Tuesday, June 1, 2010



I will give a preamble of the course ‘ANTHROPOLOGY AND RELIGION’.
The course anthropology is a study of the primitive societies. Lewis an anthropologist opines that anthropology is the humanistic and scientific study of human existence; hence, it is a study that looks back and examines the way of life of the primitive societies. And it also looks at how the modern society has been able to improve as against the primitive societies. Thus, anthropology uses many methods to study this primitive societies; the field work method, historical method, comparative method, case study method, phenomenological method, speculative method, research method and many more. The discipline anthropology is an important and in evitable one that bring to our knowledge how our society looks like in the past. Like evans-pritchard claims that, getting to know a primitive people in its own community will reveal the uniformities and regularities of social life. Anthropology in another hand, brings to focus the challenges ahead of a society and at the same time let us understand the common sense meaning of other ethnics or culture in which we may call nonsense when we look at them without scrutinizing the basis of such custom and beliefs.

Religion, the central piece of study for anthropology is religion. The term religion don’t have a universal definition, but one thing is clear and that is; it involves man total submission to God or total submission of the creature to the creator. Without this religion is not completely defined. It is important to note that religion is a sub field under anthropology which studies the origin of man.

Wedding ceremony which is also known as marriage, in western societies is about a man and a woman starting a life together and is often done under Gods will. But weddings in Africa are seen more like a way of combining two families together. Even though the African societies have different ways of looking at wedding and marriages they still is constantly influenced by the
Traditional marriage it should be noted is the indigenous marriage ceremony of the African societies that is highly recognized by the primitive African societies (Yoruba). To the African primitive societies, marriage is an essential ceremony as this is a step towards the emergence of a family formation which also holds great importance among the Africans. In African primitive societies, marriage was a ‘must’ and still regarded as a must for all men and women this also include the able and the disabled these varies in different societies or cultures. In the African primitive society, the family is the most sacred and significant institution.
This is also so among the Yoruba who are child centered, ruled by the elderly, and controlled by adults. The family is an effective unit of political control, religious affiliation, resource allocation and assurance of safety. It is also the most effective agent of socialization. The family teaches the first lessons in discipline, personal gratitude and affection.
“Yoruba children in Ibadan, Nigeria Many Yoruba proverbs stress that the dead give birth to the living and the living are responsible for nurturing the children who represents the future.”
The family is where young people are exposed to their first preference and prejudice. Many individuals are involved in a successful marriage ceremony between the spouses. They include both spouses families hence, both families will visit themselves to exchange words on whether the both are interested in putting down their daughter or son for marriage. We also have the kinsmen in the society these individuals are highly involve in the success of marriage in the African context. Thus, before any marriage is considered complete, rituals or rite need to be done or observed and this include; the payment of bride wealth (bride prize) or dowry this must involve the man paying or giving items to the lady and her parent this actually vary from society to society. Also, invocation of the supernatural power to bless the marriage is also an important ritual in the African traditional marriage. At this period generally in the African primitive societies, the ancestors or ancestress of both spouses are involved through liberation and prayers to participate in the marriage ceremony and to bless and protect the union created by the spouses and their families, hence, this is a mandatory religious activity that need to be carried on before the spouse are said to be legally of fully married.
At this point it is important to note that there are different types of marriage in the African primordial societies they include; polygamy, levirate and ghost marriage.
The polygamy form of marriage, to the Africans it is belief that the more wives you have the more wealth you bring on yourself. This belief however vary in different societies but it is held by the Yoruba’s which serve as a case study for this assignment (article).
The levirate form of marriage is found in almost all culture in the African primitive societies, this is a form of marriage whereby the brother of a dead man is compelled to marry the wife of his brother who is now dead.
The ghost marriage is a form of marriage which is found in most part of the country but this varies in different societies.


The carbon date of the Yorubas date far back as 9000BC, while the language Yoruba is reported to have been spoken 4000 years ago.
The traditional marriage of the Yoruba which is a case study at this point is a wide one. Marriage for the Yoruba man or woman is a necessity. As Nathaniel Fadipe noted:
“For a man or a woman who has reached the age of marriage to remain single is against the norms of the Yoruba. Men get married even when they are sexually impotent in order to save either their immediate relatives, as well as to get one to look after their domestic establishment.”(1970, p. 65)
Superlatively, marriage should establish the foundation of the family in which we have earlier stated is a very important institution in African culture. When it does, marriage is a union not only of the two spouses, but the two extended families to which they belong. Marriage is a proof that both spouses are good products and ambassadors of their families. By successfully going through the demanding steps to the Yoruba marriage, the spouses are a good reflection on the quality of character of their families. They have shown restraint as people from good homes and members of the Yoruba culture. But before one is qualified to be married he or she must have reached the adolescent age which the Yoruba mostly refer to as “Balaga”.
In the process of getting married in the primitive Yoruba setting, there are few norms which are in most cases observed and which have, in no doubt, been erased from the culture of the Yorubas.
One of the key practices which is observed, is that before marriage there is always an intermediary which is also known as ‘Alarinna’ in Yoruba language, when a man sees a lady he likes and he intend to marry, instead of the man going to meet or approach the lady he simply send an intermediary to the lady. This intermediary is always a link between the man and woman who are to get married. In most cases the man and woman don’t know each other or have never seen each other it is this ‘Alarinna’ (intermediary) who sees both spouse and pass information from one person concerned to the other. This is a practice that is common during the prehistoric age of the Yoruba; it is an important norm then that it makes each family know about themselves intimately. The intermediary bring to the knowledge of the family of the woman if the man is a capable and worthy person and he also bring to the knowledge of the man’s family if the woman is a worthy and capable person hence, he (Alarinna) visit the two spouses often. One other thing which the intermediary has to do is to investigate the background history of each family and report, if there is any bad records among them he give the information to the family that is more concerned. If the marriage works out well gratitude is always given to the intermediary for linking both families together. But if things work out bad for the couples or spouse the intermediary is always the one to blame and he’s always hated by both families because he brought disgrace to both families. Hence, in the Yoruba a primitive society the intermediary holds a higher ground in marriage and his responsibility is to the see to the success of the marriage between two spouses.
NOTE: In most cases, there may not be need for an intermediary as most families usually choose the man they want their daughter to marry or vice versa, from birth.

In another vein, before the man decides to marry the woman there is always an introduction ceremony which involves the two families; the families of the groom visit the family of the bride with their dowry which must include alligator pepper and kola nut. In the marriage introduction scene there will be the present of ‘baba iyawo’, ‘iya iyawo’, ‘baba oko’, ‘iya oko’ and ‘alaga iduro’ which will stand as a master of ceremony. During this process of marriage some items like yam, kola nut (obi) bitter kola (orogbo) salts Adun, honey (oyin) which they are all symbolic.
Payment of dowry which is also known as bride wealth is one other important norm among the Yoruba; the dowry must include yam, kola nut (obi) bitter kola (orogbo) salts Adun, honey (oyin), alligator pepper etc. if this is not done the family of the lady will not accept the man to marry their daughter. Payment of dowry has to be made before a contract of marriage is reached, but one things is unique about this norm is that so much is not demanded from the man as it is been done now. After this a sacrifice is made which is known in the Yoruba term as “ebo iyawo”. And if it happens that the lady is in any debt, the man has to pay so as to free her from insult, this is the normal norm in the Yoruba traditional marriage.
Thereafter, the family of the bride fixes a date for wedding ceremony proper. On the D-day the two couples wear their native cloth which is known then as “iro and buba” for the lady and “buba and shokoto” for the man.
After the wedding ceremony on the same day one important event need to be noted and that is the woman entry into the home of the man for the first time but before she enters the house of the man, her foot will have to be watched with water and cloth place underneath it, in order to bring success, peace and tranquility into the house. She is mostly accompanied by her friends who sing for her on her way to her husband house and wish her marriage blessings and to wishing her good bye to her husband above(ghost husband), this practice is known to the Yoruba as “ekun iyawo” it is also known as epithalamium is English.
At night that same day after the wedding ceremony the man and woman both ‘mate’, that will be there first love since they began their relationship it is a practice that need to be observed. According to this norms, when inside the room the man mate with the woman to confirm if she is a virgin or not, if he the man finds out that the woman is a virgin he stains an handkerchief with her blood, he carry a calabash filled with fresh palm wine and he take along with him a matches box filled with matches sticks. Villagers are gathered outside waiting to see the couple come out. But if peradventure the lady is not a virgin what the man simple do is come out with an empty calabash and an empty matches box and smash it on the ground at the home of the parent of the lady saying “omo te fun mi korofo ni” this can be translated to English as the daughter you gave me is empty, this act brings ridicule and shame on the family of the lady. After this all he has given to the parent of the lady will be returned back to him, this is a strong norm and belief that the Yoruba hold daring to before they consider any marriage to be successful.

Western societies otherwise known for bringing civilization to Africa, Marriage in this society is understood to bring two people together and form a family. Marriage ceremony among this society is commonly regarded as white gown marriage. It will be of tremendous value if we can bring to lame light the two dominant religions in the western world or societies; Christianity and Islam.
Christianity is one dominant religion in western society that belief in God as the ultimate and Jesus Christ as their savior. Marriage in this religion is conducted in the church and is administered by a minister of God. In this religion it is mandatory for the couples to come to church cooperate; the man wears a suit while the lady wear a white gown mostly.
Islam is another religion that is also introduced by the westerners. This is a religion that belief more in Allah as there God and Mohammed as their one and only prophet. Marriage in this religion is conducted in the mosque. One norms of the Yoruba is also found in this religion as it (Islam) encourages polygamy marriage just like it is been done in Yoruba society or Africa at large.


Western religion has effectively made changes on the practice of the Yoruba traditional marriage both positively and negatively, some out of the many impact include;
1. One of this effects which western religion had on Yoruba traditional marriage is the exclusion of an intermediary in the running of a successful marriage. This is no more found in the practice of Yoruba culture or norms. And also at this present age a man will see a woman which he likes, he just go and approach the lady himself erasing the norm of calling an intermediary to talk to the lady for him.
2. The act of friends leading the wife to her husband house for the first time and washing of the wife foot is no more in existence. As, a woman can stay in a man’s house even before marriage, mostly the lady might be pregnant for the man or may have given birth before the marriage ceremony is conducted. This act is not accepted by Christians this is one similarity between Christian and the Yoruba culture of marriage.
3. The issue of marring a lady as a virgin is no more active, as the issue of love have blinded so many people nowadays and as such it as erase the norms in Yoruba culture. This is possible because the two religions don’t take the issue of chaste a mandatory or hold it strictly as the Yoruba do in the prehistoric period or era.
4. Western religion marriage is meant to connect two individuals together as such emphasis is not place on introducing two families together, this is against the norms of the Yoruba culture which take is as a compulsory issue for the two families to meet before marriage. During the primitive period for the Yoruba without the consent of the two spouses’ families, marriage cannot be carried out but at this era of civilization two couples can get married without their parent knowing or supporting it.
5. One other advantage these religions have on the culture of Yoruba is the freedom to marry anybody one likes, the issue of not marring a lady or a man from one family due to the sin or past history of that family has been lost in tranquility through the doctrine of both religion which preaches forgiveness.
6. One other impact this religions has in one way influence the culture of the Yoruba regarding marriage is the fact that Catholic which is a branch under Christian is known for preventing her priest from getting married. This norm in the Catholic Church is in lieu to the norms of the Africans who take marriage as mandatory.
7. The issue of divorce is rampant now unlike during the primitive period of the Yoruba who really divorce their wife for any reason except if she is found in the act of adultery. Marriage can exceed the highest level of radiance if wise decisions are made by slowing down on the path for divine or spiritual and cultural directions.

In conclusion, it is important for us to note that not all norms or culture as been lost as individuals in the modern state still carry out introduction ceremony before marriage proper. More so, the idea of paying bride wealth known as dowry is still in place but this modern time it is either paid in cash or kind. To conclude this essay I will like to say that civilization as really influenced the norms and culture in the aspect of marriage, in Yoruba culture and societies.

Nathaniel Fadipe- “Yoruba tradition” (1970)

Written by Richard Oluseye Anthony
Social Network: Twitter, Facebook and Google+; @Roluseye