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               . YORUBA SOCIETY-'
               THE OWOEXPERIENCE

                                                                                          E. O. Babalola*

I. 'Introduction ,
     , I wishtci open this paper with ~nextraCt from ldowu'stheiiS which goes thus:-
       , ~'However, the real keynote of the life of the Yoruba is neither in their noble,
, ancestty nor in. the past deeds of their heroes; The keynote of their life is their
  religion. In all things, they are religious. Religion forms the foundation and the all-
  governing principle of life for them. As,far as they are concerned, the full respon-
  sibility ofall the affairs of life belongs to the Deity; their own part in the matter is
  to do as,they areordered through the priests and diviners when they believe to be the
  interpretersof thewill of the deity. Through all the circumstances of life,tbrough all
  its changing scenes, its joys and troubles, it is the Deity who is in control. Before a
  child is born, the oracle is consulted and due rites observed; when the child is born,
  the oracle gives directions aboutit, at every stage of life - puberty, betrothal,
  marriage, taking up a career, building a house, going on ajourneyand,in fact, the
  thousand and one things which,make up human existence here on earth - man is
  in the hands of the Deity whose dictate is law; and who is waiting on the other side
  of this life to render to him as he deserves".1
     The relevance of this portion is found in the fact that before the Owo indigenes
could lay their hands on any economically ' viable project, it must receive the
sanction of the deity2 and hence it becomes obvious at this point that religious and
economic activities are intertwined for the people. It is high time we note the
importance of these ,two themes - religion and economy. In order to achieve a
considerable result in the Society there should < a balance between the >
                                                      be                          two.
Otherwise, the Society asawhole may be put into a state of inconvenience. In order
to achieve the intention of this paper and thus creating a balance between the two
themes an important theoretical framework must be used; In the light of this; all the
religious phenomena that are relevailt to this topic in Owo traditional society willbe
examilled in the light of the various economic theories. With this type of theoretical
framework and methodology the impact ofreligion on the economy of the people
will beuncovetedand thus we will be able to strike a balance.between the two.
    In 'd1e light of the above; thefolIowing religiOllsthemes such as religious
images ,.and terra ,cotta, festivals, sacrifice, rites of passages, .role ,of ,traditional
craftsm~n, healing; ~tc. will be observed. They wiUconsequently be given a

• E.,o. BabiJoIais ~ Profc:soor in Religious, Studies Dcp~ent, Obafemi Awalowo Univemity.Nigc:ria.


phenomenological and socio-cultural investigation in the light of relevant economic
theories. 3
n.   The Owo Yoruba Traditional Society
     Owo, the headquarters of Owo Local Government, is forty-eight kilometres east
of Akure, the Ondo State Capital and four hundred kilometres northeast of Lagos,
the former Federal Capital of Nigeria. The town spreads over an area of about twelve
square kilometres and according to the Nigerian census of 1963, is (80,413) eighty
thousand, four hundred and thirteen.4
     The town lies on latitude 70.15' North of the equator and Longitude 50 35' East
of the Greenwich Meridian,S
     However, the vast majority of the people of Owo Kingdom are of Yoruba
descent and a sub~group of Ondo State. They too claim to have originated from Ife
thefItst home of the Yoruba people; nevertheless they have some strongly marked
Benin influence in their cultural activities. So apparent has been the Benin influence
that many writers have been tempted to suggest that the whole area must have been
subject to Benin Civilization.6
     The kingdom ·of Owt> .occupied a large area. They inhabit nine major towns.
These are Owo, Idasen, Iyere, Usuada, Emure ne, Uso, Amurun, Upenmen and
Upele. The people in all these towns and villages speak the same dialect except those
in Us<> and Emure ne, who because of their proximity to Ekitiland, speak a dialect
similar to that of the Ekiti.
     The people are predominantly farmers who plant yam, cassava, cocoyam,
maize, beans and vegetables for local consumption. Crops grown are cocoa, kola and
cotton. Apart from farming, both men and women engage in weaving of traditional
cloth known asAsIw Oglw. Tbeirpolitical organisation is structured on monarchical
    With this socio-culturiU background of the Owo indigenous society we shall
proceed to examine the place of religious images and tenacotta.
m.Religious Images And Terracotta
      It·is important to note that there are various religious images and terracotta
among theOwo indigenes.·Images abound for nearly all the divinities such as Ogun,
Esu etc. At the same time there are beautiful face masks for the Eguogun. Shrines
and temples abound for these panoply of divinities and are beautifully decorated. A
typical egungun in Owottaditional society consists of various aesthetic apparatus
which are as follows - bealitiful.feathers, different forms ·of mirrors, velvet ma-
terials used in covering the body and a beautifully decorated walking staff.' In the
present mode of Nigeria where inflation is known to be biting very hard, all these
things are diffIcult to come by. ·Statistics show that the egliogun has reduced in
number because the cost of the materials used by them has seriously increased.· At
the' sainetime, ttaditionalsculptors abound in the land since the people are interested
in preserving the various images of the gods and godd~ worshipped in the land.
This tendency of preserving various images has created job opportunities for many
people in.the land.' Temples and shrines are being modernised10 and this has caused
a lot of expenses for the adherents particularly during the time of festivals. The walls
are painted, electricity has taken the place of clay lamps, corrugated iron sheets have


taken the place of the leaves used formerly in roofmg. Thus indigenous religion has
created a great impact upon the economy of the people.
IV. Traditional Festivals
    It is not the intention of this paper to discuss in full length the various festivals
in Owo traditional society. This is the scope of another work entirely. In this paper,
I shall describe briefly the various festivals and at the same time highlight their
economic implications.
     Many festivals abound in the land and in order of importance, they are (I) Igogo
festival (2) Ern festival (3) Egungun festival (4) Agwe festival (5) Ogun festival (6)
Ogunro festival.
     Festivals are periodic occasions held to commemorate certain activities. They
are so~etimes held to. honour the divinities and departed ancestors. The 0 gunre
festival is an agricultural festival observed during the time of new yam harvest, the
Agwe festival is held to impart charity into the women folk while the/gogo festival
is the Oba's festival held in honour of one of his wives.
     The Igogo festival is held in remembrance of the sudden disappearance of one
of the wives of Ologho. She had disappeared suddenly from theKing's palace
because the remaining Oba's wives broke the taboos which they ought to have kept
in order to retain the wife.
     Since the departure of the wife, the Oracle confirmed that if necessary rituals are
not observed and annual festival held in honour ofthe woman, there will be no peace
and prosperity in Owo.ll This is the genesis of the Igogo festival. During the festival
there should be no drumming of any kind. Women should not put on their head gears
and neither should men put on their caps. A lot of sacrificial elements are involved
in the festival and this is of great economic importance. For instance, Olowo
presents annually to the Aworo 12 one cow, 2 goats, 6 sheep, I dog, 30 cocks etc.
Furthermore he has to produce 200 rats, 200 fish, 200 birds and 200 eggs. To my
mind, the annual repetition of these sacrificial materials is a sort of drainage to the
economic system of the people. In all the festivals, particularly that of the Igogo
festival, the period seems to be an opportunity for the traders and transporters to
make a lot of money since people are drawn from all parts of the world to witness
the festival. This period is a period of a great economic boom for the people.
    Concerning the Ero traditional rite, it has a long .history in the religious and
social life of the people of Owo and several stories are told concerning its ongin.
According to one version its introduction dated back to the 19th Century when a man
called 'Baba Akete' who was installed the fIrst Ojumu13 of Owo brought the
ceremony into the town.
     Another version of the story indicated that the above named rite started during
the reign of Oba Elewuokun who was one of the most loved and respected Olowo.
He became the Olowo of Owo in about 1791 AD. He had the strongest inclination
to imitate the Oba of Benin, hence he introduced the superfluous beaded dresses and
he was styled Elewu okun (meaning the owner of beaded gown). The above rite was
said to have been initiated by one of his slaves who clearly deviced a system of a new
type of weaving cloth known as girijo. Since the scope of this paper is limited, I will
n~t go deeper into some of the activities, I shall leave such for another work with a


 largerscope~ However, at thisjuncture, weshallexamine the economic implication
 of the ero festival.
      The emphasis of economic activities of the people ofOwoisdefinitely onhatd
 work.14. They believe that food, shelter.8Ild clothings ar~ . tlu"ee.basic ~ecessities
 which can beqbtainedby workiJl$ hard~ It is imllOrtant'to .note .that. tllelJl0rality ()f
 WlJrtcmg~8fdjn apaiticlllar ~ety imJ)~es that \yhe~onegets .o.~certainage, Qne
 has to rest..The'philosophy behind thepeIformance of this rite is.tqmake o~ework
 hard when one is. young. This is because Owo society is not meant fot indolent
 people.                  .
        A~grY :irJlportant attivitY~iafudwiththe En) is that tIle 'ceiebran{m~st
  harvest the crops on his farm on a particular given day.1S The larger 'the' crops
  harVested, the more qUalified he becomes. Hence,before a candidate is initiated into
  Ero, .he must have established himselCand must not bedependent.1 6 No room for
  laziness, the people are reputed for.theirindustry.ltis important to note:however,
  thatthe period also creates a businessbOOrn for many people; Drivers of commercial
  vehicles inflate the fare because oCthe many spectators at Erowhich usually takes
  place the same , time with the IgogoJestival.
                    .• :--.-. ---' -.,'= :-,                 :
                                                        ,--, : : ,

        The Egung,in on,the othethand fan be said to be an overt means of remember-
  ing the ahcestorsPTheword egungun in the singular number.means the spirit of a
  deceased ancestor. IS Egungun has its basis in thestrong .beliefofthe Yoruba that
  d~thisnot rne. ert~Of Dlan, . th~ thqsewhCl departt".d,froID thisearth in consequence
 or   the >p~eJl,qnltmq~at1led . deathbave only. gon~to live in Jinoth.er "wqr1d", the
 ."AfterLife" arid that.thereis a spiritual link\)etween the'deCeased8Ild those who al"e
 stillO~, earth.19 Coilsequently fommunion and clJm~unication. m~st . \)e.miU~tlined
  bet\V~n the tw~nvor1d$~fJtreUlainsforllle 'toSaytha~>the Cult ofegu~gu~ h~ C<?Ule
  ~ staY~lJng th~Ow<tY~b~..There' ar~ di.ff~rent . types and.they . re.·. egung~n            a
  C.fl,a,21ag"ebi.':':tangala,~alodo,ko,'14Jamja,~ ~egun ! 26 etc. Apartfrom being an
  qvert ,m~s of remembiringthe ancestofs,.thereis the egungun festival. inOwo
  which connotes .a pe~Od 'oUestiy.-itY:angJ6cundity ,and .~ence. of ~great~on()Ulic
  iJllportance.27, "')'                    ...... "',' ...... .... , , ' . ' . . ." .' ... . ' ........... •
          "-   "   -   -   "-   -   .                      - . " " ..•... ', .;.

       Tbe;Agwefestivalis a .festival of ethical purity 'andchastity~ongyoung
 unm3rrled ladies.~ .Thisfestival belongs strictly to the people ofUlale'Oko in Owo.
 It isbeing . ~elebratedoncein eight years but this interval has now been'reduced to
 f9urY~· 'J'ht; tlC9JX)JIlicimJ)qI!an~bere i~ that a lot qf IJlQn~y is being\Y8;Sted now
 thatthe festival.isceleb!atedonce in f()Ur yearsinstead ofe~ghty~.. . " ' . .
     . OguiI festiVal29 which is a divinity festival in honour of Ogun pull a large crowd
 fromeverywhereaiId the OgtlIll'O festival on the other hand is an agricultUral festival
 celebrated during theyam harvestperiOd.'o                        .
      From the acccountsof.these different.festivals"qne thing.becomes obvious and
 that is, festival periOdsareperiqd$0f economic boom. People seize the opportunity
 to make:a lot ofmoneyinthe~business of selling and servicing; '                 -'
. . . . . At tbis,; J>Omt,wes~aU~Xaniin~d.te',S6rifept of Sacrillce~()ngth~ 'pe,6ple aIld
   itsecqnomic~plicatiol'lfor the SocietY; : '           . ' .. ...     , . " . . .. .


v. SacrificeAndSacrificilll Objects
   A   The intention of this section iSl10t to go into full details {jf what 'sacrifice is but
to examine the economic implication of sacrificial materials found in' the environ-
ment in which the people live. I wish to further contend.that sacrificiarmaterial~are
 sometimes difficult to come by and wheretheyareavailable,theyrnaybesoldat
 every exorbitant price for the sacrificer.'l An exampleoHxpensive sacrific~ is that
 of propitiation. This is known as Ebo Etutu - . Sacrificeof Appeasemene'. Usually,
 this sacrifice is prescribed by the oracle or an orisain.reply to an enquiry as to what
 can bedone to save the situation during a crisis like.an epidemic. famine, 'drought,
 or serious illness.3ZWhen this sacrifice involves a whole community, it ~an be a very
 expensive undertaking .as .· the prescription may involve up to .twohundredeach of
 several articles animate or inanimate or up.to a total or twohuridred and-one· of
 several articles put together. With an individual, it maybe as little .~ a (owl 'ona
 pigeon, or as much as a four-footed animal with some other articles added to it In
 the old days, a human offering used to be the main feature.of the. sacrifice. A
.sacrifice may S()metimes be.too. expensivefor an individual when it com~s . to the
 feeding ofalotofptl()ple}3Somepeople have to borrow such money tobe .able to
 prepare thesacrifice~
                    .             .        - _.

 vi.. Rites6r PassageS.In Owo Traditional ComJrillJ,lity
      In African Traditional Religion,religion precedes a man before he is born into
 the world, accompanies himthrough the stages oflife andfollows him even after his
 physical departure from .the world 34
      As Van Gennep,35 a DlllCh SchoIar(1908) rightly pointed out, that the lives of
 individuals and families there are important eveIitswhich have religious associa~
 ~ns..  'I'he~;n'e \yhat he cIllled ''rites of passa~e" or"t.radi~ollalrites" .'I'hey involve
 t:ransitionfrQ~()~e stage of life to another. Jmp<>rtant 'aJIlp~g these Stag~ pflife/lCe
 fArnilYlife. .'; '. burial , "".               these .. •.•. " , • •. •. . ' .•• ••.....;
 birth, marriage and '.' .. •ceremonies;' ..... . '.' ' J. are the .SacramentS.of personal' . and

       In.the life .of f:he()\Vo Yorn.b i,.~g rites; m~age ri~ .and .~~ rites ate
y~ry important:tl1ey hav~alqt of econolilicin:lp~ica~pns an<1:. ~~~ce. ~ yer)r reI~v~t
t9 ,thls topi9. Th~people a~~ ~lot ofimp<>rum(;~ t(>childre~ . ~d child~l>irt1t. Q~nRe
W;~ following sayings amq~gthepeople ~m~apposi~ __()~lase '. 'c~il~h are
c1othes" ~ Omolere'·chil<lr.~n are profi~". Omo"ltzw0raneni ·.~ "c~ildre!i       one'sare
image"; Anybody inthesociety who is childl~sismore or less a.>castout InJh~
 light of the above, whenever they give birth, the occasion is exceSsively ceIebi'ited.36
       Inthe#~yein.ll1~ge~olllesifnppi11mt~f.ltj~~TPifth·IfiS<>b,yiO~~. that
~s mu~t9om~ first beforepiji1d~birth.P~pl~ \yho .~fuseto·m~in th~s9Ci~ty are-
not~konedwith . .m,.               .owo·tradition~S()(:i~ty ,!ll01l6~amY is not welcQm~.37:rhey
arettaditionally polY~amOl,ls and the .many :wivesmarried..is aprqc>f that one is
socialJyafi1ueOt'inth~ .societY.At the . ame time~ th~lllbOm,: energydrriv~ frqni th~
h~elIlof",ives. ~.,. used as ll\ypfkjng'foree ip. tl1~4"fllCffis D:ts~c.l. of goi~g . q1J~i4~ the
{~ily. t() r~wit,Jabo~.· . rI'()IIltl1~.foregpi~g~ysis'lIlamag~~. ~religiql1~ fp~9~"~"s
AA' ' economic :r:oletoplayjnthe "SQ!;iety... · .
. 'i '  -: ;, -' , - '
        .~             . ' ,'," " _ ",' - ; " " "',' - - , -
                                                                       " .,          . ., .
  ··· , Before putting an end to the rites of passages, the plaCe ofdeath IUld bUrial rites
will 00 briefly observed; weSt Afriean>      people believe that Ufehereon.earth ,is not
interminable.38 They hold that sooner or later, the inevitable phenomenon called


 death will come upon man, who is only a sojourner on God's earth.39 No matter how
 long a person lives, death must come as a necessary end.
     .Associated with death among the Owo Yoruba is the fmal ceremony considered
 very necessary ,whether performed on the same day as the flrst burial, on the seventh
 day, on the fortieth day or on another suitable day.40 Since this ceremony is elaborate
 and expensive, it is usually postponed to a later date ranging between three months
 and several years; The more affluent the survivors are, the earlier·they will perform
 this ceremony.41 The degree of spending during this time is indicative of the wealth
 of the family: The expenses are so heavy that the relatives sometimes have to resort
 to borrowing, and some people usually ,run into debt that they are unable to defray
 for many years. There are cases of those who lease out their landed properties for the
 purpose of performing this flnal ceremony.42
 VU. The Role Of Traditional Craftsmen
      While discussing the place of religious images and terracotta above, the role of
 traditional craftsmen becomes obvious. In Owo local community; they are referred
 to as agbata -or a gbe ata i.e. "one who carves ata" - a type of tree suitable for
 carving pwposes.43 In some cases they are called a gbe re or agbeere -"one who
 carves images". In the community some of these images have religious implications
 as explained above. The images may be describing a particular divinity or one's
 ancestor or a particular Oba. 44 All these have religious implications and some of
 them are being sold at very high prices. Through this profession,very many indi-
 viduals have been able to-enrich their pockets. A particular example is the late Chief
 Akeredolu of Owo. He specialised in all types of carvings.4s
 VDI. HealingAndlts Economic Implication
     It is important to note that healing is so important to the extent that people are
 ready to seek it by all means. It occupies a prime position in the life of the .society.
 Among the people, health and longevity      areuppermost in their minds and they are
 ready to utilise whatever means by which such good things are available.46
       Inthlssbc:tiontJtepaper is not giving the mOdus operaTldi of healing as such but
 will .· examine the ecoDQQlic·. implications .of healing .among .the . people . .There are
 different types of s~cknesses andwflfiDities l'I:Ulging fro~ theordinarytothe com-
 plex. By my 0\Vn nomenclature, the ordinary includes .fever. cold etc. and the
 co~plex . ones include madness; epilepsy, mental sicknesses and other incurable
 diseases by western oriented doctors.
    .               .-     -.
       'What is.important to note here is that these Of(¥ary infrrmities are easy to cure,
  and the expenses are not as bighas expected; but the complex ones 8(e not and where
. they seem to be curable the client will use nearly all hisJortuneas payment the   to
  ~ditional dOctor.47 TheJamilyofthe client may even go into debt in order to be able
  to pay the doctor and if theY8fellOt . ble to get the m()ney, it means that the client
  mllst re~ain .in the co~pound of the traditional doctor. In this wise, the traditional
  dOctor will begin to employ the l$>ur of the former~ithout giving him any wageS.
  He may make use of him in the fanD to do some work and this ,c~ be for m,an~ y~
  until the family of the client is able to pay the debt48 All these are ofgreat economic
  burden. DUring the time when the victim was sick as an epileptic or asa mad person,
  he-would automatiCally stop functioiling, thereby becoming unproductive. This]s a


decrease in the labour force and a fall in the total productivity of the community.
However, after he is healed he ~s known to perform some duties without being paid.
He is not the only one. All other clients who are unable to pay their debts must
follow suit. The larger the number, the greater the labour force .available to the
traditi(}nal dOCtor and hence an increase in his agricultUral productivity. This is ,of a
great economic 'importance.
     However, after settling the debts the clients can return to his own house and start
     From the foregoing, we notice that healing is a great religious concept which is
of a vital economic importance to the society in the sense that it makes the produc-
tivity graph to suffer a great oscillation.49 Hence, ·they say "ilera loro" (health is
wealth) . .
IX. Social Change And The Impact Of The Indigenous Religion On
     Yoruba Economy
.,' . When it comes to healing, everybody anxious to r~eivei~ anywhere. One is
not tied to the.apron string of bis religion. Healing can be claimed from indigenous
doctorS, Muslim clergymen or the Aladura charistmatic prophets. ' At this point,
religious c(}operation becomes more important than doctrinal differences. In this
multi-religious environment, the client will be able to make a choice where he will
be able to pay his bill.sO
     Secondly with the introouctioll of Western medicine and the availability of
hospitals, most of these tr.eatments . become . cheaper and ' h~nce the victims are
rescued from the great financial burdens which they had experiellced with the
traditional doctors.sl
         .                  .       '   - --                -.            ..

     Itis important to note that both clinics (traditional and scientific), are useful in
the exercise of healing. Since healing in indigenous religion is holistic, Western
medicine may not be able to take charge of all these responsibilities. Western
medicine may be able to make use of laboratory apparatus to effect somehealings.
Healing to the indigenous man still includes peace of mind with the ancestors,
attaining good morals and having a good relationship with God and man. All these
cannot be achieved by laboratory procedures and hence a marriage of convenience
between the two will help in maintaining a good result· In the light of this, no

monopoly of any kind will be experienced and this will enable the society to obtain
healing at a fairly cheaper rate.
X. Continuity And Discontinuity In Yoruba Religion Vis-A·Vis Economic
   Policies In The Society
     It is important to,note at this point that some aspects of the indigenous religion
of the Owo traditiorialsociety have been discontinued and that the proclivity is not
necessarily towards religiosity but towards effectivecommercia1isation of resources.
  '" The fact .that the.people are r~ligiousis quiteglaring . .There ,is the belief in . he
Supreme Being who isili,e creator of Man and.the Universe. He does not onlycteate
the universe He also suswns and controls it. His theoCraCy is established among the
people by making use of the panoply of deities which areannuaIly or.biennually


     The Owo ttaditional ·society believes that these deities could be worshipped
individually or communally in order to enhance their economic position in the
     Th~ roleoftlteancestorsin promoting the econorniccondition is noticedamong
the people. They are venerated So that their cooperation could be secured. Among
the people, Ori is worshipped since it is believed that if the cooperation of Ori is not
sought, people's progress could be hindered. In order to secure this cooperation and
to know the necessary sacrifice to be offered, Ifa is consulted. Ifa is the deity in
charge of wisdom ·and knowledge.
      Through him, whatever lies in the destiny of individual is uncovered and if there
is need, necessary alteration could be made.
      This is the religious world of the economic aspect of the traditional Yoruba..It
remains for the author however,to remark that the tendency in this age of modernity
and social change is towards hard work, commercialisation and effective manage- .
mentofresourc~. Prior to this time, the religiosity of the Yoruba encouraged that
some forest funds and rivers.should be reserved pennanently to honour some deities.
It is a religioUs offence to make use of them for any other purpose. Such lands and
forests·in most cases are known to be very fertile while the fIshes in such rivers are
of a sizeable nature. .. .                                 .
     In this age ofagricultural and economic investment the emphasis is on farming
in order to produce much food for the increasing number of people in the Owo
community. The idea of preserving lands, forests an~ rivers for deities and hence for
religious purposes has been discontinued. With this .discontinuity in the religious
practise, the economy of the people has improved considerably.
   However, some festivals . ike the Igogo, Ogun,Ogunre, Agwe are still observed
among the people and m.eir economic signifIcance has beenhighlightid above. .
   It is however, important to note that the emphasis is on hard work. The lazy ones
are-knowD;" s:·                                                                                  ~.   :
                                             Ole alapamasis~
                                         A jegborodagba
                                  the lazy oneswhocannptwork .
                              the lazy ones that wander about
          Another proverb to discourage laziness goes thus:-
                             Ojo ere oun oran dun olee
                  The .lazy ODeS are sad on the day of accounting.
     The explanation of this proverb is that while everybody,goes to work; the lazy
person does noL On the day when a hard working person IS getting the results for his
hard ~ork (profIt if a busin~s man ami harvestitlg of crops if a farmer) the lazy man
is known to be unhappy since,:-he would have n9thing to harvest.
  "   ,    '   ;  ,"- ..
                   ," .   -   ,   ....   -   . : ::.   ' ,'         ';
                                                                         ",'   -.
                                                                                 .. '   .. ; ;

    .Finally, it was believed that a person could be devout and at the same time face
his occupation with all serioUsness. A devout but lazy person was condemned; A
man must work, try his best and then rely on the supernatural for blessings. A perSon


  who propitiated the divinities without working hard was doomed, as a popular
· saying conveniently shows: 51
                             Ise 1li 00gun ise
                                 Eniti ise nse
                              Ko ma bOrisa
                            . Oran Iw lean toosa
                              Ibaa borisa .
                            .Ibaa bo Obatala
                             Odijo to ba sise aje Iw to jeunSJ
           Work is thellledicine for poverty
       .whOever is poor
           let him not wo~hip the divinities
           Nothingconcerns the divinities .'
           He '~ay wo~tlip the di~inities .
    ' -.
           He lJlay worship Obatala
           '   .'   -   -    •     i   -   .   •

     .It is not until he does a profitable job that he would eat.
 XI. Condusion
      The above is a suryey of the economic impact of indigenous religion upon th~
 Owo people. -The Owo Yo~ba traditional Society. images and terracotta, traditional
 festival. sacrifice and sacrificial rites and obj~ts havebee~observed..'J11e economic
 implication of the ' aforementioned was discussed. Healing.and .heaIthamorig the
 peopie together with the role of traditional healers arid Western oriented doctors
 were noticed.'Their economic significance was also highlighted.                    ..
       Sin~e no reliiion is Stltic, it haS been argued in this worlc tharsolll~ aspeCts of
  the indigenous religion have been discontinued while Soine were retained. This
  actually affects the economy of the people. The people thoughare.religious; the shift
· of the emphasis is towards hard work and laziness is discouraged by the citizens.
      Now that some members of the community have embraced the new religions,it
 is important to arglle that their conversioninto the new religions does not make them
 to be lazy. For iristance the Christians have their'Sabbath on Sundays where no work
 of any typeisencouraged.Throughout the week the Christians are known to go to
 their pIaeesof work. Among the Muslims·the Friday J UJIiaa prayer service is being
 attended by everybody and immediately after the prayers the .people alsoretum to
 their places of work.
       In the light of this, it is seen that though ~ the peopleare ·religious, they do not
  allow their religion to make them lazy. This applies to everybody .in the society-
  Muslims, Christians and the adherents of the indigenousreligiol1: The author there-
  fore opines that the indigenous religion of the Owo Yoruba emphasises hard work
· despite the incursion of Islam and Christianity.                     ,_ '


1. E.B. Idowu, Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief (London: Longmans, 1966),
   p. 5. This points to the extent of the religiosity of the people.
2.   This deity is Ifa Ifa among the people is the great overseer. 'Whatever is not
     sanctioned by the divinity should not be embarked upon.
3. Relevant economic theories are factors affecting the labour force of a particular
   community. For instance, if too many people are sick, the labour force will be
   reduced and productivity will therefore be on the decrease.
4.   See M.B. Ashara, The History ofOwo, (unpublished manuscript), p. 41.
5. Ibid. p. 43.
6.   S.A. Akintoye, The Benin Kingdom and the North Eastern District ofYoruba.
     Paper presented to the 14th annual Conference of the Historical Society of
     Nigeria, 1969.
7.   This type of egungun among the people is referred to as egungun Aladoko. They
     are known to be beautifully dressed. It is known today that the cost of these
     materials has arisen greatly and most of the egungun are no more beautifully
     dressed because of inflation.
8. Interview with Chief Asaghe, January 10, 1986 at Uka Street,Owo.This is also
   in agreement with the above submission in reference to no. 10. The price of the
   materials which has greatly increased does not make the egungun to be shabby,
   but has actually led to the reduction of their number.                '
9.   Interview with Pa Ojomo, Owo, January 20, 1986, It must also be noted that
     c~ing is a type of profession whichnobo<iy can just dabble into. It is some-
     times a profession belonging to a particular family. Among the Owo indigenes,
     the Akeredolu family is noted for this profession.
10. Today shrines and temples appear more beautiful than those of the past. Instead
     of using prdiIl81"y clay, ilepa, or the dung of the cow, iwin erenla to smear the
    'walls and tile floor, costly wall paints are being used.        .' '
11. Interview with   M~B.   Asara (Chiet) January 22,1986. Heis a renowned Local
     Historian in Owo.
12. The aworo are the priests. They are dialetically known as aghoro.
13; ' Oj~u is the highest ranking offict next to theOlowo of Owo . .
14. Interview with Pa Ajileja,Owo, May 22, 1986. Many sayings and proverbs on
    "hard work" abound in Owo Community. ,For instance, the people will say -
    Atelewo 'ne e tan nee je -""One's palm cannot deceive one... Another saying
    goes thus:-
                   Use ohunogungun use
                   EneYusebe se
                  .Dumaboisa ,
                  Oran nee kuku kiJntoosa


                 Ko Ice booisa
                 Dubobatala maa
                 o di je ba suse oje
                 "Work is the medicine for poverty
                 Who ever is poor
                 Let him not worship the divinities
                 Nothing concerns the divinities
                 He may worship the divinities
                 He .may even worship Obatala
                 It is not until he does a profitable job
                 That he would eat".
15. Interview with Chief Osowe, Owo, May 23, 1986. He is a recogrlized Great
    Historian in Owo.
16. Ibid.
17. See E.O. Babalola,"Islamin Akoko District from the Inception to the present
    day" M.A. Thesis, University of Ife, 1982, p. 161.
18. Ibid, p. 8.
19. Ibid, p. 9.
20. Ibid, p. 9. It is the belief of the Owo that earthly activities are similar to those
    of the "Afterlife" - hence they will say bene 0 se aye, bee 0 se oron - "the
    activities of this world are similar to those of the "after life".
21. These are the egungun that hail from Uka. Uka is one of the tradicio-ritual
    quarters in Owo.                          .
22. Aghobi is a female egungun. It can be anaIyzed as a-gho-bi - "We look and
    give birth to". It is a child giving egungun that makes women fertile. Barren
    women are noted for entering into Covenant with the egungun and after some
    vows, which they must however pay, the women will become fertile.
23. Tangala is a type of egungun among the Owo noted for singing and dancing.
24. Egungun aladoko have their origin in Ado-Ekiti. They are sometimes called
    egungun Ado. They are always beautifully dressed and are known for dancing
    and singing.
25 .. Ijamja: These types of egungun belong to theyouth. They are always trouble-
  . some and.they Carry very long whips with thelD.
26; Egungun ire on the other hand are known as egungun alaso ..,- Egungun that is
    robed in clothes alone; They do not use palm fronds.


27. Interview with Chief Oludasa, Owo, May 24, 1986. According to him, there is
    Mimu egungun roko i.e. "bringing theegungun to the farm", there is also Mimu
    egungun .wali - i.e. "bringing the egungun to' the City". In each of these
    occasions there is what is known as ase egungun -:- ' "feasts made for the
    egungun". These feasts are lavishly prepared among the ~ple.
28. Interview with Mrs Felicia Oluwalana, Owo, ApJi126, 1986.

29. Traditional festivals abound in Owo Community. Among th,ese are - Ogun
    festival in honour of Ogun, Sango festival in honour of Sango, Egungun festival
    in honour of a deceased ancestor.
30. Ogunro festival is performed annually. Among the indigenes of Owo, it is
    forbidden for anyone to eat the new ,yam before ,the observance of the 0 gunro
    festival. Such an offence will incur the annoyance of the 'earth goddess and it
    can lead to sudden deaths for the people that year or bad harvests in the
    consequent years.
                                 ,   ,

31. Interview with Chief Fagbemi, Owo, April 10, 1986.
32. E.:B. Idowu, Olodumare: God ,in Yoruba Belief (London: Longmans, 1966),
  0'p. 123; , ,           ., ' '     .'.         ,,    " ,'       ,
33. Among the people such sacrifice in feeding a large number of people is known
     as Saraa - this means lavishly feasting a congregation according to the dictates
   , of a particular divinity so as to ward off some calamities.
34. 1.0. Awolalu and P.A. Dopamu West African Traditional Religion (Ibadan: '
    Onibonoje Press, 1979), p. 171.
35. Amold Van Gennep, The Rites of Passage (Chicago; University of Chicago
    Press, 1908), p. 11.
36. Interview with Chief 1.0. Olasupo, Owo; May 10, 1986.
37. Ibid.
38. 1.0. Awolalu and P.A. Dopamu, op.      Cit., p. 253
39. Ibid.
40. Ibid.> '
41. Ibld. '
42. Ibid, p.~2
                    ,                           •    ) A

43. Interviewwith ChiefJ.O.Ogungbemi, Owo, May 10, 1986. ,
44. I came across this information during my field research in Qwo. Mostof these
    images are available in Owo Museum. The same thing operates in the Jgbo
    religious ,world view. Igbouk\vu archeological .findings have ,nQt only thrown
    some light' on the Igbo religioos history but have also valiillltedoral tradi, ions
    on present day Igbo religion. For more detailS on Igbo Art Collection arid its
    religious interpretation see Emefie IkengaMetuh, African,Religions in Western
    Conceptural Schemes. , The Problem of Interpretation (Ibadan: ,Claverianum
    Press, 1985), pp.6ff.


45. He was popularly known as Akeredolu elere- "one who owns ere" i.e. one
    that carves images.
46. J.O. Awololu, Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites (London: Longmans 1981),
47. Interview with Chief M.B. Asara, Owo, May 4, 1986.
48. Ibid.
49. This is as a result of the fact that when people are strong and healthy, they
    become active, thereby increasing the labour force of the society and becoming
    an asset to the society. When they are sick, the labour force is reduced.
50. One of my informants said that during the time he was sick, he tried the
    Babalawo, the Muslim clergymen and the Aladura charismatic prophets. He
    however confessed that the Aladura charismatic prophetsdid'notreceive any
    nioneyfrom hini after his healing whereas the former gave hini a very large bill
    which he was unable to pay. .
51. Interview with Chief Mli. Asara, Owo, May 4, 1986.
52. Toyin Falola, ''Religion, Rituals and The Yoruba Pre-Colonial Domestic-Econ-
   . omy: Myth and Reality",/fe JournalofReligions,Vol. IT December 1982, p. 33.
53. Ibid.