Author Archives: Omenka Egwuatu Nwa-Ikenga

Odinani Book Club: “Akata Warrior” by Nnedi Okorafor

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For the next Odinani book club pick, we will be reading “Akata Warrior” by Nnedi Okorafor, which is the sequel to “Akata Witch.”  If you wish to participate in the Book Club discussion, please send an email to egwuatu.nwaikenga@gmail.com.

Synopsis: A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book.

Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysteries town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Odinani Book Club: “Omenuko” by Pita Nwana

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For the next Odinani book club pick, we will be reading the classic work “Omenuko” by Pita Nwana. Published in 1935, it was the first novel written in the Igbo language. Its available for free at this website. If you wish to participate in the Book Club discussion, please send an email to egwuatu.nwaikenga@gmail.com

Synopsis: Omenuko chronicles the true life story of a quintessential Igbo businessman, otherwise known as Chief Igwegbe Odum of Ndizuogu who lived between the 19th and 20th centuries. 

Odinani Book Club: “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor

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For the next Odinani book club pick, we will be re-visiting “Akata Witch” by Nnedi Okorafor. In some places, its retitled “What Sunny Saw in the Flames.”  If you wish to participate in the Book Club discussion, please send an email to egwuatu.nwaikenga@gmail.com

Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

Relaunch of Odinani Book Club: “Efuru” by Flora Nwapa

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Today we are announcing the relaunch of the Odinani Book Club. As we have stated in the past, fiction is one of the best ways to get a more holistic understanding of Odinani. Every month we will select a book to read and will alternate between classic works and more contemporary ones.

For this relaunch we will return to “Efufu” by Flora Nwapa. Published in 1966, it was the first novel written by a Nigerian woman to be published. Feel free to purchase the book below, or rent it from the library. If you wish to participate in the Book Club discussion, please send an email to egwuatu.nwaikenga@gmail.com

Summary: Efuru is a beautiful, superior woman, who cannot marry or have children successfully. Her neighbors acknowledge her distinctions, are grateful for her generosity, but cannot intervene in or comprehend her tragedy. A sage diagnoses that a river goddess has in fact chosen Efuru as her honored worshipper. So far as earthly companions are concerned she must remain alone…

Step 13: Ifunanya

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“Madụ bụ chi ibe ya”

(Mankind is god to his fellow man)

Welcome to Step 13. If we were to journey back to a traditional compound (ezi) in Igboland, we would observe that a place usually at the center, which was the most important building. This place, known as the obi, was where the owner of the compound lived. And it’s no coincidence that the same word for obi is also used for the heart.  Of all of your organs, the heart is the most critical to life itself. When it stops beating, your life literally comes to an end. The emotion usually associated with the heart is love, which in Igbo is known as ifunanya, and that’s also the name of this final step.

What is love? A whole library could be filled with literature, music and arts about this topic. Whether it’s love between human beings, love of objects, love is something that everyone has an opinion on. For this step, the type of love that we are going to focus on is human love. And  two of the main ways that human love is expressed: in a more selfish way, and a more selfless way.

Those whose expression of love is mostly the selfish type have love of self as their primary (and sometimes sole) motivation. Self centered humans develop a false belief that the world revolves around them. When it comes to anything they do, their main motivation is to satisfy their needs and wants. Even if they are engaged in activities that can be of benefit to others, it’s almost never for the right reasons. 

Overly selfish people often usually care more about ideas and concepts than other people. If they even know what consequences are, they don’t care about them so long as negative ones don’t impact them personally. Humans who are stuck at this level of love have the capacity for the greatest destruction of both themselves and others. 

“It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed” – Napoleon Hill

Those who operate at a much higher level of love are those who have love of others as their primary motivation. They engage in more selfless thoughts and actions and are usually described as having empathy. If they don’t want something done to them, they try not to do it to others. They try to remember how the consequences of their actions will impact others, even if it doesn’t negatively affect them personally. 

People at this higher love level have realized that the Chi na Eke that resides in them also is connected to the Chi na Eke that resides in others. Therefore, anything that they do to others will have an impact on them, whether they acknowledge it or not. When their Ikenga is in a position of authority, they desire to serve, guide and lead, instead of ruling over. When their Ikenga is one of a fighter, it’s the type of fighter who does it for others, especially those who are unable to fight for themselves. 

The dreams (nro) that they are working into turning into reality are the types that benefit more than just themselves. And the destiny (akaraka) that they have chosen involve them having a positive impact on others.  They always come to the conclusion that they don’t know everything, and that it’s much better to learn from the experience of others than to try to experience everything on their own. And they are happy to share whatever wisdom they have. That makes them lovers of wisdom, which we know as being in the state of Ako bu Ije. 

Those at this higher love level realize that the same air that fills their lungs during their ume ndu practices has been inhaled and exhaled by others; and that increasing the abundance (aku na uba) of others helps them increase their own abundance, rather than diminish it. They recognize those who came before them, as well as those who helped them get to where they are today. And when they engage in any transformative process, they’ll make sure it’s not at the expense of others.  They forgive themselves and also forgive others. They are patient in their own affairs and are also patient with their fellow human beings.

Have you noticed that a fair amount, if not most of the “greatest” things you have done were usually for other people? Those that engage in labors of love are usually operating at the highest level. They are the true elites. Their primary motivation isn’t fame, fortune or even greatness. However it’s not uncommon for them to gain these things anyway. If you truly want to maximize your life, consider what you can do out of the love of other people. Whatever path you choose, do it with the higher level of love. Stay blessed and remain loved. 

Step 13: Above all, love is key. I strive to do things with love. And to love others as I love myself. 

Step 12: Ndidi

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“Ebe onye oso ruru, onye ije ga eru ya!”

(Wherever one who runs reaches, one who walks would also reach)

Welcome to Step 12, the penultimate step of this program. As you are near the end of The 13 Steps, I think it’s important to return back to previous lessons and realize how far you’ve traveled. For your first step, you began to remember (ncheta) what it felt like to try new things without fear of failure. Next, you discovered your potential &  kinetic energies (Chi na Eke) in step two and the importance of keeping them in harmony. In the third step, you recognized the importance of your self image (Ikenga) in creating the reality that you want for yourself. For step four, you learned how you’re constantly in communication with spirit via your dreams (nrọ). 

In step 5, you declared that your destiny (akaraka) was indeed in your hands, and then after that you learned in step 6 that the best way to travel through life was by being guided by your internal navigation system (ako bu ije). The lesson of step 7 was how to harmonize your Chi na Eke, as well as supercharge your Agwu (your intuition) using various umu ndu practices. Step 8 taught you that abundance (aku na ụba) was something you already had, but you had to learn to transform it from one form to another. 

In step 9, you were reminded of how you could give back to those who were the source of the blessings of your life. Step 10 taught you that there were no magic pills, and that everything was a process (ogwu). And in step 11 you learned how forgiveness (mgbaghara) can unshackle you from whatever you’ve found yourself bound to. Seeing how far you’ve come, it’s almost like looking from near the top of a mountain. And if there is anything one would need to scale a mountain, it’s ndidi, which is the Igbo word for patience and also the name of this step.

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” – Leo Tolstoy

Societies all around the world associate mountains with spiritual awakenings. People would either go up a mountain to have a transformative spiritual experience, or do it in order to learn lessons from spiritual masters, who are usually said to live at the top of the mountain. As I told you earlier, one cannot successfully climb a mountain without having patience. Likewise, ndidi is one key ingredient in mastery of anything. 

Martin Luther King Jr. knew a thing or two about mountaintops

My brothers and sisters, the main lesson for step 12 is that if you have indeed taken the time and effort to do the action items described in steps 1 – 11, then you have already demonstrated ndidi. Furthermore, if you apply this same ndidi you have to other areas of your life, you are guaranteed to  see positive changes. Ndidi is like salt, it’s one of the few things in life that enhances almost anything it’s added to. 

Step 12: I am patient and will continuously work on being more patient in other areas of my life

Action item: Look for ways you can be more patient in your day to day activities. And stay tuned for Step 13, which is coming out on the next new moon August 8. Yagazie! 

Step 11: Mgbaghara

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“Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya”

“He who will hold another down in the mud must stay in the mud to keep him down.”

Welcome to Step 11. In Step 8, you learned the basics of how abundance manifests in your life. In Step 9, you learned that giving is one of the keys to increasing that abundance, and in Step 10, you recognized that success is a process, not a magic pill.

Step 11 is called Mgbaghara, which in Igbo translates to forgiveness. However, for the purpose of this step, I’d like to give you another definition, which is “unbinding.” Each us happens to be “bound” in one way, shape or form. If you found yourself tied to a fixed location, you will find yourself unable to move any further than the length of your rope. If you were chained to a movable, but heavy object, you would be able to move, but would find yourself very slowed down. And of course, if you were handcuffed to a person, you would be unable to move without them.

If you desire to become “unbound” from any of the things you happen to be shackled to, the best tool to achieve this goal would usually be a key. And today, I will give you 3 ways that you can utilize mgbaghara to unlock shackles you weren’t aware you had. 

Master Key #1

The first thing I’d like to show you is how to to “unbind” yourself from the shackles that have been put on you by a particular person. This individual is your biggest saboteur, harshest critic and all around worst enemy. As you’re going through the various people in your life that fit this criteria, I will reveal where to find this person. This may come as a surprise, but it’s someone you’ve known your entire life and is very close to you. To find this person, you don’t have to look any further than in the mirror

It will indeed be very difficult to someone who has done more damage to your life than yourself. Most of your dreams have been killed before they’ve started by your self doubt and fears. Over the course of your life, you have constantly beaten yourself up over mistakes you’ve made or actions you didn’t take. And as a result, you’ve attached yourself to “heavy” feelings of shame, regret, self loathing, etc. that weigh you down tremendously. 

But if you would not trip over what’s behind you, why should you allow your past choices to make you falter today? If you recalled in Step 1, you probably attempted to walk hundreds of times before finally getting it right. And once you successfully took your first step, you pretty much forget all the times you were not successful in walking. What would happen if you took a similar approach today?

Recognize that making mistakes is part of the learning process. If you never made mistakes, you would either never learn anything new or would already know everything. As you learned in Step 5, you are the one that is in charge of your destiny. If you are currently heading in the right direction, would it be wise to dwell on the time you spent following the wrong routes? As long as you are guided by Ako Bu Ije, you will be constantly learning from your mistakes instead of repeating the same ones. 

My brothers and sisters, the first key is to forgive yourself. You have the key to remove the shackles that bind you to your past choices or the person you used to be. As you recall from Step 10, everything is a work in process, including you. If you don’t like your present Ikenga, you can create a new one. Once you can forgive yourself, the other keys will be alot easier.

Master Key #2

If you remember the lessons from Steps 8 & 9, most of the good things you have in your life were given to you by others. However, the same can be said for many of the not so good things. The same folks who gave you the physical traits that helped you survive are also responsible for passing down the less desirable ones. The relatives that gave you the most in one area of life may have neglected you in others. To dive even deeper, many of the negative parts of yourself, may not only have been inherited from your parents but even go back several generations. In some circles, these are called family or generational curses.

Even if you aren’t engaging in behaviors that you or others would consider negative, you may want to consider a few things. As societal norms have changed, and cultures have evolved, beliefs and practices judged as acceptable in one time and place would be judged as unacceptable in another. Things that may have been taboo in the past may be seen as alright today, and vice versa. This inevitably means that some of the current beliefs and behaviors that you’re currently engaged in will be frowned upon by people in the future.

With that in mind, the second key is to forgive your family. They are humans just like you, and subject to the same flaws and faults as you are. Furthermore, as you learned in Step 5, you are not handcuffed to the path chosen by those who came before you. If you would like those that come after you to not be very harsh in their judgement of you, shouldn’t you afford the same courtesy to your own predecessors? Use this key to remove the shackles that tie you to negative aspects of your lineages.

Master Key #3

If you can forgive yourself, and forgive your family, forgiving others should be pretty easy. The simple truth is that holding onto grudges, resentment, contempt, etc. towards other people binds you to them in an unhealthy way. By simply forgiving them, you unshackle yourself from this negative bind. 

On a side note, forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Nor does it mean putting yourself in a position to be wronged by the other person or persons again. It simply means that you choose to not allow what’s happened in the past to weigh you down in any way. If you truly want to set yourself free, you have been given 3 master keys to do so.

Step 11: I choose to forgive myself, my family and other people. And I will seek the forgiveness of others.

Action items: Forgive yourself, your family, and others. And seek the forgiveness of those who you feel you’ve wronged. And stay tuned for Step 12, which is coming out on July 9. Yagazie (It shall be well with you)!

Step 10: Ọgwụ

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“Ife na-azo na-egbu, ife na-egbu egbu na-dzo azo”

“What saves also kills and what kills also saves”

Welcome to step 10. By completing the first nine steps, you’ve now entered into some of the higher lessons. And as a result of you making it this far, I’d like to give you a few gifts I’ve prepared for you. The name of this step is  “Ọgwụ”, which is usually translated as medicine, but that is just scratching the surface of its meaning. For the purpose of this step, I’d like to give you an additional translation for ọgwụ, which is “change agent.” To those familiar with chemical reactions, the word “catalyst” is also a good synonym. 

Ọgwụ is something causes a measurable change. It can be in the form of an object or an action that is performed. The change from ọgwụ can be slow or it can be quick; it can be positive or negative; it can be subtle or very pronounced. Most of the time, it is associated with a change in one’s health (going from a state of disease to a state of wellness), but the type that I am imparting to you also has to do with your mind, spirit and overall situation in life. So take time to reflect on each bit of ọgwụ that you’re about to receive. 

Nke Ọgwụ Mbụ: The Magic Medicine

For millennia, humans have searched far and wide for a “magic pill.” Sometimes they called this a panacea. Othertimes it was known as the “elixir of life” or the “philosopher’s stone”. Regardless of the name, the magic pill was a singular item or action that one could take and magical results would happen. In some stories, planting magic beans would sprout a stalk that reached to the heavens. In others, ingesting it could give a person superhuman abilities or remove all of the ills in their life. Given its purported benefits it should come as no surprise that countless hours and lives have been spent in its pursuit. And I’m here to give you nke ọgwụ mbụ: There is no magic pill. 

Ironically, if you’ve made it all the way up to step 10, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to you should it? Whether it’s in the form of a particular “ism”, a spiritual practice, charm or sacred object, there is nothing that will be a solution to all of your personal (or societal) problems for all time. Furthermore, there are few good things in life that come extremely quickly. In fact, the good things in life that come quick, be they fortune, money, etc., can leave just as quickly, and usually do. Just about everything that’s truly worth in life is a process. And again, if you’ve made it this far, you’re already aware of this, and this bit of nke ọgwụ simply served as a reminder

Nke Ọgwụ Abụọ: The Bitter and Sweet Medicine

The vast majority of ọgwụ used for medicinal purposes is the edible variety. Now when it comes to the ọgwụ that one consumes with their mouths, we are going to focus on two tastes: Sweet, which is pleasing to the tongue, and bitter, that which is not pleasing to the tongue. Pretty much everyone has a sweet tooth to some degree, meaning they enjoy consuming things that are sweet. And while things that are sweet aren’t by themselves bad, too much of such things will cause a number of negative side effects, including rotting of teeth as well as destruction of one’s health. Likewise, when ọgwụ is consumed via the ears, one can fall into the trap of hearing what they want to hear. Over time, this will result in one digging themselves deeper into delusion until they have an inability to tell verifiable reality from their fantasy. Being optimistic is actually very beneficial to one’s success, but excess optimism can be harmful and cause ruin. 

Now, regarding the bitter medicine, one will observe that those ọgwụ that are not sweet to the tongue usually have the biggest positive impact on one’s body and mind. Usually bitter things are associated with poisons (nsi). However, the idea that poison must be bitter is a misunderstanding. I’d argue that most of the poisons that people ingest (through the eyes, ears and mouth in particular) are indeed the sweet kind that will kill you slowly over time. With that being said, one can also ingest too much bitter ọgwụ, and slowly turn into a person with a bitter mindset and demeanor. 

What are the takeaways of this nke ọgwụ? That even good things can be overdone and turn into bad things. Many things that taste sweet are poisonous and bitter medicine is often the best type. 

Nke Ọgwụ Ato: The Medicine Given After Death

Most of the time ọgwụ comes with instructions, not only how much to take but when to take it. It goes without saying that taking medicine early is almost always better than taking it late. Furthermore, when one takes a small amount of particular ọgwụ on regular basis, it becomes preventative medicine and minimize or outright keep certain misfortunes from occurring. One can have the best medicine on the planet, but the longer the delay in taking it, the less effective it will be. In this particular case, procrastination and delay are poisons that neutralize nearly every ọgwụ. At some point, even the most potent ọgwụ will be too little too late, and effectively would be like administrating medicine after death; which of course is ridiculous isn’t it? 

With all of that being said, however you desire to take your ọgwụ , just take it! You’ve already been introduced to several types of ọgwụ in step 7, as you learned about umu ndu

Step 10: There are no magic pills, everything is a process. What can harm can also heal and what can heal can also harm. I will not delay, and won’t wait for tomorrow what I can begin today.

Action items: 

Take an honest self evaluation with your current life and decide what changes you’d like to make. Secondly, assess the current things you’re doing that are either slowing down or outright blocking you from those changes becoming your reality. Afterwards, assess the things that you’re currently not doing, that if you were, would bring you closer to your dreams becoming reality; and then start doing them, without delay! And stay tuned for Step 11, which is coming out the next new moon, which is June 10. Yagazie! 

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