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FEASTS AND RELAXATION

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I have found no uniformity for this ceremony, but all over Esan where it was done, the significance was the same. In places where the ceremony had the greatest significance it was performed by the wealthiest and top ranking people of the Community. This was the case in Igueben, Ughegun, Ekpoma etc. In Ugboha it was quite a simple ceremony: a man never went in for the ceremony until he had a child; then he went to the Odion of his family who tied the cloth, a simple hand woven piece of cloth, round his waist with his blessings. Age did not matter. In Ibhole and Ukhun the ceremony was performed in age grades, for example, all Egbonughele could perform it together and then left this rank of scavengers.

In Ewohimi and Ebelle areas it was simpler still and made so cheap that it would be within the reach of every man. It could only be performed by those with children however, but if they had none of their own they could adopt their brother’s sons for that purpose. Irrua form of iruen was simple to the point of being ridiculous; all one required was a native tomato (okhokho) and one fluted pumpkin (Umenkben). At the ancestral shrine his guardian tied a cloth round him, and his wife, who he might have been living with for years, was shown to him! On the contrary, in a place like Ukpenu, Ekpoma, it was a terrifying ceremony; cows, goats, sheep must be used. A man might be very rich and might be the oldest man in the village; until he had performed the Iruen ceremony he was of the street sweeper rank.

The Ekpoma or Igueben ceremony was the more customary of the expensive type. All other types were in essence modifications dictated by common hardship and necessity. A ceremony with such great significance ought not to be made so difficult that only the upper segment of the community could perform it. for instance, in Ekpoma, it was only the man who had advanced in age with several children and of sufficient financial standing that could dare embark on the crushing expenses.

Firstly, the man called his Egbele together to consult the oracle as regards who amongst the elders who themselves had performed the Iruen, should tie his cloth. The oracle was consulted four times before a date was fixed. He then got ready two pieces of cloth which must be white, Okhon, a cloth-hike material from Qgolo palm Raphia) and Ovu-Orele which was the belt. On the appointed day he killed a he-goat with which he prepared foufou. The Egbele was then called together, the white cloth, Okhon and Ovu-Orele in a white-washed calabash container brought out and the celebrant with his wife was then surrounded by the ¡gene and Egbonughele who spread out their own covering cloths. The man then removed all his clothes and the appointed elder tied the white cloth round his waist and over this, the Okhon. The cloth underneath was tied with the Ovu-Orele. Three times the elder called his name but he should not answer until the fourth time when he did so with HE YO -O, AGBON TIE MEN O IYE ELINMIN. Truly, it is the world calling me and not spirits!). He was then covered with chalk and asked to take his wife with whom he had been clothed. The man then went home and danced round the village kneeling at each door to thank the people. He was greeted with U KHI RUEN NE ELINMIN GBE! (May you not be clothed to die at the hands of the spirits!). He was given money or the house owner might shoot a gun in his honour. On getting back home there was feasting with dancing and the booming of guns. For the next seven days he was strictly forbidden from sleeping on an uncleaned   or unrubbed house, sitting on bare ground, eating of a meal without meat and must not sleep alone. On the seventh day he slaughtered a cow; thirty pieces and twenty pieces were used to cook foufou for the Edion and Igene respectively. Only those who had already performed the ceremony could partake of this meat. The remaining meat was used to prepare six calabashes of foufou for his age grade that turned up at night to eat their share. They divided themselves unto Okh jode, Oheruan and Ohiyon, each group taking two calabashes of foufou.

SIGNIFICANCE OF CEREMONY:
Clothing ceremony was the most authoritative act of a man who desired honour and respect of all in the village. No man who had not performed it could be made Odionwele. While the laws attached to this ceremony conferred honour, distinction and marks of high social standing on the performer, he was strictly guided by certain laws calculated to make him live an honourable life for the rest of his life. These laws were:

(a) He was duty bound to settle any dispute coming to his knowledge between a man and his wife.

(b) He could no longer be called upon to sweep the street or be challenged to a wrestling match or be attacked. Any attacker did so at the risk of having a goat slaughtered against him by the Edion.

(c) As a man of dignity he had to conduct himself honourably at all times and must never again do certain acts of dishonour like kneeling, stooling over paths, yam holes or moats (Iyala) or clean himself after defecation on a kola nut tree, telling lies, abetting crimes etc. -

(d) He must not find a tree across the farm path and side-track it saying it was none of his business to help cut it off.

(e) He could no longer sit on bare ground and hence had to carry EKPOKIN about and on this he sat.

(f) If it fell to his turn he could now be made an Odionwele. If he was the oldest man in the village and he had not performed IRUEN he forfeited what his age had brought him.

(g) In death, honour and respect followed him to the grave:
With or without children he must be fully clothed before burial. In the olden days a man who had not performed this ceremony was on death, buried as he was born, NAKED A Khi run, ai ye lu okholo ai ye deba eneria (when you have performed this clothing ceremony, you no longer do evil, you no longer associate with evil doers)

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