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Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping - Culture - Nairaland

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Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 2:55am On Sep 30, 2016
I guess I'll start this off with a simple question for any Igbo-speaking person.

In your dialect, can you recollect any terms/expressions for the four major phases of the moon?

No need to rush any replies. Take your time in remembering. I'll wait.


Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by jayrule(m): 8:58am On Oct 01, 2016
Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by AjaanaOka(m): 6:43am On Oct 02, 2016
New moon - Onwa ovbuu/ Onwa ofuu/ Onwa Ohuru

Full moon - Onwa kpolu oku ( I've only encountered this expression in literature; never heard it spoken.)

First-Quarter moon - ??

Last-Quarter moon -??


Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 10:52am On Oct 02, 2016
Of course, it would be you who would respond.

Anyhow. Like you, I also know the term for the new moon and full moon phases. Like you, I encountered the term I know for the full moon phase in literature. It was in an Ngwa book published in the 1980s. I had never heard it spoken before I came across it. Of course, I just had to confirm it with some people, which I did.

I find two things intriguing... or more or less unbelievable (in a "this can't be correct" sense).

1. The expression for the new moon phase being quite literally "new moon". I find this suspicious, unless of course it is by coincidence and the reasoning for "onwa ohuu" is because it is technically considered the start of every new month in the traditional calendar. Still, I would have expected to hear a term that coincided with the idea of the "lack of a visible moon" in the night sky.

2. The fact that terminology related to the lunar calendar would have so quickly become obscure and forgotten.

If nothing else, I expected people to at least be able to discuss the phases of the moon in their various lects since its phases are how our ancestors counted weeks, months and years. But to my dissapointment, practically nothing.

In a way, it doesn't matter, since I will go on ahead to use the terminology I coined. However, I would have sincerely liked to avoid coining terminology in instances where an expression already exists.

By the way, did you receive my email?

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Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by AjaanaOka(m): 11:24am On Oct 02, 2016
I'd love to see the terminology you've coined, if you don't mind.

I did get your mail (saw it a few days late because my NL e-mail address isn't my regular e-mail address) , and I also replied. Didn't you get it?
Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ezeagu(m): 2:39pm On Oct 02, 2016
Best people to ask are traditional practitioners.

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Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 4:50pm On Oct 02, 2016
Ezeagu, I have asked. One of my uncles was a traditionalist until he died. He was one of the people I inquired from, but he was not able to answer my questions to my personal satisfaction. Perhaps my questions were just too particular. He was providing me with "sentence answers", while I was hoping for answers more concrete and noun-like. I thought he was just being stubborn with me, but Google, Google Books and academic journal searches yielded the same result, virtually no real information.

I would have expected that information concerning phases of the moon would have by now become commonly discussed along with the traditional days, weeks and months. But, no matter who I asked and no matter how much I searched, I returned little to no new and revealing information.

The only thing I felt that my uncle satisfactorily answered for me were 1) the name of the halo that typically appears during the full lunar phase (which is sometimes used as a proxy when referring to the "full moon" itself) and 2) the term for a lunar eclipse (I probably could have figured this one out on my own though).

This was years ago though. I'm only just bringing it up now because of the story that I am writing. I would like to include details such as this so as to add more depth and create a more immersive world for the reader. So, I figured I'd try my luck and create a topic so I might utilize/convert any answers I receive here for the story.

But, in my uncle's explanations, he used ifu (to show up) when talking about the phasing in of the moon leading up to the full lunar phase and igha (to relent) when talking about the phasing out of the moon during the latter half of the month. So, a few days ago, I considered simply using ifu and igha for the new expressions. It's exclusively for the sake of the story, but if I like it enough, I might actually use it. Also, it's really not as if I'm coining a new conjugation. I'm simply just filling in the blanks for the various moon phases.

So, basically:

Ifu Onwa (The Showing Up of the Moon) - The sighting of the New Moon, i.e. that first crescent

Onwa Ogiga (Maturing Moon) - The three week (week of 4 days) period of growth before the full lunar phase

Onwa Aju Udu (Haloed Moon) - The full lunar phase when it is mostly roundish which lasts for about a week (week of 4 days)
* I don't know why it is called "aju udu". My uncle simply confirmed that it is what we us in Ngwa to describe the glow/halo around the moon during it's full lunar phase

Onwa Oghigha (Relenting Moon) - The three week period (week of 4 days) of regression after the full lunar phase

Onwa Igha Igwe (Moon Yielding to the Sky) - The brief period in which the moon is not visible.

Two things:

1. I was informed by my uncle that the moon also represents the birth-death-reincarnation aspect of chi in our traditional spirituality. The cycle of existence basically. So, the expressions I used above are essentially supposed to be in line with that. The first appearance of a human into the world. The period of maturity into full adulthood. The period of aging and weakening. The final rest/sleep, then rebirth.

2. Of course, this is in Ngwa. If anyone feels like using it, they should feel free to translate it into their respective local dialect.

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Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 6:00pm On Oct 02, 2016
Any single charted month of the year would basically be graphically represented like this... Seeing it now in graphical form, I think I'm okay with this. I can definitely use this in the story. Besides, this story takes place in present day, in a sort of alternate reality where a civil calendar has been instituted that is not solely based on the farming cycle of the previous century.

Yeah, this isn't 100% accurate, but I think this can definitely work. I would simply just have to modify it later, once I have enough information. For now, it simply remains as a rough graphical representation.

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Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by AjaanaOka(m): 6:07pm On Oct 02, 2016
You're writing this story in Ngwa, and not English? shocked
Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 6:16pm On Oct 02, 2016
I did get your mail (saw it a few days late because my NL e-mail address isn't my regular e-mail address) , and I also replied. Didn't you get it?
I saw the reply and replied back with the email address that I check regularly, asking for you to send any future responses to that email. Don't worry though. I'll send it again.

You're writing this story in Ngwa, and not English? shocked
Yes. I've written short stories in Ngwa before. It didn't prove to be too too difficult. Granted, they were not entirely immersive stories. That is where this story differs. Not only do I intend to make it a fully immersive story (where details matter), I also am writing the setting for present day, and I'm trying to make it a light novel/narrative (which is typically between 115 - 200 pages).

I'm reducing the use of English only to places where it cannot be avoided, such as proper names, strictly scientific terminologies that I cannot translate due to my lack of knowledge in those fields and parts of the story where the characters interact with English-speakers (there are some British and American exchange students in the story).

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Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by AjaanaOka(m): 7:39pm On Oct 02, 2016
Wow. I write short stories, too. And I just started working on what I hope will be a full-length novel. But I don't think I have the discipline to write pages and pages in Igbo. Which is really a sad thing.
Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ezeagu(m): 8:32pm On Oct 02, 2016
Hmm, that's interesting, I would have thought it would be well known, unless the descriptions are so primordial that they were left in their basic nature. And could 'aju udu' be in reference to the moon looking like a upturned pot with a cloth padding?

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Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 1:12am On Oct 03, 2016
Mavany... you know, it is typical that in an instance like this, one would also provide the terms, rather than just enter to proclaim that they exist. After all, sharing the terms is the reason why I started this thread.

Ezeagu, that is starting to be my understanding. The descriptions being both primordial and heavily connected to the traditional philosophy. In other words, the technical aspects of the moon phases would hold little to no significance and as such might have been completely ignored. As for "aju udu", going by the tone my uncle used when he pronounced it, I am inclined to believe that it does not reference the padding or an upturned udu pot. Also, we pronounce the "udu" (pot) with an aspirated "d", but his pronunciation did not carry that aspiration. But, we have an Ngwa union meeting coming up in my city. I'll simply attend and inquire from the older folk just so I can get clarification on this.

AjaanaOka, I don't consider you not writing pages and pages in Igbo a sad thing. It simply is what it is. Igbo is not a literary language, as far as actual literacy goes. As such, no expectation exists for people to write novels in Igbo. I am simply being a consciously stubborn exception to the rule, simply because my experience with my lect leads me to believe that it is more than possible to write a full novel in any of the dialects.


Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by ChinenyeN(m): 2:26pm On Oct 08, 2016
Thank you, Mavany. I appreciate this.


Re: Igbo Astronomy And Time-keeping by dutch84(f): 8:51am On Jan 18, 2019
@chinenyeN, do you have a blog. Everywhere I see you on this forum you are saying some very deep and interesting things!

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