Revisiting the concept of physiognomic cult in Urhobo cosmology and its socio-iconographical representation.

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ofuafo, P.U.
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A Publication of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Benin
The Urhobo have a specific belief about cults for man’s wellbeing called physiognomic Cults. These cults are represented by complex artistic iconic objects. They appear as an individual-owned work of art through the entire spectrum of Urhobo society, from young infant to most senior elder, from subsistence cultivator to the village group leader and also as man’s achievement cult, as one progress positively in life. The physiognomy cults represent two distinct aspects of man’s aggression, progress, strength, and enterprise. They are called the Iphri and Obo cults. In Urhobo cosmology, shrines are essential in the promotion of an interface between the living and the spiritual beings. The small ones are constructed and placed within individual domains as temples to such personal gods as Obo, Iphri, Edere, or Oku among the larger ones, for which special small houses are built, and are usually located at appointed places within or around the village. These icons that were upheld long ago are revered by their descendants as posthumous testaments to their leadership and martial prowess. The paper is based on the semiotic theory of Umberto Eco which says pictures express the same feelings as spoken words. The objective of this paper is to re-visit the icons of the physiognomy Cult; their symbolic importance to the Urhobo and the socio-culture relevance in the present Urhobo community.
iphri , obo, , iconography , symbolism