The Precious African Nut: Kola Nut

Kola nut is native to West Africa though it has found its way to so many other countries. In many West African cultures, it is chewed and it is believed to restore vitality and ease hunger pangs. Kola nuts are an important part of the traditional spiritual practice of many cultures and religion in West Africa, particularly Nigeria. 

Kola nuts are used as a religious object and sacred offering during prayers, ancestor veneration, and significant life events, such as naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. Kola nut is called ‘Oji’ in Igbo Nigerian language, ‘Obi’ in Yoruba Nigerian language and ‘Gworo’ in Hausa Nigerian language.

kola-nutIt is believed in the African traditions and cultures that this nut properties have divinity powers. The peelings or shelves of the fruits are used to search for information. In communities where this is practiced, almost every kola nut flavour seeking person can use the peelings to obtain at least some basic information. They are also used in a traditional divination system called Obi divination. For this use, only kola nuts that are divided into four lobes are suitable. The kola nuts are cast upon a special wooden board and the resulting patterns are read by a trained diviner. This ancient practice is currently enjoying increased growth within the United States and Caribbean. Through this practice, they are able to seek for and to obtain information concerning:

• Contacts with other people before setting up on a meeting or journey
• Family welfare and what the future holds
• Group activities and whether one should belong to a particular group
• The sources of sickness of family and community members
• The sources of death of family and community members
• Happenings in the community, be it good or bad omen
• Perpetrators of bad deeds of witch crafts
• Well being of family and community

The presentation of the kola nut is crucial in that even when a visitor comes to someone’s home, the guest will not say his mission until after the kola nut has been presented to him.

As a symbol it is used in West Africa by the Igbos of Nigeria to grace social rituals of hospitality as welcome offerings to guests; as sacred offering in religious rites and prayers; in ancestor veneration. As a mark of respect the nut is broken with knife, then immediately followed by prayer.

In the prayer our forefathers are beaconed to come and participate in the eating of the kola nut and to guide and protect in the mission that brings the people together. After the prayer, the kola nut is broken, shared, every body eats and the ceremony begins.

He who brings Kola, brings life.

Traditionally kola nut is regarded as a sacred nut, which is used to communicate with the gods being that it was chosen by the elders as the head or king of all seeds. The Yorubas of Nigeria apply the kola nut in a special form of divination in which the diviner asks the spirits a question and throws four pieces of kola nut. The way the kola nuts land are interpreted by the diviner as the answer to his or her question.Kola-tree

In the olden days it takes awhile before kola is broken. The reason is that kola nut used by tradition is multi-cotyledon. As such every kola nut has meaning despite the fact that the person who presents the kola nut does not check how many divisions a kola nut has by nature. Nonetheless the elder must check each kola nut and interpret their meanings before they are finally broken. As the saying goes “the words of elders are words of wisdom.” While in most cases their interpretation are regarded as superstitious, they are said to turn out correctly. In some Nigerian culture, nothing is said at any event, no matter how serious the occasion may seem, without the presentation of kola nut ritual.

Culled from freetocharities.