FESTIVALS AND CEREMONIES
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.
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.
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 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,
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:
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)
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
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
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
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
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