Igbo Interpretation of the Kola Nut

The kola nut according to Igbo culture and tradition is a symbol of life, and for this reason, many profound and mysterious interpretations and formalities are accorded it.

The Igbo kola is always accompanied by wine or drink because the Igbo adage says that “Onye nyere agbara ọjị ga enye ya mmiri ọ ga eji elofe ya” which literally means- “One who gives kola to a deity has to give him water with which to enable him swallow it”.

Kola with one cotyledon is a dumb kola (or Ọjị ogbu). It is called ọjị mmụọ, that is, (kola for the spirits). It is not eaten. Kola with two cotyledons is equally a dumb kola and it is not eaten. This is the main reason why the Igbo do not use the gworo or cola nitida for rituals or in serious traditional rites and celebrations.

Kola with three cotyledons is called ọjị ike, ọjị ikenga, that is, kola of the valiant. Only warriors or brave men and consecrated or ordained persons are permitted to eat this kola, as a matter of principle.

Kola with four cotyledons is called “ọjị udo na ngọzi”, that is, “kola of peace and blessing”. It is the normal kola. The number four is very sacred in Igbo culture and among the lgbos.

Kola with five cotyledons is “ọjị ụbara mmadụ, ọmụmụ na ụkwụọma that symbolizes increase in procreation, protection and good luck.

Kola with six cotyledons indicates communion with our ancestors, that is, “ọjị ndi mmụo na ndi mmadụ jiri gbaa ndụ”. The smallest part or cotyledon is not eaten but is thrown away for the ancestors to eat. In like manner, kola with one cotyledon is not eaten by man, that means that it is not broken during ceremonies because it belongs to the ancestors, an attitude reminiscent of the direct link between the living and the dead in Igboland.

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