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Edo Women

Human Relics In Edo Culture

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With Ambrose Ekhosuehi {Last update 25/092017}

Human relics are any personal memorial part held in reverence. Relics generally are that which is left after a decay of a corpse.

Any personal memorial of an incentive to faith and piety or a memorial of antiquity or object of historic interest.

Preserving of relics represent the cultural heritage shared by the people as a people is diversely embracing everything about them, thus the entire way of the life of a people are all parts of human heritage.

In Edo culture, the hair and nails of a deceased are cut and kept by the senior son until the funeral rites.

The burial rhythm is played to which Ukoise gourd rattles are occasionally added, between the different rites of the interment.

The burial rite occupy a period of seven days and consists of five main stages - Iwaorinmwin, Izakhue, Isoton, Arha, Isuerhanfua, Ukomwen.

The Iwaorinmwin - Lying out of the corpse, takes place at night in the presence of only the lineage elders and the senior son and other children.

The nails and hair relics which have been preserved from the dead person are tied with chalk and salt - orhue vbe umwen and cowries - Ikpigho in a white cloth into which a white feather - Igan Oghohon, is inserted.

Over this bundle which represents the corpse, a sacrifice is made. Seven songs expressing filial obligations, sorrow, and fear for the safety of the surviours are sung to the accompaniment of drums and Ukoise gourd rattles.

Burial songs and rites are repeated in the evening and in the morning.

On the third day there is a procession known as Izakhue and sacrifice is made for the collective dead of the lineage - Edion egbee.

The senior and each of his brothers, sisters and brothers-in-law place themselves at the lead of groups and friends which march and dance around the community in order of seniority. They sing entreaty songs in honour of the deceased to the accompaniment of drums.

Izakhue marks the first phase of the relic rites in which the deceased person is being prepared for presentation to the fellows in the spirit world.

Izakhue gives rites of expression to two changes of status - the incorporation of the deceased into the collectivity of the dead lineage elders and the recognition of the senior son as head in the lineage segment in the world of the living.

Isoton takes place two days after Izakhue. Isoton begins with a procession which is divided into distinct groups; each is headed by a son-in-law of the deceased.

This time the leader of each group is accompanied by a reliquary - Okun (a box for relics) which is decorated with white and scarlet cloth and brass adornments.

Each leader takes with him offerings - Oton. On return to the house, the senior son’s ‘Oton’ are presented to the assembled elders of the lineage, who inspect them and a petard is fired.

The senior son takes his seat before the elders. Isoton is said to mark the deceased crossing of the sea and the reliquary is believed to go along as a symbol of wealth and social achievement.

Isoton does honour to the deceased as one who has fulfilled social destiny and conducts the person to rightful place among the ancestors. It also marks the point at which the senior son is raised to his proper place among the living elders of the lineage.

On the evening of the following day a wake keep - Ikpowia, lasts till dawn. The most important of this rite is Arha in which a person is chosen to represent the deceased.

The person known as Enodiarhaya dressed up with fine clothes and adorned with beads; sits while all the descendants of the deceased come to salute. After the salutations, the person goes out to dance and at dawn or dusk the people led by Enodiagrhaya go in procession drawing the relics along chalk line.

The Enodiarhaya and the people tend to sit on a frame structure, finally the structure is collapsed and its components are thrown away, this rite is known as Isuerhanfua — throwing away the sticks. The rite symbolizes the final disposal of the earthly remains of the decease and the release of the participants from the funeral danger.

Afterwards the rite known as Ukomwen is performed in which Ukhuere godstick is instated - install at the altar on which only the eldest child will be main intermediary between the decease and the descendants.

Ukhure — godstick is used as unifying force among the kindred, disgrace ill fate, and evil conduct. Ukhure with genii ensure answers to prayers, quick recovering and healing, and are sacred to individual named ancestors of a collective group due to the preserved relics.

The only early account of Benin funeral rite is given by Dapper who says that the seven days are days of feasting during which there is dancing to the music of drums and other instruments around the tomb; and that people sing praises of the deceased to the accompaniment of various instruments.

Human relics are kept for those who lived their lives in obedience to the laws, customs and tradition of the people and may be a stunning victory in carrying out assignment that had added to the peoples self esteem in culture.

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