The Traditions of Origin of Ozalla People

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Last up date (October 3, 2018)

In one version of the tradition of origin, lyelolo whose son Uza was an abomination because he had been born feet first, was the founder of Ozalla. lyelolo was said to have committed adultery with one of the oba’s wives. But his life was spared through the connivance of his mother and the executioners. For this abominable act his son was named Uza. It will be recalled that the Ora group today is exclusively devoted to animals. On the other hand the people of Ozalla revere a mixture of plant and animal totems. Animals represent 64% and plants 23% of Ozalla totems. By tradition it was the Sons and grandsons of Uza who founded villages of the community. This would have been between ca.1632—1664, or about 120 to 160 years after the establishment of Ora. Ozalla might therefore represent a much later stage in the evolution of the Edo people, where the antagonism among plant and animal totemic groups was declining to the point where mixed “abominations» like Ozalla had become possible. The mixed nature of Uza’s parents is probably symbolized in the two totems that apply to all of the people of Ozalla, the goat and cocoyam.

Many of the villages of Ozalla exhibit similar mixtures so that the people of Ozalla respect more totems than any other community in Owan, The average citizen reveres four totems, the most extreme, six, and the least, two. Three villages mix animals and plants, following the example of Uzas parents. The totemic data demonstrated the extraordinary proliferation of totems in Ozalla as well as the unusual mixture of plants and animals in the first six of the eight villages. For various reasons, one being the goddess myths, these six villages seem to predate the coming of the migrants from Benin. Assuming that the plant people tended to matriliny, taking the mother’s totem, and that the animal totem people tended to take the fathers, intermarriage would explain the proliferation of totems in Ozalla where the two groups were almost equal in number. Two villages were exclusively animal and one village plant, yet they too seemed to adopt dual totems, strengthening the argument that they were the product of a mixture of matrilineal and patrilineal ideas. It should be noted that the first six villages have been homogenous in that there appears to be no stranger wards. This pattern is characteristic of matrilocal villages and quite unlike the behavior regarding animal totems in Ora.

The genealogical progression of Ozalla, following the community charter, shows the village founders as the Sons and grandsons of Uza. The totemic data do not support that contention. The first six villages would seem to have been established prior to Uza or the migrations from Benin. Nevertheless, the last two villages do appear to have been founded according to the tradition. The size of the two also suggests that Ivbihiere was established before Ekeke, as the genealogy suggests. Ivbihiere was listed as a son of Uza; and Ekeke, the founder of the smaller village, was listed as a grandson.

Readers will see that the taking of both father and mother totems cannot proceed beyond the initial compromise in the first couple of generations. For example if a man of the Iraede village today married a woman from Usuamen, combining matrilineal and patrilineal descent regulation, the children would inherit the burden of ten totems, the elephant and three other animals, four plants as well as the goat and cocoyam of the community. The system could have persisted from one to three generations which would explain its modern complexity. However, with the growing popularity of patrilinealism among the Edo and Owan peoples, the mixed system probably solidified into its present form by ca.1750. Thereafter children generally took only the totems of their fathers. Sufficient remnants of the dual system remained even in Benin to worry N. W. Thomas, who collected Edo totems around 1910 and found conflicting evidence as to whether children inherited their mother’s totems.

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