Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Traditional Marriage : A Glimpse At Urhobo Culture

THE Urhobo ethnic group of Delta State is one of the five ethnic groups found in the state. Located at the central part of the state with over 100 communities scattered across that zone, most of their folklore says that they are a people whom their ancestors had migrated from Edo State at various times; and further migrated to the various communities, which had formed part of Delta State.

Being descendants of the same ancestors, most of their customs and traditions are similar and in certain areas the same such as the breaking of the kola-nut and the donation of cash to wedge the kola-nut presentation, prayers and blessing pronounced before the sharing of the kola and drinks, payment of bride prize, burial rite e.t.c.

Of all the customs and traditions, the traditional marriage rite is one unique one; generally because of the uniformity as to how the process of taking a wife from that area is carried out.

Naturally, when a suitor no matter where he is from is interested in an Urhobo maiden, he courts her. Once she agrees to marry him, the marriage process has begun. Unlike in some other ethnic traditions where the bride goes to inform the father of the intentions of the groom wanting to announce his intentions formally, in Urhobo culture, she goes to her mother first who is more of her primary custodian.

Then the mother would in turn after getting the necessary information from the daughter, go to the father to inform him of a certain gentleman that is interested in marrying their daughter. The father as he pleases would in turn ask the young man to be invited to see him.

The groom on his first visit would come alone with a bottle gin to be formally identified and on a later date would come again with his parents and with few other close relatives to formally speak on behalf of their son. This is known in Urhobo kingdom as "Ghore-Etse" when translated means to knock.
When coming for this visit, the suitor must come with a bottle of schnapps and with any number of bottles of wine that he can afford. It also important to note that upon every visit, bottle schnapps must accompany any other drink he intends to present.

As with any gathering kola nut is presented by the host and prayers are offered. Then the spokesman for the guests would state their mission and identify their son that is interested in their daughter. The bride would be called upon and informed of the mission of the guests and be asked to give her family the permission to go ahead with the process.

Upon her agreement, the drinks and gifts presented by the suitors family would be accepted and a date is given to the suitor to come and pay homage with drinks and gifts to five important family members of the bride, three from her father's and two from her mother's; And usually the oldest family members.

After this visit, another date would be fixed for the introduction (Evughe). This time around, extended family members would be present. The suitor this time would come with more assorted drinks as he can afford. According to custom, another date is usually fixed for when the groom is to come collect the list of things to bring for the traditional marriage, but in order to save time and reduce the stress, some families would prepare the list before the introduction to hand over to the family of the groom upon request.

The most unique part in this whole process is the presentation of the list. The content of this list in Urhobo land includes the bride prize and some other items. Upon presentation, the both families will go into negotiation. From research, everything on the list is negotiable, apart from the bride prize which is N120, Kerosene for extended family members and cigarette. The others which include money for the father, money for the mother's waist for pushing out the bride during labour, the number of drinks to bring e. t. c. are all negotiable. Some items like the kerosene usually come before the day of traditional marriage which would be shared to the women in bride's extended family.

After all agreements have been made, another date will be given for the groom to come to collect the date for payment of the bride prize and traditional ceremony proper. A negotiable amount is usually paid to get this date. It is worthy of note that the date chosen is usually influenced by the bride and groom.

According to tradition, the bride prize is never to be paid on a market day. However, if the date chosen falls on a market day, the groom is usually asked to pay the bride prize the day before the traditional ceremony of eating and drinking. While paying the bride prize, the money is never paid in the house. Two witnesses from both sides would step outside into the compound and choose a corner for the money to be handed over.

As custom demands, when the money is handed over, the sum of N20 shall be returned to the family of the groom, which means the bride was not sold and she still belongs to her family. So upon death, the woman shall be returned to her father's compound for burial or in a house built by her children in her name, in her village or quarters if she is from the same town as her husband.

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