The grand finale in traditional marriage rite in Igbo land is called Igbankwu. It is a grand event nobody will ever regret attending. Marriage in Igboland is not just an affair between the future husband and wife, but an institution which brings parents, the extended family members and villages together.
First, the groom asks his potential partner to marry him. Assuming that the response is positive, the groom will visit the bride’s parents in the company of his father and a few other relations. The groom’s father will introduce himself and his son and explain the purpose of his visit over a pot of wine.
The bride’s father welcomes the guests, invites his daughter to come and asks her if she knows the intending groom. Her confirmation shows that she agrees with the proposal. Then the dowry settlement ( ihu Onu aku) starts with the groom again accompanied by his father and elders visiting the bride’s compound on a commonly agreed date. In most places, the day chosen must not be an Eke market day.
As they visit, they bring pots of wine and kola nuts with them to be presented to the bride’s father. While the guests are being served with a good lunch of pounded yam and spicy choice vegetable soup, bride price negotiation would proceed simultaneously between the fathers usually in a secluded room. In most cases, there is only a symbolic price to be paid for the bride but, in addition, other items (kola nuts, goats, chicken, wine, etc.) are listed as well. Usually, it takes more than one visit to conclude on the final bride price to be paid and such are never complete without feeding the parties from both sides heavily.
Often on the last visit, the bride price payment is made after which the groom’s family hands over the money and other agreed prerequisites. This is followed by the planning of the traditional wedding which must take place at bride's home. The highlight of the wedding is the summoning of the girl by the father in front all the guests to hand her a cup of wine for presentation to the groom.
First, the bride goes around selling boiled eggs to the guests, as an indication of her ability make money in support of her husband through trading. Then, the bride’s father fills a cup with palm wine and passes it on to the girl while the groom is seated amongst the guests. It is the custom that while searching for the groom that some young men would appear before her posing as the groom but she would brush them aside. When she finds the groom, she would hand over the cup of wine respectfully on her knees. The groom on accepting the cup would sip the wine to symbolize the consummation of the marriage. During this ceremony, there is also the nuptial dance where the couple dances, while guests wish the newly weds prosperity by throwing money around them or putting bills on their forehead.
Nowadays, church wedding follows traditional marriage. During this ceremony, the bridal train, made up of the bride followed by her single female friends, enters the church dancing to a select music, while the guests bless the bridal train by throwing money over the bride and her entourage. The groom receives the bride at the altar for the final church blessing by the priest.
Death in Igboland is regarded as the passing away of a person from the present world to the spirit world- the abode of previously departed ancestors. It is strongly believed that until the second burial rites are performed, the dead can never transit from roaming the earth to the spirit world. The honor accorded the dead varies and is dependent on title, gender, relationship with the immediate family and the moral quality of the person while alive. If the cause of death is adjudged to be a repercussion of an evil act by the dead, burial rites will not proceed in honor. If the dead is a man, he is buried either inside his house or in the front court of his home, whereas women are interred at the back of the family house. During the funeral ceremonies, relatives and friends of the deceased pay their last respects to the dead by mourning with the bereaved family in colorful ceremonies marked with singing and assorted traditional dances. In times past, the wake keeping was accompanied by masquerades, traditional music and animal sacrifices in the hope the dead would arise again. A traditionally titled man or ruler would be buried with two human heads alongside his body accompanied with the release of canon gun shots to notify the general public that a notable man has departed. Many of the horrifying customs associated with burial rites which border on human rights abuses have either been modified or completely discarded with the advent of Christianity
[By Mazi Ogbonna ]