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Edo Women

Taboo (Awua) In Faces Of Culture

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By Ambrose Ekhosuehi (25/09/2017)

Taboo-Awua is a prohibition to which an automatic sanction is attached. It exploits an innate in the human psyche and is used to inculcate practical attitudes through dramatic symbolism.

There are family taboo-awua egbee, taboo of the deity-awua erinmwi, awua ebo, taboo of guardian spirit, awua ehi or personal taboo of which a person is not comfortable to senisterity or special taboo affecting priests — ohen, chiefs —Ekhaemwen or personal.

Purification is required for being surrounded with taboos. A herb called afo is normally used as the purification medicine when the effect is minimal.

Ancient boundaries established long ago in the land is commanded by law, scripture Deuteronomy 19 verse 14 “Do not move your neigbhour’s boundary mark” and in the tradition a tree called Ikhinmwin, Eyanton, Egbon, is planted to mark a boundary, and a new village, camp - ago or before building any house. It represents the owner of the land and is at the same time, the place where worship is made to the ground.

Eyanton is held holy as being the oldest and most permanent in any town or village in Benin community.

All treats with disrespect or irreverence to any person, place or thing set apart or dedicated are forbidden. Selling any sacred thing or relics for gain are also forbidden.

It is bound to restore ill-gotten goods or else the taboo will not be forgiven, so people are bound also to pay their debts, because the regulation forbids all unjust taking away or keeping what belongs to another, either by theft, robbery or by fraud which consists in all kinds of cheating, in buying or selling, in passing an inferior articles as one of good quality.

Also in taking away unjustly by neglecting; negligence of performing carelessly any duty for which a person is paid or by usury which is demanding too high an interest and by willfully destroying another’s property.

It is forbidden to keep what belongs to another person by refusing to give the person back what belong to the owner, by not restoring things entrusted in the person care and by refusing to pay just debts.

Keeping what belongs to another also involves not taking means to find out the owner of anything found, missing or lost, by buying or receiving goods which are believed to have been stolen.
Taboo-awua in the faces of culture forbids marriage within certain degrees of kindred or certain states of relationship as first or second cousins.

None can contract marriages who are related by blood unless they obtain leave to do so with purification ceremony “To leave out of the family” or drum out of the community “A ghi kpe ema khu ere” hence the importance of family morning greetings that starts the day — salutation or lineage password — Ukhu nature, to exactly know the state of relationship in kindred.

Funeral rites are forbidden during principal festivals, certainly at Ugie, Igue and Ekaba festivals.
Taboo — Awua in the faces of culture forbids too, all false, rash, unjust and un-necessary oaths, as also blasphemy, cursing and profane words.

Taking a false oath is called perjury or which are not true, while rash oath is taken without sufficient reason as blaspheming is speaking in an evil impious manner. Cursing is the calling of evil or harm on person or thing, as profane words speak in a light or joking manner.

The discourse also says “Do not have sexual intercourse with any of your relatives. Do not disgrace your father by having intercourse with any of his wives.

Do not disgrace your own mother. Do not have intercourse with your sister or your step sister whether or not she was brought up in the same house with you. Do not have intercourse with a half-sister, she too is your sister.

Do not have intercourse with your father’s sister or your mother’s sister. Do not have intercourse with your uncle’s wife. She too is your aunt. Do not have intercourse with your brother’s wife or with your daughter-in-law.

Do not have intercourse with the daughter or grand daughter of a woman with whom you have had intercourse and that would be incest” do not take your wife’s sisters as one of your wives.

Do not have intercourse with a woman during her monthly period because she is unclean. No man should have sexual relations with another man, and no man or woman is to have sexual relations with an animal; that perversion makes the person unclean.

These actions make the land unclean and so those who live on it are rejected and punished. Do not make yourself unclean by doing any of those things. Those forbidden things constitute the paternal taboos and maternal taboos — Awua ne obo Erha, kevbe Awua ne obo lye.

Roasted yams or roasted crops that the scraps pollute the air in an environment causes skin disease called “esalo” a kind of craw-craw that swells and burst.

An idol in human shape “Akobie” though not a real god, attracts veneration of it by children and may have a favourable effect on the increase of children in the house. This was explained by the fact that the existence of an “akobie” attracts many children into the house and that some spirits may follow the children and see that children like the house.

It is therefore forbidden to display anything that would scare children out of the community. Displaying of coffin detracts human activities and attracts spirit of the dead. So calumny — saying what is not true and detraction are forbidden and are words with the intention of injuring people’s character.

Therefore impure thoughts, desires and all willful pleasure in the irregular motions of the flesh, willful consent, gluttony, drunkenness, covetous, thoughts, unjust desires, of people’s goods and profit are all taboos — awua.

In the folk culture, Hygeia is the hygiene goddess of health, daughter of Aesculapius. She preserves the sanitary principle.

Eating of specific forbidden food, animal, vegetable or plants bring infection of the tongue and eating while the house has not been swept or cleansed cause ‘Oedema’.

Sanitation of households and environments were so important in the olden days and from the ancient times it was a taboo against the eternal king Ere-Awua n’ Ere, for those who failed to keep their environment clean.

Prohibitions sanction was sung in this verse - “There was a man, a foolish man, who could not drink clean water. He took it from a dirty place, so did his wife and daughter, This foolish man became quite ill, so did his wife and daughter.

And now they found no juju pill, to clean the dirty water. And now they sit and weeping, and weeping and weeping. And now they sit and weeping 0 Lack, Lack the day”.

Taboo — Awua moves like the air and touches those who flout the sanitary principles of the ancestors, in the faces of culture.

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