SOME BAKWERI TRADITIONAL RITES
THE BIRTH OF A FIRST BORN IN A FAMILY
A married couple in the Mokpe culture is looked upon with contempt especially if the marriage is not blessed with a child. Couples without children must wait with a lot of patience for the almighty God to answer their prayers. Newly married maidens are advised to be kind to children.
Immediately the bride becomes pregnant, jubilation starts in the family. The woman is told to refrain from strenuous activities as her progress with the pregnancy. Either her mother or mother –in –law might come to stay with her to direct and guide her on what types of herbs to use for enema (Wosongi) before putting to bed.
During labour she is taken to a native doctor or to the hospital if there is one. But in a traditional set-up, an old and experienced woman can help in the delivery. When the baby is born the proud grandmother and mother –in-law trots off to break the good news to the family. There is shouting and jubilation as they chant songs congratulating the couple “hVכmbכwכ”. Meanwhile the proud father of the baby may pick up his gun and fire shots in the air, the shots are increased if the child is a male. He is then thrown wood ash in total recognition that he has now attained manhood.
In the Bakweri tradition a man is assessed by his ability to make his wife pregnant. If he cannot he is reckoned to be an unproductive man “yukeh”.
During the ceremony, well-wishers are served with palm wine and beer pending on the real celebration of the born house.
THE BORN HOUSE:
When the lady and her child leave the hospital for home, the family and friends stream in to welcome the baby. Food is cooked especially the ‘sese’ plantain porridge spiced with enough fish and meat. Well wishers also bring gifts for the baby such as clothing, soaps, toilet tissues, food stuffs, powder or money.
One or two volunteers might decide to spend a day or two with the family doing specified chores for the ‘gbai’ new mother.
THE BIRH OF TWINS IN THE BAKWERI LAND
Twins usually called ‘maerze’ are a blessing to every family. In the past, these children were terribly maltreated and killed or abandoned in evil forest in other cultures. The Bakweris had since refrained from regarding the birth of twins as a taboo. Even though they still believe that children have supernatural powers most of them have come to stay.
In the Bakweri culture, the parents of twin are highly respected though no name stands to distinguish them from other members of the society. The grass Landers called them Tanyi (male) and Manyi “female”.
There are so many things associated with twins for example, some are said to possess snakes and other totems which could enable them bewitch anyone who tries to hurt them. They are also noticed for being connected with traditional medicine and have certain powers to cure illnesses like stiff necks, mumps, and headaches. A man who refuses to satisfy any of their requests might develop a stiff neck at night.
Despite their belief, the Mokpes generally respect twins, as they regard them as reincarnation of certain ancestors who had long died. In the case of identical twins, they are masked to avoid the confusion of identification.
A man is not considered a full Bakweri or Mokpe unless he has being circumcised. This process can sometimes begin at child birth, thus making it invariably the first of the rites to be accorded the new baby. It is usually fixed for the eight day after the birth of the baby.
This process in the past used to be carried out at the age of twelve and above. A native doctor is called to do the job or some specialised women who have good records in the job or some specialised women who have good records in the job. There is no point getting someone who causes extreme loss of blood or too much pain. Circumcision conducted by a woman who has no children it is believed might make the wound not to heal quickly. The older boys are compelled to the tie loin cloths so as to allow enough air in between their legs. Items used include bandages, razor blades, sassors, towel, Vaseline, engine oil etc.
During each circumcision, the parents of the child are not allowed to stay and watch it is also common after circumcision to find the bigger boys walking a funny style, which exposes them to mockery and laughter amongst their peers, who had also undergone the same ritual. The native doctor is usually paid some money for the services; meanwhile items used such as blades, towels, cotton, swabs are usually buried.
If for one reason or another a Mokpe man is not circumcised during childhood, he must do so before marriage, hence it is difficult for an uncircumcised Mokpe to get married.
Ngengu – blade
hvea – wound
Yondoh – walking
Nganga – native doctor
Maija – blood.