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igbo names: how to make an offor

Published: at 12:00 AM

In the worship of the gods one ever-present tool was the Ofor /Awfaw/ and /Ọfọ/ in the Igbo orthography. Ọfọ was a movable altar for sacrifice, but it differed from all other altars by being universal, that is to say, it could be used for sacrifice to any god. Any god for which there was no special altar could be sacrificed to on the Ọfọ. Ọfọ was an exception; it was used for all gods.

Now we know what an Ọfọ is, this was how an Ọfọ was made:

You get a branch of the Ọfọ tree. If you cannot get a branch from the Ọfọ tree itself, because the tree is rare, you use some other sacred tree, such as the ogilisi, a tree favoured by the gods. You cut the stem of an ogilisi tree. You also dig up the roots of the tree. You get a wooden bowl, called Ọkwa. You scrap the bark of the ogilisi stem into the ọkwa; you also put the roots into the receptacle. You get a bit of a plant, called ‘Ofo-ishi’ [not the same as the Ọfọ tree]. You get ose-ora plant (alligator pepper) and scrape the back of the stem into the ọkwa, you also add it leaves. Then you get a quantity of nzu chalk (nzu) and add to the contents of the wooden bowl. You pound all the ingredient together with a pestle until the mixture is drawn. When the mixture is drawn, you begin to paste the mixture onto the ogilisi stem, which is already shaped. Round and round you put the paste. As you paste round the ogilisi stem, you get “akwala” (rope procured from the raffia palm tree) and hold the paste in place by tying it with the akwala rope. You go on doing this until you have the layers to the size you want. A part of the wood is left as a handle. You then leave to dry.

On the day of consecration, people assemble in the Obi. You get an ose-ora fruit (alligator pepper) and tie it to a palm frond. You then cleanse the Ọfọ with it, saying:-

“ife asịrị ya bụrụ, ka ọ ga abụ” meaning “let it be what we say it should be”, that is, an Ọfọ.

All those present will answer, “ei-o-o!” The response of those present “ei-o-o!” means, “so be it”.

Then you say, “Emeghene, esughene, bu isi Ọfọ” meaning “To not do wrong, to not [miscarry judgement] is the primary quality of the Ọfọ”

Again the people respond “ei-o-o”

Finally, you say, “Mgbọlọgwu [root] malụ ile, ma gị amana nsọ”, “Root! Be [Potent], and be impartial!”

The same responses is given “ei-o-o!”

After this ceremony it becomes Ọfọ and could be used for sacrifice to all gods, as their altar. Thereafter, blood of animals and fowls killed in sacrifice would be smeared on it. Feathers of fowls killed in sacrifice would, for the same purpose, be pasted on it. That was why an Ọfọ that had seen many generations was big in size- an accumulation of blood and feathers.

The incantations may vary from community to community but this is just as it is done during the consecration of the Ọfọ in Awka.