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Ogugu and Onyi Muruwei – The Ebira people of Nigeria possess a distinct cultural tradition when it comes to commemorating the departure of their loved ones, particularly those who have lived a fulfilling life and passed away at an old age.
Understanding Ogugu and Onyi Muruwei Ceremony in Ebiraland
In Ebiraland, reaching the age of eighty to a hundred years is considered attaining old age, and such a passing is worthy of celebration. The Ebira community firmly believes in life after death, making burial ceremonies a noble and cherished responsibility towards the deceased, whom they anticipate will be reincarnated someday.
This longstanding tradition can be traced back throughout the history of the Ebira people, dating back to their earliest existence.
The burial rites are categorized into two: the ‘Ogugu’ burial rite and the ‘Onyi Muruwei’ rite.
The “Ogugu” burial rite is performed for a male elderly individual, while the “Onyi Muruwei” rite is reserved for a female elderly woman.
Traditionally, when an elderly man passes away, the village members are informed of the loss by beating a local drum known as the “Arigede.” The surroundings are then adorned with assorted cloths, a practice referred to as “Avahi.”
The family proceeds to organize an event called “Osamakuru” at dawn to announce the death within the village. During Osamakuru, a night masquerade, dressed with palm front leaves and a face covered with black charcoal paint, parades around the village to announce the passing of the deceased.
Following the Osamakuru, preparations for the “Ogugu” ceremony begin the next day. During this process, the deceased’s children and grandchildren hold a family meeting to distribute responsibilities related to the arrangements needed for the “Ogugu” ceremony.
During the “Ogugu,” local delicacies like apapa, iya (pounded yam), Uka (amala), and traditional wines like palm wine “eche omo” and corn wine “eche ayi” (also known as burukutu in Hausa dialect) are prepared to entertain the guests. While these activities unfold, an “anuva” procession of dancing and singing takes place at the paternal home of the deceased, with selected native singers and daytime masquerades known as “eku echichi” paying homage at intervals.
Onyi Muruwei Ceremony
The “Onyi Muruwei,” on the other hand, is performed for an elderly woman who has passed away. Prior to the ceremony, the children of the deceased must seek permission from the “omenyi,” the paternal family of the deceased. Only they have the right to dig the grave and bathe the deceased formally, hence no formal burial of a woman is allowed without their presence.
Unlike “Ogugu,” “Onyi Muruwei” does not involve Osamakuru or eku echichi. However, local foods and drinks are still prepared as the “anuva” procession continues. Native singers from the immediate clan of the deceased and neighboring villages perform to entertain guests and pay tribute to the spirit of the departed.
During the ceremony, selected female family members carry a picture of the deceased along with a traditional dancing artifact known as “enya ohu.” The secret behind the “enya ohu” remains a mystery to this day, believed to be a highly potent artifact that is integral to women’s powers. Only women who possess the ability to communicate with spirits were entrusted with the creation of “enya ohu,” and its crafting methods remain their closely guarded secret.
Recommended article: Unlocking the Mystery of Enya-Ohu: A Hidden Power Among Ebira Women (See Pictures)
Approximately nine months after the burial, the deceased’s house is cleansed. The wives (or wife) of the deceased wash themselves in a stream to prepare for normal life again. On this significant day, the deceased’s wealth, including wives and children, is distributed among the family members. It is also the day when the deceased’s house is cleansed and ready for reoccupation.
According to Ebira belief, even after death, the spirit of the deceased lingers in the former dwelling place, thus no one is allowed to live there until the formal “cleansing” on the ninth month when the departed is believed to have departed fully. All burial ceremonies and mourning activities conclude on this cleansing day, which typically coincides with a local market day.
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