Rituals of Ijogwu Festival

Photograph by JR Korpa on Unsplash.

Dances of naked women in a single file
(Only the darkness covers their nakedness)
Carrying on bare heads small earthenware pots
Smoked in rituals of the night around flaming logs
Singing for Ijogwu, the water goddess
Imbuing the air with tingling
Relics of the ancient dreams
Dawning on the hallows of the grove
Far sprung in the distant forest.

We offer our wives nakedness
To the deity of the moving waters.
Flabby breasts, that once upon a time
Fed the entire village
Now process through all the streets
Covered only by darkness
Down to the waiting stream to wash anyara.
This is the night of all nights
This is the night that the hidden pores of earth open
Anew to accept the solemn atonement.

The horn cup is brimming with palm wine
And the ritual pot is prepared
Entwined by sapling of palm frond
Unfurling slowly, yellowing into green.
The kola nut has four lobes for the four markets.

Vultures upon every tree attend
This communion
Moving through seven mountains
Across seven seas in seven days.

And the green freshness opens on every farm
The last sacrificial rites is over
Thick smoke of burning incense
Pervades the world with awe.

Around the ritual pots, three eggs are broken
The yoke forming an enduring pond
For our yearly born-again festivals.

JAMES ONYEBUCHI NNAJI graduated in English from the University of Nigeria at Nsukka. He edited The Muse journal, no.39. His poems have appeared in The Muse, The Nation, Drumtide Magazine, and African Crayons Magazine. He has his quiver full of awards in this regard. His poem “I Will Sleep When I Die” won the University of Nigeria Literary Art Festival first poetry prize. In 2011, his poem “Ashes of a Life” won The Muse first prize and he was also awarded the University of Nigeria/Emeka Anuforo Medal for the Best Literary Artist of the Year. He lives in Enugu, Nigeria.

Featured image: Photograph by JR Korpa on Unsplash.


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