THE MYSTIC RIVER continued…
Last Updated on March 14, 2023 by Anita Uzama
On the table was a plate of fufu with egusu soup with Kpomo, assorted goat meat. Papa Iyore cleared his throat as he delved into the meal. Footsteps could be heard from inside the room. ‘Iyore, is that you?” Papa Iyore called out. “Yes Papa, Iyore replied. “I am preparing the items for the festival tomorrow”. Iyore walked up to meet her father and knelt down to greet him. The lamp light shone on Iyore. She had grown to be a beautiful woman. Her breasts were round like that of an orange and hips were fully rounded. Her face was like that of an angel and her dark skin glittered as the lights shone on her. No wonder that she was the envy of the maidens and the reason why the young men kept flocking around Papa Iyore’s compound. At a point, they became his helpers. Papa Iyore sighed. Truly he was blessed.
“Make sure the kolanuts, the white native chalk is added to the items. We are truly grateful to Olukun. The white cockerel is in the backyard, don’t forget to add it”. “Yes Papa, I will not forget to add them”. Iyore responded with a smile on her face. Her smile was indeed radiant and dazzling. Iyore did the necessary things and laid down to sleep. At the sound of the cockerel, Iyore woke up and found out she was thoroughly soaked like she took a swim in the river. This was a frequent experience and she couldn’t bear to let her mother know. The only person she told was Asake who was her best friend.
The other houses were already busy at the first cry of the cockerel, the day was a bit dark but most houses were lit with the bush lamps. Olukun was a most revered deity, hence everything had to be in place in order not to incur the wrath of the gods. Sounds of pestle hitting mortars could be heard. Food was being prepared down as the festival could take the whole day. Iyore stood up to help her mother in the kitchen to prepare the meal. It was already daylight as Iyore and her mother finished preparing the meal. The long procession to Igbange River had already started.
Igbange River was the homestead of the Diety Olukun. It is rumored that at night that the sound of drum beats, singing and dancing could be heard. A hunter who went to set trap at night near the river claimed to have been a witness as he saw the Priestess dancing with the spirits living in the river. He ran out of fear of being seen as the river was known to have swallowed people up. Igbanje river towards the end of the year usually draws people towards their death. Till date, the bodies have never been found.
Iyore and Asake were amongst the procession to the river. Suddenly… a cold shiver ran through her body. She felt like she had been at the river before. Asake noticed her shivering and asked her if she was okay. Iyore nodded to reassure her. The worshippers all wore white apparel with their gifts in a basket on their head. The Priestess stood at the mouth of the river to receive their gifts and also bless them. She was adorned with white with designs on her arms, legs and her hair adorned with white cowries. Her eyes drifted round the crowd and fell on Iyore. Iyore felt it and looked up, the moment their eyes met, Iyore had flashes of memories of which she couldn’t understand. Her body had currents flowing through her. Asake noticed the change and followed Iyore gaze. She had heard rumours that Iyore was connected to the Priestess but didn’t believe it. The Priestess smiled and continued blessing others.
Iyore averted the Priestess eyes as she quickly dropped her gifts and fled. Asake ran after her. Blinded by her emotions, Iyore entered the river. As Asake tried following her in, she met an invincible barrier. Iyore looked onwards with tears in her eyes as she knew she will not meet her family and friends again. How was she to know that her day was going was to turn out this way. Her parents had always told her never to step into the river because she will be lost from them forever. She would have told her mother and father she loved them and also profess her love. The loud voice of the Priestess could be heard “The River Has taken its own”. In that moment, Iyore heard someone calling her name. So, she turned and, in that moment, she knew where she was going to every night and while she was always wet when she woke up.
Papa Iyore felt the sign and knew that his daughter had been taken. Iyore’s mother could do nothing but cry silently knowing that she will always see her daughter on Olukun festival. It is said that Iyore’s voice could be heard singing every night from the river side. It is even claimed that she and the Priestess communed with the gods every night. Their waist and hips moving symmetrically with the beats of the drum.