The skies rained daggers of water that pierced the fertile earth to its crust on that day, the day of the induction of the new maidens. The ceremony was for the new maidens who were ripe for marriage, a dance offering was to be offered to the goddess of the earth, with the heavy rains, the King, the Priestess and the Prince as guests.
I sat on the edge of my bamboo bed, carving out an ikwikwi (owl) from the wood that I got from the forest. I had several other wood carvings that decorated my and my mother’s room, that was who I was, Nganga, the aberration. Nganga, born with green coloured eyes like those of the black panthers in the deep forest, Nganga, born with hair so soft and silky like the leaves of the palm trees.
I was the maiden who was not only a maize farmer but a wood carver in the day and a hunter in the dead of the night. No one in Akama village was oblivious of the imaginary curse that the gods placed on me, they believed that it was the same curse that zipped my tear glands shut so much that no matter how much I was beaten up when I was born, no single tear ran down my face despite my screams of agony. Even my mother thought I was either the daughter of the gods or some kind of reincarnated goddess because I looked like a maize cob in the midst of bananas and plantains, totally different from everyone else!
Because of me, my mother and I were chased out to live in the outskirts of the village, my mother desperately loved and cared for me just the same way she wanted me to be accepted as one with those who called me an aberration but I wouldn’t have it. I enjoyed being different, I barely cried because of loneliness because I had my friends, Ebere and Amuche. They weren’t with me that day because they were at the same induction ceremony that my mother kept on begging me to attend,
” Nganga, you would go to that ceremony, o!! Why not behave normal for once!! No man would get married to a woman who has not performed this ritual, why don’t you understand??”
” Mama, this is not the time to bother me! I’ll get there now and all kinds of insults would be tossed up and down about me from my head to my feet. Is that what you want, ehn, Mama!”
” Listen to me, since you were a child, you have coped with those insults, what difference does it make if you receive a few more insults?”
” Mama, I do not want to wine and dine with people who think I’m cursed, I don’t need their support or their stupid traditions, I’m fine on my own and that’s it!”
I looked deep into her eyes before standing up to leave, I couldn’t even look at my friends in the eye because they claim to always get afraid because of my eye colour. I spent most of the seasons of my life staring below the eye level of the few people that I met and spoke to. I wondered why my mother even wanted me to be friends with my enemies. I dropped the ikwikwi that I had finished carving and before I could leave the hut she grabbed my right hand and placed it on her head,
” Nganga, do this for your mother, I beg of you, biko.”
No responsible child would deny her elder of anything they ask if they decide to put their hand on your head, my mother had successfully blackmailed me into doing her bidding. On my way I fiddled with my wooven hat as I walked to the palace, people who met me on the way either gave way for me to pass with bowed heads while some spat vile words at me for being a cursed child. I told myself that I would rather go to the forest and sit all day, maybe climb one of the trees and watch them from afar than go and join the queue like the other maidens.
As I walked into the forest I found a suitable tree and climbed up, while the ceremony was going on, I saw the one of the cabinet chiefs walk out of the ceremony. The mere sight of his overly greyed hair and the cunningness in his eyes made my heart churn. I followed him with my eyes and the more he got out of my sight the higher I climbed the tree, a few snakes weren’t happy with my intrusion but I thanked the gods that they were not venomous snakes. I first saw two men who were as white as chalk with tiny red specks on their skin, they both had different type of hair, one shimmery black and the other deep brown,
” Who are these strangers?”
Then I saw the chief adjusting his red chieftaincy cap while dragging his two reluctant daughters along. The smile on the strangers’ face didn’t tell a good story, I had to be sure whether he wanted to sell his daughters off as slaves because if that was the case then I had no right to interfere. I thought his daughters gave him too much trouble and he maybe wanted to sell them off as punishment, I wasn’t alarmed even when they gave the chief two huge bags of cowries. I was alarmed when they began to untie the ropes that held their weird looking cloth, I added two and two together and my head began to bang as anger provoked the blood flowing through my veins.
This same custodian of the tradition wanted to sell off his daughters’ purity for just two bags of cowries knowing how sacrilegious it was for a woman to sell out her pride before getting to the marriage bed, much less strangers! My head banged much louder than the town crier’s gong when I saw the chief walk away, going back to the ceremony, leaving his daughters in the hands of horny strangers, I climbed down the tree stealthily so as not to awaken the sleeping snakes, when I got down I pulled out my dagger but because I was seeing them from high up, they seemed close and I had to run a reasonable distance before I could get to them.
With that same anger I quietly sliced off their wrists spilling their blood on the green leaves round about us. The looks on their faces was that of shock mixed with the right dose of pain and anguish, the same cloth they were using to silence the girls was what I used to tie the mouths of the strangers. My anger doubled when I saw that the two daughters were my very own Ebere and Amuche, they were shivering too much to even speak, I didn’t understand the language the strangers were speaking but when I raised my dagger, they stopped their mumbling and accepted their fate. I dragged them both simultaneously with both my hands and dropped them at the king’s feet.
There was a total shaking when I entered the palace, the chief had blood shot eyes when he saw the bleeding wrists of his money bags,
” Who allowed this demonic maiden into my palace!!! Guards!!!!”
Before the guards came running I dragged the titled chief and dropped him at the king’s feet like his white money bags, the fire in the king’s eyes wasn’t as hot as the anger in mine. The ndi ichie ( titled chiefs) were on their feet, holding their staffs while shaking their titled heads in shock and surprise I stared at the pretty Priestess and she gave me a silent nod,
” Get out of here, you demon!!! Scum of the earth that you are and you have the right to step those cursed feet of yours into this palace!!!”
“Igwe!! Let her speak!!”
The fracass that ensued between the King and the priestess made the sky rain sharper daggers, stabbing the earth to madness, I took a stool and this time I looked deep into their eyes without fear as I said,
” Speak!!! Tell us what you wanted to do to your children in that forest!!! If you lie, I’ll slice off your heads to appease the gods!!! Now speak!!!”
In tears they confessed to all of their crimes and the old man said that it was the first time tried to sell his daughters off for money. When they finished the King looked like one drenched in cold water, before I left them in the hands of the King to decide their fate, I said to him,
” A king should be able to see past his nose but you never saw the sacrilege being committed under your very nose! If you do not know how to run a community properly then you should ask demons like me for help!! You should concentrate more on your affairs now because demons like me might not be here to expose evil men for you and your cabinet!!”
I walked away with Ebere and Amuche side by side, I never got inducted as a maiden but I brought back home my and my mother’s reputation and respect. From that day people who saw me as the daughter of the gods increased while those who saw me as cursed, reduced drastically, no longer was I called, Nganga, the green eyed witch but Nganga, the green eyed daughter of the gods……..
My Nostalgic Pen ❄️❄️