Before the birth of a child some names are jostled about but an important event or circumstance in the family or occasion in the community may be used to name a child born during such an occasion.
"Onaiwu": ‘This child will not die again’.
"Osamamianmianmwen": ‘God did not forget me’.
"Ighiwiyisi": I shall not get lost in a foreign land".
"Nowamagbe": ‘He who is not harmed by members of his family cannot be harmed by outsiders’.
"Iyare": ‘Safe journey’.
"Iyegbekosa": ‘I lean on God’.
"Ikponmwosa": ‘I give gratitude to God’.
"Izevbokun": ‘I have chosen from the basket of gifts.’ Or ‘I have chosen from the Goddess of the Sea.’
"Okwoemose": ‘War is not pretty’ (A name that was commonly given to children born during or just after the Second World War.)
"Pulley": A British name given to children born during the era of a popular British resident of Benin called Mr. Pulley.
Benin names also show respect and deference to the King. Examples:
"Iyalekhuoba": ‘You are forgiven for the sake of the King’.
"Obayantor": ‘The King owns the land’.
Others adulate the nation:
"Edorisiagbon": ‘Edo land is the center of the world’.
Usually when a child is born by a young couple the culture is to ask the grandfather or great grandfather to send a name. Although the parents of the child can give their own pet names to the child, the name given by the paternal elder of the family supercedes. However, during Christian baptism, Christian names can be added. [More recently, African names have been used as Christian names].
Among Edos, the traditional naming ceremony is usually performed on the seventh day after birth. Before 10 am, family elders and very close friends gather to pray to God for long life, good health and prosperity for the child and its parents. The elders present the family name to the father of the baby. Oracular consultations and divination may precede this phase.
Later on in the evening, the main "naming" ceremony occurs at about 7 p.m. Although the family elders and friends, (male and female) are present, the ceremony is usually a mainly female affair.
Ingredients used are as follows:
For prayers to welcome the child to the family.
Gin (or other hot drink)
For prayers. Used to symbolize an appeal to God not to let a drunkard harm the child during its life. Hot drinks are also used to pray to God that the child not become an alcoholic.
For prayers and libation
Native chalk mixed with salt
For prayers that symbolize happiness
Bitter Kola Nuts
Honey, sugar and bitter kola-nuts are also used for prayers. They symbolize the duality of life’s experiences, good and bad, sweet and sour… etc… Prayers are offered for the child to experience sweet things in life and that may the child have good oratorical qualities.
The role of alligator pepper in prayers is to catalyze or energize the child’s speech…
Inside a coconut there is fluid, which can only be seen by breaking the nut. This symbolizes the mystery of a secret within the coconut the mechanism of which is unknown. During the ceremony, a coconut is broken and shown to the women present.
These are cut into pieces and shared to the women present. It signifies the staple food of the Edo people.
The symbolism is that oil is an emollient for life’s problems
Water has no enemy
All are seated with males on one side and females on the other side of the living room. The mother who is gorgeously dressed for the occasion holds the child.
The eldest male representative of the head of the family says the opening prayers in Edo language with Kola-nuts and drinks. He breaks the nuts and shares them.
The eldest female member of the family now takes up the remaining activities of the evening.
She will ask the mother of the child what she calls the child. The same question is asked seven (7) times. On each of the first six occasions the mother will give an unthinkable name to the child which the other women will reject.
Female Elder: "Mother (by name), what do you call your child?"
Mother: I name my child ‘Eagle’".
Chorus: No one delivers a child and calls it an eagle.
Traditional songs and local music then follow this.
In response to the seventh (7th) question, the father of the child whispers the actual name to his wife, who then announces it publicly. In response, all the women affirm and pray that the child lives long with the parents.
Additional prayers follow.
OPPORTUNITY FOR GUESTS TO NAME THE CHILD.
It is customary that all those present at the ceremony give a name to the child by putting a gift or any amount of money in a bowl before stating the name they want to give the child. After each guest gives a name, the chorus responds: "Ogha gue dia. Ise" [‘May he/she live long, Amen]
Food and drinks follow.