When asked to perform the 'Act of Libation' at the Spirit of Windrush Service of Celebration andThanksgiving held at Manchester Cathedral on 31st October, I questioned why me?
Is this not a performance which is normally performed by men?
However, I recalled the many libation ceremonies which I had witnessed when living in Nigeria. Whilst most were done by men, there were some which were performed by women. Being from a maternal tribal clan, I had seen this act of libation done be women. Normally the eldest person in the family or gathering would be asked to perform. If this was a woman then she (normally a Chieftess) would be asked to perform the act or, if she chose to, the Chieftess could request a male from the clan to perform the act. With this in mind I felt comfortable to perform the act of libation at the Manchester Cathedral event. Secondly, 31st October is the day before 'All Saint's Day' - a time to remember those around the world who have done good.
The ceremonial act was performed with a prepared list of names which I read out in remembrance of.Traditionally back home (Nigeria) the names of our immediate ancestors would be called. However, for internal political reasons (politics with a small 'p') a list of names was provided.
Therefore, when asked on the 13th of December to perform again, the 'Act of Libation' again, I definitely made up my mind to educate those present on what his act actually means in practice. The event was held at Christ Church, Moss Side and entitle "The Spirit of Windrush"; A service of celebration and thanksgiving for the Windrush Generation and their descendants.
We begin all celebrations and acts by calling the names of our ancestors, asking them to be with us as we perform our ceremony, whether, death, birth, wedding, new yam festival or even birthdays. The act of libation is to call on our ancestors for their spiritual guidance, knowledge and wisdom. If not for our immediate ancestors of mother, father, grand-parents etc we would not exist here today. We, therefore, have to pay reverence to them and in so doing share something of the physical world with those of the spirit world - eg: fruit, food, drink. Their names are called as a way of keeping their spirit alive within our daily lives. We also name our children and grand-children after the living or those past, again so that each and every time we call the name, we remember the person and, we are keep the spirit alive!
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Carisma's Dr Erinma Bell taking part in a special service at Manchester Cathedral to mark 70 years since the arrival of the ship Windrush to the UK from Jamaica. Erinma was asked, as a guest, to deliver the Act of Remembrance in the form of Libation. The service showcased a new 'Windrush Cope', ceremonial robe featuring black history. The Themes were: Remembrance, Togetherness and Building for the Future.
The service followed a conference earlier in the day, also at the Cathedral, wth the aim to chart a new course for the descendants of the ‘Windrush Generation'. It was facilitated by the ‘Windrush Defenders’, a group of lawyers, law graduates and community activists who have come together in the UK, working pro bono and facilitated by FM Legal, The Law Center, to help those who are affected by the Windrush Scandal.