Christmas celebration amid ancestral spirits

Christmas celebration amid ancestral spirits

by means of ROBERT OBIOHA

although Christmas occasion came to Igbo land in early 18th Century during the white man’s colonizing mission, the event over time is noticed by means of adherents of the Christian religion and African conventional religion worshippers. because the mmonwu masquerade is a celebration of the duality of human existence in Igbo non secular worldview, it’s used to bring in nice occasions in Igbo non secular calendar.

sooner than the arrival and entrenchment of Christianity in Igbo land, the folks have other celebrations to mark different phases of the yr including the top of 12 months celebration which with time has coincided with the Christian festival of Christmas, the marking of the beginning of Jesus Christ, the son of the Christian God. it’s an underestimation that the Church which stood in opposition to all traditional non secular practices including the masquerade is having considered one of its main festivities marked with the looks of our dead ancestors throughout the masquerade. additionally it is an attestation of the significance of the masquerade to Igbo cultural beliefs that it survived all vicious makes an attempt by way of the Church and its overzealous adherents to subdue and annihilate it.

through masquerades, the useless ancestors reunite with human beings as a mirrored image of the duality of human existence in Igbo tradition. In Igbo cosmology, there’s a thin separation between the land of the dwelling and the land of the dead. both worlds are always in verbal exchange and conversations via rituals and sacrifices to ancestors.
The very best bodily manifestation of such bond between the living and the useless is the dramatic enactment of the masquerade, Asaa Nwaoyibo.

As a toddler, I grew up under the horror and mystical affect of the mmonwu masquerade. Masquerades of quite a lot of sizes and shapes stay a terror to the young ones, and the uninitiated adults, each female and male. Be they eze mmuo, dimkpa muo, agbogho muo or akakpu muo, they portray tremors to people. Masquerade culture, dance or drama is a typical function of life in Awo-Idemili and different towns that make up Orsu council space and some parts of Orlu, Oguta in Imo State and Ihiala, Nnewi-South, Egwusigo and Aguata councils in Anambra State.

The eze muo masquerade is regal in appearance and speech. Its speeches that got here in sharp and worried guttural voices are laced with proverbs, anecdotes, riddles and aphorisms common in our Igbo cultural space. It consists of an extended staff of place of job (ogu) that after pointed into the ground, makes great noise that disperses the non-initiates (ogbodi) whereas it serves as a pleasure to the initiates (adukwu). The dimkpa represents the power of formative years. It does acrobatics and hits its head on the bottom. The agbogho muo or the maiden spirit represents female magnificence and attraction. it’s known a lot for its sleek dancing while the akakpu muo is like the trouble-shooter and police of the whole masquerade ensemble. it’s rugged in look and prepared for a battle at each and every moment.

along with having an leisure and cultural value in a rural agricultural environment as ours, the masquerade represents the spirit of the age which conceptualized it. It serves as a vehicle of social keep watch over at a time, there was once no policing device as we have now. Masquerade then used to be a deity in addition to a legislation dispenser and enforcer, all rolled into one. The masquerade is even addressed as a god hence being called mmonwu chukwu or different names ascribed to a deity. needless to say the masquerade adjudication process described in Chinua Achebe’s things disintegrate. once the spirits of the ancestors adjudge a topic, it’s taken as concluded.

The Igbo judicial gadget which the masquerade is at the head is not punitive but reconciliatory. The judicial device which nwaezenogwu supervises is truthful to each parties to the dispute. every party is a winner and nobody is thrown into reformatory as a result of he represents the mistaken aspect in a case. it’s also used to keep regulation and order in society even up till now. It helps in environmental sanitation as well as assortment of local taxes and levies. For concern of the masquerade, people do not fail to look at the monthly environmental hygiene so that they don’t attract the wrath of the masquerade.

Admission into the Masquerade cult or society marks one’s manly rites of passage. It clearly presentations that the provoke has come of age and might keep secrets. It also makes one not to be afraid. Masquerade poetry or songs stay one of the best in oratory i have ever heard. The masquerade, particularly the eze muo, speaks in verse of great the Aristocracy and wisdom. Their chants of reward and parody are a satisfaction to listen to. They regularly recount the mystery of lifestyles and the various myths of the individuals’s existence and extol the virtues of onerous work and honesty.

The masquerade is the emblem of Igbo potential and knowledge. It has nothing to do with idol worship as some people erroneously ascribe to it. Some church people that had previous despised it are now embracing it on account of its cultural and philosophical significance. In my space now, the masquerade even performs in church actions as a consequence bringing culture and church collectively. And for any Christian church to be related in Igbo land, its practices must come in alignment with some factors of the folks’s tradition.

The church must stop seeing the masquerade with the eye of a Lucifer. The church and the masquerade are all sellers of morality and values that maintain the society steady and peaceful. The church has a variety of useful classes to analyze from Igbo masquerade, especially the mmonwu kind that many students have written their doctoral thesis about. i’ve seen that right through Africa, the masquerade tradition is pervasive and alive regardless of exterior cultural influences caused by way of colonialism, Western training and Christianity. covering as a form of leisure has many functions. It hides the identity of the item at the back of the masks and imbues it with excessive spiritual powers beyond humans therefore most masked spirits are considered ndimuo.

it is used to appropriate social vices. I lived for many years beneath the dread of ancestral spirits that every time my father carried me in front of his bicycle and passed any of them, he would order me to close my eyes. The sight of masquerades brings nightmares to children and women. In our hamlet, there is at all times a masquerade or two on a regular basis, in public squares, bush paths, markets, funeral ceremonies, churches and colleges. I dread the perception that these spirits came from ant holes.

I fear the notion that they can appear and disappear at short discover. I fear that the useless can truly mingle with the dwelling. alternatively, it gave me hope that life does not actually result in dying and that there’s lifestyles after death through which the dwelling and the dead be in contact and interact thru ancestral spirits. The masquerades are ubiquitous. We watch and take delight within the hot chase of the akakpu masquerade. Some are so depraved and daring that they can pursue you to your mama’s kitchen with your coronary heart pounding at an extraordinarily excessive speed.

at the same time as an initiate, I still dread the masquerade but now not as sooner than on account of its air of secrecy and energy. yet i’m still in love with its transferring and enthralling poetry. This Christmas season and New yr, the masquerade drama will probably be a spectacle and great delight to observe in my space. We price it more than the Santa Claus. I want you a contented Christmas and a affluent New yr.

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