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Edo, one of the world´s greatest ancient civilizations (Part 1)
Posted by anonymous at 09:02 AM on September 15, 2009
By NAIWU OSAHON
The Edo cosmological account of the universe draws significantly from the Egyptian one. The Egyptian version, which later formed the basis of Genesis in the Bible, is that the universe was created from chaos and primaeval (or ancient) ocean. After a hill (called ta-tjenen) arose from the bottom of the ocean, a son-god (God´s child or baby god) called Atom, (which is the Sun without which life on earth is impossible), appeared on the land created by the hill. The son-god or Atom then created eight other gods, which together with himself made nine gods. These nine gods are presumed by modern science to be symbolized by the nine major planets of the universe.
The Edo version is that, in the beginning, Osanobua (God, Oghene-Osa, Tu-SoS), decided to populate the world so He asked His four sons in Erinmwin (Heaven), to choose whatever gift of nature each fancied. The oldest chose wealth, the next in age chose wisdom, the third chose mysticism (spiritual energy), and as the youngest was about to announce his choice, Owonwon (the Toucan) cried out to him to settle for a snail shell. This did not make sense to him but he settled for it all the same. The brothers laughed at his stupid choice but Osanobua said it was a wise choice. That when they get to the middle of the water where He was sending them, the youngest son should turn his snail shell facing the water.
There was no land only water every where and the four sons were in a canoe, sailing, drifting, propelled by the power of eziza (wind). In the middle of the water stood a tree on top of which lived (Owonwon) the toucan. The importance of the emergence of the tree before man on earth is not lost on modern science, which recognizes that without the tree manufacturing oxygen, life on earth would have been impossible. Modern science has also confirmed the Edo cosmology that birds, insects etc preceded man to earth. The Edo myth of creation was earth based in scope.
When the children got to the middle of the water, the youngest son turned his snail shell upside down resulting in an explosion from the bottom of the water that forced volumes and volumes of sand to gush out of the water and fill up space around them for as far as the eyes could see. With the explosion, the four elements of creation, amen (water), eziza (air), arhen (fire) and oto (sand or land) were in place. Land was every where but the kids did not know what it was. They were afraid to climb out of the canoe to step on the land, so they sent the Chameleon to test its firmness. That is why the Chameleon walks with hesitation.
The youngest son of Osanobua was the only spirit out of the four sons who could have the physical human body attribute on stepping on the land, because that was the advantage of the physical or material choice he made. It was put in his hand from heaven. The other sons were deities. The youngest son, the ruler of the earth, represents innocence and so is susceptible to the powers of the deities, his brothers. These same weak and strong, good and evil, physical and spiritual, influences form the basic elements of all modern religions, with man endowed with the power to make choices.
Junior wanted his older spirit brothers to remain with him on his land. The oldest brother chose to take his spirit gift and live in what was left of the water. The other two brothers accepted junior´s invitation and deposited their spirit selves and gifts on the land as soon as they stepped on it from the canoe. Junior stepped on his land gingerly at first, then vigorously, stamping hard and repeatedly on it, running and rolling over it. He looked around and felt good and happy with his enormous gift. He called his land agbon (earth), and himself, Idu, meaning the first human on earth. He decided to walk around and explore the extent and nature of his gift. It had trees, shrubs, birds, animals, insects, which all came out of water with the land, and the land sprawled endlessly. After walking for a while pushing through shrubs; almost stepping on insects, ants and crawlers; talking to birds that appeared to be serenading him and animals that came close or ran from him, he was tired. He sat on the stump of a tree to rest, later lying on the ground to sleep.
While asleep, Osanobua came down with a chain from heaven, looked around to ensure that everything was in place, including the Sun and the Moon that were to regulate day and night and the seasons. When Idu woke up, he was excited to find himself in the presence of a huge, soothing illumination, surrounded by darkness. The earth was dark. He knew he was in the presence of the ´Almighty´ and did not want to look directly at the illumination. He went down humbly and quickly on his knees to thank Osanobua for the immense earth gift bestowed on him.
“You are happy then?” Osanobua asked Idu. “Very, very,” Idu said, adding humbly, “but I am hungry. I have not eaten since I arrived here? What do I do for food?” Osanobua said, “Stretch your hand up above your head; the sky would respond by coming close to your hand. Pluck what ever you need from the sky. Don´t pluck more than you need to eat to satisfy your hunger at any one time though.” ”I won´t, I won´t,” Idu said eagerly, stretching his right hand right away to pluck a mouthful of food from the sky. As he munched away happily, eyes and head rolling to show joy and satisfaction, he managed to mumble, “it tastes very nice, I love it.”
“What else do you need?” Osanobua asked Idu. “Dad, I could do with a human companion. I am lonely. My brothers are spirits and I can no longer relate with them,” Idu said. Osanobua said, “You are not flesh and blood alone. You are part spirit too. Your spirit brothers are not far away. Experience would teach you how to harness wisdom, one of your spirit brothers, which would teach you how to combine your physical and spiritual energies to cultivate wealth and spiritual fulfilment, your other two spirit brothers.”
Osanobua gave the oldest son control of the waters. The Edo call this son, Olokun (meaning the god of the waters). Olokun represents aspects of life such as good health, long life, good luck, prosperity and happiness, to which man may appeal through ritual purity. The other spirit sons were allowed the freedom to use their magical powers to balance out the negative and positive forces of nature. To shorten the process of acquiring spiritual wisdom, Osanobua strengthened the mystical energy with three new forces: Oguega, Ominigbon and Iha, to provide humans with spiritual guidance to differentiate rights from wrongs.
Osanobua then told Idu to take sand with both palms from the ground and stretch his hands close together in front of him. As soon as Idu did as he was told, Osanobua called forth a female person, pointing His staff where she appeared in front of Idu. “Whao,” Idu exclaimed on beholding the beautiful female person standing in front of him. She smiled happily and went down on her knees to greet Osanobua, looking at Idu who she also greeted. Idu held her hands in response and hugged her. Osanobua said, “she is Eteghohi (a woman) and you are Etebite, (a man). In marriage you would multiply to ensure there is no shortage of hands in the management of the earth´s resources.”
As Osanobua was making to leave, Idu politely asked: “what if we have other problems and want to reach our creator quickly?” Osanobua said, “you can individually live for up to five hundred years, but you can come to me at will through your individual spirit self, ehi, whose double is permanently with me in heaven. All you would need to do is climb the Alubode hill and you are with ehi in heaven, who would bring you to me.”
As Osanobua left to his abode where the earth, water, and the sky meet, darkness was lifted from the earth.
Life was sweet and easy and before long, Idu and his wife, Eteghohi, were making babies. As the years rolled by, generations of extended Idu´s family began to spread out in all directions, setting up communities, villages and towns. The different communities farthest from base spoke variations of Idu language and knew that they came from one common ancestor, Papa Idu, the ancestor of all mankind. Everything went well for thousands of years until one day when Emose, a pregnant woman, out of greed, cut more food than she needed to eat at once, from the sky. There was an immediate explosion and the sky began receding from human reach. Direct interaction with Osanobua from then on became difficult because humans could no longer walk in and out of heaven at will. Emose´s greed destroyed the age of innocence and brought into human affairs, two new spirits, Esun and Idodo, both representing obstacles humans must now overcome to reach heaven. Idodo is the spirit ´police´ that ensures that natural or divine laws are obeyed. Idodo seeks to ensure we repent and atone for our sins. Esun is the ´servant´ spirit or angel that takes genuine human pleas, performed in the purity of heart, before Osanobua.
Emose´s greed also brought a lot of suffering and pains to humans. Forests were soon depleted of their natural food supply, so humans began to toil hard clearing forests, burning bushes, tilling the land, planting, weeding, nurturing, threshing and harvesting. It was not easy. Before long, the lazy began to die like fowls in the desert. Farming activities began to take their toll on the ecological balance of the earth too, causing droughts, unpredictable seasons, and environmental degradation. The soil began to suffer and die from over use, yielding less and less food despite the use of excrement as manure, which in turn caused its peculiar illness, pains and deaths.
Two new spiritual forces of nature were now evident and critical to human survival. They were Uwu (death), the harbinger of death, and Ogi´uwu (the spirit of death), representing mourning, evil omen, and diseases. Ogi´uwu owns the blood of all living things. Uwu and Ogi´uwu were causing havoc among humans. Humans who could live before for ukpo iyisen-iyisen vb´ iyisen (five hundred years) at a stretch, were now dying prematurely. Death was ready to take life at any time, and Ogi´uwu was sending every one who disobeyed Osanobua (or nodiyi-Osa) to death, regardless of age.
To convince Idodo to prevail on Uwu and Ogi´uwu to temper justice with mercy and get Esun to take our pleas to Osanobua to control the forces, required the services of our own individual spirit called ´ehi.´ Ehi could no longer go directly to Osanobua because of Emose´s sin, except at the point before our birth. The Bini say there are two aspects of man. One half is ehi, which is the spirit essence, and the other half is the okpa, which is the physical person. Before birth, ehi, (the spirit essence) of the individual, humbly goes before Osanobua to request endorsement of the kind of life the individual would wish to live on earth (agbon). The request is obviously made with a baby´s sense of innocence about rights and wrongs, and the weight of the karmic debt and credit baggage of the individual from previous life cycles and styles. However, the choice of the new life style is patently and entirely the individual´s, and could be any of one or a combination of scenarios. The individual may want to be a powerful spiritualist, a rich business man or farmer, a great warrior or soldier, a happy or unhappy family man, a wimp or beggar, a revered medicine man, a famous chief, politician, or popular king, and even a notorious or very successful thief.
The request process is called ´hi´ and leads to Osanobua stamping his sacred staff on the floor to seal the wish. The approved secret wish is only known to ehi, who is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that his second half, okpa, (the physical human self), keeps to the promises made before Osanobua. Ehi is the spiritual counterpart of okpa in heaven. Half of ehi comes with okpa to earth to ensure permanent link with ehi in heaven. That half is called orhion. When okpa dies, orhion stays close to okpa until okpa is properly buried and all rites are completed. Orhion, cleansed of sins, returns to heaven to be one with ehi. Ehi and okpa may come back 7 times each, making a total of fourteen times in all. Each return, known as reincarnation, provides the opportunity to atone for the sins committed in previous life times. When cleansing is complete, ehi takes its proper place in Eguae Osanobua vb´ Erinmwin (heavenly paradise).
Every thing discussed so far is encapsulated in the Idu (Edo) Mysteries. Idu mystics are known as Oboihoi abbreviated generally as Obo. They say, ´emwin agbon nat ´ole okhiokhi,´ meaning, events on earth move in cycles. They insist that ´one should live for the benefit of other things.´
Idu Mystery priests or Oboihoi, are vast in miracles and magic. Initiation ceremonies still retain some of the ancient Egyptian enigma, such as the shaving of the head, and peculiarly include spending some days alone in the forest. No one returns from the sojourn and not be a changed personality. Initiates study several means of divination, the main ones being: Ifa, Iha, Oguega and Ominigbon. All four divinities are repositories of the history, philosophy, culture and traditions of the Idu (Bini). The central figures, like in other mysteries with their saints, deities, and spiritual icons, include: Okhuaihe, Oravan, Ogun, Olokun, etc., who are intermediaries and can be imaged, unlike Osanobua who is imageless.
The divinities are oral, secretive and thrive on the words of wisdom from the obvious to the proverbial, the mystical to the esoteric. Both the Idu (Edo) and Egyptian Mysteries use myths, parables, proverbs, symbols; magic and numbers to conceal truth and knowledge from the non-initiate.
Iha, for instance, is a gigantic memory bank of words, ideas, anecdotes on all sorts of events on earth and under the heavens. No issue is too trivial to preserve, and the information bank´s subjects range from births to deaths of the lowly and the kings, wars, evolutions of great and small empires, nations, journeys, marriages, quarrels etc. Every incidence imaginable is carefully catalogued, itemized, and stored away, ready to be accessed by the trained mind at will. The knowledge bank is constantly being replenished and updated to make it ever fresh, relevant, contemporary and comprehensive.
Initiates go through long, tedious periods of training where teaching is memorized rather than written down. Progress between grades is slow and laborious, subjecting initiates to memory and bodily ordeals and tests. Only the physically fit, tough, and determined, can last that long, complete the training and graduate. Many fall by the way side. Those who qualify, become Oboihoi, abbreviated as Obo. The mavens among them are gods in their own rights and can do anything.
The Idu people, like other Africans, have only one Osanobua and several intermediaries in form of saints, gods, deities, because Osanobua became remote to humans as a result of Emose´s sin. With pains and suffering on earth refusing to abate after Emose´s sin and Osanobua´s anger by taking the sky (therefore food), too far out of human reach, Idu people started praying for abundant rainfall and sunshine all year round to replace the droughts they were experiencing.
The intermediary gods and deities were expected to intercede on their behalf before Osanobua over the relentless suffering on earth, and Ogi´uwu´s merciless execution of the mandate of death. At their individual, family, and community shrines, Idu people plead their cases through their individual ehi to the deities to take their pleas to Osanobua. After a while they began to feel that the response to their pleas was too slow or inadequate and began yearning for the opportunity to continue to visit heaven at will and plead directly before Osanobua as it was in the beginning. They felt they could maximize their chances by combining their efforts to reach Osanobua through their ehi and deities, with direct plea. This happened thousands of years before the Christian era.
In fact, the Christian creation ideas about Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and the Son-of-God, appear to have been taken verbatim from the Idu (Edo) corpus. But the Idu (direct interaction concept) is superior to the Christian one because, while Christians rely on an intermediary or a Messiah to reach the Supreme God, Idu people go directly, collectively. They have a human saint too who died for their collective well-being, but they believe every human must account individually for his or her deeds. No Messiah can cleanse your sins for you because we each have our individual covenant with Osanobua through our ehi, on the day before our birth on earth.
Leaders and priests of all the Idu deities agreed that while they should continue with their various individual efforts to reach Osanobua, they should also come together regularly to plead and pray with one voice for Osanobua´s direct intervention and blessings in their lives. They each first went through self purification processes such as fasting and spiritual cleansing, and collectively cleansed the place chosen for the prayer gathering. The prayer sessions at the gathering point, went on regularly for a long while without any noticeable change in their plight, so one day, one of them, a powerful spiritual leader and priest by the name Okhuaihe, offered to take the people´s prayers and pleas to Osanobua in heaven. That meant dying for the uplift of his people, of course. The Idu people reluctantly agreed with him and promised to continue to pray at the chosen spot until he returned, or forever if he failed to return.
They continued praying at the same spot regularly for years and still Okhuaihe did not return and there was no visible change in their circumstance. Droughts were still ravaging the earth and many were dying helplessly from hunger and diseases. To mark the prayer spot, they planted the Uwerhien ´otan tree, and heaped earth at its base to create a shrine to Osanobua. This was the only spot where direct prayers were offered to God in Idu land. At every other shrine, whether at home or in communal settings, they prayed through their ehi and deities. Still, Okhuaihe did not come back but one day, darkness fell on earth at noon. A huge ball of fire descended from the sky and with it came a thunderous voice confirming the presence of Osanobua and suggesting that Okhuaihe´s mission had not been in vain. The voice said: “Okhuaihe delivered your message to me, but your wishes are against my creative will and I will not grant them.”
A while after the voice spoke, another ball of fire descended from the sky through the darkness and fell on earth to lift the darkness. Idu people were expecting Okhuaihe to return with the lifting of darkness but he didn´t, so they declared that: Aimi ´ose no ye ´rinmwin.” Meaning life after death is beyond understanding. Idu people, however, consoled themselves with the thought that the new ball of fire from the sky must have brought a message from Osanobua. They organized a search party to locate where it fell and what it was. At the spot where the ball of fire fell, at the junction of Igbesanwman and today´s Aruosa Street, they found a strange huge black stone. The unique black stone, which looks alien to our world, is one of the relics the British took away during their sacking and burning of Benin City in 1897. Idu people named the stone ´Aruosa,´ meaning the Eye of Osanobua (God) watching over His creation. It is a symbol of Idu people´s direct experience of God. They built a proper house of worship at the spot where they had always gone to pray to Osanobua. This happened over 3000 years ago. The ancient site is at a place known today as Akpakpava Road. Therefore, nobody can teach Idu (Edo) people anything about how to worship God. They knew and heard directly from God, thousands of years before the Christian era.
Aruosa doctrine is described as Godianism, meaning, direct one-on-one interaction with God. It requires no intermediaries, Messiahs or Redeemers. Aruosa´s body of beliefs, teaching and practices have not changed in thousands of years. Their preaching is pre-occupied with what they describe as the saga of creation by Osanobua. In worship, they invoke the presence of God with songs and by cleansing and sanctifying themselves. Ihonmwen ´egbe n´ Osa mwen, meaning, “I purify myself for my God.” They pray and dance to their songs, using traditional musical instruments, including drums and the ukuse, to produce their music. They believe the sounds of drums, songs and dance help to invoke the spirit of God. Prayers are rendered in songs and a typical one goes like this:
“We believe in God
and we serve Him
because we abhor quarrels
death and poverty.”
A popular closing song goes like this:
“God, we have made time to serve you,
Give us the time and blessing
to achieve our goals.”
Worship is on Sundays (the African veneration day), from 10 am to 12 noon. Aruosa is ruled by a Council of Elders under a Chairman who is the ´Ohen Osa Nokhua,´ (Chief priest/ Pope). The current Ohen Osa is Col. Paul Osakpamwen Ogbebor (Rt.). The patron of the Aruosa is the Oba of Benin. The Aruosa´s Ohen Osa led a delegation of Aruosa priests to Portugal in 1462, during the reign of Oba Ewuare. The Aruosa priests picked up a few ideas about mode of dressing which they adapted. They were surprised that baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church played similar roles as the Aruosa initiation rites into the lower and upper sanctum of the Aruosa faith. Initiation at the level of baptism in Aruosa is not with water as in the Catholic faith, but with the white chalk (orhue), which is the symbol of cleanliness, purity, joy, and success. The equivalent to confirmation initiation rites in Aruosa, use palm fronds (igborhe), which is the symbol of renewal of life, multiplicity and endlessness. Christians use palm fronds in their Palm Sunday rituals as a symbol of renewal of life but deride Africans they copied from, as primitive and savage for using them.
The British, after conquering and burning Benin City, banned the worship of the Supreme God at Aruosa, describing the practice, which is not only superior to their concept and mode of worship, but older by thousands of years, and from which they took their religious bearing, as barbaric. Oba Akenzua II, defied the British ban in 1945, by building the first Aruosa Cathedral on the ancient Aruosa site at Akpakpava Road, which the Roman Catholic Church had usurped before that time to erect their Cathedral. Akenzua II set up 12 Aruosa schools in Benin City, Urora and other places, to spread the teaching of the faith. Through his influence Aruosa houses of worship were built in Onitsha, Umuahia, and Port-Harcourt, as well as in Cotonou in Benin Republic. The Nigerian civil war truncated the gains made by Aruosa during Akenzua´s reign. The military regime seized all mission schools, including the Aruosa´s, and ran them aground.
Ethos and Social Engineering
The success of Idu society may have been due in part to their belief that the sin of one of them affects the fortunes of every one else in the society. Every member of the society pays for Emose´s greed and must attempt to atone for it and cleanse it by working together with others as one family. I don´t know if this was unique to Idu society but it ensured that everyone was everyone else´s keeper. They looked out for the welfare of the others and so created a large family of achievers and an extended family that worked like one mind.
To the Idu people, Obo (hand) is human´s principal means of fulfilment, achievement and power. It symbolizes his ability and willingness to tame his environment, and supports the notion of reciprocity. A clenched fist, the Bini say, cannot take more than it is holding. To reap profit and abundance, one must be prepared to give or let go. They believed that events on earth move in cycles and that one should live for the benefit of other things. These are the critical concepts that helped Idu society to achieve the tremendous level of social sophistication, civilization and excellence in the arts, administration, conquests and social engineering envied today by modern society.
Man in Idu society was not perceived as a loner but as a member of a vibrant group with his or her individual uniqueness in skills and expertise recognized and encouraged to flourish. The Idu person was expected to contribute his or her individual uniqueness in talents, knowledge and skills to help build, sustain, and enhance the quality of life of the family, community and society. Obligations and activities were performed generally through age grade groups and guilds. Solidarity to the whole was emphasized above individual rights and loyalties, thereby encouraging the individual involved to develop a sense of duty and obligation to live, work, and if necessary die for the group or community. Broadly, while the junior age grades performed basic or elementary tasks such as clearing paths, caring for public buildings, middle grades adult males handled the more difficult tasks of roofing houses and administrative and executive functions for the community councils.
Even the Idu nuclear family was not restricted to the husband, wife and child notion. It embraced an expanding cycle of cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, grand parents, grand uncles, grand aunts and so on. There was usually a head or father figure or ultimate authority known as Okaegbee, recognized by all, and whose words were final in family matters. He was not a dictator, but arrived at decisions through exhaustive consultation, counseling and when necessary, divination. Most times, he was the oldest on the extended family tree and old age was generally considered to be synonymous with wisdom.
In the same way that each extended family had an Okaegbee, or leader, each ward, community, village, town, dukedom, had an Odionwere, who more often than not was the oldest person in the society. The community, village, town, or dukedom, organized itself into Otu (age) groups and guilds. Each Otu had seven divisions. The idea of seven started when a group of seven, known as the ´Ominigie,´ was set up during the Ogiso era. Ominigie was a militant or warrior group that went to war for the society. According to myths, the group accompanied their war activities with music and dance and when they were eventually vanquished, it was said that they danced their way to heaven. Another group of seven was promptly set up after their demise and the rhythm of seven has prevailed since.
Each of the seven divisions of the Otu (age groups) represents special ethos translating roughly as follows:
(b) Oba´s tax collectors
(c) Community publicity officers
(d) Task masters or enforcers
(e) Self help gurus
(g) Enforcers of loyalty and patriotism to the land and kingdom.
Otu age groups divide as follows: 5 – 15 (Emwin-rhoba-evbo); 16 – 30 (Eroghae); 30 – 50 (Eghele); 50+ (Odion). The oldest male in the community was on his own and was known as the Odionwere. Membership of each group was for life and group members moved into new age groups together. Elevation into the 50+ age group was only by merit, based on a measurable quality of character, achievement, and demonstrable level of wisdom. Therefore, a child who is hard working and precautious could move through the ranks to meet his father. Only one person moves from Odion to Odionwere (leader of the society or community), when the Odionwere´s position is vacant.
Such newly promoted Odionwere, who usually is the oldest person in the community, appoints two new Odions on merit to do the administration and running around for him because of his old age. The same scenario is repeated in the Otu groups that bring neighbouring villages, towns, dukedoms and communities together. Their special responsibilities at the inter community level include military and security services, administering spiritual needs, serving as think tanks and as apex groups known as the Elders Council. Beyond the Elders council is the Enogie, who principally is the head Chief of the group of communities, and is appointed by the Oba who he represents. The title of Enogie entitles the holder to wear coral beads.
Parallel with the Otu groups, which are largely concerned with administrative and security matters, are the guilds. The guilds are set up around professions, and are more or less like modern day trade unions, with a leader or head who is a chief and is appointed by the Oba. The guilds represent all facets of human endeavours. The Iwowa guild, for instance, is led by Chief Ogua and is responsible specifically for the digging of the underground burial chambers of a transited Oba. The Iwowa group is a branch of the Ihogbe, the monarch´s family group that takes care of his ancestral shrine, which includes the original Idu deity, and represents the ancestors of the kings.
Other guilds included the goldsmiths, brass smiths and blacksmiths; olopa (police); public health workers (including medical personnel, and nurses); warriors and peace maintenance or security; market men and women; sewers (fashion designers/producers, weavers); variety of sporting and games groups (such as wrestlers, chess players); farmers; wood carvers, ivory carvers; town criers; barbers; spiritual leaders (such as ´Obo,´ oguega, (diviners); artistes (drummers, theatrical groups, singers, dancers, clowns, jesters, story tellers); builders, interior decorators etc; Each group lived largely in a specially designated section of town and had its own chiefs appointed by the Oba, and its festivals.
Idu people had days for work, play and rest. They observed a four day week, the fourth day, called ´eken,´ was the rest day, and was reserved for sporting activities, games and all sorts of community programmes. They adopted the lunar calendar of 13 months in a year and 28 days in the month. The thirteenth month of every year was reserved for rest of humans and tools of work. Festivals and ceremonies were devoted to the period to propitiate and bless the tools and workers, and prepare them for another year. There were festivals such as Igue and Ague to celebrate the blessings of the out going year and to usher in the New Year. Other festivals included ones for elders, ancestors, facilities of trade or market days, single deities (such as Eho, Enorho) and Ikpoleki, for sweeping the market, which was more regular. Their primary food stuff consists of yam, cocoyam, plantain, cassava, corn, beans, peppers, okro, mellon, tomatoes and other vegetables. Fish and rice came from neighbouring communities. Hunting bush meat is an industry, so they have plenty of antelopes, foxes, hares and snails. They rare cows, goats, sheep, fowls….
Industry thrived and involved brass casting, wood carving, leather working, cloth weaving, including ceremonial ones and traditional craft. Idu civilization was involved in the smelting of iron, or what is today known as metallurgy, hundreds of years before the advent of Whites in their midst. The Idu guild of iron-workers got their raw materials from Ineme territory in Akoko Edo, an iron bearing area extending to Itakpa hills in Kogi state from where the modern Ajaokuta steel complex is expecting to get a portion of its raw materials. Idu people called the raw steel from Ineme, Akpadan urigho, meaning two hundred cowries worth of precious metal. This was to emphasize the value Idu people attached to the material which they melted by separating the pure metal from the slag to produce works of art, jewelry, ornaments, pots and pans, knives, cutlasses, blades, hoes, chains, hundreds of years before they began receiving 100% pure metal from Europe some 500 years ago.
While Portugal and England traded largely in tinsel with Benin as recently as some 500 years ago, Holland brought in large quantities of iron bars, flint-lock guns, dane guns and ovbiosegba (or pistols). The Idu guild of iron-workers copied and produced the guns, and this industry is still very strong today in Benin. But Idu (Bini) people could not make gun powder, which in the end contributed to their conquest by the British. Bini people relied on the West for their supply of gun powder. The West only needed to dry the source and the guns became useless.
Idu people weaved their clothes, created world class masterpieces in art; built beautiful homes with intricately decorated red mud, eighteen inches or more thick, finished with neat thatched roofs. The palaces of the monarchs, nobles and chiefs, consisted of a series of atriums (ikuns), linked internally by corridors, with rooms surrounding each of the trapped rectangular space (oteghodo or impluvium), open to the sky. Their streets in the capital were wide, straight, with the principal ones radiating from a circular or ring road around the Oba´s palace, like a spider´s web. The streets were swept daily, as was every compound in the city. Every citizen who could work, had a job, there was no room for unemployment.
Idu people have some of the most engaging, elaborate, colourful, exciting, ennobling, courtship, engagement, wedding, pregnancy, successful delivery, naming the child, burial, memorial or anniversary, honouring etc., ceremonies in the world, incorporating singing, dancing, feasting, and lavishly making merry. They wean a child for two to three years and insist on breast-feeding to bond the child to the mother and ensure discipline and good behaviour in the child.
Their mode of salutation in the early morning hours, is based on traditions of family trees. Although marriages across family groups have broadened the family tree structure, every Idu person can generally use their family mode of salutation or greetings in the morning to trace their family trees, hundreds if not thousands of years back. This author´s family, for instance, principally came from the lagiesa, lamogun and lavhieze family trees. Idu inheritance laws favour the oldest son, unless there is a will.
Myths put the number of dances by the Idu people at 201. There is a special dance, at least, for every occasion and dances range from ligho, ileghe, edakpaese, ohogho (for second burial), ugba (religious), izabede, (man and woman dance), oyingin (social dance), eghughu agba (no rhythm, every one dances as he or she likes), ekpo (masquerade) dance, olude and so on. The olude dance, came about when Omo N´ Oba Ehengbuda, the greatest mystic of all Benin Oba´s, thought he could still walk into heaven as it was in the beginning of time in Idu history. He was very old and senile but death was refusing to relieve him of his discomfort. One day, he assembled members of the palace society and led them to Ughoton, hoping to find the way to heaven there. Waddling, rather than swim, mid way into the Imimikpo River from the shallow side with members of his group in toe, a voice told him it was no longer possible to walk straight from earth to heaven. Disappointed, he returned to the palace where the palace ´Iwebo society´ developed the waddling dance with raised hands above the head to mimic the monarch and his group´s efforts to engage death through River Imimikpo. The palace house keepers, known as the ´Iweguae society,´ learnt the dance to rejoice that the monarch came back. Olude dance is performed in memory of that event yearly.
The Idu people evolved a very complex, elaborate, detailed and efficient machinery of government based upon a monarchical type of administration with spiritual and temporal authority. The head of government, who is like a modern day prime minister, is Chief Iyase; the title is not passed from father to son. To speak for the king or on behalf of the people to the king, are the Ekhaemwen. Each Ekhaemwen is like a modern day minister of government with specifically assigned duties in the palace and the land.
Benin chiefs are distinctly decked out in rich flowing white garbs with precious (ivie) coral beads around the necks and wrists; special hair cut that stands them out uniquely and with dignity, and are heralded always with their sword of honour. In fact, the hair style of Bini chiefs is similar to Pharaoh Ramses II´s famous helmet, while the small circles on the helmet appear also on many Bini bronzes. Bini Queens wear the world famous ´okuku´ hairstyle resembling a packed high Afro, embellished with expensive (ivie) coral beads. Bini Queens´ hairstyles are identical to that of Pharaoh Mycerinus (Fourth-Dynasty), and Pharaoh Sesostris I (Twelfth Dynasty).
Bini kings had immense political powers, as ultimate judges in court matters, the deliverers of death penalty, the receivers of taxes and tributes, the regulators of trade, the nominal owners of the land of the kingdom, chief executives and lawmakers, and principal custodians of customs and traditions. Their powers were, however, hedged with checks and balances to prevent excesses. A retinue of advisers, Elders´ councils and taboos guide their utterances and actions. Their powers are held in trust for the entire community and cannot be exercised without consultation with other levels of authority, such as the kingmakers.
Bini monarchs demonstrate strong affinity with ancient Egyptian Gods and Pharaohs, with which they share identical authority, grandeur and a great deal of reverence from their subjects. Like the Pharaohs, Idu (Edo) monarchs are God-kings. Because they are God-kings and God-sons, they are considered divine and worshipped by their subjects, who speak to them always with great reverence, at a distance, and on bended knees. Great ceremonies surround every action of the Bini king. The kings of Benin (Bini), Edo, also adopt grand Osirian titles of the ´Open Eye,´ signifying omniscience and omnipotence. Edo monarchs, when they transit to the beyond, are, like the Egyptian Pharaohs, set up in state, in a linked series of underground chambers, surrounded with their paraphernalia of power, and all of the items they would require for their comfortable sojourn in the ethereal world.
The Ada, another evidence of link with the Pharaohs of Egypt, is a scimitar or sword with a single cutting edge, like a machete curved at its broadest tip, used in desert battles. Edo use the Ada along with the Eben, another sword of battle, with double cutting edge, native to them, as conjoined emblem of state authority, in the manner the Egyptian Pharaohs used the ´Double Crown,´ as symbol of authority and the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt.
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