Anansa and the Anansa procession that birthed the famous Calabar Carnival.
Many deities come to mind when discussing Efik cosmology, like Anantigha, Anansa, Esierebom, Afia ntan, and so many others. Still, the most famous of them were Anatigha and Anansa, a male and a female deity, respectively. They are the deities of the enwang people. Enwang people of the Efik society are deeply rooted in their traditional beliefs that they situated the two gods at the two ends of their river frontage.
Efik tribe is a tribe in the capital city of cross river state, Nigeria.
Anansa situated at the enwang spring head, known as idim enwang, where the Calabar cement company was earlier. Anantigha is located at the other side of the town, in a thicket initially called iyonde but now called anantigha Beach.
Anansa is by far the most popular of all the deities of the Efik people. The Anansa deity is said to be the goddess of the sea and the goddess of beauty. Anansa can be said to possess young girls, and when she possesses a girl, she dreams a whole lot about the water and the famous ekombi dance, which is a dance attributed to Anansa. The ekombi dance movements are derived from the motions of the oceans. It’s believed that by mere dancing of ekombi, you are invoking the spirit of Anansa. Dance of peace and happiness. The possessed girl will automatically know how to dance ekombi ideally. Because of Anansa’s beauty, the possessed would be stunning and would attract men, even when she is not dressed seductively.
Anansa is a very fearful deity, that when rejected, she can be dreadfully insane but very humble when she is accepted. It was also said that the NNS victory, the naval base. Currently situated at the back of the stadium was formerly known as NNS Anansa. She was a very territorial mermaid, causing so many uproars for the Nigerian navy and sinking ships. The navy had to appease her so that she could allow them to take control of the water’s borders, so they named their base NNS Anansa and performed sacrifices and rites to appease her. After the invention of Christianity, it was said that she was chased to the high seas, never to return, and that gave them the courage to change the name to NNS victory, believing that they have conquered her.
Even though she is was being chased to the high seas. It’s believed that she will come back because she had conscripted many young women who have continued her teachings and paving waves for her homecoming.
Anansa is said to have possessed a stone, an egg-stone, to whom requests are made. During Anansa rituals.
It’s said that the Anansa procession birthed the famous Calabar Carnival. The Anansa procession always began in the morning, heralded by the royal talking drum and the Efik drum, called Ekperikpe, both of which appeased the deity. The procession would take off from the house of the chief priest and headed to the shrine. The procession is arranged as follows; A young teenage boy is known as ibiadim, bearing the ika in his right hand, ika, which is the Efik’s spilt word for divination—then followed by a girl that is about seven years of age, hanging on her neck, a day old chick—then followed by a spotless boy of nearly 21 years of age, carrying a basket of sundry things known as inuak udia on his head—followed by the ndem priestess. Then followed by fourteen teenage girls bearing combs, Rafia clappers, mirrors, a pair of cow horn known as Oti, then followed by seven men that just attained manhood, men of about 30-35 years of age, all bearing swords—then followed by the chief priest, whose head is neatly shaved, that no Strang of hair could be seen. Coconut oil being rubbed on it, carrying a small white bowl of water fetched from the enwang spring. He is flanked on the right-hand side by the nsen-itiat and the uto bearer, that’s the person carrying the eggstone and the yellow chalk, who has a sword slung across his waist. Then on the left-hand side, the ndom, which is the white chalk bearer. This trio is followed by a group of chalk bearers, carrying blue, red, and purple chalks.
They are all dressed in white parallels, except Tha priestess and the chief priest that wears an overall white, all others just go on a loin of clothes on their waist, a bare upper body that is being painted with nsibidi writings, an ancient writing style. The deity Men and women wore white headbands and walked barefoot with white necklaces, wristlets, and anklets, which depicted purity of royal descent.
At the shrine’s entrance, the uto Anansa cuts open the veil of tender palm trees called ekpin. The boy with the split sword enters follows by the ndem priestess and her group. Few of the girls kneel and some stands, mirroring the priestess who goes to sit on a brass stool. Before she is an old basin within which stood an oboti tree. She will pour the water at the oboti tree’s feet and place a roundly-folded pad of mkpatari into the basin. She will now collect the egg stone from its bearer and give it seven knocks before dropping it inside the basin. The egg-like stone will open up to show seven concentric layers and reveal a colorless fluidlike yolk. The most challenging part of the Anansa worship; it’s complicated to get the egg-stone to open. It has been reported that two lineages failed at trying to make the egg-stone open, which is a failure to the whole Anansa sacrificial process. After then the revival esoteric rituals became questionable.
The chief priest will come up and collect the yellow chalk from its bearer and sprinkles it on the fluid. Then sprinkles the spring water. As the the chalk is mixing with the fluid, turning yellow like a chicken egg yolk, he makes requests to Anansa and then presents the other chalks in Honour of Anansa. Next, he offers the basket of the sundry things, and they all watch till it disappears.
Uto Anansa is the chalk that enables hearing, Anansa is the only one that sees without the chalk. If the fluid turns red, which happens in rare cases, a human being will have to be sacrificed. The messages of Anansa can only be interpreted by the priestess, who tells the chief priest. The eulogy’s wording represents supremacy and royalty of the deity and that of those that minister before her. Her anger shows in the red chalk and her mercy on the white chalk. Then they render songs of the ndem worship.
The most important object of the Anansa worship, which is the egg stone, after being used that day, returns to a stone that will never break until after seven days. Without this object, the deity will not function.
This has been the traditional procession of the Efik people, even though, abandoned when Christianity came. But this was the procession before the invention of Calabar carnival by Donald Duke in 2004.
Anansa is a very fearful but beautiful goddess of the sea. And it’s believed that it’s only fortified cameras that can capture her monuments where it’s lay in the bayside of Calabar South.
Anansa is considered the spouse of many. A sparkling serpent.