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Osa and the Breath of Life


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(Bini/Nigeria)

Ogbora and a female deity, Odiong, gave birth to Osa (Osanobua), who became the ruler of the universe, the power of Ogbora only extending to the underworld. Osa, the supreme deity, took part in creation, and now prayers and sacrifices are made only to him: he rules the heavens and grants long life. To Ogbora was relegated the superintendence of Ennimi-ne-Ehiamewin, the heaven of old shells, while his son, Osa, took his place as ruler of the universe.

The next most powerful of the deities is Ogiwu, the god of lightning, the son of Osalogbora and Adabinyan, who brings death. Ogiwu is always wise, solemn, and so powerful that Osa cannot force him to obey his orders, especially as regards human beings, since he is the owner of the blood without which man cannot be made by Osa. Ogiwu is responsible for the blood of mankind, the sap in the trees, etc. His wife, Obiemi, the daughter of Osa and Agwa, is loved as kind and good. They had one son, called Okpanigiakon, who used to come down from heaven by a chain and demand the four front teeth from the eldest son of each leader, which he wore strung around his hat. He was at last killed by a slave named Ogiabo during the reign of the king, Ewuare.

For this reason, Ogiwu began to vex the world. Once, in a quarrel, he plunged a sword into the body of Obiemi, so that one could see through her vertically and she could thereafter have no more children. It was because of this that the Omonusa spirits formed, from her excrement, the first man and woman, who, after being provided with blood by Ogiwu and the breath of life by Osa, came down to earth and founded the human race. Though it is Osa who ordains birth, the women pray to Obiemi for assistance in obtaining children and in delivery.

The Ebbaw are believed to have been men who once lived on earth. One branch of them, called Ebami, supposed to number 221, were followers of Ewuare; they had a great reputation for knowledge and magic. Fourteen of the principal Ebbaw were called Ihe and lived in the earth. They seized the leader, Ewuare, on his travels and released him on condition that he sacrifice one hundred animals every day, if he succeeded to the kingdom by their aid. After seven years, he grew tired of giving all these animals to them, and attempted, in vain, to burn them. His magic proved of no avail against the Ihe, and he was forced to retire for the three years before his death to Eshi.

Subjects: Religion.


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