Imagine waking up from sleep to see a huge python laying inches beside you.
Also imagine returning from work after the day’s activities to see a python curled up across your doorstep or relaxing in your kitchen. You would sure freak out no doubt, but that is a normal sight to the residents of Idemili in Anambra State who are known to live in harmony with those gigantic reptiles called the “Eke Idemili” in Igbo parlance.
Idemili in Anambra State cut across two local government of Idemili North and South and it comprises of towns like Abatete, Eziowelle, Obosi, Ojoto, Nnobi, Nkpor, Ogidi and so on. These towns have a common culture of paying reverence to the shinny serpent said to be a totem of the Idemili deity.
In the time past, the people of Idemili are known to worship a deity which is located in Idemili river. The deity has a sacred animal that resides in the river which is the eke or python and this python is not to be harmed or killed as it is believed to be massenger of the gods. While most of the indigenes of Idemili are believed to be christians now, the fear and reverence of the Eke Idemili still abounds to this day.
While a python is considered a delicious delicacy that can be washed down with palm wine in some parts of Igboland, It is a taboo to kill or even tamper in any harmful way with a python in Idemili. If you happen to kill a python, knowingly or not, you’ll be mandated to carry out a full funeral rite for the python, the way you would if it were a human being that died.
It will be quite strange to an outsider who is not familiar with the custom to see pythons and humans living in harmony considering the fact that this kind of creatures are not only a frightening sight to behold but also a ferocious predator on a normal day, but that is not the case with the Eke Idemili which is generally friendly and harmless to the people. It is still a puzzling phenomenon to know that there is no recorded case of a python killing a human being in Idemili but we all know how pythons have the potential of strangling humans and going on to swallow them whole.
Stories abounds of pythons paying a visit to new born babies and curling up around the them in a harmless act of recognition. It is a very normal occurance for a python to visit you in Idemili. It is believed to come with it good tidings and sometimes, not so good ones. In any case where you feel that you no longer want the serpent crawling all over your territory, you can use a stick to carry it out to a safe place.
For strangers, especially youth corp members posted around Idemili community, a proper orientation is done to educate such people on the custom and tradition of cohabiting peacefully with a python. It has resulted in some corp members who have ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) seek redeployment elsewhere.
It may sound incredulous to you but the indigenes of Idemili will always advice you as a stranger or newcomer to keep calm and not panick when you see a slithering python around you because it is harmless and would do you no harm.
While in some parts of Igboland, a python is treated with disdain and is seen as meat to be killed and eaten, the people of Idemili treats snakes with respect and avoids harming it. This brings to fruition the saying that what a clan serves as food is what another clan forbids.
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