The Symbolism of Kola Nut in Igbo Cosmology

What does each part or number of a Kola nut symbolise in Igbo culture?

The Kola nut holds immense cultural and symbolic significance in Igbo cosmology. Its various cotyledon numbers are believed to carry distinct meanings that reflect different aspects of Igbo society and spirituality. In this article, we delve into the symbolism of kola nut cotyledon numbers as understood in Igbo culture.

Number of parts symbolism

Cotyledon (segment) NumberSymbolismSignificance
TwoSinister motiveNegative intentions
ThreeUnity, positivityFamily structure, psychological insight
FourAcceptance, justiceGods’ acceptance, equality in society
FiveProsperity, completenessWealth, successful endeavors
SixProsperity, communionGuaranteed success, connection with ancestors
SevenUltimate goodness, cosmosCosmic alignment, representation of positive forces

Two: Sinister Motive and Negative Connotations

In Igbo culture, the presence of only two cotyledons in a kola nut carries negative connotations. This belief stems from historical practices, such as the abandonment of twins in the “ajo ofia” or evil forest during the pre-colonial era. A kola nut with two parts signifies a sinister motive on the part of the presenter, and such nuts are avoided. The preference for the purple/reddish-colored Cola acuminata over the grayish-colored Cola nitida is due to the former’s division into more than two parts.

Three: Unity of the Igbo Family and Psychological Representation

A kola nut with three lobes symbolizes unity and positivity. It exemplifies the structure of the Igbo family, with its three members: the father, mother, and children. Additionally, the three lobes of the kola nut offer insight into Igbo psychology, representing the three facets of human existence: the body (aru ahu/ahu), the mind (Nkpuru obi/uche), and the spirit (mmuo). This unity is encapsulated within the singular being of the kola nut.

Four: Acceptance and Social Justice

The presence of four lobes in a kola nut signifies acceptance by the gods in Igboland. It also represents the four native market days: Oye, Afor, Nkwo, and Eke, which emphasize equality and social justice. This symbolism holds particular significance in marriage ceremonies, as it indicates the couple’s endurance and the strength of their union over time.

Five: Omen of Prosperity, Wealth, and Completeness

A kola nut with five lobes is a positive omen associated with prosperity and wealth. It symbolizes completeness, as it mirrors the human form with its fingers and toes. Breaking a five-lobed kola nut after prayer signifies a successful endeavor or journey. The completeness of the kola nut’s five lobes suggests a wholeness and a promise of achievement without the need for external divination.

Six: Prosperity and Communion with Ancestors

Six-lobed kola nuts signify prosperity and a guaranteed successful outcome for the individual who presents and breaks the nut. In certain parts of Igboland, a kola nut with six cotyledons triggers a celebratory ritual that may involve sacrificing a chicken or goat. The six lobes also indicate communion with ancestors, embodying the idea of unity between the living and the ancestral spirits.

Seven: Ultimate Goodness and Cosmic Connection

Rare and highly esteemed, a kola nut with seven lobes signifies unmitigated goodness and cosmic significance. The seven lobes correspond to the seventh day of creation and encompass the four market days, two farm days, and a final day of rest. This symbolic alignment connects the kola nut to the fundamental elements of Igbo cosmology, portraying it as the ultimate representation of positive forces and cosmic order.



Address for correspondence: E-mail: International Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Studies V2 ● I8●August 2015 51 The Symbolism of Kolanut in Igbo Cosmology: A Re-Examination Chidume, C. G. 1*, Osisioma, U. S.2 , Echem, S. O.3 1Department of History and Strategic Studies, Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Nigeria 


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