Is Ikwa Ozu (Burial Rites) Both A Duty and Obligation?

This is a deeply theological question and I haven’t found any basis in omenani to justify both the extent of ikwa ozu or the abiding mandate to the living and obligation to the deceased. I hereby traverse.Some people hold that breach of the duty of funeral and obligation bodes severe repercussions for the living.Burial in Igboland is followed by ikwa ozu, the Igbo version of funerals, a ceremony to honor the life of the deceased. Igbos value life, making death a deeply grievous thing to us.

But the tears of burial give way to the fun of ikwa ozu celebration in such inscrutable twist that begs theologians and philosophers to unravel.While it is desirable to hold a ceremony to celebrate the life of a deceased, how did the Igbos make it mandatory to the point of guilt tripping when for one reason or the other, a funeral cannot or was not held?The answer goes back to the time when the sky was the squirrel’s ground and lizards couldn’t be counted one at a time and we lived in a world where the spiritual and the physical merged and our ever loyal ancestors were integral to our cycle of existence.

As birth marked the transition from the spiritual realm to the physical realm, so does death mark the exit back to the spiritual realm to complete what the Igbos believe is the cycle of existence. Therein lies the point of celebrating birth and life to mark the transition points.But the question is: Is that cycle incomplete if no funeral was held?Some believe that an individual whose funeral was not heldbegrudges those whose responsibility it was to the point that bad things happen to the relatives in remiss.The idea is that everyone is entitled to a complete cycle marked with appropriate ceremonies.I get it, but why the agony, so much so that people who have had a string of hard lucks are advised by ndi dibia to go and erase their deficits of uncelebrated lives in order to cure their hard lucks.

I personally do not trifle with the wisdom of the ancients and while it is desirable to celebrate the lives of our departed, I still find zero basis to share the belief that bad things happen to those who fail to hold funerals.It is one of those beliefs that should be interrogated and set aside because the emotional and material cost of holding befitting funerals has made death such a burdensome thing to the living in Igboland. While all lives matter and should be celebrated, the burden of death need not be greater than the joy of birth. It is time to part ways with a practice that brings.misery and grief to those who lack the wherewithal to celebrate elaborate funerals or even funerals at all. Our ancestors will understand after all some of them were just as impecunious as the people they supposedly task and torment for missing out on funerals.

January 4, 2020


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