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The Igbo calendar (Ògụ́àfọ̀ Ị̀gbò) is the traditional calendar system of the Igbo people of Nigeria which has 13 months in a year, 7 weeks in a month, and 4 days in a week plus an extra day at the end of the year. The calendar has its roots steeped in ritualism and symbolism; many parts of the Igbo calendar are named or dedicated to certain spirits (|Mmuo) and deities (Alusi) in the Igbo mythology. Some of the spirits and deities were believed to have given the Igbo people knowledge of time. The days, also known as market day, also correspond to the four cardinal points, north, south, east, west.
Although worship and spirit honoring was a very big part in the creation and development of the Igbo calendar system, commerce also played a major role in creating the Igbo calendar. This was emphasized in Igbo mythology itself. An example of this is the Igbo market days of which each community has a day assigned to open its markets, this way the Igbo calendar is still in use. The Nri-Igbo yearly counting festival known as Igu Aro marked March 10, 2012 as the beginning of the 1013th year of the Nri calendar.
In the traditional Igbo calendar a week (Izu) has 4 days (Ubochi) named Eke, Orie, Afọ, Nkwọ. Seven weeks make one month (Ọnwa). A month has 28 days, and there are 13 months a year. In the last month an extra day is added. The traditional time keepers in Igboland are the priests or Dibia
|No.||Months (Ọnwa)||Gregorian equivalent|
|1||Ọnwa Mbụ||(3rd week of February)|
|3||Ọnwa Ife Eke||(April)|
|7||Ọnwa Alọm Chi||(August to early September)|
|8||Ọnwa Ilo Mmụọ||(Late September)|
|10||Ọnwa Okike||(Early November)|
|11||Ọnwa Ajana||(Late November)|
|12||Ọnwa Ede Ajana||(Late November to December)|
|13||Ọnwa Ụzọ Alụsị||(January to Early February)|
The names of the days have their roots in the mythology of the Kingdom of Nri. Eri, the mythological sky-descended founder of the Nri kingdom, was said to have gone on to break the mystery of time and on his journey he had saluted and counted the four days by the names of the spirits that governed them, hence the names of the spirits eke, orie, afọ and nkwọ became those of the days of the week. The days also correspond to the four cardinal points, Afọ corresponds to north, Nkwọ to south, eke to east, and orie to west.
An example of a month: Ọnwa Mbụ
Naming after dates
Newborn babies are sometimes named after the day they were born on, though this is no longer commonly used. Names such as Mgbeke (maiden [born] on the day of Eke), Mgborie (maiden [born] on the Orie day) and so on were common among the Igbo people. For males Mgbo is replaced by Oko (male child [of]) or Nwa (child [of]). An example of this is Nwankwo Kanu, a popular footballer.
Months and meanings
The following months are in reference to the Nri-Igbo calendar of the Nri kingdom which may differ from other Igbo calendars in terms of naming, rituals, and ceremonies surrounding the months.
- Ọnwa Mbụ
- The first month starts from the third week of February making it the Igbo new year. The Nri-Igbo calendar year corresponding to the Gregorian year of 2012 was initially slated to begin with the annual year-counting festival known as Igu Aro on February 18 (an Nkwọ day on the third week of February), but was postponed to March 10 due to local government elections in Anambra State where the Nri kingdom is located. The Igu Aro festival which was held in March marked the lunar year as the 1013th recorded year of the Nri calendar.
- Ọnwa Abụo
- This month is dedicated to cleaning and farming.
- Ọnwa Ife Eke
- Is described as the hunger period.
- Ọnwa Anọ
- Ọnwa Anọ is when the planting of seed yams start.
- Ọnwa Agwụ
- Ịgọchi na mmanwụ come out in this month which are adult masquerades. Ọnwa Agwu is the traditional start of the year. The Alusi Agwu, of which the month is named after, is venerated by the Dibia (priests), of which Agwu is specifically worshiped by, in this month.
- Ọnwa Ifejiọkụ
- This month is dedicated to the yam deity ifejioku and Njoku Ji and yam rituals are performed in this month for the New Yam Festival.
- Ọnwa Alọm Chi
- This month sees the harvesting of the yam.
- Ọnwa Ilo Mmụọ
- A festival called Önwa Asatọ (Eighth Month) is held in this month.
- Ọnwa Ana
- Ana (or Ala) is the Igbo earth goddess and rituals for this deity commence in this month, hence it is named after her.
- Ọnwa Okike
- Okike ritual takes place in this month.
- Ọnwa Ajana
- Okike ritual also takes place in Ọnwa Ajana.
- Ọnwa Ede Ajana
- Ritual Ends
- Ọnwa Ụzọ Alụsị
- The last month sees the offering to the Alusi.