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The last big rains of the year were falling. It was the time for treading red earth with which to build walls. It was not done earlier because the rains were too heavy and would have washed away the heap of trodden earth; and it could not done later because harvesting would soon set in, and after that the dry season. (19.1)
Nature’s seasons determine the Umuofia calendar. The implied message is that if the Umuofia don’t follow nature’s calendar, the earth can cause damage as easily as it can provide and nurture.
Ekwefi rose early on the following morning and went to her farm with her daughter, Ezinma, and Ojiugo’s daughter, Obiageli, to harvest cassava tubers. Each of them carried a long cane basket, a machete for cutting down the soft cassava stem, and a little hoe for digging out the tuber. Fortunately, a light rain had fallen during the night and the soil would not be very hard…
The harvesting was easy, as Ekwefi had said. Ezinma shook every tree violently with a long stick before she bent down to cut the stem and dig out the tuber. Sometimes it was not necessary to dig. They just pulled the stump, and earth rose, roots snapped below, and the tuber was pulled out. (19.8-12)
It’s appropriate that the women, the human equivalents of the mother earth, reap the riches of the earth for a banquet. The trope of the banquet is not only meal but a celebration of food and family that encapsulates everything the nurturing earth stands for. Here, nature shows compassion towards the women by sprinkling a light rain on the soil to make digging for tubers especially easy.
The annual worship of the earth goddess fell on a Sunday, and the masked spirits were abroad. The Christian women who had been to church could not therefore go home. Some of their men had gone out to beg the egwugwu to retire for a short while for the women to pass. They agreed and were already retiring, when Enoch boasted aloud that they would dare to touch a Christian. Whereupon they all came back and one of them gave Enoch a good stroke of the cane, which was always carried. (22.9)
This scene depicts the worshippers of the earth coming into conflict with the upstart new religion, Christianity.