Categories: Ebira Traditions

The Origin and Celebration of Echori Festival in Ebiraland


Eche Ori shortened as Echori  is another one of the three major annual festivals celebrated in Ebiraland. However, unlike the other two, the Echori festival is only celebrated within two regions in Ebiraland, which are Eganyi and Ihima. As we know, eche means festival in Ebira tribe while the Ori means gods or diety, hence, Echori can be translated to mean the festival for the gods or deities. This festival is celebrated annually before the sales of new yams in the market in Ihima and Eganyi. Hence, its given name, the New Yam Festival. It is celebrated by the people living in these two regions of Ebiraland to express their thanks to the Ori for its protection and blessing them with a bountiful production during the farming season. The Ori worshippers offer sacrifices to the Ori in its abode which is located at a mountain top.

Origin of Echori Festival

The popular myth around the origin of Echori is the tales of a hunter who went on hunting in the Iruku (forest) accompanied by his younger brother. While on the hunting expedition, the younger boy noticed an unusual abode, that is deserted. This caught his attention and as a result of his curious nature, he called the attention of his older brother to it. They both walked towards the place to examine what they had seen, on getting there and seeing what it looked like, the older one suggested that the place is an abode for a deity (Ori).

The two brothers ran home in a frenzy to tell the elders in their family (clan) about their ordeal. The information was beyond the comprehension of the clan elders and they went on to consult the wise ones who are the custodians of the oracles (eva also fortune telling). The wise ones informed them that the place is sacred and it is an abode for Ori, the harvest deity. The wise ones recommended that sacrifices should be rendered on regular basis to the deity and that it would bless them with plentiful harvest.

This occurrence was before the farmers harvested their yam, the people went on to offer sacrifice to the Ori and coincidentally, upon harvest, they recorded a bountiful harvest at the end of the farming season. Hence, the people made it customary to offer their sacrifices to the Ori before the sales of new yam at the market every year. This was what gave rise to the Echori festival celebrated by the Eganyi and Ihima people.

The well-known custodians of the Ori are the people of Emani, consisting of 7 clans. These clans are the Adobosi, Epi, Ogagu, Edema Ajimi, Inyahu, and Egiri. All activities associated with the Echori celebration are under the jurisdiction of Obobanyi of the Emani. The Obobanyi selects the prefects for the annual celebration and worship, known as “Onutu ori,” known as messenger of the deity or gods. A person can only be appointed as “onutu ori” not more than three times throughout his lifetime and this appointment may not happen consecutively. Only males from the seven clans of the Emani clan are eligible for this appointment.

Celebration of Echori Festival

Echori festival is celebrated within three days. During the celebration of this festival, the worshippers Ori and followers of masquerades wield long whips with which they alternately lash one another, none of whom show any signs of pain. This is used as a display of power or manhood. Anyone that shows any sign of pain is said to be a weakling.

The festival’s melodious music known as “Echori music” is another important draw of the festival which predominantly features female singers. It is forbidden to consume or sell new yams before the festival is celebrated in Ihima and Eganyi; only after the celebration is it acceptable.

In the early days, “strangers” were not permitted to enter Ihima during the three days of celebrating Echori. Additionally, it was also forbidden to for black dogs and women who had “ukokori” applied on them to enter the town during the celebration. Today, it seems that these taboos no longer exists and instead, anyone who broke the laws will be penalized one he-goat with a sum of ₦65, 000, whether they are of Ihima descent or not. Offenders who are hesitant to paying the fees typically faced harsh punishment.

Closing Remark

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