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Why Ndi Nnewi Reserve Food In Cooking Pots/Plates Every Night & Must Keep Livestock

By Anayo Nwosu

Igbos who grew up with the elders in the various villages especially in Nnewi and are currently aged between 50 years and above would vividly recall that children were taught not to finish all the food in their plates or dishing pots during dinner or nri anyasị.

One must reserve at least a mouthful of food on the plate or in the cooking pot for spiritual reasons.

The left-over food in plates are for the dead or ancestors that live amongst us especially those departed members of our families. Ha na abịa agba azị anyasị meaning that they come around to eat at night.

Even with her strong Catholic upbringing, Mama Obiora my mum, ensured that I continued the tradition no matter how salacious or delicious the dinner was. I’m sure my wife would be reading the real reason why I do this for the first time like most readers here. I was giving Caesar his own due.

I guess that many people would have observed that no red-capped chief of Igbo extraction would drink any wine in a cup without firstly pouring a libation on the ground for our ancestors to drink with us in communion. I have also upheld this tradition.

I was amazed to see a similarity of this Igbo tradition in the christian doctrine of COMMUNION OF SAINTS which refers to the belief in a mystical bond uniting both the living and the dead in a confirmed hope and love. The term has since then played a central role in formulations of the Christian creed. Belief in the communion of saints is affirmed in the Apostles’ Creed.

Before the christian doctrinal experts would pounce on me, may I plead that “ọkwa mbà na-achị na olu na olu” meaning of which is found in Obinna chapter 1 verse 1 which says “Believe your own and I believe my own.”

I also grew up to learn that every household in Nnewi would keep livestock like sheep, goat, poultry or cattle. It is not merely for economic or dietary reason. It is more of spiritual. It is lifesaving.

There is this belief in Igbo land including Nnewi that death visits a household like a ferocious thief or wolf also known as “ụfụ” and is always fought by ancestors and individual chi of members of the household.

Most often than not, the spirit of death is assuaged or propitiated with the life of one or two of the livestock keep in the nkọlọ or compound without which the life of a member of a household is taken.

Some Igbo families had woken up early in the morning to behold an inexplicable slaughter of big, fattened goat or ram or sheep with blood spilled everywhere.

No elder would be saddened by the loss of livestock over the night but would be offering thanksgiving to “ndị ife” or our ancestors and Chineke for forcing the death spirit to take the life of a livestock instead of a member of the household.

Take a look at Genesis chapter 22 particularly verse 13 that says: “And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son”.

Igbos had envisaged the same scenario where the sacrifice of a member of a household through death would be a discussion and that any of his “ehihi” or domestic animals would be a handy ransom for the chosen one.

It is not only in death that Igbo or Nnewi ancestors intervene to rescue their children, they also do that in times of danger or hopelessness.

When I was imprisoned unjustly by powerful forces beyond me, I could the feel the hands of the saints of my ancestors and that of my christian faith in the chain of events that led to my release.

There was this very night, I cried out yelling “Mama Obiora, ị mụzịkwọ anya nkea welu na-eme”, meaning “Mama Obiora my mum, how would you be there and be watching me suffer this injustice”.

That very night, my mum appeared to me in the dream with other faces I couldn’t recollect telling me to be still that “ị ya esi ebea pụta; ọ kweghị na izu okwe na ọnwa” meaning that “you would be released from here, if not within a week, it would happen within a month”.

And I was released unconditionally between one week and one month as my mum, Mama Obiora assured.

Personally, I believe that the dead “anaghị añwụchancha” or that “the dead do not die completely”. They still play some roles in the affairs of men as recognised by Christians in their Communion of Saints doctrine encapsulated in their Nicene Creed of 325AD.

From the stables of Anayo Nwosu,Ikenga Ezenwegbu (Original Onye Nnewi); anayonwosu@icloud.com

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