Igba Okwa from a Christian Perspective. Vol.4, No. 8

The issue of igba okwa in Nsukka tradition has been very interesting due to the debate about its authenticity or not. For the past few months, many Nsukka indigens have variously reflected and severally thrusted into the limelight their views on the fact of its authenticity. And this debate has become increasingly necessary because of our indubitable belief on the effects of igba okwa. But unfortunately, we could hardly experience the actualization of our beliefs especially at this terrible moment of marital infidelity among many couples. Well, during our last week edition, I think Emmanuel Mobis tried to play a middle part in his own understanding of what could have been the cause of this inconsistency between our thoughts and the efficacy of igba okwa.
According to him, when a woman is newly married, she is meant to do a ritual called “isi nri nna di” (i.e to cook for the kinsmen). This food is prepared on a tripod stand (ekwu ato) and no body helps her in cooking the food. When she serves the meal, the eldest man will use a kola nut (oji Igbo) and proclaim words ( igo ofo) of blessings upon the woman and officially install her as a member of the family. Then everybody eats. He equally noted that no deity or shrine is involved. And if after this, the woman falls victim of igba okwa, she will be trapped by the consequential effects (mostly madness), especially when she cooks on a tripod stand (ekwu ato) in the husband’s land. He therefore concluded that this was what made the consequence effective during the days of old. But now, he continued, that very few families maintain the ritual. And very many persons now cook with gas cylinder and stoves, no more the usual traditional ekwu ato which is believed to link women with the ancestors buried on earth to ascertain their purity. What is very remarkable in his openness on this issue is not necessarily the rituals involved but the fact that he equally believes that in our own time, the reality of igba okwa and its effects have been practically relegated, in spite of the fact that many people including Christians still lend credence to its effect simply because they were told. Moreover, another area that interests me in his contributions to last week series was that he expressed the clarification that the speedy assimilation of the white man’s culture has greatly maimed our belief. From our interactions, he further noted that most of us think that those harmless rituals our forefathers upheld are superstitious, archaic and useless. Hence, there is lack of faith in them. Far more significantly, he claimed that our ancestors are no longer in solidarity with us as they used to be. Perhaps, because we have dumped the legacy they left for us. This very remark of ancestral abandonment necessitated the view of a Supreme Ancestor who died in solidarity with us and for our sins in order to mediate the broken bond between us and God. He is the Primordial Ancestor who became the sacrificial Lamb in order to render useless, the sacrifice of goats and chickens in our own times and cultures. (of course, let us not be distracted with the debate about whether Christ is an ancestor or not. It’s just conventional here).
Well, from my own perspective, Christ did not relegate or disagree with our belief on igba okwa, rather, he perfected and perpetuated it with a touch of class. In other words, he edited our belief on it. At the first instance, men who claimed to be immuned from the consequences of igba okwa became inclusive in it, as expressed in the sixth commandment of God. In addition, the killing of animals in order to appease the gods for the sins of infidelity (igbugbe nna) was abolished by his own blood. By implication, vengeance belongs to God and no quantity of animals could appease Him. However, Christ through his pascal mystery (suffering, death and resurrection) instituted one of the seven sacraments, Penance, for the sake of God’s vengeance. Meanwhile, our God is of mercy and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love. He does not wish for the death of a sinner rather let him or her repent and live. But then, it’s more dreadful and devastating if we misconstrue God’s leniency as a weakness instead of an opportunity to sin no more as he biblically used to comfort the woman brought before him to be stoned to death. Against this backdrop, indications therefore emerge that the Church in union with the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, does not in any way intend to encourage infidelity, rather to create an enabling environment for love, unity and perpetuity between couples. Hence, wives who feel that they can afford as many goats as possible for their lascivious marital unfaithfulness should know that the only remedy is to sin no more. Otherwise, no one can escape God’s imminent judgement

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