By Ozii Baba Anieto
From the reactions to my last article on the preamble before the burying of an Igbo woman, I discovered that the ancient custom of my kindred that required the repatriation of the corpse of a married daughter was generally practiced in most Igbo communities. However, I will stand on the premise that what I submit today is extracted from the archive of Umu Eze Kisa Kindred of Umunnachi, Anambra State.
Umu Eze Kisa means the Children of the Priest of Kisa. I am a descendant of this ancient Priest.
*EZE means A PRIEST, and Kisa is our family deity.
When a daughter of Kisa dies, her body is returned to the family. Every daughter, Nwa Ada, that marries becomes a member of 'Umu Okpu'. The word 'Okpu' means Okputolokpu (perpetuity). It means that even though a daughter marries, she belongs to her family of birth - forever. Therefore, when she dies, she returns to where she belongs.
For that reason, marrying from my family doesn't make you the owner of the woman. You are just married to her, but she is 'Nwa Okpu' - an everlasting daughter of my family.
Like I have always chorused, Marriage in Igbo land is never a union of a man and a woman. It is a contract between two families. In performing Marital rites in my community, both families must contribute. The expenses are not for the man alone. The family of the man brings the bride price; the family of the woman, the dowry. In the olden days, the bride's family understood the importance of sending their daughters to a man's house with more than enough to start a home. The daughter's respect depended on her dowry. It shows how she was valued by her people.
Among the common items given to the family that marries a daughter of Eze Kisa are kitchen utensils, a young she-goat, an adolescent hen, a bag of clothes (even before colonization, Igbo men and women wore cloths to cover their loins), etc. These items, and our daughter, are given to the family of the groom and not to the husband. That is why, if our daughter returns because of maltreatment, we don't expect the husband to come for her. No. The woman wasn't given to him. His family members, who we gave our daughter to, would come for reconciliation.
However, every Igbo man knows that 'ife nwoke nyelu ibe ya bu n'na jidelu m' - everything a man gives to another man is a loan. So, when our married daughter dies, you must return her to her father, and the 'itogbo ozu nwa ada' ritual must be performed.
Itogbo Ozu Nwa Ada means laying the corpse of a daughter. Because no outsider - not even the husband - can take care of our daughter more than us, we take our daughter and do all we must do for her. According to the custom, she must be joined with her fathers. But while bringing her back, that family that we gave her to must return her cooking utensils, her bag of cloths, an adolescent hen, and a tender she-goat.
All these items would be dropped on the family land where the Alpha of our family, Eze Kisa (The Priest of Kisa) kept the shrine of Kisa.
The children of our daughter would forever be our children. They would forever call us: 'Nna Ochie' (Ancient fathers). And till the earth pass away, we will protect them. Whatever the children of our daughter want to do, they must invite their Ancient Fathers. If they are maltreated anywhere, we will fight for them. And if men prosecute them, they, just like their mother, can always come to us. We will never cast them away.
If these were not followed to letter, our daughter, even from beyond, will never be happy with us, and that will bring calamity upon my family. And if any of us visits a diviner, we will witness 'Nwa Ada i gba Na Afa' - her unruly spirit will prevent the seer from finding a solution to our afflictions until the right thing is done.
Ozii Baba Anieto