Nationality: Nigerian American
Occupation: Budget Analyst
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/29/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Igbo
- Context: Libation is a form of prayer and is an African tradition. We pray through our ancestors to commune with God. Our ancestors are our guardian angels and we pray through them because of their honesty, purity, and integrity. We call on our male and female ancestors and call on the female ancestors specifically because they are the matriarchs and life-givers of any family.
- What does one have to wear white?
- During libation, if you are an ozo titleholder, meaning you are a member of the ancient Agbalanze Society of Onitsha responsible for preserving the culture and traditions of Onitsha, during prayer you have to wear white. If you are the odipka of the entire clan, you have to wear complete white with an eagle feather attached to your hat. The eagle feather is a sign of purity.
- What is said and done?
- All prayer is done in our dialect Igbo regardless of outside presence[English is off limits]. The one who is praying[my dad] must sit on antelope, goat, or lion skin that has been dried to mark a sign of royalty. In order to pray effectively, you must be one with your inner spirit and be pure of heart. During prayer, your feet have to be planted to the ground, as it marks a physical connection to the ground and is a connection to our ancestors. You first call out your family members by name and raise the four lobes kola nut[ prayer offering] and call out God. You ask God to take the gift of the kola nut and ask him to come to be with us as we give thanks for all that he has done for our family. Then you shift and call on all our ancestors, as far back as you can recall their names. You will call each ancestor[great-great grandparents, grandparents, and in-law]. You should call male names first and then female names. Once you address your ancestors, you now call on all of the deities of your ancestors and ask them to continue to bless and guide the family. Then you give blessings and prayer to each member of the family[mom, brother, me, and dad]. You end the prayer by asking all of the deities, ancestors, and God to come and partake in the breaking of the kola nut.
- What does one have to wear white?
Thoughts: The process of doing libation was something that I never really understood when I was younger. In fact, Sunday libation was something that I always found to be annoying or forced because in my young mind it just meant that I was stuck in one place, unable to move or go out and play. However, not that I am older I have come to understand its immense value and meaning. When my dad prays during libation, he makes it clear that at times he is not the one talking. During his prayer, it is as though our ancestors are speaking through him, calling my mom, brother, and I together as a family and giving thanks for our life, health, and continued well being. My dad is a very spiritual person, believing that the spirit of our ancestors are always with him and his family and are all around protecting us from evil and harm. My dad prays for each and every one of us, wishing for good health, that I and my brother achieve our goals and succeed in life, and that no evil shall befall his family and our extended family back in Nigeria. Now that I am older, I understand the value of the prayer and oftentimes feel a connection to my ancestors like my dad. There are moments where I truly believe that figures like my late grandfather are watching over me and allow me to overcome challenges that I may not be able to do by myself. When I went to Nigeria last winter, I was able to visit my grandfather’s grave and listen to my dad’s prayer. This was a very impactful moment in my life because it really made me realize and understand why libation, why prayer, and ultimately why spirituality in my family is so important in our day to day life. My dad acts as the spiritual anchor of our family and through his prayers, he passes messages and thoughts to my brother and me, maintaining the connection to those before us. I believe that sooner or later I will start learning how to tap into my spirituality further and eventually start channeling our ancestors like my dad and his dad before him.