~~~ Night Has Fallen in the Afternoon ~~~
Chapter 9 -- "Pounding the Medicine of the World" [isu nsi uwa, a type of rite of passage similar to a covenant]

The partridge told her child that if it pecked at a yam it should peck at the root, because one does not know whether, if he started to chew a palm nut, his eye might pop out [unforeseen occurrence], that if the owner of the yam should dig up his yam, they could still stay alive. [Crumbs remaining at the root can still be eaten.]

Ezeonyekwelu was a man who cultivated a lot of yams, so he had constructed a very large yam barn. He planted many types of yams: ayobe, ito [dry yam], ukom [white guinea yam], abana [water yam], adaka, ji oku, and ji abii. The elders say that when the snail starts to move, it drags along its shell, so Nonyerem did not look back when he followed along to work on their farm.

Ezeonyekwelu then wanted to cut some yams for Nonyerem to plant, so he could find out whether he was truly a mature adult. It is true that the bachelor, in cooking breadfruit, scrapes it hard against the bottom of the pot [makes mistakes] because he has no one living with him, but Ezeonyekwelu wanted him to see that the chicken doesn't hatch a rat out of the shell, so that his efforts would not be followed by hand-biting. [Biting the hand describes a gesture of regret.]

He then split some yams for Nonyerem and gave them to him. Nonyerem took them and begged three young men to come and plant the yams for him. His mother, Ugonwa, then brought seeds there and planted corn, melon seeds, bananas, garden egg seeds, cowpeas, eli emi onu [a sour vegetable], and ogili [oil bean seeds], and put in some cassava stems as well.

Nonyerem cooked food for those people, they filled their stomachs and returned to their various homes.

When an Igbo week had gone by, Nonyerem and Okeohia Ogbuehi sharpened their knives and axes, took atikpa [protective substance], put it in water and rubbed it on their bodies, cut palm fronds and put them between their teeth, then went to clear the Ogwugwu forest.

The Ogwugwu forest was a place where people threw twin babies and those whose upper teeth came in first, then they squashed them to death.  Because of this, the place was filled with nothing but broken pots and shards.

Shreds of sleeping-mats and woven mats filled the place. Mats were used to tie up packets of ashes worn by widows when they sat in mourning under the kitchen shelf, and the heads of the widows and mourners of the dead persons were shaved.

Ogbuehi then gathered some pieces of oil palm nuts, chewed them, and spit them out in the forest, and Nonyerem did the same. They took the protective substance, mixed it with water and rubbed it on, then took their well-sharpened knives and entered the bush, clearing it as they went.

The elders say that if the cow climbs the hill and tells the hill that it is stamping on it, the hill replies that it is dragging down the cow's leg, because when the chicken dances on top of the fence, the fence dances as well.

Even though they were clearing the bush, things that were harmful to people were as numerous as sand on the ocean's shore. There were scorpions, snakes, leeches, akubara [creeping plant that causes skin irritation], agbaroko, and pieces of glass, pot shards and thorns that had been thrown together in the forest. [Obviously this was what was known as "bad bush.'']

They were clearing the bush when a woman came along and saw them and asked them what they were doing. Okeohia replied that if the rat does not run, its tail catches fire. The woman then shouted and ran off, saying, "Ogwugwu [a deity] save us, our Ogwugwu save us o.'' Tears were falling from her eyes, because if you tell a child to clean up feces that are not of his own making, he glares in anger. People then gathered around and asked her what happened to cause the toad to run out in the afternoon.

She then told them that a man had stayed in her house and broken his testicles, and thus her eyes had not seen her ears [indicates that something unheard of had happened]. But when several people were upset because she did not tell them exactly what made the woman flee from her husband's house, she told them to go to the Ogwugwu forest to see for themselves what was happening there. A group of people then went.

But before they arrived, Okeohia and Nonyerem had realized that a bad bat had entered the big iroko tree, and had taken their knives and returned to their respective homes.

Then the town was in a state of great commotion and people did not know how to tell the chief that he had a hernia. [How to break the news.]    Neither did they know how how to talk to someone who had gone to the land of the spirits. The elders say that if you keep on averting your eyes before the chief [out of fear or awe], you put a basket on your head to speak to him.

The townspeople then held a meeting in the Dunu town square and decided that they would send Ajaoku to go and give a message to Ogbuehi, that the bird that cried alarmingly would not cry again, because if one does not struggle to keep the footpath clear, the compound will be inaccessible.

The townspeople also sent Ezeonyekwelu a message telling him that a stick does not poke a man's eye twice, and thus he should warn his son, that the mother cow is too big to be roasted. [Some things are too big for a young boy to handle.]

Ezeonyekwelu had seen that Nonyerem was not the kind of nut that could be spit out after you started to chew it. He then cut Nonyerem some bamboo canes, stakes, stripped  raffia palm fronds, and thatching so he could build his own house.

Nonyerem then asked his friends to come and work for him, so they could knead the red earth and put it aside. The next day they laid the foundation for the walls, took a rammer, and laid down the floor of the house. Ugonwa then painted the house for him.

Then Nonyerem fastened the roof of the house and wove in the thatching. He also fashioned a bed where he would be sleeping, and built a shelf designed to keep rats from eating the fish, and a wicker drying-tray on top of the hearth.

Nonyerem did all that was necessary to be called an exceptional fellow.

Ezeonyekwelu then wanted to do the ritual of Isu Nsi Uwa for his son, which was the first ceremony a person performed before it was recognized that he had entered full manhood.

He then invited Ekwuigbo to come on Orie day and bring the necessary things for Nsi Uwa. Ezeonyekwelu then told all his kith and kin to come, because Nonyerem was going to do the Nsi Uwa ritual, which was the first ritual a man undergoes.

There are three kinds of nsi a person undergoes. The first is the nsi of the world, the second one he undergoes if he completes this is the nsi of the devil. The third year, he begins to undergo the real nsi.

While they are undergoing these rituals, the women do not eat any of the items used to undergo them, but neither does a man who has not undergone the ritual touch his tongue to anything used in undergoing it.

Men who are undergoing the ritual try hard to pursue it every year.

Ezeonyekwelu brought together the necessary items to use in undergoing the ritual, then waited for the appointed day to arrive.

On that day, Ekwuigbo assembled a bundle of roots, including akanta and elianwa, as well as human bones, and also brought a bundle of palm fronds.

The bundle of tree roots was black because he had hung it under the shelf, over the hearth.

Ekwuigbo then greeted Ezeonyekwelu, they shook hands, inquired about each other's households, and then Ekwuigbo went and set down in one corner of the compound all the various items that he had brought with him.

Many people then gathered round, with their leather bags, the dried twigs and bells that some of them had put into their bags jingling when they walked.

Many men filled the place as the feast was warming up, because a person does not leave a place where a title is being taken and go to a place where there is idol worship.

Ekwuigbo then set the human bones on the ground and they gave Nonyerem a knife and told him to go and strike them. Nonyerem gave them three knife strokes, and then went out. It was then considered that he had killed a man, because someone who has not killed a man cannot undergo the manhood ritual.

Nonyerem was very happy because the son of Emecheta said that if he fell without holding a rope, he should climb to the top of the ogbu [ancestral tree] that stood in front of their house to find out if he had gone to ogbu.

Ezeonyekwelu went to his yam barn and picked out two water yams. Nonyerem took them from him and rubbed them on his eyes, cut and ate them piece by piece, then put them into a pot shard and set it on top of three tree branches used to form an earthen pot-stand, and lit a fire underneath. Then they carried both the sticks and the yams and the shard and threw them into the bad bush. Those cooked items were called ''spit out poison,'' because people do not put it into their mouths.

Ezeonyekwelu then gathered up some white yams; some people took them and peeled them, cut them in pieces, and put them in a pot so they could  cook some pepper soup. Ekwuigbo gathered some roots, and they scraped them all into the yam pot.

Nonyerem went and grabbed a cock, touched it to his eyes, swung it around four times toward the sun and then killed it and threw its blood into the yam pot. They then ground some pepper and put it in, with salt and oil and ogili [spice made from castor seed], periwinkle, onion, and water.

Ezeonyekwelu then told Ekwuigbo that the dibia [native doctor] had blown his flute and wiped his nose [accomplished his work so it was time for  repayment]. Then he gave him one leg of the chicken, and they cooked other kinds of meat to share among all the other people.

Ekwuigbo then scraped out three pieces of igbegulu [stump of palm frond closest to its base] and spread them on the ground and made a pot-stand, and then set the pot of yams on it, took roots and made a spoon for stirring the yams.

After the yams had cooked, they lifted them to the ground and everyone then ate them all up, but Nonyerem did not taste any of them, according to Igbo tradition.

Afterward, Ekwuigbo cut a palm frond sapling, tied it around Nonyerem's arm, then placed those roots on his head four times. Ekwuigbo poured a bit of the wine brought by Ezeonyekwelu, drank as much as he could, then thanked them, took his medicine and the human bones, and went home and put them back under the shelf for someone else who might call on him another time.

Everyone who had gathered at Ezeonyekwelu's house then drank as much wine as they could. Many of them went home without thanking him, but others thanked Ezeonyekwelu and Nonyerem and then left, because  the stroke of a knife is like kola mark on the body. They also praised them greatly because they cooked food for everyone, because the elders say that if many people cook for one person, he will not eat it all, but if one person cooks for a crowd, they eat it all up.

But no one will greatly praise someone who buries his mother before dawn.

~~ *TO CHAPTER 10* ~~


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