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The Obege legend

In the earliest generations when the art of magic was yet a myth to the people, there was born a boy into a family of hunters in the village of Eika - one of the six communities that comprised the ancestral groups. He was believed to have been born with a leaf in his hand and to the elders of then, that was prognostic of what he would be - a native healer. And had grown up performing wonders.

His kinsmen were all hunters, they would deny the boy the opportunity to follow them hunting, purely on age ground - and he was really too young to go hunting in the forest. They would leave him in the house with the women as they set out on their hunting expedition. But they had meet the young Obege in the forest roasting a fair member of the forest’s game, all alone - and unarmed! The elders had to defer to this wonderful boy.

Obege as an adult was more than human. His fame had spread all over the land: he was a healer of most seemingly incurable diseases, he was a rain maker, assumed more divine than occultic, for he wasn’t known to consult any spirit: magic they believed came natural to him. In the dry season, on a hot day under a white cloudless sky, he was believed to have sat on an upturned mortar before a group of clansmen in front of his house. To the surprise of all present, he was said to have commanded the rain to pour and the cloud complied - sending forth a heavy downpour that drenched everything and everybody around him, but he remained sitting on the mortar as the rain around him - and was as dry as gun powder!

A drawing of Obege addressing his kinsmen

He was believed to have flown into the sky when the laws of motion (and their father) were yet unborn. On this occasion, people had gathered around the great in the village market ground one afternoon. He was to have brought forth a spindle of yarn used by the women for weaving. This he rolled up into the air, holding one end of the yarn in his hand. Defying gravity, the spindle kept on ascending into the sky till the people could see no more of it, with Obege still holding on to the visible end of the yarn. Later, the empty spindle dropped down to the ground but the length of yarn still held on, vertically stretching forth into space! The people thought that was all, but they were yet to see the last of wonders.

He was said to have set out to climbing on the length of yarn the way one will climb up a ladder. To the bewilderment of the spectators, he went on climbing like a spider walking along a gossamer in its web, climbing up - going on and on, till he became a tiny speck to the bewildered eyes of the people. He eventually got out of sight, and the complete length of yarn was said to have dropped to the ground before the spectators; but Obege: he had disappeared in space!
Obege was a great man whose feat were acknowledged by the entire people of the land and beyond. Before his death, he was said to have shown his kinsmen the spot where he would want to be buried when he died. And he did died. His body was believed to be taken to the spot he had indicated when he lived. It was a rocky spot surrounded with a thick forest of bamboo. The people had remained standing with the body of the great man, befogged and wondering how they could dig out a grave on the rock. One of the elders amongst them had suggested digging into the rock anyhow, and the people had no better alternative.

The bearers had placed the body on the preparatory to digging the place with the mattocks and diggers they had brought along. They had hardly left the place to pick those instruments when they received the biggest shock of their lives. The rock had cleft open, right beneath the corpse! The people watched as the body of the great man fell into the gaping opening and with a bloodcurdling sound, the parted walls of the rock closed up instantly without a trace that it ever cracked!
The kinsmen weathered through the shock and ensured that the spirit of the dead man returned before they left there: those people! The mystery of the little bundle that was stitched to the costume of the embodiment of the spirit of the Ododo made it a taboo for the masquerader to “look up” at it while completely masked inside. The implication here is that: a spirit ought not to look up at the bundle when he was putting un the mask when completely inside. This doesn’t require further explanation. Anyway, this had been the tradition in those days, you know.

The kinsmen of Obege had “come out” with his spirit from the very spot he was buried. This was expected, as usual since they had already performed the ritual of the pieces of flesh on the body before it was taken out for burial.
But the custodian was ill -fated. Obege was reported to have warned that the costume of the mask in which his spirit would be embodied must not be kept in his house: he had wanted it reserved on the rock in which he had been buried.
When the embodied spirit of the great man had been paraded before the community, the elders had returned with him to the spot where the man was buried, the “custodian” of the spirit was believed to have “looked up” at the bundle tied inside the mask as he was getting off the costume. To the amazement of the people around, the entire costume whisked off the custodian with a swishing sound and was watched helplessly as it flew in the direction of a huge black rock south -east of the village. The costume landed and spread itself out on the surface of the rock. The “custodian” of the spirit dropped down ….dead.

This was the first major casualty in the history of the traditional masquerade cult.

[Continue to have your dose of Ebiras and their lifestyle through] Any material on Obege can be sent to us by email.

Culled from: Beyond The Mask by Ustaz Ibn Maalik.



    1. I've heard much about dis lagend wen I was in Okene "Ebira land"

  2. Coolest, this Obege person is definitely a legend.


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