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    HomeOpinionIRI JI MBAISE FESTIVAL - THE ORIGIN, MYTH AND RELIGION.

    IRI JI MBAISE FESTIVAL – THE ORIGIN, MYTH AND RELIGION.

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    By: Ezeji Emma Uwaegbu

    Ji, popularly called “Yam” in English language was discovered by Jabbokigbo, the leader of ancestors earlier before 536BC, when the first “Uheijioku” which is today’s “Iri Ji” ceremony took place.

    Yam is a free gift from God. It was neither brought into Igboland from the northern Nigeria nor imported by the early Portuguese merchants like in the case of cassava and coco yam.

    As Jabbokigbo and his men went for hunting in the tick forest some yam tendrils “aka ji” held him down and injured him. On trying to free his legs he traced the tendrils to the roots where he discovered it had tubers. That was the beginning. In anger,he heaped dried leaves on the strange tuber and set it on fire. The fire finished and a huge roasted tuber remained behind.The next day they saw the animal grasscutter eating the yam tuber, the strange tuber did not kill the grasscutter so it was not poisonous, then the next day they saw another grasscutter eating the remaining roasted tuber ,so they took a gamble, killed the animal and took the leftover of the roasted yam tuber ,they ate the leftover and only experienced little itching in the mouth and they drank palm oil which the had earlier discovered as solution to itching ,and it stopped. They had to enter the forest again and uprooted more yam tubers, roasted and ate with palm oil. Then they gave the tuber the name “ji” meaning “holding back”, because it held the early ancestor, Jabbokibgo and his men from the great hunger they experienced before the discovery. During the following raining season they discovered that the broken pieces of the yarn tubers in the ground sprouted up and brought forth fresh tubers for harvest,then they entered into replanting and harvesting of more yams. Jabbokigbo thanked the Most High God “Chi Okike” for such rare gift. He became a yam lord “Eze ji” and made it a law that him and his descendants will celebrate that great gift from God annually during every yam harvest season.

    Ever since, the iri ji festival has been in existence only to the extent to which different individuals christianize or idolize it.

    So, in 637BC the festival was called”uheijioku” meaning: the tuber “ji” roasted with fire “oku” has saved the people from hunger and starvation period which was always called”ugani”. That was how the festival was then called “uheijioku”.
    From that time till now many derivatives such as: “iri ji”, “iwa ji”, “igwa nsi”, and “ahianjoku” came to fore and many communities and clans in Igboland now have a specific day for the festival.

    In Mbaise nation, 15th day of every August has remained the IRI JI FESTIVAL DAY in Mbaise. And as mainly a Catholic nation, the good people of Mbaise go to Mass in thanksgiving to God with some tubbers of harvests yam which are blessed by the Priests. After the thanksgiving and having been blessed by the officiating priest, some people go back home with one or two tubbers to celebrate with their various families as they leave the rest at the altar as a sacrifice to God almighty.

    It is very important to bring to your notice that same 15th August is a glorious day of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven as Catholics all over the world celebrate.

    So to Jabbokigbo, he saw the feast like the Israelites of old as an honour and Thanksgiving to the unknown God. How you take it determines how you approach it. To every community and clan it must be celebrated with respect and Thanksgiving to God

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