Benin : Cosmology of Ancient Benin

Sekhemu

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According to the legends inherited from the Ewe tro (ancient ancestors) the universe is equated to the sacred calabash, it is described as an enormous calabash, in which the top is the heavens, covered by the skies and the bottom is the earth, thus splitting the world into two opposite polarities.

The sky is viewed as the masculine aspect of the universe where as the earth is viewed as the feminine aspect of the universe because of it association with fertility, nurturing and nourishment.

The Ewe understood that all life is born from the active insemination of the sky because it fertilizes the earth via the issuance of the rain. The earth acts as the receptor of the rain, gladly receives the water and nourishes the seeds which germinate the plants which create a process of metamorphasis of both animals and men.

The ancient Ewe also believed that the world itself was a huge feminine organic body made up of the four very basic but extremely important elements: Earth, Fire, Sky and Water. They also believed that water was formed or generated from the interplay of the spirits of the sky and that fire gushed from the earth. For them, the absolute essential impulse central to the release of these elements was lightning, it was theorized that the contact of these two polarities provoked the lightning, thus triggering the basic impulse of all cosmic and earthly transformation, including the process of copulation and birth.

Additionally, the fire that the Ewe ancestors learned to make from rock and drywood is viewed as merely an extension of this divine force manifested from thunder "with the knowledge of fire," the ancestors were able to transform laterite into iron and thus master this element in order to forge tools for agriculture, weaponry, hunting and war.

These cosmological concepts were often traditionally expressed in the traditional design of the royal branch. Constructed from a single block of wood in which it cuts into two base parts, supported by five legs/columns. One base representing the earth, the other representing the sky. The two front columns representing fire and water and the central column representing lightning. This same cosmological theme plays itself out in understanding the concept behind the Ewe's belief that it is a major force that also regulates fertility, the seasons, and even time itself.

Ancient origans of the solar system. According to the ancient Ewe, the cosmic concentration point for each year is situated in the sky. It consists of sixteen starts grouped like twins to form the constellation of the pleiades. During this time of year, when the constellation is not visible to the human eye ( time for a period of sixteen days, after the birth of the first ancestors occurred, all of nature loses its vigor.

It is considered useless to plant, gather medicinal leaves or to perform any vodun ceremony during this time. Most Ewe withdraw from the world and all life rests to what is considered suspended lethargy, until the constellation reappears to commence the new year. However, this new year is immediately celebrated, for the pleides still remain relatively hidden from physical view.

Though the ancient Ewe would dutifully go about tending to the daily chores of the day, they worked with much vigor and anticipation of this joyful even, when it would manifest itself during the winter solstice. There, this celestial phenomena would rise majestically in the eastern horizon at midnight. Traversing the entire sky before early dawn, it was at this point when all would joyfully celebrate the new year.
 

Blackbird

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Bro. Sekhemu,

Ase! Thanks for every bit of knowledge you provide us with. It is welcomed. I missed this.

Blackbird (blacker than ever)
 

emanuel goodman

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awesome

Sekhemu said:
According to the legends inherited from the Ewe tro (ancient ancestors) the universe is equated to the sacred calabash, it is described as an enormous calabash, in which the top is the heavens, covered by the skies and the bottom is the earth, thus splitting the world into two opposite polarities.

The sky is viewed as the masculine aspect of the universe where as the earth is viewed as the feminine aspect of the universe because of it association with fertility, nurturing and nourishment.

The Ewe understood that all life is born from the active insemination of the sky because it fertilizes the earth via the issuance of the rain. The earth acts as the receptor of the rain, gladly receives the water and nourishes the seeds which germinate the plants which create a process of metamorphasis of both animals and men.

The ancient Ewe also believed that the world itself was a huge feminine organic body made up of the four very basic but extremely important elements: Earth, Fire, Sky and Water. They also believed that water was formed or generated from the interplay of the spirits of the sky and that fire gushed from the earth. For them, the absolute essential impulse central to the release of these elements was lightning, it was theorized that the contact of these two polarities provoked the lightning, thus triggering the basic impulse of all cosmic and earthly transformation, including the process of copulation and birth.

Additionally, the fire that the Ewe ancestors learned to make from rock and drywood is viewed as merely an extension of this divine force manifested from thunder "with the knowledge of fire," the ancestors were able to transform laterite into iron and thus master this element in order to forge tools for agriculture, weaponry, hunting and war.

These cosmological concepts were often traditionally expressed in the traditional design of the royal branch. Constructed from a single block of wood in which it cuts into two base parts, supported by five legs/columns. One base representing the earth, the other representing the sky. The two front columns representing fire and water and the central column representing lightning. This same cosmological theme plays itself out in understanding the concept behind the Ewe's belief that it is a major force that also regulates fertility, the seasons, and even time itself.

Ancient origans of the solar system. According to the ancient Ewe, the cosmic concentration point for each year is situated in the sky. It consists of sixteen starts grouped like twins to form the constellation of the pleiades. During this time of year, when the constellation is not visible to the human eye ( time for a period of sixteen days, after the birth of the first ancestors occurred, all of nature loses its vigor.

It is considered useless to plant, gather medicinal leaves or to perform any vodun ceremony during this time. Most Ewe withdraw from the world and all life rests to what is considered suspended lethargy, until the constellation reappears to commence the new year. However, this new year is immediately celebrated, for the pleides still remain relatively hidden from physical view.

Though the ancient Ewe would dutifully go about tending to the daily chores of the day, they worked with much vigor and anticipation of this joyful even, when it would manifest itself during the winter solstice. There, this celestial phenomena would rise majestically in the eastern horizon at midnight. Traversing the entire sky before early dawn, it was at this point when all would joyfully celebrate the new year.


keeping doing what u do:teach:
 

Love_Unknown

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Dec 24, 2006
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Excellent post once again Sekhemu. Thank you.
I actually traveled to the Volta Region myself (Eastern Ghana, the traditional land of the Ewe people.) At the time, I had been dating a girl who was Ewe (she pronounced more like it "Eh-veh." She told me that the name Ewe was not actually the origial name of their people, which was actually a two syllable word that utilizes a "gbo" sound that requires a nearly reverse flow of air in the throat to pronounce, and given to the difficulty of its pronunciation (by even the neighboring African ethnic groups themselves,) they go by the name of Ewe. I traveled with her father (Dr. Mawuli- a 56 year old economist for the Papau New Guineau Government) to visit her family. We stayed at his 96 year old mother’s house in the “village” of Hohwe for nearly a week. Her grandmother was one of 5 sisters, all of which were still alive except one (I met 3 of them myself.) The oldest had lived to be 105. This age is actually an approximation because in the old days in the Ewe culture, as with many of the other ethnic groups in the region, the day of the year that one is born has far less importance than the day of the week, the reason why nearly everyone in Ghana had Kofi, Kwame, Kwasi, etc. as part of their name because it indicates the day of the week they were born on. The family had “estimated” the age of the oldest sister to be 105 because she could vividly remember events that happened in 1905, which logically mean that she had to have been “at least” 6 or 7 years at the time, but possibly even older. The sisters all knew who was born before who and the approximate number of seasons in between, so they could estimate that the youngest was at least 94 (a sweet old lady that I met who was going blind,) and the oldest was at least 105. The 105 year old sister had just recently died from a head wound she received from a branch from a dead tree falling off and hitting her in the head while she was working on her farm. Yes, working on the farm. That’s how strong these women were. The 96 year old sister whose house I stayed in woke up before everyone everyday (at about 4am,) would walk all the way to the farm (about half a mile away I was told,) and after gathering all of the vegetables for the day (mostly small child sized African yams) she would carry all of it on a big tray on her head (typical African fashion) all they way back home where she would spend the rest of the day cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children, still! Never saw anything like it in my life. The second youngest who I’m told was 103 I met in the nearby village of Vakpo, and she looked better than all of them. When I approached her she was seated outside on a part of the house architecture with her back against the wall and a piece of straw in her mouth looking gazing peacefully into the distance with a proud and contented look in her face, looking like she didn’t have a care in the world. She was a beautiful black woman and when I crossed in front of her she calmly adjusted her skirt like a lady who was still accustomed to people still trying to look under it. I couldn’t actually communicate with most of the family because most of them spoke Ewe and French, and maybe a few other African languages also (most people I met in Ghana spoke 4 or 5 languages. We mostly communicated intuitively, but on my last day there, their 7 year old niece “Linda” who had been trying her best to communicate with me for days, I guess just couldn’t take it anymore and led me by the hand into the house, sat me down and spoke to me in to me in her language for about 30 minutes. I didn’t say a word, just listened. I have no idea what that lovely child was saying to me, but whatever it was seemed to have been heavy on her mind, and I sat and listened to every word. I made attempts to speak a few words and phrases in Ewe, but the children never once answered me. They would just stare at me with a very perplexed look on their face and start laughing.

I had so many experiences there. Walking through the village/small town’s busiest section in the morning with her father I stopped at a record store that was playing a really tight African song that I kept hearing in the nightclubs there, so I just had to stop and get it. I told her father that I he didn’t have to wait for me I would meet him back at the house a little later after I did some more shopping. But after visiting a few more stores I began to make my way back to the house, in the direction that I saw her father walking, but soon discovered that the so-called “village” (as it was described to me) was actually a lot bigger and more complex than I had realized. I walked and walked, but all the roads looked the same, and just couldn’t find the house anywhere. So then I tried reversing my steps and go back in the direction that we had originally come, but that didn’t work either. After about 2 or 3 hours of walking I finally accepted the fact that I was lost, and decided to have lunch at a lovely little restaurant and figure out my next move. Being that I had originally left the house with Dr. Mawuli, I didn’t bother getting the house address or phone number (if they had one, most people in Ghana made phone calls at public call boxes in town and didn‘t have a house phone,) so I was stuck. I also knew that Dr. Mawuli wouldn’t realize I was lost for many hours because he knew how adventurous I was and would just assume that I was just taking my time to see the sights, or had found a friend to hang out with (something I did everywhere I went in Ghana, and was extremely easy to do.) Shortly after lunch, a little boy who spoke perfect English befriended me (as usual in Ghana) and after explaining my situation to him, he decided to help me find my way back to the house. We walked up and down every street and back road all day in the African sun and even with his local expertise we just couldn’t find it. We had a wonderful time though, bought fruit and little homemade desserts on the street, he showed me a few nice spots, saw everything there was to see so I really wasn’t distressed at all. We walked until the sun began to set and I knew that by this time Dr. Mawuli would realize I was lost and start to look for me, so I figured that if I simply stayed in a highly visible location on the main road he would eventually find me. Mentally I guess we were on the same page because almost as soon as I picked my highly visible spot, I see the Dr. driving up in his mini-van. We invited the little boy home to have dinner with us, and I gave him some money for his help and all of his trouble. All the while thinking that this boy was about 11 years old by the looks of him, I later found out that he was actually 15 (this was common in Ghana, people looking “incredibly” young for their age, because of their incredibly strong genes and their lifestyle I’m sure (healthy natural food made fresh from scratch every day, never refrigerated or frozen, almost perfectly peaceful lifestyle with virtually no stress, near 80 degrees all year with no winter, an incredible knowledge of medicinal herbs- my girlfriend in-fact told me that she wouldn’t take her asthma medication with her when she visited her Ghana when she was younger because her Grandmother would treat her with herbs.) Saw all this and much more, including spending 3 days with an Ewe prince looking over his inherited land. Maybe I’ll talk about it in another thread. I’ll stop here today. Peace.
 

nibs

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Jun 18, 2006
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(Sekhemu) - Though the ancient Ewe would dutifully go about tending to the daily chores of the day, they worked with much vigor and anticipation of this joyful even, when it would manifest itself during the winter solstice. There, this celestial phenomena would rise majestically in the eastern horizon at midnight. Traversing the entire sky before early dawn, it was at this point when all would joyfully celebrate the new year.

this is one of the most basic aspects of high culture. every aspect of life has a higher, symbolic purpose.

january 1 2007 marks what event? what event occurred 2007 years ago january 1? is it cyclical? quick research suggests that it was arbitrarily chosen to keep roman holidays aligned seasonally. so close after the winter solstice there may be a tie in there...but who knows?

if january 1 doesn't correspond to anything...the new year isn't much different from the old year...
 

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