IKA CULTURAL CUM TRADITIONAL RELIGION
MOURNING AND OTHER CEREMONIES
FOR THE DEAD IN IKA CULTURE
Generally, mourning in Ika culture, is observed in every family, lineage and Idumu in respect of any death the age notwithstanding. This is known in Ika as ino ahio. It is observed for a period of one native week, izu. During this period, Ika people believe that the spirits of the deceased hovers in the atmosphere for that given number of days of mourning in which funeral ceremonies are performed. Nobody goes to the farm for any serious business unless, perhaps, to tap wine or look after traps and nothing else during this period. However, the deaths of babies of about six months or less do not attract much attention of the people except the immediate families involved.
During this period of ino ahio, the compounds in the Idumu are left unswept until the morning of the last day of the traditional native week. On this morning, all the compounds in the Idumu will be swept clean, implying sweeping off ahio or izapu ahio. It is izapu izu when it applies to elderly people. Sacrifices may be offered to the ancestral gods to mark the end of the period, and attempts are made to forget about the death.
TRADITIONAL MOURNING OF THE DEAD IN IKA CULTURE
Mourning a Husband
In the olden days, widowing and mourning took different forms in Ika community culture. A wife would be required to mourn her late husband for a period of time. The wife married by betrothal, nwunyen, mourned the late husband for a long period of six months, but the wives married through other traditional systems of marriage mourned their late husband’s for a shorter period of three months. Mourning by a widow took place in a small hut casually built in a nearby bush. Some charms and medicines were tied on the widow’s hands, while she carried some each time she was going out of the hut. She slept with these medicines and charms to prevent the ghost of her late husband from haunting her. The elders of the family and Idumu of the late husband gave these charms and medicines to her.
Up till the present time, in some Ika kingdoms, a mourning widow remains and dresses in black clothes. Some dress in old clothes and sleep on bare floor. These devices are to deceive the late husband’s ghost, lest it returns to have relation with her, which is considered dangerous. She is made to cry for the late husband in some mornings, through which means she laments his departure as well as relates his noble deeds while he was alive. When the mourning period ends, her hair will be shaved completely. The shaved hair together with the utensils she used while mourning, are taken to the bad bush, or burnt, in some kingdoms. The temporary hut will be burnt along with the clothes she used during the mourning period, which are assumed to be defiled. During the period of mourning, the woman has to observe the taboos, which are associated with mourning. For example, she will not enter into anybody’s house. She abstains from having sex with any man. The offence, if she does, is an abomination, nso ali, which in the olden days, was punished by ostracism or excommunication. The same treatment was meant for the man who seduced her. She will not be found talking very loudly. If she goes against any of these taboos, the umuadan of the lineage of her husband ‘will gather’ to impose their fines of a cock and hen, with which to offer sacrifices to their maternal spirits.
To end the mourning, the widow will perform the rituals of cleansing and that of purification, iju-olo and ife-ehu. She must perform other sacrifices before the ancestral shrines of her late husband. Eventually, she ‘bathes’ and begins to dress well again. If she is a wife ‘tied to her late husband’, nwunyen, she is coercively remarried by a man from the family of the late usband as mentioned earlier on. In some cases, she may extend her choice of remarriage to the father of the late husband, or one of the grown-up sons of her late husband, or any other male relation of her late husband. For any of these choices of remarriage, the elders of the lineage and Idumu do perform series of sacrifices to appease the ancestors for the rearrangement in the marriage of their children. For the other types of wives, they pack and return to their various families at the end of the mourning. They however, maintain good relationship with their late husbands’ families, especially where they have children for such husbands.
If a woman dies during the mourning period, the death is regarded as disgraceful, and she will be carried to the bad bush and buried in a woeful manner.
A man mourns his late wife for a relatively shorter period than the woman does for her late husband, three months for nwunyen and seven native weeks, ogen esa, for wives married through other traditional systems of marriage. During this period, the man wears smoked calico cloth. He does not go to farm for the first seven native weeks, if he loses a nwunyen. He may begin to go to any place after that period, but he does not shave his hair or beards, neither does he participate in any communal gatherings or works. When the mourning comes to an end, he cuts his hair completely down. He may decide to remarry after sometime if he desires, especially if he was a monogamist. If he was a polygamist, he may be contented with the other wife or wives of his.