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Edo Women

Aruosa (God’s Shrine)

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Emonse, a pregnant woman had cooked more of the food of life than she could eat, contrary to Osanobuwa’s injunction that mankind may have as much of the food as needed, no more After that, man had to work hard to find food for himself his wife and his children as he had not done before. , There was death everywhere in the land, so the people thought they had to make contact with their Creator and to ask for a change of fortune They wanted Osanobuwa to Stop Ogiuwu imposing death on the young, they wanted them to live until they were very old, they would rather have rainfall and sunshine at all times of the year for that would top the droughts and hunger; they wanted to be able to Visit the earth after death.

Leaders and priests of various deities gathered for prayers. As they were wont to do, they sanctified themselves and the place where they had gathered. After days of prayers and things had not changed, Okhuaihe, a powerful priest, offered to take the prayers of the people to Osanobuwa. His only request was that the others gathered and the people at large would continue the prayers at the place of his departure, until his return.

The people carried out Okhuahe’s will to the letter. People carne to the site, prayed and went away. Sometime later, they decided that the place of their prayers needed a mark to make it one where they will worship God eternally.

They planted a tree called uwerhien ‘otan and heaped earth on its base and they had created a shrine. That shrine carne to symbolise the immanence of Osanobuwa.

The prayers went on at the shrine day after day for years. One day darkness was upon the earth at noon. A huge ball of fire descended from above and with it came a voice that affirmed the presence of Okhuahe in heaven. The voice went on, “Okhuahe has delivered your message to me. But your wishes are against my creative will and I will not grant them.” The voice had spoken, and darkness again fell upon the earth.

Later a new ball of fire fell to lift that darkness and it was daylight once more. To the people’s grief, Okhuahe never came back to earth. They rued the experience and thought that mankind cannot be witnesses of what goes on in heaven as they once thought they could. Since then, they have used the adage A I mi ‘ose no ye ‘,rinmwin. This means literally, there is no witness of life after death.

The people organised a search for the fireball, but what they found was no fireball at all. Instead, in the place which is today, the junction of igbesanmwan and Aruosa Streets in Benin City, they found a huge black stone. They named that spot. Aruosa, which literally means God’s Shrine. That black stone was one of the relics the British took away during the Punitive Expedition of 1897.

The Edo built a place of worship where they had always gathered to pray for Okhuahe’s journey until  they heard the voice they thought was Osanobuwa’s That is the place where they built the Holy Aruosa House of Worship and that is where it still is today, on Akpakpava Street. The name Akpakpava is a corruption of some word or words the Portuguese expressed during their visit to the City One idea was that ‘Papal” and “ver” or “via” — two words the Portuguese  were said to have used when they described the :location of the “church” they saw during their ‘visit to the City in 1462 Another thought was that they might have seen poppy, the opium plant  called Papaver in Latin But there is no evidence that Edo land is specially suited to the growth of that plant then or now.

Aruosa’s symbol is the open eye - the EYE of GOD watching over His creation It is itself, a symbol of the Edo direct experience of God The Oba of Benin and all of Edo is the head of Aruosa, but the priests pray, not to him, but to God alone and directly. Here is a remarkable duality of concept. The Edo will pray to God alone at the Shrine of God, but will also pray at home, even at other shrines, to Ehi, whom they believe to be their alter ego in heaven and to spirits that would intermediate between them and God

The Chief Priest (Ohen Osa) led a delegation of priests to Portugal not long after the Portuguese visited Benin City .1462. They studied the mode of worship in the churches in Portugal and on their return altered the way they dressed as the order and mode of worship in Aruosa. However, Aruosa’s body of beliefs, the teachings and practices, did not change.

How Is Worship Carried Out in Aruosa?
People who share the faith begin their worship of Osanobuwa, God, by invoking his presence’ through songs; and by cleansing and sanctifying themselves — I honniwe ‘egbe n ‘Osa rnwen. This means I purify myself for my God. This is followed by more songs, dances and prayers. Aruosa teachings have much to do with what the Edo believes to be the saga of creation by Osanobuwa.

Aruosa uses traditional musical instruments including drums and ukuse. The people of Edo land believe that the sound of drums, songs and dances help invoke the spirit of God. That is why they say, “ise vbe ‘gogo n ‘lma ya ki ‘ugie.” Literally, this means we start worship with ukuse and the gong
Prayers are mostly in songs. Typically, one such song says, “We believe in God and we serve Him because we abhor quarrels, bitterness, sickness, death and poverty.” A popular closing song says, “God, we have made time to serve you; give us the time and the blessing to achieve our goals.”
Worship is on Sundays from10 a.m. to 12 noon. Aruosa learnt baptism and confirmation from the Catholic practices in Portugal. They regard them as initiations into the inner sanctum of the faith and baptism is with white chalk and confirmation is with palm fronds (igborhe).

Aruosa in the Reign of Oba Akenzua II
Aruosa declined as most things did in Edo land after the British Punitive Expedition of 1897. Throughout the years of British rule and influence, they thought Aruosa was demonic and so, they ordered a stop to the worship of God the way the Edo did. For some forty years, some of the people practised the faith underground. But Oba Akenzua the second had the courage to revive it in the nineteen forties.

He rebuilt the house of worship on Akpakpava Road in 1945 and called it a cathedral. He established twelve Aruosa schools in Benin City, in Urora and in other places to spread the teachings of the faith, through his influence, Aruosa houses of worship were built in Onitsha, Urnuahia, and Port-Harcourt as well as in Cotonou in Benin Republic.

However, the Nigerian civil war ended the gains of Omo N’Oba Akenzua the second, when the military took over the reins of government. They seized mission schools arid Aruosa’s were some of them. Aruosa’s incursion into evangelism had been dealt a savage blow. The military has left the stage and a new set of rulers are in place, but like most Black Africans, they have no solemn demeanour and cannot think where the energies He, that xviii mobilise the forces of their people.
Aruosa Today

Aruosa lives on and struggles. Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Erediauwa is the spiritual head of the faith. It is run by a Council of Elders under a chairman. And that chairman is, at this time, Col Paul Osakpamwan Ogbebo (Retired). The Ohen Osa Nokhua (Chief Priest) and other officials of the faith, run the place of worship.

Culled from a paper written by Col. Osakpamwan Ogbebo (Rtd)

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