As a child, I loved stories. Some of the best memories of my childhood were of sitting at my father’s feet and listening avidly as he told us stories. Our moonlight was the fluorescent bulb in our living room. On those evenings, when Daddy had no pressing legal writing to attend to, my siblings and I sat at his feet and he entertained us with stories that enlightened us on the myths, cultures, and traditions of Aguleri in particular and the Omabala Area in general. In my opinion, this cultural formation is one vital education that children of this generation are missing.
Anyway, udala is a delicious seasonal fruit. It is commonly enjoyed in dry season. There are several folktales that centre on this tree. Two of these stories readily come to mind. The first is the story of an orphan who planted an udala tree because his step mother spitefully excluded him when she shared udala to her children. The orphan faithfully sang to the seed he’d planted until it germinated, grew, and produced lush fruits that always fell every time he wanted to lick udala. One of the stanzas of the song in the story goes like this,
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Udala mu mia, Nda
mia mia mia, Nda
Nwunye nna muo, Nda
Gote Udala lachaa, Nda
Lacha Lacha Lacha, Nda
Lachapu nwa enwe nne, Nda
Lachapu nwa enwe nna, Nda
Enu uwa bu olili, Nda
Onye nosia onava, Nda
If you can remember this song, then know you’re not today’s pikin. Lol. The second story is that of Ezezemali, the young girl who went to pick udala with her friend at Uga Olu and ended up with a one legged spirit husband. Funny, right? Well, that’s the stuff folktales are made of.
The udala tree is a special tree not just in the Omabala Area but in Igboland as a whole. Its existence is shrouded in mystery and superstition. Many years ago, this tree was usually found in the village square. The fact that no one knew who planted it added to its mystery. It was (is) communally owned; anyone could pick and enjoy the fruit of this tree. Plucking or climbing the udala tree was, however, considered a taboo in the Omabala Area. Anyone who wanted to eat of the fruit of this tree waited patiently for it to fall. No one knows the reason for this but I think this law was formulated to instill discipline and patience in the people. Anyway, when udala is in season, children converge under the tree early in the morning and at full moon to play and wait for the fruit to fall.
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Another interesting thing about the udala tree in the Omabala Area is the belief that it is the abode of spirit children. Children were therefore forbidden from going near the tree at Uga Olu. Uga Olu means working hours. Since the village was usually quiet when parents, guardians, and adolescents went to work, children were warned to stay close to the homestead and to avoid going to pick udala at this time. It was believed that any child that goes near the udala tree at Uga Olu could be stolen by the spirits. This myth is what probably inspired the Ezezemali story.
Moreover, the udala tree is considered a symbol of fertility in Igboland. This is probably because this tree is always surrounded by children. In the days of old, women with fertility issues sit under the shade of the udala tree to wait in the hope that one of the good spirit children can come to them.
Finally, taking any form of illumination to the udala tree is forbidden in the Omabala Area. In fact, it is considered a punishable offence because it is believed that doing so causes only rotten fruits to fall.
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