Ebira Traditional Burial Ceremony

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Ebira Traditional Burial Ceremony

Ebira strongly believe in life after death and so burial ceremony was/is regarded as a noble and cherished duty towards the dead whom they anticipate will come back to life one day. The type of burial ceremony depends wholly on the age of deceased, sex, wealth and social standing. Slaves or other people considered to be low castes cannot be given second burial, however famous. Ogugu and night masquerade dances may not stage for such people. Strictly speaking, there are no formal ceremonies for the young and children. Such death is regarded as painful. The only thing done in the past apart from the normal but un-ceremony burial was to summon all the women together in the compound so that the most elderly man in the family could caution them to refrain from taking the life of a child or youngster.
This is because the Ebiras believed that the death of such people was caused by witches. To them the young had not enjoyed the life for which they were created and hence could not die indiscriminately. On the other hand, when a fairly aged man or woman dies, a formal burial is generally given. However, a second burial is
never given to a woman irrespective of her age, achievement and position in the community. This is because women are excluded from masquerade secrets. Because of the importance placed on the burial ceremony, anyone who could not afford an elaborate one somehow was scorned by the local people, hence all effort were always made to impress people. As a result of the high expectations, dead bodies were not buried in good time even though they were improperly preserved. The corpses were usually dried by fire until people were ready to have been buried. When there was no money to affect a grand ceremony, the children or relatives of the deceased would go outside the Ebiraland to search for money and this might take several months. Couples could be left for nine months. This is now obsolete in Ebira and this was chiefly due to the Atta’s personal intervention. The custom of keeping a death body for three months was cancelled by the Atta in 1920.
When any person in the above dies, and after the normal gestures of disapleasure, the body is washed with warm water, dressed gorgeously and left in state for the general public to pay their last homage. In the past, Ebira drum called Arigede was beaten first when a man died. The surroundings were decorated with assorted cloths. This is what the Ebiras called avahi. Dances of various kinds are staged at night. On the following day, asamakuru goes from place to place in the locality to announce the death. (This is for men only). Then, Ogugu, the most ancient and warlike Ebira dance is staged before and after burial (internment). (This is only for men) These dances could take two or three days before burial in the past; today however, the burial lasts for only 24hours. Night masquerade dances are staged for the deceased normally the night of the burial. In olden days special food (called ogara) was prepared and eaten at the place where the dead were lying in the state.
The main reason for this perhaps was to give opportunity to the deceased to eat his/her last supper with the family! This cemetery. Since this particular. N.A order is against the tradition of the people and the fact that resentment from the Ebira has been shown from 1935 to date, a compromise should be sought: Headmen of a kindred and all the tradition chiefs would be burial in their homes provided the graves are well prepared and approved by the Health superintendent of the area. The present indiscriminate burials of the people whose social standing in the community is not enough to merit such honor ought to be discouraged-this may necessitate the overhauling of the 1936s order!
If the deceased had slaves, some were burial alive with the corpse as well as some other valuable properties-eva and irepa for men only. Burial are usually marked by the killing of cows or rams and the meat is shared by the children, relatives and omenyi-merternal relations 9in the case of a woman) of the deceased. If the deceased man was later given a second burial (ekuoba) one of the slaves buried would be made ‘ekuechichi’ to guide his master.
Although the burial ceremony of a woman is identical to the above, there are however some little and important changes. Gun salutes (as we have seen above) could not be effected indiscriminately and the guns of the deceased’s relatives (called omenyi) are fired first. The burial of a woman was definitely controlled and executed by ‘omenyi’. No formal burial of a woman could take place in their absence. They alone dressed the corpse and dug the grave. Nowadays their traditional rights of monopoly are being systematically and vigorously questioned and their authority over the woman’ burials is declining but their traditional gifts are still reserved for them. Among the Ebira Igu community, women were/are buried neither in their homes nor in any particular place but buried in the direction of their natal homes. Many Ebiras (especially the staunch Moslem converts) follow the normal Moslem burial rites nowadays.
Second Burials.
Strictly speaking, there is no second burial for women as such , although on the 14th day, third and months of a woman’s death (called ‘ewurena’ ‘uwhueta’ and ‘ewhuehina’) special dances are staged and various gifts such as money, hoes, cloths etc are given out to the relatives, friends and well wishers of the deceased. ‘Enyonu’ is one of the most important features. The secrets of ‘enyonu’ are kept away from men. They are believed to form integral parts of women’s powers. This particular practice was discouraged by the Atta of Igbirra because it was very extravagant. Most people did not welcome the Atta invention and hence these ceremonies, especially those of the 14th day, have been revived. On this day special sacrifices are made on the tombs.
This is what the Ebiras called ‘oyipikuta’. In most of all burials ceremonies, men play very vital role in financing the wives relatives. This is particularly true of the father-and-mother-in-law ad is generally regarded as part and parcel of the bride price and it is therefore refundable at any subsequent divorce. The normal amount towards the burial for mother-in-law/father-in-law was N100 but this is rapidly increasing. It is compulsory for a man to take part in burials of these people. In addition to the above ceremonies, there was/is a strict second burial for men. This is compulsory. In Ebira Toto, a person to be given a second burial is always buried secretly and when he is made ‘eku’ women do not see it but can only hear its voice.
The second burial (when the deceased is transformed into ‘ekuoba’) is highly tedious and secretive and it is therefore improper to discuss it in detail here. It is however, sufficient to say that the second burial is part and parcel of Ebira’s religion and that this normally takes place nine months after the interment. The deceased was aware that he would be given the second burial. Furthermore, only men of outstanding character and ripe age (over 70years old) could be given a second burial and such caliber is made ‘ekuoba’. Slaves and all those considered as ‘low caste’ are not qualified for the ‘ekuobahood’ however powerful and important. Even very outstanding men who die in battle fields were/are not considered at all for the second burial-an eligible must die normally and peacefully.

The making of ‘ekuoba; usually includes the physical embodiment of the deceased into the ‘ekuobahood’ (in the form of oha) and therefore the ekuoba is conceived as the ancestral spirit (ozu of the deceased) and the ekuoba takes the actual name of the deceased. It is physical embodiment that is really worshiped in the afternoon preceding the ‘Great Night’ when the blood of the he-goat/ram etc are spread over the ‘irapa’ where the ‘oha’ and the ekuoba outfits are kept. There are two sides of the second burials (when the deceased comes out as ebkuoba) and we will now consider these from the Ebiras religious determination.

Mourning Period
Generally speaking, there is no real traditional mourning period for dead young people and children. However, the relatives of the deceased may stay unitl after the 4th day of the interment. The traditional mourning period for an adult was/is nine (calendar or lunar) months. During the whole period, all the male relatives of the deceased do not wear caps. This is not taken very seriously today and people who do it for the first few months. The females on the other hand, wear red threads (inani) round their necks during the mourning period. This, like that of men, is almost obsolete, especially in urban areas, the wives) (or wife) of the deceased do not normally go out for any personal appointment until after the end of the mourning period. As a direct result of the impact of Islam and Christianity, 40-60 days of mourning is acceptable in place of the nine months (especially among the Moslems and Christians).
On or after the ninth month of the burial, the house of the deceased is normally cleansed. The wives/wife of the deceased will go to wash in a stream to prepare them (herself) fit for normal life again. On this day (which is usually very ceremony) the deceased’s wealth, including wives and children, are shared. It is on this day too that the house of the deceased is cleansed for reoccupation. Ebiras believe that even though a person is dead, his spirit is still in the former dwelling place, hence nobody is normally permitted to live in the place until after formal ‘cleansing’ on the ninth month when the deceased should have left finally! All burial ceremonies and mourning normally end on this day of cleansing which is usually fixed on a local market day. However, people follow the directives of Islamic principle nowadays.
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