Witches: Powerful Beings in Great Benin

Excerpt from “Kings, Magic & Medicine”

Witches (Azen)


By Chief Dr. Daryl Peavy




The Edo people believed in the concept of witchcraft. Witches were wise and powerful human beings who possessed inherent supernatural powers (Badejo 1996: 77-79; Awolalu 1996: 80).

Edo witches consisted of any human being who had the ability to detach his or her life force from the physical body to capture or kill the life essence of another (Norborg 1992: 23). The Edo usually attributed many origins of strange diseases, sudden deaths, accidents, childlessness, impotence, and other misfortunes to witchcraft (Ero 2003: 11; Awolalu 1996: 81).

A witch (azen) did not need to use an apparatus, rituals, incantations, or possess special medicines because of her inherent supernatural powers (Awolalu 1996: 80). However, there were some witches who were trained in the practice of Traditional Edo Medicine.

Those witches had the natural Chief Dr. Daryl M. Peavy JD 39 ability to make medicines that were more powerful than the average person (Mosley, et. al.: 35). Witches were human beings who were very strong willed and capable of directing destructive forces at others (Awolalu 1996: 80).

The identity of a witch was not gender-specific. A witch could be female or male in gender, but women were more common (Awolalu 1996: 84). A witch possessed a great life force called orhion. Orhion allowed a witch to possess the power of transformation. Orhion was a witch s life force that took on the form of a bird or animal (Awolalu 1996: 84-85).

A witch was able to travel undetected by transforming her life force into an animal form. A witch usually transformed at nighttime to accomplish a malevolent deed. Some of the animals that a witch could transform herself into were owls, cats and dogs (Awolalu 1996: 85).

The animals the witch transformed into where usually associated with the night. A witch was also capable of attacking people in their dreams. The Edo people believed that a witch often ate a victim s organs a little at a time in the dream state (Awolalu 1996: 85).

Native doctors referred to witches as Night-people and sadists (Okosun 1997) terms that described the witch s nocturnal activity and malevolent behavior. The leader of the witches was called Obason.

The word Obason (Oba ason) meant King of the Night. The Obason was the king of the witches and the most powerful witch. The Obason was also the head of the council of the witches. The Obason summoned witches together to attend nocturnal meetings to plan how they would dispose of enemies.

The witches nocturnal meetings occurred between the hours of 12:00 AM and 2:00 AM (Awolalu 1996: 85-86). The witch s life force (orhion) attended the nocturnal meeting while the physical body remained asleep at home. The Obason called the witches nocturnal meeting to discuss how to acquire, possess, and feed upon a victim s organs (Awolalu 1996: 85).

A witch fed upon a victim s organs by stealing its life force. When a witch took the life force from an organ, the organ would eventually cause a debilitating disease or death. Native doctors were skilled at both fighting and appeasing witches. Some of the offerings of sacrifice the native doctors would give to witches were a giant rat, banana, duck, sugar cane, animal intestines, and hedgehogs (FAMA 1996: 185).

Native doctors also possessed protective medicines to fend off witches. The Night beings were associated with the Uloko (Iroko) (Chlorophora excelsa) tree. That is 40 Kings, Magic, & Medicine where they gathered to hold their meetings. Night beings were also associated with the junction and markets.

The Edo believed that there were other malevolent forces, such as the elders of the night (eniwanren) or the founding fathers of the underworld (Ighele-erinmwin) who were grotesque monsters that captured humans and carried them away to another realm to commit malevolent acts (Galembo, et. al. 1993: 27).

Native doctors made sacrifices to witches at road junctions that included kidney livers and intestines to satisfy the malevolent forces (Galembo, et. al. 1993: 27; Norborg 1992: 23).

Lesser Spirits

The Edo people believed that there were also spirits who played a lesser role than those of the sub-gods. Although not as powerful as the sub-gods, the lesser spirits exerted various forces over humans. The Ikpata were malevolent spirits that lived near roadways and resided in uprooted trees (Melzian 1937).

The Edo people believed that these malevolent spirits would cause harm to women or children by means of disease or accidents. The Eseku inhabited dense bush areas in the forest. The Eseku were dwarf spirits that looked like men, but were covered in hair. The hair covered the eyes.

The Eseku could not be killed with a knife. If cut they would only double. Eseku could never be hit by a bullet. However, the Eseku seemed to have suffered from obsessivecompul sive behavior, if sand is thrown at them, they must pick up every bit before resuming any task.

The Eseku carried a woven mat and uttered strange sounds. The Eseku had the ability to kill, but they were usually harmless unless provoked. The mat brought wealth to their captors. The Edo believed that a hunter who was able to catch the Eseku would become instantly rich.

However, the feat was impossible to accomplish. The Adabi was the spirit that inhabited the crossroad junction between heaven and earth. The Edo people believed that the crossroad junction was a highly energized place where the spiritual and physical realms met (Galembo, et. al. 1993: 27:Melzian 1937).

The Ekose was also a spirit that inhabited the bush. The Ekose was responsible for bad luck and lack of will power. However, according to Melzian, everyone had a personal Ekose. Sacrifices to Ekose involved small baskets full of small anthills (1937).

Kings, Magic,& Medicine
by Daryl Peavy
Paperback 232 pages  $35.00
Online Stores:
Storefront Retailers
Yoruba Books Center, NY 718 774 5800
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Kings, Magic,& Medicine
by Daryl Peavy
Paperback 232 pages  $35.00
Contact Info: Storefront Retailers
Owa Afrikan Market Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 718 643 8487
Yoruba Books Center, NY 718 774 5800
C.Jones Books, & Teas, Cleveland, OH 216-577-4171

17 thoughts on “Witches: Powerful Beings in Great Benin”

  1. Good analysis Daryl, but this seems to be more theoretical. Did you not engage in personal conversation with the natives. Your reading you imputed on the Benin people is mainly by Awolalu (a Yoruba scholar). It is will interesting to support your work with works and/or interviews by Edo scholars/native. Good job though. I have been reading your blog.

    1. Greetings Mercy,

      Thank you for the comment and encouragement on my analysis. I read it with great interest.

      In my writings on the Azen (Benin witches) and at the time of publication, this was/is the first source that goes in-depth about the subject. At least to what I had access to in Africa and America about Benin. And so, there were no Edo scholars to cite. I chose the Yoruba because the beliefs and practices are very similar.
      Edo scholarship on indigenous religious matters is quite limited. That was why I wrote this book. This book was written to only be an introduction to further books I have been working on, where my interviewees will be cited.
      My book–“Kings, Magic & Medicine” is at Harvard University Tozzer Library.

  2. Thank you Chief Dr. Daryl for your enlightening presentation. May knowledge and understanding of the phenomena , beings, energies and forces that act in the world alongside human beings help us to optimise the opportunity for success in our lives and planetary evolvement .May you be rewarded with success in your undertakings.

    1. Aboru, Aboye Oloye Orawale Oranfe,

      My brother chief and priest, may blessings flow to you like rivers to the sea. Thank you for your kind remarks. Yes, we are not here alone. I wish you much success in your work. Looking forward to meeting you.

  3. Ogbo Ato, Chief Daryl Peavy, thank you for this book, it’s not easy to get info that deals with Edo Tradition and Culture, looking forward for your next works, I would like to learn more, let’sake a connection, Odabo

  4. Aboru,Aboye my chief and brother as I see the interest and influence continue to grow for your great book I say agin I am blessed to have you
    as a brother and friend Asante and Odabo. I am sitting here playing my Kora knowing that the rattles of the Kasink-Kasink are hated by witches
    that truly exist. Thank you brother for you knowledge and encouragement through the years.

  5. Greeting s happy to see your site ,called me prophet Yaw Banahene from Ghana .I need your help about Spirituals,I want to build my self in spirituals powers (healing power ) Please help me for that , Please I like it in form of herbs not in the blood Thank you very much bye!,,,,,,,,,

  6. Greetings from Ghana pls can u find me a very powerful fetish priest or medicine man from abormey Benin city.my name is Marshall from Ghana a military man

  7. Am chatting white peoples I want you to help me so that everything I ask from them they go send for me and everything I say them go do all for me

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