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Funerals

Introduction

By Oguta custom, the type of burial accorded to the deceased depends on the status of the person and the circumstances of his or her death.  The burial of the Ezeigwe and the other royal members of his Council of Ndiche, as well as Osere, the Chief Priest of the Owu Institution, has already been discussed.  This paper will focus on other categories.  Burial is generally conducted in two-stage -_Preliminary and Final Ceremonies.

The Preliminary Stage covers the initial ceremonies leading to the actual interment.  The Final Stage involves the fulfillment of the rather expensive requirements prescribed by the various social strata within the Society.  Families with good financial background choose to tackle the two burial stages one immediately after the other, except in the case of a deceased Village Head, Okpara, where a Regent must be appointed for three native years equivalent to two calendar years.
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Burial of Nze

(Stage One)

Notification of the Osere
When an Nze dies, Osere, the Chief Priest, must be informed immediately. The family of the deceased Nze pays a fine if the news spreads, or if people to cry, before the Osere is formally notified with kolanut, one bottle of local gin and some money.

Mgbaru

Early in the morning of interment, the ceremony starts with Mgbaru by Nde Nze. As the Osere and Nde Nze assemble, the family of the deceased presents the following:

  • Native chalk (nzu) and kolanut
  • Ego Oji 2 Naira, 1 bottle each of local gin and Schnapps, 1 carton beer, 1 crate Mineral; (soda)
  • 2 jars Palm Wine and Ntoani money given to Ndiche and Nde Nze.

Mgbata Anya Mmiri

As different groups of sympathizers arrive and present their ‘George’ cloth, they are each entertained with the following:

  • Kolanuts
  • 1 bottle local gin
  • 1 bottle Schnapps
  • 1 carton beer
  • 1 crate Mineral (soda)
  • 1 jar palm wine
  • 1 packets of Cigarettes

The Groups to be catered for are:

1. Agbanta – the deceased’s group of Nde Nze
2. Age Grade
3. Ikwunne – mother’s family
4. Ikwuato – grandmother’s family
5. In-laws
6. Other relatives
7. Clubs, if relevant – entertained according to their rules and regulations.
8. The Villagers

In addition to the drinks listed above,

(a) the Villagers, Nde Ogbe, are given two goats, one for the elders and one for the youths
(b) Ikwunne, the mother’s family, will be given one Dog and one Goat according to preference. The dog is used for the IWA NKITA ANYA ceremony.

Iwaya Iji Naka
This ceremony puts slices of yam in the hands of the deceased., and is the last rite given by the Villagers before interment. One goat and one yam tuber are required for this ceremony.

Burial
Male adults are buried with war cap (okpu afunenupu) on their head. Eze producing villages bury with the red cap (okpu omu). After the Iwaya Iji Naka ceremony, the deceased Nze is buried.

Shaving of the Wife’s Hair

Soon after the burial, the hair of the deceased Nze’s wife is shaved clean by the women of the Village. She stays somewhere in the parlour for 28 days, that is, izu asaa, during which period she is not allowed to move outside the premises. Friends and relatives, including members of her Age Grade, keep her company and send her food. At the end of the first izu asaa, she is free to cook for herself, but her friends come back at night to keep her company until the end of the second izu assaa when she is escorted to the Laketo have her bath. This is called IYI UKWU NA MMIRI.

Ewu Amara
This is the ceremony by which a goat is slaughtered to sever connection with the dead. In addition to the drinks already mentioned, the Ewu Amara ceremony requires one goat and one paddle, two yards of ‘George’ cloth and Ego Ntoani – Two Naira per person.

Ozu Uchichi (Night Burial) 
This ceremony starts about 5 p.m. and stretches to the small hours of the following day. Ozu Uchichi must be done within five days after the burial of an Nze, otherwise the family will be subject to monetary sanctions, i.e., IKPUCHI AFARA. Persistent failure to conduct the Ozu Uchuichi may lead to the
Suspension of the rights and privileges of the Owu title holders in that Village.
Ozu Uchichi involves a considerable cash outlay for the procurement of drinks, goat, seven lumps of pounded yam (oba nni) fowls and all sorts of incidental expenses.

FINAL BURIAL CEREMONIES

The Ceremonies are sub-divided into two stages. The Formal Notice, and the Actual Ceremonies.

Ikpa Aka
This is formal notice of intention to perform the final burial ceremony. The notice requires kolanuts, one bottle each of local gin and schnapps, one carton of beer, one crate of mineral (soda} two jars of palm wine and cigarettes.

This notification will be extended to each of the numerous groups involved in the final ceremonies.

Ikpa Aka will not be necessary if the family of the deceased performs the final burial ceremonies a few days after the interment ceremony.

The Final Ceremony
The Ceremony starts as early as 5 a.m. on the appointed day, with a “21 Gun Salute” – the firing of cannon, now improvised with a local device called NKPONANI. About one hour later, the daughters of the deceased, accompanied by some members of their Age Grades and friends, go round the town with their metal gong, IBOM, singing and praising their late father or mother whose final funeral ceremony they are performing. This is the traditional way of reminding the Age Grades and others concerned to come to the ceremony.

 

   Burial ceremony of a man

 

   Age Grade
The dead man’s Age Grade assembles in the premises and starts singing and dancing. They are entertained with:

  • Kolanuts
  • 2 bottles each of local gin and schnapps
  • 2 cartons/crates each of Beer and Mineral (soda)
  • Stout, Malt, Palm Wine, Cigarettes

In addition to:

  • 1 Goat – Ewu Amara
  • 1 Paddle
  • 1 Ram (Ebunu Nwaada, usually provided by the first daughter).
  • 2 Yards of ‘George’ cloth.

Nde Oririnzere
If the deceased person is an OririNzere, the “Opi’ royal music is played and Nde Oririnmzere will dance in the man’s house for three days. They will be entertained with drinks and given Ego Akanshi, that is, Five Naira per person. This is called money for lifting the talking spear. This is for the first day.

The entertainment will be repeated on the second day.

On the third and final day, the man’s children will join them to dance to the ‘Royal Opi’. In addition to doubling the amount of drinks to be provided, the family will provide the following :

  • 200 Kolanuts
  • 200 Ose Oji – alligator pepper
  • One Ram
  • Ego Akanshi – Five Naira per person.

Burial of an Oshiji
When an Oshiji title holder dies, his fellow title holders will assemble and will be entertained as a group, under the following aspects of the Burial Ceremonies:

  • Mgbaru
  • Ikpota Akwa
  • Ikpa Aka
  • Main Ceremony
  • Ozu Uchichi (Night Burial).

For each of the above listed ceremonies, the family of the deceased Oshiji will provide a minimum of:

  • 2 bottles Local Gin
  • 2 bottles Schnapps
  • 2 Jars Palm Wine
  • 2 cartons Beer
  • 2 crates Mineral (Soda)
  • 4 packets Cigarettes
  • 1 carton of Stout
  • 1 bottle of Gordon Gin
  • Kolanuts, Ego Oji, Ego Ntoani N4 per person.
  • In addition to the drinks, the Ozu Uchichi ceremony requires:
  • 2 pots of porridge yam
  • 2 pots of Goat
  • 14 lumps of pounded yam
  • Ibu Nni – N520
  • Ogburu aku na Ozu – N50

BURIAL OF AN OGBUAGU

The following are the requirements for the burial of a deceased Ogbuagu Title Holder under the various stages of the ceremonies:

Requirements

Igbu
Assembly

Ikpa
Aka

Night Burial

Day Burial

Nde Ikwu Nne

Children’s Age Grade

Deceased Age Grade

Itu Uni

Umuishi

Cock

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Left & right Hand Drinks

Yes

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Palm Wine

2 Jars

N/A

6 Jars

6 Jars

2 Jars

2 Jars

2 Jars

1 Jar

1 Jar

Beer

1 Ctn.

2 Ctns.

2 Ctns.

I Ctn.

3 Ctns.

2 Ctns.

1 Ctn.

3 Btls

Mineral/Soda

1 Crate

1 Crate

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1 Crate

6 Btls

Stout

I Ctn.

I Ctn.

2 Ctns

2 Ctns

N/A

Yes

Yes

N/A

N/A

Cigarettes

2 Pkts.

2 Pkts

3 Pkts.

3 Pkts.

2 Pkts

.

4 Pkts.

4 Pkts.

1 Pkt.

N/A

Ntoani

N 2 ea.

N/A

N2 ea.

N2 ea.

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Goats

N/A

N/A

2 Okiri

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Pounded Yam

N/A

N/A

7 Lumps

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Gordin Gin

N/A

N/A

12 Btls.

13 Btls

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Whisky

N/A

N/A

2 Btls.

3 Btls.

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Udoamani (Fish Pot)

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Ram

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

N/A

N/A

1 Ram

N/A

N/A

Ina Una

N/A

N/A

N/A

N 52

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Kolanuts

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Local Gin

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1 Btl.

2 Btls.

3 Btls.

1 Btl.

1Btl.

Schnapps

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1 Btl.

2 Btls.

3 Btls.

1 Btl.

N/A

Dog

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Malt

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

2 Ctns.

Yes

N/A

N/A

Ego Oji

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

Yes

Ego Uni

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Yes

N/A

There is also the Uno Akwa Ceremony, which requires all sorts of food items which the deceased cherished when he was alive, for example, yam, rice, beans, fish, meat, plantain, cassava, drinks, etc.

 

Burial Ceremony of a woman

The parties involved in the final burial of a woman include the following:

  • Deceased Woman’s Age Grade
  • Husband’s Age Grade
  • Deceased Woman’s Villagers  –  Ikwunne
  • Husband’s Villagers
  • Children’s Age Grades
  • The Ogbuefi Society  – if the deceased was an Ogbuefi
  • Clubs  – if she was a member

The Ceremonies include Wake-keeping, Uno Akwa and Itu Uni.

Each of the groups listed above is entitled to a minimum of the following:

  • Local Gin
  – 2 bottles
  • Schnapps
  – 2 bottles
  • Beer
  – 2 Cartons
  • Mineral (soda)
  – 2 Crates
  • Palm Wine
  – 2 Jars
  • Cigarettes
  – 2 packets (except for women’s Age Grades)
  • Kolanuts and garden egg.
   

Itu Uni requires only one each of the drinks listed above.

Uno Akwa requires a variety of the favorite food items enjoyed by the deceased when she was alive.
A Goat is slaughtered for the deceased woman’s villagers (Nde Ikwunne) during the wake-keeping as a reciprocal of the NNI IZIZI EBE hospitality which the woman’s family accorded the in-laws during  .her traditional marriage.
All the daughters of the deceased woman is obliged to give to their respective Age Grades an additional one case of Schnapps (12 bottles). This is called IGBUWA AKPATI MMAYA.

The practice of IKPA AKA, ’21 Gun Salute’, that is, the firing of nkponani at 5 o’clock in the morning and the subsequent parade of the daughters of the deceased, to remind their Age Grades and others of the final burial ceremony, also applies.


Ife Efi

According the Oguta custom, the bride price on a woman’s head is never fully paid.  Ife Efi represents the
balance of such bride price not yet paid.  The amount now payable is negotiated between the deceased woman’s original family and her husband’s family.  As part of the final burial ceremonies, the original family .of the deceased woman has the obligation to give one goat each to the first son and the first  daughter of the deceased as Ewu Ikwunne.  It is usually out of the Ife Efi proceeds that this obligation is met by the Okei Uno.


Ibu Ozu

This is the symbolical carrying of the woman’s dead body back to her family.  This begins with the firing of the nkponani.  The villagers of the deceased woman will lead the procession to their Village, followed by the children’s Age Grades in their order of seniority.  The procession affords the general public the opportunity to feast their eyes and admire the efforts of the children in giving their mother a befitting burial.  The children take pride in being addressed as ORISHA ODUWA.


Ewu Ikwunne

After brief entertainment at the deceased woman’s village, the family presents the Ewu Ikwunne to the first son and the first daughter. In recent practice, however, the family also presents a goat to each of the other children who came with their Age Grades, in order to give them a sense of belonging.   All the Age Grades. now depart to the homes of their respective hosts where they are again entertained.  This is the time when the daughters of the deceased woman present their ‘boxes’ of Schnapps to their Age Grades

 

 

 

Miscellaneous

Burials without Rites

The following categories of people in Oguta are buried without rites:

  • Babies/Infants
  • Person who drowns in water
  • Person who hangs himself or herself
  • Woman who dies in pregnancy or during childbirth
  • An aspiring Eze who dies during 28 days of his Ikwe Omu
  • An Okpara (Village Head) or Regent (Udom) who dies before
    completing 28 days (seven native weeks) after his installation.

 

One of the obstacles to Final Burial Ceremonies

Final burial ceremonies within a family are conducted in the sequence in which the deaths occur.  If there is an outstanding burial ceremony of a dead parent or close relation, the family will not be allowed to perform the final burial ceremony of a close relative who has recently died.  Anybody who wishes to perform the final funeral ceremonies of his mother, for example, must first of all complete all outstanding burial ceremonies within the lineage.

 

Influence of Christianity on Oguta Custom and Tradition

On February 7, 1971, a solemn declaration was signed by the leaders of the Ikwa Nmuo Title Order in Oguta, including OSERE, the Chief Priest of Echina and Nde Nze, to the effect that Christians desirous of taking the Ikwa Nmuo title shall not be required to undergo any pagan initiation ceremony, and that “the burial ceremony of a deceased Christian holder of the Ikwa Nmuo title should be in accordance with Christian rites and usages.”    

Uko

The Significance of the UKO Delegation

Uko is the delegate and special representative of the person who appoints him.

The following have the right to appoint Uko on an ad hoc basis for a specific purpose:

The Ezeigwe
The Ezeukwu
The Ogene
The Iyasara
The Ndanike
The Ezechioha
The Okpara
The Okei Uno.

The Uko enjoys the honor, dignity and respect usually accorded to the person who appoints him.

Uko is saluted “UKO.”

None of the above named authorities can appoint two Ukos at the same time to perform different assignments, because the Uko goes out to do his duty with the only Ofor of the person who appoints him.

Custom does not permit the Uko to carry out two assignments consecutively without first reporting back.

The Uko must concentrate on one specific assignment given to him. He cannot deviate to do other things for himself or for the person who appoints him.

The person who appoints the Uko cannot leave his Palace or home to carry out any other assignment until the Ukoi returns.