Onitsha Ceremonial Circle

Onitsha ceremonial life invloves a series of festivals with each festival forming part of a continuu that helps to symbolically relate each aspect of socila life to wider reality.

Six festivals are celebrated in one Onitsha year. The basic sacred divisions of these are set by the phase of the moon.

The Obi proclaims each of the twenty eight day Lunar months "Onwa" and defines the ceremonial sequence in terms of the seven four-day weeks "OGE ISA" that comprise each month.

The Six Festivals are as follows:

Ifejioku
This is usually celebrated in January, and is essentially a homage to the "Yam spirit" with a view to establishing the presence of this guardian spirit of yams in each strip of farmland to be cleared and cultivated. It features the preparation of Coca yam eaten with bitter leaves.

Ajachi
Normally celebrated in June. It is a sacrifice to the Almighty , and invilves beseeching God to guide every adult in his labor and help his crops prosper.

Umato
This is the first harvest celebrated in June after the time of the maize harvest. Umato is a sixteen day festival beginning with the exclusive celebration by the Obi for a period of four days, after which the celebration of the populace begins. Umato entails a redistribution of new consumable wealth by the nobility to lesser mortals .

Owuwaji
This new yam festival is normally celebrated in september and commences twenty-four days after the Umato. It last for twenty-four days. The Obi performs the ritual of eating the new yam after the various sections (villages) of Onitsha have performed the ritual.

During this period, The Obi retires into a trance-like state for four days. This is known as INYEPU UKWU NA NLO EZE.

Ofala
This is the Obi's annual emergence from seclusion, having assessed his relationship with God, ghost, spirit. Thereafter, his body is washed to signify the end of his mourning. This is usually celebrated in October.

Osiste
This comes nine days after the Ofala. This is the ceremony of cooking in the pot and signifies the end of the harvest cycle.


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