Igede people are from Benue state, they can be found in two out of the 23 Local Government Areas namely; Odi and Oju local government area.
Marriage is the coming together of man and woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any up-spring produced by their union. Traditional Marriage rites and ceremonies of Igede people in Nigeria are so exciting.
The process is filled with rich cultural practices. During the pre-colonial era, the Igede people have three different forms of marriages, namely;
- Accompanying marriage
- Elopement -running away with a bride
- Abduction (forced marriage)
Force marriage: This form of marriage involves catching a girl you have an interest in, either from the road or at the market before negotiating the marriage rites with her parent.
Whichever form of marriage you choose – Gun firing must take place. This act signifies that other intending suitors should keep away from the girl, she has been betrothed. The lady will soon be somebody’s wife.
But recently, civilization and Christianity have eroded some of the exciting aspects of the marriage rites.
However, it has also helped in stopping forced marriage. For this article, we are going to limit the scope of the traditional marriage rites of Igede people.
1. Traditional marriage rites and Traditions in Igede land
According to Igede people, marriage is mostly moved by a boy or girl’s hard work and good character.
A mother or housewife could solicit for her male or female relation to marriage. She may decide to ask a girl’s hand in marriage for her relation. She, therefore, facilitates the initial contact between the soon to be bride and groom.
A day is set aside when the groom visits the bride in the company of his friends, at this gathering the bride and groom are supposed to put on transparent clothing or semi-unclad. This is done for both parties to see each other’s bodies to enable them to have a fair opinion of themselves.
Any injury mark on a man’s body could be judged to a hoe or cutlass cut which means the man is hard-working. This belief; invariably means he can take care of the woman and she is assured of abundant food at home.
Courtship can now commence after this meeting – if the bride is satisfied with the groom. At this point also the groom is always careful, making sure he prevents a situation whereby the girl would prefer his friend/relative to him.
There is a gift exchange between the bride and groom. The man shows that he is a good son-in-law by farming for the bride’s parents from time to time.
At this point also secret investigation begins, both by the groom’s and bride’s parent – this is done to check if the families are free from ailments like madness, theft, alcoholism and what have you.
This investigation is also done to ascertain that both families are not related by blood.
If for instance, the groom’s family is not satisfied with the outcome of their investigation and canceled the marriage proposal.
The farm works the groom underwent for the bride’s parent will be paid back in cash, other presents and gifts will be returned also.
If the bride’s parent fined the groom not worthy of marrying their daughter, they would tactically withdraw from the process.
Premarital sex between the prospective bride and groom is forbidden before the final marriage rites are observed. Gifts and encomium are always showered on a bride who proves her virginity on her wedding night.
A mediator is contracted by the bride’s parent, usually a man through whom all demand could be channeled to. This is after the father must have certified the marriage free from doubts.
The Bride price
Bride price in Igede land is called ekwuotaba, Igede peoplehave no fixed amount. Brideprice can be paid in installments. It is expected that the balance of the bride price is paid shortly before the girl is taken to the man’s house.
The good gesture shown by the husband towards his in-law in time of hardship or need is also part of the bride price. There is a saying in Igede land that says “payment of bride-price can’t be exhausted”.
In Igede tradition, bride price is complete when twelve bundles of brass bars are provided which today is an equivalent of N10,000 and above. The amount paid for the brass bars varies from family to family and according to the social status of the family.
2. The wedding ceremony of Igede people
After the brideprice is settled, a possible date is fixed when the groom should come for his wife. The arrival of the groom and his people is marked with a lot of funfair and feasting (Uganyahuonyewe) in the bride’s house.
A bride is regarded as wife only when a gun is shot at least once on her arrival at the husband’s house in the company of her friends. There will be shouting and jubilation in the groom’s compound.
Smoked meat and roasted bush meat well-seasoned with pepper and palm wine are served to everyone at the reception ceremony.
We are meant to know that a new wife is firstly camped (ahuOjuga) in the home of her relatives living close to her husband’s house at least three days before she finally moves into her husband’s house.
This is done to settle any complaint between the groom and his in-laws. Eating and dancing is the order of the day, at the end of the day’s celebrations, the bride returns to her lodge.
The next day the groom’s father host both the husband and wife to a big feast and blesses their union. A hen is slaughtered – the gizzard and kidney are for the couple to eat.
The meat of the fowl is shared into two equal parts, one part to the bride’s family and the other to the groom’s family. This wedding sacrament depicts the everlasting commitment of the couple to each other till death.
Igede people do not condole or accept Divorce, when there is trouble in the home the matter is taken to the elder of the husband’s family to settle. However, if the matter couldn’t be settled the wife’s people will be called to come into the reconciliatory process.
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