Categories: Ebira Traditions

The Origin and Celebration of Echane Festival in Ebiraland

Introduction

In today’s article we will be talking about another festival celebrated by Anebira known as Echane Festival. The Ebira people attach a great value to their festivals. There are three major festivals celebrated in the Ebiraland which are Ekuechi, Echori, and Echane.  Our focus in this article is the Echane festival where we will be talking about the myth behind the origin of this festival, the celebration of the festival and the philosophy of that the festival holds.

The Origin of Echane Festival

There are many stories or myths around the Origin of the Echane festival but we will talk about the most grounded one. Like the Ekuechi Festival, the origin of the Echane festival is rooted around the creation of man and woman by Ohomorihi. It is believed that women were able to acquire the supernatural power of witchcraft which was initially meant for man by consuming the Irakwo, and Ohomorihi having full knowledge of this, bestowed upon man the power over Eku (ancestral spirits or masquerades) in order to maintain a supernatural balance. The Eku were believed to connection with divine spirits in heavens. With the intervention from Ohomorihi balance was maintained and everything was in order.

This balance was disrupted when the female were no longer satisfied with the power of witchcraft which they possess. This power was originally obtained by them as a result of their greed. Driven by the same sense of greed again, they became curious, restless and wanting to find out the secret behind the art of masquerading. They wanted to take the gift of masquerading bestowed upon man for themselves and leave men with nothing. They tried all they can to take over this power from men but all were futile until they almost had a successful attempt.

On a faithful Eku festival celebration day, the men were to call upon the Eku which is to emerge from an Irapa – a box where men keep the costumes of the masquerades. The way it is done is that, men make some conjurations and the eku emerges from the irapa. The men made their usual conjurations to call upon the Eku, but this conjuration was neutralized by the women. Men immediately called upon ohomorihi in their prayers to seek for help and this, he granted and sent them help.

Although the men were unable to call upon the Eku, they did not stop the activities of the festival. While the festival activities were ongoing, men were dancing and singing. Unknown to them, a tiny ant known as “ihine oweyi” had crawled to enter the Irapa. This ant transformed into a masquerade from the Irapa and the scene caught the surprise of everyone. The men were extremely overjoyed while the women were disappointed at the failed attempt. This allowed men to be able to keep the art of masquerading a secret but this joy only lasted for a short while.

Although the women attempt to unravel the men’s secret failed, they did not stop the plot. They devised another plan of using a beautiful woman to seduce one of the men with full knowledge of the art of masquerading. They selected a very beautiful and charming young woman to accomplish this task. This time, their plot was successful. The woman was able to seduce the man to bed and subconsciously he revealed all the secret. There were two major Eku in the holding of men back then, the night masquerade known as Ekurahu for the Ekuechi festival and the day masquerade known as Ekuechichi. The women were able to take full possession of the Ekuechichi and established a festival for the masquerade known as Echane. Eche meaning festival and Ane meaning women, translated as festival for women.

Celebration of the Echane Festival

The Echane festival is celebrated once a year within the second quarter of the year (April – June). This festoival is widely celebrated by both women and men in Ebiraland. Unlike Ekuechi, this festival is owned by the women and they are allowed to take full participation in its activities. The festival is a day festival where Ekuechichi, the day masquerade performs. The Ekuechichi has three categories – the “Eku Oweyi”  known as the small grade masquerade, the “Eku Obanyi” known as the big masquerade, and “Eku Oguohuva” known as the mid-grade masquerade. Each of this Ekuechichi grades of masquerade has their speciality. The Eku Obanyi are the great masquerades with the gift of fortune telling and divination. The Eku Oweyi are the entertainers while the mid-grade masquerades combined the function of both.

When the festival is about to commence, like the ekuechi, an heralding Eku, will set out in the evening around 8pm dressed in the Echaka constume, to inform the Anebira of the commencement of the festival. The Eku will also warn parents to keep their child indoor as well as those who are vulnerable including the aged to stay indoor during the festival because of the roughness of the festival.

When the festival commences, the Eku Oweyi are the first masquerade to set out, to entertain the people of Ebiraland. They set out as early as 8am. The scond grade masquerade, eku oguohuva, also sets out later in that day. Eku Obanyi, the great Ekuechichi festival, sets out on the second day to the seventh day of the festival for the purpose of divination, prayers, and to pass across messages of good tidings.

Closing Remark

We believe you have learned about an important tradition of the Ebira people by reading this article. Please do not forget to share with your friends. Thanks for reading!

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