The Ebira people who are popularly referred to as “Anebira” have a profound and deeply rooted religious belief system that define and shape their cultural identity. At the core of their beliefs is the concept of the Supreme Being called God (Ohomorihi in the Ebira tribe), believed to be the create of heaven and hearth and all that dwells in them. To write this article, we conducted deep research which included one-on-one interviews with about 20 Older people in Okene. From the information obtained from the interview and research, we bring this article to you that explores the religious belief system of the Ebira people, their understanding of Ohomorihi, and their traditional belief in the supreme being. It also explores how the Western religion has influenced their primitive worship system and how it has impacted their culture and tradition.
Ebira people believe that there is a supreme being that created them in heaven, that has created man and gifted man all he knows. In Ebira culture, this being is called Ohomorihi. Ohomorihi holds immense significance in the religious beliefs of the Ebira people. The ancestors of Ebira people believe Ohomorihi to be a “central deity” or “the master of all other deities”. In fact, when Ebira people want to commence an important ceremony or event or journey, they pay homage to Ohomorihi by uttering the statement “Ohomorihi, Irevu yi” which literally means “Oh God, this is Kola nut, accept it as I pay my homage to you” The concept of Ohomorihi embodies the Ebira understanding of a divine being that governs the universe and influences the lives of all the creatures in the universe. Today, the belief in Ohomorihi permeates every aspect of Ebira’s religious and cultural practices.
“Ohiku Anebira” known as the ancestors of Ebira people attributed Ohomorihi with several divine qualities that has since inception shaped the Ebira people’s understanding of God. These divine attributes portrays the power, wisdom, and benevolence associated with Ohomorihi and they are discussed below:
The Omnipotent being
Ohomorihi is believed to possess limitless power that is beyond the comprehension of any man and the authority over all creation that dwells in heaven and earth. Ebira people will say at the beginning of prayers that, “Ohomorihi ewa yin ebeba du yin huvete ni“, meaning, “God, you are the owner of heavens and earth”. The Ebira people attribute all things to the divine will of Ohomorihi, acknowledging that nothing happens without the knowledge and permission of the Supreme Being.
The Omniscience being
Ohomorihi is regarded as all-knowing being and possessing full knowledge of the past, present, and that which is yet to happen. Ebira people believe that all that will become of man has been pre-written by Ohomorihi even before his birth. They also believe that man can change his destiny called Ehunresu in Ebira tribe by praying to Ohomorihi.
The Omnipresent being
Ohomorihi is believed to be present everywhere, transcending physical entities and into the entire heaven and earth. This understanding establishes Ohomorihi is accessible to anyone regardless of where they are and that anyone can make easy connection with Ohomorihi in their daily lives.
The All benevolence and just being
Ohomorihi is perceived as an all-just and fair deity that loves every man creation equally and rewards good deeds and punishes wrongdoing accordingly. The Ebira people believe that Ohomorihi steers the moral conduct of man who is a believer and offers his infinite blessings to the righteous ones both on earth and afterlife and holds every man accountable for his actions.
In a personal communication with inya onono Anavami, an elderly woman from Okene, “Ohomorihi is revered as the ultimate creator and sustainer of the universe in the religious belief of Anebira. The Ebira people attribute the existence of every thing in heavens and earth, from the natural elements to living beings, to the divine power of Ohomorihi”. She also mentioned that “Ohomorihi is the source of all knowledge known to the ancestors of Ebira which includes the knowledge of masquerading, witchcraft and other metaphysical abilities”. The Supreme Being is believed to primordial source of life.
Going further, Ohomorihi is considered the sustainer of the universe, responsible for maintaining the balance and order of the ehe (earth). The Ebira people believe that Ohomorihi provides for their needs and ensures the continuity of life. They offer prayers and seek the favor of Ohomorihi for protection, provision, and overall well-being.
The understanding of Ohomorihi as the creator and sustainer instills a sense of reverence, and gratitude among the Ebira people. It shapes their moral values, as they acknowledge their dependence on the divine providence of Ohomorihi.
Festivals hold a prominent spot in the traditional practices of the Ebira people. These occasions serve as important moments of communal gathering and spiritual devotion. Ebira festivals are marked by vibrant ceremonies, rituals, music, dance, and feasting. There are plenty festivals celebrated in Ebiraland. While some are celebrated once every year, some are celebrated only occasionally. We have discussed these festivals in our previous articles. Examples of major festivals celebrated annually in ebiraland are Ekuechi, Echane, and Echori.
Importance of Festivals in Ebira Culture
Festivals play a crucial role in the preservation of the cultural heritage of the Ebira people. They serve as a time for the community to come together, remind themselves of their cultural root and strengthen their social bond. During festivals period, Ebira people living in other cities and states, travel down to Okene or their village to celebrate these festivals because it is always very interesting. Ebira festivals showcase the richness of their traditions, history, and values, providing a platform for passing down ancestral wisdom to younger generations.
What are the roles of rituals and offerings during festivals?
Rituals and offerings form an integral part of Ebira festivals. During the festivals, the Ebira people engage in specific rites, prayers, and acts of devotion to honor their ancestors and deities. Offerings, such as food, drinks, and traditional symbolic items, are presented to the divine beings or deities as a sign of gratitude and to seek their blessings. For example, in Echori festivals, the people of Ihima offer sacrificies to Ori ( the harvest deity) to appreciate it for granting them a productive farming season and to grant them a bountiful production in the upcoming farming season.
In Ebiraland, Divination is called Eva and Diviners are called Aneva. The art of Divinition holds significant importance in Ebira traditional religion, serving as a means of seeking insight, guidance, and spiritual intervention. The diviners are also known as the fortune tellers, and they are believed to have supernatural powers and their powers are believed to be gift from Ohomorihi. There are also masquerades like ekurahi and ekuoba, that tell fortunes of people and deliver messages of good tidings which are believed to be messages from Ohomorihi.
Use of Divination for Insight and Guidance
Ebira people consult diviners as they are believed to possess knowledge of divination and fortune telling which is pasto them from Ohomorihi and Ori (deities), t. Divination is used to address various aspects of life, including health, relationships, success, and decision-making. It offers a way for individuals to connect with the spiritual realm, access hidden knowledge, and receive guidance on navigating life’s challenges.
Significance of Diviners in Ebira Society
Diviners play a vital role in upholding the cultural heritage of Ebiraland. They are revered as distinguished individuals in Ebiraland by Ohinoyi (kings), Atta (chiefs), clan leader and the ebira community at large. They are regarded as intermediaries between the human world and the spiritual realm. Diviners are entrusted with the responsibility of interpreting divine messages, providing counsel, and offering solutions to problems that are believed to be spiritual. Their expertise is sought in matters of personal well-being, community conflicts, and matters of importance to Ebiraland at large. The leaders in Ebira community also seek their counsel to offer necessary sacrifices and preparatory rites ahead of festivals.
The Ebira people, with a rich history and cultural heritage, have been exposed to various external religions of western origin throughout their existence. The influence of these western religions has had a profound impact on Ebira traditional religion, practices, and culture, shaping the beliefs, rituals, and values of the community. The major western religion received by Ebira people are islam and christainity. The major impact of these religions on their way of life are discussed below:
Changes in Belief System
The introduction of external religions has led to a shift in the belief system of the Ebira people. While traditional religious practices and beliefs still hold importance, many individuals have embraced Islam or Christianity, leading to a blend of traditional and western religious practices. This syncretism is evident in the incorporation of Islamic or Christian prayers and rituals into traditional festivals and ceremonies.
Adaptation of Rituals and Practices
The influence of external religions has brought about adaptations in Ebira traditional rituals, rites, and practices. For instance, in ceremonies such as weddings and funerals, Islamic or Christian practices may be incorporated alongside traditional customs. This adaptation reflects the cultural dynamism and the willingness of the Ebira people to incorporate new religious practices while maintaining their traditional practices.
Moral and Ethical Values
The western religions have also played a role in shaping the moral and ethical values of the Ebira people. Islam and Christianity, with their respective moral teachings and ethical codes, have influenced the way individuals perceive and engage in social, economic, and political activities. Concepts such as honesty, compassion, and justice are reinforced through religious teachings and have become part of the broader way of life of everyone in the Ebira society.
Education and Literacy
Western religion was introduced alongside western education and this, has led to the increased access to education and literacy among the Ebira people. Missionary schools, for example, have played a crucial role in providing education to the Ebira community. With advanced education, the educated individuals in Ebiraland are gradually leaving behind the old traditions and believe them to be superstitions.
The religious beliefs of the Ebira people is founded on the concept of Ohomorihi, the Supreme Being or Supreme Deity. Ohomorihi is revered as the creator and sustainer of the universe, and the ancestors are seen as intermediaries between the living and dead. Through rituals, offerings, and ceremonies, the Ebira people maintain a harmonious relationship with their ancestors and seek their guidance and blessings.
While Western religions, such as Islam and Christianity, have influenced some individuals within the Ebira community, traditional religious practices remain significant. The persistence of ancestral worship and the integration of traditional elements with new religious doctrines reflect the dynamic nature of Ebira religious beliefs.
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