Urhobo Historical Society

An Urhobo System of Divination and Its Esoteric Language

 M.Y. Nabofa
Professor of Religiuos Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria
Ben O. Elugbe
Professor of Linguistics, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Originally published in Orita: Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 1, June 1981, pages 3-19. Published in URHOBO WAADO by permission of Professor Michael Nabofa

The process of divination is one of the most essential religious practices among the Urhobo. It is an important element in sacred duties because the devotee is always eager to know the wishes of the divine. By our definition, religion is man’s effort or desire to be at peace with the spiritual powers on one hand and with his fellow man on the other. It is man’s effort at bringing about harmony between the mundane and the spiritual spheres of life. Man believes that failure to establish such harmony would spell doom for him; therefore, man, in all his sacred duties, is always trying to reach spiritual unity with the divine. It would not be easy to attain such harmony unless the wishes of the divine were correctly determined or interpreted.

The Urhobo, therefore, like every other religious people, believe that it is through the process of divination that the devotee can determine the wishes of the spiritual forces which have power over his fate. As the saying goes, where there is no vision or prophecy the people go about their lives blindly. In fact, one of our informants claimed that the diviner is the light of every community, and where there is none, the people grope through darkness to doom! It is thus clear that the practice of epha divination is an essential factor in the religious life of the Urhobo.

Many definitions of divination emphasize the idea that divination seeks to obtain information from divine beings about the future and the present. However, divination among the Urhobo is more than merely unveiling the future and the present. What the Urhobo really believes a competent diviner is capable of doing is to link up and commune the divine world. Psychologists of religion, theologians, and mystics have often tried to explain that wherever a mind is exposed in a spirit of absorbed submission to impressions of the universe, it becomes capable of experiencing intuition and feelings of the divine.1 In the thinking of the Urhobo it is such a mood that the diviner seeks to assume when he gazes meditatively at the instrument of divination during his practice and once he has attained a certain degree of attunement he will be able to tap useful information from the all-seeing divine beings of the suprasensible world.

The Urboho believe that the physical world is very highly influenced by the supernatural, which embraces evil and good forces. Happiness or well being which they refer to as ufuoma can only be guaranteed by seeking out what the unknown holds, exorcising the forces of evil and aligning one’s life, as it were. Since the Urhobo believe that the affairs of man are controlled by spiritual beings, divination among them is first and foremost concerned with finding out the plans of these beings for man. They divine to ensure that the good plans are not changed while the evil ones are reversed or cancelled. Once this is achieved man will be assured of a state of total well-being (ufuoma). Without Ufuoma, of course, there can be no happiness. And ufuoma touches on every aspect of life; the plans of the Divine (as mentioned above); protection against our earthly enemies, knowing the right thing to do about any situation-including such cases as trying to recover a lost person or piece of property; whether a person was lying or saying the truth. Indeed, the reasons for which an Urhobo person will go to a diviner are so varied and all-embracing as to defy listing.

However, divination and sacrifice almost invariably go together, since whether in gratitude (for good plans revealed or for an existing state of happiness), or in prayer (to have evil plans or revelations or situations reversed), the Urhobo must sacrifice to the power of the divine world. This fact has led some observers to charge that diviners always insist on sacrifice only as a selfish means of feeding themselves. Nevertheless the people still believe that divination can reveal the fault and psychologically prepare the sufferer’s mind for the solution, while sacrifice administers, so to say, the medicine which effects the cure. Unless sacrificial rites are performed the devotee will not have the peace of mind which is mostly required for a permanent cure. We would like to take not of the fact that we should not be misled by the above assumed relation between epha and sacrifice in view of the following reasons: Firstly, not every sacrifice is a result of having consulted the epha priest. A sacrifice can follow an unsolicited fortune telling of some kind at a chance meeting by a person who is not even known to have such powers of clairvoyance and who may not actually be a practising professional diviner of any kind. Furthermore, a strange message delivered by a devotee of some cult or the other, or even a warning to a close relation of the affected person can lead to sacrificial rites. Such practices abound in Urhoboland: Igbe priests and devotees are fond of delivering such messages even without being consulted.

Secondly, not all consultations of the epha priest necessitate subsequent sacrifice. The diviner may in fact say that the relevant problem has been predestined as such it has no remedy; its course is inevitable therefore the victim should accept his fate calmly. The Obuepha may also advise that only a “cleansing” ritual is called for. This can take the form of bathing in a particular stream, or a special exorcising rituals in a specific cult in which the client is a member, or some special incision of some kind. In fact, the possibilities are quite numerous. Notwithstanding the above opinion, it is a common belief among the Urhobo that most instances of sacrifices result form divination and in several instances of divination one form of sacrificial rites or the other is prescribed. Whatever rituals that are prescribed, the ultimate aim is to establish and maintain ufuoma. The most popular device which the Urhobo use to ascertain the wishes of the divine is know as epha,2 while the process of divining by epha is referred to as epha ebo which literally means consulting epha.” The cultic functionary is know as obo r’epha or obuepha, which means “doctor of epha” that is, the diviner.

Methods of divination among the Urhobo

There are many methods of divination among the Urhobo. These include divining with cowries, kola nuts, wine, coins of the same denominations, alligator pepper, a mirror, birds and Agbragha. Agbragha, which is an apparatus made up of four divining chains each of which contains four shells of the supposedly sacred Agbragha3 tree, is the most important and reliable. It is also called Epha. Its revelations are delivered in a language puzzling even to those who are native speakers of Urhobo. It is this process which we shall discuss in greater detail. But we shall mention other methods briefly.

Some people claim to have the power and techniques to obtain information from the supernatural by merely looking intensely into or at any of the following: a glass of wine, a piece of coin, grains of alligator pepper, and a looking glass. Others claim that, through training in the practice of intuition or meditation, and by the aid of some medicines applied into their eyes and ears, they can see through the veil and obtain information from the spiritual realm. A person who practices such forms of divination is known as Obo ren aro or Obuaro “the doctor of eyes”, that is, ” seer.” Sometimes a person may be under the influence of a divinity, or deity, so that he becomes capable of seeing beyond the ordinary, and revealing hidden facts. In such cases the person may be said to be possessed, though no necessarily of an evil spirit.

Cowries and a special white kola nut of four lobes are also used by some diviners. (Divining with kola nuts is also found among the Yoruba).4 In using this form of divination the diviner uses native white chalk to make a circle on the floor into which he tosses either the cowries or the lobes of kola nut.5 He looks at them deciphering the message they carry. The diviner looks at the divination elements as if a spiritual being is communicating with him. In fact, most of the diviners claim to be really absorbed in a mood of meditation and to be engaged in such a communion with super-natural beings. It is when he emerges out of that mood of meditation and to be engaged in such a communion with super-natural beings. It is when he emerges out of that mood that he communicates his findings to his client.

In some cases the diviner using kola nuts reads off their message as he stares at the lobes of kola nut in either the white circle or on the white plate. It is not uncommon for the diviner to tilt one of them slightly and examine it more closely for specific details. The language in which the message of the kola nut is read is exactly the same as the one we had earlier described as puzzling even to those who are native speakers of Urhobo.

Many diviners claim that they understand the language of birds by means of special preparations. Such a divination potion is made from special ingredients mixed with the head of a talkative bird known as Agbreghede.6 A living Agbreghede is procured and the preparation is applied to the ears of both the person and the bird. This is done seven times daily for seven consecutive days, at the end of which the bird is released. This bird becomes mystically associated with the prospective diviner and from it he receives revelations first-hand. From this bird he gradually learns to understand fully words uttered by some other Agbreghede. The person eventually graduates to understanding the language of other birds, though not as much as he would that of Agvreghede. This particular bird, Agbreghede, is used because the Urhobo thin revealing of all birds. Some diviners, priests and traditional healers are said to have such special reporter-birds which perch on trees in and around their compounds. The birds deliver their messages from there if and when the occasion arises.

The most popular divination apparatus among the Urhobo is specially made of sixteen half-shells of the agbragha fruit, and it is from this tree that Epha derives its other name Agbragha. Special sacrifices of emare are offered to the tree before the shells are taken out for this purpose. The sacrifice is done in order to obtain the blessings and approval of the divine spirits of Agbainabe and Akunable, believed to be dwelling in the tree. Once the shells are brought home, specialists in divination, that is, practising ebuopha help to tie them with strings into four lines four on a string as it was revealed to Omingbo or Dibie, the first hunter-diviner (see figure 1).

Finally, the apparatus is treated with special herbs so as to imbue it with more spiritual potency. It is after this that it will be ready for use.

It is the general belief that most the above systems of divination can easily be neutralized or rendered ineffective by negative rival forces, but that of Agbragha, which is strongly backed by powerful spiritual forces cannot easily be thus neutralized or influenced. In Urhobo mythology the spiritual forces behind Agbragha are those of Aghainabe and Akunabe. These two spiritual beings are thought to have been mortals who, because of their psychic power were able to operate freely in both the physical world (akpo) and the spiritual realm (erivwin). When they died a dispute arose between the people of akpo and those of erivwin over where they should be buried. None of the peoples of these spheres would have their corpses buried around their realm. The dispute arose because both the people of Akpo and the inhabitants of Erivwin regarded Aghainabe and Akunabe as traitors and tale-bearers, who, in their life-time, had specialized in learning the secrets of the one world and divulging them to the other, thus creating confusion between the mortals of Alpo and the immortals of Erivwin. In the end it was decided as a compromise to bury them at the border between the two realms of the physical and the spiritual. A fruit-bearing tree known as agbragha was planted on their graves.

These two spiritual cum-mortal beings felt disgraced and were aggrieved; they therefore vowed not only to continue but also to intensify their efforts at revealing secrets of both realms to any one who established communication with them. The legend goes further to say that in a dream Aghainable and Akunagbe revealed to a hunter named Ominigbo how to divine, that is, establish this communication with them through the Agbragha fruits. It is however stated in another version that the secret of divination was first revealed to a hunter known as Bibie. These shells are believed to be spiritually charged with the with the powers of those who stand astride Akpo and Erivwin, hence they are able to know secrets not only of the physical world but also of the spiritual sphere. Therefore this system of divination, which is referred to as either Agbragha or Epha, is taken to be the most reliable of all forms of divination and the most popular among the Urhobo. No power on earth can overcome or neutralize the spiritual force which operates through Agbragha.

The Divination Procedure

There are many variations in the divination procedure which uses this apparatus. The procedure differs from one diviner to the other, although there is a general underlying pattern. The normal procedure is the one we discuss here. In the first place, it must be noted that each half-shell on the Epha has a concave and a convex side. When the Epha (that is, the divination apparatus) is thrown on the floor each half-shell will rest wither on its concave side (with the convex side up) or on its convex side (with the concave side up). Each rope of four half-shells has a number of possible concave and/or convex display combinations (see fig.1). Each such combination on the rope constitutes a reading and has its own name. It is these combinations that are read and interpreted to find the messages of the Epha. Thus in figure 2, the number 1, and 3 represent readings. But ‘1’ for example, is meaningful only if combined with some other readings. In figure 2, 1 + 3 would give ogbi + aghare = ogbiaghare, which means money.

Figure 2
Divination Readings

We have some doubts about Erivwo’s explarations as regards the reading of Epha. He says that when the seeds are cast, there are two ends from which the reading can be taken viz; the Akpo end the Erivwin end; and he used this diagram to illustrate these reading ends.

000x Erivwin

 Key: o-convex; x-concave

That is, the upper part of the divination apparatus is regarded as the Erivwin end while the lower end of it is taken to be the Akpo end. He further explains that each pair of seeds either from the Akpo end or Erivwin end has a name, and that the complete various combinations of these give complete sentences.
  We do not subscribe to such interpretation because in Urhobo thought forms Akpo is the abode of the living-both plants and animals, and this is believed to be on the surface of the earth. Conversely, Erivwin is the permanent abode of the dead, and it is thought to be under the earth, though the living-dead are said to show up occasionally in Akpo. Really, both the Akpo and the Erivwin ends of Epha are read. When the whole divination element is read from the surface, it is then said that its Akpo end is being read. However, when the diviner imaginatively goes under the earth and reads the Epha from there, is then regarded that its Erivwin end is being read, and only competent Epha practitioners can do so. For example, supposing the Epha is cast and two of its strings (which usually combine to form a word) fall thus:


Key: 0 – convex; x – concave

This will be read and interpreted as Oghori + ako = Oghoriako or Ighoriako =ifi, which means strings, or burden, or punishment or arrest. However, when the diviner imaginatively dives down so as to read it from there, to him these two strings would assume following positions:


Key: 0 – convex; x – concave

That is Odi + Ogbi=Odiogbi=Idiogbi=Emu=Food. Idiogbi also means work or labour. With the aid of these words which the diviner has got from the Eriwbin end, or so to say, the spiritual spheres of the epha, he may be led to the conclusion that the source of the Ighoriako = ifi= punishment or arrest, or trouble could be traced to either food or the client’s work or place of work.

Readings and interpretations got from the other two strings would help to throw greater light on the causes and solutions to the problem. In which case the diviner may not need to cast the divination ensign several times before he would arrive at his conclusions. It is only in that form it is said that Epha is being read from both Akpo and Erivwin ends.

Amateur diviners can only read and interprete the Akpo section of Epha while the real proficient ones can operate both ends with confidence. It should however be noted that Akpo end and Erivwin end of Epha re symbolic expressions. They mean the overt section and the hidden part of Epha. Therefore, symbolically, psychologically and theologically, the Erivwin end of Epha being read conveys the idea that the source and the solutions to most problems in life are usually hidden under them, and ability to dive or probe deep into the problems themselves would unearth their cure.

When a client comes to consult Epha the diviner first invokes the good spirits to attend to his divination in order to ensure accuracy; he also recites incantations to protect himself against evil spirits. Then he will either ask his client what problem has brought him, or he will, depending on his confidence in his own practice, elect to find out though Epha just why the client has come to consult Epha. Even in the second alternative, the diviner will normally ask the client to confirm his findings about the purpose of the client’s presence.

The usual divination procedure is that the Obuepha tells the Epha (by way of incantations) what problem the client is enquiring about. Then he, taking the ends of the Epha pieces, two in each hand, throws them forward on the floor. He studies and interpretes the pattern, reciting to himself as he goes along. Sometimes, if he thinks that the message is not clear or that he wants to be very sure, he throws the Epha again and reads the message. He then turns to the client and tells him what the Ephia says.

There is no doubt that the Epha priest studies the client’s face as he studies the Epha patterns. Psychology is therefore probably a strong element in Epha consultation. Indeed some sceptics who do not believe in Epha insist that the whole process is a psychological exercise during which the Obuepha reduces the client to a state of near-hypnosis. However, those who go to consult Epha are those who believe in it naturally or who are suddenly faced with extremely difficult situations in which they are prepared to believe and try anything, so long as it claims it can solve their problems. Since few clients accept the revelation of Epha without asking Epha to prescribe possible remedies, the Epha priest is invariably up-to-date on the most powerful divinities of the land, the important shrines, the people’s cosmology and their attitude to life. He often finds himself having to suggest a sacrifice to some divinity or other, or a worship at given shrines here and there. In fact, he may even learn a few herbs so that he may himself, on occasion, provide the remedy prescribed by Epha. In a case where you have an obuephat providing herbal and other traditional medical and spiritual remedies in conjunction with his divination practices, he is then known as an obo, that is, a full fledged doctor in the traditional sense. He is the one whom some people have derogatively referred to as a witch-doctor. He is better known as a tradico-medicalist.

The Language

The revelations of Epha, in answer to a client’s approach are often conveyed in the Epha language which is in itself unintelligible to the client and the ordinary Urhobo speaker. The diviner, as we said above, studies the pattern assumed by the Epha before him and he decides whether this pattern conveys the idea of, say, happiness or sorrow, or war, etc. he then translates the ideas into the language of Epha in which he first recites the message before tuning to his client to repeat same in Urhobo. In some cases a fellow diviner is available to do simultaneous interpretating of the revelations of Epha. When two diviners work together, it is not unusual that one tosses the divination chains or shells and the other reads out the message in epha language, while the first one translates for the client. This is also said to be one of the methods for training apprentices. This method has the advantage of giving the more experienced person, who is actually doing the tossing, a chance to correct any errors that there may be in the attempt to decipher the message of the epha shells.

It is one of the curious aspects of Epha and the whole process of divination in Urhobo that the revelations of Epha should be shrouded in an esoteric language understood only by initiates of Epha and only marginally by those who are closely associated with the diviner and who listen to his revelations with some regularity.

The question that quite naturally arises is, “What is the origin of this language?p2 There are a number of possible answers to this question: (a) it is in fact an older version of Urhobo language which ahs remained steady in cultic circles while the language has developed with time, (b) It is the language of a neighbouring tribe brought in by some diviners and made popular as a distinctive mark of the trade; (c) It is neither Urhobo nor a neighbouring language, it is a language which was made up arbitrarily with the sole aim of lending dignity to the art.

The first possibility is to say that Epha is Urhobo. It represents an earlier form of Urhobo which has remained relatively unchanged while Urhobo, outside of divination, has developed with time. It is, of course, quite easy to test this possibility, employing the methods of comparative historical linguistics. Now if assumption (a) is correct the, applying comparative linguistic procedures, we should discover that there are definite sound correspondences between Epha and present-day Urhobo. The establishment of regular sound correspondences is the surest and most reliable way of proving genetic relationship between languages. This has been done for Indo-European languages (including languages as diverse as English and San-skrit) and for various groups of African languages. Unfortunately this has proved quite impossible for Epha and Urhobo. If we examine the Epha-Urhobo wordlist in Appendix A, we find that the average Epha word is a noun which is made up of one of a recurrent set of parts or building blocks. These include:


Thus we have words like Aku-nabe., Ekosc, etc. The Urhobo items, on the other hand do not repeat parts of words with anything close to the frequency with which Epha does it. It is not surprising therefore that no regular sound correspondence can be established between Epha and Urhobo. In the following few lines and test items, the diversity of Urhobo consonants contrast with the regularity of the Epha items:

English Epha Urhobo
ears -k-gh-r--rh-
world of spirit-k-gh-r--r-vb-

It is obvious from this that although each of the Epha items selected has a K as first consonant, the Urhobo items do not reflect the same kind of consistency, so there is no regular sound correspondence between the Epha and the Urhobo items. The nearest we come to correspondence is the word for which Epha has Etako while Urhobo has Eta. But the initial t. t. correspondence is,unfortunately, not repeated, and repetition is the essence of regularity which is vital for proving a genetic relationship. Et, it is quite easy to demonstrate this regularity in sound correspondence between Urhobo and Isoko, Edo, Degema, Esan, and say of the other Edoid languages. In other words, while we can easily prove that Urhobo is related to these other Edoid languages, we cannot prove, by the same method, that Urhobo and Epha languages are related. We may conclude therefore that Epha does not represent an earlier stage of the Urhobo language.

The second possibility is that Epha is a language borrowed from around Urhobo. This position need not engage us unduly since we know that none of the languages in the vicinity has lexical items from which these Epha items could have been derived. They are no Ijo, Igbo, Edo (Bini), and Itsekiri. The most tempting case is that of Ophu and Abe which appear similar to the Igbo items for “one” and “two”, “ofu” and “abua” respectively. But that can easily be dismissed since the occurrence of ophu in Epha has no consistent meaning.

Indeed this is one of the reasons why one should prefer the third possibility, that is, Epha language was made up without clear or consistent rules and without a code for deciphering it. As thee is no language without rules, Epha can hardly be called a language. By Epha Language we mean the Epha Lexicon, (see vocabulary in Appendix A). for, what we are saying is that those words have been formed by no clear rules: one cannot on the basis of them formulate new words. While other languages tend to have parts of words that are recurrent and carrying some kind of consistent semantic or grammatical meaning, the recurrent parts of Epha words have no consistent meaning. We find the stem–ghori with words whose meanings ranging from mourning to father and dry season, while the apparently prefixal morpheme Idi-refers with different combinations, to work and father; and nabe refers to eyes, war, happiness, failure and corner. Here we must insist, until evidence can be found to the contrary, that Epha words have been formulated without rules.

Another point in favour of this third alternative is the fact that in practice the language is actually quite simple. It is made up of a relatively small number of items which are almost invariably nouns. The rest of the language is pure Urhobo. If it had been an earlier stage of a spoken or borrowed language there would hardly have been need to mix it with Urhobo as it is now. In the present circumstances we have to assume that the language was a formulation of the diviners and that it was of necessity kept as a simple as possible so that, in fact it was not one of the more difficult tasks of the apprentice diviner. All he had to do was to learn the limited vocabulary off-head. The injection of the required Epha words at strategic points in his divination would ensure that his client was in the dark until the Epha words were interpreted.

Why did the diviners have to invent a relatively simple language whose function is basically to mystify? We suggest that this was to lend authority and dignity plus reverence to the diviner and his craft-Epha. It gave the impression that Epha was speaking in a tongue foreign to Urhobo and left only to the messengers of Epha, such as the diviner, to understand and interpret. Thus, although Epha shows some of the structural qualities of a contact/marginal language-a sparse vocabulary, no structure of its own-it differs from such language in one major respect; while contact languages develop in order to ease communication between linguistically complex communities (cf, the rise of pidgin languages) Epha was invented to create a lack of intelligibility and block communication.

To evaluate the success of that goal we have a sample of typical Epha reading for revelations. Let us take, for example 7(a) on our list, in appendix B. a man is told in Urhobo “you will receive”. Now he does not know what he will receive. If he is told in plain Urhobo that he will be happy since, in Urhobo culture as in most of the Edoid areas, white chalk is a symbol of and a metaphor for joy and happiness. However, if he is told he will receive ighitophu, the sentence, becomes totally meaningless to him. He becomes mystified. He therefore has to rely on the diviner to tell him what ighitophu is. It is thus very easy to recite Epha in any language since the practice is invariably to insert Epha words in the mainstream of the language of the diviner.

Many communities of the world have a tradition that involves disguising speech. The Yoruba have “Ena” code talking which has a definite pattern. There is a “pig latin” in North America. The Tagalag of North America have theirs; also the Bakwiri of Camerouns have a language in which they speak backwards.

It is obvious, therefore, that the development of some kind of disguised speech, such as we suggest was done in the case of Epha, is not a novel or isolated phenomenon.


We have tried to show above that the need to consult the supernatural world drives people to consult “Epha” which may be compared with Yoruba Ifa. We have explained the physical structure of the “Epha” instrument, the supposed source of its power to communicate with the “other” world, and the general procedure for consulting Epha.

One of the baffling but nonetheless interesting aspects of Epha is the language. An examination of this language using some of the methods of linguistics, normally applied to natural languages, reveals that it is neither Urhobo nor any of the surrounding languages. We even rule out the possibility that it is the language of an existing group.

We conclude that it is a secret language devised for the purposes of shrouding the whole practise of Epha in mysticism and secrecy as well as lending dignity to it. The second author, who is an Edo from the northern parts of Bendel state, claims that some of the Epha words are recognized as occurring also in the language of divination amongst his people. It would be rewarding to examine the whole process of divination amongst the peoples of BendelState for the purposes of determining uniformity or other wise in the practise. That may yet lead us to the true original source of the invention of Epha language.


No.Epha LanguageCommon UrhoboEnglish
4.AkuoghoriUvephruDry Season
5.DaboghoriUghegheFoolishness, be foolish
6.DorhophuNyemeObey, be vigilant
7.EbanorhaOfiaFalse, No
8.EbanoseUmu/(Uhuvbu)Medicine, Charm, poison
9.EdisogbiEdekiMarket Day
10.EghariakoOdafeA wealthy person
11.EghariophuOmoshareBoy, male child
13.EkanophuUdiWine, Gin, Drink
14.EkanorhaOfiaFalse, No, Not true
15.EkarakoUrheTree, wood
16.EkeghareOghoghoHappiness, blessing
17.EkerhorokpaAje, ajiWoman, wife
18.EkoghoriErivinWold of the Spirits, Death, Land of the dead
19.EkoghoriOsomoDead father, ancestor
20.EkoseUrhevbeDestiny, fate
21.EkorhanOsomoFather, ancestor
23.EkuorhaUwevwiHouse, Home
24.ErhurokpophuAmwaCloth, dress, White, cloth
25.EtakoEtaWords, quarrel, dispute
26.EtogbiAghwa Forest, Bush
27.IdiogbiIruoWork, labour
28.IdiogbiEmuFood, sacrifices
29.IdioghoriOsomoFather, ancestor
30.IdiokaraOsomoDead father, ancestor
32.IghitokaranOyanJourney, movement
33.IghitophuOrhenWhite Chalk, Kaolin
34.IghitophuAghoghoHappiness, jubilation
35.IghitovbaraOphunu, ErhovwoPleading, Prayers
36.Ighorogbi (Oghorogbi)Iyeri, ErinChild, offspring
37.IketeIyeri, ErinFish
38.ItodiAsoNight, darkness
39.ItophuUrhieRiver, Sea, Ocean, Stream
40.ObanabeErharenFire, trouble, war
41.OdiokaranOniomoMother, ancestor
43.OgbinabeAbaboFailure, Empty handed, false
44.OghoraghareEranvbeMeat, animal, sacrificial victim
45.OghoriAbaboEmpty handed, Emptiness
46.OghorugheteOgwhaLoad, burden, sacrificial material
47.OkanabeOhoreWar, Fight
48.OkanekaOhoreWar, Fight
49.OphuakoOutCrowd, public, followership
51.OphuabeOghoghoHappiness, joy
52.OrhaghareOmoniRelation, Brother, Sister
53.OrhekaObiPunishment, Poison, fight
54.OrheteOsio, AmeRain, Water
56.OrhovbaranOgheneGod, Sky heaven
58.OsodiOloUnder the earth, world of the dead
59.OsodiOseDead father, ancestor
61.OsorhaErhiHuman double, soul
62.OvbighiteUehebroReconciliation, Settlement, Counsel
63.OvbighitoseOriedaWitch, wizard, sorcerer
64.OrhovbuEmeAdvice, counsel, attunement
65.UrhurabeOsaDebt, Cult, Responsibility
66.UrurheteEvbe, EvbiKolanut
68.UrurhoseOruthoGuilt, sin, wrong-doing


No.Epha LamguageUrhobo TranslationEnglish Translation
1Wo daboghori-IWo ghe phio-o Do not be foolish; do not be deceived, do not be misled.
2Igun OrhurogbiYan igun opliunu Go and apologize or pray for forgiveness.
3Orhovbara cha vicn orheteOsio cha rh.o The sky heaven is going to shed tears or ooze out water. That is, it will soon rain.
4Wo che nien ighotophu.Wo che mien orhen; wo cha ghoghoYou will receive (white chalk) happiness. That is, you will be happy.
5Osorhia ighorogbi ren Ekose.Erhi omo ren Urhievwe.The soul-personality is the child of, or under the tutelage of fate or destiny. The soul-personality is controlled or piloted by fate or its primordial declarations.
6Ejovi cha rue eghariakoEjovi cha ru’ odafa.Enjovi will become a wealthy person
7(a)Wo che mien ighitophu
Wo che mien ophunabe.
Wo che mien orhen. Wo che mien aghogho. You will receive white chalk.  You will receive happiness.
7(b)Okanabe cha Okaneka cha  Oscnabe cha mre osenabe  Oghore cha Oghore cha  Ubiaro cha mre ubiaroWar is coming.; Troouble is coming.; Eye will see or meet with eye (that is, there will  be a serious confrontation).
7(c)Etiyin ebanorha Etiyin ekanorha  Etiyin ogbinabe Etiyin ofia  Etiyin ofia That is false.; It is indeed false.; That is empty handed. (that is, it is totally false, it is a  complete failure).
8Ok’ itodi
R’orhophara cha vbo vien orhete 
Wo gbe d’ orhophu-u  Idoghori cha sa wen orheka  Ko won cha ghwa ighitokara  Wo ye dorhophu  Wo gbe daboghori-I  Obo wen ko cha d’ekeghare
Ok’ aso  R’ osio cha vbo rhon  Wo gbi nyeme-e  Esemo ke cha sa wen obi  Ko wo cha kp’ oyan  Wo rhe nyeme  Wo gbi ghe vbio-o  Obo wen ko cha ghogho.In the night  When the skyey heaven will shed tears (when it will rain)  If you are not careful  The ancestors will strike or fight you  You will then start your movement (die)  If, however, you are careful  And you did not get deceived,  Your hand will be happy. (That is you will be successful in life.  If a person is prosperous it is said that it is his hand which has made this possible and the person’ s hand is believed to be very happy over its achievements.  This is why the cult of hand is one of the prominent features in Urhobo traditional  religion)


1 Rudolf Otto: The Idea of the Holy. (O.U.P. London., 1973) p. 146.

2 It is known as eva among the Isoko, and eha or afa among the Igbo, and ifa among the Yoruba.

3 Agbragha: This is a specie of wild mango tree.

4 For details about Kolanut divination among the Yoruba Vide J.O. Awolalu: Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites, Longman Lndon 1979 p. 122.

5 Some people use a white enamel plate in place of a white circle, but, this is a recent innovation.

6 Also called Agvriegodo, Agbreyede or Okpolo, Bulbul (pychonotus Barbatus).


%d bloggers like this: