Eleme Marriage Rite: Ékpãã Osila

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By Benjamin Ngongwia

Every people of the world have their unique tradition from Egypt to Russia to Israel and the Eleme people are not an exception. The Ékpãã Osila is a sacrifice and sacrifices are essential part of most religious activities recorded in the Bible and Koran. Therefore, God is not against it

Please read this article with the mindset of “giving to Caezer what rightly belongs to Caezer”.

Ékpãã in Eleme language means “ritual “, while Osila means “first daughter”. The Ékpãã Osila simply means a cleansing ritual for the first daughter.

Being an Osila is not just a name, it is equally a title that is earned. Howbeit, it is inherently a birth title. A title that allows you to be entitled to certain rights. For example, the Eleme culture forbids anyone else to eat the tail of a chicken and goat except the Osila.

Before now, Eleme parents were reluctant to send their female children (especially Osila) to school arguing that it is a waste since they would soon be married off. But thank God for civilization.

Traditionally speaking, Eleme women do not attract suitors because of how educated they are but because of how industrious they are domestically and agriculturally. This is why during the Ofe mbo (killing of goat), the married men who represents the groom usually claim that they either saw the bride carrying firewood or cassava on her head while walking majestically home from farm.

In some cases, the ability of Eleme women to get married goes beyond how industrious they are with farm and domestic works, to family background, life history of parents, grandparents and even distance relations not forgetting the type of ailments they may have had

According to the Eleme core traditional beliefs, the marriage of Osila may not be successful without the Ékpãã Osila ritual. A ritual that many believe it is barbaric!
This culture involves some processes that must be meticulously followed.

First of all, the Ékpãã Osila is purely done to sanctify the first daughter against any form of miscarriage and the problem associated with still birth as well as her inability to deliver successfully. The financial burden of this purification is the sole responsibility of the bride’s parents. For the record, of the ten communities that make up Eleme, it is only Onne that does not perform this tradition.

The needed items for this cleansing include: a big dried fish, seven rackets of afari fish, seven rackets of ebo-kpina fish, seven rackets of dried mudskipper, half loco of cray fish, a native calabach, two baskets, two kitchen chairs, a keg of palm wine, a bunch of breakable palm fruit, a life native he goat, a branch of raffia leaves, a fathom of njiri wrapper,

This tradition is done in the bride’s father’s compound after the bride has been traditionally married and it is presided over by the land priest of the community.

This Ékpãã Osila takes place on a day the Eleme people call Õkõõ or Mmā and commences any moment after 4pm in the evening. At the heart of the bride’s father’s compound, the land priest keeps two kitchen chairs close to each other. In front of the first kitchen chairs is the raffia leaves erected. The Osila on whose head this purification is performed sits on the chairs in front while an elderly married Osila (her guide) who has previously performed this ritual, sits behind her with both of them half dressed; covering only breast and bum. The priest libates and places the calabach upon the head of the bride. As she is about to go fetch the water, the native gun powder will be shot once. Then she will be escorted by the elderly married Osila (her guide) and other women to go get water, when she gets there, she is received by her elder brother or an elderly man from her father’s compound; who helps to fetch the water for her. After filling the calabach with water, she starts her journey back home but this time, she is not expected to talk to anybody or look behind until she gets home. On getting home, the native gun powder is shot and she is received by her husband the groom who helps her bring the calabash down from her head and spray her some money.

After that she will sit again on the kitchen chairs with the older Osila also behind her and the priest will put a wrapper on her head then proceed to place the bunch of breakable palm fruit on her head and then proceed to use the machete to cut it seven times. Immediately after that, with taale penny (equivalent of #40) in her both hands she will hit he goat seven times on the stomach. Thereafter the priest lifting up the goat slits the neck and on her head allowing the blood oozing out to pour on her. The items bought are cooked and eaten by every one present except the married Osila who has not perform this tradition or who is not yet married.

Meanwhile, anyone who drinks or eat there will pour or rub a little on the Osila’s body.

At the end of the whole process, the bride will be given a mat to sleep on without bathing till the following morning. In addition, the venue of the purification will not be swept until the morning and when finally swept, it would be poured at the foot of a plantain tree. Thereby making the plantain the bride’s own.

And like a magic wand, the efficacy is never in doubt as any Osila who previously could not conceive after several years of marriage, is reportedly pregnant after performing the Ékpãã Osila ritual.

This Ékpãã Osila culture is gradually eroding mainly because of Christianity. Though some people are of the opinion that some Osila(s) are still childless because of their refusal to perform this tradition but there are many of the Osila(s) who have successfully given birth too despite not performing this ritual.

Personally, I feel all these boil down to ones beliefs because like we all know, whatever you believe in, works for you.

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