The Efik people live in southern Nigeria, for many centuries dwelling near the regions around the Cross River. Efik oral histories tell of migration down the Cross River from Arochukwu to numerous settlements in the Calabar and Creek Town area.
The Efik(s) traditionally worship the God Abassi as a supreme creator and like every other tribe in Africa they have their own traditional creation story.
Abassi who lived in the sky with his wife, Atai created the stars, the Earth, and all the wildlife upon it. He also created two humans, a man and a woman. These humans lived with Abassi and Atai in the sky. They were very innocent and had little knowledge of how the world worked.
Abassi and Atai looked after them, protected them, and even fed them. One day, the humans were looking down from the sky at the Earth. They decided they wanted to relocate there. But when they asked Abassi if they could leave the sky and live on the Earth, he forbade it.
The Earth was a place with many secrets where many things could be learned. Abassi feared that if he allowed them to relocate, the humans would one day match his wisdom, or even surpass it.
When Abassi’s wife Atai heard about the humans plan to leave the sky and her husband fears, she proposed a compromise. The humans could go live on Earth, but they had to return to the sky every day to dine with them. The humans were forbidden to learn to hunt animals or till the land for food. They were also forbidden to marry and have children, because a large nation of people might one day challenge the power of Abassi.
For a while, this plan worked. The humans returned to the sky every day to dine with Abassi and his wife Atai. However, one day, the woman decided she was sick of leaving earth everyday to go dine with Abassi. She went out into the fields and began to farm. When the time came for dinner, she defiantly refused to return to the sky with the man.
The next day, the man visited the woman in the fields and saw she was growing her own food. He decided to help her. Before long, the man and woman fell in love. They did not return to the sky again. Many years went by and they had many children. When those children were old enough, they joined their parents working in the field. They all continued to learn the secrets of the Earth and teach them to each other.
Abassi was disgusted by this and enraged that they not only disobeyed him but that they were making creations of their own. Abassi grew angry with them, but was calmed by his wife Atai, “the mediator”.
Abassi’s wife, Atai, is known as the mediator for the fact that she is often depicted as the one who has acted in favor of humanity and calmed Abassi. The first instance is that many versions of the story say it was Atai’s idea to both create humans and then allow them to live on the Earth during the daylight hours. Because of this, one could go to say that Atai is humanity’s advocate.
As the human civilization began to form and the population started to grow, Abassi blamed his wife, Atai, because she had convinced him to let the humans live on Earth. Abassi feared that one day, the humans would have learned so much that they would surpass his wisdom. He also feared they would grow so numerous that they would surpass his power
But Atai had a plan. In order to prevent the humans from growing too powerful, she sent conflict and death into the world.
The introduction of conflict and death was to control the population and thin out the population on earth so that Abassi wouldn’t be as insecure about the potential of humanity. No matter what they may accomplish or how many people may be on the Earth, everyone would eventually die.
On reaching earth, the evil was so strong that the man and woman immediately died. Their children have suffered the ills of the world and argued among themselves ever since. But because their mother defied the gods, the humans have continued to learn the secrets of the Earth.