Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 53

Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Yorùbá Omo Odùduwà

Papers on Yoruba People, Language, and Culture

by

Yoruba Language Program Students

University of Georgia

Compiled and Previewed

by

Akinloye Ojo (August, 1999)

Athens, Georgia.

Akinloye Ojo@1999
African Languages Program,

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 1 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

University of Georgia

Introduction

In September 1996 (Fall quarter), the department of Comparative Literature and the University of Georgia added Yoruba (a language
spoken in the western parts of Nigeria) to its offerings in the African Language Program. The Program had previously taught Swahili at all levels.
The Yoruba language program began with sixteen fully registered students and four auditing students. Some of these students left the class before
the end of the year (mostly after the second quarter) due to reasons such as graduation, college transfer and fulfillment of college foreign language
requirements. In the Spring, there were eight fully registered students in the third quarter Yoruba class. These students had become highly

proficient in the language, two of them would later be selected to participate in the U.S Department of Education’s Group Program Abroad in
Nigeria during the summer of 1997.
These eight students had also become knowledgeable about aspects of Yoruba culture and society. As a final project, they were assigned
topics for cultural presentation and were asked to write short papers in English on their respective topics. The initial eight papers had topics
varying from history, traditional healing, religion, marriage, family system, economy and having twin children among the Yorubas. These papers
also began the practice of an end of term
presentations and papers by students in the Yoruba language classes. The following eighteen papers are just a selection from the growing number
of such papers in the three academic years that Yoruba classes have existed here at the University of Georgia.

In all cases, the students were not provided with any reference or review until the day of their first paper presentation. The aim of the
project or requirement was for the students to do research on Yoruba language, culture and people, particularly and Nigeria in general. The papers
have not been edited, either for style or contents (except in cases where I, as a native speaker and instructor, has found statements that are
completely fabricated by the students) so as to showcase the findings of the students. As might be expected, there are many ideas in these papers
that are controversial, strange, suspect or sometimes almost outright annoying but these are the materials and ideas available in libraries in this
country about the Yoruba language and people.
It is hoped that these papers will serve as a source of information to the in-coming Yoruba students as well as other people interested in the
language and culture. Enjoy.
Oba Akinloye Ojo

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 2 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

LISTING OF PAPERS
Section One: Language And History
The Language of the Yoruba Olufemi (Ako)
Who Are the Yorubas? Babasoji
Yoruba History Olusanya

Section Two: Traditional Structures & Systems


The Traditional Government of Yorubaland Olukemi

Nigerian (Yoruba) Traditional Family Structure Kolade


Yoruba Traditional Marriage Olufemi (Abo)

Yoruba Naming Ceremony Titilayo M.


Twins in Yoruba Society Oluseyi (Taiwo)
The Historical Economic Structure of Yorubaland Adeleke
Yoruba Traditional Medicine Kehinde

Section Three: Religion

Yoruba Religion Titilayo S.


Yoruba Traditional Religion Oluwole
Olodumare, Orisa, ati Ebora: Yoruba Concepts of God Sangoleke

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 3 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

The Traditional Yoruba Divination Ceremony with


Special Emphasis on the Role of the Babalawo and Esu Olufemi
Female Deities and Their Importance in Yoruba Culture Folarin H.

Section Four: Women in Society & Issues About Nigeria


The Role of Women in Traditional Yoruba Society Adeola
Women and Culture: Yoruba Women vs. American Women Folarin A.
Nigerian Oil Crisis Babatunde

The Language of The Yoruba Olufemi (Ako)


Spoken primarily in Nigeria, the Yoruba language is complex and deeply rooted in tradition. Yoruba is the second largest language in
Nigeria and is spoken by some small sects scattered loosely worldwide. The origin of the Yoruba language is quite obscure and there really is no
conclusive evidence proving where exactly it did originate. The most conclusive evidence, however, does lend itself to predicting that the Yorubas
adopted their unique language somewhat from the language of the Egyptians, hundreds of years ago. Evidence supporting this theory is found
primarily in the way a vast number of Yoruba words seem to be very similar to their Egyptian counterparts. There really is no explanation of how
the Yorubas got their language back to Nigeria, though.
According to Mr. Dawodu, there are “about 20 million speakers of the [Yoruba] language in... Nigeria (1). Although this number seems in
itself quite large, when taken into consideration that there are “over twenty dialects which show phonological and lexical differences” the language

takes on a whole new vastness (Dawodu, 1). Yoruba is an ancient language that continues to acquire new speakers and new hybrid dialects
everyday. The Yoruba language ismaking extraordinary leaps into colleges and educational institutions all around the world. All over the internet
people can see the advertisements for courses in various African languages including Zulu, Yoruba, and Swahili, which are helping to secure
African languages’ place in the upcoming years.
The Yoruba alphabet is quite similar to our own English alphabet. The main differences that separate the two are that the Yoruba alphabet
contains nasal vowels in addition to regular vowels. The other major difference is that the Yoruba language is pronounced a little differently. Nasal
vowels are basically vowels that are not enunciated with the larynx but rather the nasal passages. These vowels have a raspy sound instead of a
clear, crisp sound. In addition to these differences, the only other truly big difference is in the use of accent marks (or tones) that utilized to mark
intonation of the words.
Although the Yoruba language and the English language share many characteristics, the Yoruba language has a more readily
understandable grammatical structure. In Yoruba, the noun usually is followed by the adjective. One aspect that makes Yoruba easier to learn is the
fact that the Yoruba language has far less verb tenses and possible conjugations than English does. Whereas this would, on face value, seem to
make the language inherently confusing, it actually is not as confusing as on would think. The key to understanding Yoruba words is to take the
word in context, this seems to simplify even the most difficult of verb forms or vocabulary.
The Yoruba language, as I stated earlier, is deeply rooted in tradition. Following in tradition, the Yoruba greeting process is chock full of
traditional processes. In the Yoruba culture, when a man of lesser age wishes to greet a man or woman older than he is, he must lower himself on
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 4 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

traditional processes. In the Yoruba culture, when a man of lesser age wishes to greet a man or woman older than he is, he must lower himself on
the ground and prostrate while the elder begins the conversation. In the case of a woman who is not as old as the person she is greeting, she must
kneel and speak from that position until the elder gives her permission to stand.
In addition to greeting properly, the Yoruba language contains honorific words used to show respect in everyday conversation. For
instance, the Yorubas have a separate way to speak when they are referring to a person older than they are. This type of honorific language must
be applied at all times in the Yoruba culture or else the person will be seen as both rude and disrespectful. Speakers of the Yoruba language must

remain aware when they speak that the language in itself is used as an instrument to delegate respect and show hospitality and good manners. Such
emphasis is put on propriety because in the Yoruba culture, the elders are highly regarded and essentially are the (un)official leaders of their
families.
As I mentioned ealier, the Yoruba language is spoken primarily in Southeast Nigeria, but it spoken in small pockets around the world. In
some of these different places, like Cuba and the United States for instance, people speak a different dialect of Yoruba, Lucumi. “Lucumi is a tonal
language like Chinese” (Online 1). In this dialect, some of the more difficult sounds are merely approximated instead of being correctly
pronounced.
The Yoruba language is a constantly changing entity that is consistently teaching students and regular people alike about the different
cultural chasms that exist between peoples across the world and how learning a language can serve to link different cultures. At first, learning a
foreign language can seem hard or boring, but the results of learning a language and understanding what someone from thousands of miles away
means makes it all worth the effort.
Online Sources
Online, Lucumi Vocabulary, http://www.seanet.com/~efunmoyiwa/vocab.html
Online, Yoruba Language, http://www.yorubaorg/language.html
Online, Languages and Intro. http://www.citilink.com/~boomie/Nigeria/languages/html
Online, African Languages Offered at the University of Florida http://www.africa.ufl.edu/academic/languages.html
Online, Yoruba Culture in the Diaspora http://www.yoruba.org/Diaspora.html
Online, The Yoruba and Other Major Nigerian Tribes http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/.../landow/post/nigeria/yorubaFH.html

Who Are The Yorubas? Babasoji


Introduction
The Yorubas, one of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria enjoy a very rich and cultural history. The multi-faucet fabric of their history is a direct
reflection of the various accounts of their origin and interrelation they share with other groups in Nigeria. The focus of this paper then is to explore
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 5 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

reflection of the various accounts of their origin and interrelation they share with other groups in Nigeria. The focus of this paper then is to explore
the various account of the origins of the Yorubas and how these historical facts relate to their present situation. In order to fulfill the mandate of
this paper, the paper will then discuss the following concepts: Origin, Marriage, and Religion among the Yorubas. The paper will then explore all
the creation stories surrounding the origins of the Yorubas and how it encompasses the previously mentioned topics.

Who are the Yorubas?

Several theories exist as to the origin of the Yoruba people. Since their language was unwritten for a long time, information about the group was
carefully handed down via the oral tradition. The Yorubas are said to have sprung from Lamurudu one of the kings of Mecca (present-day Saudi
Arabia). Lamurudu had a son, Oduduwa, who is generally regarded as the ancestor of the Yorubas. During his father’s reign, Oduduwa was very
influential that he attracted many followers. Oduduwa became involved with idolatory, and had local mosques converted to temples for idol
worshiping. His main goal was to make idol worshiping the state religion, with the help of a chief priest, Asara. Asara had a son, Braima who was
brought up as a muslim and who resented the enforced worship of idols.
Under the influence of Oduduwa all the men of the city were ordered on a three day hunting expedition in preparation for the festival held
in honor of their gods. Briama seized the opportunity of the men's absence to wreck havoc on the city. He destroyed all of the idols in the city
with an axe, leaving the axe in the neck of the major idol. When the town’s people learned of Briama’s handy-work, he was immediately ordered
to be burnt alive. At this time a revolt started which sparked a civil war. Lamurudu was slain and all of his children were expelled from Mecca.
Oduduwa went eastward and the other two went westward. Oduduwa and his followers managed to escaped with two idols to Ile Ife (still Ile Ife in
modern Nigeria).
Many historians do not believe that the Yorubas could have come from Mecca. Mecca’s account of the Yorubas does not seem to exist.
But then it may be taken for granted that all such accounts have in them some basic facts. Some people do say that the Yorubas did come from the
east. This is due to their habits, manners, and customs. With them the East is Mecca and Mecca is the East. Having strong affinities with the east,
hence it is natural to represent themselves as having hailed originally from Mecca.
Oduduwa and his sons swore to avenge the death of the Moslems in their native country. But Oduduwa died in Ile Ife before he was
powerful enough to revolt against the Moslems of his country. His eldest son Okanbi, commonly called Idekoseroke, also died at Ile Ife, leaving
behind seven princes and princess. From these the various Yoruba tribe came to existence. The first was a princess who married a priest and
became the mother of Olowu, ancestor of the Owus. The second also a princess became the mother of Alaketu, progenitor of the Ketu people. The
third became the king of the Benin people. The fourth Oranyan, became the king of Ila at Ila Orangun. The fifth, Onisabe, became king of the
Sabe (present day Benin Republic), the sixth was the king of Popos. The seventh and last born, Oranyan (Odede), was the progenitor of the

Yorubas proper or better distinguished, the Oyos. Oranyan was the youngest, but eventually became the richest. On Oranyan’s way to Mecca to
avenge his great-grand-father’s death, he halted and built a city. This town was called Oyo Ajaka. This was the ancient city of Oyo. Oranyan
remained in Oyo, but his descendants spread further east, west and southwest. Even after the migration they still had free communication with Ile
Ife.
Another story about the origin of the Yorubas is a traditional creation myth. The myth describes how God let down a chain at Ile Ife by
which Oduduwa-the ancestor of the Yorubas, and, indeed, of all men descended, carrying a cock, some earth, and a palm kernel. He threw the
earth into the waters, the cock scratched it to become land, the palm grew with sixteen branches-representing the sixteen original kingdom. Thus in
several versions of these myths one finds themes of creation and conquest. But every town and lineage and every deity has its own origin myth.

Nevertheless, in all of them, Ile Ife is regarded as the center from which all Yorubas dispersed to their present abodes. Ile Ife seems to have
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 6 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Nevertheless, in all of them, Ile Ife is regarded as the center from which all Yorubas dispersed to their present abodes. Ile Ife seems to have
become a very important center, with, perhaps at this time, a highly developed art in terra-cotta and stone. Myths then suggest a later conquest of

Ife -possibly in the thirteenth century -by men who established dynasties at Oyo and Benin. By the end of the 15th century Benin’s army

conquered as far afield as Idah on the Niger, and Ekiti. Historians believe it is possible that the present dynasties in Lagos, Ijebu, and Ondo derive

from the Benin dynasty. In the 17th century, Oyo empire quickly expanded when its rulers acquired the horse. It grew to control the major slave-

trading route from the Niger to the coast at Badagry and Whdah, a route that avoided the dense forests. Oyo and the other kingdoms declined in

the late 18th and 19th centuries owing to disputes between minor Yoruba rulers.
There is some level of diversity in social and political organization among the Yorubas, but they share many basic features. Inheritance and

succession are based on patrilineal descent, and members of the same patrilineage live under the authority of a headman. The Yorubas are a people
deeply rooted in customs and traditions. To narrow the scope of this paper, two of their customs, marriage and religion will be discussed. Within

the Yoruba culture a man may not marry any woman of his own lineage, nor of the lineage of any of his great-grandparents. In the past, he could
not marry from a lineage bearing the same taboos or appellations as his own, for such (the taboos or appellations) implied descent from a common,

if forgotten, ancestor. Most men find their wives from their own town, or from neighboring towns within their kingdom.
Parents are deeply involved in a man’s first marriage. Parental views on the suitability of the chosen girl, expressed in terms of the health

and moral character of her family, still tend to outweigh the selection of the young man based, perhaps, on physical attraction. The wedding
usually takes place when the girl is from sixteen to eighteen years old, and the man in his middle or late twenties. At this point the man makes a

payment, now in cash, to the girl’s parents. There is no fixed amount. Part of this sum is kept by the mother to buy pots and utensils for the new
home. The rest is shared among the members of the girl’s lineage.

Marriage gives the man a right to his wife’s domestic labor, the sole sexual access to her (husband can claim damages from an adulterer),
and rights to all children born to her during the marriage. Most Yoruba men aspire to have several wives. Today, divorce is frequent, though the

Yoruba say it was rare in the past (perhaps because it was easier then than now for a powerful and wealthy polygamist to victimize the seducer of
one of his wives). Divorce seem to involve young, childless women, a corollary perhaps of extreme stigma attached to barrenness. When divorce is

imminent, the woman secretly moves to her lover’s home and immediately sues her husband for divorce.
The woman must repay all or portion of the marriage payment, depending on the length of the marriage. A woman is allowed to keep her

small children with her after her divorce, but after they are seven years old the father may claim them. Traditionally if the husband dies, the
woman may be given to a junior brother or to a son, other than her own, who can maintain her and her children. If she does not like the heir or

brother, she must divorce him. Upon her death, a woman’s children inherit from her, or if she has no children, the nearest relatives in her own

lineage. Husband and wife can never inherit from each other. Many writers noted that the African marriage payment as creating for the wife status
of near slavery, and literate Yoruba sometimes adopt the same usage. Yet the over submissiveness of the Yoruba wife to her husband is perhaps

the corollary of her great economic independence and her freedom to secure divorce (Lloyd 566).
Traditional Yoruba religion involves worship and respect of Olorun the Creator; of orisa, deities; and of ancestors. The purpose of Yoruba

religion is to achieve “divine consciousness.” The Yorubas believe in having an earthly consciousness and a heavenly consciousness. To them,
conscious searching and right living can bring the earthly one into alignment with the heavenly one. Yorubas do not worship ancestors, but they

respect them highly. Ancestors who had lived a good life are believed to be able to help their living descendants to also live good lives and to help
them through troubles.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 7 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

The Yorubas are said to have 401 deities. Most of the deities are anthropomorphic, but frequently these mythical figures are also associated
with natural features, especially rivers. There are hundreds of major and minor orisa. People pray to them and sacrifice to them according to their

needs and situation. There are deities for hunters, expectant mothers, for the home, for farming, etc. Each one has its own rule, rites, and
sacrifices. Some are believed to be easily angered and so people seek to appease them; others are seen as benevolent. The Yorubas pray to the

orisa for divine intervention in their lives. Orisa are considered to be Olorun’s (God) way of intervening in human affairs.
Olorun (owner of sky) is God. He is the Creator. But no shrine exist to him, no organized priesthood. He is invoked in blessings or in

thanks, and one may call on him with prayers. Orunmila is said to be `the prophet and structural originator' of the Yoruba religion. He is also
worshiped. He was probably a real person around whom many beliefs have risen. The odu is the word for the Yoruba scriptures, <not all of which

is known> There is also ifa divination; this is believed to have been founded by Orunmila at Ile Ife. The babalawo, Orunmila's earthly
representative casts down onto his ifa board two chains of four kernels, cowries, or similar objects, some falling face down, others face up. For

each of the 256 possible positions there is a lengthy verse to know the cause of illness or bad luck, put upon the person by the deity whom he has
offended or ought to serve.

The Yorubas believe that the dead interfere in the daily events on earth. The egungun, masquerade or masked dancers, in whom the spirit of

a deceased person is thought to reside temporarily, appears at funeral ceremonies. In northern Yoruba towns, festivals are held in which each
egungun dances through the town on a certain day, and on a final day, they all dance to the palace to greet the Oba (the King).

One of the many Yoruba religious groups, the Sango worshippers are said to have originated from an early mythical Alafin of Oyo who
hanged himself; he is the god of thunder. Sango worshipping is important in Oyo, but is found in other Yoruba towns. The shrine in the compound

of the hereditary priest contains the “thunderbolt”. Another important Yoruba deity is Ogun, the god of iron and war. Throughout Yoruba country,
Ogun is associated with Ire and Ekiti towns. The shrine of Ogun is a group of phallic-shaped granite monoliths. The annual festival of Ogun is

usually one in which most of the townspeople participate; a dog is always sacrificed.
Orisha Oko, the farm deity, is associated with Irawo, a town near Saki, in the north most part of Yoruba land. However, Orisa Oko worship

is also found in most Oyo towns. Oya, the mythical wife of Sango, is also identified with the Niger River. Several other mythical hero-deities are
associated with the Osun River. The myths describing the earthly activities of these gods vary widely from one town to another. Traditional

Yoruba religion varies across the Yorubaland and wherever it is practiced. Let us not forget that their main goal is to find divine interventions in
their lives.

As we have already seen, the Yorubas are a people with very rich culture. They have been through a lot and have overcome a lot of
obstacles to reach the point they are today. Their culture and history can be seen throughout the world. They have influenced many other cultures

especially with their religious beliefs. In other words, the Yoruba people are one of the most influential groups in the world.

Yoruba History Olusanya


The origin of the Yoruba in Nigeria can not be clearly deciphered. It is believed that their primary ancestor, Oduduwa, came from Egypt.

There are many variations and myths to how the Yoruba people came to be, and here is a couple of variations. Oduduwa is the legendary
progenitor of the Yoruba. There are two variations of the story of how he achieved this feat. The first is cosmogonic, the second, political. The

cosmogonic version also has two variations. According to the first variation of the cosmogonic myth, Orisanla (Obatala) was the arch-divinity who

[1]
was chosen by Olodumare , the supreme deity to create a solid land out of the primordial water that constituted the earth and of populating the

land with human beings.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 8 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

land with human beings.


Obatala descended from heaven on a chain, carrying a small snail shell full of earth, palm kernels and a five-toed chicken. He was to

empty the content of the snail shell on the water after placing some pieces of iron on it, and then to place the chicken on the earth to spread it over

the primordial water. According to the first version of the story, Obatala completed this task to the satisfaction of Olodumare. He was then given
the task of making the physical body of human beings after which Olodumare would give them the breath of life. He also completed this task and

this is why he has the title of "Obarisa" the king of orisas. The other variant of the cosmogonic myth does not credit Obatala with the completion
of the task. While it concedes that Obatala was given the task, it avers that Obatala got drunk even before he got to the earth and he was unable to

do the job. Olodumare got worried when he did not return on time, and he had to send Oduduwa to find out what was going on. When Oduduwa
found Obatala drunk, he simply took over the task and completed it. Thus, Oduduwa created land. The spot on which he landed from heaven and

which he redeemed from water to become land is called Ile-Ife and is now considered the sacred and spiritual home of the Yoruba. Obatala was
embarrassed when he woke up and, due to this experience, he made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine. Olodumare forgave him

and gave him the responsibility of molding the physical bodies of human beings. The making of land is a symbolic reference to the founding of the
Yoruba kingdoms, and this is why Oduduwa is credited with that achievement.

According to the second version of the myth, there was a pre-existing civilization at Ile-Ife prior to its invasion by a group led by
Oduduwa. This group came from the east, where Oduduwa and his group had been persecuted on the basis of religious differences. They came to

Ile-Ife, fought and conquered the pre-existing Igbo (unrelated to the present day Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria) inhabitants led by Oreluere
(Obatala). Obviously, there is a connection between the two versions of the story. The political one may be the authentic story of the founding of

the Ife kingdom through conquest. However, the myth of creation lends it a legitimacy that is denied by the conquest story; just as it appears that it
is lent some credence by the fact that, as a result of the embarrassment it caused their deity, the followers of Obatala are forbidden from taking

palm wine.
Indeed the second version of the cosmogonic myth also appears to foreshadow the political variant. The claim that Obatala got drunk and

the task of creation had to be performed by Oduduwa already has some political coloration which is now explicit in the political version of the
tradition. What is crucial in both variants of the story is the role of Oduduwa as the founder of the Yoruba nation which is why the name cannot be

forgotten. Oduduwa is the symbol of the nation, the rallying point for all those who subscribe to the Yoruba identity. The name Yoruba itself,

according to historians Smith, Atanda and others, ‘was fixed on us by our northern neighbors and later popularized by colonial publications.’
Before then, the "Anago" to which some Yoruba in the present Benin Republic and others in the new world still use to refer to themselves, was

used to refer to most of the people called Yoruba today. A common origin and language, as well as common political and religious cultures made
the Yorubas a nation long before any contact with Europeans and the advent of colonialism.

Upon the death of Oduduwa, there was the dispersal of his children from Ife to found other kingdoms. These original founders of the
Yoruba nation included Olowu of Owu (son of Oduduwa's daughter), Alaketu of Ketu (son of a princess), Oba of Benin, Orangun of Ila, Onisabe

of Sabe, Olupopo of Popo, and Oranyan of Oyo. Each of them made a mark in the subsequent urbanization and consolidation of Yoruba
confederacy of kingdoms, with each kingdom tracing its origin to Ile-Ife. After the dispersal, the aborigines, the Igbo, became difficult, and

constituted a serious threat to the survival of Ife. Thought to be survivors of the old occupants of the land before the arrival of Oduduwa, these
people now turned themselves into marauders.

The Igbos would come to town in costumes made of raffia with terrible and fearsome appearances, and the Ife people would flee. Then the
Igbo would burn down houses and loot the markets. Then came Moremi on the scene—like Deborah of the Old Testament. When no man could

dare the Igbos, Moremi asked the Esinminrin river for help and promised to give offerings if she could save her people. The orisa told her to allow
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 9 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

dare the Igbos, Moremi asked the Esinminrin river for help and promised to give offerings if she could save her people. The orisa told her to allow
herself to be captured and to understudy the Igbo people. She did, and discovered that these were not spirits; only people with raffia for dress. She

escaped, and taught her people the trick. The next time that Igbo people came, they were roundly defeated. Moremi then had to go back to
Esinminrin to thank the gods. Every offering she offered was refused. On divination, she was told she had to give Oluorogbo, her only son. She

did. The lesson of Moremi is the lesson of patriotism and selflessness. The reward may not be reaped in one's life time. Moremi passed on and
became a member of the Yoruba pantheon. The Edi festival celebrates the defeat of the Igbo and the sacrifice of Oluorogbo till today.

Oranmiyan was the last of the Oduduwa offsprings. But he was the most adventurous and the founder of Oyo Kingdom. On some accounts,
he was the

third ruler of Ife as successor to Oduduwa. But he later decided to avenge the expulsion of his father from the East, and so, he led an expedition.

After many years on the road, and as a result of disagreement between him and his people, he could not go further. Feeling too ashamed to go
back, he appealed to the King of Nupe for a land to found his kingdom. He was obliged, and that land became the nucleus of Old Oyo Kingdom.

Oranmiyan, taking the title of Alafin, succeeded in raising a very strong military and effectively expanded his kingdom. His successors, including
Sango, the mythical god of thunder, Aganju and Oluasho were also as strong. Peace and tranquility prevailed during the reign of Abiodun, though

it also experienced the decline of the army. Aole Arogangan was Abiodun’s successor and it was during his reign that trouble started for the
kingdom. He was forced to commit suicide; but before his death he was said to have pronounced a curse on all Yoruba, that they will not unite and

that they will be taken captives.Afonja was the Kakanfo, the generalisimo of the army, in the northern Yoruba town of Ilorin, during the reign of
Awole and his successor.

Afonja refused to recognize the new king, and invited the Fulani who were then leading a jihad to the south, to assist him against the king.
They did, but he did not survive himself, because the Fulani, after helping him defeat the Alafin also turned against him. They fired numerous

arrows at him and his dead body was stood erect on those arrows as they stuck into his body. The treachery of Afonja marked the beginning of the
end of the Oyo empire and with it the decline of the Yoruba nation. Civil war erupted among the various Yoruba kingdoms: Oyo, Ijesa, Ekiti,

Ijaiye, Abeokuta and Ibadan. As this was going on, Dahomey on the west and the Borgu on the north were also posing trouble for the Yoruba
kingdoms until the intervention of the British and the imposition of colonial rule. Those who argue that there was no consciousness of a common

Yoruba identity until the 19th century may be referring to these civil war episodes in the life of the nation. But they forget that these people, in
spite of the civil war, share a sense of common origin and common language. And it is to be noted that the so-called peace that was imposed by

the British could not have lasted had there not been a sense of consciousness of coming from a common origin.
Now, Since the ancient history of Yoruba is covered, more modern history should take prevalence. There have been many events that have

taken place in the 20th century. Between 1914 and 1922, Nigeria was presided over by a Governor-General. In 1922, as part of the constitution of
the time, the British introduced the principle of direct election into the Legislative council. In 1951, a new constitution elevated the provinces to

regional status. The National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) had control of the Eastern Region government, the Northern Peoples

Congress (NPC) had control of the Northern Region, and the Action Group (AG) had control of the Western Region. By 1957, the Eastern and
Western Regions attained self-governing status. In 1959, the Northern Region attained self-governing status.

On October 1 1960, Nigeria obtained it's independence. At this time, Northern and Southern Cameroon were given the option of staying as
part of Nigeria or leaving Nigeria. Southern Cameroon decided to leave Nigeria, but Northern Cameroon stayed. Also, on October 7, 1960, Nigeria

was admitted to the United Nations as the 99th member. One of the earliest and most signification contributions to the UN was to furnish troops
for the peacekeeping opearting in Zaire in the the early 1960s. Later on, the main thrust of Nigeria's activism on the world stage was to eradicate

apartheid and racism from Africa. In 1963, Nigeria became a republic. By 1964, the Nigerian army units had formed the backbone of the UN
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 10 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

apartheid and racism from Africa. In 1963, Nigeria became a republic. By 1964, the Nigerian army units had formed the backbone of the UN
force.

In January of 1966, a group of army officers, consisting mostly of the Ibo peoples, and led by General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, overthrew
the central and regional governments, killed the prime minister, took control of the government, and got rid of the federal system of government to

replace it with a central government with many Igbos as advisors. This caused a lot of riots and a lot of Igbos were killed in the process. In July of
the same year, a group of northern army officers revolted against the government (it seems this started a long history of military coups), killed

General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, and appointed the army chief of staff, General Yakubu Gowon as the head of the new military government.
In 1967, Gowon moved to split the existing 4 regions of Nigeria into 12 states. However, the military governor of the Eastern Region

(Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu) refused to accept the division of the Eastern Region, and declared the Eastern Region an
independent republic called Biafra. This led to a civil war between Biafra and the remainder of Nigeria. The war started in June 1967, and

continued until Biafra surrendered on January 15, 1970 after over 1 million people had died. During the early 1970s a lot of time was spend
reconstructing the areas that were formerly part of Biafra. Around this time, the petroleum industry was booming, and the economy was recovering

from the effects of the civil war, though there were still problems with inflation, high unemployment, decline in the price of peanuts and cocoa,
and a drought.

In 1971, Nigeria joined the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). However, the prolonged drought in 1973 led to the

death of thousands of livestock, the suffering of farms, and the fishing industry. This, in combination with the oil boom, made a lot of people move
into away from the farms, and more towards the cities. Though the oil boom in the early 1970s brought a lot of revenue to Nigeria, this seemed to

stay mostly in government. In 1976, Nigeria was further broken down into 19 states, and plans to move the capital to Abuja were in the works. In
1987, 2 more states were created. In 1991, 9 more states were created, leading to 30 states at the time. Also in 1991, Abuja was formed as a new

(more central) section of the country, and the capital of Nigeria was officially moved from Lagos to Abuja. The government took portions of then
Niger, Kogi, and Plateau states to form the new federal capital territory of Abuja.

Though Biafra was the most deadly and violent of the wars in Nigeria, there have continued to be disputes in Nigeria due to land, ethnic
differences, religious differences. For example, in 1992 there were major clashes in the north between Christians and Muslims, and over 3000

people were killed in the clashes. Also, there was a possibility of Nigeria going to war with Cameroon in 1993.
The history of Yoruba is very interesting. Olodumare, the Supreme Being of the Yoruba culture, is equivalent to the Christian God. The
story of how the chicken spread the sand across the Earth is similar how God created the Earth in the Christian Bible. They are very similar but the
political view is much more believable and accepted. As a student and firm believer of religion (Christianity), I am very interested in the
similarities of the two religions. I would also love to learn more about the history and other similarities between the Yoruba and Christianity
beliefs.

Sites Cited:
Oduduwa: The Man Behind it All. 1997 University of Washington. 9 Oct 1997. <http://www.uw.edu/~fl/yoruba/oduduwa.html
Yoruba: Past, Present, and Future. Dept. of Foreign Languages, University of Virginia. 31 Oct 1997. <http://www.uva.edu/~for-lang/yoruba.html>.

The Traditional Government of Yorubaland Olukemi

Before the British colonized Nigeria and forced the Yoruba people to adopt European government policies and standards, there was already
a strong and effective government in place. Although there never has been a single political unit of the Yorubas, All Yoruba people feel a deep

sense of culture and tradition that unifies and helps identify the people. There are 16 established kingdoms that are said to be descendants of the
main ancestor or deity, Odua (Oduduwa). There are countless sub-kingdoms and territories that are branches of the original 16 kingdoms. This

decentralized government worked very well for the people, but it ultimately led to European dominance in Yorubaland. Due to the invasion and
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 11 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

decentralized government worked very well for the people, but it ultimately led to European dominance in Yorubaland. Due to the invasion and
colonization of the Europeans, the decentralized Yoruba polity could not resist (Asiwaju, 9).

There are various groups and subgroups in Yorubaland because of the fact that there are many distinct dialects of Yoruba. The government
of this diverse people is quite intricate and each group and subgroup vary, but in general government begins at home within your immediate

family. The next level is the clan, or extended family with its own head, Baálé, then the town chiefs, Baálè rule over clans, and these chiefs are
subject to their Oba King, and this king may also be subject to another larger king (Asiwaju, 20).

In Yorubaland, government begins at home. The father of the family is considered the head of the family and his first wife is the mother of
the house. If her husband chooses to marry another wife, that wife must show proper respect to the first wife even if the first wife is

chronologically younger. Children are taught to have respect for all those who are older than they are. This includes their parents, aunts, uncles,

elder siblings, and cousins who they deal with every day (Bascom, 42). Any adult presumably has as much authority over a child as the child’s
parents do. All members of a particular clan live in the same compound and share family resources, rights, and possessions such as land (Boscom

43).
Clans are patrilateral. The continuance of the clan depends on the male. Women leave the clan and become members of the clan of their

husband. Children belong to the clan of their father. It comes as no surprise that the eldest male member of a clan is the leader (Baálé). He acts as
a father and authority figure to every member of the clan. One of the main responsibilities of the Baálé is to peacefully settle disputes within the

clan (Bascom 44). Only if a conflict involves two or more families and it is impossible for the Baálé to make a peaceful decision is the town chief,
Baálè or Olóyè called to settle the conflict. This is a basic family government structure in Yorubaland (Boscom 44).

Each kingdom in Yorubaland has its own specifics in government. The kingdom of Ife provides a good example of how Yoruba kingdoms
in general are run (Bascom 29). Town chiefs are in charge of a particular ward of a kingdom. These have lower-level chiefs beneath them who

primarily look after the interests of the young people of the ward. Town chiefs have direct contact with the Yoruba citizens. They go to the king on
behalf of the people to let the king know exactly what the people want and how they feel about specific issues (Bascom 33). Palace chiefs (woye)

serve as messengers, pages, and representatives of the king. Woye are important in religious functions. Some woye are assigned a chamber of the
palace for the sole purpose of religious practices by which deities are pleased. Woye appear for the king in the numerous festivals and cultural

events that go on throughout the year (Bascom 34).


The king’s authority is based on the Yoruba myth of creation. After the main deity Odua created Yorubaland, he sent his 16 sons to

establish kingdoms. The kingdoms of today all claim their origin from creation, but there is much debate as to the validity of these claims. The
king (Oba or the Oòni, in the case of Ile Ife) is distinguished by his right to wear a beaded crown. This crown symbolizes the kingís authority. A

new crown is made for each Oòni but beads from the crown of his predecessor are used to preserve the link to Odua (Bascom 30). The king may
substitute the crown for a beaded cap, but his head is never uncovered. Oòni have also been known to use beaded gowns, sandals, cushions and

other items. Solidly beaded items are restricted to the use of the king.

In many respects the king is considered divine. After being chosen king from all eligible males of the royal family by the town chiefs, the
king will only see his family incognito and under the cover of darkness. He appears in public only once a year. He lives isolated in his palace.

Town chiefs and palace chiefs are his only link to the outside (Bascom 32). Kingship doesn’t pass father to son. The four branches of the royal
clan are able to put someone up for king in rotation, but branches may be skipped if there is no suitable candidate or if that candidate is somehow

incompetent. The branch campaigns its own eligible males by hosting banquets and showing generosity in other ways (Bascom 33).
The qualifications that the chiefs look for in a prospective king are that he must be at least thirty years old, married with a family, and his
father must be dead so that the king is truly subject to no one else. A candidate for king must prove himself to have good character, to be
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 12 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

father must be dead so that the king is truly subject to no one else. A candidate for king must prove himself to have good character, to be

unselfish, and willing to listen. Wealth is important to show the generosity of the hopeful Oòni, but it is not essential (Bascom 31). There is
evidence that Oòni have been women in the past, but today Oòni are predominantly men. The king’s compound can count on his protection and
favor. Socially, they are put above the towns people. The other royal compounds put themselves below the towns people so that they will not be
considered arrogant or selfish when it’s time to select a new Oòni (Bascom 32).

The Oòni are not so far above the people that tyrants and unsuitable kings can not be discarded. An Oòni was once selling his own people
into slavery. A mob of citizens and chiefs gathered in front of the king’s palace to demonstrate their outrage. This is not something the people will
do on a purely political basis. An Oni has seriously abused his power to cause such a demonstration. When the palace is mobbed in such a way, the
king has only two choices. He may live in exile forever or kill himself (Boscom 33).

The Yoruba people have a unique system of government revolving around tradition and respect. The fact that government begins at home
helps instill responsibility and good citizenship at an early age. Yoruba government before European colonization was highly effective. The
complex system of heads of clans, chiefs, and kings varies from kingdom to kingdom, but has enough cultural basis to allow the Yoruba people to
have a sense of identity as a Yoruba citizen.

Over time, however, it has become increasingly difficult to separate local and national political processes. Much of the traditional small
government has given way to a more centralized system. The power and autonomy of local-level political institutions have progressively eroded,
with the significant decisions made in the state capitals or in the federal capital (Eades 92). The trend towards less local government began with

the fall or decline of many kingdoms in the 19th century (Bascom 27). European and Fulani penetration also helped set the trend. The most
significant factor was the growing importance of military chiefs (Eades 92). This led to the modification of political systems of the kingdoms that
did survive and the evolution of new systems in new states. Following British occupation there was a period of in-direct colonial rule.
The system of in-direct colonial rule continued until the 1950s. The main trend was the growing involvement of literates and wealthy

entrepreneurs in local politics and their opposition to, or support of, the traditional rulers. Civilian politics lasted from 1952 to 1966. Power
shifted away from the Native Authorities set up by the British to the new regional and national governments. Events in Yourbaland became more
and more dependent on the events taking place at the national level. This remained the case in the period of military rule, during which the break-
up of the old political units and growth of the financial power of the federal government strengthened central control (Eades 93). With the return to

civilian rule under an executive presidency, as is now occurring, this trend is likely to continue (Eades 94).
New systems of government arose from the problems due to the fall of many traditional kingdoms and the creation of new ones. Brand
new systems had to be devised to handle the different subcultures within the population in many of the larger towns and the difficulties of
integrating them into a single political system (Eades 100). The growing power of military commanders and traders and the decline of traditional

political authorities also created problems that new policies attempted to deal with (Eades 100).
The period of time where Britain ruled indirectly over Yorubaland was a very tumultuous and violent time in Nigerian history (Eades 102).
The British restored the power of the Obas. These rulers were deemed suitable by the English, and little thought was given to the reality of who
had the respect and support of the people. Oba were given more power than they had ever enjoyed before and were resented by many Yoruba

citizens and the newly subordinate chiefs. People became frustrated and angry and there was much violence and rioting in the early part of the
century (Bascom 28). The population of educated elite grew during this time. From the 1930s on, the Obas were not necessarily the most wealthy
or influential political powers. True power began to shift towards the educated (Eades 105). The literate elite began to form political parties to
support or tear down the Obas appointed by England.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 13 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Within their own regions, the dominant parties were able to consolidate their positions through the distribution of patronage, through
control of the police and the courts and through violence (Eades 111). By the late 1960s up to the present, Obas and town chiefs have an
ambiguous position in government (Eades 113). The people lacked elected representatives so the Obas and chiefs became the unofficial voices of

the people. Military Governors had the title of power and the man power to enforce legislation, but they continually sought the advice of the Obaa
and chiefs to gauge the reaction of the people to certain situations. Not that the counsel of the Obas was always taken seriously (Eades 113).
The military rulers were and are unable to keep the peace. Traditional and military governments have been in a constant struggle. Over
time the violence has dissipated with the rise of an educated, financially secure population ready for change. Governmental power has slowly

shifted back to the civilian. This process is still under way (Eades 115). There is no set formula for local government in Yorubaland, but the people
are working hard to attain an efficient democracy (Eades 115). The relationship between local and state governments still need to be discerned
before there can be a distinct structure in local government. Any government must have the ability to effectively tax its citizens. This has been an
ongoing problem with the many small local governments and larger ones that have risen and fallen in the past. Another problem Yoruba citizens

must face is attracting educated and suitable local officials.


The state and national governments are much more promising and rewarding paths for politicians. The final stumbling block to local
governments is the prestige and influence that the traditional rulers still maintain (Eades 116). They are still considered leaders in thought and are
given some clout in local affairs. Nigeria is very much in a transitional phase, as far as government goes. The future and the specifics of local

government is uncertain, but the people of Nigeria are working hard to establish a structured and working government (Eades 117).
Bibliography
Asiwaju, A.I.: Western Yorubaland Under European Rule: 1889-1945. Western Printing Services Limited, Bristol. 1976
Bascom, William: The Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria. Holt, Rhineheart, and Winston. New York. 1969
Eades, J.S.: The Yoruba Today. Cambridge University Press, New York. 1980
Laitin, David D.: Hegemony and Culture. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. 1977
Ojo, Afolabi G.J.: Yoruba Culture. University of Ife and University of London Press Ltd., London. 1966
Olusanya, G.O.: Studies in Yoruba History and Culture. University Press Ltd., Ibadan. 1983

Nigerian (Yoruba) Traditional Family Structure Kolade


Purpose of the Paper

This paper provides an account of sex role differences in the Nigerian household (focusing primarily on farming). The paper focuses on the
division of labor, income, and financial obligations.
Introduction

There are several reasons why sex role differences are particularly relevant within the context of the Sub-Saharan. First , a variety of
studies indicate that the chief constraint on agricultural production in this region is labor availability at critical times of the year. Labor bottlenecks
manifest themselves during peak farming periods when several operations such as planting, ridging, thinning, and weeding must be performed
simultaneously. Labor availability to meet these peak requirements places a limit on the amount of land that a family can farm and on the ability of

a farming household to adopt labor-increasing technologies.


These problems relating to the availability and seasonality of farm labor can be illustrated by sex role differences. In most areas of Sub-
Saharan Africa, cultural traditions have created a sharp sexual division of labor in the household. Men and women typically control different crops
and carry out different tasks. For example, women might do all the weeding and men might do all the planting or harvesting. These difference in

task account for the substantial differences in the amount of time spent by each sex on farm and household labor.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 14 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Second, in addition to their different labor roles, women and men in the African farming household typically have different sources of
income and different financial responsibilities. Each gender's sources of assets and income are generally linked to their different obligations and
labor roles. Women are frequently responsible for their own and their children's food and clothing, and women's contribution to their family's

nutrition may be crucial at certain times of the year. Men's earnings frequently go toward large farming and family expenses and toward their own
personal expenses.
For instance, a woman earns and controls income from yams, a crop from which she performs most of her labor. A woman uses yam to
feed her family, and she then uses the proceeds from the sale of surplus yams to meet other responsibilities of household expenses. Men earn and

control income from millet and rice, crops which are used for home consumption but which are also important market crops. Different sources of
income and financial responsibilities can mean a lack of incentive for one sex to contribute labor to crop production that financially benefits the
other sex. Different returns to labor for each sex can also cause labor bottlenecks in the face of conflict over labor allocations. For example, if

women who are typically responsible for producing food crops for home consumption should increase their labor in cash crop production, which is
frequently a male income-earning activity.
While there is much variation, women have important roles in food production in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in some areas they are the
primary producers. Women are estimated to perform 60 to 80 percent of all agricultural work and to provide up to 70 percent of the region's food.

In Nigeria, women have historically had important roles in food processing and petty trading. They have also contributed to food production and
this role is now increasing, with male migration to urban areas considered to be crucial factor in this regard. In Nigeria the importance of women's
roles in agriculture and the sharp differences between male and female roles suggest that to increase farm production and productivity. Both male
and female farmers are needed.

The HouseHold
The different Nigerian groups live in compounds. The compounds are made up of huts, between three and forty in a compound. The
number of people living in a compound varies, with the average being seventeen members. The living in the compound form an extended
patrilineal polygamous family consisting of a compound head, his wife or wives, their children, unmarried adult daughters, adult sons and their

wives and children. The size of the farm reflects the amount of agriculturally active people in the compound. The head has control of land and the
size of the fields of each person in the compound. In practice, discussion of all the land takes place with all the male members present. The ranking
of the co-wives and the age of household members are among the factors that affect one's status within the household.
The family is characterized by the extended family sytems. The central purpose of marriage is to have children. In addition to parents' own

children, relatives children are often adopted in order to demonstrated their concern and regard for the family members. The practice of polygamy
is wide spread among most of the groups in Nigeria. However, a man's multiple wives are not the only adults living in the household. Other adults
such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, older half-brothers and sisters or distance relatives with challenging life situations. When all the
children are added to the total number of adults living in the family, a picture of a very large extended family comes to mind.

Parent-Child Relationships
The manner in which Nigerian parents care for their children varies greatly in different regions. The method of child care is dependent upon
several factors. If the family is very poor and the mother has to work some distance from the house, other members of the family, such an older

brother of sister, aunt, cousin, or grandmother will care for the children while the mother is away during the day. Another variation of this kind of
child care is that when the family is poor, they may send some of their children to more prosperous relatives living in other towns of villages. This
may occur even if the family is not indigent. In such instances, the motive is to unite family ties more solidly. Although this traditional adoption
method of raising children is still popular in the present day, modern families are beginning to become more wealthy and educated and seem not to
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 15 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

method of raising children is still popular in the present day, modern families are beginning to become more wealthy and educated and seem not to

practice this as much as in the past. This probably has to do with families being more well to do than they were in the past. Therefore, some do
not see the need as their parents did.
But in general, children’s reactions during adoption is no different than here in the United States. Some children may feel loneliness at first
and some run away from their new guardians. Which proves children are children in all cultures and walks of life. Nearly 75 per cent of children

are raised by their biological mother. The others are accounted for through divorce and simply being raised by other family members. About half
of the mothers are housewives who spent nearly all their time engaged in household activities. On the other hand the other half were engaged in
other occupations in addition to their regular home activities. Most were engaged in petty trading, about 26 per cent. Some spent time in farming,
about 17 per cent, and others in cloth weaving and miscellaneous activities. These were all done to supplement the family income.

Since Nigeria is a predominantly agricultural country, most of the male population is engaged in farming and related agricultural activities,
including raising sheep, goats, and fowl. Nearly half of all the fathers were farmers. Trading and civil service jobs were mentioned next most
often. When the mother does work away from home, the elder sister or brother may be given responsibility of caring for the small children while
the mother is away. It is not strange to see one year old baby strapped to the back of a ten, eleven, of twelve year old sibling who is caring for the

child until the mother returns. Thus in contrast to American families in which the parents are in most cases the sole family members who take care
of the children after they pick them up from day-care of some kind. In Nigeria many members of the family engage in the care process of the
children. This includes social actions, toilet training, cleanliness, and habits.
Conclusion

In conclusion, Nigerian families are generally more involved in the rearing of children. The father is usually the primary income supplier in
the family with the mother doing extra or smaller jobs to supplement the entire family income. Families are closer together, as extended family
members live in the same household. This makes the whole family closer in their relationship, and everyone takes on a role in raising the same

children. Unlike the households in the US, were there are typically no extended families unless a family member gets ill, the Nigerian households
seems to welcome more family members in and all of them have some responsibility in the household. The Nigerian family structure is typically
an extended family with everyone doing what best benefits the entire family.

Yoruba Traditional Marriage Olufemi (Abo)


Introduction
Yoruba marriage customs have been greatly influenced by contact with other cultures, but the Yorubas have nevertheless retained their own
individual traditions and methods. In Nigeria today, there are four main types of marriage: traditional, marriage by mutual consent, a gift-bride,

and the levirate. There are three major religions: traditional, Christian, and Muslim, and each type of wedding can be adapted to one or all of the
religions. Some weddings may be only legal and not religious at all. Traditional Yoruba weddings, which may be adapted to Christianity or Islam,
are arranged by the parents of the individuals who are to be married. The bride and groom are betrothed for several years. There is an
exchange of bride wealth, gifts that the groom's family gives to his fiancee's family. There is an elaborate system of gift-giving and expectations of

all the parties involved. Although contact with Europe and the Middle East has greatly influenced Yoruba culture, many of the traditional methods
and expectations of marriage exist today.
Yoruba Traditional Marriage
In Yoruba culture, nearly everyone marries. Traditionally, Yorubas practice both monogamy and polygamy, but the latter is the most

common of the two. Although western contact has changed customs and rituals in every area to some extent, in some ways traditional beliefs about
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 16 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

common of the two. Although western contact has changed customs and rituals in every area to some extent, in some ways traditional beliefs about
marriage remain intact in Yorubaland, even though they are now expressed in different ways. There were several purposes, traditionally, for
marriage. One of the most important was creating ties between families. According to Mann (1985), Yoruba marriage is "a union of lineages, not

individuals" (p. 37). Traditional marriages were arranged, and they did not necessarily involve love or romance at all, but they joined two separate
families as well as providing for children and starting a man in his own life, separate from his father.
For the man involved, marriage had many advantages. It enabled him to have (legitimate) children, and it provided him with domestic help.
In modern times, only a few men choose to stay single, and they are mostly Christian in religion rather than traditional or Muslim. For the woman,

marriage provided financial security (although women had their own incomes and might even be richer than their husbands), and social status.
However, some Yorubas could not easily marry. Since marriage affects one's extended family and relatives as much as oneself, families make
extensive inquiries about a potential mate for their sons and daughters. If a person could be a carrier of a hereditary disease, or if one had a severe
physical or mental problem, such as insanity, leprosy, or epilepsy, one might be unable to marry.

Remarriage and Alternative Weddings


As with most parts of Nigeria, there are four main types of marriage in Yorubaland: traditional, marriage by mutual consent, giving a bride
as a gift, and levirate. Each type may be adapted to some or all of the major Yoruba religions: traditional religion, Christianity, and Islam.
Traditional marriages are the only native type, and the other three came with modern influence and religion. The first is the traditional arranged

marriage ceremony involving betrothal, bride wealth, and so forth. This type of marriage can be adapted to traditional, Christian, or Muslim
religion. The Muslim marriage is not extremely different from the traditional one, described in detail throughout the rest of this paper. A Christian
wedding is sometimes popular because the wedding ceremony itself involves a lot more pomp and celebration than a traditional wedding.
Christian weddings include the exchange of vows and rings, a wedding cake, a ceremony in an elaborately decorated church, and a party after the

ceremony. However, Christian weddings are also unpopular because they are by law monogamous.
The second type of wedding is an informal one by mutual consent of the individuals involved. This is becoming more common in modern
times. These weddings can also be Christian or sometimes Muslim or just legal and non religious. They usually do not involve as much ceremony
as the first type, nor do they always involve the payment of bride wealth to the girl's family. Courting for this type of marriage is done directly by

the parties involved, usually with their parent's consent, and not by intermediaries as is traditional.
The third type, a gift, is usually a Muslim wedding and not Christian or traditional. If a girl is troublesome or wild, or if a girl's father
wishes to show special honor to a friend, he may give his daughter as a gift to a husband with no exchange of dowry. Her father may do this to

show his generosity. He may also do it to bring her under control in the close supervision of her husband's home and his older wives. The fourth
type of marriage is called the levirate. If a woman's husband dies, she may be given over to the care of another family member, such as a brother
or cousin of the husband. If she does not like the man who is to inherit her, she can sue for divorce. This type of marriage can be Muslim or
traditional, but not Christian.

Finding a Spouse
Traditional weddings in the past were always arranged by the families of the bride and groom. The family ensured that the marriage was
appropriate and socially acceptable, and it went to great lengths to make certain that the marriage was a good match and would be happy and
prosperous. However, its efforts were focused more on the general acceptability of the prospective mate than on his or her specific desirability for

the son or daughter for whom they sought a spouse. The family of a young man begins to seek his wife usually after he goes through puberty. Girls
could be betrothed between the ages of five and ten but not married off until when they have passed puberty around their late teen or early
twenties.
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 17 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

twenties.
For a man's first marriage, his parents and extended family makes the arrangements, found the girl, and paid the bride-price. For later

marriages, he does it for himself, or his senior wife might do it. A family seeking a wife for one of its sons had several considerations. They
sought a girl who lived close enough for the union to be convenient and who was healthy and came from a good, responsible, healthy family. They
could not marry their son to a blood relative, even a distant one. They also sought a girl with good parents. They inquired about her mother's
character, assuming the girl was likely to turn out like her mother. They also avoided a girl whose parents were immoral (for then she might be the

same) or careless with money (for a man could be saddled with his father-in-law's debts).
Once a boy's parents found a girl they considered suitable, an intermediary approached the girl's family. Her parents then make the same
inquiries about his family, searching for any relationship to themselves, for diseases, and anything else that could make the marriage unsuccessful,

unproductive, or a liability to the family. If the results of these inquiries were unfavorable, the girl's parents would not say so directly, but they
would consult the Ifa priest. Then they would tell the parents of the young man that the divination was unfavorable, and that would end it. If, on
the other hand, the family was acceptable, this response would be communicated through an intermediary, and the engagement was sealed by
payment of the ijowun, a gift from the man's family to the girl's and the first installment of the bride wealth.

Today, the vast majority of Yorubas no longer practice arranged marriages. Western contact has influenced them so that most marriages
are based on the choice of the individuals involved. Parents approve of one's choice and pay a bride-price (Delano, 1937: 121). This is the second
type of marriage, marriage by mutual consent.
Betrothal

Throughout the betrothal period, which lasted 10-15 years, until the girl was about 20, the girl called the man her oko, husband, and he
called her his iyawo, bride. She was not permitted to meet or speak to her husband or to members of his family, except in some Yoruba groups
which allow the groom to pay an extra bride-price fee: owo ibasuro, money for speaking. This is not a very widespread custom; for the most part,
traditionally, engaged couples did not overtly interact at all.

The bride-price was usually paid in two installments, the ijowun and the idana. The ijowun consisted of pepper, kolas, beer, wine, gin,
bitter kola, and honey. It was paid when the girl's parents accepted the man for their daughter, and it legally sealed the engagement. The second
installment, the idana, included the same things as the ijowun plus some cloth wrappers. Bride-wealth could also be paid in three installments: the
engagement sealing, "love money" paid before the girl's third year of puberty, when she became marriageable, and "wife money" paid just before

the wedding.
On the days when dowry payments were sent, the households of both the man and the girl feasted and celebrated separately all day. When
delegates from the groom arrived with the dowry, the girl's family would carefully examine all the articles to see if any were defective. If they
were, they would be returned to be exchanged. Sometimes the delegates would bring replacement articles in case of such an event. If the items

were acceptable, the girl would be asked if the payment should be accepted, and she would answer yes. Then the dowry was received, and the
delegates who brought it were given gifts. The girl's family would beat drums to indicate that the items were good, and then the dancing in that
household would begin.

There were, in traditional times, professional dowry bearers. They would receive a gift for their services from both families. When they
came to the girl's house with the dowry, they would say, " We spied a red rose in your garden, and we come to pick it." The girl's father would
reply that they had no red rose for the guests. This would continue for a while until the dowry bearers were invited inside and the dowry was
accepted or refused. When the dowry had been accepted, the bearers, after receiving a gift, would return home singing, " We won our case,

certainly. They gave us a daughter, certainly " (Delano, 1937: 127-128). Bride wealth is also paid for a Christian marriage, but it is done a little
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 18 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

certainly. They gave us a daughter, certainly " (Delano, 1937: 127-128). Bride wealth is also paid for a Christian marriage, but it is done a little
differently. Christian weddings in Nigeria used to take place on Thursday, and the entire dowry payment is made on the previous Tuesday at an
engagement party. However, most marriages, including christian ones are now done on Saturday. Also, the articles are the same as for a traditional
wedding, but Christian grooms also give the girl's family a Bible and a gold ring.

The dowry was not, for the most part, retained by either the girl or her family. The cloth wrappers of the idana went to the girl, and her
father might keep a bottle of wine from either or both of the dowry payments. The rest of the items were distributed to the girl's friends and to
clubs of which she was a member. If she was involved in many groups and had many friends, each might only receive a small gift, such as one
kola nut.

Bride wealth served several important purposes. Legally, it was the most important factor to be settled in the event of a divorce: to divorce
her husband, a woman must return his bride wealth. It represented the commitment to the marriage by both individuals and their families, and it
was a safeguard against breaking that commitment. It kept the wife from cheating on or disrespecting her husband because it would have to be
repaid for her to leave him. It also prevented the husband from mistreating his wife because he had made a large financial investment in her.

Finally, the bride-price legally established the woman's husband as the father of her children. .A proverb about this says, " One who does not own
a kola tree cannot have its fruit " (Bascom, 1969: 60).
When a woman reached marriageable age (the third year of puberty), her body was decorated with beauty marks by a surgeon. Her fiancee

was required to pay for this and to provide the necessary materials, such as oil, dye, etc. This was also a hint to the bridegroom to go ahead and set
a date for the wedding. He did this also through his intermediary, and he was required to show eagerness for the date to be sooner rather than later.
Relatives
A groom-to-be had many obligations to fulfill to his in-laws in addition to paying the bride-price. He had to pay annual gifts of the best of

his farm's produce to them. This was not a hardship as these gifts were always very small. He also was required to be available to help his father-
in-law with manual labor and farmwork if he were asked. When his father-in-law asks him for help, which was done most often in building and
rebuilding houses, the groom would go to help along with his egbe, his group of friends and age mates. They would spend the day working on the
father-in-law's farm, doing whatever was asked of them. Also, sons-in-law were responsible for giving gifts and services on special occasions,

particularly upon the death of the old relatives or grandparents of his wife or fiancee.
For this, one might suspect that the Yorubas would often prefer daughters to sons. Sons-in-law are always required to be respectful and
helpful to his wife's family. Fadipe says, "to have many daughters is to have many people to call into one's service" (1970: 77). If a groom-to-be
fails to fulfill his obligations to his fiancee's family, the engagement may be broken off, the dowry returned, and a more resourceful suitor sought.

Wedding Ceremonies
Compared to the large celebrations associated with dowry payments, the traditional wedding ceremony was often a fairly quiet affair, but it
still involves much celebration. On the morning of her wedding day, the bride was bathed and dressed by her father's wives. Then she went to her
parents and was received with honor and outward display of respect by them for the first time in her life. Her father would greet her and bless her.

Then her mother, weeping, would also bless her and talk to her about married life and home management. Both mother and daughter would weep
and embrace and say their first farewells. The girl then spent most of the day quietly in her room with her best friends while the rest of the
household danced and feasted.
Towards evening, the household would sit in assembly with the head of the household presiding. He would call for the bride to come in to

them because the family had decided to give her in marriage that day. She came in with her face covered and was lectured again about married life.
Then came the ekun iyawo, the bride's cry/weeping. She would say some moving farewell sentences that she had memorized to her mother, family,
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 19 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Then came the ekun iyawo, the bride's cry/weeping. She would say some moving farewell sentences that she had memorized to her mother, family,
and friends. She would weep a great deal, as would everyone else.

Then the wedding procession would leave for the groom's house. This consisted of the bride, four young men of her father's house, her
egbe (age mates), four wives of her extended family, and her bridesmaid (usually a niece or first cousin). When they arrive at his home, the
groom's senior wife, if he had one, or the last wife in the groom's extended family, would welcome the bride and walk her in on her shoulder. The
leader of the four young men would greet the family and deliver the bride's father's message: that she should have many children, that she should

not go hungry or do exactly as she wished, that she was inexperienced and not always agreeable and could be chastised if she caused offense.
Then she was handed over to her father-in-law.
If she was not the first wife of her husband, she was adopted during her betrothal by one of his senior wives. This wife, who carried her
into their husband's home, also washed her feet with water holding money, so she would be rich, and with an infusion of leaves, so she would bear

children. Then she went to her husband's room. There was very little rejoicing in his household until she was found to be a virgin. If she was, the
proof of it was sent to her family the next day with a message of thanks for preserving her for her husband. If not, a symbolic message, such as a
half-full jug of palm-wine or a kola nut with holes in it, was sent without a message. The meaning was understood, and the girl remained with her
husband but was a disgrace to both families.

Traditionally, a woman had only one wedding ceremony in her life. If her husband died or she was divorced, she could sometimes remarry,
but there would be no wedding ceremony. Men, however, could have numerous wedding ceremonies if they married several wives after a
betrothal.
Polygamy

Polygamy was traditionally very acceptable and common in Nigeria, and it still is. Girls traditionally married around age 20 and men
around age 35, and so, because of mortality rates, there were always more marriageable women than men. Nearly everyone in Yorubaland marries,
and most men marry several wives. For men, plural wives are status symbol, indicating the possession of wealth, and wives also enable men to
have more children. There are advantages for women in the system as well, for wives share chores with one another and status with their

husbands. However, in more modern times, polygamy is decreasing in popularity, partly because of women's liberation attitudes and partly because
of the expense of supporting such a large family.
Within a polygamous marriage, there is usually little or no jealousy among the wives. Each has a certain status with respect to the others,

and each has her own responsibilities, duties, and privileges. Younger wives are responsible for child care and usually for the more unpleasant
household tasks. Older wives are often traders or businesswomen and sometimes travel extensively. Junior wives must always show respect to
senior wives in a compound, and this seniority is determined not by age but by date of marriage. When a man marries a new wife, she is
responsible for the most unpleasant jobs for the first year or so. If she sees another wife working, she must offer to help, and if her offer is refused,

she must be persistent and offer several times. Usually, the senior wife eventually gives in to her.
Divorce
Traditionally, divorce in Yorubaland was very rare. The husband's family with whom the couple lived acted to soothe arguments, and the
presence of children who belonged to her husband helped prevent a woman from seeking a divorce. Because of polygamy, men had little incentive

for divorcing wives. However, even in the past women sometimes divorced their husbands for reasons of excessive abuse, habitual laziness,
drunkenness, or infectious disease. Or, if a woman's husband died, she could divorce the family if she did not want to go to the man who was to
inherit her.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 20 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Even today, when divorce is much more common than it used to be, the process is essentially the same. The important issue is repaying the

husband his bride-price. A divorce court investigates to determine exactly how much was paid, and someone must pay the husband that amount in
order for his wife to divorce him. If his wife leaves him for another man, the new man pays the bride-price, and she becomes his wife.
In the past, a woman might seek a divorce because of extreme cruelty, and she would go to the king's palace and take hold of one of the
pillars. If her husband found her there, he could not touch her. If a man wanted a wife, he could go there and pick one. He would then pay a clerk

an agreed-upon price and take her home as his wife. Modern marriages are more likely to end in divorce. When a Christian marriage divorced,
under British law the husband had to pay his wife alimony. Sometimes women took advantage of this, divorcing their husbands just to get
alimony.

In Yorubaland, the modern world has influenced every area of life, and marriage and families are no exception. The Yoruba culture is
flexible and resilient and has changed without being destroyed. Today, Nigerian culture is a colorful blend of African, European, and Arabic
traditions. Although the traditional methods of engagement and marriage are fading out, the Yorubas put a native twist on every tradition they
adopt, and their heritage continues to influence the cultures that influence it.

Yoruba Naming Ceremony Titilayo


Introduction
The following pages are dedicated to giving an in-depth explanation of the Yoruba naming ceremony ranging from the role played by the

elder conducting the ceremony to the meaning and purpose for naming a child. By knowing and understanding all that is incorporated into the
ceremony, a person will have a clearer view of how intertwined Yoruba names are with the culture. Following the naming ceremony there will be
a few notes given about the linguistic applications of Yoruba names. Linguistically, the names can be studied for language learning purposes (word
order and vocabulary). More importantly, by studying the meanings and structure of the names, a person can gain some knowledge of the

basic applications of the Yoruba language and important traditional beliefs of the culture. Finally, the paper will conclude with regards to some
modern day influences and effects surrounding the choice of a name and the traditional applications of the Yoruba Naming ceremony.
Yoruba Naming Ceremony
The naming ceremony is an important affair among the Yorubas. It is an ancient practice that holds many purposes such as giving a child

its name, welcoming the child into the community, congratulating the parents for such a happy and fortunate time (a divine blessing
acknowledged), and making predictions for the child’s future (Chuks-orji 1972, p. 75-76). Before the ceremony can begin the family must first
select the correct and appropriate name for the child. The name will either be an amutorunwa name (a name ‘brought from the other world
(heaven)’: mu...wa ‘bring’ ti ‘from’ orun ‘ heaven/other world’) or an abiso (‘given at birth’) a name which reflects the circumstances surrounding

a child’s birth, usually pertaining to the family but can also refer to natural phenomena occurring around the time of the child’s birth (Rowlands
1996, p. 216-217).
After the child’s name has been selected by either the parents or older relatives it will not be announced until the day of the naming

ceremony which is called ikomojade (‘brought out’ - ko...jade) (p. 217). Traditionally, for boys, the naming ceremony will take place on the ninth
day after the birth, the seventh day for a female, twins of both sexes on the eighth day, and Moslem children of either sex are invariably named on
the eighth day (Johnson 1969, 79). If the child is not named within seven to nine days after birth then it is believed that the child will not outlive
it’s parent of the same sex. Nowadays, the practice is to have the naming ceremony on the eighth day, irrespective of gender, number of children

or religious beliefs of the parent.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 21 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

The naming ceremony usually begins in the early morning or early afternoon (Chuks-orji 79). The ceremony may take place inside or
outside of the child’s home. Traditionally, it occurs out of doors, so that the bare feet of the child may be placed on the ground - “his/her first steps
guided in the right direction” (W1). The ceremony will mark the first time the child leaves the home. This also will be the first day that the mother

has left the home since delivery. Others present during the ceremony range from relatives to any member of the community that takes interest in
welcoming the child. Each person will bring a gift (clothing, money, blankets, etc.) for either the child or the parents. Only women give gifts to the
mother and men give gifts to the father. If the ceremony takes place inside, the guests will leave their gifts at the door upon arrival (Chuks-orji
79).

After about an hour after the guests have arrived the Iya Ikoko (‘mother of newborn’) emerges with her child and hands the Ikoko / Omo
tuntun (‘newborn child’) to the chosen elder who will officiate throughout the ceremony. The role of the elder officiating holds a special, symbolic,
and traditional importance. Within Yoruba culture, the elderly are considered to be the ones most closely related to the very young ‘since the
infant is seen as but recently returned from where the aged is preparing to go’ (Chuks-orji p.77). Because of this special bond it seems most

appropriate for the elder to be the first to guide the child.


The rituals of the ceremony begin when a jug of water is tossed up onto the roof (traditional homes are low-roofed) so that the child being
held under the eaves will catch the falling sprays of water (Johnson p.79). Inside the home the water is sprinkled towards the ceiling. If the child

cries when it is touched by the falling drops this is considered as a good sign for it is believed this is an indication that the child has come to stay,
“since only living things can produce noise of their own accord” (Chuks-orji 79).
The water is the first of many ceremonial items to be introduced to the child. The Yoruba people generally believe that “when they present
certain materials to the child at the beginning of his life, he/she will make positive use and not negative use of them when he becomes an adult”

(W2). Water is used because it is very important to people. It’s use in the ceremony reflects the importance of the child to his/her family (W2).
After the child is sprinkled with water the elder whispers the child’s new name into its ear. Next, the elder dips his finger into the water and upon
touching the child’s forehead he announces the new name to everyone present (Chuks-orji 79). The elder then turns to seven specially filled
vessels. Within these vessels each ingredient constitutes a unique symbol in the ontological world of the Yorubas into which the child is being

initiated (Madubuike 1976, 86).


The first vessel consists of red pepper of which the elder gives a small taste to the child. The pepper symbolizes that the child will be
resolute and have command over the forces of nature. The pepper is then passed around for the entire assemblage to taste. After the pepper, the
child tastes water, signifying purity of body and spirit (freedom from disease). Next, the elder offers a taste of salt which symbolizes the flavor of

wisdom and intelligence of which it is wished that the child is divinely fed (Chuks-orji 80). Another view of the salt’s importance leans toward the
importance of salt to any food for its palatability. This is used to correspond to the child’s generally perceived importance to the community.
“When any person is said to be as salt to his people, it means he brings joy, happiness, and even sweetness where there is bitterness “ (W2).
Following the salt, comes palm oil which is touched to the child’s lips, a wish for power and health like that of royalty. The child then tastes honey

signifying for the child to be as sweet as honey to his/her community, to have happiness, and, most importantly, for him/her not to be ostracized
by his/her people when the child has grown to adulthood (W2). After honey, liquor or wine flavors the child’s lips for all the wealth and
prosperity that the child will have.
Finally, the child is given a taste of kola nut, symbolic of a wish for the child’s good fortune (Chuks-orji p.80). The parents, particularly

the father, may add materials to the ceremony after the seven basic ingredients have been introduced to the child. Extra materials may include
objects that symbolize the clan deity of the family. For example: “Ogun,” god of iron; the parent may require that a knife or sword be used in the
ceremony (W2). After the final item has been passed around to all guests the ritual is complete and the festivities begin. Feasting (brief ceremonial
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 22 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

ceremony (W2). After the final item has been passed around to all guests the ritual is complete and the festivities begin. Feasting (brief ceremonial

food list provided after this report), dancing, and rejoicing will last into the early hours of the next day.
During the festivities, sometimes musicians sing songs and praise the child, it’s parents, and relatives, and friends. This is a tradition best
performed by Ewi poets who are known for the “richness of their word, the artistry of their use of idioms and proverbs, and their deep knowledge
of the Yoruba language.” (W3). By singing (proverbial) praises to those at the naming ceremony the Ewi helps to celebrate the arrival of the child

into the family and to embrace it into the arms of the community. An example of an Ewi poem for a naming ceremony can be found at the end of
this paper
After the naming ceremony the child has at least three different names which will guide the child through life. The first is the oruko
(‘personal’) name which is either an amutorunwa (brought from heaven) name or an abiso name. Secondly, there is the oriki (‘praise name’)

which expresses what the child is or what is hoped he or she will become. Thirdly, the child has his/her oriki orile which is a name indicative of
the child’s kinship group’s name (Chuks-orji 80). The following paragraphs give a brief overview of the three name types just mentioned. It is
recommended that one takes note of how the meanings of the names are created internally and to see how the names tie in with cultural labeling of
people and their traditional beliefs and practices. Yoruba names tell stories. If one knows enough of the stories then one may begin to understand

the Yoruba background and perspective.


The choice of an oruko name depends on many factors such as time of day, a specific day, or a special circumstance relating to the child,
parents, extended family, or the whole community which attends the child’s birth. The amutorunwa is applied to all children born under like
circumstances. The most important of these is that of twin (ibeji) birth. The name of the first born of twins will always be Taiwo (To-aiye-wo

‘have the first taste of the world’). The second born will be Kehinde (‘he who lags behind’).
The child born after twins, female or male, will be named Idowu. Most Idowus are considered stubborn and heady and if they do not
arrive after a mother’s twins there is a superstition that the mother may go mad; the wild and stubborn Idowu , ‘flying into her head’ will render her
insane. The next to twins in importance of Amutorunwa names is the child called Oni (‘today’) which from its birth cries incessantly day and

night. After Oni the next child will always be named Ola (‘tomorrow’) and the next will be Otunla (‘day after tomorrow’). Within the Isin people
the names are taken up to the eighth born called Ijoni. Other Amutorunwa names: Ige is a child born feet first...Abiose is born on a holy
day...Dada is a child born with curly hair...Abiodun is born at the new year or during any annual festival...Johojo is a child whose mother died at

it’s birth...(Johnson 1969, p. 80-81).


If the child is not born with a ‘brought from heaven’ name then the family will decide the child’s abiso name. There is a proverb which
says ile l’a nwa k’a to so omo l’oruko ‘we always look at the household before we give a child a name, and in fact, “the abiso names reflect the
circumstances or feelings of the family. `They may also refer to the particular cult which a family practices (Rowlands 217). The abiso will

always go unknown until the naming ceremony. This name is very important because throughout it’s life, the child’s behavior will reflect the name
given. Commonly, chosen abiso names make reference to the child directly and indirectly to the family (Ayodele ‘joy enter the house,’ Omoteji ‘a
child big enough for two), or refer directly to family and indirectly to the child (Iyapo ‘many trials,’ Ogundalenu ‘our home has been devastated
by war,’) or they may reflect the deity worshipped in the family (Sangobunmi ‘Sango (god of thunder and lightning) gave me this,’ Fafunke ‘Ifa

gave me this to pet’ (Johnson 82-83).


Also, under the oruko name a special category of names emerges with the abiku (‘born to die’) children. These children are believed to
belong to a group of demons that commonly reside in the woods around Iroko trees. Before they come into the world they already have chosen
the time when they will return back to the other demons. The demons are connected with women who lose several children in infancy, especially

after a short period of illness. Special names are given to these children in hopes that they will not leave upon their pre-arranged dates. This
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 23 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

after a short period of illness. Special names are given to these children in hopes that they will not leave upon their pre-arranged dates. This
superstition attempts to explain the high rate of infant mortality of the people. The abiku names range in meaning, attempts to persuade the
children to stay and not to be taken away from unseen forces. Examples: Malomo ‘do not go again’...Oku ‘the dead’...Tiju-iku‘ be ashamed to
die’...Duro-ori-ike ‘wait and see how you will be petted’ (Johnson 85-86).

The oriki is an attributive praise name. “It is intended to have a stimulating effect on the child” (85). Male names usually reflect something
heroic, strong, and brave while female names often seem to be terms of endearment, affection, and praise.
Males: Ajamu : ‘one you fight/struggle to choose/select/pick’

Ajani ‘one you fight/struggle to have/own/possess.’


Females: Ayoka ‘one who causes joy all around,’
Apinke ‘one to be jointly pampered or petted.’
Only elders can address children with oriki names (one will be addressed by his Oriki only by someone older or except in cases where the

younger person is singing the praise of the older person at a ceremony and so on). Finally, there is the oruko orile ‘the name reflecting family
origin.’ It is very important when trying to trace a family or lineage line. Children of both sexes usually take on their father’s orile or totem name.
The orile names are said to be descended from objects or animals that represent a family lineage (Erin ‘elephant’ ...connected to the original line
of the kings (Johnson 86).

By gaining a deep working knowledge of varying oruko, oriki, and oruko orile, a foreigner among the Yorubas would have a very good
starting vocabulary of the culture’s language. Throughout time, culture and language have traveled in parallel paths. With Yoruba, the two seem to
embrace one another. Because the two seem to intertwine, it is not surprising to see and hear people always praising and singing names. It is as
though they are at the same time singing in praise of their culture and it’s ancestors. In the English speaking societies people usually have little or

no meaningful significance to their names. Their names usually cannot reveal hints into the particular person’s personality or behavior. This
seemingly reflects more of a separation between language functions, incorporating names, and culture. English seems to wave from a distance
while Yoruba seeks to fill the space in between. The revealing code to such a nice language/culture combination emerges from the linguistic make-
up of Yoruba names. It uses the vocabulary of the language to combine and create names.

These combinations can range from the basic Noun-Noun combination (Ife-Olu=Ifeolu ‘the love of God.’) to simple sentences (Ore-
d’ola=Oredola ‘friendship becomes an honor’)/(Akin-ni-a-bi=Akinlabi ‘it is a brave man that we have given birth to’). Due to these existing name
structures and meanings, a person is given a view into Yoruba culture and vice versa. Modupe Oduyoye wrote in his book, Yoruba Names, that by
teaching non-native speakers the Yoruba language through the studying of Yoruba names, the speakers would obtain multiple opportunities to

learn about Yoruba culture, grammar, and, also, to practice utterances and speech. Yoruba names, whether phrases or complete sentences, are
written as single words. “The names, therefore, mirror exactly the stream of utterance situation” (Oduyoye 1972:3). For example, instead of Olu
re mi l’ekun written as a sentence it would appear written as Oluremilekun (God has consoled me) as a name “which gives a better guide for

pronunciation and for conversation.” Oduyoye believes that since one does not pause after each word of speech, one should learn utterances, not
isolated words (p. 4).
Oduyoye’s linguistic view of names divides into two parts: structural classification and cultural classification. Structurally, Yoruba names
cover many grammatical grounds. For example, the use of compound verbs and splitting verbs (ko...de ‘to collect...to arrive’), Ko re de =

Korede ‘gather good things in,’ Ko ayo de = Kayode ‘bring joy in.’ Now, imagine, if one knew how to use this grammatical structure and all the
others that were needed to create names and had a medium sized vocabulary, one would be able to converse at possibly an intermediate level and
have a nice open door glimpse into important cultural aspects reflected in words used when creating names.
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 24 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

have a nice open door glimpse into important cultural aspects reflected in words used when creating names.

Another interesting grammatical structure is that of the noun forming prefixes, low-tone/à/ and mid-tone/a/. The low tone prefix forms
abstract nouns from verbs or verb phrases. It can mean “à- thing which...” or “ a- person whom...”

1. Àbike (A bi ke ) ‘someone born to be petted or pampered'

2. Àjani (A ja ni) ‘someone possessed through struggle.’


The mid-tone prefix /a/ means ‘the person who...’

1. Aboderin (a b’ode rin) ‘one who walks with a hunter’


2. Akerele (A kere le ) ‘one who in spite of being small is strong and tough.’

With basic grammar structures and a seemingly endless vocabulary, families can create names that are distinct and truly, meaningfully

unique: (Modupe (Mo dupe) ‘I give thanks’...Morohunmubo (mo ri ohun mu bo ) ‘I found something to bring back’...Kokumo (Ko ku mo) ‘he no
longer dies...Kotoye (ko to I ye) ‘it is not enough to ...’ (Oduyoye 1-60).

'Oruko n ro o' refers to one’s name having a psychological effect on one’s behavior. This saying reiterates the important emphasis upon

choosing the correct name among the Yoruba people. It is a solemn undertaking ‘for the name one gives to one’s child is the name the world will
call him throughout life.” (p. 67). All aspects of life which the Yoruba people consider of high importance will be reflected in the names: religion

(Olu se ye= Oluseye ‘ God wrought a thing of dignity’...Esu bi eyi= Esubiyii ‘Esu gave birth to this one’), the humanities [music (Ayandele ‘the

drummer reaches home’) and art (Onafeka ‘art needs learning’), protection and strength of home (Odebiyii ‘ a hunter gave birth to this
one’...Akinluyii ‘ valor is dignity’) , birth, death, nature, and high status levels (Oba fe mi = Obafemi ‘the king loves me’ ] (Oduyoye 60-86).

Today, Yoruba names can be found with strong Christian and Muslim influences. Ever since colonizations, many have begun to adopt more
Christian-like names such as Samuel or Joseph so as to conform with western ways. Modern conditions of having people’s names registered for

all types of purposes such as birth registrations, marriages, deaths, voting lists, school lists, etc. all have caused most Yorubas to adopt a West

European system with surnames and a limited number of forenames occurring in a fixed order (Rowlands 216-128). Some may use the order of
Christian name and then oruko for surname. Others may structure themselves with the oruko orile and then the father’s oruko. Such modern

combinations, unfortunately, make tracing one’s ancestral background difficult if not impossible.

In conclusion, naming ceremonies may shrink with guest size and new symbolic western materials may be added but it seems that the
naming ceremony is too imbedded into the society by it’s language and culture for it to be forgotten and left out. The naming ceremony welcomes,

connects, and reminds a person that all Yoruba names are each unique personal stories that reflect not only one person but the family, community,
and culture as a whole: past and present. Culturally and linguistically, names thrive within the Yoruba culture, always reconnecting the old with

the new so as to know one’s origins of the past, to gain understanding of the present, and to have guidance into the future.

(Excerpt from a ) Yoruba Naming Ceremony Ewi Poem by Abiodun Adepoju

OLOMO LO LAIYE To have a child, is to have joy in life.


EDUMARE WA FUN WA LOMO AMUSEYE God give us a child that we can be proud of.
OMO TII TOJU ARA A child who takes care of the family,
TII TOJU ILE that takes care of the home,
TII TOJU BABA that takes care of the father.
FUN WA LOMO ATATA Give us a precious child,
TII MUNU IYA DUN. that makes the mother happy.
OMO TITUN TO WAS SILE AIYE The baby is newly arrived.
OBI AORE ATOJULOMO Parents, friends & family, you are all
EMA JU ALEJO OMO TITUN commended for the baby;
OROGBO LO NI KOO GBO SAIYE May the baby have a long life.
KOO GBO PELU DERA. A long life in comfort
OMO OWO KII KU LOJU OWO The child of the hand does not die while the hand looks on.
BEE NI OMO ESE KII KU LOJU ESE The child of the leg does not die while the leg looks on

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 25 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

OMO WA O NII KU Our baby shall not die.

Twins in Yoruba Society Oluseyi


Introduction

“Twins in Yoruba Society” is a paper about the history of twins in Nigeria, but more specifically, Yorubaland. The paper begins with the

story of the first twins among the Yoruba, which influences the way twins are viewed today. It concentrates on practices in the past of, within
certain areas, of killing twins at birth. It also looks at how twins are treated in the Yoruba society today. It discusses the names assigned to twins

and the children born after twins. Then it concludes by talking about the ceremony for twins when they are born.

Twins in Yoruba Society


The birth of twins has always been a fascinating phenomena among humans. In the past, twins have been killed or praised simply because

of this phenomena. The Yoruba culture has an interesting history relating to twins. In this society twins have their own orisa. They are often
associated with monkeys because of the story of the first twins. Since Yoruba names have significant meaning behind them it is only natural for

twins to have specific names as well as the children born after twins.

Ibeji is the orisha of the “twin-gods.” The name comes fromibi meaning “birth” and eji meaning “two” (Farrow, 1926: 58). Ibeji is also
the deity of all twins. There is a black species of monkey that dwells in mangrove bushes and is very agile. This monkey is sacred to Ibeji ,

although it is not an orisa, it may have offerings of fruit given to it (Farrow, 1926). This monkey is named Edun Dudu meaning “black twin.” A

shrine to Ibeji was built at a place called Erupo, between Lagos and Badagry. All twins and parents of twins are supposed to visit the temple at
least once.

There is a very interesting story of how twins came among the Yoruba people. The story begins in ancient times in the town of Isokun,

which later became a part of Oyo:

“There was a farmer who was known everywhere as a hunter of monkeys. Because his fields produced good crops, monkeys came
from the bush and fed there. The monkeys became a pestilence to the farmer. He tried to drive them away. But they came, they
went, they returned again to feed. The farmer could not leave his fields unguarded. He and his sons took turns watching over the
fields. Still the monkeys came and had to be driven away with stones and arrows. Because of his desperation and anger the farmer
went everywhere to kill the monkeys. He hunted them in the fields, he hunted them in the bush, he hunted them in the forest,
hoping to end the depredations on his farm. But the monkeys refused to depart from the region, and they continued their forays on
the farmer’s crops. They even devised ways of distracting the farmer and his sons. A few of them would appear at a certain place to
attract attention. While the farmer and his sons attempted to drive them off, other monkeys went into fields to feed on corn. The
monkeys also resorted to juju. They made the rain fall so that whoever was guarding the fields would go home, thinking ‘surely the
crops will be safe in such weather.’ But the monkeys fed while the rain fell. When the farmer discovered this he built a shelter in
the fields, and there he or one of his sons stood guard even when water poured from the sky. In this contest many monkeys were
killed, yet those that survived persisted. The farmer had several wives. After one of them became pregnant, an adahunse, or seer, of
the town of Isokun came to the farmer to warn him. He said, ‘There is danger and misfortune ahead because of your continual
killing of the monkeys. They are wise in many things. They have great powers. They can cause an abiku (born to die-after birth)
child to enter your wife’s womb. He will be born, stay a while, and then die. He will be born again and die again. Each time your
wife becomes pregnant he will be there in her womb, and each time he is born he will stay a while and then depart. This way you
will be tormented to the end. The monkeys are capable of sending you an abiku. Therefore do not drive them away anymore. Cease
hunting them in the bush. Let them come and feed.’
The farmer listened, but he was not persuaded by what the adahunse had told him. He went on guarding his fields and hunting
monkeys in the bush. The monkeys discussed ways of retaliating for their sufferings. They decided that they would send two abikus
to the farmer. Two monkeys transformed themselves into abikus and entered the womb of the farmer’s pregnant wife. There they
waited until the proper time. They emerged, first one then the other. They were the original twins to come among the Yorubas. They
attracted much attention. Some people said, ‘what good fortune.’ Others said, ‘It is a bad omen. Only monkeys give birth to
twins.’
As the twins were abikus they did not remain long among the living. They died and returned to reside among those not yet born.
Time passed. Again the woman became pregnant. Again two children were born instead of one. They lived on briefly and again
they departed. This is the way it went on. Each time the woman bore children they were ibeji, that is to say, twins. And they were

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 26 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

also abikus who lived on a while and died.


The farmer became desperate over his succession of misfortunes. He went to consult a diviner at a distant place to discover the
reason for his children’s constantly dying. The diviner cast his palm nuts and read them. He said, ‘Your troubles come from the
monkeys whom you have been harassing in your fields and in the bush. It is they who sent twin abikus into your wife’s womb in
retaliation for their suffering. Bring your killing of the monkeys to an end. Let them eat in your fields. Perhaps they will relent.’
The farmer returned to Isokun. He no longer drove the monkeys from his fields, but allowed them to come and go as they pleased.
He no longer hunted them in the bush. In time his wife again gave birth to twins. They did not die. They lived on. But still the
farmer did not know for certain whether things had changed, and he went again to the diviner for knowledge. The diviner cast his
palm nuts and extracted their meaning. He said, ‘This time the twins are not abikus. The monkeys have relented. The children will
not die and return, die and return. But twins are not ordinary people. They have great power to reward or punish other humans.
Their protector is the orisa Ibeji. If a person abuses or neglects a twin, the orisa Ibeji will strike such a person with disease or
poverty. He who treats the twins well will be rewarded with good fortune.’ The twins are pleased with life, good luck and
prosperity will come to their parents. Therefore, do everything to make them happy in this world. Whatever they want, give it to
them. Whatever they say to do, do it. Make sacrifices to the orisa Ibeji. Because twins were sent into the world by the monkeys,
monkeys are sacred to them. Neither twins nor their families may eat the flesh of monkeys. This is what the palm nuts tell us.’
When the farmer returned to Isokun after consulting the diviner he told his wife what he had learned. Whatever the twins asked
for, the parents gave it. If they said they wanted sweets they were given sweets. If they said to their mother, ‘Go to the marketplace
and beg alms for us,’ the mother carried them to the marketplace and begged alms. If they said, ‘dance with us,’ she carried them
in her arms and danced. They all lived on. The farmer’s other wives also gave birth to twins. Prosperity came to the farmer of
Isokun and his family. He was fortunate in every way.” (Courlander, 1973: pp.137-141)

Due to their origin, twins are often referred to as edun meaning “monkey.” The first born of a set of twins is considered the younger one.

This one is named Taiwo meaning “come to taste life.” The second born is the older of the two and receives the nameKehinde meaning “come

last.” It is said that Kehinde always sends Taiwo ahead to find out if life is worth living. Twins also influence the children born after them. The
first child born after twins is given the name Idowu, whether it is male or female (Johnson, 1921). This child is considered heady and stubborn.

Superstition says that a mother who has twins and fails to have an Idowu may likely go mad (Johnson, 1921). It is believed that the wild and

stubborn Idowu flying into her head will drive her insane. The child born after Idowu is named Idogbe if male and Alaba if female (Johnson,
1921).

There is probably some evidence that twins have not been treated favorably everywhere in Yorubaland and Nigeria in the past. Before the
British colonized Nigeria, it was common in some parts (of Nigeria) to kill twins at birth. Twins were killed because they were viewed as

abnormal. In some areas, the parents of the children were also killed or driven away (Talbot, 1923). Twins were considered dangerous to their

parents and thus feared. They were thought to have extra-human powers (Barrett, 1977). Twins are treated quite differently everywhere in
Yorubaland. Today, they are not feared but rather praised. According to Neimark “Children are the ultimate blessing of Ifa, therefore twins are a

double blessing” (1993:108).

In Ijebuland twins are regarded as a special gift of the gods and the personification of the orisa, Ibeji (Oladele, 1980). Every fifth or sixth
day offerings of beans, bean cakes, corn pudding, and sugar-cane are made to them (Oladele, 1980). Small, wooden statues ofIbeji are made for

twins. If one twin dies the Ibeji figure is treated exactly the same as the surviving twin. This statue is given food, clothing, beads, bracelets, and
even laid upon the mother to be breastfed (Bascom, 1969).

It is a common belief throughout Yorubaland that twins are difficult children who demand constant attention and have eccentric taste

(Oladele ,1980). A ceremony is held when twins are born which is considered an initiation into their lives. This ceremony is devised so that they
may have an “easy and prosperous passage through the world” (Oladele, 1980:103). This ceremony is lively with many songs and dances praising

the twins. One important song in the initiation is the praise-song of twins. This song is used throughout the lifetime of twins and any mother of

twins knows it by heart (Oladele, 1980).


The two children who follow twins are also regarded as priviledged and therefore have praise-songs as well. These songs used in the

initiation ceremony are also used for ritual and social purposes. They celebrate the importance of twins and the hope for prosperity connected with
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 27 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

initiation ceremony are also used for ritual and social purposes. They celebrate the importance of twins and the hope for prosperity connected with

them. Aside from the names assigned to twins there are several other things associated with them. Beans and palm-oil are considered to be the
staple food of twins (Oladele, 1980). They are also associated to monkeys, dating back to the story of the monkeys and the farmer. It is often

believed that twins are the transformation of these creatures that displace the fetus of children (Dennett, 1968). For this reason it is considered
taboo for twins or the parents of twins to kill or eat any type of monkey.

The history of twins in Nigeria and Yorubaland is both fascinating and terrifying. I find it amazing that groups of people living in the same

geographic area of the world can have such drastically different beliefs about twins. I do not think twins should be killed or praised. Ifa says that
we all have a “perfect twin”, (it is) just (that) some of us already know our twin (Neimark, 1993).

The Historical Economic Structure of Yorubaland Adeleke


Introduction

The focus of this paper is the economic development of the Yorubaland. The paper begins with a discussion of the agricultural development
as well as the agricultural state of Yorubaland. This includes such topics as the shift from small Yoruba farms to cash crop production. Likewise,

with the growth of crash crops, questions of land tenure had to be addressed, in relation to economic growth. Such topics discussed are the

distinctions between rights of membership to land, family rights, and kingdom rights. Then, the focus of the paper switches to another sector of
economic growth of the Yorubas, namely trade and marketing, showing the importance of women in such sectors. Lastly, the paper concludes with

a discussion of present-day craft production, with a focus on how traditional family craft vocations have left their markers on present-day

economic production.
Economic Structure in Yorubaland

In Yorubaland, the major forms of economic opportunities developed as a result of the interaction of a number of major factors: the
distribution of population and natural resources, the location of cash crops, the development of the transport system, the growth of education, and

the economic policy of successive governments. However, among the plethora of factors, the growth of the cash-crop economy superseded all. In

the19th century, the growth of the trade in palm oil led to a “reorganization of production in the interior and the development of slave estates
owned by the powerful war-chiefs” (Eades, pg. 65). In addition, such a reorganization meant the development of a Saro trading elite in Lagos.

“After 1880, African merchants were affected by a trade recession, and some of them looked for alternative investments” (Eades, pg. 65).

Cocoa, which had recently come to West Africa from the Spanish and Portuguese African colonies, was readily adopted in Ibadan and
Abeokuta. With the exception of kolanut, alternatives to cocoa were not very successful. Cocoa, which includes “few economies of scale,” was

well adapted to production on the small holdings of Yoruba farmers. The spread of cocoa was helped by the success of planters in Agege and Ota.

They made use of laborers from towns in the interior who took the crop back with them when they returned home. In Ilesa and Ibadan, the rapid
spread of the crop was due to the search of new economic opportunities and the new growth in industry.

The growth in industry brought new patterns of migration. The farmers in Ile Ife who had adopted cocoa before 1939 were joined in the
following decade by Egba and Ibadan migrants looking for new land. “Since the 1950s, most migration in search of cocoa land has been to

Ijesa(land) and Ondo” (Eades, pg. 66). Later migrants were often able to work for established cocoa-farmers from their own home areas in return

for help in starting their own farms. The rise of the cocoa industry had profound implications: “innovations in land-tenure patterns and labor
organizations, the intensification of inequalities between the forest and savannah areas, innovations in marketing, and the creation of the

marketing-board system with its important political repercussions” (Eades, pg. 66).

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 28 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Agriculture
The majority of Yoruba farms are small, and the size is limited by the available labor and the level of technology. The main farm tools are the

hoe and the cutlass or bushknife, and “manpower is usually the only energy input” (Eades pg. 69). Mechanization is difficult because of the small
size of plots and the pattern of shifting cultivation” (Eades, pg. 69). The use of fertilizers is restricted to the cultivation of cash-crops like cocoa

and tobacco. Farm land fertility was traditionally maintained by a long period of “fallow after only two or three years’ cultivation, though in many

areas this has been modified because of increasing pressure on land” (Eades, pg. 69).
In Yoruba culture, the method of reckoning farm size is not in terms of area, but rather, in terms of “heaps,” the mounds of earth prepared for

the cultivation of yams and other food crops. The number of heaps is often reckoned in multiples of 200, or about 1/15th or 1/20th of an acre. In

Ibarapa, most farms consist of 10-20 plots, usually adjacent or in 3-4 separate groups. A plot of 8-10 units of 200 heaps is considered large. Labor
units per plot is typically small. Most adult men farm independently with help from their wives and children, though it is not uncommon for them

to hire laborers when necessary. It used to be common, particularly in Ekiti, for there to exist patrilineal group farming, in which all the men in a

lineage worked together under the direction of the oldest man. However, such an arrangement has all but vanished. In addition, there used to be
farm arrangements called “aro” and “owe.”

“Aro” consisted of “groups of kin or age-group members who helped each other on a rotational basis, especially to clear new land in the dry
season or to help with weeding during the rains” (Eades, pg. 70). “Owe” groups were larger, involving a hundred or more “agnates and affines,

who worked in return for food, palm wine, and kola” (Eades, pg. 70). With the recent growth in education, it has become difficult for farms to

retain the labor of their children on the farm, forcing farmers to rely more on hired labor. It was estimated that in 1956, 40 percent or more of the
labor on cocoa farms were hired.

However, today, a large numbers of laborers come from other parts of the country, particularly from the Niger-Benue area and Igbo areas.

Hired laborers work either on an annual basis, in return for food, lodgings, and a lump sum at the end of the season, or on a monthly or daily rates,
or on a piece-work basis. The majority of farmers who require regular help prefer to hire workers on an annual basis, since the rate of hire is much

lower. In the savannah regions, however, hired labor has become less important, though “some of the wealthier Igbeti farmers did use hired labor
to expand their food-crop production for the market” (Eades, pg. 70).

The major food crops of the Yoruba farmer are yams, maize, cassava, beans, cocoyam, and guineacorn. Rice cultivation, however, has been

spreading to areas such as Egba, while plantain and bananas are important in the forest areas. Yams are the major crop in Ilorin, Kabba, and Oyo,
basically all savannah areas. Cassava is the important food crop of Ijebu, Ibadan, and Abeokuta. Guineacorn and millet are grown only in the

savannah regions. (Eades, pg. 70). Yam cultivation, however, is steadily on the decline, since yams grow best in rich soils and are normally

planted on fallowed land, lands which are ideal for cocoa agriculture. Thus, the forest areas have become more dependent on their yam supplies
from the savanna areas of the north. (Clarke, pg. 28).

Cash Crops

As previously stated, several of the lands that were traditionally used for the major food crops of the Yoruba people have been replaced by
cash crops. As Eades states: “In one sense the distinction between food crops and cash crops is irrelevant in the Yoruba case, as most of the

farmers dispose of at least some of their crops on the market. In Igbeti, where land is plentiful, those who could afford it were expanding their yam
production for the market using hired labor. In some northern areas, tobacco production for the cigarette companies has spread rapidly in the last

twenty years, mainly because of the very successful extension work by the Nigerian Tobacco Company.” Cotton is grown in many areas, mainly

for local use, but the two major cash crops, cocoa and kolanut, are only produced in the forest areas. (Eades, pg. 72).

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 29 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

The cash crop kolanut (Obì), grown entirely for the Nigerian market, is bought by Hausa buyers, located in Yoruba towns and villages, for

sale in the northern states of the country (Cohen, pg. 122). There are two varieties of kola grown in Yorubaland, “nitida” known in Yoruba as

“abata,” and “acuminata,” known by the Yoruba as “gbanja.” Abata is indigenous to the area, but gbanja is the main variety that is exported.
Before the colonial period, most of the gbanja kola sold in northern Nigerian came from southern Ghana. It was introduced into Yorubaland as a

cash crop in the 1890s, and by 1930, most of the supplies for the north came from the Yoruba areas. Abata is more important for Yoruba rituals.
“Kola has proved a useful crop in some of the forest areas like Ota and Ijebu where cocoa was introduced very early on but did not perform well”

(Eades, pg. 72).

In addition to kola, Western Nigeria (mostly Yorubaland) produces substantial amounts of palm oil, though in recent years, exports of palm
oil has seriously declined. The extraction of oil from the palm fruit is quite an elaborate process, most efficiently done by using a mechanical press.

However, many woman still use a more “traditional labor-intensive technique” (Eades, pg. 72). First of all, the fruits are boiled and pounded, and

the mash that is produced is re-boiled. The palm oil rises to the top and is scrapped off. The kernels of the palm fruit are likewise cracked and used
separately to make palm-kernel oil. In some areas, the palm-oil industry has been taken over by Urhobo and other migrants from the Mid-belt, who

lease the right to reap the palm fruit from the local farmers.
Lastly, the third major cash crop of Yorubaland is cocoa. The cocoa industry first developed in the western areas: Ilaro, Agege, and

Abeokuta. However, the centers for production of the cocoa have gradually moved to the east to Ondo, Akure, and Owo, due to the aging of the

trees in these areas. The best environment for cocoa production is loamy soils and on freshly cleared forest lands. The trees themselves take about
7 years for they actually begin to produce. “The average life of the trees is around forty years, but productivity declines and many of the trees die

before this. Thus, a continual search for new land suitable for cocoa cultivation is necessary, and migration, first to Ife, and later to Ondo, has

resulted” (Eades, pg. 73). As a result, cocoa planting has become viewed as a more permanent investment than the other staple food crops, and
land for cocoa production has become increasingly scarce. Likewise, questions of land tenure and patterns of land tenure have developed.

Land tenure in Yorubaland

The question of land tenure in Yorubaland is of great complexity and often quite ambiguous. Before the question of land tenure can be
addressed, one must first make the distinction between the right to use land and full ownership, “particularly the right to alienate it” (Eades, pg.

73) Throughout Yorubaland, the two may not necessarily coincide. Second of all, as land becomes more valuable, “either because of its increasing
valua due to scarcity or its potential for cash crops, conflict over access to, and control of, land will increase, and an increasing quantum of rights

will be asserted over it” (Eades, pg. 73).

Lloyd remarks of Ondo land tenure, “while land has little scarcity or commercial value, it will be described as communal: but as soon as it
becomes valuable, the descent groups currently using it will begin to claim rights amounting to full ownership” (Llyod, pg.131). In different areas

of Yorubaland, ownership of land is thought of as being “vested in the ruler on behalf his community, as being vested in descent groups, or as

being vested in individuals” (Eades, pg. 73). Third of all, a sharp distinction has to be made between the rights that a member of a kingdom can
have on its land and the rights which can be acquired by an outsider. In general, outsiders can become tenants, but cannot claim rights of

ownership over land, and as the scarcity of land increases, the more rigidly this rule applies.
As Eades notes, descent group control over land is the norm. This is the pattern one finds in Ibadan, Ijebu, and Ekiti (and most of

Yorubaland). Within the descent group, land is allocated in accordance to need. A farmer can use the land allocated to him, and, likewise, he can

pass the land on to his children. However, he usually cannot alienate the land without permission of the descent group as a whole. “In the case of
large descent groups, a process of partition often takes place: the land is divided between segments which can dispose of it without reference to the

other segments, and this process of fragmentation has reached its fullest extent in Egba, where it is common to have land rights vested in
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 30 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

other segments, and this process of fragmentation has reached its fullest extent in Egba, where it is common to have land rights vested in

individual farmers” (Llyod, pg. 84-85, 241-242).


The major alternative to obtaining land from one’s own descent group in many areas is to “beg” it (toro) from another group, often in return

for gifts (isaigi) and annual payment of “isakole.” Likewise, one can access land through sharecropping. This method has become increasingly

common as owners of cocoa farms are unable or unwilling to manage the farms themselves. The owner often provides the seed, chemicals, and
accommodations, and that proceeds of the crop are split between the sharecropper and the owner. IN some areas, “farm-owners are commuting a

third of the crop into a cash payment in advance - a system which assures them of regular income, reduces their responsibilities and provides the
sharecropper with greater incentive to raise productivity” (Berry, pg. 131).

Lastly, in a final note on Yoruba land-tenure practices, such land-tenure patterns have increasing political implications. First of all, such

practices encourage the attachment of individuals to their home towns. Secondly, they make it difficult for strangers or outsiders to become easily
assimilated in the areas in which they have settled. As Eades notes, “Yoruba migrants and their descendants in the cocoa belt tend to remain

‘strangers’ (àlejò) if they come from another kingdom, even when they speak the same dialect of Yoruba” (Eades, pg. 76). For example, the

Modakeke in Ile Ife are still considered “alejo” despite the fact that they have been there for a century or more. (Berry, pg. 113-116).
Trade and Marketing

The Yoruba have the known reputation for their skill in trade, both throughout Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa The earliest accounts that
are found to describe this area speak of an area thriving with craft industries and a complex division of labor. The development of urban centers

has produced a marketing system in which agricultural produce, craft goods and imported goods changed hands, and much of this trade, especially

in the daily markets of the towns, has traditionally been handled by women.
As well as daily markets, there were the periodic markets which served wider areas. Trade was an important issue in international relations.

“Some towns were termini on the long-distance trade routes that linked the Yoruba kingdoms with the Akan to the west, and the Bariba, Hausa,

and Nupe to the north” (Eades, pg. 80). Trade on these routes was well-organized, roads often being wide and well-maintained, and caravanseries
were established outside the main towns. “Trade and tolls provided a major source of revenue for the political authorities along the route”

(Mabogunje, 1968: pg. 79-90).

Some features of the traditional marketing system have survived to the present. “Daily markets in the towns and periodic markets in the ruraL
areas are still the basis of the distributive system” (Hodder, 1969: pg. 121). The pattern of long-distance trade in the 19th century “has given way

to a Yoruba diaspora in the 20th” (Eades, pg. 81). Yoruba traders have settled in large numbers throughout West Africa. The large daily markets
of the major commercial centers supply goods not only to the local consumers, but also to traders from other towns. Good examples are “the major

Ibadan markets, some of which are quite specialized, such as Gege and Orita Merin in the trade foodstuffs, and Oja Iba in the trade in kola”

(Hodder, 1969: 58-93).


There are also some specialized urban periodic markets like Oje in Ibadan, where sales of Yoruba cloth and locally made soap alternate.

Ibadan, like most Yoruba towns, also has a number of small night markets, scattered through the town, selling mainly foodstuffs and cooked foods

(Eades, pg. 81). Outside the large towns are the ‘rings’ of village markets, organized into four- or eight day cycles, with a different market being
held on each day. The best documented of these is the Akinyele ring, an eight-day cycle to the north of Ibadan (Hodder, 1969: pg 58-93), but

four-day cycles are more common. “Over 80 per cent of the traders in the Akinyele markets were women, and between 50 and 60 per cent of the
traders sold foodstuffs” (Eades, pg. 81). The markets in a ring are evenly spread out, and most rural settlements are within walking distance of one

or other of them. Hodder found that much of the produce was still brought in by headload.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 31 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Marketing of this type is very labor-intensive. The goods involved are of two main types: manufactured goods moving outwards from the
major urban centers, and farm produce moving in the other direction. Manufactured goods mostly originate from the large expatriate and Lebanese

firms in Lagos and Ibadan. (Eades, pg. 82). The middle level of Yoruba wholesalers are usually men and women who buy in bulk on regular

accounts from the larger firms, and who sell goods in smaller units to the network of retail traders. At the retail level, trading capital is often very
limited. “Turnover is rapid, and the quantities sold are very small. Many women sell individual cigarettes, matches in bundles of ten, and sugar

cubes in piles of two or three at a time.


Craft Production

Many Yoruba occupations were traditionally organized within particular compounds or descent groups, including weaving, smithing,

woodcarving, leatherwork, drumming and medicine. Many of these specializations persist. In Igbeti, the best drummers in the town still come from
Ile Onilu or Ayan, and facial scars are still made by members of Ile Olola. These occupations are mainly confined to men, but others, such as

pottery, indigo-dyeing, and weaving on the uptight loom, are carried on only by women. Some of the crafts have survived better than others. There

are still Yoruba carvers who produce work of exceptional quality in response to modern commissions (Carroll, 1967), but the craft has declined
along with the traditional religion for which most carvings are made. Some palace crafts like leatherwork or calabash-carving in Oyo have been

reorganized around tourism. Pottery has survived competition from imported enamel ware and locally cast aluminium, and is still made in large

quantities in Ilorin. However, the craft which has perhaps adapted best to the changing conditions is weaving (Bray, 1968).
As with farming and trading, many children help their parents in the crafts and have mastered the skills by the age of 16. Parents were

traditionally expected to set up their children in the occupation and provide them with the necessary tools. Until later in the child's adulthood (by
marriage), the parents could keep the profits from their children’s work, but the child could keep the income from work done in his spare time on

his own account. The head of the craft in a town was normally the “Baale” of one of the compounds involved in it. Members of the main crafts

held regular meetings to discuss prices, sort out disputes and share information on techniques and markets. Taxes were paid to the political
authorities in craft goods. (Eades, pg. 85).

Present day, the categories of craftsmen and traders shade off into those of transport-owner, small-scale industrialist, and building contractor.

Among the most popular enterprises are saw-milling, baking, and printing. Nearly all towns have at least one printer, printing such things as
visitor cards and the such. A town the size of Igbeti can support three small bakeries, each with three employees, and each producing about 200

loaves a day. Lastly, there is a small group of very wealthy Yoruba industrialists, though in general the Nigerian industrial scene is dominated by
government and expatriate capital.

Yoruba Traditional Medicine Kehinde


Traditional Yoruba medicine and healing practices are not as easily defined as “Medicine” is in the West, thus some introductory

information must first be presented about the Yoruba people and their beliefs.

Yoruba History
The Yoruba people occupy the Southwestern area of Nigeria in what is known as Yorubaland; they live in the western area South and West

of the River Niger. It is commonly believed that the Yorubas settled in this area after migrating from the northeast around the second millennium

prior to the Christian Era. There are variations on the origin of the Yoruba people, but it is generally agreed, and even supported by evidence that
they are descended from Oduduwa, a deified ancestor. Some evidence suggests that he came from Mecca, while folklore suggests that he

descended from heaven. Either way, he landed in Ile-Ife.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 32 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Traditional Religion

In addition to the belief in God, the central elements of traditional Yoruba religious beliefs are orisa (from the words “ori”, meaning ‘the

very Source of Being” and “se” is a verb meaning “to originate”; thus the Source-Being which gives origin to all Beings” (Oloyoye, pg.13). This
belief existed prior to Christian or Muslim influence in Yorubaland and it is still prevalent among traditionalists. Examples of orisas include

Orunmila, Ogun, Obatala, Sango, Osun, and Sanponna. In some cases such as Sango, the orisa are deified ancestors. Each orisa has its own cult

and is worshipped by other individuals for many reasons. Each family lineage has associated orisa. It is claimed that there are as many as 401
different orisas.

These orisa are prayed to, offered sacrifices and are supplicated, especially in times of distress, illness or misfortune, however all these
things are done so as to appease and please the orisa and so prevent such calamity. Most Christians or Muslims who claim not to worship orisa,

when in times of need, may still petition orisa in reference to their particular problems. Traditional believers firmly hold orisas as part of the

Yoruba way of life. Many Christian and Muslim Yorubas still revere orisa and traditional religion and if they do not actively participate in
worship, they still respect the power of the deities and make efforts not to displease them.

A few orisa and their precedence as excerpted from Simpson’s work:


Obatala- represents the idea of ritual and ethical purity
Orunmila- the oracle god
Sango- god of thunder and lightning
Osun- goddess of fertility and water
Ogun- god of war, the hunt, and all pursuits in which iron or steel is used
Ifa- god of divination
Sanponna- god of smallpox
Ibeji- god of twins
Egugun- symbolizes all dead ancestors

Other Beliefs
The Yorubas also believe in witches and witchcraft. Unlike orisa, witches are human, but it is said they transform into another form, such

as a red-beaked bird, when they are performing their witchcraft. It is generally believed that most witches are women and that witchcraft may be

passed on from one person to another. Witches are not necessarily evil, and they may be summoned to good effect.
A variety of ailments and problems are attributed to the work of witches including death, illness, or loss of a job. Witches can be

supplicated by people to avenge or inflict wrongdoers or personal enemies, but it seems they have no specific loyalty and may be bought or

appeased through sacrifices or money offerings. It is believed that witches can hear when someone is talking about them.
Traditional Medicine

Yoruba traditional medicine is not based around the western concept of germ theory, rather ailments can be caused by human forces and

supernatural forces, although sometimes the two forces seem to overlap or interact. Similarly, there are two classes of illnesses: external and
internal. External illnesses could include obvious problems such as rashes, bruises, broken bones or cuts. Internal troubles could include afflictions

like cancer, hernia, or a difficult pregnancy- in general mostly chronic persistent ailments or diseases.
External problems are often attributed to human force(s), while internal problems are attributed to supernatural forces, although this is not

always the case exclusively. For example, a builder, though skilled with his tools, may crush his hand or cut his finger. Obviously it is a human

source that actually did the damage, however, why should such an accident occur, especially to an experienced builder? In cases such as this, it is
believed that supernatural forces that are at work actually caused the accident, making the builder maim himself. Most Yorubas, (irrespective of

education level or religious faith) are wary of “accidents,” and most of the people are superstitious to varying degrees.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 33 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Traditional Healers
There are two types of traditional healers: onisegun and babalawo. Generally, onisegun, an herbalist, is consulted for less complex,

external afflictions, while the babalawo may petition the supernatural forces, in addition to prescribing herbal concoctions and suggesting other
actions to appease the disturbed spirits. Anyone who believes they are afflicted by witches, or are being punished by the orisas may consult a

babalawo. This “doctor” may serve as intermediary either in summoning the supernatural forces in question or to discover what they demand and

who is prompting their harmful demands. Appropriate action may then be taken by the afflicted, upon guidance of the babalawo, including
wearing charms, or making sacrifices. The babalawo uses a system of divination called Ifa.

Ifa is the practice of divination where the orisa, Ifa Orunmila, is consulted before any action is taken. The actual divining is done with the

help of sixteen palm nuts from the Awpe-Ifa tree (Ope Ifa)... Every one of these palm nuts represents sixteen subordinate powers called Odu... All
are associated with parables or traditional stories with which the babalawo is supposed to be acquainted (Talbot, vol. ii, p.186). There is a total of

256 Odu altogether. Simpson (73) further explains:

In learning odu Ifa, one starts with opele, a divination chain to which eight half nuts are fastened. When the opele is thrown to the
ground, one can tell which odu is indicated by the combination of nut segments that fall “up” (inner side up) and which fall “down”
(inner side down). The diviner then quotes from the passages in the odu which... are appropriate to the occasion or to the question
that has been asked and gives his interpretation of this odu... An alternate divination technique involves the use of sixteen palm-
nuts. The diviner places the nuts in the palm of his left hand and grabs at them with his right hand. If he gets all of them with his
right hand, no marks are made in the termite sawdust on the divination board. If he gets all but one, two marks are made. If he gets
all but two, one mark is made. Then he places the nuts in his right hand and repeats the procedure with his left hand. (Simpson,
p.73)

The first procedure, opele, may be performed daily for less important matters, but the second, complex procedure may only be performed

every fifth day. Babalawo, meaning “father of the secret” from “baba o ni awo” must then interpret and prescribe medicines, charms or actions or

a combination thereof in order to improve the afflicted client’s health or situation. After the cause is determined and remedy is decided, the
babalawo must gather the roots, nuts, fruit, leaves, bark, animals or animal parts and necessary herbs in order create the charms, medicine or

ointments. Sometimes an apprentice will aid in the collection of ingredients, gathering them from the forest and perhaps sometime buying some
components at the market. These formulae have been committed to memory, and recipes differ from place to place for any given ailment.

Often incantations, drumming, dancing, singing or sacrifices accompany the creation of the medicine as it is believed that some substances

will not be potent otherwise. The babalawo entices or calls on the spirits believed to inhabit everything living (or once living); these spirits are
what make the medicine potent. The babalawo most likely developed after the onisegun, another type of healer, when non-magical methods failed.

The babalawo is very important and he sometimes hold more power than does a chief.

Another healer is the Onisegun. He is also a traditional healer, but he does not deal deeply with the spiritual realm as the babalawo does.
The onisegun is an herbalist who is very knowledgeable about medicinal herbs, plants and other substances. Generally onisegun determines the

ailment from the patient’s previous medical history and symptoms rather than using divination. Often the herbalist will belong to an Herbalist’s
association, complete with a certificate, usually indicating some degree of knowledge and competency, but it does not necessarily indicate any

standard level of education or proficiency.

Traditional Yoruba healing practices, are, like so many other aspects of Yoruba culture, deeply entwined with traditional Yoruba religion. It
is rather impossible to completely separate spiritual belief from traditional healing practices, as it is commonly held that witches, orisa and other

supernatural entities may be the cause of an ailment. Because of the influence of western medicine and the introduction of hospitals, patent drugs,

hypodermic injections and “germ theory”- where germs are the cause of illness rather than spirits, etc.- traditional healing practices are slowly
losing their prominence in Yoruba society, especially among the young people. Still, whenever someone falls seriously ill, the onisegun and the
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 34 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

losing their prominence in Yoruba society, especially among the young people. Still, whenever someone falls seriously ill, the onisegun and the

babalawo are called upon. Slowly, traditional practices are being included in the new western medicinal ideas in Yorubaland, and the outcome is a

hybrid type of healing practice.

Yoruba Religion Titilayo


In Yoruba society, religion is equally important as politics and kinship. Religion is a part of Yoruba daily life. Yoruba religion is

monotheistic, meaning that a single God (Olodunmare) rules over the universe, with several hundred lower deities, Orishas, who are personified

aspects of nature gods and ancestral spirits. Even though there are over a thousand, there are at least four hundread and one recognized Orisas in
the Yoruba pantheon. Some of the most important Orisas are: Ogun, the god of iron and war; Sango, the god of thunder; Obatala, the god of arch

divinity of Yorubaland; Elegba, the god of crossroads; Yemoja, the goddess of the oceans and otherhood; Oya, the goddess of the winds, the

whirlwinds, and the gates of the cemetery; and Osun, the goddess of love and fertility.
Orisas are best understood by observing the forces of nature they rule over and the endeavors of humanity. They can be natural phenomena,

such as mountains, hills, and rivers. They can also be recognized through numbers and colors which are their marks. The devotees to each orisa
can usually relate their past to their respective god. The deities are worshipped either annually or at fixed times.

Olodumare, also known as Olorun, is the central force of the Yoruba traditional religion. He is said to have established land and given life

and breath. Myths say that Olodumare asked Orisanla's brother, Oduduwa to descend from the sky to create the first Earth at Ile-Ife. Then, sixteen
other orisas came down from heaven to accomplish the task of creating human beings to live on Earth. All the Orishas are said to have transcended

from Olodunmare.

Ogun is the god of iron and war. Blacksmiths, warriors, and all who use metal in their profession are said to be patrons of this orisa. Ogun
also presides over deals and contracts; in fact, in Yoruba courts, devotees of the faith swear to tell the truth by kissing a piece of iron or a machete

that is sacred to Ogun. The Yoruba consider Ogum fearsome and terrible in his revenge. A legend that illustrates Ogun's importance tells of the

orisas trying to carve a road through a deep jungle. Ogun was the only one with proper implements for the task and won the right to be king of the
orisa. He did not want the position though, and it went to Obatala. Ogun is identified by the colors green and black.

Sango, the god of thunder, rules over lightning, thunder, fire, drums, and dance. Sango's storms and lightning being a purifying moral terror
with bodlness. He is a hot blooded and strong-willed orisa with a quick temper and wit. His colors are red and white, which resembles his virility.

One myth about Sango tells of when he ruled as the fourth king of the ancient Yoruba. He had a charm that could cause lightning, with which he

inadvertently killed his entire family. To be forgiven for his sins, he hanged himself, and became deified. He tried to exceed his own limits and
thereby destroyed what he cherished most. Sango's devotees regard him as the embodiment of great creative potential. His dedication to power

over life is evident in his shrines.

Obatala is the god of arch divinity of Yorubaland. Known as the "King of the White Cloth", Obatala represents the spiritual unity and
interrelationship of all things. He is known to be the creator of the world and humanities. Obatala is the source of purity, wisdom, peacefulness,

and compassion. Everything on Earth that is pure belongs to him. As the sculpture-god, Obatala has the responsibility to evolve human bodies. He
is responsible for the normal and abnormal characteristics. Therefore, the Yorubas say that human deformities are often a result of his errors. A

pregnant woman who speaks negatively of Obatala is likely to have a defective child. These children are called Eni Orisa, or the children of

Obatala. His followers appeal to him for children, the avenging of wrongdoing, and the cure of deformities.
Elegba (Eleggua) is the god of crossroads, meaning he is the owner of opportunity and the roads and doors into the world. He is a child-

like messenger between the orisas and human beings. Without his approval, nothing could be done. He is always honored first before any other
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 35 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

like messenger between the orisas and human beings. Without his approval, nothing could be done. He is always honored first before any other

orisa because he opens the doors between the worlds and opens the door for life. He is said to be the force in nature who brings magic into reality.
Devotees give offerings and honor to him on mondays and on the third day of every month. With his child-like behavior he is known as a trickster,

yet his tricks are simply opportunities to learn lessons. His colors are red, white, and black which exemplify his contradicting nature.
Yemoja (Yemalla) is the goddess of the sea, moon, and motherhood. Her name, a shortened version of Yeye Omo Eja means "Mother

Whose Children are the Fish" reflects the fact that her children are unaccountable. She is said to be the mother of many Orisha, generous, and

giving. All life started in the sea, the amniotic fluid inside the mother's womb, is a form of sea where the embryo must transform and evolve
through the form of a fish before becoming a human baby. She represents the mother who gives love, but does not give her power away. Yemalla

also owns the collective, subconsciousness. Her worship is indeed ancient and annual or at fixed times.

Sopona (Shokpona), the god of smallpox, apparently became an important god in the smallpox plagues that were transmitted by various
inter-tribal wars; the Yoruba also blamed Sopona's wrath for high temperatures, carbuncles, boils, and other diseases that resemble small-pox

symptoms. Sopona once terrified some Yoruba so greatly that they feared to say his name;they used instead such names as Elegbana ("hot earth")

and A-soro-pe-leerun ("one whose name it is not propitious to call during the dry season"). Priests of Sopona wielded immense power; it was
believed that they could bring the plague down on their enemies, and in fact the priests sometimes made a potion from the powdered scabs and dry

skin of those who died from small-pox. They would pour the potion in an enemy's house or a neighboring village to spread the disease. Today,
however, smallpox has been all but eradicated; the priests of Sopona have lost power and the cult has all but vanished.

Yoruba Traditional Religion Oluwole


Introduction

To examine the Yoruba religion, one must look at the entire area of Yoruba cultural existence. Yorubas are located basically in the

southwestern part of Nigeria and in some parts of Benin and Togo. The history of the Yoruba religion seems to be somewhat of a controversial
subject in most sources that deal with this topic. There was really no mention of when the religion started or much about the origin of the people

because the beginning of their existence was always noted as being in Ife, the center where the Yoruba people descended from heaven. Ife is said
to have been founded around a thousand years ago and there was some mention that the Yorubas might have descended from some Middle Eastern

heritage.

As far as dealing with the actual origin of the religion itself, it is only referred to as a surviving religion of a "higher" religion. That religion
is said to be from the Ancient Egyptian–Religion otherwise known as Khamet or Kemet. Being that the language of the Yorubas is so strongly tied

to the culture there are many comparisons analyzed as to why there is a belief that Yoruba religion has been derived from Ancient Egyptian

religion. For example, in Lucas' "The Religion of the Yorubas" word comparisons are made. Such a comparison is made with the Ancient Egyptian
God Amon: "The God Amon is one of the Gods formerly known to the Yorubas". The Yoruba words mon, mimon, "holy or sacred," are probably

derived from the name of the God" (p.21).

Many of the sources which I encountered did not attempt to even approach the topic of the origin of the Yorubas Orisa (Orisha). The Orisa
is one of the key spiritual elements of traditional Yoruba religion. It is an example of the many deep rooted meanings of the religion of the

Yorubas. The Orisa, according to Baba Ifa Karade's "The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts," are a series of Gods or divinities under the
Yoruba's main–God, Olorun or Oludumare. Karade also argues that there are many striking similarities between the ancient Egyptians and the

Yorubas. The Orisha are "... an expression of the principles and functions of divine power manifesting on nature"(p.23).

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 36 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

The actual word "Orisha" has a deep meaning itself. For example, the word ori is the "reflective spark of human consciousness embedded
on human essense, and sha which is the ultimate potentiality of that consciousness." This gives a strong example of how strong language is tied to

religion. This Ori is the aspect of the human that is in a sense in control of their spiritual actions. The ori is divided into two which can be known

as the ori apari and the ori apere. The ori apari represents the internal spiritual head and the ori apere represents the sign of an individuals
personal protector. The common Orisa which seem to come up time after time are these major ones: Obatala, Elegba, Ogun, Yemoja, Oshun

(Osun), Shango (Sango), and Oya.


Each of these gods has a specific purpose when dealing with the human spirit. Each of the orisas has a specific color and natural

environment associated with them. Obatala represents the embodiment of true purity of one's soul. Obatala is also said to represent ethical purity.

Such purity is represented by pure whiteness. There is great measure taken to carry out the importance of this pure whiteness because the temples
which worship the divinity Obatala have the color of white in all the instruments of worship. For example, the clothing of those involved with the

worship in the temples are white. In addition, all the emblems are kept in white containers and the ornaments are white as are the beads for the

priests and priestesses. Obatala is said to be the father of the Orisha and the divinity in charge of the carving of humans out of clay into the form
they are today. He is worshiped or appeased by his followers when they want children, revenge for wrong doings, cures for sickness and so on.

Yemoja is the divinity that governs over all the waters or oceans. Yemoja is said to be the mother of all the Orisha. She is the water or

ambiotic fluid in the mother's womb and the breasts which nurture a new born child. She is the Matriarchal head of the entire universe. Her
natural environment are the salt water–oceans and the lakes and the colors associated with her are blue and crystal. There is much confusion

concerning the subject matter as to who is the chief female divinity because the different sources represent different view points on this subject
matter and this was really unclear.

Sango or Shango to non Yoruba speakers is said to be a human that was made into a deity. He was said to be the ruler of old Oyo that was

hung (legend has it that he committed suicide by hanging himself to a tree after his failure to amass all the political powr to himself) because of his
greed for power. Sango is the god of lightning in addition to being the Orisha of drum and dance. He is also known to change things into pure and

valuabe objects. His followers come to him for legal problems, making bad situations better, and protection from enemies. His natural

environment happens to be any place that has been struck by lightning, and the base of trees. It is said that no god is more feared for malevolent
action than sango.

Ogun is said to be the god of iron and basically everything that becomes iron. He is known for building or clearing paths for the building of
civilizations and is the divinity of mechanization. Ogun is considered to be the holder of divine justice and truth. He is also said to be the

executioner of the world. Natural environment are in the woods, railroads, and forges.

Oya is the divinity that is associated with the death or the rebirth into a new life. She is considered to be the wife of Sango. Oya is also
known as the god of storms and hurricanes and has power over the winds. She is also the deity that is in charge of guarding the cemetary. Osun

(Oshun) is the deity of diplomacy and all giving or unconditional love. She is a river deity because she symbolizes clarity. She is the divinity of

fertility and feminine essence. Oshun is said to represent the strenght of feminine love and the power of motherhood. It is she who is appeased
when it comes time for a mother to give birth.

Elegba is the messenger of the deities and his major role is to negotiate between the other orishas and the humans and is very close to all

the forces of the deities. He is in charge of giving from the humans to the divinities. Elegba is the one who tests the human souls. Even when
worhsipping other divinities, he is also worshipped because of his important role in the Yoruba religion. Elegba can both punish and reward and is

known for having great wisdom. He is also the divinity who takes the body upon death and the divinity that saves. Although he does not match the
role exactly, he is what the western world would call the devil. Elegba is not evil.
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 37 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

role exactly, he is what the western world would call the devil. Elegba is not evil.

It is particularly important to discuss the dieties because they represent such an important aspect of Yoruba traditional religion. The

Yorubas have a deep and symbolic meaning attached to each of the divinities which is exhibited through prayer and worhsip. These divinities give
the reader some idea of the powerful belief system of the Yorubas. Many scholars or anyone not familiar with the Yoruba system of worship

which is based in the belief in more than one god, may see this religion as "superstitious" or "pagan".

The Yorubas have many festivals to give honor and praise to the many divinities within the Orisa system of belief. The Yoruba festivals
are extremely elaborate and have much deep rooted meaning in practice related to them. Certain Yoruba towns have certain orisas which are

honored. This is extremely important because it shows the diversity of Yoruba culture and futhermore the facets of traditional Yoruba religion. It
would be tedious and quite boring to examine and give an account of every single festival and the villages in which they take place because the

Yoruba religion covers so many (actually all) towns in Yorubaland. The discussion could go on forever. However, I will give one account of this

widely practiced aspect of Yoruba religion.


Among the people of Osogbo, the Orisa Osun is the center of the town’s attention even though it is worshipped by the people in all areas of

Yorubaland. The reason for this vast diversity may be due to the fact that there are major differences in the landscape of each of the villages where

the Yorubas settled. Each orisa has a natural environment and a different emphasis may be put on a different orisa. For example, the reason why
the people of Osogbo worship osun may be because their town was founded near a river and osun's natural environment is in fresh rivers and

lakes. The historical legend or belief behind the worship of osun is that the people of Osogbo found it hard to find any fresh drinking water for the
village. It was the divinity osun who gave the people of Osogbo fresh water. Osun has also been credited to give infertile women children.

In Yoruba traditional religion, life is circular. What is meant by this that in the Yoruba religion, there is no such thing as death. Death is

seen as a transition from the physical plain to the spiriitual plain. The life cycle of the Yorubas is very complex. Before an individual is born into
the world, they choose a destiny with God (Olodumare) in heaven. The goal is to fulfil the destiny. There is one exception, once a child is born he

or she forgets the destiny he or she has chosen. The purpose of this is for the individual to learn and gain wisdom for life in the spiritual plain. The

Yoruba traditional religion believes in predestination. It is also important to point out that there is no hell in traditional Yoruba religion. The
Yoruba believe that all of one's wrong doings will be paid for and all good deads will be rewarded. Under the orisa system, the early cycle of

life is called "morning". Morning of one's life spans from the time of birth to the age of fifty. It is in this time period that the individual learns and

experiences life's most difficult lessons. This also is the time when the Yorubas raise their families. The Yorubas believe that no one is a master in
any area of life until they reach age fifty. The time period from the age of fifty until the transition into the spirit realm is called the evening. It is in

this time period that individuals enjoy life the most. By this time most Yoruba men and women would have raised their children and have much
free time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The evening is a time period when the Yorubas prepare for their transition. Long life and family are the

two most important blessings in Yoruba religion.

The Yoruba believe that there are three types of people: achievers, people who assist achievers, and bystanders. Whichever role one
chooses dictates the type of life that the person will live. The babalawo is the most important figure in Yoruba religion on the physical plain. His

role is one of great respect and experience. The Babalawo's training is long and indepth. It is said in some temples of Yoruba divination that

Babalawos are said to stay in their temples for seven years before being released into the world to pracitce Orisha. The babalawo, by his
knowledge and training, is the link between the divinities and man.

Olodumare, Orisa, ati Ebora: Yoruba concepts of God. Sangoleke

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 38 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Time and time again, one can not escape the fact that religion is an essential part of culture amongst African people. Throughout the

African continent and the Diaspora, traditional religious beliefs and practices have served as a unifying force within the community. Religion
[2]
permeates all aspects of the everyday life of Africans who still cling to the traditional beliefs. The Yoruba culture and their beliefs span South-
[3]
Western Nigeria as well as parts of Benin and Togo. In the words of Dr. Awolalu, “Perhaps no other African group has had greater influence on

[4]
the culture of the New World than the Yoruba.” The practices and beliefs of the Yoruba take different shape beyond what is considered

Yorubaland.
[5]
In Sierre Leone it is known by the name ‘Aku’ . Practitioners call their religion ‘Lucimi’ in Cuba and it is referred to as ‘Nago’ in Brazil.
Thus Yoruba tradition has had a place in the New World for some time. In some parts of South America and the Caribbean Yoruba practices have

been merged with Christianity such as Santiera which combines catholic saints with Yoruba deities.

We now have an idea of the vastness of the Yoruba religion. But, what does the religion entail? Who is their God or gods? What do they
call Him/Her/them? How do they see Him and His powers? And, Who serve under Him? Contrary to the belief of many, African people are not

[6]
heathens nor are we “religiously illiterate,” Our concepts of the God incorporates Him/Her as both the unseen Supreme Being and Creator and

[7]
the manifestation of the physical realm and natural phenomenon. The Yoruba believe in the existence of a Supreme Being who is responsible
for creation and sustaining both heaven and earth. By looking at the names they give to God, one can one can gain insight into their relationship

with their God. Awolalu states:

“Among the Yoruba names are very significant.… The Yoruba attach a great deal of importance to names.... every name given by the
Yoruba depicts a significant character or circumstance of the birth of the bearer of the name.”
He later adds:
“We take the trouble of examining.… secular names in order to emphasize the fact that names are not just given but that they are with
definite intentions. When we turn specifically to examine the manes of the Supreme Being we discover that each of the names depicts the
peoples’ concept of Him. The most prevalent name of the Supreme Being is Olodumare, which has the connotation of the Supreme God
worthy of great reverence. The name Olorun means the owner of heaven. It is used in conjunction with Olodumare as Olorun Olodumare
to express the Supreme Being as the God who resides in heaven. Eledaa means the Creator. Alaaye means the Living One and suggests
that the Supreme Being is everlasting. The Yoruba say ‘A ki igbo iku Olodumare’ (We never hear of the death of Olodumare). Elemii
means the Owner of Life, “without the Supreme Being no creature can live.” Olojo Oni means the Owner or Controller of this day or daily
[8]
happenings. Therefore, all things that happen in one’s life or during that day is under the control of God”.

[9]
The Yoruba believe that Olodumare, the Supreme Being, has certain divine qualities or attributes. A common characteristic of traditional
[10]
African religion is a creation myth or story. There is a story of creation that among the Yoruba is used “mainly to emphasize the fact that
[11]
Olodumare is the creator of heaven and earth and all beings and things.” Among the attributes of the Supreme Being is His uniqueness. To the
Yoruba, He is the Only One and no others are like Him. The Yoruba say ‘A ki igbo iku Olodumare’ (‘We never here of the death of Olodumare’)

to convey the everlasting nature of Olorun Alaaye, the Living God. Without the Supreme Being, nothing can be done. He is Olorun Alagbara , the

powerful God. The Yoruba believe God to be omnipotent. God, the Supreme Being, knows all‘ A-rinu-rode Olumo okan’ (the One who sees both
the inside and outside (of a person)- the Discerner of the Heart).

The Supreme Being is the Oba orun, King of heaven and the Oba a dake dajo, the King who sits in silence and dispense justice. “In their

[12]
anthropomorphic conception of God, the Yoruba see Him as holding the position of a very important king who is also an impartial Judge.”

The belief in the transcendence of God is key to the Yoruba’s concept of the Supreme Being. It is He who is above all but he is not an
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 39 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

The belief in the transcendence of God is key to the Yoruba’s concept of the Supreme Being. It is He who is above all but he is not an
[13]
unapproachable God. He is One who is easily accessible without regard to time and place because of His omnipresence. Along with the
creation of heaven and earth, Olodumare brought into existence other divinites- Orisa, and spirits, Ebora, to help Him administer His creation.

There is no true separation between the divinities and spirit according to Awolalu, probably because of their effect on man and the reverence or

respect the Yoruba have for these supernatural forces or Beings. The number of divinities and spirits that span Yorubaland varies from 200 to
more than 2000. The importance of each divinity or spirit depends on the location within Yorubaland and the Diaspora. Some are classified as

either a primordial divinity or deified ancestor.

Obatala or Orisa-nla is seen as one of the first divinities the Supreme Being created and is connected to the creation story. Among his
notoriety is his ability to make barren women fertile and his purity. Followers of Obatala are expected to be of upright nature and clean. Hence the

color white is significant in his worshippers’ attire and articles at his shrines. In the creation story, Obatala got intoxicated by drinking palm wine,
hence his followers are forbidden from offering it to him or drinking it themselves.

Orunmila is another of the primordial divinities, who was sent to accompany Obatala to earth and provide him with guidance. Orunmila is

believed to be specifically gifted with knowledge and wisdom, thus the name ‘Eleriipin’ one who bears witness to fate.’ A belief among the
Yoruba is that the destiny of man is held by Olodumare before one is born. Part of Orunmila’s wisdom is knowing the likes and dislikes of the

divinities and this knowledge allows him to guide both the divinities and man. Orunmila serves as the divinities’ messenger to man and man’s

guide to the divinities. With the aid of Ifa, Orunmila can discern the wishes of Olodumare and what steps to take to appease Him. Orunmila priests
are known as Babalawo (father of mysteries). They are the highest of all Yoruba priests. Babalawo are consulted before any important project is

carried out.
Oduduwa is considered both a primordial divinity and a deified ancestor. There is much controversy concerning him and his place in the

pantheon of Yoruba Gods. Some contest it was him and not Obatala that was sent to earth by Olodumare because of Obatala’s drunken stupor.

Some claim Oduduwa as wife to Obatala and the primary female Orisa, with Obatala the primary male Orisa. However, both Oduduwa and
Obatala are associated with the creation.

Esu is one of the primary divinities in Yoruba beliefs. His main purpose is to run errands for both man and the divinities and to report their

deeds to Olodumare. Within the character of Esu is good and evil. Unlike the Christian concept of the devil or the Islamic character of shaitan, Esu
is not wholly evil and he is not scorned but recognized as having a place in the world.

Ogun is considered as both a primordial divinity and a deified ancestor. As legend tells us, it was Ogun who cleared the thicket for

Olodumare after the other divinities could not. Therefore, the association with Ogun as the one associated with clearing obstacles exists in Yoruba
belief. By appeasing Ogun, these obstacles can be overcome. One tradition holds that Ogun was a powerful warrior, the son of Oduduwa, who

helped him defeat his enemies. Hence, the association between Ogun and warriors exists. It is still a practice for Yorubas to swear upon Ogun
(represented as a piece of iron). If your testimony is false or you break your word, Ogun’s judgment shall be severe. In this manner Ogun

symbolizes or deifies absolute justice. Some other symbols for Ogun are the machete or guns.

In ancient Yoruba society, if a man or woman made contributions to life and culture they were deified, Instead of them dying, Yoruba
heroes and heroines won data or won diirin turn into stone or iron. So they are not forgotten and their exploits give them supernatural power or

[14]
influence. An important person in the history of the Yoruba is the man who served as the fourth Alaafin of Oyo, Sango. Sango is not just an

important figure to the Yoruba of the African continent, but he seems to play a role in the customs of Diaspora Yoruba belief in the New

[15]
World.
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 40 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

[15]
World.

Within Yoruba beliefs, Sango is the deity associated with thunder and lightning. As a ruler Sango was tyrannical and often misused his
power and his knowledge of magic. Eventually, his arrogance was his undoing when he summoned up lightning that ultimately destroyed his

wives and children. Some stories contend that he was so distraught that he went into the woods and hung himself and returned as thunder and

[16] [17]
lightning. Associated with Sango's veneration are the Orogbo (bitter kola nut) and Erindinlogun (sixteen cowries) divination systems.

Orisa-oko is the patron divinity of Yoruba farmers. He is represented by an iron staff covered with cowrie shells and is served by honey
bees. Orisa-oko is said to be Olodumare functionary in matters concerning the maintenance and sustenance of the world in particular agriculture.

Ayelala is a goddess both feared and revered by the people of the Okitipupa Portion of Western Nigeria. She is associated with vengeance. She is

said to accompany various plagues such as small pox and others whom are looked upon as spirits also. A male god, Sanponna is associated with
these plagues and so on in other areas of Yorubaland.

Along with the primordial divinities and deified ancestors are the spirits or Ebora. The Yoruba recognize these spirits and associate them

with natural phenomenon such as the earth, the rivers, the wind, and the mountains. These things in nature are either considered as spirits, the
abode of spirits, or the vehicle through which spirits travel. Many of these spirits have shrines and or festivals associated with their veneration.

Bodies of water are also included as Ebora. Yemoja or Yemoya is considered the source of all water. Oya is the goddess of the river Niger. Osun

is the divinity associated with the river that bears its name and the tutelary divinity of Osogbo. Osun governs fertility and healing. Olokun or
Malokun is the lord of the sea. He is justly revered because of man’s awe of the sea.

[18] [19]
Elevated land and rocks are considered abodes of spirits such as oke-Olumo, Olumo Rock. Due to rocks perceived immortality, the

Yoruba say ‘Oke o ki iku’ (the rock never dies). Trees are considered to be spirits or the domain of the supernatural. The Iroko tree is held in high

regard as it is thought to be inhabited by some powerful spirits. The Ayan, Eegun, and Omo tree are also treated with respect and reverence. The
spirits of the air are countless to the Yoruba. Oro, a spirit responsible for paralysis, travels through and woe is he who meets him, for paralysis

soon follows. Ajija travels by wind and transports men to the forest where they are taught the medicinal arts.
There are seemingly countless spirits and divinities in Yorubaland. I am sure that each ilu (town) has its own patron spirit or divinity with a

shrine, festival, and priesthood associated with it. However, Olodumare is the Supreme Being to the Yoruba. Noting His names and the attributes

they associate with Him, one does not need to ponder long on why the religion and culture has not only survived colonialism and post-colonial
rule. Neither Christianity nor Islam have successfully wiped out its practice. O se Olodunmare!
Bibliography:
Awolalu, J. Omosade. Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites. London: Longman Group Limited, 1979.
Barnes, Sandra T, ed. Africa’s Ogun: Old World and New. 2Ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.
Bascom, William. Shango in the New World Austin: African and Afro-American Institute, Universtiy of Texas, Austin. 1972.
Mbiti, John S. Concepts of God in Africa. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.
Schleicher, Antonia Y.F. Je K’ A So Yoruba. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1993.

The Traditional Yoruba Divination Ceremony with Special Emphasis on the Role of the Babalowo and Esu

Olufemi

In traditional Yoruba society the paramount obstacle was to perpetually keep the many deities placated. This appeasement was crucial to
ensuring peace and prosperity for one’s self, one’s family, and even one’s village. The traditional Yorubas had many deities that held influence

over different Earthly realms. Arguably as important as these deities was Esu. He was responsible for delivering sacrifices made by humans to

Olorun, ”God Almighty” Esu served as a sort of spiritual mediator; he was the link between the humans and the gods. It is rumored that Olorun
once pretended to be dead in order to see who was actually loyal to him. As the story goes, only Esu grieved and was thus given his special
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 41 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

once pretended to be dead in order to see who was actually loyal to him. As the story goes, only Esu grieved and was thus given his special

position as mediator between the spirit world and Earthly inhabitants. (This story was found on the website

www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html )
The Yoruba deities often appear to be very egotistical and well aware of their superiority. It seems that the Yoruba gods behave a lot like

the gods of Greek and Roman mythology in this sense. In all three cultures, the gods were aware of their supremacy and often used their powers
to toy with humans. In Greek mythology Zeus was well known for tricking mortal women into sleeping with him. In the Yoruba culture, gods

apparently amused themselves at the expense of humans as well. Due to this tendency, the traditional Yorubas tried very hard to keep the gods

happy and thus to keep themselves in good graces.


Sacrifices and reciting odu were the main instrument used in appeasing the gods and thus ensuring happiness for traditional Yorubas.

Although such communication with the gods was imperative, few had the sufficient knowledge and training to be able to preside over these

mystical practices. The people who possessed the knowledge to communicate with higher powers were called Babalowo or diviner. They were
similar to Native American shamans as far as the role they played in the community, and they are highly esteemed.

The traditional Yoruba culture put great faith into the Babalowo. His role was very complex and multifaceted. In fact, he was so revered by
the community that he was allowed to wear clothing ornamented with beads. These beads are highly regarded as they “Once serv[ed] as trade

currencies, beaded objects were usually reserved for the Yoruba kings” To the villagers, the Babalowo served as a sort of priest, doctor, and

fortune-teller all rolled into one. He utilized special instruments to decipher what a person had done to offend a deity, what sacrifices were needed,
and which odu should be recited to get back into the god’s good graces. His position was very important in traditional Yoruba society.

(www.middlebury.edu/~atherton/AR325/divination/yoruba_bag.html ).

For the act of deviation, a Babalowo had many tools to assist him in contacting a higher power. These tools were kept in a bowl called
opon igere. This bowl would often be decorated with carvings containing the images of deities. One of the key elements used in the divination

ceremony was the tapper. The tapper is “usually made of ivory,” and was used to summon supernatural forces. Additionally, the Babalowo had a

carved cup in which he carries around sacred palm nuts. The traditional name for the cup is agere-Ifa. The cup “served as a home” for the palm
nuts (Kernels). The palm nuts themselves played a crucial role in the divination, as they were tossed across a sacred divination board, called

opon-Ifa, covered in sawdust (www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html).


Unlike in many other cultures, the Yorubas actually were allowed to be present and to be actively engaged in the ceremony. A person

would come to a Babalowo with a problem, perhaps his wife was sick. The diviner would then bring out his agere-Ifa. From the agere-Ifa the

Babalowo would retrieve the sixteen precious palm nuts. Then, he would throw them across opon-Ifa. The Opon-Ifa was covered in sawdust or
powder. The trails made by the tossed palm nuts were studied in depth by the Babalowo. From the sawdust trails the Babalowo could derive at

which chapter he should start reading odu from. The ‘client’ would then listen as the Babalowo reads. The ‘client’ “would stop the diviner when

he recognized an odu of particular significance.” The diviner would essentially repeat this process until a “meaningful text began to coalesce”
(www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html ).

The article that I read concerning the recitation of odu contained an example of some verses that were recited for a man whom the diviner
said will be

honored soon:
“Nobody despises fire
And wraps it up in a cloth.
Nobody despises the snake

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 42 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

And ties it round his waist as a belt.


Nobody despises the King
And hits him over the head.
Today people must honor me.
(Beier:1959:57)”
(www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html )

Apart from the performance of divination ceremonies, the Babalowo maintain an air of spirituality above the rest of the community at all

times. They carry items to symbolize their powers for all to see. For instance, some Babalowo carry opa osun. Opa osun was a type of divining
staff and served to remind the villagers of the diviner’s position in society. At certain ceremonies the Babalowo would carry around other symbolic

artifacts. Babalowo “brings out this special iron staff at large, community-oriented functions. The staff symbolizes the diviner’s power over death
and other destructive forces.” The Yorubas believed that if someone was at the point of death and the diviner sacrificed a rooster on the staff, that

“death would be fooled into taking the life of the rooster instead of the human being.” (www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html ).

The traditional Yorubas held many beliefs that people from other countries would perhaps find strange. But on the same token, the Yorubas
would find peculiarity in someone else’s beliefs. If modern day Christians can believe that Jesus Christ rose up from the dead and will later come

back to earth to take people to heaven, why is it so far-fetched to believe that Babalowo had supernatural powers? Many Westerners ridicule

ancient beliefs such as the ones held by the Yoruba as evidence of lesser cultures, but they often forget that tradition is usually based on some
amount of facts. For instance one of the primary things, Yoruba people visit the Babalowo for was to try and increase fertility. According to recent

evidence the Yorubas have the highest rate of twin births in the world, “Forty-five out of every thousand births is a twin birth”
(www.middlebury.edu/~atherton/AR325/fertility/yoruba_ibeji.html). One inhibitor of learning about the Yoruba religion and culture is that some

people are hesitant to look at the world from a different view, to take a leap of faith that maybe there is something else to know about the world.

People in the United States are very ethnocentric and try to force ideas to fit in a strictly American framework.
The Yoruba concept of Esu and Babalowo will not fit nicely into such a framework. It must be studied from an objective perspective. After

much research on the topic and much reflection, it has become obvious to me that to actually understand the significance of the Yoruba culture,

including the divination ceremony and the role of the Babalowo, one must, in fact, be Yoruba. Although much can be learned from reading
descriptions of Yoruba rituals and information about the different roles the deities play in life, one is still not able to grasp the cultural implications

and significance of these things. Although we can never hope to achieve a full sense of understanding, that should not divert us from our goals of

learning about the language of the Yoruba or about their rich culture. The Yoruba culture is vast in tradition and value and it can be an asset to
anyone to unravel even a little of its mystic.
Websites Cited:
www.fa.indiana.edu/~conner/yoruba/man.html
www.middlebury.edu/~atherton/AR325/fertility/yoruba_ibeji.html

Female Deities and Their Importance in the Yoruba Culture Folarin (H)

There is no doubt that religion is a major aspect of the Yoruba culture. This is a culture that contains a huge pantheon of gods and

goddesses each with a different mythology and purpose. Many Yoruba deities are connected to the natural forces that command and create life.
They are seen not only in religious worship, but in the daily lives and activities of the Yoruba people.

To a Yoruba person, knowing the mythology of deities is as important as learning the history of his/her ancestors. The deities are in fact the
ancestors of all humankind. This deep connection plays a tremendous role in the relationship between deity and human; in the human need for help

in working with nature’s forces deities are consulted for guidance and example. Women being at the source of creation have always looked to

deities (primarily female deities) for assistance in their survival and for the welfare of the community.
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 43 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

deities (primarily female deities) for assistance in their survival and for the welfare of the community.
There are constant celebrations and festivals reminding and teaching the Yoruba people of this rich past and deep connection. An example

of such a festival is the “Gelede”. This festival celebrates the “great ancestral mothers” and women’s life giving powers. The festival has two parts

a night ceremony called the “Efe” and the daytime celebration called the “Gelede”. In both celebrations, elaborate costumes and masks are
created to pay homage to deities and ancestors. The importance of women in Yoruba society is the overall theme of the festival.

The festival is held in the marketplace which is the center of women’s social and economic activity. The marketplace is the key to the
economic wealth of women in Yoruba society. Therefore, it is the perfect place to pay homage to women’s influence and strength. Several female

deities play a large role in the festival’s activities.

One of the most sacred “Efe” and “Gelede” performances is of the Great Mother,”Iyanla”. Special preparations are made for this
performance. All the lights are extinguished, and a shrine is provided as a center for worship. The shrine consists of a mask wrapped or draped in

white cloth, and the performers representing “Iyanla” focus on their dancing. The “Iyanla” can come in two forms: a bearded elderly lady or a

Spirit bird. There are two chants that are spoken when the performers appear. One chant is to the Spirit bird form:
Spirit Bird is coming (Twice)
Ososobi o, Spirit Bird is coming
The one who brings the festival today
Tomorrow is the day when devotees of the gods will worship
You are the one who brought us to this place
It is your influence that we are using
Ososobi o, Spirit bird is coming
[Recorded in Ilaro, 1978]

This chant demonstrates how important “Iyanla” is to the Yoruba people. She is the reason and the power behind the festival. Another
chant spoken is to the bearded mother form:
“Iyanla come into the world, our mother
Kind one will not die like the evil one
Ososomu come into the world
Our mother the kind one will not die like the evil one”

And
“Ososomu e e e
Honored ancestor “apake e e e”
Mother, Mother, child who brings peace to the world
Repair the world for us
Iyanla, child who brings peace to the world o e”
[Collected in Ibaiyun, 1975]

In both of these chants “Iyanla” is constantly referred to as mother. This indicates homage to a deity like that of a great ancestor. In the
second chant, “Iyanla” is asked to bring peace to the world, and by participating is this chant comfort is given by knowing that “Iyanla” hears the

trouble of her children. Again there is a motherly portral of the goddess.

In addition to the mask representing ”Iyanla”, other goddesses are depicted. Masks with special clay pots called “otun” are attached for
collecting sacred water. These masks are dedicated to water deities such as ”Yemoja” and “Osun”. Water signifies a natural force needed for

human survival; as well as a symbol of richness and fertility. The goddess “Yemoja” is also honored by a special mask worn only by a priestess.
Red parrot feathers crown the mask symbolizing the mystical power of women. Other articles of clothing signify a woman’s connection to deity.

The oja can be worn in a variety of ways depending upon the senority of a prietess or follower. It may be worn as a gele (head wrap) to indicate

new initiates or around the buba (traditional blouse) for older prietesses. The Yoruba people recognize and respect the differences.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 44 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Outside of festivals and celebrations female deities still remain a powerful influence. Daily these deities are consulted in problems that

occur in everyday life. Specific problems are brought to different goddesses. Each goddess has her own history and personality. These qualities

mirror the positive and negative aspects of the Yoruba culture.


The river goddess “Osun” is sought after for advice in matters of love and children. In Yoruba culture, she is seen as the goddess of love

and beauty. A festival is also dedicated to her; many offerings are given to her by women asking for her help. She can cause drought or flood and
therefore must be constantly appeased. She is the matron goddess of the town Osogbo in Osun State of Nigeria.

Another important goddess to the Yoruba people is “Oya”. She is a goddess with many different aspects. One of her most dominant traits

is her association with the forest and the hunt. Because of these aspects, she is also known as the “Buffalo-woman”. She can come in the form of
the hunter or in the form of the prey. These two forms illustrate the importance of both aspects of life. She teaches understanding and respect for

the life of the animal killed to provide food, and the balance that must be maintained in nature.

In the role of “Buffalo-woman”, she also teaches that the roles of men and women in Yoruba society are not as important as the survival of
the community. This is a lesson being used in modern Yoruba culture. Traditionally women are not allowed to leave the village to search for roots

or food. Even women trained in gathering roots for medicine can not go deep into the forest. However, a hunter is only considered to be the best if

he is successful in the depths of the forest. He must recognize the greatness and skills of “Oya” as a hunter goddess to feed the village.
Another aspect of “Oya” is as the whirlwind or tornado. This again illustrates the negative but necessary aspect of nature; to have creation

destruction must take place. She is seen as the cause of tornadoes in Yoruba culture. This also relates to the negative and violent power within men
and women. If these powers are allowed the run rapid, they can be just as destructive as any tornado.

Oya’s diversified personality makes her one of the most distinctive of the Yoruba goddesses. Her personality is best summoned up in a

poem by Judith Gleason. It describes both her negative and positive qualities.
Oya
Dark forest, deepest obscurity
Which grabs and swallows you in the forest
Winds of Death
Tears the Calabash, tears the bush
Sango’s wife who
With the thumb tears out
The intestines of the one liar
Great Oya, yes
Only she seizes the horns of the buffalo
Only she confronts the returning dead
Swiftly she gets her things together swiftly
Oya messenger, carry me on your back
Don’t let me down
She burns like fire in the hearth
Everywhere at once
Tornado, quivering sold canopied tress--
Great Oya, yes
Whirlwind, masquerader, awakening
Courageously takes up her saber
Iya O, Iya O
Mother Oya
It is not from today that she is honorable
But from long ago
Iya O, Oya O
Mother Oya
She’s the one who employs truth against [untruth]
She stands at the frontier
Between Life and Death
Iya O, Oya O

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 45 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

If it is Bembe, she dances it, O she’ll dance it


Who dances Bata Drums?
O she dances it
Who dances Shekere,
O she dances it
Wife of Ogun, that’s the one who dances it, whatever it is
She has been performing Egungun masquerade for a long time
Oya had so much honor
She turned and became Orisa
Oya guards the road into the world and out of it
Oya, respect to the awesome!
(Judith Gleason@1987)

The role of female deities in Yoruba culture is ever present and ever changing. A strong connection between female deities and the Yoruba
people is illustrated by the many lessons learned from them. These lessons include “Iyanla’s” wisdom, “Osun’s” love, and “Oya’s” strength.

Connection between humankind and deity is crucial. By having respect for deity whether male or female, one gains a love and kindred to
everything in nature. This serves as a way to pass on the lesson of how to live in balance with ourselves and others. All these are valuable

teachings which can be used in daily life not of just the Yoruba people but of everyone and anyone.

References

Blakely, Thomas D., Van Beek, Walter E. A., and Thomson, Dennis L. Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression. David M. Kennedy Center 1994.

Drewal, Henry John and Drewal, Margaret Thompson. 1983. Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press.

Gleason, Judith. 1987, 1992. Oya: In Praise of an African Goddess. San Francisco: Harper.

Websites:

Web-Site: http://www.voiceofwomen.com/articles/omi.html

-“Keys to Feminine Empowerment: from the Yoruba West African

Tradition” by: Omifunke.

Web-Site: http://www.artnet,net/~ifa/oshun.htm

-“Ijo Orunmila: Spreading Ifa to All Olodumare’s Children.” by: Chief

Fashina Falade, Chief Olubikin of Ile-Ife.

Role of Women in Traditional Yoruba Society Adeola


Women played various roles in traditional Yoruba society. They performed in areas such as farming and trading, and economically,

women's efforts were crucial to the survival of their families and the society as a whole. Political roles were also abundant. Though males
essentially dominated Yoruba politics in a physical sense, a woman's importance was generated through mystical power and was fully independent

of the reputation of her husband. Women also participated in body markings, and further, they held a great knowledge of medicine. In addition,

traditional ceremonies and rituals such as Gelede, portray a profound respect for women--especially mothers. Historical myths placed sharp focus
on religious and supernatural forces. In fact, in some instances, they were held as high as goddesses because of their alleged awesome power.

Women are further saluted through chants called Oriki, and these chants, additionally, assist women in their journey to marriage. In 1826, a

man named Capperton observed wives of the Alaafin of Oyo (the most powerful Yoruba king at the time) in every place trading and like other
women of the common class, carrying large loads on their heads from town to town (Drewal 225). Though the majority of women earn their

income through trading, farming also plays a significant role (Spiro 13). Their function in supplying nutrition and clothing for themselves and their
families depend greatly on both farming and trading (Kolade 1). Previous studies have shown that women's only economic concern is with food

processing and distribution, with some craft specialization and that women rarely take part in any phase of agriculture, but other studies show that

almost all women spend approximately 25% of their time in some farming activity (Spiro 7).
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 46 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

almost all women spend approximately 25% of their time in some farming activity (Spiro 7).
Women are estimated to perform 60% to 80% of all agricultural work and to provide up to 70% of the region's food (Middleton and

Rassam 392). For instance, a woman performs much of her labor through the farming of crops such as yams, maize, cassava, and okra, and they

even have to hire some male labor for their own farms (Spiro 7). The production and sale of such crops contributes to the well-being of her family
in addition to providing income for various other household expenses (Middleton and Rassam 392). Women are in their prime years between the

ages of 25-40, since their economic authority grows with age and their status as mothers.

Responsibilities increase because they need to supplement their husband's income and provide money for school fees and other every day
necessities. Women are also expected to supply the sauces, stews, and snacks eaten with staples. Women use their own money to buy clothes and

luxury items for themselves and their children (Spiro 9).


Yoruba women marry at age eighteen and move to their husband’s village. During the early years of marriage, women are economically

subservient to their husbands. Their domestic duties also include extensive unpaid agricultural labor on their husband’s holdings. These early years

are also devoted to organizing the household, and bearing and rearing children. Yorubas strive for a 3 year space between children, owing to
traditional sexual abstinence during an extended breast-feeding period. As children approach the school age, mothers start moving more seriously

into trading enterprises. Children are net dependents on their parents between ages 6 and 18, depending on the schooling they receive (Spiro 9).

Women are further involved in body marks. A woman whose father is a mark maker can be taught how to and she can make marks (Barnes
358). These are incisions or tattoos on the body that represent sexuality, spirituality, strength, and status for males and females (254). For example,

a woman with many marks is considered courageous and a woman without marks is deemed a coward (255). As a consequence of their significant
contributions, women are given official roles in public affairs (Middleton and Rassam 392). In fact, the market women’s administrative head,

Iyalode, holds a position on the king’s council of chiefs (Drewal 10). Women also participate in activities such as pottery making, spinning,

dyeing, weaving, basketry, and dressmaking was added in the 19th century and medicinal activity is also predominant.
The collection and sale of medicinal ingredients takes place in large daily markets. These ingredients are not affected by menstruation and

can therefore be handled by women. Since these women are intimately familiar with the plants and animals they handle, they undoubtedly know

much about medicine, but they tend to limit their medicinal practice to the sale of ingredients. They also offer advice, recommending cures to
their friends, and occasionally they will sell someone a recipe (Buckley 3).

On another note, women are considered the center of Gelede ceremonies (Lawal 36). Gelede is a ceremony that promotes the motif of
barrenness as its prime focus. Certain traditional, religious beliefs form the basis for such ceremonies. First of all, Ogboni was one of the most

religious organizations in Yorubaland (34-35). The Earth Goddess, Ile, held it’s divine authority and represented maternal principles. This is

evident in the word, Abiye, meaning <born to live>. It was used by female members of Ogboni called, Erelu, as a symbol of being good midwives
and to prevent infant mortality, called Abiku.

Gelede society elaborates on the maternal values of Ogboni in order to inculcate into the mother’s mind the responsibility to her children

and her community (Lawal 36). There are two main ceremonies that Gelede embodies. Efe is the night ceremony while Gelede occurs during the
day. Furthermore, as with any phenomenon, there are two type of traditions concerning the origin of Gelede: the mythical and the historical (37).

In Yoruba mythology, it is believed that a woman holds innate power which can be either good or evil. Such powers are called, aje often

translated as ‘witch’ or ‘My Mother.’ The negative tendencies of aje are believed to branch from jealousy and competition within the polygamous
setting of a Yoruba compound. Another important role in Gelede ceremonies is played out through the Chief priestess, Iyalase (82). She is the

head of the society and the ase (the Gelede shrine), and she is the only one who can enter its divine quarters. The Iyalase has to be of age and
must understand the Yoruba herbs and liturgy.
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 47 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

must understand the Yoruba herbs and liturgy.

In further understanding of Gelede’s mythological origin, practices of a babalowo were referred to in many cases. A diviner, or babalowo,

was consulted during times of trouble (Lawal 37-38). He memorizes rituals, or ese ifa, during training and then relates and interprets these stories
for clients who have a given problem. These clients are instructed to follow the same steps as the mythical character, or orisa (gods), in order to

resolve their problem. One ese ifa tells a story of a woman named Yewajobi, mother of all orisa and living things (39-40). She contacted the

babalowo because she could no longer bear children after marrying her husband, Oluweri. She was instructed to dance and give sacrifices in honor
of the orisa, and, in turn, she became fertile again. She gave birth to two children: Efe and Gelede. Efe was a jocular young man, and Gelede was

obese and enjoyed dancing like her mother. Efe and Gelede, as well, had problems having children, but they, too, were advised to give sacrifice
and dance about with wooden images on their heads. Sure enough, they both began having children.

In addition to the performance in honor of orisa, Gelede’s most popular function is to placate Iya Nla, the Great Mother (or Mother Nature)

(71). Iya Nla was a sea out of which land emerged and life, humanity, and culture were sustained. Iya Nla loves music and dance. In fact, her
Earthly disciples, the powerful mothers, enjoy music and dance, as well. They favor all who honor them with such entertainment. These rituals are

performed today as the Gelede masked dance which gives respect to powerful mothers like Yewajobi and Iya Nla. The comical Efe mask is worn

during the nocturnal Efe ceremony, and the female Gelede mask is bulky and worn during the day.
From a historical perspective, the story of a town called Ketu seems to be the most accredited origin of Gelede (Lawal 46-49). In a battle

for the throne, two twin sons, Edun and Akan, split apart. Edun fled to a town called Ilobi to devise revenge on his brother, while Akan stayed

behind. When Akan arrived in Ilobi to look for his brother, he was scared away by the device that his brother had built to keep him away. It
consisted of numerous strings and shells that sent chilling noises into the night. When Edun returned to Ketu to claim his throne, he shared the

secret of the strange noises with the community. The secret eventually developed into Gelede.
Still another traditional respect for women unveils through Oriki (Barber 12). Oriki parallels with the English word, definition, but goes

deeper and exists on a more personal level: They are heavy words, fused together into formulations that have exceptional density and sensuous

weight (12-13). They are special names that act as personal and family descriptions. There are three specific types of oriki: oriki orisa (gods),
personal oriki (recognizes outstanding characteristics), and oriki orile (identifies large groups of people with common origin in an ancient, named

town). Oriki orile is the most common type and is used to distinguish between houses. No oriki is specified for any particular occasion, and each

type can be combined. Depending on the person’s past and defining characteristics, not all oriki are good. There is actually another category of
oriki that exists, akija, that deals with negative incidents.

Oriki are also used in marriage ceremonies. Throughout a young girlís childhood she is exposed to numerous rituals and performances
where oriki are used (Barber 96-99). By the time she is and adolescent, she has her own rara iyawo chant (or ekun Iyawo) which is performed

during weddings. Rara iyawo are made up mostly of oriki orile. The girls chant to the bride in unison as the bride bids her own rara iyawo and

farewells. The bridal laments are practiced extensively before the wedding day and are kept a secret. However, unlike a mature woman, the bride
has no chance to improve her public performance by gradual, repeated exposure, because rara iyawo is only performed on one occasion (105).

After the wedding ceremony is over, it is considered inappropriate to chant rara iyawo publicly.

In preparation for her wedding, the bride must also pay homage to her future husband’s family (108). Before entering into her new life, a
woman undergoes a three month process of induction into her new family. This process involves a number of acts which demonstrate her

willingness to contribute her labor and property to her husband’s people. Aside from her job of dividing her belongings amongst every member of

the husband’s family, she performs symbolic acts that convey her separation from her former status. For example, on the day after the wedding,
the husband’s female relatives strip and wash the bride and then dress her in new clothes. The old clothes are then taken back to her own family
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 48 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

the husband’s female relatives strip and wash the bride and then dress her in new clothes. The old clothes are then taken back to her own family
compound.

Some women became experts in chanting and, therefore, joined cults along with other devotees in dedication and worship of a particular
orisa (Barber 99). It was considered extremely important for young women to become familiar with chanting called orisa pipe, which simply
means chants to the orisa. Older women would assist in this achievement through encouragement and support. One such cult is the Gelede cult, iya

un, otherwise known as our mothers. It refers to a select group of women who have reached menopause and have special powers (Ibitokun 36).
They are the rightful owners of the Gelede ceremony, and all females are potential iya un. Iya un have a lot of praise names, or oriki, with various
meanings-- especially during performances. One example is adananlojuomi, meaning she whose heart is the open sea (37).

In conclusion, women had a huge impact on the traditional Yoruba society. Their role as economic, political, medical, and religious
leaders, as well as their majestic role as mothers, proves their significance in the survival of mankind. The sacred masks worn in the traditional
Gelede ceremonies was and continues to be a symbol of the community’s respect for, in addition to their dependence on women.
Works Cited
Barber, Karin. I Could Speak Until Tomorrow. pg.12-13, 96-99, 105, 108
Barnes, Sandra T. Ed. Africa’s Ogun. pg. 255 - 258
Buckley, Anthony D. Yoruba Medicine. pg. 3
Drewal, Henry John and Margret Thompson. Gelede. pg. 12, 225
Ibitokun, Benedict M. Dance as a Ritual Drama and Entertainment in the Gelede of the Ketu-Yoruba Subgroup in West Africa. pg. 36-37
Lawal, Babatunde. The Gelede Spectacle. pg. 34-40, 46-49, 71, 82
Middleton, John and Rassam Amal Eds. Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Vol IX. pg. 392
Spiro, Heather. The Ilora Farm Settlement. pg. 6 - 9, XIII, XVI

Women and Culture: Yoruba Women vs. American Women Folarin (A)
Women vary from culture to culture. Their ideas, perceptions, and mannerisms are often determined by their cultural environment. Yoruba

and American women serve as perfect paradigms of females who are socialized in accordance with their culture. An analysis of how these two
different groups interact with their surroundings will reveal the effect that cultural environment has on a woman’s role in the society.
One can first observe the differences between the two female groups early in childhood. At this point American women are being socialized

to be slender,
pretty, and marry their prince charming. Many young American girls have boyfriends as early as age nine. Meanwhile young Yoruba girls are
learning about work from their mothers and older siblings. One huge difference which reflects different patterns of socialization is evident in body

image. American women often complain and worry about their weight, but not Yoruba women.
Yoruba culture does not pressure it’s female members to fit any sort of weight requirement. In fact, it is rare to hear a Yoruba women
complain about her

weight. Yoruba men are said to prefer plump women. A woman in the US who is considered “plump” would most likely feel inferior to her
slimmer counterparts. To be called slim, or tinrin, may be considered an insult in Yorubaland. The difference in the type of body image
requirements that these two groups live with is a direct result of their cultural socialization.
Yoruba and American women also vary greatly when it comes to courting and marriage. It is extremely common for American women to

date. Dating
provides them opportunities for finding a mate. Co-habitation and pre-martial sex are also common in American society. Dating is only common
among the educated or college individuals in Yoruba society. This is because they are the ones most influenced by western culture and society.

Pre-marital sex and co-habitation are both things which (now) occur in Yoruba culture, but are considered very taboo. Many Yoruba women find

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 49 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

Pre-marital sex and co-habitation are both things which (now) occur in Yoruba culture, but are considered very taboo. Many Yoruba women find
their husbands through arranged marriage. Parents play a large role in determining who their daughter marries in Yorubaland.
Cultural differences are responsible for the variations between Yoruba and American women. This is most evident when a Yoruba woman

comes to live in
the US She often adapts the mannerisms and actions of a typical American women. She may assimilate to what is the norm in American society.
The same can occur when an American woman enters the Yoruba culture, but it is not as likely. This is mainly because many women who have

experienced the freedom America offers have trouble returning to more restrictive societies.
In general American women are more independent and career oriented than Yoruba women. This is not to say Yoruba women don’t like
independence, they just are more family oriented. Yoruba culture revolves around the family unit. American society has somewhat lost that family

stability. Family stability is also reflected in the divorce rates of these two cultures. America has 50% divorce rate. Nigeria, where Yoruba people
are found, has a 5% divorce rate. Nigerians place a greater deal of emphasis on keeping the family together. Yoruba women often sacrifice for
family harmony.

Finally, Yoruba women and American women are both direct results of their socialization and culture. Their attitudes and general actions
reflect those which are considered the norm in their different societies.

Nigerian Oil Crisis Babatunde

When some people think about oil, and the major countries that produce it, Nigeria is often left out. This is extremely unfortunate because
Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and one of the world’s largest oil producing countries. Nigeria
is also the fifth largest importer of oil into the United States, a fact many may not be aware of.

Nigeria’s oil is by far the country's leading moneymaker, directly responsible for nearly 50 percent of the gross domestic product and 95
percent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings. Nigeria’s proven oil supply is an estimated 22.5 billion barrels. Almost all of these reserves
are found in along the Niger River Delta. Most of the oil lies in 250 small fields, the majority of which hold reserves of 50 million barrels each.

Up to 200 hundred other fields exist, however their reserves are unknown.
Foreign oil companies now search intensely in Nigerian waters. It is estimated that up to 20 billion barrels may be found in some of these
newly discovered reserves. In 1996 Shell announced the Bonga discovery. Bonga’s initial tests produced 3,000 barrels per day, and the entire

reserve may hold up to 1 billion barrels. Shell also had a smaller discovery, Ngolo which has an estimated 100 billion barrels in reserves.
In January of 1999, Famfa Oil, a local firm, announced the Agabami reserve. This field, which lies 70 miles off shore, is believed to
contain several hundred million barrels of recoverable oil. The exploration for new oil continues now. Development in Nigeria’s traditional oil

areas, on shore and in the shallow waters of the Niger Delta, as well as in other regions. Shell announced in February of 1999 that it plans to invest
8.5 billion over the next five years developing off shore fields. This proposal is the largest industrial investment ever in sub-Saharan Africa.
Oil discovery is not without dispute. Both Cameroon and Nigeria make claims for the Bakassi peninsula. The Bakassi peninsula is a 400

square mile area located in the Gulf of Guinea and is believed to contain a huge amount of undiscovered oil. In 1994, Cameroon submitted a suit
to the International Court of Justice for a settlement. Nigeria later responded with a suit of its own, and at the latest the dispute had not been
resolved.
Nigeria’s crude oil production at the end of 1998 averaged 2.153 million barrels per day, down from 2.317 million barrels a day in 1997. In

March of 1998 Nigeria made an agreement with other OPEC members and some non-OPEC countries to cut production in order to stabilize
worldwide oil prices. In this agreement Nigeria committed themselves to cutting production by 125,000 barrels a day. Nigeria’s slowed oil
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 50 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

worldwide oil prices. In this agreement Nigeria committed themselves to cutting production by 125,000 barrels a day. Nigeria’s slowed oil
production is not only due to the agreement to cut production, but also with the ethnic violence and unrest that plagues the country. Since gaining

its freedom from the UK in 1960, Nigeria has been under military rule for 27 of its 37 years. Disturbances, such as sabotage, have occurred in
many areas of the oil-producing Niger River Delta.The disruptions in production, which have always been frequent, but usually short, have
intensified lately. Supposedly much of the trouble in the area is caused by the demand for justice and fair treatment by the Ijaw which is one of

Nigeria’s largest ethnic group after the Hausa-Fulani, Igbo, and of course everyone’s favorite the Yoruba.
Most of Nigeria’s oil is exported to the United States and Western Europe. Asia has become an increasingly large destination for Nigerian
oil, but recent economic problems have hindered the expansion. In 1998 Nigeria exported an average of 697,000 barrels per day to the United

States. In July of 1998 the government adopted new guidelines for the movement of there oil. These changes were made in hope of solving the
problems of abuse. The new guidelines draw four categories of companies that will be allowed to export oil: Upstream investors who have
acquired oil-prospecting licenses and who have completed a minimum amount of work on the concession; companies that have built an export-

refinery in Nigeria; bona fide end users how own a refinery or retail outlet abroad; established and globally recognized large volume traders. All of
these guidelines were put into effect in an effort to organize what has been for the most part, a poorly run operation.
Nigeria has four refineries that have a combined capacity of 438,750 barrels per day. However, problems from fire sabotage as well as

poor management hinder the actual amount of output. Because of these refining problems, Nigeria being as rich with oil as it is, actually has had
fuel shortages. For the most part Nigeria has had strict regulations on the importation of petroleum products, but because of the fuel shortages the
government has deregulated petroleum imports, which has helped with the problem.
The fuel shortage problem troubles Nigeria’s land. Manufacturing companies cut production because of lack of fuel. Many men are unable

to get work, either because they have no transportation, or are unable to afford fuel, which leads to the loss of a significant amount man-hours.
Flights are often cancelled because of the scarcity of fuel for aviation. In October of 1998, more than 700 people were killed while they were
scavenging for fuel from a burst pipeline after a spark ignited the gasoline. The incident was attributed to vandals who broke a pipeline in an effort

to steal fuel. The Nigerian government now imposes strict laws against anyone found harassing pipelines. New policies have been enacted in an
attempt to fight the countries fuel problems. The Federal Petroleum Monitoring Unit was established in November of 1998 to oversee the
petroleum distribution in the country. Basically the body ensures that oil distributed domestically goes where it is supposed to, and not to

unauthorized locations. In December that same year, fuel prices more than doubled from 11 Naira to 25 Naira.
Nigeria is certainly a country on the rise, and a country that is definitely trying to grow. In February of this year elections where held to
elect a president and in May a civilian president will take control. Hopefully if the people stick together all of the countries oil problems will be

resolved, and in the long run will make Nigeria stronger.


The Ogoni Footnote:
Part of where oil was rich in Nigeria were the Ogoni lands. In 1993, 300,000 Ogoni marched peacefully to demand a share in oil revenues

and some form of political autonomy. They had formed an organization called MOSOP (Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People), and they
also asked the oil companies to begin environmental remediation and pay compensation for past damage. They are a minority and felt that they
were not being given their human rights, and they were being tortured just so the country could make money off the oil that was on their land.

This started a lot of opposition from the government, and the leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa was imprisoned on several occasions. In November
of 1993, General Sanni Abacha took over the government, and this was when the real trouble started for the Ogonis. The military started
terrorizing Ogoniland with arrests, rapes, executions, burnings and lootings. It is believed that the Shell oil company was working with the
government, and this is part of the reason why there are many protests worldwide to boycott Shell. In May 1994 Saro-Wiwa was abducted from
http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 51 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

government, and this is part of the reason why there are many protests worldwide to boycott Shell. In May 1994 Saro-Wiwa was abducted from

his home and jailed along with other MOSOP leaders and charged with the murder of four Ogoni leaders.
By this time, the world was involved in the issue, and dismissed these charges as fraudulent. While Ken Saro Wiwa was in detention, he
was denied legal or medical help, and he had 4 heart attacks while in jail. On October 31, 1995, the military government tried him and the other 8

people, and found them guilty of the murder of the 4 Ogoni people. The sentence immediately drew an international outcry by concerned persons
and organizations, including Earthlife Africa, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the United Nations, and others. They urged
the government to spare the lives of the environmentalists, and they called on Shell to intervene, but on November 10, 1995, Saro-Wiwa and the

others were executed anyway. Their execution resulted in more international outcry, a lot of which you can read more about on the web, and
Nigeria was almost immediately suspended from the Commonwealth.

OPIN IRINAJO

Yorùbá Omo Odùduwà

Papers on Yoruba People, Language, and Culture

by

Yoruba Language Program Students

University of Georgia

Compiled and Reviewed

by

Akinloye Ojo (August, 1999)

Athens, Georgia.

===========================================================================

Mo lérò pé e gbádùn un àwon èrò inú u àwon bébà wònyí. E seun.

E kúusé O

Akinloye Ojo@1999

[1]
Equivalent to Christian God.
[2]
The topic of John Mbiti’s Concepts of God in Africa is the discussion and exposition of traditional African beliefs.

[3]
Awolalu, J.Omosade,Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites, London: Longman Group Limited, 1979, pg. xiii.

[4]
Awolalu, pg. xiii.

[5]
Awolalu, pg. xiii.

[6]
Mbiti, pg. xiii.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 52 of 53
Yoruba Omo Oduduwa 10/22/09 11:11 PM

[7]
see note 1.

[8]
Awolalu, PP 11-12.

[9]
Awolalu, PP 12-18.

[10]
Mbiti, pg. 161.

[11]
The entire creation story can be located in Awolalu’s work that has been cited on pp. 12-13.
[12]
Awolalu, pg. 15.

[13]
Awolalu, pg. 16.

[14]
Awolalu, PP 20-33.

[15]
see Shango in the New World by William Bascom.

[16]
Barnes, Sandra T., Africa’s Ogun : Old world and New, 2nd ed., Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997, pg. 78.

[17]
Awolalu, pg. 37.

[18]
Awolalu, PP 41-48.

[19]
Scleicher, Antonia Yetunde Folarin, Je K’ A So Yoruba ,New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993, pg. 130.

http://www.uga.edu/aflang/YORUBA/ODUDUWA.htm Page 53 of 53