The Ìgbò people of the southeastern region of Nigeria have their ancestral background rooted in an age-long cultural heritage, with one of them being The Four Ìgbò Market Days. The Ìgbò market days comprise just four days embellished with business and other cultural cum religious significance.
As a people from the east – the rising sun – they are viewed as resilient and industrious. Ndi Ìgbò has suffered a series of transformations and oppressions that have had disastrous effects on the culture. But the Ìgbò culture thrives and flourishes regardless. Ndi Ìgbò, just like other ethnic groups, believes that they are God’s favorite and while that may seem like grandiosity, they have their culture to back this belief.
The Ìgbò market days safely existed in the civil old Ìgbò society long before the intrusion of the colonists. Unlike the falsehood championed by the Eurocentric literature texts rampaging the globe, Ndi Ìgbò had a working system before colonization. As a foolproof to disclaim these dishonest anti-Igbo texts, literature texts from Ndi Ìgbò would greatly aid. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is a great head start for anyone interested in knowing the truth about Ìgbò culture which is embedded in Igbo history.
The structure of the Ìgbò calendar is also one of the statements to nullify the continuous disparagement of the beautiful Ìgbò culture. Ndi Igbo has a different calendar from the Gregorian calendar. Surprising as it may, the custodians of the Igbo culture still maintain this calendar in their observance of the culture and traditions of our land. The following table outlines the months in the Igbo calendar:
1. Onwa Mbu
2. Onwa Abuo
3. Onwa Ife Eke
4. Onwa Ano
5. Onwa Agwu
6. Onwa Ifejioku
7. Onwa Alom Chi
8. Onwa Ilo Mmuo
9. Onwa Ana
10. Onwa Okike
11. Onwa Ajana
12. Onwa Ede Ajana
13. Onwa Uzo Alusi
As observed in the table above, there are THIRTEEN months in the Igbo calendar. The Igbos only recognize 4 days in a week, namely; Eke, Orie, Afo, and Nkwo.
This article will discuss the origin and significance of these market days extensively.
A Further Overview of The Traditional Igbo Calendar:
4 days make a week (Izu).
7 weeks make a month (Onwa)
28 days make a month
13 months make a year
91 weeks make a year
364 days make a year
The days of the Igbo calendar are referred to as Market Days because of the attachment of market activities to each day. The Igbos are widely known for being industrious, hence the coinage. But there is more about the Igbo Market Days beyond the market activities. A story of the origin of the Igbo market days will explain the ideologies behind these days. Read On!
The Origin of The Igbo Market Days
The Igbo market days were introduced into Igboland by Eze Nrijiofor during his reign in Nri (1300-1390 BCE). Nri is known as the ancestral home of Ndi Igbo. According to the legend, four strangers who pretended to be deaf and dumb visited Eze Nrijiofor. They each carried a basket. The king made several efforts to exchange greetings with them, but all his efforts were abortive. Even when he presented them with Kola nut, they still kept mum.
At night when they had gone to bed, the Eze sent a soothsayer to discover their names. The soothsayer being clever, employed a rat to disturb them. Immediately the rat started nibbling in Eke’s basket, Oye called Eke by his name and told him that a rat was trying to get into his basket. Eke woke up and ran away. The rat continued so, and within some minutes, the men had disclosed the names of one another while trying to alert the others of the presence of the rat.
The following morning, the Eze went to them with the kola nut and called them each by their names: Eke, Oye, Afo, Nkwo. With shock on their faces, they politely requested water to wash their hands and face. They ate the kola nut offered to them by the king and, in reciprocated by presenting four earthen pots to the king to keep at the front of the Nri shrine, with each of the pots facing the sun.
Eke, who was their spokesperson, introduced himself and the others as messengers from Chukwu, and said to the king that the first pot belonged to him, the second to Oye, the third to Afo, and the fourth to Nkwo. He claimed the posts were gifts from Chukwu and that the king and his people should observe these names as market days during which they should engage in buying and selling. Following these instructions, the market days became used in Igboland to count weeks, months, and years. He further instructed that their male and female children be named after them. Names such as Okeke, Nweke, Okoye, Nwoye, Okafor, Okonkwo, Ekemma, Mgbafor, Mgbeke, etc were coined. At noon, men shone like angels. The news spread throughout Igboland, and these market days have since then been observed.
From the above legend, you can see the furtherance of the supernatural link evident in every Igbo cosmology. There is always a Chukwu factor present as the precursor of the Igbo culture. What makes days sacred in Igbo ontology is the spirit related to particular days. Igbo market days are among the most sacred religious and traditional elements in Igbo cosmology. There are consequently deities worshipped on different market days. Some streams are not fetched during particular days sacred to the deity that inhabits the stream. The following section will discuss Igbo market days and their significance in some Igbo villages.