Thoughts Lead To Appreciation
For some years, I have considered and cancelled publishing my life experiences in accordance to the realm of spirits and ghosts.
Before we delve into a detailed insight into the world of spirits, let us have some foundations on the dimension.
Is There Another Dimension?
The straight answer is an emphatic: Yes, there is another world besides ours.
Should that prompt any psychiatrist to grab a pen and paper to declare me psychologically unstable, such needs to mull over own mental state for the inability to see what I see.
Who Are Spirits?
Variously known as ghosts, apparitions, spirits of the dead, poltergeists, spectres, ghouls, or phantoms, spirits that reside on planet Earth are not dead, but living creatures with parallel and powerful characteristics to that of humanity.
Spirits are of dual gender – masculine and feminine. They perform identical functions as humans: feeding, working, movement, and so forth.
Spirits are created beings, from smokeless flame, and possess powers of transformation between the spirit form and human form.
In their human form, they often adopt the image of dead persons. However, spirits are not the ghosts of the dead.
Nevertheless, the cultural depiction of spirits as spectres of the dead has led to the belief in contact with the dead, in a range of forms, from clairvoyance and its derivatives to ancestral worship.
Mmuo or jinn, in Igbo or Arabic respectively, spirits ought not to be contacted by humans as per Islam, though deviant spirits and humans desire such interactions.
In African traditional religion practised by Ndi Igbo, communications with the spirit dimension is strictly forbidden to the uninitiated.
The uninitiated boy child, girl or woman is permitted to gaze upon – and that only for the briefest period during the day – only the lowest representation of spirits, masquerades.
In a masquerade uniform, the human wearing the disguise is proscribed from any form of indulgence known to humans.
Night appearances of masquerades are sacred and prohibited to the sight of females and children.
My Eyes Closed
In the dead of the night in Isuikwuato, Abia State, the tranquillity is punctuated with distant sounds of drumbeats and chants.
The beats and voices grow louder as they approach down the streets of Ndiagwo Clan of Umuasua.
I could feel the presence of persons right outside our bedroom pane, pressing against the glass window.
Were the masquerade and his troop peering through the window to ascertain whether someone was awake watching?
My siblings were fast asleep by then. Being a light sleeper woken by the slightest of noises, I was awake.
My heart pounding and bedsheet pulled tightly over my head, I had shut my eyes and relied on other faculties of perception well before the entourage reached our window.
No one taught me not to witness night masquerade parades. I never did see them.
I reasoned that as the masquerade was in procession when all else were asleep, the masquerade did not seek to be seen.
I shut my eyes firmer, out of caution not to be caught not so much for observing taboo masquerade rituals but by the glares of unfamiliar persons.
Add that such manifestations occurred when only we the children were home alone; I certainly did not wish the intrusion of strangers into the house to scare me further.
I was confident no harm would come to us, for we were natural freeborns.
Besides, our paternity was well known. Even if I was found monitoring night masquerades, the maximum I expected was a report to our paternity on his arrival, a couple of days before Christmas.
For a week or so prior to that, from Enugu on school vacation, my elder and younger siblings and I handled our affairs in the household, usually along with our peer cousins.
A minor contrast happens during the day, as the uninitiated can watch masquerades from afar, at the own risk.
My elder brother who is a year older than I am and my male cousins usually joined the train of masquerades.
My cousin once jokingly said he would flog me if he were the masquerade. Laughing, I responded with if I knew he was the one I should fight with him. Of course, the trick was knowing who was in the costume.
I narrowly escaped from a masquerade and fled indoors. Seconds later, I was out again. And before I knew it, one appeared. I could not flee towards the front door and headed towards the back.
The masquerade caught me and just as he was about to flog me, my elder brother intervened and asked him to leave me. I must have been between 10 and 12 years old then. I have since wondered whether that was my cousin.
Incidentally, at no point have I believed that masquerades were spirits. Certainly not, as my brother and cousins were participants. They were clearly not spirits.
When as an adult, I heard masquerades were spirits, my response was: What on earth? Do adults actually believe that, when their own son is wearing the costume?
My brother was no spirit, nor were my cousins.
The only close range admiration of masquerades I experienced was done at the town square on the town’s Christmas Day, usually the Market Day.
There, I stood and watched to my satisfaction, from the shaded centre for women and children, while the men, including our paternity and uncles, sat apart in the open.
The masquerades would pay obeisance to the men gathered and entertain the crowd.
I loved the dances, the music, and the songs. One masquerade song is playing in my mind.
Sometimes, a masquerade would get close to scare everyone!!!
I believe the whole run from a masquerade rule was just for fun, albeit intense suspense. I noticed women did not flee, but gave the masquerade money.
I remember thinking: I want to grow quickly, so I can stop running from masquerades!!!
The same occurred at Otampa, a stone-throw away, for those are components of the Religions Of Otampa, as much as they are of Umuasua.
The next chapter on Masquerades And Spirits takes me into the nightlife of Isuikwuato and beyond in spirit.
For more on spirits and I, please read: Heritage Of Ndi Igbo III.