The Demi-gods of Ancient Benin Kingdom
With their secrets known only to a few, and to protect the source of their super human strength and abilities, the ancient Benin Demi-gods were simply referred to as warriors.
They fought many great wars and brought victories to their people and the kingdom. Some of their battles were impossible, yet they won. Men spoke about how brave and fearless they fought, defeating both man and beast on the battle field.
Their bravery was unmatched and it seemed like they had once conquered death in the land of the living. Fellow warriors called them the immortals. They were the heroes of their time, they were living legends, but above all, they were Demi-gods and only a few knew their secret. They were Arhuanran, the Queen, Prince Osas and a royal guard.
Their greatness and super human attributes made a few men to seek the source of their strength and abilities. The tale below gives an account of it, and it goes like this.
Ancient Benin was very rich, blessed with vast and fertile farm lands on which crops were grown and sold, it was also endowed with mineral resources, and was considered the centre of commercial activities within the region. This placed the kingdom under constant invasion and threats of war. The King, with a view to protecting his kingdom, sought the help of the gods through one of his wives who was a sorceress.
As always, nothing is given freely by the gods, so; the King was asked to retrieve a sacred Calabash from the Evil Forest. A Calabash, believed to contain the water of life and holds mystical powers beyond any man’s imagination. A Calabash once sought by many centuries before this time, with its existence only known to a few.
Knowing that the task ahead wouldn’t be easy, the High Priest prepared the King and twelve of his strongest palace guards for the journey. He warned them of the possible dangers in the evil forest. His emphasis centered on the bitter, angered and lost souls whose spirits roamed the evil forest looking for who to consume. He warned them of voices without human presence, and the false presence of the dead and the living, and those of children and old people; and how tormenting they could be. He admonished them to ignore and to move on, no matter how real and convincing they may look.
Unfortunately, six of the palace guards fell victim to the dangers as they defied the High Priest’s instructions. Two slumped and died after they succumbed to the illusion of the evil forest by responding to the calls of their lovely betrothed wives, while the other four who couldn’t contend with the cries and calls from loved ones, lost their minds and got possessed by some evil spirits, only to run mad and eventually wandered off.
The King continued the journey with the remaining six palace guards, and on the 3rd day before night fall, they found the sacred calabash in the centre of three trees clustered by bats. “There it is”, said two of the place guards, pointing in the direction of the Calabash. Then shielding themselves with tree branches, they immediately tried to retrieve the Calabash but were viciously attacked and eventually killed by the bats.
“The gods have forsaken us”, yelled the king as the guards’ screams for help drowned in the chirping sounds of the bats. Filled with disbelief, the King starred at the mauled bodies of the guards for a while and then he recalled the instructions of the High Priest - the Calabash can only be retrieved upon the sighting of a full moon and once retrieved, no man with blood in his veins should be seen with the calabash or in the forest by the Bats.
The following night, a full moon was sighted and two palace guards quickly retrieved the calabash, taking quick and quiet steps away from the trees.
Keeping to the instructions of the High Priest, the King and the remaining guards immediately embarked on a journey home and to safety, away from the bat-infested trees and the gods forsaken forest.
The journey back home was more perilous. It seemed like the forest had been angered, its sacred treasure stolen (the calabash containing the water of life). The tormenting spirits were now more aggrieved and unfortunately, two other guards lost their minds as a result of that and unconsciously wandered off like the first four. Into the woods they wandered, only for their screams to be heard after a few minutes.
Also, the bats could be heard chirping and combing the forest in a hunt manner, searching for the sacred calabash stolen from their protective custody.
The king and the two other guards could hear the bats fast approaching and closing in on them. One of the guards immediately handed his symbol of loyalty to the King and created a diversion in order to save the King; thus, giving them ample time to exit the forest.
His bravery paid off as the King and the last guard made it out of the forest with the calabash but that was the last time the brave guard was ever seen or heard of.
The sacred calabash was quickly taken to the palace at the King’s square and then protected by the High Priest with red and white robes, some cowries, cola nuts and fresh palm fronds to prevent the bats from sniffing it out.
The bats eventually flew out of the forest, flying towards and around the King’s square in search of the sacred calabash. Till date, the bats can still be seen hovering all over the square in continuous search for the calabash or resting on the trees around and within the King’s square.
The Calabash contains the water of life and unless broken, it never runs dry. Legends have it that, it was stolen from a mermaid centuries ago and hidden in the Evil Forest under the protective custody of the bats. Whoever baths with the water will become half man and half god; and whoever drinks from it may either not survive or live and be distinctly different. Same legend also speaks of a woman who drank from the Calabash and lost her beauty and sight, but ended up having the ability to see and tell the future. She is often referred to as the first sorceress.
The Demi-gods and The Source of Their Strenghts
The King, having mourned the guards who gave up their lives for the quest decided to test the powers of the Calabash. Again, he received instructions from the High Priest and set out to fortify his subjects with the water from the Calabash. He then ordered his children, his wife and the palace guard who made it out with him to take their bath with water from the sacred Calabash.
During the bath taking rituals, one of the King’s sons mistakenly drank from the water and from that day he gradually grew to become a giant. He is called ARUAHAN, and he is believed to have dug the Benin Moats and also well known for sweeping the streets with palm trees. He is also known as the greatest warrior the Binis have ever had. See first image above.
Others also developed their super human abilities but did not grow to become a giant like Aruahan. This was the source of their super human strength and abilities and for centuries this has been hidden from the world.
Lastly, as a tribute to the loyal guard who created a diversion in order to save the King, his staff of loyalty was symbolized and today it is always carried by a loyal guard whenever the King makes an appearance.
This is fiction and should only be seen as fiction.
Authored by me and previously published here.