Earlier on, we examined the naming ceremony of the Edo’s of Benin kingdom. Today, we’d take a look at the naming ceremony process in Igbo land.
Among the Igbo’s the ceremony of naming a child is one event that comes up almost immediately after the birth of a child. The naming ceremony of a child is often referred to as ikuputanwa or igu nwa aha, and it marks the formal presentation of the child to his people who comprise of his kinsmen, family, friends, well-wishers and the entire community at large.
The Naming Ceremony Proper In Igbo Land
The event is done to fulfill the social-religious obligations that are believed to become activated when a child is born, as well as to thank God for the safe delivery of the child and to ask him to guide the child as he embarks on a journey through the earth. The naming ceremony process in Igbo land occurs on either the 7th or 12th day after a child is born depending on the locality. It is pertinent to note that the Igbo calendar is quite different from the Standard English calendar. A week in Igbo land is made up of four days; eke, oye, afor and nwko. This implies that a child is named after 2 to 3 igbo weeks.
For this post, we’ll look at the process in communities that do the ceremony on the 12th day.
In some parts of Igbo land, there’s a myth which many people believe in. That myth is that until a child is named, he/she belongs to two kingdoms; the kingdom of humans and that of unborn children. There’s also another myth which states that every child has an option of staying in the world or going back to where he or she came from within the 12 day period. In the past, during this period, the male members of the family would consult diviners and fortunetellers to determine the abilities of the child. Some Igbo communities are of the opinion that the 12 day period is a resting period for the mother of the child who recuperates after the 9 month long journey to childbirth. She also prepares for the naming ceremony within that period.
On the day of the occasion, friends, family, well-wishers, neighbor etc. all gather at the family’s compound. They are welcomed by the family. As the ceremony begins, the child to be named is brought out by the paternal grandmother who hands him/her to the father. In some communities, the father carries the child with one hand and carries palm wine on the other. He pours libations on the ground, and as he prays for and blesses the child, the people present respond with shouts of “isee”, a response similar to that of the Edo’s during their naming ceremony.
The father announces the name of the child when the time is right. In some parts of Igbo land e.g. Ihiala, the eldest male member of the father’s family names the child. However, others can still name the child. In the olden days, people were named with respect to the day that of the week that they were born. E.g. Nweke, Nwoye, Mgboye.
For instance, Nweke (nwa + eke) shows the child was born on an Eke market day.
In conclusion, there is but a slight difference in the procedures. Again, there are differences in the number of days before the naming ceremony depending on the clan.