goddess-asaba

Great Goddess And Shrine Of Asaba People

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The home of the Asaba people is situated at a point near the lower Niger River, overlooking the point where the Anambra River flows into it.

Asaba connects between western, eastern and northern Nigeria and history has it that it was once the colonial capital of the Southern Nigeria Protectorate, founded in 1884, and hosted the Royal Niger Company between 1886 and 1900, set up by the British authorities to stimulate trade and the exportation of goods to England.

Asaba lies approximately 60° North of the equator and about the same distance East of the meridian, about 160 kilometres (100 mi) North of where the River Niger flows into the Atlantic Ocean, but the greater Asaba occupies an area of about 300 square kilometers and it maintains an average tropical temperature of 32° Centigrade during the dry season and an average fertile rainfall of 2,700 millimetres (106 in) during the rainy season.

The paramount ruler in Asaba, known as the Asagba of Asaba, is whom the heads (“Diokpa”) of each of the five Ebos report directly to on matters affecting Asaba. The city maintains a population of predominantly non-indigenous people like the Urhobos, Isokos, Ijaws, Ukwuanis, Hausas, Itsekiris and Yorubas. The goddess of the Asaba indigenes is known as Onishe, and referred to as the spiritual mother who holds the destiny of the Asaba people.

According to the founding father (Nnebisi) of Asaba, the name, Asaba, was adopted for the city by the first colonial masters to arrive and live in the area during the British colonial occupation of Nigeria, owing to the fact that they could not pronounce the original name “Ahabagom,” meaning I have chosen well, properly.

The shrine of the great goddess of the Asaba people is a mystery to behold, and according to Olikeze of Asaba, John Iloba, “The Onishe, who later became the river goddess of Asaba, was invited to a dance party at which she was served Ogbono soup which she hurriedly took. While eating, the soup stained her white traditional dress, but she did not see it until the people started mimicking her with song. When she eventually did, she got angry and left the party unceremoniously without any award. Her children also drew her attention to the stain when she got home. She removed the dress, headed to the forest and burnt it instantly. There and then she proclaimed that no Asaba indigene should eat Ogbono soup and placed a curse on whoever would defy her.

Thereafter, she disappeared and became a goddess. The spot where she stood before disappearing became Onishe shrine and her spirit is being worshipped there.”

A calm atmosphere enshrouds the enclave of the Onishe shrine and big ogbono trees adorn both sides of the road leading to the mother there. Substantial evidence from some historians in the area has it that for over 250 years neither the leaves nor the ogbono seeds have ever fallen  on the water.Meanwhile, it is believed that Onishe is as old as the city of Asaba itself, its faithful gather regularly to seek spiritual help and protection, and nobody goes to the shrine with empty hands.

“If you must ask for Onishe’s support in whatever way, you must visit with a full grown cock, a goat or a cow, depending on your need and financial capability. Those who cannot afford to give any of the above are allowed to make pledges or vows and  when their requests are granted they are expected to appease Onishe with whatever they can afford,” Iloba further said.

Onishe is believed to be a woman with big long breasts who guards and guides her children jealously. Informed observers say that she could appears as anything she chooses, such as a crocodile or clad in immaculate white wrapper exposing her big long breasts, during festive periods to accept whatever sacrifice being offered to her.

The shrine of the great goddess of Asaba people is a mystery to behold, according to John Iloba, Olikeze of Asaba, “the Onishe who later became the river goddess of Asaba was invited to a dance party, at the party she was served Ogbono soup, which she hurriedly took. While eating, the soup stained her white traditional dress. She did not see it until the people started mimicking her with song, it was too late when she discovered her clothes was stained, she got angry and left the party unceremoniously without any award. Her children also drew her attention to the stain when she got home. She removed the dress, headed to the forest and burnt it instantly.

There and then she cursed that nobody (Asaba indigene) should eat Ogbono soup and whoever did would reap the consequence before she disappeared and thereafter became a goddess. The spot where she disappeared became Onishe shrine while her spirit is being worshipped there.

Visiting the enclave of the Onishe, you will discover a calm atmosphere, and there lies big ogbono trees on both sides to the road of the mother goddess. Substantial evidence from some stake holders in the area has it that for over 250 years the leaves nor the ogbono seeds have never ever fallen  on the water.

Meanwhile, it is believed that the Onishe is as old as the city of Asaba itself. Onishe faithful gather regularly to seek spiritual help and protection and nobody goes to Onishe shrine with empty hands. “If you must ask for Onishe’s support in whatever way, you must visit a full grown cock, a goat or a cow depending on your need and financial capability. For those who cannot afford to give any of the above, they are allowed to make a pledge or vow and as they get results to their request they will appease Onishe with whatever they can afford thereafter.

Onishe, is believed to be a woman with big long breasts who guards and guides her children jealously. Informed observers say she could appear as anything she chooses, it could be as a crocodile, during festive periods, to accept whatever sacrifice she is being offered her, she could appear in immaculate white wrapper exposing her big long breasts.

Although, it is believed that those who see Onishe as mere absence of reality suffer consequences when they act in any way contradictory to what she stands for, the worshipper is expected to dress in all-white attire, including underpants.

, Lagos

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