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Hero-Deities Of Cultural Heritage

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With ambrose ekhosuehi {Last update 25/092017}

Hero-deities are mythical or semi-mythical figures of the past, most of whom are believed to have turned themselves into rivers, animals, birds, trees or other natural objects. Several of them are believed to have been men or women of exceptional magical powers who lived in the olden days.
The rites associated with various cultures differ considerably.

In most cases the same deity may be worshipped by different villages which may be scattered or contiguous. There is often some co-operation between the community and the priest, with the same culture when the festival is in progress. In the same vein there is a division of labour between the sexes as there are often secrets which are kept from the women folk.

The deity is often conceived of as a being at one and at the same time, a famous or heroic figure of the past and a natural feature of the environment which may be a valley, hillock or small lake or generally a river, a stream into which the hero or heroine is supposed to have been transformed.

Most of these figures feature in legends connected with the history of the people and in the myths of mankind. Their activities in human form are assigned to particular eras.

Associated with each hero-deity is a shrine housed in a special building, which may be within the built-up areas; or in a clearing in the bush. The site is in the control of one or two priests whose offices may be hereditary or elective or assigned on the basis of some criteria which are held to indicate selection by the deity itself.

Most of the priests are males, but in some cases, the priest or one of the priests may be a woman or the office may be held by either sex.

The priests while acting on behalf of individuals who make application to them, goes on continually, there are annual or at greater intervals, festivals in which the whole community takes part.

On these occasions particular roles are assigned to the men and the women who have their own duties. The people think of the festival as worship in honour of the deity concern and as a period in which relations between the objects of worship and the worshippers are strengthened; thus, by serving the deity, they bring themselves into closer contact with it.

The deity itself at certain stage of the rites, is believed to posses the priests; while in others, the deity is represented in the world by spirits who come back to visit their descendants.

These spirits are impersonated by their descendants during the “Ugie” then in the real world, the spirit world is brought into closer proximity and requests made to the deity.

The impersonated spirits are known as “Erinmwi” the sacred world, the world of the dead, and the unborn and where the gods reside is also known in general terms for “Ancestors”. They are said to represent the spirits of past worshippers.

During the festivals certain regulations must be observed. The erinmwin is said to be on the threshold between the actual visible world and the sacred world.

During the festival music is performed both at the principal shrine and at the community level. The instrumental ensemble is supplemented with the membrane cylindrical drums. The drums are covered on both end with skin whereas the single membrane is covered at one end with skin and the opposite end is opened. The pegged drums of this kind are often used in important festival.

The instrumental ensemble often consists, of drums, clapperless bells and gourd rattles. The rhythmic patterns are not the same for all herodeities.

Music for hero-deities give the performers and the listeners the opportunity to express and experience a variety of emotions, some of which are psychological relief.

The function of enforcing conformity of social norms is often provided by songs, sung in connection with the deity; especially at the time of initiation ceremonies. There is usually a performance songs which instruct the younger persons of the community in proper and improper behaviour.

Also in some, the enforcement of social norms is the main theme of many songs and dances that are performed as parts of the rites for various hero-deities. The subjects offer their loyalty and pay homage in terms of dances and song.

In some of these rites horns and large drums are used to stress the importance of the ceremonies, which they symbolize. The songs often contain recitations of myths and legends concerning the establishment of the existing social order and in religious ceremonies, they usually express confidence in the deities. The existing relationship between men and women, and between old and young are validated through songs and dance in the festivals.

Some instruments are associated with certain deities. They are often used instead of the traditionally prescribed drum types in the rites for certain deities. In some cases, substitution is not regarded as acceptable but instrumental ensembles may be flexible as to the number of clapper bells and gourd rattles that are used, which means that the size of a given type of ensemble may change from time to time, depending on the availability of instruments for the hero-deity.

The Edo people believe in a great number of deities and spirits, besides the major deities and hero-deities. If the traditions were adhere to, the culture would be determined by the type of ceremonies in which the instrument is played but instead of traditional prescribed type. Less available objects are used for the hero-deities.

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