Itu Mmai - Libation
What is the Relevance of Libations in African Spiritual Traditions?
Those who are researching into a relationship to African spirituality and traditional culture discover themselves at the inception of their expedition watching a libation ceremony. Matter of fact the first libations is the birth of a child. Women did not lie on the bed to have their children. They stooped down and the water is to alert Mother earth ALA that new footsteps have been added to the footsteps on her surface.
Libations is so widespread all through our numerous cultures in Diaspora that we frequently don’t yet distinguish a libation ceremony when we observe it, nor do we necessarily comprehend the purpose for which it is performed. Libations (Itu mmai in Igbo land) are a significant and essential sacrament that is derived from the very nucleus of the African frame of mind, and consequently our mysticism. In African spiritual tradition, it is the biggest and most sacred spiritual sacrament. Libation reflects African practices, world viewpoint, imagery, psychological constructs etc. While diverse in structure, and span, libations is universal to approximately all African groups.
The ritual of pouring libation is an essential ceremonial tradition and a way of paying homage to our ancestors. Ancestors are not only respected in African spiritual culture, but also are invited to participate in all public functions (as are also the deities and Chineke). During Libation, a prayer is offered, calling the ancestors to attend. The ritual is usually performed by an elder. Although water may be used, the typically drink used is traditional wine (e.g. palm wine), and the libation ritual is accompanied by an invitation (and invocation) to the ancestors, deities and Chineke (God).