~~~ Night Has Fallen in the Afternoon ~~~
Chapter 7 -- The Feast of Reincarnation

After all these things were over, Ezeonyekwelu and Ugonwa doted on Nonyerem and loved the ground he walked on. They took the best care of him, not even allowing his headpad to fall to the ground.

The feast of Reincarnation was approaching. Everyone was rushing around to buy things needed for Reincarnation. Men who were getting married got ready to carry the Reincarnation gifts to their in-laws.

Reincarnation was two weeks away. Young men and women went to the forest to gather firewood. When there was one week left, young women went to the stream to collect clay for use in painting the walls of the houses and the compounds, and to fetch water.

The young women pulled up cocoyams, decorated themselves with uri [juice of the indigo plant], and bought camwood dye to rub and put it aside, waiting for feast time to arrive, because feasting is no time for skimping.

The womenfolk were chattering ''bim bim bim'' in places where fish, shrimp, watermelon seeds, European pepper, fermented oil bean seeds, etc. were sold. The menfolk were going around to places where chickens were sold, to buy cocks to use at Reincarnation.

The day had arrived, but there was still one day for a child to eat what was keeping him awake, so he could go to sleep.

Ugonwa had scrubbed their whole place to look beautiful, had gathered firewood, fetched water, and bought various items in preparation for the feast, because a war that has already been planned does not engulf the lame person, because the grasshopper that was killed by the hornbill had refused to listen.

She then prepared some oil-bean sauce, boiled cassava, and fish, and put it on the fire. They all ate, poured a cup of wine and drank one by one.

Ezeonyekwelu then caught the fat cock that he had bought in the market and gave it to Ugonwa. She thanked him and called him "good husband." He then went and spread the chicken's blood on the shrine of his god that stood in front of the kitchen. Nonyerem then took the chicken and stuck its feathers into the path leading to their compound. Then they cooked the chicken whole and placed it on the hearth, waiting for the break of dawn which never seemed to come.

There was commotion everywhere because of those who carried the Reincarnation masquerade and those to whom it was carried. But truly,  Ezeonyekwelu and Ugonwa did not care a fig for anything, even death and mourning, because the joy over their only child who rose from the grave exceeded that of those who celebrated Reincarnation.

It was the women who reincarnated the gods, and the men who reincarnated the spirits. There was no difference between the two, because they said that they were created to kill chickens, goats, rams and cows. But the women killed chickens for the shrines of their gods, and the men spread the blood of the things they bought on the idols and household gods and staffs of justice, because the women did not have household gods and idols.

Another thing that was different was that the men carried the masquerades during Reincarnation because the feast belonged to them. Ajikwu of the night and leopard masquerade and the masked one who carried it came out at night, and only male children carried the children's masquerade when the villagers celebrated reincarnation.

Ikepuru Ezeonyekwelu had already agreed to give Nonyerem the money he would use for learning masquerading. But not only money is needed to learn masquerading.

A person who wants to learn masquerading brings a calabash of fried breadfruit, and cracks hard or soft oil palm kernels that are not very dried out. If the person does not crack the kernels, he brings two or three heads of coconut, like those coconuts that are very large.

If someone does not bring a large calabash of breadfruit, or if the breadfruit he brings is not sweet, they take the pod of a certain kind of fruit and mold it so its head is twisted, like someone with a lumpy head. [This is done to tease or shame the person.]

A person who wants to learn masquerading also brings three pieces of money, a string of cowries, and a cloth to be used to tie over his eyes when he is learning about the masquerade.

Ezeonyekwelu then gave Nonyerem three pieces of money; his mother Ugonwa fried a calabash of breadfruit, cracked a white palm kernel and spread it on the calabash of breadfruit and brought it to him, and got a length of George cloth and gave it to him. [George cloth was printed with images of King George.]

Nonyerem thanked them, and that night he went to Ichekoku's compound, where those who wanted to learn about masquerades were going. But he had not yet reached Osisingwere's compound when he met Nnabuife and Chukwuemeka on the road. He told them that he was ready to learn about masquerades, and they invited him to join them in showing their masquerade. Nonyerem followed behind them, but he was apprehensive, because a person who has been stung on the leg by a bee is afraid when he sees a big fly.

When they reached Ejiofo's compound, Chukwuemeka left them and went ahead of them so he could pick up the others. Nnabuife and Nonyerem then went to the village square where a large number of people had gathered. A leopard masquerade was growling "wum, wum, wum, wuuu, wuum."

Nnabuife then shouted, "Novices are coming, o." The leopard masquerade roared out, "wum, wum, wum, wuum, wuuu." Nnabuife told Nonyerem that those leopard masquerades could bite people to death. Nonyerem was scared, but Nnabuife told him that there was no danger.

When Nnabuife shouted again that novices were coming, silence fell everywhere. After Chukwuemeka returned to the village square, the people there  accepted from all of those who wanted to learn masquerading the breadfruit they had brought, and took it from them, then also took their money and shared it with everyone, and took their own portions and put them into their bags.

They then summoned people who roasted the breadfruit, took their cloths and blindfolded them, then told them to stand in the middle. They all did as they were told.

Then they struck them on the head with their fists, one by one, and told them not to make any noise because the leopard masquerade would come and bite them to death. They kept quiet and were patient, because the palm nut that the child longs for does not disagree with his stomach, because it is the one who carries the load on his head who feels the pain.

Then the leopard masquerade roared and everyone was terrified. Cold fear filled their bodies, but the masquerade teachers told them not to run away.

More than ten masquerades then came out and beat them with switches and they all ran in every direction. Anyone who fell down got right up because he was blindfolded. But they were patient because it was with great patience that the porcupine gave birth to the thorny child in its stomach.

They then gathered the novices together and told them to tell all their girl  friends one by one that if they did not act a certain way the masquerade would beat them until they were bloody. Fear came into their eyes and they then told all of their girl friends.

Laughter then broke out everywhere. After that the masquerades beat them with switches and told them to thank them when they finished beating them. They were scared and did as they were told.

The masquerades then went and grabbed them one by one and untied their blindfolds, before they uncovered their faces. They looked around and discovered that those who had worn the masquerade were their peers, people they knew very well, and they all laughed. But those people warned them strongly and told them never to reveal what they had seen, because if they did, all the masquerades in town would descend en masse on their houses. They would make such a person give them a long, wooden-bottomed basket of tiny ants, a round basket of soldier ants, a calabash of live flies, a wooden-bottomed basket of small, stinging ants and a round basket of lice and bedbugs.

Those people were novices who did not know masquerading, and they then thanked those who had presented the masquerade, and promised them that they would cook a calabash of breadfruit for them as well. Nonyerem and the others thanked them, and joined them in having fun until midnight, when they were tired and all returned to their various homes.

Next day, Ugonwa cooked breadfruit, pounded cassava with vegetables, cooked ora [a vegetable] and yam stew, and put it aside for several people they had invited to a feast that day. Ugonwa also mixed oil bean and stockfish; and Ezeonyekwelu took his share of goat leg and dog flesh, and bought two pots of wine as well.

People then crowded into their house, eating everything they cooked and drinking wine until evening, hunting and then carrying off cane rats behind the house. [refers to abundance of food]

~~ *TO CHAPTER 8* ~~


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