What is Egbesu?
What is Egbesu?
Izon Cultural Studies
By IHD Copyright 2008
What is Egbesu?
It is commonly stated that Egbesu is the god or deity of warfare. While this statement is correct, it is at the same time misleading as it does not address all the functions of the metaphysical intelligence, and how it relates in the divine scheme of things. In order to answer the question who and what is Egbesu?, we must have a technical understanding of the cosmology of the Supreme Being (God!), and how It governs the universe. We can use a number of references texts to aid our task, such as the Christian Bible, or even older sacred books such as the Ancient Egyptian Book known as “The Book of Knowing the Forms of the Creator”.
In the Christian Bible, in the book of Genesis 2.26 the Supreme Being is made to say “Let us make man in our image”. This gives us the impression that the Supreme Being is talking to other lesser beings. Indeed this is the case. In Psalm 82 we have the following statement;
“God has taken his place in the divine council; in the mist of the gods he holds judgement:”
In the Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition, these other or lesser beings or smaller gods! are called “angels”, meaning “messengers of God”. In the Ancient African spiritual tradition, from which the above mentioned religions learnt most of their spiritual doctrines, these lesser beings or gods are known as metaphysical or spiritual or divine intelligence’s. They are the attributes or forms of God, also known as the forces of nature that govern the visible and invisible universe. They are not apart from God, but are the forms of the God that It uses in administrating the universe.
The Spiritual culture of the Ijo can be traced back to the ancient city of Annu or Onnu (
“…..ZIBARA TEME BI MO:
The creator deity in Ijo religion is feminine. Thus most of the words which refer to the Supreme Being are feminine. TAMARA is the woman who created us; WOYIN means ‘our mother’. WODAU is a Christian version of our father. ZIBARA is the deity that gives life. It is from her that the Ijo ask for blessings in life. It is on your knees that you plead to Zibara….. Foot note; Zibara - Goddess of prophecy, divination, often called upon along with the Creative Deity Tamara. Teme - Life-Breath, soul the double. Oru - god, goddess, a major deity, as distinct from Tamara or Woyin, Woyingi, Tamuno, Oyibau, Temeowi….”
“….The supreme creator God is the basic part of all Ijo religion. In the eastern delta, God is Ayiba (begetter as well as killer) or Tamuno (creator). In the poetry of the drum, God is Oloma Ogina, or Oloman Ogina. In the central and western delta, God is Woyin (our mother) Ayibarau (she who begets and kills), Oginarau, and Tamarau (creator). God is a female idea among the matrilineal Ijo…”
“…The religion of the Ijo, who are perhaps the most ancient people in
Because of the ancient roots of Ijo spiritual culture, it is not surprising that Ijo culture expresses knowledge of certain fundamental spiritual concepts, such as the Tree of Life spiritual initiation system, as practised by the cosmological/theological
Oru in modern Ijo is the survival of the ancient Egyptian term Horu or Heru (Horus), which means deity or god. It also corresponds to the co-ordinating functions of the Will of God as manifested in the universe, and at the same time the co-ordinating function of the will of man, as manifested in our mental (mind) expression. Teme means to make, or create, or the creative essence, and again is the same as the ancient Egyptian Tem which means Creator. Thus Oru-Teme or Teme-Oru, refers to the Supreme Creator manifesting in Its various forms, which we understand to be the metaphysical intelligence’s or spiritual entities which are termed deities or gods and goddesses (Oru).
The term Oru has caused much controversy within Ijo traditional thought, because Christian missionaries translated the term to mean devil. The term does not mean devil, for the concept of the devil as an evil spirit ebing is non existent in Ijo theology. Oru or Eru derived from the ancient African term Horu (Horus) or Heru. The fact that Oru does not mean devil or demon is borne out in the story of the fight between Horu and Set. In this ancient Egyptian story. Horu is the principle of good, while Set (the Christian Satan) is the principle of evil. Horus or Oru also corresponds to the angel Michael in the Hebrew tradition.
The term Oru also means deity or god/goddess and corresponds to the Christian concept of angel. Indeed it is the same, because an Oru is a servant or messenger of God.
Ijo traditional spiritual culture places much emphasis on the mental focusing on the Orus or servants of God. The Orus exist to help human beings in their day to day running of their affairs. Since it is the Orus (metaphysical intelligence’s or forces of nature) that govern the natural world, and the governing of the natural world has not been known to fail, we can see how cultivating an Oru would benefit the individual and society. This is because Ijo culture has the correct understanding that, in order to manifest an aspect of the Supreme Being (God) one must become at one with the attribute that one is focusing on. The mental focusing on a divine attribute is called worship. It is through worship that one is able to awaken the divine attribute within oneself. This is what worshipping God is all about.
When The Supreme Being creates the universe, It first lays down the laws that the universe is to be based on and governed by. These laws translate as the hidden patterns of nature and the laws of interdependence and interrelationship between all things, seen and unseen. In short the so called laws of nature. After making these laws, God manifests an attribute of Itself that will enforce the laws. This divine enforcer is known as EGBESU in Ijo culture
Laws are useless if there are no means of enforcing them. This aspect or principle of God is termed “divine enforcer” divine executor”. And since it is used to restore law and order when there is an infringement, it is also termed the god of war, meaning that it is the manifestation of God fighting against the forces that threaten the divine order. In the Christian tradition, it is the angel that holds the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain used to lock up the dragon Satan the devil, principle of evil (Revelations 20.). In the Ijaw spiritual tradition it is known as Egbesu (bearing in mind that Angels or Oru are non other than the various manifestations of the Supreme Being which It uses to govern the universe).
Egbesu is also known by other names in Ijaw language, such as Agadagba-oru, Ako-oru, Dirimo-oru or Dirimo-asain, to name a few. Egbesu is the offensive and defensive power of God used to protect righteous people from the forces of evil. This was understood by the Ijaws and also neighbouring tribes such as the
“ Tamaran or Aiyiba by Brass people and Tamuno by the Kalabaris: Deity, God, the Supreme Being; the Creator. Egbesu: The God of defence or protection next to Tamaran both in power and in importance. But very antogonistic against the evil doers. It is also the God of war; “
Take note of the statement ‘but very antagonistic against the evil doers. It is also a God of War.
Egbesu then is the spiritual foundation for combating evil. It is the main spiritual tool (weapon) for overcoming evil. It is used to enforce the divine order in the natural realm, so that all things coming into being can take place in their own space and time without infringing upon other things. It is used to make sure that all things are functioning as a unified whole, despite their outward differences. Of the utmost importance to human beings is its influence in the social order, whether we know it or not. Like it or not, the social order constructed by human beings must follow the blueprint of the universe as laid out by the Almighty Creator. When it is not so then social disorder is the result.
Two major principles must be adhered to when constructing a society. The first is that all things, be they human beings, interest groups or animals, must not infringe on each others time and space, following the principle that no two things can occupy the same time and space at the same time. The second is that all things, be they human beings, interest groups, enterprises, animals and plants, are part of a unified system function as a whole. This is evident in ecosystems, but is applicable to human society as well. As such anything that threatens the smooth functioning of the whole system, through infringement of other’s time and space, must be restored to its proper role, through force if it is not a free agent, and by a combination of force and gentle persuasion if it is a free agent. The only free agents in the universe outside of God are human beings. Not even the so called angels are free. Thus in the divine order, things are forced back into equilibrium if they threaten to go astray. That is why nature has not been known to fail. In the social order constructed by human beings, it is another matter. It is here that Egbesu plays a leading role in making sure that society is governed by moral principles instead of greed.
Going Back to Ancient Egypt (Ancient Africa) we can see that as far back as the Old Kingdom Egbesu was one of the spiritual intelligences (deity, force of nature or genii) that were called upon by society to protect it against evil forces and guide it in war. Egyptologists have translated the term EGBESU in the form of BES, BESU, BASU or BISU, dropping the EG at the beginning. This is understandable as they derived the spellings from approximate translations based on educated guesswork.
According to EAW Budge – (The Gods of the Egyptians – Studies in Egyptian Mythology Volume 2, 1904, 1969, pp284-289) the author elaborates on EGBESU, which he translates as BES or BASU:
“…Among the foreign gods known to the Egyptians is usually mentioned BES, who according to some is of Semetic, and according to others of African origin; we may note, however that the name of the god appears to be Egyptian, and it seems to have been bestowed upon him in very early times because of the animal’s skin which he wore; the animal itself was called “Besa” or “Basu.”……as a god of war and slaughter and as a destroying force of nature he carries two knives in his hands; as a warrior he appears in a short military tunic, which is fastened round his body by a belt, and he holds in his left hand a shield and a short sword in his right… he seems to have been regarded as a protector of children and youths…….In the Heliopolitan and Theban Recensions of the Book of the Dead the name Bes does not occur, but in one of the vignettes to the cxlvth chapter xxi of the Saite Recension this god is seen guarding one of the pylons of the house of Osiris in the underworld. At some period under the New Empire the original attributes of Bes were modified, and he assumed the character of a solar god and became identified with Horus the child, or Harpocrates; little by little he was merged in other forms of the Sun-God, until at length he absorbed the characteristics of Horus, Ra, and Temu……he only exhibited his terror and ferocity to the wicked, while to the good in the underworld he was a true friend and merry companion….The figure of Bes suggests that his home was a place where the dwarf and pygmy were held in esteem, whilst his head-dress resembles those head-dresses which were, and still are worn by the tribes of Equatorial Africa, and this would lead us to place his home in that portion of it which lies a few degrees to the north of the equator. The knowledge of the god, and perhaps figures of him, were brought from this region, which the Egyptians called the “Land of the Spirits”… The earthly kinsmen of the god who lived to the south of
“…BES….Originally a deity of protection of the pharaoh, he became a popular god of the every day Egyptian people, and was often depicted on household items such as beds, headrests, chairs, mirrors and ointment pots and even painted on the walls of the house. He was also depicted on various weapons, such as daggers, due to his fighter aspect. He was also often depicted of ‘magic wands’ that the Egyptian magicians used for their spells or on an amulet to ward off evil. His use as a god of protection for the daily people came to be a sign of joy and good humor, because he drove away ill humor and evil. He was thought to also be able to protect people from dangerous creatures of all types, especially when he was connected with the child Horus in the story of his growing up in the Delta area of Egypt……He also became a god of childbirth, frightening away all of the evil spirits that could kill of the baby of newborn child. If problems arose during labor, a clay statue of Bes was often placed at the head of the expectant mother while spells were recited to the god, asking for his help……..Despite his fun-loving nature, he was also regarded as a god of war from early times. He used his lion-like, ferocious nature to destroy or scare the enemies of pharaoh, as well as the evil spirits that were thought to plague the people of
Thus it is clear that BES (EGBESU) is connected to inner Africa, and since the ancestors of the Ancient Egyptians originated from inner
Egbesu operates on the principle of synergy. All factors that will establish righteousness must come into play before the force of Egbesu produces an effect. Egbesu cannot be utilised by the ordinary man as he or she lacks spiritual discipline. The Divine Enforcer or Corrective Force of the Supreme Being known as the deity or god of warfare (to the layman) can only be utilised by the righteous or upright beings metaphorically rendered as children or babes (the innocent through wise guidance wage a war that is just). It cannot be called upon by evil doers or be used for dubious purposes as it is against and antagonistic towards evil and evil doers. The Divine Enforcer, as the god, deity or angel of warfare is not called upon to start a war, but to end injustice, conflict and confusion. He comes not to start a war, but to end it. That is why it is only in exceptional circumstances that it is called upon. One of these exceptional circumstances is when an individual or community is under attack from other communities with evil or diabolical intentions (evil forces), and they themselves are innocent and blameless.
In Ijo the Divine Enforcer is known by several names such as Egbesu, Dirimo-asain, Agadagba-oru, Ako-oru. The Egbesu is the defensive and offensive power of the Supreme Being used to uphold the divine laws of nature, and to protect the upright or righteous from evil. If you are a person who consistently infringes divine law (i.e. the laws of natural justice), or commits wrong, then you cannot call upon Agadagba or Egbesu to help you in times of strife or conflict. That is why the priests of Agadagba require all persons who seek the protection of the Divine Enforcer to confess their sins. After a sincere confession, and a further commitment to uphold righteousness and truth in times of strife and conflict, you will be protected within the circumstances you find yourself, i.e. to say an individual or community will be protected by Egbesu as long as they themselves do not infringe the laws that are enforced by Egbesu.
The symbol of divine force is the leopard. Therefore the leopard is sacred to the Agadagba or Egbesu priesthood. (In the Christian tradition Egbesu is the angel of God who chains the Dragon Satan, the principle of evil and confines him to the bottomless pit for a thousand years- Book of Revelations Chapter 20, verse 1)
Egbesu is the aspect of God that manifests as a metaphysical or spiritual intelligence that is responsible for the maintenance of the divine order. Any infringement of the divine order is met with a force that restores the equilibrium between all things. Since human beings live in a world that is a part of the divine social order, any human being that infringes on the laws of nature will automatically feel the effects of that infringement. Put in a graphic way, if you infringe the laws of fire or heat, you will get burnt, if you infringe the laws of health, you will fall sick.
Egbesu is the offensive and defensive power of God used to protect the righteous or upright people from the forces of evil. Egbesu is the corrective force of God used to restore order when there has been an infringement within a unified natural system such as an ecosystem, which as we said earlier is ultimately a part of the divine order created by God. Egbesu is the divine enforcer and executioner. You reap what your sow as the saying goes. Egbesu is the divine security agent of God, securing the social order of societies that abide by the laws of nature, securing the minds of individuals who uphold divine law, from negative spiritual and psychic influences or attacks released by other minds. Because of also being a spiritual and psychic protector the Egbesu force was utilised in the form of amulets and charms to be worn as protection to ward off spiritual and psychic attack. It is also utilised in spiritual warfare, commonly referred to today as psychological warfare.
All things, all individuals, function in the divine scheme of things that is known as the universe. If an individual is a constant transgressor or deliberately infringes the divine order as represented by the laws of nature, then you cannot expect to be protected by divine law. Therefore you can only receive protection from Egbesu if you yourself are not a transgressor or constant infringer of divine law. If you are not a transgressor you have the right to defend yourself and your society against infringement by persons who seek to do so. You also have a right to implement justice on behalf of the whole society that is being destabilised, and the corrective forces of God will assist you in doing so. This is Egbesu.
Individuals who are in full compliance with the divine order, such as an Egbesu priest, have the ability to invoke the corrective forces (Egbesu) of God, if the social and environmental order within the human habitat is destabilised. This invoking of Egbesu will take on the form of waging aggressive warfare against the forces that are causing the destabilisation and disharmony, with the aim of re-establishing order and harmony, while at the same time being protected from harm. That is why Egbesu is termed the god of warfare. It is not invoked to cause war, but to end injustice wherever it may be.
In traditional Ijo society Egbesu priests presided over some communities. Thus we have the Agadagba of Egbesu of Arogbo-Ijo, Egbema-Ijo, The Egbesu priests of Olodiama-Ijo, Operemo-Ijo at Amabolu, to name a few.
Seeking Assistance from Egbesu: Seeking the assistance of the corrective forces of God to correct an injustice or infringement of our fundamental rights to make a living means living in harmony with the laws governing the universe. You cannot do it any other way. Thus an Egbesu priest, and the men who will carry out the defensive work will undergo a training programme that will harmonise their being with the offensive and defensive power of God. After the training programme, and in accordance to the sincerity of the individuals undergoing it, Egbesu will protect them and help them carry out their task of restoring law and order in the land, or righting a wrong. In an emergency situation an Egbesu priest can invoke the corrective forces of God to help a community in a conflict situation where they are clearly innocent, and are being victimised. All men or soldiers engaged in physical combat must as a matter of priority confess their sins, while at the same time make a sincere commitment to fight according to divine law. This means that innocent people are not victimised in a warfare situation, even if your own people are.
In calling upon the benevolent forces of God in times of conflict, where it is clear that you are not at fault or guilty of infringing the divine order, you must not give in to fear. Any time you give in to fear, you deny God dwelling within. God dwelling within is non other than the inner intelligence guiding all things. So if you deny It then it will not come to your aid in times of crises. Easier said than done. This is where the training or initiation program becomes essential.
We are now in a position to understand why Egbesu has been invoked by concerned Ijaw people in the protection of the Niger Delta environment our home, against those who seek to destroy it through ecological and environmental degradation caused by oil exploration, and against those neighbouring people and the corrupt elite who are ruling Nigeria, who want to infringe and violate the God given rights of Ijaw people to a fair share of the resources that are being generated by our homeland.
For Egbesu to be 100 percent effective in protecting the collective interests of the Ijaw people there is a demand placed on us to become unified in purpose and root out corruption within our mist. Without these conditions. Egbesu will aid us according to our due. The law of “you reap what you sow” must take its course.
Although it is convenient to conceptualise EGBESU as some kind of genii to be invoked at will, in reality it is by living truth that one invokes Egbesu. LIVE BY THE LAW OF GOD WHICH STATE THAT THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS WORLD, PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE THAT WILL MAKE YOU VIOLATE THE LAWS OF JUSTICE AND EQUALITY - THE SPIRITUAL POWER THAT YOU WILL ACQUIRE FROM LIVING THIS TRUTH IS GOD’S AUTOMATIC PROTECTION FROM THE HARM AND INJUSTICES OF OTHERS - THIS IS EGBESU.
Nigerian Newspaper reports on Egbesu:
“…His Majesty Pere Defae Mejiya Ebenezer Eperetun Aaga II is the Agadagba of Arogbo-Ijaw Kingdom…..Pere will not make two sentences in Ijaw without mentioning Egbesu. This reporter asked him who is Egbesu? According to him [Egebsu] is the Ijaw God of War and Peace. The Egbesu is a very strict god, but very loyal and quick to respond to requests by his people. Egebsu does not forgive anyone who breaches his instructions. For instance, Egbesu is strictly against the killing of women and children. Pere said on October 7, he handed over three women war prisoners to the police at Igbokoda. But he did not tell what happened to male war prisoners. Egbesu was also said to have turned his back on two Ijaw fighters because they stole at the war front. They died. There are about 21 denominations of Churches in Arogbo-Ijaw kingdom. The spiritual headquarters of the Cherubim and Seraphim is located somewhere on the waters of the Ijaws. Yet, they seem to be quick to relate with Egbesu than with the Almighty God….According to them, Egbesu’s response is like the speed of light…..”
(From Taste of Ijaw Lifestyle-The Guardian on Sunday, p29, 25/10/98, by Alabi Williams).
“…Navy Captain Olubolade, the past administrator of the state, came and tried to hold the people of Bayelsa hostage. Among human beings, not everyone is docile in the face of intimidation. Those of us considered courageous and who have access to the use of words and the wherewithal to defend what we say, became critical and told the world what Olubolade was turning the state into. On June 22, after General Abdulsalam Abubakar became head of state, we wrote a petition titled “Olubolade’s profligacy in
(From The Guardian on Sunday Newspaper 18/10/98)
“…Ijaw Crises: Egbesu Boys disarm soldiers – The crises over the Kaiama Declaration by the Ijaw Ethnic group in the Niger Delta deepened on Thursday as the dreaded Egbesu Boys of Africa launched a counter attack on soldiers in Yenagoa, disarming them and causing a stampede in the Bayelsa State capital. One of the Egbesu followers however, had his brains scattered during the crossfire between them and the soldiers. The victim was described as ‘a mere follower’, who had earlier been stopped from joining the team…..Soldiers who mounted several checkpoints, were disarmed and some of them were believed to have been kidnapped. Two hours after the boys had retreated, the soldiers and policemen had not returned to their duty posts….”
(From NewsReport Journal Monday 04/01/99).
“…Lt Col Obi….He decried the activities of militant youth groups such as the Egbesu Boys in Bayelsa State….most of the youth are level headed, adding that it was unfortunate that groups such as the Egbesu Boys were allowed to hijack their movement…”So, the youth are not Egbesu per se. But most of those people who belong to the secret cult go for the youth forum to perpetuate problems and the unfortunate thing about Egbesu is that they believe they are invincible because they used to go for the cult initiations and believe it makes them bullet proof and they can attack anybody and carry weapons and carry on with their attacks,” he said…”
(From Thisday Newspaper 14/1/99).
“…What then is the role of the SEA (Supreme Egbesu Assembly) in the Struggle in the
(From Egbesu Boys – Ijaws Parallel Army, The Guardian on Sunday 6/12/98, pp17 – 19)
“….Egbesu is a religious institution that runs across the Ijaw area of the
(Prof E J Alagoa, 2/10/99 Interview).
 The Bible (Revised Standard Version)
 Ifie E Deinyi. Twenty Five Ezon Moon Night Rhymes, p40.
 Alagoa E J ((1972) A History of the Niger Delta, p20
 Talbot P A (1926) The People of Southern Nigeria vol 2, p391e