Author Archives: Omenka Egwuatu Nwa-Ikenga

Step 4: Nrọ

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“Mmuo na mmadu na-azu afia, mana ofeke amaroo”

(Spirit and human beings are in constant communication, but the uninitiated does not know)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. If you’re still here, I will applaud you for getting this far and not allowing yourself to be discouraged or distracted. Today I will tell you something that will blow your mind (maybe even literally).

“The Third and The Fourth Steps” by Boniface Okafor

What if I told you how to access a place where you could directly commune directly with your Chi na Eke? What if I explained that this place is not bound by the laws of physics or by those of time, and that you may even be able to visit events in the past and even get glimpses about the future. You’re feeling excited now aren’t you? 

Well before I tell you how to access this place, I want to talk about a universal human activity that we do at night (or during the day if you work night shifts). If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m referring to sleeping. Besides the fact that most of us don’t get enough sleep, there is something else that most of us are being deprived of. And to find out what, you should answer the following question: When was the last time you had a dream? 

“Throught It All” by Addis Okoli 

Some of you will respond by saying it was the last time you slept. Others will say its been weeks, months if not years. Whatever your answer, the truth is that we all have several dreams every single night, but the difference is that most of us don’t remember our dreams. Amazing to learn isn’t it? And what’s even more amazing is that the place I told you about in the beginning is a place you go to nearly everytime you go to sleep

“Of dreams, dogans and cockpits” by Promise Onali

If you haven’t made the connection, I’m talking about the dreamscape. Whether or not you’re remembering it, you’re constantly interacting with various spirits, as well as exploring your own subconscious mind in your dreams. The Igbo word for dream is nrọ, and that is the also the name of this step. Ndi Igbo, like most people around the world, placed a very large significance to dreams. In fact, an argument could be made that the dreamland (ala nrọ) is the primary place for spiritual experiences, whether its while one is asleep or while awake (i.e a vision, known in Igbo as ihu ọhụụ).

“In My Head 1” by Adaeze Obani

In Igbo culture, it was not uncommon for people to receive a significant “calling” in their dreams. If for instance, a person who had occupied a particular office/title in life, such a traditional priest/priestess, passed away, it wasn’t uncommon for them to appear in the dreams of the person who they wanted to be their successor. I myself started this website after a visit from a spiritual being, as I described in this post.

Not only that, having literal or figurative dreams about the future is another universal human experience, and likely the way the majority of authentic prophecy happens. It’s my opinion that what most people describe as deja vu as well as premonitions are usually when something in real life that triggers a recall of a precognitive dream. And it goes without saying that bad things can be averted if warnings in from a dream are heeded. I myself have received warnings in dreams about my personal life which have proven disastrous when not acted upon.

“Spirit of Earth” by Boniface Okafor

Ala nrọ is also a source of answers, including those that come from prayer as well as questions you have yet to ask. Throughout history, there are countless accounts of people who made a discovery, invention or came up with an idea from a dream. Many of these people went on to make radical changes in their respective fields or communities as well as attain fame and fortune.  More advanced dreamers have also reported being able to overcome their fears through reoccurring dreams or attain new skills by the use of lucid ones, in which they become aware that they are dreaming.

I would like to point out that most people’s ability to recall their dreams gets worse as they go from child to adulthood, for a number of reasons. Besides the fact that a fair amount of us are indeed sleep deprived, I think it is another example of us getting out of harmony with our Chi na Eke as we get older.

“A Dreamer of Fine Things” by Johnson Uwadinma

Now my brothers and sisters, consider the following questions. How many answers are you missing out on simply by not being able to remember your dreams? What do you think could change if you simply remembered more of your dreams than you are currently doing? How would your world change if you could consciously control what happens in your dreams?

Well the good news is that there are many tools available to help you not only remember your dreams, but also decode and even direct them. One of the first things that you can do to help is to start a dream journal. In doing so, you will begin to see patterns in the dreams you’re having as well as recognize things that were prophetic that you weren’t aware of at the time. I would also suggest getting a dream dictionary, but over time, you should able to create your own personalized one, which of course will take precedence over anyone that you purchase. 

“Contemplation” by Abigail Nnaji

You also have at your disposal an abundance of literature, websites and videos that discuss various techniques, practices, herbs, teas and elixirs that will help you recall your dreams, make them more vivid, and even become a lucid dreamer. I would suggest trying different things and seeing what works for you. 

Step 4: I recognize that I’m already in constant communication with spirit, in both the waking world and the dream one. And I must learn how to recall, decode and direct my own dreams.

Action item: Create a journal of your dreams and visions and explore various tools to expand your dream experiences. And stay tuned for step 5, which is coming out on the next new moon, December 14. Yagazie (It shall be well with you).

“Expectations” by Abigail Nnaji

Step 3: Ikenga

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“Ikenga m kwalu otu, njee mge ona mmuo”

(As long as my Ikenga is active I can wrestle in the land of the spirits)

Welcome back to the 13 steps. In Step one, you learned how ncheta (remembrance) is the basis for all the other steps. In Step two, you learned on the power of your potential & kinetic energies (Chi na Eke) and how important it is to make sure they are kept in harmony with one another. Now we will again return to a common experience that nearly all humans share. Unlike the first 2 steps, you should have quite a  few memories of this one. 

Do you recall the various things you wanted to be as a child? If you were anything like me, that list included alot of things through various ages. And do you remember what you did once you decided to be something? Well, you began in what is now called “make believe.” Without being coached or trained, you and your various playmates could pretend to be whatever you wanted and engage in any activity your minds could muster. You likely pretended to fight battles or engage in space exploration. Maybe you pretended to be a director and used dolls and toys as actors. The key takeaway here my brothers and sisters, is that you used the power of your imagination to create the reality you desired, even if it was a temporary thing.

Now today, if you happened to stumble upon the “self help” section in any bookstore, or undergo any form of coaching or training, you will likely be told about something called “creative visualization.” A very simple definition of it would be utilizing the power of your imagination as an aide to getting better results in your life. Countless people have used it to beat addictions, overcome their fears, as well as acquire new skills. Sound familiar? It’s once again a reminder of how you need to remember things as an adult that you did naturally as a child, isn’t it?

Now remembering the lessons from “Step Two” and Eke have been with you as long as you’ve been on this planet, even if you’re not as in sync with them as you once were. And as I said in that lesson, Igbo culture (along with many others) left a number of reminders for you of the various things you came into the world knowing. The one reminder we will cover today is the one that goes by the name “Ikenga.” 

This figure is shared amongst the Urhobo, Edo, and Igala, but the Igbo version is the most well known. Just like Chi na Eke, an entire series of books would be needed to properly expound upon Ikenga. One popular definition of Ikenga is “place of strength.” However,  for the purpose of this step, we will say that Ikenga is a symbol of achievement, especially through the use of your right hand. On a sidenote, it goes without saying that for most human beings, their right hand is their dominant one. For the 10% of you for which that’s not the case, just apply this same rationale to the hand that is your dominant one for this step. 

The first aspect of Ikenga we will discuss is its appearance. They come in various shapes and sizes, but one key aspect is horns, typically that of a ram, which is prizes for its aggressiveness. Just like the ram, Igbos believe that  one must plunge into a venture in order to succeed. Contrary to misinformation by Igbo Christians, Ikenga, much like other sacred objects, was not an item of worship but a visible representation of things that were invisible. In this case, Ikenga represents your divine self image. In other words, a self image based on your Chi (your unlimited potential), working in unison with your Eke (your limited kinetic energy). Ikenga is thus said to be a gift or symbol of one’s Chi. Anyone who has either achieved consistent success or studied/coached those who have, is aware of how critical having a healthy self image actually is. With an unhealthy self image, your numerous self doubts will usually defeat you before you even get started. Even if you do happen to achieve success despite a negative self image, you will likely be the victim of your own self-sabotage.

Ebune jị isi éjé ogụ” (The ram goes into a fight head first)

Ikengas were not limited to individuals, but communities could also have them (sometimes called Ikeoha). These communal Ikengas were representations of the achievements and ideals of a community. The Ikenga of the United States of America holds a torch in her right hand, and stands tall in Liberty Island in New York Harbor. 

The second aspect of Ikenga we will discuss would be its adaptability, meaning its ability to change. Young men would typically get an Ikenga carved when they began their various vocations. In some ways, you could say it would be very similar to receiving a diploma in today’s world. However, an  Ikenga was not permanent, and it could evolve as the owner’s roles changed. A young man whose main task was defending his village would receive a warrior’s Ikenga holding a sword, whereas when that same man became a more accomplished elder, he would now have a title holder’s Ikenga holding a sacred staff. Alternatively, if a man chose a profession that didn’t bring him much success, he could throw away the Ikenga (self image) that was not helping him and choose a new Ikenga (and possibly a new profession) that did. 

“Ikenga adighi ile, azilaa ya nku” (An Ikenga that is ineffective, cut it for firewood)

The third aspect is persistence. Once an Ikenga was established, a routine was established to straighten it. Regular offerings of kolanut, alligator pepper, and libations were made to it, often during the igo ofu ututu (traditional morning prayer). To the uninitiated, it would appear that the Ikenga itself is being worshipped, but I want to reveal a secret to you: If one makes a prayer, whether spoken out loud or silently, your mind cannot help but create a mental picture of whatever choice of words you use. For example, if I mention a pink elephant, you can’t help but imagine one. The same applies to things like positive thinking, affirmations, proverbs, etc. What would happen if you constantly reminded yourself of your goals? Regularly repeated words of encouragement and positivity? And returning back to your childhood, how powerful could your imagination be when if it focused on a long term goal? And even more so when you also dedicate yourself to constant practice and honing of your skills? 

“Ikenga chim nyelum, taa oji” (Ikenga, gift of my chi, participate in the offering)

So in summary, an Ikenga is a divinely based self image, that changes as needed, and is fed/reinforced by persistence and dedication. And here’s a final thought my brothers and sisters. One thing about dedication is that you must accept that you’re typically not going to be very good at most things at the beginning. In fact, you’re very likely to be quite bad. However if you stick with it and learn from your mistakes, not only will you improve, you will likely become quite good.

At some point you did not have the ability to read these words at all, but through repetition and practice over time, you gained that ability didn’t you? The same applies to just about everything you now have the ability to do (walk, talk, drive, write, etc). So instead of saying that you cannot do something, you should say you haven’t done it yet.  The former may or may not be true, but the later definitely is. With a harmonized Chi na Eke (as well as working in conjunction with others), the only real limit in this universe you probably have is time. So if that’s the case, why are you limiting yourself?

Step 3: I choose a divinely based self image that helps me creates the results I want and can change it when it no longer does so. 

Action item: Create an Ikenga. You can draw it, or just write a description of it. Make sure to mention it in your daily prayer from step 2. Include the type of life you want to create as well as some of the goals you want to achieve. And stay tuned for step 4, which is coming out on the next new moon, November 15. Yagazie (It shall be well with you).

Step 2: Chi na Eke

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“Otu nne na-amu mana obughi otu chi na eke”

One mother can beget many children but all the children will their own Chi and Eke

Welcome back to the 13 steps. You are now ready to begin step 2. In the first step, you learned the importance of ncheta, which is remembrance. You will see why this is indeed the foundation of all other steps. For this step, we will again return to a common experience that all humans share. You’re not going to remember it but we have this reminder on our bodies. In the months that you were being carried in your mother’s womb, you were literally connected to her, and dependent on her for your sustenance. However, there came a time when you had to leave that place and begin a new type of existence. And so you emerged from her womb, but were still physically connected to her.

However, for you to ever be a fully functional human being, that connection had to be severed. And in doing so, the physical connection to your mother was cut. You are reminded of it every time you look at your stomach and see your belly button. An Igbo custom (ili alo), which was also shared amongst our neighbors, was the burial of a newborn’s umbilical cord & placenta, usually near a newly germinated tree.

This tree, which would be known as nkwu alo, was a child’s tree of life, and had significance for a child’s future. One belief was that the nkwu alo would  become fruitful  in  proportion  to  the  fame  of  the  child’s  subsequent  achievements as an adult. And during the obi umuaka (hearts of children) rite, the tree is used as a location for teenagers to be reminded of their relationship to Ala (the earth mother), their ancestors and their community. 

Well similar to the severing of the physical connection to your mother, another, more traumatic severing happened, but this was not a physical severing, but a mental one. And the question that’s likely running through your mind right now is who or what was that mental separation from? Well the answer to that question is what Igbo people called “Chi na Eke” (Chi and Eke). 

If you’re of Igbo descent you may have heard the shortened form “Chineke”, and been told that it means “God the creator.” Unfortunately, this definition came from the Igbos who were among the first to convert to Christianity, who by the way, were usually the people who literally knew and understood the least about Igbo customs and metaphysics. To be honest with you, a series of books would need to be written to do justice to what Chi na Eke are, but for the purposes of this 13 step program, we will define each as the following: Chi is your potential energy, and Eke is your kinetic energy.

“Eke na chi wo otu mana eke siri na chi bia”

Eke and Chi are one, but Eke came from Chi

If you recall  from your science classes, energy is neither created nor destroyed, but simply changes forms. And two of the major forms that energy can take would be at rest (potential) or in motion (kinetic).  According to Igbo belief, it is your Chi that created your physical body, and it remains with you all your life. As a newborn, your connection to both Chi and Eke were still fresh, but as time passed, and without reminders, you began to get out of sync. This explains why as I reminded you in “Step 1”,  that as a child you seemed to be more confident and full of life than you  probably are now. However, and I cannot stress this enough,  this loss of connection was ONLY in your mind. 

Potential and Kinetic Energy

Unfortunately due to you being born in this time and place, various physical memorials were not setup to remind you of your connection to your Chi na Eke. You likely didn’t have the rite of  ili alo done, nor do you have an nkwu alo to perform the obi umuaka rite with. That’s the bad news. However the good news is that you can create your own reminders that suit you. And even better news is that just as you happen to have a Chi na Eke, every other human being you encounter also has one. 

What does this mean for you? Well If you have ever played a musical instrument of any kind, you know that something magical happens when multiple instruments are played in harmony. What would happen if you not only got your Chi na Eke in tune with one another, but also found other people who did the same thing? What kind of reality could you create?

Step 2:  I recognize that Chi na Eke, the greater power that can help me overcome my negative feelings, resides in myself and in others. I can create my own reality and can do anything within reason, but cannot do it by myself or at the same time.

Action item: Start to write your own personal prayer that says something similar in your own words. Choose a time and place to say it on a daily basis. And stay tuned for step 3, which is coming out on the next new moon, October 16.

Step 1: Ncheta

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Ndu bu ahia. Ahia ka anyi biakwuru iz n’elu uwa nke a

“Life is a marketplace. We have come into this great wide world to buy and sell”

Introduction

Nnọọ (welcome) to the 13 steps. Each step is designed to help you rediscover yourself and remember what you came to offer to the world. A journal is strongly encouraged for you to keep track of your progress through each step.

Step 1: Ncheta

Do you remember what it was like to successfully make your first step as a baby? Well if you do not, let me take you on a trip down memory lane. After being carried in your mother’s womb for 9 moons, you arrived into this world and spent a lot of time being carried in the arms of other people or on the back of your mother.

When you were not being carried, you were crawling on all fours. Despite your situation, you knew intuitively that you had the ability to do more. As you attempted to go from crawling to walking, you fell hundreds of times.Yet, you did not let that deter you. You did not give up. One day, you finally did it…you stood upright and made your first step, and then another, and then another. Soon afterwards, walking was second nature, followed by running. 

Flashing forward to today, despite being far more capable, you likely are full of more doubt than when you were a baby. You’ve probably felt crippled by fear, frequently finding yourself frustrated, and wondering what your life purpose is. You’re less likely to step outside of your comfort zone and when you do try new things, you probably quit if you don’t get immediate results. What happened to you? How did you get this way? And most importantly, what can you do to make a change for the better?

The answers to most of these questions can only be answered by you. However, for the last question, I can be of some assistance. If you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to make another first step. And that entails that recognizing that your negative feelings of powerlessness, of limitation, of self doubt, of aimlessness, etc, are due to beliefs that are not based on reality

Your false beliefs about yourself are due to your own forgetfulness;  due to you not remembering the very things you knew when you came into this world. Maybe you forgot while trying to “fit in”, or maybe you were forced to forget due to religious and educational indoctrination. Regardless of the how or why, the key thing is that you did indeed forget what was real, and as a substitute, took on beliefs that were not. By doing so, you decided to outsource the control of your life to others. 

Well today, you can take another first step, which we will call ncheta, which means remembering in Igbo language.

Step 1: I admit that my negative thoughts, feelings & actions have mostly been due to false beliefs about myself, and I aspire to remember the things I already came into this world knowing.

Action item: Seek out people, places or things that trigger some of the happy memories from your childhood. Recall your sense of imagination, your curiosity, and your intuitive confidence. Remember the things you were good at, what brought you joy, as well as some of the things that both scared but intrigued you at the same time. Take the first step and get ready for step two on the next new moon, September 17. Stay blessed.

First step on the moon

10 Year Anniversary of IgboCyberShrine & Special Announcement

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This month marks the 10 year anniversary since I began this blog, and to celebrate, I’d like to take you on a journey through time, highlighting the past, the present and giving you a glimpse of the future.

A decade ago, I was sitting in class, halfway paying attention to my thermodynamics professor, and halfway counting down until the end of the lecture. All of a sudden something triggered a portion of a dream I had the night before, and things haven’t been the same for me since.

In my dream from the previous night, I had a conversation with a goddess. The figure was tall and very majestic looking. Her face was covered in white and she wore a regal hairstyle. I recognized her as Ala, the earth goddess, and the most important spirit to Igbo people. 

In our conversation, I remembered her explaining to me that her symbol was a lozenge.  I was surprised by this revelation. I had surmised that the symbol of the Earth mother would have been a circle engulfing a cross. I went home and found out that the lozenge was indeed the symbol of not just Ani…but of the Mother goddess in other parts of the planet.

After that revelation, other symbols began to make sense to me almost intuitively. I was understanding so much so soon that I felt like I’d go crazy if I didn’t  share it all. Hence, that was the genesis of Igbocybershrine.

In the time since that first dream, I’ve had several other inspirations, and even managed to inspire others to write down their insights too. When the site first launched, there weren’t many resources for finding authentic information about Igbo culture or spirituality. However, now there are countless videos and articles that are related to these topics, including quite a few that directly or indirectly reference this site.

However, my friends, I must confess that there was a time when I was feeling unmotivated and nearly walked away from it all, but what brought me back was getting a few emails from readers asking me where I was, and letting me know how important this site had been for them.  I’ve realized that in the past 10 years, a community has been growing full of over 1000 subscribers and a couple of content creators. The site gets hundreds of views a day and we get messages from people all over the world. This cyber shrine has become the center of a digital village.

One challenge I’ve faced over the years has been presenting practical information that would be relevant to people today, especially those who live outside of a village environment. Most of what I was learning had to do with the beliefs and practices of people who lived in a time and environment that no longer exists. But I would constantly ask how many of the lessons could be applied to the issues of today, and how they could prepare us for tomorrow. 

After taking alot of time to reflect, I came up with a framework that I feel can be very beneficial for people today. I decided to base it off the “12 step” programs that I had seen many people utilize to transform their lives for the better. I took time and utilized Igbo principles as well as some of my own spiritual experiences to map out each step. And to keep it in line with Igbo culture, I added an additional step, bringing the total to 13, which is the number of months in the Igbo lunar calendar.

So umu nnem (brothers and sisters), I’d like to invite you to join me as I spend the next lunar year delving into each step, and detailing how you can apply the lessons in your life right here and now. The first step will be covered during the next new moon, which will fall on the 18th of August. Stay tuned and stay blessed!

Odinani Book Club: “Daughters of Nri” by Reni K Amayo

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Daughters of Nri

The next book we will be reading for the Odinani Book club will be the recently released “Daughters of Nri” by Reni K Amayo. Its the first in the “Return of the Earth Mother” series. Summary is as follows:

“A gruesome war results in the old gods’ departure from earth. The only remnants of their existence lie in two girls. Twins, separated at birth. Goddesses who grow up believing that they are human. Daughters Of Nri explores their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another.

Strong-willed Naala grows up seeking adventure in her quiet and small village. While the more reserved Sinai resides in the cold and political palace of Nri. Though miles apart, both girls share an indestructible bond: they share the same blood, the same face, and possess the same unspoken magic, thought to have vanished with the lost gods.

The twin girls were separated at birth, a price paid to ensure their survival from Eze Ochichiri, the man who rules the Kingdom of Nri. Both girls are tested in ways that awaken a mystical, formidable power deep within themselves. Eventually, their paths both lead back to the mighty Eze.

But can they defeat the man who brought the gods themselves to their knees?”

Efuru Review

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Efuru by Flora Nwapa is not only the first choice of the Odinani book club, it also happens to be the first novel by an African woman to be published in English. Born in Oguta, Nigeria, Flora Nwapa published Efuru in 1966 at the age of 30. It follows the life and struggles of the title character who struggles to find her place in colonial era Nigeria.

The very first thing that I noticed in the novel are the names of the characters, which are no longer common as first names. It’s unfortunate that due to colonization, alot of Igbo names that were widespread in the past have either been forgotten or only survive as surnames, being replaced with English ones or Christianized Igbo ones. 

The next thing I noticed was the terminology used for certain practices and places. For example, the term “take a bath” is used for female circumcision, which is done to Efuru after she gets married as a young woman. The name given for the Niger River was “The Great River” (or Oshimiri in Igbo).

Next, even though the story was set during the colonial era, the day to day lives of the characters do not seem much different than that or their forefathers and foremothers that lived before British rule. They worked in the farms, did trade up and down the river, went to the market, lived by the traditional calendar, etc.

But I think the biggest takeaway I got for the book was an increased empathy for Igbo women. Despite the characters being fictional, I felt like I could have been reading the experiences of any of my female ancestors. It’s simply amazing that a story of an Igbo woman’s struggles as a wife, daughter and mother could be as captivating as any Male centered, action packed epic. Overall, I’d recommend Efuru as a worthy addition to any library and look forward to exploring other works by Mrs. Nwapa. 

Odinani Book Club: “Efuru” by Flora Nwapa

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For the very first selection for the brand new Odinani Book Club, we have selected none other than “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. We will be creating platforms to discuss the book and the themes it deals with. In the meantime, please comment about it below.

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…

Ikeji Arochukwu in History

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The origin of Ikeji Festival in Arochukwu is as old as the history of the Kingdom. The festival marks the end of the farming season, arrival of harvest, and beginning of a new season. The Ikeji Calendar is determined by the Arochukwu traditional council (OKPANKPO Aro) under the leadership of his Majesty the Eze Aro. Celebrated in the gregorian month of September every year,it is usually a 17 days event.

The Ikeji Period:

The Ikeji month is a special period when Aros are expected to observe strict adherence to norms, ethics, customs and tradition. During the period, neither burials nor mourning gatherings are permitted. All forms of violence are not tolerated, civil disobedience; public protests are strictly prohibited throughout the Kingdom. Death of any Aro within the period is largely viewed as a bad omen and therefore treated quietly with indignity. The period is devoted more rectitude, thanksgiving, entertainment, charity, philanthropy and recreation.

Ikeji presents a unique opportunity to celebrate Arochukwu tradition and culture in its pure and original form. It is also a platform for infinite entertainment, tourism and reunion with cultural delegations from affiliate Aro settlements spread in over 350 communities in Igbo land and beyond. The festival features seminars and lectures on Aro cultures, visits and homage to historic cultural sites, pouring of libation, exchange of kola-nuts and good will, paying of homage to Aro traditional institutions, masquerades, traditional dances, diverse cultural displays and so much more.

It is also a period to commune with the ancestors, reconciliation, peace building, conflict resolutions and self-help development projects. The era therefore witnesses influx of visitors and tourists into Arochukwu. Sons and daughters from all parts of the world return home to the Kingdom to be part of diverse cultural displays, merry making, exchange of visits, marriages etc. The Ikeji Festival is also a time for expansion of boundaries of business and friendship. It is another time to come close to nature, renew faith in Aro culture, connect with kith and kin and watch the original culture and tradition come alive.

 

Ikeji Calendar

Stage 1: AFOR OKPO NA-ZA AWADA

On this day, members of the Otusi (clan) of Amaja, a historical kith and kin in Aro mobilise to sweep Awada Aro. This event holds in Ugwuakuma village in Arochukwu. The Okpo family from Agbagwu has a leading role in the assignment with the support of Otusi Clan. During the brief ceremony, Awada Aro is opened; the environment kept quite clean, decorated and put in real festive mood. This event marks the beginning of Ikeji.

Stage 2: AFOR MBAPE AWADA

The stage of the Festival features members of the Otusi (clan) of the Amuze. The clan mobilises eligible sons to sweep Awada Aro. The ceremony brings together Otusis from other Aro Kindreds including Okennachi, Eze Agwu, Umu Nna Okwara Agwu, Bianko to participate in the ceremony. The attendants arrive at the ceremony wearing bells on their waist and carrying gongs, both instruments producing resonant sounds. It is usually a prestigious movement that carries the weight of royalty, honour and glamour.

Stage 3: AFOR NDULASA NWAEKPE

Nwa Ekpe, a symbolic representation of the royal ancestors is led home. This is an all day ceremony that keeps the town in real festive mood. All the nine Otusis (clans) in Aro go to Ugwuakuma, to offer sacrifice and pour libation to the ancestors in appreciation for a good harvest period. Each delegation wearing bells around their waists while carrying gongs on hands dancing to the admiration of all and sundry already soaked in Ikeji festival mood. The ceremony ends at night and the various delegations return with dances to their respective villages.

Later the same night the talking drums (uvie) are brought down. The drum (Uvie) left hanging on a particular spot since the last Ikeji celebrations are gracefully brought down, rolled out and played loudly. The loud talking drums are welcomed with loud ovation, excitement and jubilation by all, far and near. In the ancient days, the uvie (big talking drum) can only be sounded only in the compounds of great and outstanding men of each village. Uvie is a drum used to celebrate success, honour, achievements and bravery. Only the wealthy and influential in those days were in a position to host Uvie (the talking drum). This is because the ceremony itself attracts cost for entertainment and relevant materials for sacrifice. The sounding of the uvie put all and sundry on notice that Ikeji celebration has fully commenced.

Stage 4: NKWO NKU

Nkwo Nku is a day when women are expected to fetch firewood for their husband’s mother, their mistresses or close friends. The wood is meant for cooking while the Ikeji season lasts. It is indeed a friendly gesture of love and respect for elders. Nkwo Nku is intended among other to highlight the role of women in the family. It is also to promote the virtues of motherhood and cordial daughter in-law and mother-in-law’s relationship in line with respect of Aro culture.

Stage 5: EKE AGBA UDU

This is a day set aside for Aro Aristocrats from Amuze, a particular kith and kin in Aro kingdom to step out in grand style to offer sacrifice. The day is marked with loud festivities that bring out the best of Amuze peculiar culture and pride.

Stage 6: ORIE AWA

It is a day set aside to offer the sacrificial animals such as goats a special meal. The significance of this has been open to many interpretations and debate. While some claim that the exercise is to offer the animals their “last supper” for possible slaughter in Ikeji, others argue that it is to appreciate the importance of domestic animals like goat in Aro tradition. Orie Awa also features another round of fetching of fire wood to support the kitchen. This is an activity set out for young girls looking for suitors, the newly wed and young mothers. The road to nearby forests and farms to fetch the fire wood creates avenues for “toasting”, courtship by young boys in search of lifepartners.

Stage 7: AFOR AWA

Afor Awa is the expected deadline for all Aro sons and daughters, in-laws, friends and well-wishers travelling to the Kingdom from other Aro settlements and communities all over Igbo land to arrive in Aro. By Afor Awa, all cleaning up activities and preparations for Ikeji should have been concluded. The arrangements made by families and the community to receive Ikeji visitors and invitees should equally be concluded on or by Afor Awa day. The arrangements on ground by Afor Awa put everyone in full Ikeji vacation and festive mood. By Afor Awa, visits to the Farm for any hard work are restricted. Women especially young girls looking for suitors spend more time in body painting (ide uri and ide – nkasi ani). There is also special attention to coral beads andcowries which are usually won to complement the dressing. Afor Awa in Ikeji calendar is also a period that witnesses pressure on families to prepare their children and household for special Ikeji look like no other.

Stage 8: NKWO NZUKORO

Nkwo Nzukoro in Ikeji Calendar represents special market day set aside for Ikeji Shopping. On this day, Aros are expected to do the last marketing and shopping for the season. Although Ikeji is a yam festival, the eating of rice (eresi) has been introduced in recent times. Nkwo Nzukoro therefore also known as also known as Nkwo Eresi. In Aro traditional calendar that day also marks the end of the year. The midnight activities of nkwo nzukoro or nkwo eresi can be compared to activities at midnight of Christmas – New Year eve of 31st December; when Christians send – off an old year and usher in the New Year.

In the olden days, after dinner on Nkwo Nzukoro, Aro villages and kindreds usually keep vigil until midnight to usher in the New Year. For instance within the three villages that make up Umunna Okwara Agwunamely (Ugbo, Ugwuavor and Amoba) tough night masquerades called “Achikwu” take over the night. Achikwu masquerade strictly open to only male members who are initiated dance throughout the night of Nkwo Nzukoro to usher in Eke Odu. In some other villages and clans, it is Obono society that is used by men to mark the night vigil. In those days, the night of Nkwo Nzukoro is a night when women are neitherheard nor seen because of presence of night masquarades and other male dominated cultural dances.

When the New Year is born in the early hours of Eke Odu, there are spontaneous shouts of afo laoooo! afo laooooo! (Goodbye old year, goodbye old year). This is followed by lighted; smoking firebrands that run long distances to the backyard, waved above the head and thrown headlong along gutters, behind compounds to drive away the evils of the passing year. At the end of Nkwo Nzukoro, the Aro main market, Ncheghe, and the Eke Ukwu market, go on recess. On Tuesday 20th September, this ceremony was held as part of this year’s Ikeji festival.

Stage 9: EKE ODU

This is the day of the new yam. It features Ekpo Masquarade dances at Obinkita, variety of dances by the Ezeagwu & Umunna Okwara Agwu tomark the new yam. Eke Odu is the day Arocukwu eats the eat new yam.

Stage 10: ORIE EGBUGBU

This is the day the elders drawn from villages, kindred’s and clans commune with the ancestors through pouring of libation, killing of fouls, goats, cows and other sacrificial animals to appease the land. It is a day Aros make sacrifices to sue for peace, unity and love in celebration of harvest. The type of sacrifice is determined by capacity, affluence and need. This is the time when succulent plants known as OKPOTO is placed at the entrance of each onu ezi (compound). The eldest of the compound offers a sacrifice before the arrival of dawn.

Thereafter, about 7.00 a.m., every family offers sacrifice to its ancestors at Inyamavia located at Ulo nta (a small house but an ancestral assembly hall) where the family staff of office -Inyama Avia- is reposed. People are expected to ensure that their domestic animals are prevented from tasting the ofor left at the ulo nta. Any animal found tasting the ofor would be killed instantly. In the evening of Oriegbubgu, families begin to cook an Ikeji delicacy called osu. This delicacy is only prepared by women of proven purity and decency in character, birth and ancestory. The aboriginal status of women who can be involved in cooking and carrying Osu must not be in question. The end of the cooking is heralded with gun shots, each gunshot representing each goat used for the meal. The more goats killed the more gun shots into the air to celebrate success.

Stage 11: AFOR OSU

The osu meal prepared the previous day is now presented to friends and well-wishers on the Afor osu morning by women. Visitors are also entertained with the delicacy. Members of each family are summoned to the osu meal by the exclamation AFOR OSU OKO-O! The word Okoo is an exclamation used by the Aro to signal an emergency. The sharing of Osu from one household, family to another are usually carried out by young girls who are searching for suitors. It is an amazing day for special Ekpo masquerade performances at the highest level all over the kingdom especially at Obinkita. The journey from one family to the other provides huge opportunities for young bachelors to ask questions seek and fine. Ofor Osu in Aro calendar is a day of caring, sharing, exchange of gifts, pleasantries and good will.

Stage 12: NKWO EKPE IBOM-ISII

Nkwo Ibom Issi holds in Ibom square. On this day, Ikeji activities are centred in and on the Ibom village. All the villages that make up Ibom Isii assemble in Ibom to participate fully in the day’s activities other Aros attend as guests of Ibom Isii. Cultural displays and wrestling matches staged to entertain people from other villages of Aro. It is usually and avenue to market and celebrate talents, bravery, creativity and innovation in skills, dancing and wrestling. Many agile young men smile home with brand new love relationships that they never bargained for. This is Nkwo Ekpe Ibom Isii is also a special opportunity for girls to show their beauty apparently in search of partners. The various cultural displays feature good cultural displays. Respective villages drawn from Ibom Isii dance in style and excitement to the admiration before the Eze Aro and his cabinet sitting in majestic appraisal in Ibom square.

Stage 13: EKE EKPE AROCHUKWU

This is the climax of the Ikeji Festival. On the Eke Ekpe Day, Aros at home and in the Diaspora put on their best traditional attire, assemble in the ceremonial arena, Amaikpe to either participateor watch amazing diverse Aro cultures on display by the various communities. It is also a day set aside for delegations from Aro settlements drawn from communities across Igbo land to showcase Aro culture from the perspective of their host communities. These include dances and masquerades of all shapes and sizes and side attractions that speak eloquently of Aro heritage. Girls who have gone through puberty rituals in preparation for marriage are let out on this day to dance in the arena, from where they are expected to join their bridegrooms.

Eke Ekpe Day offers the Eze Aro another opportunity to address the kingdom, unveil new programs and set new agenda for Aros at home and in the diaspora. It is equally a chance for Nzuko Arochukwu to mobilise resources and opportunities for self help development projects. The Eke Ekpe is usually attended by dignitaries from the academia, politics, economy, private and public sectors including high ranking national and state government officials.

Stage 14: ORIE UBI LEE AVO

The event marks the beginning of the end of Ikeji. The process of winding down Ikeji commences with the ovor (family ancestral staff of office – Inyamavia ) earlier brought down for Ikeji festivities on Orie Egbugbu day in the ulo nta is then returned to original position until the next Ikeji. The Ceremony is restricted to only whom it may concern.

Stage 15: AFOR NDULA NWA-EKPE

During this day, Nwa Ekpe is ‘led back’ to Awada Aro. The ceremony on its own speaks volumes of the place of Nwa ekpe in Arochukwu customs and tradition.

Stage 16: NKWO NWUPU MMAI IBOM ISII

The day invites all aristocrats of Amuze and Ibom Isii to assemble at the house of Eze Ibom Isii who is head of Ibom Isii Kindred of the Aro Kingdom. The day also known as Nkwo Nzupu Avia (Nkwo market day) marks the re-opening of business of Ncheghe market. By this development, business activities earlier suspended to pave way for Ikeji resumes fully.

Stage 17: EKE NWUPU MMAI NA AMUZE

This last day of the event invites all the aristocrats” of Ibom Isii to meet those of Amuze and jointly move into the palace of the Eze Aro at Oror village. At the Palace, the final drinking; libation is poured in all ulo nta in Amuze. This ceremony brings the Ikeji Festival for that year to an end.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Arochukwu remains on ancient Kingdom in Igbo land, South East Nigeria where the culture, customs and tradition reign supreme. The Ikeji Arochukwu is one of such legacies that all generations of Aros hold sacred.

Reprinted (with edits) from AroNewsOnline

The Origin of Dancing and Music

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In the past,only a few men and women lived on the earth. Thick forests, seas and trees covered other parts of the universe. The big trees became the abode of many spirits, fairies and gods. Some gods, occupied trees, rivers and streams. Some big trees were feared and respected as the abode of the gods. Besides, because of frequent harassment by human beings, the spirits and gods decided to live in the forests where they enjoyed alot of quiet and uninterrupted peace. Most men and women would always bring minor or major problems to the gods by visiting the shrines of the gods and local spirits in the forest. This constituted a sort of nuisance to the spirits and gods.

The animals on the other hand decided to live in the forests to escape man’s constant attack on them. Men went out daily to hunt animals for food. This put many animals at risk of extinction. So many of their species decided to live far inside the bush to escape the attack from man. It was only the cow, dog, sheep and fowls that live in the home with humans. Other animals that live in the bush feel threatened. Although humans eat the domestic animals, which also serve as pets ,they do no kill them at the rate they hunt the wild ones.

A man went out to hung game on one sunny afternoon. He chased an antelope, which ran very fast into a big bush to escape being killed. The man persisted in his chase and came to a part of the bush which looked like an open hall where the animals used as a rendezvous where they would meet to relax when they were not looking for food or when they were not running away from hunters. The hunter did not find any human being there, not was there any animal. He suspected that the space was so beautiful that it must be a center where people gathered for games or refreshments. He hid himself behind some big trees to wait for the people who meet there to assemble. After a while, the forest spirits began to assemble there for their usual evening party. Many other spirits and gods also came along with their wives and children. They began to sing, clap, dance, and enjoy some jokes.

Some of the birds sang beautifully while some of the animals played some musical instruments that produced melodious sounds. It was an evening of great joy and merriment for the animals, while the gods shook their bodies and moved their legs in rhythmic and regular steps. Some of the young birds played flutes and whistles. The melody was very gorgeous. The hunter was thrilled as he watched the program from his hiding place. he did not want any of the guests to notice that he was there. Many of the animals, and birds were so carried away in the party that they did not know that someone was hiding and spying on them from somewhere.

The guests at the party dispersed at the end of the program and each went home. The hunter did not move immediately. He kept quiet until everyone present had left. he finally left and on his way, began to imitate the spirits and gods by humming some of the songs he heard. He moved his steps up and down, shook his body, hands, and his head. Then he began to practice what he saw the spirits and animals do in the forest. The hunter later got home that night and woke up to his family that had already gone to bed. He taught the wife and children how to sing, dance and play some of the instruments. He improvised the drums and bands with pots, tables, stools and plats that he had in his house.

The members of the family enjoyed the late night entertainment the hunter brought home to them. So every evening, the family met, played some music, danced, smiled and entertained themselves. The words of the music did not matter so much to them. They concentrated on getting the rhythm right and the steps correspond with the rhythm. Some younger members of the family added some melody to the songs and the harmony was absolutely interesting. Thus this is how humans learned music and dance.

From “African Spirituality: An Anthology of Igbo Religious Myths” by Udobata R Onunwa