Editor’s Note: i provide this summary of Jeffreys’ work, drawn from my own detailed notes of his unpublished manuscripte, located in the library of the International African Institute in London, out of a sense that his work is insufficiently available to readers interested in the Nri-complex phenomena. I assume that the full text remains available at that location.
Almost all the towns north of the Onitsha-Awka road are Nris: Nteje, Umuleri, Aguleri; in Awka division, Awkuzu, Igbariam, Amanuke, Orumebo, Enugu, and Oreri are Nris. (16) This tribe very hostile to Europeans, because formerly, when Obalike was Eze Nri, he crowned the kings of Benin and presided ritually over the surrounding people. Leonard: street of Nri is street of the Gods, where all who dies elsewhere in Iboland pass to land of spirits. Nri required for Ozo, alu, nso,; say contemptuously, "Igbo have no king." (20). Igboland Divine Kings: Aguku, Oreri, and (formerly) one at Aguleri; one at Onitsha; all come from outside Igboland; Igala tie Nri: 1) people of Agukwu, Oreri, Igbariam, Aguleri say they and the Igara are one; 2) Obuga -- a part of Aguleri, surrounded by trenches said dug by Igala as protection from Igbo. (23) 3) Eze Nri must wear, at and after coronation, white Igala clothes; at his burial an Igala cloth called Okwechi, and aka beads from Idah must be provided by his family. 4) Umundri legend sees Nri and Igara brothers having Eri as father; Onojo Ibori giant involved too on both sides; 5) the name Adama for priestly family attending Eze-Nri occurs among Igala in similar circumstances. (Atama = Igala term for priest.) Eze Nri (E.N.) salutation: "Igwe". Igbo man taking /ozo/ title went before E.N. to obtain his /ofo/.
ALUSI: have cleared space (oghu); always rep. by carved human figures (nku); may take title, own slaves, possess ofo, have children; cults conducted by hereditary priests, chosen by divination. Staple food of alusi: Nzu (spindles). Oaths on alusi made over idols (nku); if person killed, property goes to alusi, body to bush. Important ones have ikolo -- large wooden gong (sometimes decorated with skulls of enemies killed in war under alusi's auspices). CHUKWU, ANYANGWU, AGBALA: lack Nku, Oghu, but mounds of earth for altars dedicated to latter two, which are in turn identified with Chukwu, or "under Chukwu". Anyangwu = sun; Agbala associated with womanhood, fertility.
all first things happened at Aguleri: land first made dry, food given to world; nri born there; he returns to Aguleri to get odudu (sacred lump of white clay) “Eri from sky, found himself standing on a mud-heap; land a morass.”. Eri died; no food (sacrifice story follows). — Yam, cocoyam. Male, female slave buried: oil palm, breadfruit; Chukwu: give food; in exchange, Nri right to cleanse each town of abomination, crown Eze Aguleri, tie ngwulu ankle-cords when man took \ozo, make ogwu-ji (yam medicine; tribute paid for this, and Nri could travel unarmed and unharmed thru world.
Claim: when Eze of Idah is crowned, Nri man there to put crown on his head.
Nri was first man to take title: Eze Nri; others after him: eze ozo. Now all ozo men, when salute Chukwu, raise their NGWU AGILIGA (ozo sacred spears) to sky, drive spears into ground, calling to chukwu: bring me food, etc.
SUCCESSION AND THE ELECTION OF THE DIVINE KING:
youngest son most likely; eldest son becomes Eze-okpala. Adama are "most senior group"; but actually were servants to EN. Selection by the mmuo of predeceased eze; 3 royal groups eligible. Man must show himself possessed, must manifest signs/wonders, prophesy, declare self chosen -- voice called to one man, he called pple of all neighboring towns (see list) -- they agreed. 7-year interval after death of EN; dreams, signs of falling wall -- prophetic because EN has NO PROTECTING WALL ROUND HIS HOUSES, COUNCIL-HALL, TEMPLE. No commercial benefit to position. both parents must be dead.
CORONATION AND CREATION CEREMONY:
1) man makes obeisance to Obu (temple) of every departed EN, sacrifice 1 she-goat and hen. 2) visits, gives sacrifice to all impt. alusi of town; 3) Ishi-nze of Agukwu gives him special private ofo picked from ground, as he is about to go to Aguleri. 4) Man is transfered into mmuo: Ozo men assemble; young men dig grave; candidate prepared for burial (no women present); washed, rubbed w/camwood, wrappted in mat /ute miri/; Ishi-nze addresses him: "you will enter grave and rise up again with /aru uke/ (vivid-white-shining body), /aru onwu/ [dead body!]; may no sickness befall you; you must rule well, with truth and justice; go to Aguleri and obtain your /odudu/; return safely, rule." Grave lined with Iroko planks; man laid flat; iroko plank over; earth on top; men go off; family goes into mourning as for death (wives in "widowhood" restrictions for 7 weeks). The candidate's /obu chi/ -- "tree of life" -- is cut down, burned (a species of fig), after goat sacrifice. Person is dead. Hours later, at sunset, all cmonies finished; Adama men exhume, carry body out of compound; man may never return; plantain felled, interred there. Candidate is now mmuo, may be approached only by the Adama. He is placed on a cowhide, body rubbed all over with white clay wash; clad in white Igala cloths; wears white or blue for rest of life. HE IS CROWNED WITH A COWHIDE CROWN STUCK WITH 8 WHITE UGO FEATHERS, BY SENIOR ADAMA PRIEST; crown made by them, candidate pays for it. He provides own ofo and special sword, /mma-eze/. 5) trip to Aguleri: whitened, robed, crowned, accompanied by wife similarly clothed; great crowd dancing/singing accompanies. Journey takes some months: A) first: PROCEDE TO /NGKPU-EZE/ -- the Eze's white-ant hill near the town of Ukpo; here, he climbs with his ofo up it and offers a prayer to the sky-gods, and sits there. This sitting = act of fertility; if mound then broke open, swarms of locusts would fly out, give people food; it is said all preceding EzeNri did this; this is why they are called "igwe": they ascend to sky. [He cites Talbot, III, p. 773, who notes that Asaba-neighborhood Obi/Eze or "Igwe" titles are such because position is "high as the sky"; on the preceding page, he discusses the Ika chief title called "Okpala", where there is sacrifice to /Orhai/, "the tutelary juju of the members," offering only "strong male things", such as ram, male dog, or an ant-hill. (771-2) B) Eze continues clockwise trip: Enugu, Nimo, Abagana, Ukpo, Okuzu, Nteje, Umueri, Aguleri; received with feasting/rejoicing at all; screened from public eye, takes meals alone, in silence. Test of powers: at Aguleri, he must dry up waters of anambra, enable Aguleri man to obtain /odudu-eze/, lump of white clay which looks like stone -- Adama boy carries OKWA, carved bowl, whitened with Agukwu clay; otherwise Eze cannot sit on throne and skull of precedessor, nor be crowned ceremonially on his return. Instrument for drying waters resides in sacred ofo handed by Adama; at Anambra, Eze drives alo into ground, throws white cock into river, then with ofo in right hand, points first over water, then at sun, prays waters dry. Young men assemble at bank,rush in to bring out odudu; (reward: cow and ram, and manilla -- to be kept in Obuga Obu.) Sacrifices made to various alusi meanwhile. (Eze comes with an /aka-nri/ -- any dwarf from Aguku -- terrorizes the people. Eze waits in /ama obuga/ -- Igala-walled quarter; "eats only white clay"; sits on stones (others on title stools), eating white clay; sits beside strange pottery object called /ududu/. Odudu placed on Okwa. C) Returns to Aguku -- thereafter never leaves, takes up residence not in predecessor's palace (which falls to ruins), nor to old compound (where buried), but in a bush-camp called "prison", for a year. But 5 days after return from Aguleri, he goes towards Adazi Enu, performs miracle of "putting fruit on frutless palm tree." His own temple and palace built while he at bush-camp; unprotected by walls. D) When new king to be crowned, Adama leader hands him ofo and alo, and makes him sit down on the skull of the last Eze Nri. Skull = brass face-mask. Last king had skull buried in throne; Adama dig out grave, remove skull. Bronze face mask: /ikputu eze/; this with skull, ofo, alo -- latter 2 retained by Adama; mask buried with Eze. End of year in bush-camp: he must fight with, overcome wife; then she downs him; this cleanses any nso; then he fights mimic battle with young man, then old man; vanquishes both; then mounts throne for first time. He announces his own name. Sr. Adama priest now places face-mask, alo, ofo of preceding EN, odudu, Eze's own knife, before EN; prays for long life, prosperity; aks mmuo to guide him, warns him to rule peacefully, quietly; Eze agrees; then adama places ikputu, alo, ofo, odudu in Eze's hands, and CROWNS HIM WITH A RAWHIDE CROWN (okpu-eze) ringed with 8 ugo feathers, this will be buried with him. E) Townspeople clear wide road from entrance, "an arch of triumph," to main road of town; slave sacrificed below this arch by Ishi-nze of Adama. then celebration for 3 weeks while feasting, games, delegates from surrounding towns. Now: ceremonial fixing of markets: 4 oglisi stakes into ground, surrounded by cylindrical mound of earth about l0" high; linked together by /omu/; these named after week days with sacrifice He is now God; "not bound by the rules of the land: /ikpe ada ama eze/: court does not condemn a king. OZO TITLE TAKING ALMOST EXACT REPLICA OF EZE TITLE, except: no creation-god identification; man dies/becomes mmuo. See nso he must avoid, and duties -- ch. 10 Agukwu now the emporium for persons whose nso, too great for purging by travelling delegates; travelers bring these "abominables" here; Such persons were sold into slavery by elders of Agukwu. EN controls the calendar year: consults delegates coming to get yam medicine how they have counted months; modifies year to adjust with seasons. Now rapidly dying out. EN opens the farming season by himself clearing a few clumps on his farm, initiates yam-planting -- signals populace to follow. EN established /ifejioku/ cult -- main shrine in hands of descendants of first EN. Annual issue of yam-mdeicine associated with this -- secret of one family (descended from particular EN). EN right of removing pollutions involves special medicine -- /agwu otonchi special spear with medicine tied around. (Also controlled by one family.) His activities are religious -- he has nothing to do with economic/legal administrative-executive side; /ozo/ men do this. No murder case brought him.
DEATH: Adama buried — no mourning, family not attend; but Adama demand Igala cloth, live Ugo; leopard skin, ram, hausa cloth; beads from Benin, Igala, Idah. These all buried with him. Grave is in floor of his own private quarters; lined with carved iroko panels and roof (family provided; he is seated upright on Awka stool in one corner of grave, in coronation robe, crowned, plastion on chest.
Wives have been “widows” since installation, though he has had access to them as “mmuo;” they are freed briefly, and have free sex, bear children for dead EN. No human beings or food buried with him, but /odudu/ is. PLACE REVERTS TO FOREST. NO MUMMIFICATION.
7 years interregnum; UFIE gong beaten as if he alive each year during month of ongwasato, for several days.
OKPALA TITLE DESCRIBED.
Impt men like Okpala, Ishi-nze, Eze-nri try to keep in captivity an UGO — vulturine fish-eagle (GYPHOHIERAXE ANGOLENSIS). Load its legs with iron rings to keep it from flying.
Eze Nri Title at Oreri described; similar to EN at Agukwu.
Tells of journey to Onitsha; Udo shrine.