The Christians have Christmas, the Muslims have the Feast of Ramadan, the Jews have the Hanukkah, the African-American have the Kwanzaa and the Edos have the Igue Festival.
The Igue festival is an annual cultural event in Benin, Edo State. The festival was originally an occasion to renew Oba Ewuare’s magical powers. During the Igue ritual season, the Oba is prohibited from being in the presence of any non-native person. This important event takes place during the first half of the month of December in Benin City with so many acrobatic displays, costumed dancing and a procession to the Oba of Benin palace.
One tradition state that the festival date coincided with the marriage of Ewuare to a wife named Ewere, the festival includes the Oba’s blessing of the land and his people. During the Igue ritual season, the Oba is prohibited from being in the presence of any non-native person.
The Edo will ‘make peace’ with their uhunmwun (head), for a variety of reasons, They believe that the human head is the centre of human person and the symbol of both the sacredness of the creator and His Spirit entity in man. It is by that force reason, the direct representation of the Oghene Osa or Osanobua in mankind. So, when event take which human need to celebrate, the head serves as the focal point of anointing in many Edo religious rites The spiritualist among them would say, Uhunmwun ara ‘bo na Literally, this means that it is to the head you raise your hands, in respect and adoration.
The desire to make his physical and spiritual experiences sacred inspired Omo N’Oba Eware’ N’Ogidigan, to institute and then to decree Igue as a Spiritual thanksgiving to the Person of the Spirit or Godhead that the human head represents. The Edo will often say, Uhunmwun osu omwan. This means the head leads mankind, literally. Igue therefore celebrates the human head in a family festival And the Edo have found the festival a solid platform on which to rebuild the family and to enhance its spirituality.
Igue is therefore a celebration of a difficult, but a Successful life. That life today echoes the joy of a man grateful for his fate Ogun’s spirit helped him fight a great battle that lasted about twenty years. In that time, he suffered greatly, but he escaped death on several occasions .
History states that Oba Ewuare ruled that Igue should be a festival to be celebrated by all Edo each year. In doing so, he thought that his subjects will learn and benefit from his life experiences.
Oba Ewuare asked that Igue Festival should take place at the end of each year. That way, it ended the old and ushered in the New Year. So, when the Edo take part in the festival each year they remember the Ewuare story and spirit. What acute vision and sharp focus Ewuare had! And the Igue festival has been a worthy annual celebration of this great human story.
The Oba sets the date of the Igue Festival. It is the climax of the many festivals of Ugie that he observes every year. During the Igue festival the Edo says prayers, the cleanse themselves of their sins; they unite their families in spirit, and share gifts and blessings at the same time.
Edo mystics like Oba Ewuare knew that the key to the wellbeing of the whole is in the hands of everyone; that one could ignore experiences and fail to learn from them; that may focus on experiences and learn and direct life to a more positive goal So, Igiie Festival awakens the conscious self to the primacy of the human spirit and to the head that represents Osanobua, the immortal Igue thanks the head for what it has done in the past year and appeases it for all sins done to it.
The Oba starts the Igue Festival with a ceremony known as Igue Oba. He follows that with that of the extended royal family. The final Igue as the Igue Edo hia In this, the Edo and their families do the oblation in their homes. The ceremony starts from about 7 p.m. and lasts until about 4 a.m with chiefs, the ceremony takes the form of a musical night .There are songs, dances, and stones to tell The people drink and make merry.
Often they stay awake to light up uwerhen (ember) Lit, they flick it about to banish Ubi from their homes at dawn The youths use the uwerhen in a ritual cleansing of nooks and corners, branching Ubi from all streets in the City The youths come from every home to help to force evil from the streets and their lives They do so heartily as they chant words of the song Le ‘Ubi rie.
Azen le ‘Ubi ríe — Witchcraft leaves with Ubi.
Oso le ‘Ubi ríe — The wicked leaves with Ubi
Omwanbabe, le ‘Ubi rie — Evil mind caves with Ubi
Oyi le ‘Ubi ríe — Thieves leave the Ubi
Ubi ríe, le ‘Uhi rie — Ubi leavcs go away Ubi
The youths, having banished Ubi to the outer moat of [he City, or to other spots outside the City, enter the bushes close by, to cut ewere leaves.They do that and come out singing the following song in joy:
Arhi ‘Ewere gi ‘Orno vb ‘ugha o — Ewere goes to the Oba in palace
Ewere ‘were gh Oyoyo o Ewere..— were.. see Oyoyo
Ewere odafen, Ewere uyínrnwen o — Ewere the spouse. the behaved
Ewere de kie n ‘Ewere — Ewere’s here. Open for Ewere
Close to home, the children go from house to house lo give small pieces of the ewere leaves to those they meet and to receive gifts from them. At this point, their songs have bounce of joy. Some of the songs are —
Arhi ‘Ewere gi ‘Omo vbu ‘gha o. Ewere ‘were gh‘Oyoyo o
A rhi Ewere rie ukpo ghi ‘gbi ‘vbiore
Ewere de kie n ‘Ewere
Ukodo Ewere re ‘mwana
If they thought that a host was unwilling and stingy, they would sing —
Kpoko nyankan, kherhe kherhe emwin
do ‘mwan ‘kherh khe rhe.
Literally, this means how awful, people ought to be less stingy just a little less.
Those fortunate to have pieces of the leaf, paste them on their foreheads to show their joy. From that moment on, the salutation turns to Ise logbe and the reply Ogbe man vbe dia ru.
The Ewere Festival ends in the afternoon of that day. The omaen ne ‘rokhin represented by Chiefs Ayobahan and Osuma will go to the Palace in a dance procession to pay homage to the Omo N’Oba. The Isekhure and the Ihama will lead the Ihogbe royal family including the Ihogbe chiefs, adults and children to the palace of the Oba to formally present the ewere leaves to him. The Osuma will still play his role of waiting on Ewere (Ogbarogh ‘Ewere). The Ihogbe will sing special ritual songs at the hand-over. The Omo N’ Oba N’ Edo will ask that the leaves be given to members of the audience to wish them Ise logbe. And that will end the year’s festival of renewal.