Igheghan (Altar Bell)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Edo made use of altars and shrines as a point of communication with ancestors. Placed on these ancestor altars are igheghan altar bells. The bells are rung at the beginning of rituals, to awaken the spirits of deceased ancestors and to request their attention. Once their attention has been aroused, surviving family members make prayer requests. Ancestors are also respected through offerings made to the shrine (altar bells are rung to alert ancestors to the presence of offerings left behind).

NOTE: Smaller versions of altar bells were worn by Edo warriors to announce their presence and to garner protection from ancestors and to inspire fear in enemies during battles.

Distinguishing Features

  • Usually truncated, four-sided pyramid shape
    • Some conical shaped
  • Strap-like handle at top of bell (flat loop handle)
    • Sometimes a figure replaces the handle
  • Iron clapper suspended inside bell
  • Decorative motifs may be found on external surface
    • Incised linear, geometric or floral motifs
    • Low relief heads and/or figures
    • Panels of lattice openwork
    • One side given more elaborate decoration than the other three

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