Pouring Libation: Where do the gods live?

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Nothing beats the taste of freshly tapped palm wine. The sensation of gulping it right next to a palm tree from a calabash can be paradisiacal.  It may be for this reason that ancestor always felt the urge to share the drink with their gods and dead ancestors. This generosity continues even after the fresh palm wine has fermented or has been distilled into a stronger alcoholic drink. It is a drink that is ubiquitous at many life events such as naming ceremonies, chieftaincy coronation, marriage ceremonies, and memorial events.

Drinking palm wine from a calabash. See Manga Village on Google Maps here (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There also has to be something very special Kola nut to make the it the ultimate treat for all times whether in the raw form or in the various modern cola drinks. It may be for its caffeine contents. I also understand that it is sexual stimulant. That must have been a good reason to share it with the gods and ancestors. Breaking the kola is an ice breaker when guests arrive and before discussing any vital issues.

Kola nut (Photo credit: crashdburnd)

Palm wine and kola nut are the two most commonly used items for pouring libation in many African societies. It involves sprinkling a little bit of the wine or throwing a tiny bit of the kola nut on the ground before consuming them or offering them to the guests. This is usually accompanied by recitation of wishes and blessings for both the host and guests.  The person, usually a man, who has been assigned the privilege by the host to lead the libation says prayers for the welfare of the host and guests, and for the success of the meeting. In Igbo land, the participant respond “ise” which means amen. It was done without any reference or reverence to any particular gods. It was just a gesture of good faith. It also serves as a remembrance for the departed ancestors without mentioning any by name.

As with all things that our ancestors did, they had to seek a connection with the deities and the spiritual world. Recently it has been brought to my attention that the practice of pouring libation is “sinful”. The justification being the fact that the ground is the focus and that is not where the gods live. So that must be an element of idol worshipping.  That obviously prompts the question: Where do the gods live? : Do they live in the skies, water, churches, mosques, synagogues? Humans over the ages, have had to have a reference location or objects for their gods. Our ancestors found their gods in various objects in nature. They never sincerely believed those objects to be their gods in themselves.

Just as we have been made to see our traditional religions as evil, we have also been made to see our culture as repugnant and backward

— Ayọ̀kúnlé Ọdẹ́kúnlé (@Oddy4real) June 29, 2014

Funny enough, this referencing objectification of deities continues to the present day even the so called modern religions. People seek intersession by saints, pray for the sole of the departed, carry chaplets, holy water and holy oil, just to mention just a few. I do not see how this is different to what was practised in many African societies. It would be funny indeed if people started throwing some wine or  kola nut in the sky just to show that is where their new gods live.It would be ridiculous if people instead of remembering their close departed during libation, chose instead to invoke the Virgin Mary, Saint Peter, and Saint Theresa. This is actually already happening. Actually, I think we miss the point of pouring libation. It is yet another example of phobia towards Africanism.

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