In the Igbo culture, the word "Iba" is translated to "fever." This usually refers to the fever that comes from malaria. Malaria is traditionally transmitted by mosquitoes. Its symptoms consist of a cycle of chills, fever, sweating and pain. Malaria fevers were frequently cured by the Igbo with medicine made from leaves, grass, and bark.
"Ogbanje" literally translates to "children who come and go." These types of children are thought to be evil, as they will die shortly after birth and return at the next pregnancy, following the same pattern to curse the family forever. To end the cycle, the bodies of children thought to be ogbanje were often mutilated after death to stop them from returning. The ogbanje who supposidly returned were born with scars or deformities from the previous mutilation.
The iyi-uwa is an object that is believed to be the connection between an ogbanje child and the world. If the iyi-uwa is found and destroyed, it will stop the ogbanje from returning. The iyi-uwa can be a stone, hair, dolls, and even omens. To find the iyi-uwa, a medicine man or shamen will question the living ogbanje to lead the way to the burried iyi-uwa.
Egwugwu are the spirits of ancestors that watch over the tribe. The egwugwu in the novel are leaders of the clan that wear masks to represent the different spirits. The egwugwu are called when there is a dispute within the clan. They ask questions and determine who is at fault and what should be done to solve the dispute.
Bitter-leaf soup is a traditional African dish prepared with leftover assorted meats, snails, and fish, along with bitterleaf. Bitterleaf is a type of shrub that can be found in West and North Africa and is under the Genus Vernonia. Several species of Vernonia, including V. calvoana, V. amygdalina, and V. colorata are eaten as leaf vegetables.
Snuff is ground tobacco and is generally inhaled through the nose, although there are variations in which it can be applied to the gums. It is smokeless, and in European countries in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, it was considered a product for the elite. In Africa however, snuff was used regularly before Europeans had a chance to colonize. It can cause cancer just like normal tobacco.
Snuff is normally stored in bottles (at the time this takes place in Africa). The bottles are small enough to keep in the palm of your hand and are easily stored. The pictures below are of Chinese snuff bottles.
Storytelling is a very important aspect of Igbo culture. There are two things that the storyteller must consider: having a good plot and properly dramatizing the story. If a member does not learn to tell a story, then they cannot become a prestigious part of Igbo society. Stories are told differently depending on the audience and the gender of the person who is telling them. The best kinds of raconteurs are supposed to attract both young and old audiences. Stories are usually told at night or in between planting and harvest seasons because at this time the Igbo are not at work. Moonlight is a helpful factor for storytelling.