The cleansing


Your mother became obsessed with diviners. The future plagued her- she wanted to know everything will be fine.

Your mother went to friends- some of who took her to places they felt will solve her problems, Pastors, Prophets and Jack of all spiritual trades. She had a generous heart and never thought of herself alone, and so when she made enquiries about her spiritual life, she inquired on her child too. When a Celestial Priest said the spirit of stubbornness inside you will hinder things from going smoothly your mother became perturbed.

“Man of God, what can I do?” she asked.

“You will need items, a Squash, Oranges, watermelons, Bananas and twenty-one pieces of Coconut. The Coconuts are important, every night three will be taken out of the pile, broken and used to wash his head,” The priest said, “after you get those items, bring them with him and then we will begin the deliverance process. Also, he will live in the church until prayers are complete.”

“Thank you, thank you, priest.”

A short prayer was conducted that day to prepare you for the main deliverance. You were anointed with oil, while on your knees, till it overflowed- they burned and left your eyes red rimmed, your mother said that was good and it meant the prayer worked. You and your mother left after the prayers were done, but first, you saw her deposit money wrapped in a white handkerchief in a basket. After the visit to the Priest, whenever your mother returned from work she was with an item. A sleeping mat, buckets, a sponge, soap cases, white garments, packets of candles. Gradually she gathered everything you needed at the prayer house as recommended by the priest. She said zilch to you about it, but you noticed she kept the things she bought discretely at a corner in her bedroom. Over time she made the list. By summer she took you back to the church.

The Church was located at Ajegunle. Coming from Ikeja where you lived the road was smooth but soon the taxi disconnected from bearable roads and connected with routes that seemed uncharted. The edifices along the road were dilapidated and the environs inhabitable, a ghetto with no strong promise of gentrification. When the car finally made it to the church, it was an old unpainted Cathedral that had a statue of The Virgin Mother erected in front. From the gate sounds of animals can be heard, chickens, goats, and rams. Outside, before you and your mother entered the compound, a man asked you both to take off your shoes before entering because the church was a holy ground. Inside, the compound was littered with women and children. On the left hand of side of the compound and on the right were single rooms for residing pastors and visitors. The men had one room to themselves and the women had three. There were no beds and so older women and younger girls slept together on mats to save space, the men too. The others who found no space slept in the church auditorium. The Bathrooms and toilets were at the back, and there was a thatched kitchen where food was cooked by the corner, also at the back.

Twelve of you young boys who were to be delivered were confined in the church auditorium and separated from your mothers. You were unclad, except for white garments draped over your tiny bodies. You all slept on mats, all dressed in white. Twelve of you but you were only friends with Salome.

Salome, like you and others, were to be delivered of hindering spirits, your mother said yours was stubbornness. Same as Salome, the rest had come for other reasons, but prevalent was to sever your ties with spirit worlds. Twelve of you undergoing cleansing were mandated to fast from morning until midday- your mothers too were mandated to join the fast so the connection was strong. There were teachings during the day in small sects, a much older disciple offered to teach the children, the women had their wing and the older men had their convention. No one was idle. By midday, the fast were concluded and then the Priest led a general prayer. At midnight Twelve prayer warriors and your mothers gathered in the dead of the night. They dance around to strange Igbo music sang with gusto by a leader who clanged on a bell. It felt like voodoo magic. The songs sounded like something that led into a trance because soon members convulsed and spoke in tongues unheard of. The rest uttered psalms and lapis lazuli incantations to protect and fight off spirits, to protect your souls across interspaces and to prepare you and the other boys for your great future. After which a prayer warrior took a boy each and disappeared into the bristling night.

The cleansing ceremony was done in a private space, and with great seriousness. You had a spiritual mentor, a woman, lanky, tall and with leathery palms who was in charge of your guidance and she also handled your prayers. After the general prayer was done she took you to a corner of the church, you on one hand and three Coconuts on the other. She broke the Coconuts and poured the contents into a bucket, after which she washed your crown while uttering verses from the psalms and more invocations. Her hands were frigid and her grip on your neck was strong as she washed your head. She held you down- this she explained was because a stubborn person can back himself into a corner and refuse to budge; only submitting after several whips by a desperate mother. After the cleansing, your mentor used a bottle of olive oil to anoint your head until it overflowed, and then she warned you never to eat from the coconuts.

“Why is it bad for me to eat the coconuts used for your prayers?” you asked your mother, perplexed.

“It is my job to eat the coconuts as your mother so whatever bad that will affect you will affect me first and then you will be safe. If you eat them it will ruin the effect, it means you are stubborn and can’t pay attention to simple instructions,” She said.

With that, you agreed and stayed away from the coconuts.

Salome was chubby in a way that made you want to tug at his extra skin- he was funny and liked to eat. Besides being brought for the same reason you and Salome bonded off being name sakes. You and Salome had been friends in church for a week and a half. You both fasted together from morning until midday after which you ate, and then maybe slept or be with your mothers. Saturday is the Sabbath day. On Friday You, Salome and the other boys washed the church auditorium floors and all the plastic chairs in preparation for the Sabbath service. It was fun. After washing the chairs in the church all the boys played around splashing water and gliding on their bellies, the tiled floor and their satin garments made a perfect match. At night, after their baths, all the boys painted their faces, hands and legs with powder and ran around calling themselves ghosts.

“Hei, lekwa umaka nka o, will you shut up! Say you’re not a ghost in Jesus name.” a priestess overheard the boys and cautioned, and then she went to where the mothers sat on mats in groups and told them what she witnessed.

“Do you think we are here to joke? Don’t ever play that nonsense game again or say such rubbish,” Salome’s mother said. “Look at all the money I had spent on your prayers!”  Salome looked sad but then laughed. His mother slapped him. It resounded that women turned and begged her to take it easy on the poor boy.

“Nne biko rapuba ya, it’s the devil,” they said.

A piercing wail was heard and then laughter sprung in its wake, and then Salome gave his mother the five fingers and scurried back into the church. His mother tried to go after him but the women held her back and told her it was the devil. Salome’s mother stared at him, sitting and looking into the dark like she was seeing everything and nothing at the same time, and then she burst out crying. You were remorseful and so you stopped playing the ghost game, everyone except Salome. Every night he painted his face, hands and legs white and ran about calling himself the ghost.

Sabbath day was grand. It went longer than weekly prayers and so there were breaks. Service began at Nine A.M until Three P.M when then the first break was observed, and then another before six P.M when the service came to a close. The long church service hours was used for vigorous gyrations of praise and worship in traditional songs, chants and then hymns. As spiritual sessions went on there came a time when an encounter happened. (A spiritual encounter is when the spirit of God descends into the body of a member and then they prophesy in tongues). At such times everyone was advised to shut their eyes and listen. A woman prophesied about an evil spirit among the congregation and almost immediately there was rumble of chairs and then piercing wails erupting at corners of the church. The voices you heard spoke of kingdoms beneath the sea and the heads on their belts, where they had been and what they were sent there to do by their “master” of the underworld. The voices said they were King or Queens of smaller Kingdoms or had Legions they command. When the voices were done confessing a commotion was heard. At such a time you were too curious to keep your eyes closed, and so you opened them. You saw the Priest- he used palm fronds to sprinkle water on the possessed person. He had disciples around to assist him to hold the possessed person in place because a violent spirit can back itself out and run into the streets, and then into the market where the final madness takes place.

After breaks, the service continued. More prophesies came and people went out to claim them, it made the service longer.  By the time general church announcements were made and grace shared, it was night. Most persons broke their evening fast in church, and also after church sacrifices were done, like saraka.

“What is Saraka?” you asked your mother as you both sat on a mat.

“Saraka involves giving out food or items to persons of specific ages to ide off evil spells or to seek the mercy of God. If they give you anything to eat in this church never eat from it,” she said.

“Why?”

“Just don’t eat of it so you don’t eat problems and tribulations on your head.”

Every day for two weeks, at midnight the prayer warriors and all the mothers of boys gathered for their sakes. Verses and lapis lazuli incantations were recited. And every time a prayer warrior took a boy each and disappeared into the bristling night. There were times you were tempted to eat the coconuts, but I remember warnings and obeyed them.

Salome liked to eat- he ate everything and hated to fast. He stole to eat thirty minutes to midday and then came out from hiding like all was well. He carried on this habit from the first week until the last. One day you saw Salome with coconuts. He ate them using his teeth to scrape it from the hard Brown shell and he had white residue all over his mouth.

“Where did you get coconut,” you asked.

“It’s the ones used for your prayers, I saw it in your mother’s bowl and took it,” he said.

I thought we’re not allowed to eat them?”

“Who told you that? I had eaten all of your coconuts since I started, do you want it to waste?” he asked, and then walked away spreading his mouth wide enough for his teeth to scrap the coconut shell.

Two weeks came and went. At the end of two weeks, twelve of you were taken by your mothers, individually, to see the Priest. He prayed and then proclaimed every one of you cleansed, even Salome.  “Any other thing can be done in their absence.” He said. “Their future is bright and they are free of stubbornness.”