third thing that you can give is respect. One shows respect mostly by showing obedience. One respects the instructions of those who have authority over them. One respects the rules of the institutions they belong to. One respects the laws of the communities they live in. And one gains the respect of others by following through with what their pledges and commitments.

“Nze zere ibe ochie” –  (If an nze aspirant respects nze title holders, he will achieve his ambition)

Aretha Franklin knew a thing or two about respect

The fourth thing that one can give is thanks. This is also called gratitude. Magic words such as thank you are the most familiar ways of showing gratitude (imela, daalu, ndewo). Returning a favor for a favor is another method. If one observes traditional Igbo prayers (ekpere), you will notice that giving thanks makes up the vast majority of the prayer. 

Last but not least, is giving honor or recognition. This is really the same as expressing gratitude, but usually done so in a public manner. 

Iko ka ofeke ji anu mmanya, mpi atu bu ihe e chiri echi” – (The uninitiated drinks with an ordinary cup, but a buffalo’s horn is reserved for titled people)

Now what if I told you that each and every one of the above ways of giving is encompassed by the kola nut ritual? During the morning prayer, one gives attention, priority, respect and thanks to God and ones ancestors. While God is known as The Source of All Good Things, ones family is usually how one inherits the good that comes from God. So it makes sense that both given kola nut during the morning. 

“Nwata erighi n’ihi nn ya, orie n’ihi nna ya” – (Benefits from to a child through his mother or father)

The above also applies during a public gathering, with the addition that honor/recognition is also included. There is a particular order to the person who breaks the kola, the one that distributes it, as well as who receives it. Usually the people given priority are the oldest and most respected members of the community. On top of that the kola nut ceremony must be done in asusu Igbo (language), which goes into respect of one’s customs and traditions. 

When one receives a visitor, the giving of kola symbolizes the giving of attention, priority and thanks. Just as you have many sources of blessings, you are also a source of blessings in the lives of others. Now I’d like for you to think about the following question: Who would you rather share your blessings with? A person who gives you attention, priority, gratitude, respect or recognition, or someone who does not? Now the second question would be are you doing a sufficient job giving these things to those in your life who are the source of many of your blessings?

Step 9: I choose to give attention, priority, gratitude, respect and recognition to the sources of the blessings in my life. 

Action item: Identify the various sources of the blessings in your life, and see how you can engage in a form of iwa oji for them. And stay tuned for step 10, which is coming the next new moon, which is May 11. Yagazie

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Step 11: Mgbaghara | Odinani: The Sacred Arts & Sciences of the Igbo People

  2. Pingback: Step 12: Ndidi | Odinani: The Sacred Arts & Sciences of the Igbo People

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