Geoffrey Anyanwu, Enugu
The Igbo are looking forward to Saturday, February 15, when their lunar calendar 2020, otherwise known as Iguaro, will be proclaimed at Nri, the acclaimed ancestral home of Ndigbo by the Eze Nri, in Anaocha local government of Anambra State.
The OkpalaEze na Nri, Prince Chukwuemeka Onyesoh spoke to Daily Sun on what Iguaro means and the concept of the year deriving from 13 lunar months.
According to him, “The days of the Igbo week: Iguaro is the ritual proclamation of Igbo lunar calendar by Eze Nri (King of Nri) in Anambra State, performed yearly, for the Igbo nation over the past 1019 years, as the founder of Igbo days of Eke, Oye, Afo and Nkwo (all deities) which determine the “Izu” (four-day week) that add up to the “Onwa” (seven native weeks in a month) that yield the “Aro” (year of 13 lunar months).
“Aro is another deity by itself, again controlled by Eze Nri. Aro has shrines in Nri. Anthropologists detailed how the four supernaturals (otherwise deities) of market days, were revealed to Eze Nri who now control them. The Igbo market days and Aro are thus, deities. Prof. Onwuejeogwu in his various anthropological researches and publications provided elaborate details of these facts.
“Iguaro Eze Nri used to be the biggest festival in Igbo land, performed in the palace of Eze Nri by Eze Nri, dating from 900AD. The Onitsha people in 1750 AD introduced Ofala, (a festival very similar to Nri yam festival of Onwasato celebrated in the 8th month of the Igbo year), when Onitsha was founded.
“In Onwuejeogwu’s “An Igbo civilisation, Nri Kingdom and hegemony” (1981), he graphically shows the proclamation of Igbo New Year as one of the 10 mystical powers of Eze Nri. Onwuejeogwu was one of Nigeria’s foremost anthropologists.”
On the concept of the year deriving from 13 lunar months, Onyesoh said, “Before the British liquidation in August 1911, Nri had developed its concept of Aro – the year. First, as earlier stated, “Aro” is a supernatural force revealed to Eze Nri in the past; then Nri transformed it into a cycle of one year.
“Aro” is divided into 13 segments, namely: Onwa Agumaro usually falls around middle of February of the Gregorian calendar. This is the month for the proclamation of the beginning of the Igbo lunar calendar by Eze Nri for all Igbo. It is followed by Onwa Mbu, Onwa Abuo, Onwa Ife Eke, Onwa Ano, Onwa Agwu, Onwa Ifejioku, Onwa Iliji, Onwa Ilommuo (Onwasato), Onwa Ana, Onwa Okike, Onwa Ajana na Edeaja, Onwa Uzo Alusi.
“The lunar system of calculating the year with a system of adjustment, were known to the Nri priests of Alusi Aro. Knowledge of the movement of the heavenly bodies was employed. Northcote Thomas (MA, FRAI) the Colonial government anthropologist in 1910, identified and reported that he got “names for the following heavenly bodies at Agukwu, Nri: “Pleiades, Orion and Great Bera”. Nri elders had clear knowledge of these stars and others, which helped them in calculating the intervals between each lunar period and finding the directions during their sojourn from one Igbo-village to another in both the semi-forest and forest zones.”
He further explained the proclamation of the Igbo lunar calendar; Iguaro, saying: “As previously stated, the annual proclamation of the Igbo lunar calendar is the exclusive function of Eze Nri. Starting from the Igbo native week of four market days to ‘onwa’ made up of seven native weeks which amounts to 28 days and to Aro of 13 Onwa (month).
“‘Onwa’ is a moon cycle tracked by observing the movement of the moon; 13 of which make one Igbo lunar year. The proclamation invariably falls mid-February of every year, similar to the Chinese lunar calendar for which the Chinese celebrate and shut down for close to one month.
“The Igbo, unlike the Chinese who share similar lunar cycle with the Igbo, are subject people controlled by alien government and faith. They cannot take out a week or month to celebrate the beginning of their ancestral lunar calendar, like the Chinese, but Igbo like before the 1911 destruction of Igbo values at Nri by the Christian missionaries and the colonial authorities, and as the Western world celebrate the Gregorian New Year every first January, can at least devote a day to re-enact their past and celebrate the centrality of their cultural values. The Gregorian calendar was founded by Pope Gregory XIII in October 1582.”