EDO - AFRICAN TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS AND CEREMONIES

EDO - AFRICAN TRADITIONAL FESTIVALS AND CEREMONIES
 

Compiled By:

 

Augustina Omosigho Ede Iyare

 


NAMEORIGINPURPOSEIKHURE (AMA)15TH Century: EwuareThe real name is AMA IKHURHE is the first month of the Edo year (there are 14 months in the year!) The festival is celebrated only by the children of reigning Oba and is designed to ascertain their number and give thanks for their lives and wellbeing. The celebrants are adorned with orhue (hence Ama)  after being given iwu body marks. It is partially a fertility festival during which domestic livestock (chicken, goats, e.t.c) are slaughtered.UG'IVIE ('UGIE-IVIE)ESIGIE- 16th CenturyTo the Edo, Ivie (Coral beads) are perhaps the most precious possessions and are the Obas exclusive monopoly. Only he can give out ivie but to nobody else except his children, his wives and his chiefs. There is an Edo saying that "aiy'ivie ru emwin oya" ( no one wears ivie and does anything dishonourable). The Ug'ivie festival is the annual washing and cleaning of all the ivie wealth. It also commemorates the legendary event when Ewuare came across Olokun's hoard of ivie, spread out on the sand to dry and stolen them. Those were the first ever ivie owned by any mortal.UG'ORO (UGIE-ORO)13th century EwedoIn about 1255AD, Ewedo introduced   the festival to commemorate his affluence and success as well as the general prosperity of his kingdom. Having triumphed over the UZAMA and moved away from USAMA, he had initiated far reaching reforms which greatly benefited him and his entire kingdom. To mark his achievement, he introduced the oro festival in which each citizen in the city was at liberty to indulge in eating, drinking and total debauchery for a day. However 250 years later, Esigie added bird cast in brass and called AHIANMWEN-ORO, to the ceremony. It was last performed in the reign Eweka II.

UGIOGUN (UGIE-OGUN)

Unknown, but certainly by one of the warrior- kings.

Ogun is the deity of iron and war. The purpose of the festival is two fold. First, it is a thanksgiving for all disturbances already overcome. Second, it is an appeasement and a propitiation to ward off accidents, conflicts, wars and strife. There is an enormous Ogun shrine in the palace. It is called Ogun Oba and is a dreaded deity. Practically every household in the city especially those of the chiefs, contains an Ogun Shrine because anyone who uses any iron tool is beholding to the deity. Ogun is the national deity and he has shrines of various sizes all over the kingdom. Each shrine is the preserve of an OGIOGUN (Ogun Priest) His favorite attire is made of Ododo (scarlet - color of blood)  and his favorite sacrificial victim is the do (ekita)  The annual festival in the middle of the dry season (uyunmwun) used to last for seven (7) days. IHIEKHUProbably from EsigieThis ceremony last for one day and it is a thanksgiving to the deity of Hands.  Among the Edo, the Land is the maker, the Creator of things, including wealth and prosperity.  The Ihiekhu ceremony serves to honor the human hands and appease them.  In the palace and in homes of chiefs there are always shrives where sacrifices are offered.  Whereas any chief may celebrate the ihiekhu privately, the entire city joins in the Oba's celebration, which involves lavish sacrifices.
By the way, every part of the Oba's body is a deity and has a special name in the palace, with a special shrine devoted to it.  Further more, some chiefs as well as some of the Oba's wires 9iloi) are named after the parts of the Oba's body.  For example, Ehi (ulter-ego"), inene (anus), Esa (pens), etc.  Most of the titles of the Ogbe chiefs are duplicated among the women in Oderhie (harem)UGIERH'OBA
(UGIE-ERHOBA ERHA-OBA)Unknown indefinite This festival, which used to last for 21 days, commemorates the memory of the Oba's father.  In the distant past, it involved human sacrifice.   However, it is the particular time in which the Oba displays his royal generosity by conferring chieftaincy titles.

IGUE

15TH CENTURY BY EWUARE

This is principally a festival of propitiation for good luck, long life and prosperity.  It is largely addressed to the Oba's HEAD which in itself, is considered by the Edo to be a sacred deity.  It is an annual festival, which often takes place in the 13th month of the Edo year.  The Edo firmly believe that their king's LUCK (uhunmwun n'oma") is inextricably bound with their own.  It involves the entire population and usually lasts for 7 days.  It begin with the anointing of the Oba's head with Orhue (signifying PURITY) and with the blood of numerous sacrificial victims from the human being (in the distant past) to cows, goats, sheep, chicken, tortoise and snail.  The anointing is performed by ISEKHURHE while the slaughtering of victims is the function of Ehondo with the special knife called ABIEZE.  The chiefs then pay homage to the Oba by dancing before him with their EBEN After that it is general merry-making in the palace forecourt, UGH'OZOLUA (UGHA - OZOLUA). The dancing and feasting in the Palace will go on, to be joined three days later by the members of the Royal Family performing their own separately and individually in the own homes.  The IHOGBE are generally summoned privately to the homes of the members of the Royal family to offer the sacrifices to their Heads in much the same way that the ISEKHURHE led done in the palace.  Cows and goats are most frequently slaughtered, and kola-nuts (evbee) and coconuts (ivin-Ebo) are essential parts of the libation.  Three days later, the rest of the population celebrates their own separately and privately.  Igue brings everyone back home to the ancestral domain (igiogbe) for feasting and merry-making, and no family is ever too poor to celebrate it.
EMOBO is an integral part of Igue.  It was added to the original festival by ESIGIE in commemoration of his victory over his brother, ARHUANRAN in the Edo-Udo war.  Emobo is the preserve of the BARDS (OGBELAKA) who perform seven different songs and seven different dances - all of which reenact ESIGIE'S INSANITY OF THE ROAD FROM Udo.  The Oba joins in the bords' songs and dances and it is the only time in Igue when he sings and dances.  It takes place on the sixth day of the Igue festival.  On the 7th day, when the city has done its own UGIEWERE brings the entire festival to it conclusion.  UGIE- EWERE was part of the Igue festival from its very inception.  It is said that Ewuare obtained his good luck in the birth of another son after the tragic deaths, in the same day, of his two sons (IKUOBOYUWA who was the EDAIKEN and EZUWARHA who was the Enogie of Iyowa) form the Ewere leaf ("luck-leaf"-rather like the four-leafed clover which is supposed to bring luck to its finder).,  at the end of the Igue festival, the Ihogbe dance to the Palace, carrying Ewere leaves to the Oba, thus commemorating the lucky birth of the heir to the throne.  The only song they sing all the way from Ihogbe through the city streets is as follows:


Arhiewere gi'Omo vb'ugha-O
Ewere'were oyoyo-o
Ewere de-e, kie n'Ewere.


Incidentally, after the deaths of Ewuare's two sons and the subsequent suicides of their respective mothers, Ewuare took to wife the young daughter of the OGIEKAE who bore him a son-and-heir.  Her name was EWERE.  How convenient!!ISIOKUOOgiso (first dynasty) before 1170 A.D.According to Edo folktales, there was a monster called Osogan who lived at OKEDO (now known as IKPOBA Slope). The monster captured and devoured passersby, mostly women on market days. For many years nothing could be done about the monster. But then came EVIAN, a fearless and powerful blacksmith, who managed to thrust into the mouth of the monster a piece of red-lot steel rod which destroyed the monster.   The ceremony of ISIOKUO was invented in honor of the daity, OGUN, the god of iron / steel through whose aid the monster was destroyed.  In this ceremony both the Oba and his war chiefs, all dressed in scarlet, parade through the city, singing war songs and doing war dances.  The people from the village of ILOBI then stage a mock-battle, using the pinioned arrows which had been invented by the deity called AKE.  The ceremony ends with the spectacular display of tree-top acrobatics known as AMUFI.  The Amufi acrobats are also the specialists who capture live eagles for the Edo Palace in peace times.  The ISIOKUO ceremony, therefore, an OGUN festival basically (see the section on UGIOGUN).

UGIE ODODUA ("AGUOSA")

13TH Century:- EWEKA I

This festival, which lasted a single day early in the dry season, was invented to memorialize ODODUWA, the legendary founder of UHE (Ile-Ife) it consists of masquerades dressed in long scarlet attires (Ododo), singing songs.  It was Oba ERESOYEN (1735 - 1750 A.D.) who later modified the masquerade to present seven bronze masques which were modeled on those of the spiritual leader of UZALA, called 
OSA N'UZALA. Pregnant women were forbidden to watch the procession for fear that their babies might be born to resemble any of the ghastly masks.AGUEUnsure but probably Ewuare in 15th centuryAGUE is really not a festival or ceremony, as such; it is a PERIOD of time which used to last for 3 months.  It was the Edo traditional period of FASTING, similar in many respects to the Moslem Fasting month and the Christian lent.  During AGUE, strangers were forbidden to enter the city, nobody except the palace servants was allowed to see the Oba, on man was allowed to sleep with his wife or wives; very little food was consumed.  It was a period of total abstinence.  It was usually between January and March.  Presumably, its purpose was to demonstrate that no one who has never been hungry could appreciate the value of wealth; no one who has never been sex-starved could appreciate the value of marriage, etc, etc, etc.  Such a period of total deprivation must have taught the Edo the importance of prudence and moderation.  By the way, it was during AGUE that the British insisted on Visiting OVONRHAMEEN in Benin city in 1897.  The refusal to allow the visit resulted in the so-called massacre of captain Phillip and the subsequent "punitive expedition" which changed Edo life and culture forever.  The rest is "History" but who's History?  I wonder !!!!!!!!!


EHO, IKPOLEKI, EHO-AMA
15TH Century:- EWUARE 


IKPOLEKI and EHO-EMA are both part-and -parcel of Eho people However, EHO-EMA is only for the princes and the Enigie ("Dukes")."  ENIGIE" is the plural form of "ENOGIE" (singular) and they are normally SON of departed Obas and therefore brothers and uncles of the reigning Oba.  They never reside in Benin City. 

The Eho festival takes place before harvest time, around the month of September in modern reckoning.  The new yam, i.e. the yam of the current farm under cultivation, has yet to be harvested, and the old yam, the previous year's harvest, has virtually been eaten up, since much of it had earlier been used as seed-yams for planting of the current farm.  The yam tuber is therefore scarce, and expensive in Benin City during Eho festival season.  And it is only the pounded yam that the spirit of the ancestors are fed upon.  The Edo's say:
      

       EDO KHOO!
       IRAN EKHO VBE EGHE EHO:
The Benin People are hard to Please But not during the Eho festival season.


Please see below for details of 
THE EHO FESTIVAL OF THE BENIN KINGDOM
By: EKHAGUOSA AISIEN.
A paper presented during the Centenary Celebration.


UGI'AZAMA (UGIE-AZAMA)ESIGIE(1483 - 1504 A.D)

 

This ceremony commemorates the whole of the struggle between Oba ESIGIE and his brother, ARHUANRAN who was the "DUKE" of UDO and who laid claim to the throne of the Edo kingship.  As a result of Palace intrigues, promoted by IDIA, Esigie's mother, the claimant had been sent of Udo as Enogie ("Duke" in the English language).  When he eventually discovered the truth, he rebelled and a war broke out between Edo and udo. UGIANZAMA commemorates the entire struggle between the brothers, ending in the defeat of udo. At this ceremony, the eldest son of the Oba (the Edaiken)and the eldest daughter of the Oba are both represented by carefully chosen "Ordinary" (Non-royal) persons who are called UHUNMWEGHO (the title means, simply, SCAPEGOATS ) It is those two who lead the procession around the city and end up in the palace where sacrifices are made.  The presence of the Prince and Princess was meant to demonstrate the legitimacy of their fathers reign.  It also demonstrated their ineptitude and non-participation in their fathers struggle to gain and retain the Edo crown


THE EHO FESTIVAL OF THE BENIN KINGDOM
EKHAGUOSA AISIEN.

The Ikpoleki Festival of the Okhuaihe deity has been completed.  Its completion makes way for the commencement of Eghute Festival.  The Okhuaihe devotees, fresh from completing the Ikpoleki gather at the Okhuaihe grove at Ikpe village, on the banks of the Orhionmwon River.  There they are met by the OKHUE OSUAN, a ceremonial personage, on his way to Benin City.

The OKHUE OSUAN, translated as the "Parrot of Chief Osuan of Benin" is on his way to the premises of Chief Osuan in Benin.  In ceremonial robes he left his native village of Igbekhue in Iyekorhinmwon earlier that morning, accompanied by a band of retainers.  Arriving at the far bank of Orhionmwon river at Evbuarhue village he gets into a canoe which ferries him and his little bank across the to Ikpe village.   Disembarking, he moves to the Okhuaihe grove to meet the Ikpoleki celebrants.

Igbekhue village, as its name implies, is the home to the guild of the Royal Patriot Hunters and Trappers.

There are the Okhuaihe grottos in Ikpe. The Okhue Osuan, singing the ancient songs of the land, dancing to the approbation of the Okhuaihe devotees.  In response, the Okhuaihe raise once again the deeply moving songs of the Ikpoleki festival, and dance in entertainment of their wayfarer visitor.  With this session of mutual recognition and appreciation over, the Okhue Osuan resumes his ceremonial journey to Benin.

The visitor arrives in the City and progresses along UTANTAN (Sokponba Road) High Street, singing the seasonal songs of the occasion.  He stops only once along UTANTAN, and that is at the EKI OKPAGHA, the Okpagha Tree Market.  Now taken over by residential building, the site of what was the Okpagha Tree Market is today the area of Sokponba Road between Ogbelaka Street and the Cathedral Church of ST, Mathew.  The Okhue Osuan carries out a mandatory ritual observerance there at the EKI OKPAGHA.  Then he moves on to the Osuan premises, behind The Moat, opposite the present day "Nigerian Observer" premises.

At Chief Osuan's premise, the purposes of the of the Okhue Osuan's long trek from Iguekhue village to Benin City are met.  As he and his entourage embark on their homeward journey along Utantan High Street, the people of the City say that the OKHU OSUAN has duly thrown open the gates for the commencement of the year's EHO festival, and they hail him as he passes by.  In Nine days, they say, the Iyase will kick off the celebrations with the performance of his own Eho.  In thirteen days, five days after the Iyase ceremony, the generally of the City Citizen, along with other Chiefs, will arrange their own ceremonies in their individual homes.

The Eho ceremony is a yearly festival during which during which the Edo feed their dearly departed ancestors.  The ceremony is the Principal festival of the religion of Ancestor's worship.  And ancestor worship is the only collective religion possessed by the Edo's as an ethnic group.  It is native to the land and to its inhabitants, subscribed to by all of the people.  The other native religions which exist in Edo land, like the Okhuaihe, the Ovia, and the Olokun - are mere cults, hero warship cults, restricted in spread and acceptance, and practiced only by their adherents.  On the other hand, ancestor -worship is practiced by all without exception.  It is the religion which people refer to when they talk about the "Traditional Religion".  

The Eho is its yearly celebration.

The elaborateness of the Eho festival in each individual household is directly proportional to the size of the family purse.  A titled citizen would go to the Oba Palace to inform the Monarch that he4 intend to feed his "ancestors" on the evening of that particular day.  The Oba would present to the Chief a gift of a bawl of kola nuts.  These would be the kola nuts, augmented by the Chief, which would be used for prayers at the
 aro erha, the alter of the ancestors, at the actual ceremony later that evening.

The whole of the extended family gathers at the family home.  Grown-up sons who have already left home to set up homes of their own arrive at the ancestral family home, accompanied by their own individual families.  The married daughters of the home also arrive with their husbands and children.

Early at dusk, the worship at the ancestral alter by the whole family takes place.  The worship at the
 aro erha, aro iye or aro erhinmwin, by the gathered congregation is climaxed by the slaughtering of the sacrificial livestock earmarked for the ceremony  The sacrificial offering provides the meat for the general feasting which takes place at break of day.  When the religious aspect of the ceremony is over, the main business of the evening commences, which is the NARATION OF THE HISTORY OF THE FAMILY, begun as far back in time as it could be remembered.  This history is told by the head of the household of the home, around whom are gathered his wives, Sons and Daughters, with their wives and Husbands, grand children and great-grand children.  The Family history narration is the HIGH WATERMARK of the night's activities, re-invigorating all the listeners and renewing the BONDS OF THE KINGSHIP WHICH LINK THEM TOGETHER.


What remains of the night is then taken up with singing and dancing and story telling, i.e. the telling of Folk tales, until the early hours of the next morning when haven had their fill of  the merriment, people wander off to catch a nap before daybreak.

The festival cooking starts at Dawn.  The ancestral spirits are given their own portion of the cooked food in a short ceremony at the ancestral alter, after which the general ceremony commences.  Cooked food, especially portion of the slaughtered animal, is sent to all the neighbors and friends.  If a Cow has been slaughtered for the ceremony in the household, of a Chief, a hind-leg of the sacrificial offering along with other items would be sent to the Oba's Palace.

The Benin City grandee is less censorious of the unrefined habits of the visiting villager during the Eho season because the villager always comes to Benin with welcome bundles of the yam tuber.

During the Eho festival period, the sons-in-law of household get yet another opportunity to give meaning to their son-ship of the family of their wives.  They accompany their wife/wives tot the Eho ceremony laden with bundles of scares yam tubers plus calabashes of sweet palm wine, augmented frequently with sacrificial items of livestock like cockerels and goats.  

TO BE CONTINUED...
Jul. 27, 04


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