Ancient Benin Kingdom & Edo State
 
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EBOMISI FESTIVAL

Ebomisi a contracted form of Obo- imwen-isi (the herbalist has no permanent station) Is celebrated annually between February and March in commemoration of a famous herbalist and magician.   

The festival is celebrated for five days at various dates in the villages forming Ugo clan in Akugbe District of Benin. These are Ugoneki, Ugonoba, Ugo-Emoson, Okuekpen Okogo and Ugbayon.
Ebomisi hailed from Uwan on the Benin /Ifon road and was farming at a place later named after him .The town is today called Ugbogiobo (the chief herbalist‘s farm).

Although no one can say when Ebomisi lived, oral history holds that he stopped at Ugo while on a journey to towns across the Niger. He was lavishly entertained by the paramount Chief of Ugo-Ogiougo. To Ebomisi, the kindness of Ogiugo was an invitation to stay and help the inhabitants of Ugo with native herbs in their difficult period. This indeed he did by staying in a place today referred to as Ebomisi’s shrine in Ugoneki.

It is said that rather than dying normally, Ebomisi sank gradually into the ground until he was seen no more, while he did that, he continually advised Ogiugo whom he had invited to his house on things that should be done while worshiping him.

These include abstention from using water while cooking food during his festival. Women are also forbidden to get to the shrine or know the secrets of the ceremonies.

The date for the commencement of the festivals is fixed at a meeting of the elders including the high priest of Ebomisi after consulting oracle and necessary preparations made. Most of the festival is celebrated at the shrine and masquerades, usually seven in number, visit the village occasionally to dance and pray for peace, good health and prosperity among the entire sons and daughters of Ugo at home and abroad. It is only during these visits to town that women dance and take part in the ceremony.

All sons and daughters of Ugo visit home at the time of this festival to receive blessings from Ebomisi- the men from the shrine and women from the masquerades. Beside festivity which takes place in April at Ugoneki. This is called Isosun.

It is during this latter festival that the old magical powers instituted by Ebomisi are unfolded; men are seen to uproot palm tree with bare hands and other miraculously travel to distant place and return within some minutes. These who pound the medicines are seen to perform great feats and work wonders.

The medicine is later shared among all families belonging to Ugo clan as a protection against accidents and all evils. No true son of Ugo can afford to miss this occasion as there is a deep- rooted belief that the medicine is really effective. Worthy of note is the fact that women are barred from participating in the festival of Isosun which is held for a day.