From her days as a young child, Chiugo had always felt the presence of her chi. Even though at the time she didn’t understand the ways of the world and the roles of gods and spirits in them. There was always a strong connection between her and the voice in her head and it never failed her.
When she was a just 10 years old it was that voice that woke her up one night. Saving her and her mother from the snake that had crawled into their hut and was ready to strike.
As a young maiden when Achike had come for her hand, it was the same voice that warned her about the dangers of marrying him.
No one had understood why she had suddenly rejected Achike’s proposal, after all he had long shown interest in her and was one of the richest men in the village. Which young maiden in her right mind would have turned down the marriage proposal of a man like Achike?
Her rejection had caused quite a stir, everyone had expected her father to persuade her. For what does a maiden know about picking the right husband for herself? But her father would do no such thing. His fondness for his daughter had only increased after the death of his wife. If she decided not to marry Achike then so be it.
Achike had gone on to marry Ezinma the second daughter of Onochie. Their wedding ceremony had been the topic of discussion at the stream and market places. Everywhere young women gathered they were sure to been talking about it. But it suddenly turned sour and people would go from clapping their hands and vibrating their bodies in excitement to shaking their heads in pity with arms folded across their chests.
Achike had died suddenly on the 7th night of his wedding. According to the customs of Ubima village a man was to spend the first 7 nights of his marriage with his wife. He was to avoid work as his strength was reserved for consummating his marriage and filling his wife with a child.
If a man dies before the 7 days is over and the bride is seen to be without child she may return to her father’s house after a 10 days cleansing ritual and avoid the title of nwanyi ajadu
But if with child, she is to remain as her husband’s bride and raise his child.
Because Achike had died in the middle of the night on the 7th day it was assumed that the consummation had been completed and that she was with child. So she remained in his compound as his wife. Unfortunately it was later discovered that she was not with child, that was the beginning of her turmoil. Achike’s brother had greedily taken over his compound and affairs. Ezinma was reduced to living in a corner like a slave in the midst of her husband’s riches.
Such is the fate that would had befallen Chiugo had she not listened to the voice of her chi.
She had married Ikemba instead. He was not as wealthy or strong as the other suitors but she and her chi had been in agreement over the union. What Ikemba lacked in farmlands and barns, he made up for in love and admiration of his beautiful wife.
He was the first son of his father Ibeme. He had inherited his father’s calm demeanor and his hardworking approach to life. But as time went by Chiugo began to realize that was not all he had inherited from his father.
Ibeme had been an illustrious and hardworking wine tapper. He was known for his ability to touch the most sour of Palm trees and turn its wine to the sweetest nectar. His father before him had neither farmlands nor barns to pass unto him when he joined his ancestors. But Ibeme had dreams of owning many farmland and barns. So he worked and toiled for most of his youth. When his mates were found at the wine stalls on market days drinking and making merry, he would be deep at work toiling away and going to work for anyone who needed the extra hand. Such was his dedication to being better for his sons and leaving them with something worth inheriting.
Soon he had made enough to buy a sizeable plot of land and so he did.
But in the years that followed everyone would come to believe that the gods had willed differently for him.
For no matter how hard he tilled the soil, no matter how much rains the crops got, come harvest time Ibeme’s yields were always among the smallest in the village. People started to whisper that chi ya kegbulu ya. Whenever misfortune was near, it found its way to Ibeme’s farmland.
It was the year he had planted corn that igurube had invaded the village for months on end. Sometimes so great was their number that they seemed to darken the skies as they swarmed. They had feasted on his crops and damaged that year’s yield.
The year he planted ji, ogbuide had opened her rivers and caused them to overflow flooding parts of the village. That year the rains had been so much that the farmlands were covered in water for months on end. His yams had drowned in the flooding. By the time the waters had receded there was almost nothing left to salvage.
Everyone agreed that he had gone ahead of his chi and as such, had embarked on a fruitless journey.
After all one’s chi is his identity in the spirit land. For a man lives here and his chi lives there. It is through his chi that he receives his portion in life. Is it not his chi that will bargain for him? And whatever be the outcome of the bargains will be his lot.
Is that not why our people say that no matter how many divinities sit together to plot a man’s ruin it will come to nothing unless his chi is among them? Likewise is it not said that no matter how well the gods want to bless a man if his chi can not accept it on his behalf then all the blessings will go to naught?
But Ibeme would not relent. Every year at planting season he would make sacrifices to ani and call on his chi to deliver his message and bring him good fortune from great beyond. But every year come harvest time it would become clear that his chi had not answered his call.
As time went on Ibeme’s lot began to weigh him down. He would leave his farmland to go fallow and slowly return to wine tapping. But eventually he started to drink most of what he tapped and when he was no longer able to climb. He would go to the market place and drink as much as he could.
When death finally came for Ibeme he was an old drunken man with nothing to his name but a piece of land no one wanted for fear that it was cursed.
Chiugo had tried to get her husband Ikemba to let her take over the his father’s farmland after all she had come from a long line of prosperous farmers. It was known that her father and even their father’s before them prospered well as farmers with yearly yields that always topped the previous years. Whatever it might be from ji to ede and corn. They had a knack for it and always instinctively knew what to plant in a particular for maximum yield.
She strongly believed that it was their chi, strong and potent, it spoke to them and they listened. Prosperity was the outcome always.
But Ikemba would not have it. For he firmly believed that the farm was cursed. He believed that his father should never had tempted fate. And that they were destined to be winetappers.
Chiugo couldn’t help but disagree with her husband. Once again she was convinced that her chi was leading her down the right path. But she was at loss on how to convince her husband. She decided to suppress her belief. Choosing instead to pray each year to ani and Chukwu that her husband might have a change of heart.
But on the sixth year of her marriage a strange encounter prompted her to stop her prayers and do the unthinkable.
THE END(watch out for part 2)
GLOSSARY OF IGBO WORDS
- chi: In Igbó cosmology, chi represents the personal spirit of a person
- in charge of manifesting his destiny and guiding him.
- nwanyi ajadu: widow
- chi ya kegbulu ya:
- igurube: locusts
- ji: yam
- ogbuide: goddess of the waters
- ani: goddess of the earth/fertility
- ede: cocoyam
- Chukwu: God, creator of the universe