My up- coming novel Numen Yeye , all things being equal should be out in print very soon. My friends have always asked me why did I call it by that name and what does it mean really? I have thus decided it might be a nice way to start introducing you to my character Imole Ife who may or might not be a human being. In the concept of my Western friends, they will find our customs strange and even bewildering but my fellow Africans and particularly fellow compatriots will be truly at home. I am Nigerian, Yoruba of the south West part of the country. It is an exciting part of Nigeria, and more so because you see I come from there.
The Yoruba race we claim is as old as time, as complicated, simple and exciting. We are ruled almost solely by our religion which is the Ifa religion. We are guided by its laws, its spiritual concept and ethos. We say that four hundred light beings escorted the Creator from the heavens down in the forming of terra firma. From these four hundred, you have your pick of gods and goddesses that will do us proud in the pantheon and probably give the Greeks pantheon stiff competition.
Every aspect of the life of the Yoruba man is ruled by the supreme Being , assisted by the pantheon. Once scandalized my mother when I flippantly called them, the ruling council of gods and goddesses, she was sharp in her reprimand that the light beings were not be trifled with nor did I have the luxury of being irreverent about them..
The Ifa oracle was and still is consulted on every aspect of the human existence. We would not give a child just any name, but must check with the oracle to know the child’s pre-destiny and/ or fate. Since we live a fairly seamless existence with our ancestors and never feel that an actual separation occurs during death so it is with the incoming incarnating being we give birth to, and rear. In this context are we to understand the concept of “ABIKU” literarily translated to mean ‘one who is born to die’. The ‘Abiku” is believed to be a group of near ethereal humans who can incarnate and die at will. They are generally dreaded and every respecting woman prays not to attract the attention of such a being. Modern science today has explained what really had been happening but that science is not comparable to hundreds of years of belief and agony.
Ifa priests are called in as soon as a woman suffers from recurring infant mortality to find out if she has attracted the attention of one. Divinations are called for. Appeals are made to the child to tell its spiritual affiliates that it has decided to stay and live out a proper course of existence and would not keep a predetermined date of death again. A child who is confirmed to be an ‘abiku or emere’ is assumed to have incarnated with a ‘pact stone’ which would have been hidden in some place, known only to the child.
This ‘pact stone’ is what the Ifa priests would try to cajole the child to give up in the form of promises to the child that it will receive kind care and consideration. If the child refuses or denies knowledge of being an abiku, the next child was given very insulting names intended to shame the spiritual partners to reject the status of the child as a spiritual member thus bringing about an expulsion from the group.
There is also the ‘emere’ who is believed to be far worse than the ‘abiku’. While the abiku is generally regarded as a stress on the emotional and finacila resources of an afflicted household, the emere is a different class. The emere is definitely assumed to be a spiritual being that has at its disposal wealth, fame, and beauty which it can dispense at its discretion to any home it incarnates into. It is understood that an emere is temperamental, is conscious of its dual personality and can experience human and spiritual realms simultaneously within minutes.
As a young girl growing up , I was aware of these influences on my village. I had friends, relatives who were suspected or assumed to be either of these beings. I had also observed how withdrawn most of them were particularly if they should fall ill because they would be generally ignored. I started wondering about the stigma, the sense of remoteness and bewilderment they must be going through.
Years later enlightenment came to some of my generation that lack of proper medical education and care may have been the cause of the ‘abiku’ syndrome but the emere still goes through that silent accusation and stigma.
Interestingly, women were prone to being labeled as emere and some of the symptoms were given as if the person is too beautiful, is light skinned and above all given to shifts in temperament. I came across some of my Western friend who had what their medical science would call bi-polar. I became intrigued because that person in my village would simply have been judged as an emere.
The emere is powerful, more powerful than witches and could make or mar the financial potential of anyone they were interested. They were assumed not be really interested in marital longevity as they already had ‘spiritual homes complete with family et al.
I thus decided to bring all these into one mix in a young girl whom I called IMOLE IFE. I decided to ask questions through her. I am intrigued that my people are comfortable about the concept that certain human incarnations may have more mission to it than is ordinary. I decided to probe what would happen if sometimes a really light being, beneficial and benevolent incarnates amongst my people and is regarded as an emere. I decided to explore the confusion, pain, and sense of stigma that an emere would experience. Could we really have light beings visit the Earth with a mission to help? Could we grasp the lesson they would have brought and how much they would be willing to dispense of the Grace? Numen Yeye explores that through the emerging understanding of Numen Yeye who finally sees herself as a priestess not of an ignorant goddess but of the true concept of love and service. It is my own version of an African fantasy.