EDO FESTIVALS AND CEREMONIES.
Segun Toyin Dawodu,
Constant references have been made to the ritual and traditional ceremonies which are associated with the historical past of the Edo people. No detailed account is intended here but a brief account of some of the ceremonies will give an insight into their historical origin.
This is the first month of the Benin year in which the children of the reigning Oba observe the festival of "AMA" at which period, livestock like goats, chickens and snails are used for the feast. It marks the fertility of the soil.
Festival for cleaning and washing of the Royal coral beads.
For commemorating affluence. Oba Ewedo (circa 1255 AD) introduced the ceremony but the ceremonial bird (Ahiamwe-oro cast in brass) was introduced into the ceremony by Oba Esigie about 1504 AD.
In memory of the god of Iron.
This festival is a thanksgiving ceremony to the HANDS which are considered to be creator of many things.
In memory of the reigning Oba's father.
This festival is one of the festivals handed over to us by our ancestors. It is a festival heralding good luck and it began in the era of Oba Ewuare the Great who reigned over Benin in the 15th century (1440 - 1473 AD). It is the beliefs of the Edo people that the luck of their monarch is intertwined with the people over which the monarch reigns. The whole people look up to the oba for leadership. The Oba is the embodiment of the Edo culture and his luck becomes their own. It is for this reasons that the Igue festival is celebrated every year.
The festival usually begins with the anointing of the Oba's head with chalk signifying purity and the blood of the sacrificial animals which are usually slaughtered during the festival which is characterised with merriment. The chiefs usually pay homage to the Oba. After the Oba has performed his own igue, members of the royal family perform their own on the third day and thereafter(three days later), the Edos celebrate their own igue.
In memory of the defeat of Arhuanran by Oba Esigie at Udo.
The festival is in honour of Ogun (The implement of war) which was used for the destruction of the man-eating monster "OSOGAN". At this festival, the Oba and his war chiefs parade the city in war costume and the ILOBI people fight a mock battle with poisoned arrows invented by the deity "AKE OF ISI" . This festival ends with the AMUFI (the tree-top acrobats) performing their special rituals which remind the Edo people of the mystical power involved in the destruction of the monster OSOGAN. The AMUFI also specialises in catching the eagle for the Benin Royal Palace.
UGIE - ODODUA (AGUOSA)
Originally instituted by Oba Eweka 1 (about 1200 AD) to commemorate Ododua, but Oba Eresoyen (1740 - 1750 AD) later modified the mask of the masquerades to the present seven bronze masks which were modelled after the masks of Osa N'Uzala (a spiritual deity from Uzala).
Benin traditional fasting period.