ONYEKPEZE AND IKA CULTURAL MATTERS
Deities are many in Ika. It is not difficult to imagine how there came to be multiplicity of deities (Mmo), things made in state of gods or goddesses in Ika. Fear and the terror of the unknown had always haunted the ancestors and they were always looking for security. When the Ika ancestors were living in their world, they made and established several deities such as Ali, Ifejiokun, Olokun, Uzun, Aja, Aki, Odele, Onicha and so many others. These deities, they felt had the attributes of human beings and so, are the express will and desires of them. The ancestors made them into bundles of medicine and burial them in the ground. The spot where each medicine was buried became the shrine of such a deity. The ancestors made them to generate wealth, good fortune and for the protection of the society in which they lived.
In addition to the original deities of the Ika people, there are those introduced as a result of migrations. Some people who left their ancestral homes to settle in Ika brought in their deities along with them and established them as new ones in the areas where they settled.
Even though these immigrants did not, in most cases, bring the ‘mother’ deities with them, they brought with them pieces of native chalk from the shrine of the ‘mother’ deities; and with the native chalk, the deities are present with the immigrants in their new abode. This way, immigrants from Ndokwa brought Adofi to Ika; immigrants from Aboh brought Ekwonsun to Ika, immigrants from Urhobo brought Igbe to Ika, etc.
ALI (The divine earth or the mother earth)
Ali is the most important public or private divinity of the Ika people. They believe that every person, no matter his achievements, his education, his wealth, his power or wisdom still belongs to the land. Ali new ihianle. “After hovering about in the air, the flying termite at last fall’s to the toad. The land is the home of every being, man and spirit. While alive, one lives on it; when one dies, one is buried inside it. The land belongs to man and also man belongs to the land. This is why a person with a ‘deep mind’ does not commit any sin against the land which will be his home after death. Ali, in Ika people’s belief, is responsible for public morality and offences against its laws are crimes against humanity. Ali is believed to have forces of blessings and destruction. Many offences against it in Ika culture are regarded as abomination and they are treated with severity. Sanctions are imposed and sacrifices are performed before the Ali shrine as atonements by offenders of Ali. Serious offences against Ali have different ways by which they are treated.
Ali, as the unseen leader of the society, is conveniently grouped into two types, Ali Uku and Ali Nta (big and small Ali) in Ika culture. Ali shrine is usually simple, egbon tree in most cases with or without an earthen pot in which offerings are put. The elders offer sacrifices to the Ali Uku for their villages while the Onyenchen performs the same function for the Ali Nta for his Idumu or quarters. The items of sacrifice to Ali are often directed by the oracle, the diviner or priest consulted. Such items include kola nuts, native chalk, fowls, food and drinks.
Culturally, when any sacrifice is offered in Ali shrine, a well defined sitting order is strictly maintained and great care is always taken to keep the order. The most elderly man sits at the middle of the bench or platform or any elevation provide for sitting. All the elders know themselves and their turn of choice of anything divisible or otherwise. The next in age sits by the right hand side of the most elderly man, the next sits by the left and in that order. The seat or position of any elder who is unable to be present at the sacrifice ceremony is left vacant throughout the period of the sacrifice.
At the end of any sacrifice to Ali, be it any type of Ali, Ika culture informs the four most elderly of the highest elderly age grade (Okwa Ukpo) who took part in the ceremony to remain behind and engage in a dance with the spirits. So, immediately after the sacrifice, all others who participated in the ceremony would leave quickly without looking back. It is culturally believed in Ika that death would visit whoever contravenes this belief.
There is a myth connected with the sacrifice at the Ali shrine, be it Ali Uku or Ali Nta. If an elder in the Okwa Ukpo age grade falls down on his way to, or from Ali shrine on a sacrifice mission, or when the sacrifice is being offered, it is a sign that the elder would die in the same year. Instances abound in Ika tradition as proofs that no elder survived the year of such a fall.
IFEJIOKUN (The spirit of god of the farm)
Ika people are known farmers and most of their time is spent in the farm. As such, Ifejiokun occupies a central place in their life as it is the ‘yam spirit’. Ifejiokun is the spirit of agriculture and good harvest; and anybody who contravenes its laws must quickly offer sacrifices to avert its wrath on him.
Ifejiokun’s shrine is found in every man’s farm; and it comprises of pieces of disused farm implements made of iron, such as machetes and hoes kept on a spot close to the farm hut. In some cases, the shrine is kept in between two dried pieces of earth or ant-hill. Some men may put one native chalk (Ugon nzun) and a few cowry shells inside an earthen pot added to complement the farm implements as their Ifejiokun.
Unless directed by a diviner when its laws are infringed, offerings to Ifejiokun are usually made during Iwagi/Ase festival, the second day of which every man goes to the farm to offer sacrifice to Ifejiokun with food and kola nuts. In the olden days Ika, all food items of sacrifice were over-turned on the shrine for the fear that Ifejiokun might return home to deal with them if any part of the offering items was returned home. The sacrifice of Ifejiokun is fast becoming a thing of the past in Ika culture.