Friday, November 24, 2017

Traditional Igbo circumcision and the 8th day circumcision lie, pt. 2

Written by Chibuzo Ihuoma

The practice of circumcising males on the 8th day of birth was a practice brought to Igboland,  as well as other places in Africa, by European colonial missionaries. As widely known, circumcision on the 8th day is a requirement for all Christian males. It is a symbol that the child is a spiritual descendant of Abraham. The Igbo, like many other Africans who embraced Christianity, embraced to an extent this practice of circumcision on the 8th-day of birth. However, as rightly said earlier, this was never Igbo tradition.We had already been practicing circumcision, and we had our own time frames of when to conduct circumcision.


Having established in Part 1 of this article that male circumcision originated in Africa and not the Middle East, I will now move to debunk the lie that the Igbo traditionally practiced 8th-day male circumcision as the Jews and that females were not circumcised. Most of my evidences will come from colonial records and archaeology. It was important that I primarily used pre-Nigerian civil war material due to the fact that the Jewish origin fable and obsession by some Igbo sprung up as a result of low self-esteem due to the effects of the Nigerian civil war and many Igbo delved into revisionism in order to perpetuate the fallacy. Without further adieu here are the facts and evidences:

In his book published in 1950 "The Ibo and Ibibio Speaking Peoples of South-Eastern Nigeria", G.I. Jones - a Welsh photographer and anthropologist of Cambridge University who was a colonial District Officer in the Bende and other surrounding areas of Igboland, noted the follow about the Igbo and circumcision:



George Thomas Basden, an author, anthropologist,and archdeacon who spent up to 3 decades in Igboland, particularly in today's Anambra State, in his book "Among The Ibos of Nigeria" published in 1921 noted the following on Pg. 60:




In another book of George Thomas Basden "Niger Ibos" published in 1938, he goes into much more detail about the practice of circumcision in Igboland on Pg. 167:




Professor Edmund Onyedum Ilogu of blessed memory,  in his 1974 book "Christianity and Igbo culture : a study of the interaction of Christianity and Igbo culture" states the following about the practice traditional circumcision of the Igbo people:




In a 1997 book written by two renown Nigerian professors of history and culture - who collectively have written several books, Akinjide Osuntokun and Ayodeji Olukoju, the practices of traditional Igbo circumcision was noted in a book titled "Nigerian Peoples and Cultures". Along with the notation of traditional Igbo circumcision, I would like you to also pay attention to the day the naming ceremony generally took place. I will elaborate more on its significance later in the article:




A respected author and political critic, Dr. John Okwoeze Odey, in his 1986 book "Ritual circumcision in Ezza and the Christian faith" iterates the traditional practice of adulthood circumcision in his Ezza clan in current day Ebonyi State. It is pertinent to note that the Ikwo and Izzi clans, who are neighbors to the Ezza and also claim descent from the same progenitor, also practice adulthood circumcision:




Author and anthropologist, Simon Ottenburg - with the aid of researchers from Afikpo: Chief Ndukwe Azu, Nnachi Enwo, Thomas Ibe, Chukwu Okoro, Nnachi Iduma, and Chief Nnachi Omeri, collated documentations of research he did on Afikpo spanning from 1951-1966 and released it in his 1986 book titled "Boyhood Rituals in an African Society". In this book he notes the traditional practices of circumcision in Afikpo:





From the records presented above, it has been revealed that:

1. Circumcision is performed on both males and females in Igboland
2. Generally the Igbo people practiced circumcision between the 3rd and 8th day. That is, on day 4, 5,      6, or 7
3. The Igbo also traditionally practiced adulthood circumcision. Notable areas that did so, but not limited to, are: Ezza, Izzi, Ikwo, Afikpo, Ngbo, Nkanu, and some Western Igbo areas.
4. Traditionally there was never an "8th day" circumcision practice or rule in Igboland

The performance of male and female circumcision was to start on the 4th day of the child's birth. The 4th day was the last day in the traditional Igbo 4-day week calendar. The final day to have circumcision performed on the child was the day before the last day of the subsequent week(s). The last day of the subsequent week(s) was preserved for the commencement of the naming ceremony. To illustrate things for a better understanding see the below:

Week 1
Afo, Nkwo, Eke, Orie
  • The cycle time to perform circumcision would start on Orie
Week 2
Afo, Nkwo, Eke, Orie
  • The last day in the cycle time to perform circumcision on the child would be on Eke
  • Orie would be reserved for the beginning of the naming ceremony, which is on day 8 of the child's birth and on the 4th day of the second week. 

If the cycle time is 3 Igbo weeks, which is 12 days - as in the case of some areas, then that 12th day would be reserved for the naming ceremony, which would also be on the 4th day of the week. It is no different than what occurs in the illustration above. The examples supporting this are in my previous references as well as this book titled "The rites of initiation in Christian liturgy and in Igbo traditional society : towards the inculturation of Christian liturgy in Igbo land" by Cyprian Chima Uzoma Anyanwu where he notes that scholars expressed that the naming ceremony starts on the 8th day of the childs birth and on the 12th day in some areas:




From the above, we can see a sequence between the circumcision cycle time and the naming ceremony cycle time. They both start on day 4. The number 4 seems to be a significant number. In fact, in a 1934 research paper written by archaeologist M. D. W. Jefferys titled "The Divine Umundri King" he wrote the following in regards to this significance of the number 4 in West Africa:

"The number four and its implication of the four quarter gods is so
constant a feature in West African ritual and has hitherto received no
notice, so that some remarks about it are necessary.
"

It has been proven that the claim that the Igbo practiced 8th day circumcision, like the Jews, is a fat lie and a desperate attempt by elements within the Igbo community, who suffer from low self-esteem, to link their ancestry to people with white skin. It's only commonsense that had an "8th day" circumcision ever been a cultural practice in Igboland, the colonialist, especially the missionaries, would have noted it and our fathers and mothers would have remembered it. But that is not the case because it never existed until Christianity was brought to Igboland. The 8th-day lie has been put to rest.

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