Categories: Ebira Beliefs

The Art and Method of Divination in Ebiraland: Insight into an Ancient Practice of Ebiraland

Introduction

Divination holds a significant place in the cultural and spiritual traditions of Ebiraland, popularly referred as Okene, a region occupied by people speaking Ebira tribe. It is an ancient practice that seeks insight into the past, present, and future, providing guidance and understanding to individuals and communities. It is also the practice of fortune telling in Ebiraland. In Ebira tribe, the art of divination is called Eva, and diviners are called Aneva.

In this article, we will be discussing all you need to know about the art and method of divination in Ebiraland, exploring the techniques, tools, and beliefs that shape this mystical practice.

The Significance of Divination in Ebiraland

Eva plays a central role in the lives of the Ebira people, serving as a means of communication with the spiritual realm and ancestral spirits. It is believed that through divination, one can gain access to hidden knowledge, receive guidance, and uncover the underlying causes of various situations and challenges.

In the past, most problems were often seen as having underlying spiritual causes. So, people seek out to consult the wise ones with the gift of divination. The diviners are believed to have certain metaphysical powers and have spiritual connection with heavens and Ohomorihi. There powers were also believed to be passed to them by Ohomorihi. 

Although some people learn this art of divination, there are also those that are born with the knowledge, gift and powers. These people naturally have the ability to read eva, to translate or give meaning to people’s dreams.  The art, knowledge and power, was believed to be passed down to man when Ohomorihi gifted man with the knowledge and art of masquerading. Diviners in the past, were important figures in the community, because they play major roles in maintaining balance in the community, appeasing and offering sacrifices to the Ori (deities),and also making preparations for festivals, ceremonies, coronation etc.

The method of divination in Ebiraland

It is important to know that Eva hold deeper meanings and interpretations that go beyond mere memorization of fixed principles, and this is why it has to be a knowledge given by Ohomorihi, it cannot be forced, even if it is learnt, if Ohomorihi does not bless the person with the knowledge, such person may find it interpreting the Eva wrong.

Interpreting eva is like following a formula and these formula are unique to the Ebira people and may differ slightly from those of other African tribes. The formula are like secret codes that help the diviners understand and predict what might happen or what people that seek their advice should do.

We were able to consult the opinion of two well-known diviners in Okene, their identity will however not be disclosed. Based on the consultation, they affirmed that the interpretation of meanings of Eva, is based on two logical principles:

Principle one

The first principle emphasizes the importance of seeking deeper knowledge and understanding the representation or meaning that an individual verse or formula holds. It suggests that memorizing the formula alone is not enough; one must also struggle to gain mastery of  the “Ovavirema Eva,” which represents the deeper meanings and interpretations attached to the formulae. This highlights the need for individuals to go beyond surface-level understanding and explore the profound wisdom contained within the divination practice. The first principle is based on the idea of understanding a single version of formula and knowing the deep meaning embedded in that individual formula, to be able to predict or tell fortunes.

Principle two

The second principle like the first one, also emphasizes the significance of exploring deeper meanings but in a different manner. This principle identifies that “Eva” formulae are always paired, and is not to be interpreted individually. The pairs are meant to give deeper meanings, with either of the formula in a single pair supporting or contradicting each other. Whichever way it goes, the diviner is expected to be able to interpret these pairs to be able to successfully give answers or solutions to problems

During the divination process, the person seeking the help of the diviner is given a pair of cowries, or two pairs depending on the diviner. The one seeking help not must disclose their name and share their thoughts and concerns loudly but inside their mind or queitly. The “Eva” materials are believed to have the ability to hear. The diviner then interprets the messages conveyed through the formulae, providing guidance and insights based on the individual’s unique circumstances.

The interpretations of eva  formula are deeply rooted in Ebira culture and tradition. According to one of the diviners, there are 16 formula and each holds different meaning:

  1. Osinkara: It represents boys and men. If it appears for a woman, it means she is powerful. For a pregnant woman, it suggests she will have a baby boy.
  2. Ozi: It doesn’t provide any practical information or advice.
  3. Oguta: It means the path ahead is clear without any obstacles.
  4. Oga: It indicates that a sacrifice with blood needs to be made.
  5. Ohaku: It represents a crowd and suggests that something is happening in the air.
  6. Ogori: It means things are clear and easy to understand.
  7. Oha: It stands for money and wealth.
  8. Orosu: It represents a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
  9. Onyika: It stands for women and marriage.
  10. Otaru: It represents good luck and popularity.
  11. Orete: It indicates misfortunes or problems.
  12. Okana: It serves as a warning or caution.
  13. Otura: It means everything is clear and easy to see.
  14. Oche: It asks if you can see or notice something important.
  15. Ohu: It suggests misfortunes or difficulties.
  16. Ovara: It asks if you are about to go on a journey or travel.

Based on the second principle, the best meaning or interpretations are given if the formula are combined. Some examples of these combinations and their meaning are given below:

  • Combination 2 and 3: It asks what scares you because whatever you fear will definitely happen.
  • Combination 1 and 4: It tells you that you are a strong person who can defeat your enemy. It suggests making a sacrifice of a hen to make your wishes come true.
  • Combination 5 and 10: If there’s a naming ceremony, it means the newborn will be a boy and will become known for resolving conflicts.
  • Combination 6, 2, and 13: Even though the path was uncertain before, it’s now clear. The “Eva” advises you to move forward bravely.

These combinations of “Eva” formulas give you extra guidance and advice based on the formula that appear. They give the diviner the nearest solution or interpretation to your problem. A diviner may first use the first principle, if the eva materials give no clear answers, he then uses the second principle. He keeps pairing till a solution is found.

Divination Objects

Diviners in Ebiraland utilize various objects and tools to facilitate the divination process. These may include cowries, shells, kola nuts, divination boards, divination trays, and other sacred items associated with divinition.

Preparation for divination

Before performing divination, the diviner engages in specific rituals to purify themselves and create a sacred space. This may involve offerings, prayers, and invoking the presence of ancestral spirits or deities (eku) associated with divination.

The Divination Process

The process of seeking divination is divided into 3 steps and they are explained below:

Consultation visits by client

The individual seeking divination visits the diviner and presents their concern or question. The diviner gathers relevant details and clarifies the intention behind the divination.

Casting and Reading 

The diviner follows the prescribed method of casting and reading the divination materials. They carefully observe the patterns, positions, and interactions of the materials casted for the divination and read the formula  obtained before interpretation.

Interpretation and Guidance

Based on the observed patterns and formula obtained from casting the divination materials, the diviner provides an interpretation to the client. They offer guidance, advice, and potential courses of action to address the concerns or challenges identified through divination.

The Role of Diviners in Ebiraland

Diviners hold a revered position within the community, acting as intermediaries between the physical and spiritual realms. They are trusted individuals with deep knowledge and understanding of the divination systems, cultural customs, and traditions. While some diviners have the knowledge naturally which might be from inherited wisdom or God given, some undergo years of apprenticeship and training to obtain their skills. Even if natural, they still undergo training.

Divination extends beyond individual consultations in Ebiraland; it plays a crucial role in community events, ceremonies, and festivals. Diviners are sought to offer blessings, predict the outcome of important endeavors, and guide decision-making processes.

Conclusion

This article on the art and method of divination in Ebiraland provides a glimpse of a spiritual practice that has persisted for generations in Ebiraland. Till today, we still have these diviners. Divination is testament to the rich cultural heritage and beliefs of the Ebira people. Divination serves not only as a means of seeking guidance and understanding but also as a way to maintain a connection with ancestral spirits and honor the wisdom passed down through generations.

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