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Physicians Festival Of Edo Culture

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With Ambrose Ekhosuehi {Last update 25/092017}

Physicians are human beings skilled in the art of medicines and treatments. All medical practitioners in Edo can be subsumed under the rubric — Ebo which can be translated “Traditional doctors”
Traditional doctors are normally specialists in some branch of medical activities such as curing, divining, combating evils, administering ordeals.

Thus, the “curing doctors” (Obo Odin) prepares medicines which are given to patient to drink, rub or inserted. Physic doctor (Obo Ighede) or doctor who goes to the cross — roads — ada, possesses certain medicines which enable him to recognize and combat evils while the “Ordeal doctor” (Obo itan) administers Ordeals of various kinds.

There are specialist doctors called the Ewaise. Some are among the Benin Palace official doctors and are considered to be very good in the practice of medicines and divinations. (Oguega, Ewawa)

Traditional doctors who are specialists in different branches of medicines often assemble to perform certain ceremonies which are believed to enable them to practice their various arts. On these occasions they beat the Ighede drums to invoke different deities, sing songs to strengthened their medicines, to the accompaniment of an instrumental ensemble which consists of drum-Ighede, Ukoise gourd rattles and egogo clapperless bells.

They often improvise on the basis of old texts in their songs, and the instrumental accompaniment is in most cases characterized by a rhythm that is played on one or two pairs of Ighede drum. The Oko horn is used to announce that a ceremony is about to begin.

Osun is the Edo god of medicine, whose assistance must be sought to ensure the effective use of all medicines, charms and armulets.

Isosun or eho osun is an annual festival usually celebrated at about the month of April. The physicians, their assistants beat the Ighede drums and dance. While dancing they perform medical tricks such as sowing plants i.e Okra which grow up immediately and produce. Taking tortoise out of abdomen, vomiting scorpions, stabbing bodies with knives without injury.

Great physicians are said to have turned into Leopard, Tiger, Hawk, Elephant, Chimpanzee, oil palm and transforming into a Cow being the most difficult degree.

Ogiobo are said to be the best doctors. Their greeting is ‘Labo’ and in the countryside, their head Leader is the Agboghidi, Ogiugo of Ugo.

Their center is Ugo N’Iyekeorkionmwon which is one of the centers of the Osun and not every doctor belongs to this sib. Ugo holds in custody all medicinal plants hence Ugo ebobo, Ugo all kinds of medicines. Further, some villages have community Osun shrines with recognized priests, and most househo1ds also have their own Osun shrines.

The Isosun festival is the gathering of all the physicians — Traditional Doctors, their henchmen, assistants and practitioners in honour of Osun during which all medicinal plants are gathered — Izerhan and all their medicines are to be strengthened.

At this festival, the physicians wear aba leglets, beat the Ighede drums and dance to the accompaniment of egogo clapperless bells and Ukoise gourd rattles with appropriate songs (everyday one seeks for healthcare doctors. Edeghagbe ano emwe Obo)

The Ighede-Obo of the traditional doctor is the necklace conica’ drums of the Edo culture, always occur in sets of two drums; of slightly different sizes and pitches tied together with one cord at the top and another at the bottom. Each drum body is made of a hollowed out trunk of wood, and at the bottom part of which a ring is carved out.

The wider end is covered with the skin of a viper-snake, whereas the more narrow end is open. The skin is tied with a circular cord near the rim.

When playing, the performer is either sitting with the drum carried suspended from the left shoulder by a strap or standing on the ground. The strap is attached near the tip of the drum set just above the rings at the bottom part.
The drums are beating with the hands. There are variations with regard to name. They are known as Ogede among the Ivbiosakon, whereas the Etsako call them Ikede.

According to tradition Ighede have existed for many centuries. Igheê drums were used already by ‘Ogiefa’ a traditional doctor who accompanied Prince Oronmiyan from Ife to Benin in the Twelfth century.

Oko is an instrument use by traditional doctors to evoke spirits and to keep evils always during curing practices. The size and material of an oko is determined by the particular ceremony and the status of the user. Persons of high rank usually having big Oko which may be made of brass or Ivory.

Natural medicines, especially those use by traditional doctors contain active ingredients found in trees and plants. In some countries the use of medicinal plants were compiled and there were listed more than 8, 000 herbal remedies. Nowadays, majority of the World population still depends on natural medicines.

Uses of natural medicines range from treating stomach ache and diarrhea to fungal skin infections and tonics for the heart. Trees can also play a preventive role in health care.

Research into the traditional medicine has led to the development of modern medicines, and the plant based drugs are used for the same or similar treatment in both traditional and modern medicine. New drugs are discovered every year, based on the advice of Local people.

The national cancer institute is testing more than a thousand plants a year as part of its anti-cancer and anti — AIDs research programmes.

The reliance of both rural and Urban people on plant medicines for health care ensures a steady and strong reliance on traditional healers, and a wide variety of plants are sold as medicines in some markets.

Traditional doctors, some are medium of spirit possession. Sometimes the person affected performs actions conforming to the identity of the spirit which is thought to be possessing. The identity and character of the spirit which is the object of the belief, depends on the particular social or ritual context.

The continuing importance of trees and plants for medicine is beyond doubt but unless we conserve the environment that support them, their continued availability is less certain, hence the Isosun must be sought to ensure the effective use of all plants medicines during the physicians festival of Edo Culture.

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