Great Benin Bronze


Nowamagbe Austin OMOIGUI, MD

Naming Ceremony

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:

Ingredient and significance

Kola Nuts
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.

Palm Wine
For prayers and libation

Native chalk mixed with salt
For prayers that symbolize happiness

Honey, Bitter Kola, and Alligator Pepper
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.

Palm Oil
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.


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.

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