[Note: Chapters X, XI, XII and the Appendix have been omitted from this 





THE portion of the West African coast occupied by the Yoruba-speaking 
peoples is situated in the eastern half of the Slave Coast, and lies between 
Badagry, on the west, and the Benin River, on the east. The extent of sea-
board held by them is thus smaller than that occupied either by the Tshi or 
by the Ewe tribes; but the Yorubas are really an inland people, and it was 
not until the beginning of the present century that they moved to the south 
and colonised Lagos and the adjacent littoral.

The territory now inhabited by the Yoruba tribes is bounded on the west by 
Dahomi, on the south-west by Porto Novo and Appa, on the south by the sea, 
on the east by Benin, and on the north by the Mohammedan tribes from the 
interior, who have within recent times conquered and annexed the Yoruba 
province of Ilorin, and whose territory may now be said to extend southward 
to about 8ș 30' N. latitude. The aggressions of these Mohammedan tribes 
commenced very early in the present century, and it was no doubt this 
pressure from the north that caused the Yorubas to move to the south and 
colonise the seaboard.

Yoruba country at present comprises the following states, or political 

(1) The British colony of Lagos, which covers the whole sea-front between 
the meridian of the Ajarra Creek and the Benin River, and has absorbed the 
former native kingdoms of Appa, Pokra, Badagry, Lagos, Palma, Lekki, Ala, 
hin, Ogbo, and Jakri.

(2) Ketu. This is the western state. It is bounded on the west by Dahomi, on 
the south by Porto Novo, and on the east by Egba. Its northern limits are 

(3) Egba. It lies east of Ketu and south-west of Yoruba proper. Its capital 
is Abeokuta, " Under the Rock."

(4) Jebu. This is the south-eastern kingdom, and is divided into two 
provinces, called Jebu Remo and Jebu Ode. Jebu Ode has for its capital a 
town of the same name, that of Jebu Remo is called Offin. The river Odo Omi 
is considered the north-western boundary of Jebu, and, roughly speaking, the 
territory of the Jebus may be said to extend inland to a distance of some 
fifty miles from the lagoon.

(5) Ekiti Tribes. These tribes, which form a confederation, lie to the 
north-east of Jebu Ode.

(6) Ibadan. It lies north of Jebu Ode.

(7) Yoruba proper. This kingdom, whose capital is Oyo, lies to the north of 
lbadan and Egglxt, and towards the west its boundary trends southward to 
within some twenty-five miles of Abeokuta.

(8) Ijesa, capital Ilesa. This state is situated to the sbuth-east of Yoruba 

(9) Ife, capital of the same name, lies south-west of Ijesa.

(10) Ondo. This kingdom, capital Ondo, is situated south-east of Ife.

In addition there are several small states, or rather independent townships, 
consisting of a town and a few outlying villages. The principal are Egbado, 
Okeodan, Ado, Awori, and Igbessa, all of which lie south of Egba. Their 
inhabitants are Egbados, or Southern Egbas (Egba-odo, Egbas of the coast).

The inhabitants of all these states speak one language, the, Yoruba. They 
are called Nagos by the French, and by the English are named after their 
political divisions, as Egbas, Ibadans, Jebus, &c.

The lagoon system, which in the last volume of this series was noted as 
commencing a short distance to the west of the Volta River, on the Gold 
Coast, extends along the whole sea-front of the territory occupied by the 
Yoruba-speaking tribes, and affords a continuous waterway from Porto Novo to 
Benin. The extension of the continent in a southerly direction, which was 
mentioned in the last volume as typical of the western half of the Slave 
Coast, and which may doubtless be attributed to the action of the Guinea 
current in closing with sand the openings to former indentations which 
existed in the coast-line, is also equally noticeable in this the eastern 
half of the Slave Coast; and, generally speaking, the country is open, flat, 
and devoid of stones. Jebu is an excep tion, being thickly forested; but it 
appears that less territory has been won from the sea south of Jebu, and 
cast of Lagos generally, than in the districts to the west, between Lagos 
and Dahomi. To the east of Lagos the old coast-line seems to have been 
almost conterminous with the northern shores of the Kradu and Lekki lagoons, 
and the water-way which connects them by way of Epi, while to the west it 
appears to have trended back northwards bevond the lagoons of Oluge and 
Porto Novo. It is only after crossing the narrow lagoon or creek called the 
Ajarra Creek, which runs in a convex curve from the Porto Novo lagoon to the 
Okpara, that stones are found in the soil; and about twenty miles to the 
west of this there appears to have been at one time a great bay, the 
northern limit of which was the Ko, or Great Marsh, of Dahomi, thirty-five 
iniles from the present coastline. The dotted line in the accompanying map 
shows the probable position of the ancient coast-line between the Volta 
River and Lekki.

Northward of the old coast-line the Yoruba country rises very gradually in a 
succession of low-lying plateans. traversed by a few lines of low hills, or 
undulations in the groand; but a chain of mountains, whose general direction 
is east and west, extends, at about eight degrees north latitude, from 
Dahomi to the northern border of Ijesa, where the country is rugged and 
difficult. Isolated and densely-wooded hills, from 800 to 1,200 feet high, 
are also found in Ife and Ondo.

In some parts, as at Sakiti, north of Ajarra, and at

Abeokuta, isolated masses of granite afford evidence of great denudation. In 
fact the whole western coast of Africa, between the Isles de Los, seventy 
miles north of Sierra Leone, and Lagos, and probably beyond those limits, 
shows traces of an enormous denudation. The table-topped Kofiu Mountain, 
which rises sheer from the plain north of the.-Melikuri River to a height of 
2,000 feet, is the sole remnant of a vast cap of sandstone that doubtless at 
one time covered the whole of that part of the country; and the Krobo 
Mountain, an isolated and precipitous mass, 800 feet high, situated in the 
Krobo plain on the Gold Coast, together with the table-topped mountains with 
vertical cliffs in the Ataklu district, to the north of the Quittah (Keta) 
lagoon, will probably, when geologically examined, prove to be other 
vestiges of the same sandstone formation.

Of the early history of the Yoruba-speakino, peoples nothing is known, 
except what can be gleaned from Dalzel's "History of Dahomey," 1793, from 
which it would appear that, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, all 
the different tribes were united, and were ruled by a king who resided at 
Old Oyo, sometimes called Katunga. The kingdom of Yoruba also seems to have 
been more powerful than the other two great African kingdoms, Dahomi and 
Ashanti. Between 1724 and 1725 the King of Yoruba espoused the quarrel of 
the King of Ardra, whose kingdom had been overthrown by Dahomi, and sent a 
large army, chiefly consisting of cavalry, to invade Dahomi. By a 
stratagem[1] the Yorubas were routed, and the king

[1. Ewe-speaking Peoples," p. 285.]

of Dahomi then diplomatically sued for peace, which was granted; but about 
September, 1728, a new quarrel having arisen, this time in the interests of 
the King of Whydah, a Yoruba army again invaded Dahomi, and a desultory war 
lasted until 1730, wlien peace was once inore made. In 1738 another Yoruba 
army invaded Dahomi, defeated the king, and captured and burnt Agbomi, 
Kalia, and Zassa[1] and from that time forward the Yorubas annually raided 
into Dahomi, ravaging the country, and retiring again at the commeucement of 
the rains. This state of affairs was brought to an end by a treaty of peace 
inade in 1747, by which the King of Dahomi undertook to pay a heavy annual 
tribute to the King of Yoruba. After this we hear no more of the Yorubas in 
Dalzel's History, which is only carried to 1791, except that, in 1786, they 
interfered to prevent the Dahomis from attacking Porto -Novo; but the 
tribute appears to have been paid up to the days of King Gezo of Dahomi 

Governor Dalzel informs us, however, that when the "Eyeos"[2] (Yorubas) were 
dissatisfied with a king, they sent a deputation to him with a present of 
parrot's eggs, and a message that they considered he must be fatigued with 
the cares of government, and that it was time for him to rest and take a 
little sleep. Upon receiving this inessage, the king forth with retired to 
his apartment, as if to sleep, and then gave directions to his women to 
strangle him,

[1. Ewe-speaking Peoples," p. 294.

2. The Yorubas were called Eyeos or Oyos by old writers, after the name of 
their capital, Oyo.]

which they accordingly did.[1] In 1774, the then king declined to take the 
hint, and returned the parrot's eggs. The chiefs tried to support the custom 
by force, and Ochemi, the prime minister headed a rebellion, which was, 
however, crushed, and Ochemi, and all his numerous family were put to death.

The reason of our having such meagre information of this great West African 
kingdom is that the Yorubas did not inhabit the territories on the sea-
coast, the Ewe tribes occupying the coast-line as far east as Badagry, and 
the Benin tribes the portion from Badagry to Benin. The Ewe tribes had in 
fact spread along the sea-shore from west to east, and the Benin tribes from 
east to west, till they met, and covered all the sea frontage of the inland 
territory occupied by the Yorubas. This neglect on the part of the Yorubas 
to push down to the sea may have been partly due to superstition, for Dalzel 
says that "the fetiche of the Eyeos was the sea," and that they and their 
king were threatened with death by their priests if they ever dared to look 
upon it. Slave traders and others, who frequented the Slave Coast during the 
last century, were thus not brought into contact with the Yorubas, and 
consequently we hear but little of them; while the literature concerning 
Ashanti and Dahomi, which, like Yoruba, were originally inland powers, but 
whose invasions of the coast kingdoms brought them into contact with 
Europeans, is ample.

As far as can be ascertained, the chief strength of Yoruba lay in its 
cavalry, which was said to number

[1. This custom remained in force until quite recent times, if, indeed, it 
is yet altogether extinct.]

100,000, a manifest exaggeration, for horses have never been numerous in the 
few districts of West Africa in which it is possible for them to live. The 
report as to the number of cavalry reached the traders through the coast 
tribe, who owned no horses, and who were no doubt greatly impressed by the 
spectacle of a few score of mounted men. According to tradition, the 
following was the method of determining the number of men required for a 
military expedition. An ox-hide was pegged down in front of the general's 
tent, and the horsemen made to ride over it in succession between two 
spears. When, by this process,. a hole had been worn in the hide, the number 
of men was thought sufficient for an ordinary campaign. For serious 
operations two ox-hides were used, one placed over the other.

Although as we know from Dalzel's History, Oyo, or Yoruba, was a powerful 
kingdom at least as early as 1724, Yoruba traditional history carries us 
back no further than the end of the eighteenth century, a fact which shows 
what little reliance can be placed upon the traditions of nations who are 
unacquainted with the art of -writing. The first king of whom the arokbi, or 
chroniclers, have any knowledge is Ajagbo, who appears to have reigned soon 
after 1780, and whose name is preserved in the metrical sentence which fixes 
the rhythm of the ogidigbo drum, as follows: Gbo, Ajagbo, gbo oba gbo, ki 
emi, ki osi gbo.[1]

[1. "Grow old, Ajagbo, grow old king, grow old, may I also grow old." Each 
drum has its own measure or rhythm, which is proper to it, and, in order to 
preserve this rhythm, sentences are invented to call it to mind. In this 
case the rhythm is-

Gbo | Ajegbo | - | gbo | oba gbo | - | ki emi ki osi | gbo.]

In the days of Ajagbo the kingdom of Yoruba consisted of the four following 

(1) Yoruba proper, whose capital, Old Oyo, or Katunga, was situated some 
ninety miles to the north of the present town of Oyo. The king of this 
state, whose title was Alafin, or Alawofin, literally "One who owns the 
entering of the palace," was the ruler over all the Yoruba-speaking tribes.

(2) Egba, which lay to the south and west of the above kingdom. Its chief 
town was Ake, and from it the chief took his title of Alake, "One who owns 

(3) Ketu. This was then, as now, the western province. Its capital was Ketu, 
and from it the chief took his title of Alaketu, " One who owns Ketu."

(4) Jebu, which lay south and east of Yoruba proper. It was divided into 
Jebu Remu and Jebu Ode, each having its own chief, but the ruler of the 
latter, called the Awujale, was considered the chief of the whole.

The rulers of Yoruba, Egba, and Ketu styled each other "brother."

Ajagbo was succeeded by Abiodun, who is said to have enjoyed a long and 
peaceful reign, so that the reign of his brother and successor, Arogangan, 
can scarcely have commenced before 1800. It was during the reign of 
Arogangan that the Yoruba kingdom commenced to break up. The Fulas, it 
seems, overran the territory of the Hausas, and the latter, driven 
southward, sought refuge in the northern provinces of Yoruba. Arogangan had 
appointed his nephew, Afunja, governor of Ilorin, the north-eastern 
province, which contained a large number of Hausa refugees, and Afunja, 
being ambitious, conceived the project of utilising the Hausas in order to 
dethrone his uncle and make himself Alafin. His plans being matured, he 
raised an insurrection, which met with a measure of success, for Oyo was 
besieged, and Arogangan, in order to avoid falling into the hands of his 
nephew, poisoned himself; but Afunja was not able to secure the throne, as 
the elders of Oyo elected to the monarchy Adebo, the brother of Arogangan, 
and Afunja had to retire to Ilorin, where he maintained a semi-independent 
position. These events are supposed to have taken place about 1807, and it 
was about the same time that some of the Yorubas first pushed to the south 
and colonised Lagros. The first chief of Lagos was named Ashipa, and is said 
to have belonged to the family of the Alafin.

Adebo only reigned about four months, and died suddenly, from which it was 
supposed that he was poisoned. He was succeeded by Maku, who endeavoured to 
make head against the Mohammedan tribes who were now pressing in from the 
north, but he was defeated in a great battle, and committed suicide, after a 
reign of about only three months. An interregnum now ensued, during which 
the reins of power were held by the Oba-shorun, or prime minister, and it 
was not until five years had elapsed that a new king, named Majotu, was 
elected. He reigned about seven or eight years, committed suicide on 
account, tradition says, of the misbehaviour of his son, and was succeeded 
by Amodo.

Afunja had, since 1807, remained in possession of Ilorin, where he had 
sought to strengthen himself by encouraging Mohammedans to settle, and, 
about 1825, while Amodo was engaged with the invading tribes from the north, 
he again made war upon Yoruba. He captured and destroyed a number of towns, 
and was apparently about to carry all before him, when, for some reason that 
has never transpired, he was conveyed back to the town of Ilorin by those 
very Hausa mercenaries through whose aid he had hoped to become Alafin, and 
publicly burned alive. The Mohammedan party had for some years been dominant 
in Ilorin, and now, declaring that it would no longer recognise a pagan 
king, it elected a Mohammedan to the supreme power, and severed the 
connection with Yoruba.

Ilorin now took the lead in the Mohammedan invasion of Yoruba, and the 
Yorubas seem to have been invariably worsted. In 1830, when it was visited 
by Lander., Old Oyo was still the capital of Yoruba, but between 1833 and 
1835 it was captured and destroyed by the Mohammedans, and the Yorubas, 
flying southwards, founded their present capital Oyo, about ninety miles 
south of the old one. The Egbas, taking advantage of the overthrow of 
Yoruba, declared themselves independent, but the Yorubas, as soon as they 
were settled in their new territory, attacked them with vigour, and drove 
them out of all their northern towns. A desultory war then lingered till 
about 1838, when the Egbas abandoned their territory, and moving to the 
south, founded their present capital, Abeokuta. The new town was divided 
into several distinct quarters, or townships, which were named after an 
equal number of towns that bad been destroyed in the war, and one of them, 
Ake, still preserves the name of the old Egba capital. Although these events 
occurred so recently, they have already become clothed with myth; and 
Lishabe, the chief who led them to Abeokuta, is believed by the Egbas to 
have been a giant and a demi-god.

About the same time, Ibadan, a town of the old province of Egba, situated 
some thirty-five miles south of Oyo, declared itself independent of Egba; 
the original Egba inhabitants having been driven out by the Jebus, and the 
latter, in their turn, by Yoruba refugees. Other secessions took place, and 
by 1840 the Yoruba kingdom had split up into the following independent 

(1) Yoruba, south of Old Yoruba, capital Oyo.

(2) Egba, south and west of Old Egba, capital Abeokuta.

(3) Ketu.

(4) Jebu.

(5) Ibadan, a small state south of Oyo. It owned a nominal allegiance to the 
Alafin, because its inhabitants were Yoruba refugees, but was really 

(6) Ijesa, a small state south of Ilorin. The ruler was styled the Owa.

(7) Ife, a small state south-west of Ijesa. The ruler was styled the Oni.

The former Yoruba province of Ilorin was now inhabited by Fulas, Bornus, and 
Hausas, and was said to have a population of 300,000, 80,000 of whom were in 
the town of Ilorin. The Fulas were the dominant race, and the government was 
in their hands.

Shortly after 1840 the Ekiti tribes, as they were afterwards termed, that 
is, the inhabitants of the various towns lying between lbadan and Ijesa, and 
the adjoining territory to the south, formed a, confederation, which was 
soon joined by Ife and Ijesa, the ruler of the latter state being elected 
bead of the confederation. The Mohammedans of Ilorin were the first to take 
alarm at this coalition, and attacked the confederates, destroying or 
annexing several towns while Ibadan soon followed suit, and after a time 
succeeded in conquering and annexing Ijesa. The result of these various 
conflicts was that the confederation was entirely subdued, one half passing 
under the rule of Ilorin and the other under that of Ibadan. Before long, 
however, the inhabitants of the towns which had been annexed to Ilorin 
applied to Ibadan for assistance, and another war ensued, which resulted in 
the expulsion of the Ilorins, and the establishment of the rule of Ibadan 
over the whole Ekiti confederation. This was about 1858.

While these events were taking place in the interior, Lagos, which, as we 
have seen, was colonised from Yoruba at the beginning of the century, had 
become a place of some note as a slave emporium. The wars in the north, 
which had been almost incessant since the rebellion of Afunja about 1807, 
had resulted in the capture of many thousands of prisoners of war, of both 
sexes and all ages, and the dregs of these, the men who were of no local 
importance, and the women who were no longer attractive, were, in accordance 
with the usual practice, sold to the slave-traders. Lagos was the most 
convenient port, and they were therefore inarched. down there in gangs to 
await shipment. This traffic in slaves, which brought Lagos into some 
notoriety commenced about the year 1815, and soon attained very large 

In 1836 a struggle for the succession broke out in Lagos, and resulted in 
Kosoko, the legitimate pretender, being expelled the kingdom by his rival 
Oluwole, who secured the throne for himself. Oluwole died in 18", and was 
succeeded by Akitoye, who was foolish enough to invite Kosoko, who was still 
alive and in banishment, to come and live in Lagos. Kosoko readily accepted 
the invitation, soon began conspiring, and before long found himself 
sufficiently well supported to rebel. In the struggle which ensued the town 
of Lagos was burned, and Akitoye driven into banishment. He found a refuge 
at Badagry, and, in order to induce the English to espouse his cause, 
promised that, if he were reinstated at Lagos, he would help to suppress the 
slave-trade. This negotiation coming to the knowledge of Kosoko, he 
despatched a force to Badagry to attack Akitoye, which burned the town, 
killed an English trader named Gee, and destroyed a great deal of property 
belonging to British subjects. The senior naval officer upon the station 
thereupon determined to support Akitoye against Kosoko, and H.M. sloops 
Philomel, Harlequin, Niger, and Waterwitch, with the gun vessels Bloodhound 
and Volcano, assembled off the Lagos bar in -November, 1851, and on the 25th 
all the ships' boats, towed by the Bloodhound, entered the lagoon and 
proceeded towards Lagos Island. As the British Consul, who was with the 
flotilla, had hopes that Kosoko would submit to a display of force, flags of 
truce were kept flying; and although, on rounding the first point, a heavy 
musketry fire was opened by the natives, the fire was not returned, and the 
flags were not lowered till the boats were within a mile of the town. At 
this point several guns opened on the boats, so the flags of truce were 
hauled down and the fire returned. The fire from the boats had, however, but 
little effect on the natives, who were well covered by stockades and mud 
walls, and a party of one hundred and sixty men was accordingly landed. They 
found themselves in a maze of narrow streets, from every corner of wh_ich 
they were fired upon by concealed enemies, and after losing two officers 
killed and several men wounded, they were compelled to retreat to the boats.

This failure led to a more determined attack in December, on the 26th of 
which month a considerable force, under the command of Commodore H. W. 
Bruce, entered the lagoon in boats. The natives offered a stubborn 
resistance, and bad in position several guns, which were exceedingly well 
served. The Teazer got aground abreast of a battery, upon which her own gun 
could not be brought to bear, and to save her from destruction it became 
necessary to land a party and carry the battery by assault. This was done in 
gallant style, but with the heavy loss of one officer and thirteen inen 
killed, and four officers and fifty-eight men wounded. The other vessels and 
boats had in the meantime kept up a vigorous bombardment, which was 
maintained all that day, and continued next morning from daybreak until 
about " a.m., when a magazine on shore blew up and set fire to the town. The 
flames, fanned by the sea-breeze, spread with remarkable rapidity, and the 
heat was so intense that the fire of the natives gradually slackened and 
then finally stopped. Next morning, Kosoko and his followers havinu 
abandoned the place, the British landed. They found the beach strongly 
stockaded, and an enfilading piece of ordnance at every promontory. Fifty-
two guns were captured, but the victory was dearly purchased, as the total 
loss during the two days' operations amounted to two officers and fifteen 
men killed, four officers and sixty-eight men wounded, many of them very 

Akitoye was now reinstated, and on January 1st, 1852, signed a treaty, 
undertaking to suppress the export slave trade, and to expel all Europeans 
engaged in the traffic. About September of the same year some Portuguese 
slave traders, who bad been expelled under this treaty, returned to Lagos, 
and, with the assistance of some of the chiefs, secretly renewed the 
traffic. Akitoye, being informed of what was going on, strove to stop it, 
whereupon the Portuguese incited the chiefs to rebel, and in August, 1853, 
Kosoko returned from Epi, where he had taken refuge, to head the movement. 
The British naval autborities again interfered in favour of Akitoye; a party 
of seamen and marines was landed to support him, and on the 13th of August, 
after a sharp skirmish, defeated Kosoko and his adherents, who once more 
fled to the east.

Akitoye died in September, poisoned, it was said, by the slave trade party, 
and his son Docemo was, through British influence, appointed his successor. 
Kosoko, who had again found an asylum with the chief of Epi, refused to 
accept this arrangement, and continued to harass Docemo and the Lagos people 
until by an agreement made in January, 1854, he was recognised as King of 
Palma and Lekki, on condition of renouncing all claim to the sovereignty of 
Lagos. In August, 1861, Docemo ceded Lagos to the British in consiaeration 
of a pension of Ł1,000 a year, and Lagos thus became a British possession; 
but it is doubtful if the cession was altogether voluntary on Docemo's part, 
for during the first few years succeeding the signature of the treaty he 
made several protests against it.

In 1860 a new war broke out in the interior. Ijaye, an important town of 
Yoruba, declared itself independent of the Alafin, who called upon the 
Ibadans to assist him in reducing it to allegiance. The Ibadans complied, 
whereupon the Egbas sided with Ijaye; but these allies sustained a severe 
defeat at the hands of the Yorubas and lbadans, losing, it is said, 40,000 
in killed and prisoners, and Ijaye was destroyed on March 17th, 1862.

Up to this time the Egbas had been considered the protéges of the British, 
and great interest had been taken in the welfare of Abeokuta, which was 
regarded as the bulwark of Christianity in West Africa. This interest dated 
from about 1838, when a number of Egba slaves, who had been liberated at 
Sierra Leone from captured slave vessels, returned to Abeokuta and asked 
that missionaries might be sent to them. A Protestant mission was 
established there in 1848, and when an attack on the town was threatened by 
Gezo, King of Dahomi, in 1850, Mr. Beecroft, the British Consul for the 
Bights, and Commander Forbes, R.N., were sent to Agbomi to endeavour to 
persuade the king to abandon his design. The mission completely failed, and 
Gezo attacked Abeokuta on March 3rd, 1851, but was repulsed with some 
loss.[1] The British occupation of Lagos in 1861 put an end to the friendly 
feelings of the Egbas, who resented the protection granted by the colonial 
authorities to fugitive slaves from Abeokuta, and objected to the stoppage 
of the export slave trade, in which they had been largely engaged. They seem 
also to have had some suspicion that their independence was threatened, for 
when in May, 1861, it was proposed to send some trained gunners of the 2nd 
West India Regiment to Abeokuta to instruct the people in the use of some 
guns that had been presented by the British Government, and to lend aid 
during another attack that was now threatened by Dahomi, the Egbas made 
excuse after excuse, and finally declined to receive them. In 1862 they 
further displayed their ill-will by molesting, and plundering several native 
traders from Lagos, and, as they refused reparation, the Governor of Lagos, 
in 1863, blockaded all the roads leadina to Abeokuta.

In 1863, Kosoko, chief of Palma and Lekki, desired

[1. "Ewe-speaking Peoples," pp. 315-6.]

to return to Lagos, and, in order to obtain permission, ceded Palma and 
Lekki to the British. The Possu, or chief of Epi, raised objections to this 
cession. He had, it appeared, certain territorial rights over these places, 
and their cession, moreover, shut him off from the sea. As he refused to 
cede his rights, an expedition, consisting of three officers and 124 men of 
the 2nd and 3rd West India Regiments, proceeded in H.M.S. Investigator to 
Epi, where the troops and a rocket party of one officer and fourteen seamen 
landed. The natives offered a strenuous resistance, and the expeditionary 
force suffered a loss of three men killed and three officers and twenty-
eight men wounded, but the town was destroyed. After this the chief 
renounced all further claim to territory south of the lagoon. In July, 1863, 
the chiefs of Badagry likewise ceded all their territory to the British.

The war between the Egbas and Ibadans caused by the affair of Ijaye had been 
carried on in a desultory manner since 1862; but in 1864, after the repulse 
of the Dahomis from before Abeokuta on March 15th,[1] the Jebus, who had 
hitherto adopted the policy of excluding all strangers from their territory, 
and had lived in complete isolation, shut off by their forests from the rest 
of the tribes, joined the Egbas, and the war was prosecuted with more 
vigour. The Jebus of Ikoradu, a town at the northern extremity of the Lagos 
lagoon, refused to join their fellow-tribesmen in the alliance with the 
Egbas, their reason being that their interests were identified with those of 
the people

[1. "Ewe speaking Peoples," pp. 322-324.]

of Lagos, and that they had suffered equally with them from the cessation of 
trade caused by the maltreatment of traders by the Egbas. In revenge, the 
Egbas, early in 1865, despatched to Ikoradu an army of 12,000 men, which 
besieged the town, and, after the native fashion, threw up two entrenched 
camps against it. The Colonial Government, alarmed at the near approach of 
this force, and appealed to by the Ikoradus for aid, warned the Egbas to 
desist, and ordered them to return to their own country. The Egbas sent 
insulting messages in reply, and a force of some 280 men, consisting of the 
5th West India Reaiment and the Lagos Police, was accordingly sent against 
them, which stormed the camps and routed the Egbas with heavy loss, on March 
29th, 1865. This affair of course only served to widen the breach between 
the British and the Egbas, the latter, besides, conceived that the Colonial 
Government encouraged the annual raids of Dahomi upon Egba territory; and, 
in 1867, they expelled all the missionaries from Abeokuta, and cut off all 
relations with the British.

It seems that a letter, purporting to be signed by a hostile chief, fell 
into the hands of the Egbas, who knew that the chief could not write, and 
fancied they recognised the handwriting as that of a Protestant missionary 
who had formerly lived in Abeokuta. The missionaries in Abeokuta were 
thereupon accused of betraying the Egbas to their enemies; there was a 
popular tumult, and the mob howled for their blood. It was only with great 
difficulty that the chiefs and elders succeeded in saving the lives of the 
accused, who were immediately expelled from the town, and their houses and 
churches destroyed. In 1880, the French Roman Catholic missionaries obtained 
leave to establish a mission in Abeokuta, which thenceforward fell more 
under the influence of the French.

The interior continued to be disturbed by inter-tribal wars until about, 
1870, when affairs calmed down, but in 1877 the Egbas plundered some Ibadan 
traders, and the Ibadans sent an army to avenge the outrage. Upon this the 
Jebus renewed their former alliance with the Egbas, and Ijesa and the Ekiti 
tribes, which bad now been under the rule of lbadan since 1858, seized the 
opportunity for rebellion, a step which was soon followed by a declaration 
of war against Ibadan by Ilorin. The Mohammedans of Ilorin rapidly invaded 
the country and laid siege to Ofa, a town situated some twenty miles to the 
northeast of the city of Ibadan, and the Ibadans were obliged to withdraw 
their army of invasion from Egba in order to defend their own territory, 
which was now threatened from three sides. The Egbas, however, did not 
follow up the retreating force, and, indeed, took no further part in the 
war, they being held in check by the fear of leaving Abeokuta unprotected 
against Dahomi, which power had been in the habit of making annual 
demonstrations in its vicinity for some years past; and the struggle was 
continued between Ibadan, on the one side, and Ilorin, Ijesa, the Ekiti 
tribes, and Jebu, on the other.

Ibadan secured the support of Modakeke and Ife, two populous towns situated 
on hills on the opposite sides of a small stream, to the south-west of 
Ijesa, and the war continued for some years without any great advantage 
being gained by either side. The Modakekes were staunch allies of the 
Ibadans, but the sympathies of the Ifes were rather with the Ijesa and the 
Ekiti tribes, with whom they had been in alliance during the war which 
terminated in 1858. Their situation, however, made them afraid of coming to 
an open rupture with Ibadin, so, in response to the demand of the Ibadans, 
they sent a contingent to the Ibadan camp, but at the same time also 
secretly sent an equal force to the camp of the Ijesas and Ekitis. This 
double game could not long escape detection, and in 1882 the Modakekes, 
assisted by a force of lbadans, attacked Ife, and the town, which was 
regarded as holy, and the cradle of the Yoruba race, was destroyed. The Ifes 
now openly joined the enemies of Ibadan, but most of the tribes had by this 
time become heartily sick of the prolonged struggle, and in 1883 a body of 
Jebus who were encamped on the Omi River made peace with the lbadans on 
their own account, and returned home. The Awujale of Jebu Ode, paramount 
chief of the two Jebu provinces, was so alarmed at this event that he fled 
from the town of Jebu Ode, which he was by law forbidden to leave, and took 
refuge at Epi. Here he was invited by the Jebu elders to commit suicide; he 
proved docile, and a new Awujale was elected by the peace party. His 
election, however, was not approved by the war party, and a strong force of 
Jebus, under the seriki, or second war chief, still kept the field against 

The war, which was really only a succession of skirmishes at long intervals, 
dragged on till 1884, when the Governor of Lagos was asked to mediate and 
secure a peace. In 1886 this request was renewed by all the combatants 
except Ilorin, and the Governor accordingly acted as mediator, with the 
result that representatives from the different tribes assembled at Lagos, 
and on June 4th an agreement was signed, of which the following were the 
chief points:

(1) Ibadan, Ijesa, and the Ekiti tribes to respectively retain their 

(2) The four Ekiti towns of Otan, Tresi, Ada, and Igbajo to be ceded to 
Ibadan, on the understanding that the present inhabitants Were at liberty to 
leave them.

(3) The town of Modakeke to be reconstructed on territory, between the Oshun 
and Oba rivers, to the north of its then situation; such of the inhabitants 
as elected to pass under the rule of lbadan moving to the new site, and 
those who preferred to become subject to Ife living in Ife territory, but 
not in Modakeke, which was to be dealt with by the Ifes as they thought fit.

The belligerents were at this time established in six large camps, the chief 
being those at Kiji and Oke Afesi, situated about a mile apart upon opposite 
sides of a mountainous valley in the north of Ijesa, the former occupied by 
the Ibadans and the latter by the Ijesas and Ekiti tribes. The lbadalis had 
another camp at Ikirun, about fifteen miles west of Kiji, between the two 
arms of the Erinle River, where they confronted the Ilorins, who were 
encamped at Ofa, eighteen miles to the north. The Modakekes, with an Ibadan 
contingent, were at Alodakeke watching 

the Ifes, who, with the Jebu force under the Serikei, were encamped about 
two miles to the south. In accordance with the terms of the agreement, 
Commissioners were sent to the interior by the Government of Lagos to take 
steps to break up the camps. These proved to be towns rather than camps, 
since they consisted of the ordinary mud-walled houses of the natives, were 
defended by loop-holed mud walls, and contained many thousands of women and 
children. The Ibadan camp at Kiji, which had been in existence for seven 
years, was estimated to contain between 50,000 and 60,000 inhabitants, at 
least two-thirds of whom were non-combatants, and the Oke Mesi camp 40,000. 
These two camps were evacuated and burned on September 28th, 1886, their 
occupants returning to their former homes; but an unexpected obstacle was 
now offered by the Modakekes, who first asked for a delay, and then 
positively refused to carry out the agreement and quit their town, alleging 
that they could not leave the spot where their forefathers were buried. The 
fact was they feared that if they remained on the soil of Ife, the Ifes 
would revenge themselves upon them for the destruction of the holy city, and 
that if they moved to lbadan territory the lbadans would enslave them; and 
after some further delay, the Commissioners, finding there was no prospect 
of the Modakekes keeping their promise, returned to Lagos. The Ilorins had 
not been parties to the agreement of June 4th, but the Commissioners 
endeavoured to arrange a peace between them and the Ibadans, and induce them 
to abandon their camps at Ofa and Ikirun; this, however, did not succeed, 
and the war between these two tribes continued.

In the meantime, while the interior had been disturbed by these protracted 
native wars, the colony of Lagos had received further extensions, Ketonu, a 
district on the eastern shores of Lake Denham Waters, having at the request 
of the natives, who feared French aggression, been declared British in 
January, 1880; while Appa, which lies between Ketonii and Badagry, was 
placed within the British jurisdiction in 1883. By Letters Patent, dated 
13th January, 1886, Lagos was made a separate colony, independent of the 
government of the Gold Coast.

In 1888, in consequence of the reported intrigues of the French in Abeokuta, 
who were said to have offered to tolerate slavery, and to pay an annual 
subsidy, if the Egbas would place themselves under French protection, 
efforts were made to have the limits of British and French territory and 
spheres of influence defined, with the result that articles of arrangement 
for the delimitation of the English and French possessions on the West Coast 
of Africa were signed at Paris, on August 10th, 1889. The fourth article 
defined the territories and spheres of influence on the Slave Coast, the 
line of demarcation being the meridian which intersects the territory of 
Porto Novo at the Ajarra Creek, and extending from the sea to the ninth 
degree of north latitude. By this arrangement the eastern half of Appa, with 
its capital, and Pokra, became British, while the western half of Appa, 
together with Ketonu, became French. Egba and Okeodan fell within the 
British sphere of influence, and Ketu within that of the French.

The war between Ibadan and Ilorin still lingered on, and, in 1889, Mr. 
Millson, the. Assistant Colonial Secretary, was sent to the interior to 
endeavour to arrange a meeting between the Governor of Lagos and the 
belligerents in order to bring these hostilities to an end, but, as the 
chiefs declined to enter into any negotiations with the Commissioner, the 
mission failed.

Although Abeokuta had now been definitely placed within the British sphere 
of influence there was no improvement in the relations between the Egbas and 
the Lagos government. In January, 1891, a great political meeting was held 
at Abeokuta, at which the old charge that the government connived at or 
encouraged the annual inroads of Dahomi was revived, and some European 
missionaries were expelled. A Commissioner from the government was sent to 
Abeokuta in August, but achieved no results, and in January, 1892, the Egbas 
declared all their trade routes, both to the coast and to the interior, 
closed, and ceased all commercial relations with the colony. A further 
attempt on the part of the government to open negotiations was made in the 
following month, but completely failed, and at a meeting of Egba chiefs, 
held on the 13th of April, the proposal to reopen the trade routes to Lagos 
was unanimously negatived.

While affairs had been in this unsatisfactory state in the western portion 
of the sphere of British influence, a dispute with the Jebus had sprung up 
in the east. The Ejinrin market, situated about ten miles east of Epi, was 
closed by the Awujale of Jebu Ode on account of some disagreement with the 
people of Lagos; and though, in October, 1890, in consequence of 
representations made by the government of Lagos, it was formally opened by 
the Governor and representatives sent by the Awujale, the Jebus made this 
concession unwillingly, and had no intention whatever of departing from 
their policy of excluding foreigners from the interior of their country. 
Consequently, when, in May, 1891, the Acting Governor, Captain Denton, 
C.M.G., left Lagos with an escort of Hausas to proceed on a mission to Jebu 
Ode, with the object of coming to some agreement for the opening of the 
country to commerce, the Jebus refused to allow the party to enter their 
territory, on the plea that they feared hostile action. The Awujale not only 
refused to treat, but rejected the presents offered on behalf of the British 
Government, fearing, no doubt, that to accept them would entail some 
concession on his part.

Upon this affair being referred to the Home Government, the Governor was 
instructed to demand an apology from the Jebus for the so-called insult 
offered to the Acting Governor, and to insist upon a free right of way 
through Jebu country. The Awujale was to be informed that, if these terms 
were not complied with, force would be used. In December, 1891, this 
ultimatum was conveyed to the Awujale by an officer of the Lagos 
Constabulary, and the Awujale then consented to send to Lagos 
representatives fully empowered to make the apology and sign a treaty.

In January, 1892, the representatives arrived, and on the 21st made a formal 
apology, and signed an agreement to maintain a free and unrestricted right-
of-way for persons and goods through Jebu territory; the Government of the 
Colony undertaking to pay the Jebus an annual sum of Ł500 in compensation 
for the duties they had been accustomed to levy on goods.

For a short time the Jebus observed their treaty engagements, and one member 
of the Church Missionary Society was allowed to pass through Jebu Ode on his 
way to the interior; but when, soon afterwards, in the month of February, 
another missionary attempted to pass through the capital he was ill-used and 
sent back. A party of Ibadan carriers, who sought to pass through from the 
north, was also turned back. The Awujale asserted that the Ibadans had been 
insolent, but it was evident that the young men of the tribe were determined 
to maintain the old Jebu policy of isolation. The Jebus were a turbulent and 
proud nation, and they considered it disgraceful to observe engagements 
which had been extorted from them by threats. In consequence of these 
breaches of the treaty, the Inspector- General of the Lagos Constabulary was 
sent to the Awujale to ask for explanations. He landed at Itoike, but was 
not allowed to proceed any further, the Awujale sending to say that he did 
not wish "to palaver" with the Lagos Government.

The Home Government now authorised the employment of force. Special-service 
officers were sent out from England, two officers and 155 men of the Gold 
Coast Constabulary were ordered from Accra, and three officers and ninety-
nine men of the 1st Battalion West India Regiment were despatched from 
Sierra Leone. These, with 165 of the Lagos Constabulary, and an lbadan 
Contingent of 100 men, making a total combatant force of about 500, left 
Lagos, under the command of Colonel F.C. Scott, C.B., on the 12th of May, 
and disembarked at Epi without opposition on the day following. On the 16th 
the column advanced from Epi; there was a slight skirmish at Pobo on the 
same day, another at Kpashida next day, and on the 18th the force encamped 
at Majoda.

Next morning the Jebus were found in position, ready to defend the passage 
of the Oshun River, and an action commenced at 7 a.m. The fire of the Jebus 
not only swept the ford, which they had deepened by digging out the bed of 
the stream, but also the narrow bush-track which led to it, and was 
exceedingly heavy and well sustained. It was reported that they had offered 
a human sacrifice to the goddess of the river, to enlist her aid against the 
invaders, and this had so powerful an effect upon the superstitious minds of 
the constabulary, that for a full hour they could not be induced to enter 
the stream; and it was not until the West Indians, who had been held in 
reserve, were ordered up to lead the way across the Oshun, that the enemy's 
position was carried. Between the river and the village of Magbon, which the 
victors entered shortly after 10 a.m., was found the camp which the Jebus 
had occupied the previous night. It was estimated to have accommodated from 
5,000 to 6,000 persons, and as about half the occupants of a native camp are 
women and non-combatants, the passage of the river was probably disputed by 
about 3,000 men. The Jebu losses were supposed to be severe, but the British 
force lost only three killed and twenty-four wounded, exclusive of carriers.

On the 20th of May the advance was resumed soon after daybreak, and, being 
met by a flag of truce, the force occupied the town of Jebu Ode the same day 
without resistance. It was about four miles in circumference, defended by a 
mud wall, and contained in time of peace about 15,000 inhabitants, all of 
whom, with the exception of the Awujale and his immediate following, had now 
fled. On the 25th, the Governor arrived from Lagos to conduct the 
negotiations with the Awujale, who made complete submission, alleging that 
the young men had fought contrary to his wishes and orders; and, on the 30th 
and 31st, the expeditionary force, with the exception of three officers and 
140 men of the Constabulary, who remained in occupation of Jebu Ode, left 
for Lagos, one column marching through Sagamu and Ikoradu, and another 
through Itoike.

The trade routes on the east were now opened, but those through Egba country 
still remained closed, and for some time it was thought that a military 
expedition against Abeokuta would be necessary. The ease with which the 
Jebus, who were considered a very powerful tribe, bad been punished, had, 
however, made a profound impression upon the native mind, and many British 
subjects of Egba descent at Lagos, fearing that, if the chiefs of Abeokuta 
maintained their unfriendly attitude, the independence of Egba would be 
lost, strongly impressed upon their compatriots the necessity of coming to 
terms. In consequence, the Egbas declared their willingness to receive the 
Governor, Mr. Carter, and come to some arrangement, with the result that oil 
the 18th of January, I893, a treaty was signed at Abeokuta. The Egbas 
undertook to refer all disputes between themselves and British subjects to 
the Governor for settlement, to establish complete freedom of trade between 
Egba country and Lagos, and to close no trade route without the consent of 
the Governor. They also promised to abolish human sacrifice, and not to cede 
any portion of Egba territory to a foreign power without the consent of the 
British. On the other hand, Great Britain guaranteed that the independence 
of Egba should be fully recognised, and no annexation of any portion of it 
be made without the consent of the Egba authorities.

There is a considerable difference between the Yoruba-speaking Peoples and 
the Ewe-speaking Peoples. We still find the characteristics which were 
dominant among the latter, namely, indolence, improvidence, and duplicity, 
but they are no longer so pronounced, probably, almost certainly, because 
life and property are more secure. The Yoruba has more independence of 
character tban the Tshis, Gas, or Ewes, and servility is rare, He even has 
the sentiments of nationality and patriotism, and though these are regarded 
with disfavour by the Colonial Government, they are none the less tokens of 
superiority. He is a keener trader, is more sociable, and is in all respects 
socially higher than the tribes of the other three cognate groups. This is 
in a great measure due to the physical characteristics of the country. There 
being but little forest, except in the eastern districts, communication is 
easy, and the territory is moreover opened up by several rivers. Instead, 
then, of being dispersed in a number of inconsiderable hamlets, which are 
mere specks in a vast and impenetrable forest, the Yorubas have been able to 
live in towns, each of which is within easy communication of others. No 
doubt their superior social instincts first caused them to congregate in 
towns, and now many generations of town life has further developed them. 
There is even a certain amount of loyalty in the Yoruba, a quality for which 
one might look in vain among the Ewe tribes. Without saying that the Yorubas 
are more intelligent, we can safely say that their intellect is more 
cultivated; the asperities of savage life are softened, the sharper angles 
are worn down by frequent intercourse with their fellowmen, and at the 
present day they are certainly the leading people in West Africa.

THE tendency which we noted in the case of the Ewe speaking peoples to 
replace gods which were purely local, and only worshipped by those dwelling 
in the vicinity, by tribal gods, and by gods worshipped by an entire people, 
has in the case of the Yoruba tribes been very fully developed, and all the 
gods possessing any importance are known to and worshipped by the Yoruba-
speaking peoples as a whole. The effect of increasing the number of general 
objects of worship has been to diminish the importance of the local objects 
of worship, the genii loci, who, except in Jebu and in some of the remoter 
districts, have been so shorn of their power as now to- be scarcely above 
the level of the fairies and water-sprites of mediæval England, or, which is 
perhaps a closer parallel, of the Naiads and Hama-dryads of ancient Greece. 
This of course is what was to be expected, for the general objects of 
worship govern, between them, all the phenomena which most nearly affect 
mankind; and the special function of each genius loci is thus now vested in 
some other god, who is believed to be more powerful, because he is 
worshipped over a larger axea and has a more numerous following. Gods, 
however, which are purely tutelar have not been so much affected, and 
tutelary dieties of towns and of individuals are still common, because the 
native, while enrolling himself as a follower of a general god, likes also 
to have a protector whose sole business is to guard his interests; and who, 
though his power may be limited, is not likely to be distracted by the 
claims of others to his attention.

The term used by the Yoruba tribes to express a superhuman being, or god, is 
orisha, and as it is used equally to express the images and sacred objects, 
and also as an adjective with the meaning of sacred or holy, it answers 
exactly to the Tshi term bohszon, the Gă wong, and the Ewe vodu. The word 
orisha seems to be compounded of ori (summit, top, head) and sha (to select, 
choose); though some natives prefer to derive it from ri (to see) and isha 
(selection, choice), and thus to make it mean "One who sees the cult."

Olorun is the sky-god of the Yorubas, that is, he is the deified firmament, 
or personal sky, just as Nyankupon is to the Tshis, Nyonmo to the Gas, and 
Mawu to the Ewes. As was mentioned in the last volume, the general bias of 
the negro mind has been in favour of selecting the firmament for the chief 
Nature god, instead of the Sun, Moon, or Earth; and in this respect the 
natives resemble the Aryan Hindus, Greeks, and Romans, with whom Dyaus 
pitar, Zeus, and Jupiter equally represented the firmament.[1]

[1. The Tshis and Gas use the words Nyankupon and Nyonmo to express sky, 
rain, or thunder and lightning, and the Ewes andYorubas, the words Mawn and 
Olorun to express the two former. The Tshi peoples say Nyankupon lom 
(Nyankupon knocks); "It is thundering"; Nyankupon aba (Nyankupon has come), 
"It is raining"; and the Gă peoples, Nyonmo, knocks (thunders), Nyonmo 
pours, Nyonmo drizzles, &c., while in just the same way the Ancient Greeks 
ascribed these phenomena to Zeus, who snowed, rained, hailed, gathered 
clouds, and thundered. Nyankupon has for epithets the following: Amosu 
(Giver of Rain); Amovua (Giver of Sunshine); Tetereboensu (Wide-speading 
Creator of Water), and Tyoduampon, which seems to mean "Stretched-out Roof" 
(Tyo, to draw or drag, dua, wood, and pon, flat surface).

Nyankupon and Nyonmo thunder and lighten as well as pour out rain, but 
Olorun, like the Ewe Mawu, does not wield the thunderbolt, which has become 
the function of a special thunder-god, and he consequently has suffered some 
reduction in importance. The name Olorun means "Owner of the Sky" (oni, one 
who possesses, orun, sky, firmament, cloud[1]), and the sky is believed to 
be a solid body, curving over the earth so as to cover it with a vaulted 

Like Nyankupon, Nyonmo, and Mawu, Olorun is considered too distant, or too 
indifferent, to interfere in the affairs of the world. The natives say that 
he enjoys a life of complete idleness and repose, a blissful condition 
according to their ideas, and passes his time dozing or sleeping. Since he 
is too lazy or too indifferent to exercise any control over earthly affairs, 
man on his side does not waste time in endeavouring to propitiate him, but 
reserves his worship and sacrifice for more active agents. Hence Olorun has 
no priests, symbols, images, or temples,

[1. The n in oni, or ni, always changes to l before the vowels a, e, o, and 
u. See Chapter on Language, Verbs (6).]

and though, in times of calamity, or affliction, whjen the other gods have 
turned a deaf ear to his supplications, a native will, perhaps, as a last 
resource, invoke Olorun, such occasions are rare, and as a general rule the 
god is not worshipped or appealed to. The name Olorun, however, occurs in 
one or two set phrasesor sentences, which appear to show that at one time 
greater regard was paid to him. For instance, the proper reply to the 
morning salutation, "Have you risen well?" is O yin Olorun, "Thanks to 
Olorun;" and the phrase "May Olorun protect you" is sometimes heard as an 
evening salutation. The former seems to mean that thanks are due to the sky 
for letting the sun enter it; and the latter to be an invocation of the 
firmament, the roof of the world, to remain above and protect the earth 
during the night. Sometimes natives will raise their hands and cry, "Olorun, 
Olorun!" just as we say, "Heaven forbid!" and with an equal absence of 
literal meaning.

Olorun has the following epithets:-

(1) Oga-ogo (Oga, distinguished or brave person; ogo, wonder, praise).

(2) Olowo (ni-owo) "Venerable one."

(3) Eleda (da, to cease from raining), "He who controls the rain."

(4) Elemi, "a living man," literally "he who possesses breath." It is a 
title applied to a servant or slave, because his master's breath is at his 
mercy; and it is in this sense also that it is used to Olorun, because, if 
he were evilly, disposed, he could let fall the solid firmament and crush 
the world.

(5) Olodumaye or Olodumare. The derivation of this epithet is obscure, but 
it probably means "Replenisher of brooks " (0lodo, possessing brooks). We 
find the same termination in Oshumaye or Oshumare, Rainbow, and in Osamaye 
or Osamare, Water Lily, and it is perhaps compounded of omi, water, and aye, 
a state of being.alive.

It may be mentioned that, just as the missionaries have caused Nyankupon, 
Nyonmo, and Mawu to be confused with the Jehovah of the Christians, by 
translating these names as "God," so have they done with Olorun, whom they 
consider to be a survival from a primitive revelation, made to all mankind, 
in the childhood of the world. But Olorun is merely a nature-god, the 
personally divine sky, and he only controls phenomena connected in the 
native mind with the roof of the world. He is not in any sense an omnipotent 
being. This is well exemplified by the proverb which says, "A man cannot 
cause rain to fall, and Olorun cannot give you a child," which means that, 
just as a man cannot perform the functions of Olorun and cause rain to fall, 
so Olorun cannot form a child in the womb, that being the function of the 
god Obatala, whom we shall next describe. In fact, each god, Olorun 
included, has, as it were, his own duties; and while he is perfectly 
independent in his own domain, he cannot trespass upon the rights of others.

Obatala is the chief god of the Yorubas. The name means "Lord of the White 
Cloth" (Oba-ti-ala.), and is explained by the fact that white is the colour 
sacred to Obatala, whose temples, images, and paraphernalia are always 
painted white, and whose followers wear white cloths. Another derivation is 
Oba-ti-ala, "Lord of Visions," and this gains some probability from the fact 
that Obatala has the epithets of Orisha oj'enia, "The Orisha who enters 
man," and Alabalese (Al-ba-ni-ase),[1] "He who predicts the future," because 
he inspires the oracles and priests, and unveils futurity by means of 
visions. "Lord of the White Cloth," however, is the translation most 
commonly adopted, and appears to be the correct one. The god is always 
represented as wearing a white cloth.

Obatala, say the priests, was made by Olorun, who then handed over to him 
the management of the firmament and the world, and himself retired to rest. 
Obatala is thus also a sky-god, but is a more anthropomorphic conception 
than Olorun, and performs functions which are not in the least connected 
with the firmament. According to a myth, which is, however, contradicted by 
another, Obatala made the first man and woman out of clay, on which account 
he has the title of Alamorere, "Owner of the best clay;" and because he 
kneaded the clay himself he is called Orisha kpokpo, "The Orisha who kneads 
clay " (kpo, to knead or temper clay). Though this point is disputed by some 
natives, all are agreed that Obatala forms the child in the mother's womb, 
and women who desire to become mothers address their prayers to him; while 
albinoism and congenital deformities are regarded as his handiwork, done 
either to punish

[1. Al-oni (one who. has); ba (to overtake); ni (to have); ase (a coming to 
pass), "One who overtakes the coming to pass."]

some neglect towards him on the part of the parents, or to remind his 
worshippers of his power.

Obatala is also styled "Protector of the Town Gates," and in this capacity 
is represented as mounted on a horse, and armed with a spear. On the panels 
of the temple doors rude carvings are frequently seen of a horseman with a 
spear, surrounded by a leopard, tortoise, fish, and serpent. Another epithet 
of Obatala is Obatala gbingbiniki, "The enormous Obatala." His special 
offerings are edible snails.

Amongst the Ewe-speaking Peoples at Porto Novo, Obatala determines the guilt 
or innocence of accused persons by means of an oracle termed Onshe or Onishe 
(messenger, ambassador). It consists of a hollow cylinder of wood, about 
31/2 feet in length and 2 feet in diameter, one end of which is covered with 
draperies and the other closed with shells of the edible snail. This 
cylinder is placed on the head of the accused, who kneels on the ground, 
holding it firmly on his head with a hand at each side. The god, being then 
invoked by the priests, causes the cylinder to rock backwards and forwards, 
and finally to fall to the ground. If it should fall forward the accused is 
innocent, if backward guilty. The priests say that Obatala, or a subordinate 
spirit to whom he deputes the duty, strikes the accused, so as to make the 
cylinder fall in the required direction; but sceptics and native Christians 
say that a child is concealed in the cylinder and overbalances it in front 
or behind, according to instructions given beforehand by the priests. They 
add that when a child has served for a year or two and grown too big for the 
cylinder he is put to death, in order that the secret may be preserved; and 
is succeeded by another, who, in his turn, undergoes the same fate-but all 
this is mere conjecture.

Odudua, or Odua, who has the title of Iya agbe, The mother who receives," is 
the chief goddess of the Yorubas. The -name means " Black One " (dit, to be 
black; dudit, black), and the negroes consider a smooth, glossy, black skin 
a great beauty, and far superior to one of the ordinary cigar-colour. She is 
always represented as a woman sitting down, and nursing a child.

Odudua is the wife of Obatala, but she was coeval with Olorun, and not made 
by him, as was her husband. Other natives, however, say that she came from 
Ife, the holy city, in common with most of the other gods, as described in a 
myth which we shall come to shortly. Odudua represents the earth, married to 
the anthropomorphic sky-god. Obatala and Odudua, or Heaven and Earth, 
resemble, say the priests, two large cut-calabashes, which, when once shut, 
can never be opened. This is symbolised in the temples by two whitened 
saucer-shaped calabashes, placed one covering the other; the upper one of 
which represents the concave firmament stretching over and meeting the 
earth, the lower one, at the horizon.

According to some priests, Obatala and Odudua represent one androgynous 
divinity; and they say that an image which is sufficiently common, of a 
human being with one arm and leg, and a tail terminating in a sphere, 
symbolises this. This notion, however, is not one commonly held, Obutala and 
Odudua being generally, and almost universally, regarded as two distinct 
persons. The phallus and yoni in juxtaposition are often seen carved on the 
doors of the temples both of Obatala and Odudua; but this does not seem to 
have any reference to androgyny, since they are also found similarly 
depicted in other places which are in no way connected with either of these 

According to a myth Odudua is blind. In the beginning of the world she and 
her husband Obatala were shut up in darkness in a large, closed calabash, 
Obatala being in the upper part and Odudua in the lower. The myth does not 
state how they came to be in this situation, but they remained there for 
many days, cramped, hungry, and uncomfortable. Then Odudua began 
complaining, blaming her husband for the confinement; and a violent quarrel 
ensued, in the course of which, in a frenzy of rage, Obatala tore out her 
eyes, because she would not bridle her tongue. In return she cursed him, 
saying "Naught shalt thou eat but snails," which is the reason why snails 
are now offered to Obatala. As the myth does not make Odudua recover her 
sight, she must be supposed to have remained sightless, but no native 
regards her as being blind.

Odudua is patroness of love, and many stories are told of her adventures and 
amours. Her chief temple is in Ado, the principal town of the state of the 
same name, situated about fifteen miles to the north of Badagry. The word 
Ado means a lewd person of eithersex, and its selection for the name of this 
town is accounted for by the following legend. Odudua was once walking alone 
in the forest when she met a hunter, who was so handsome that the ardent 
temperament of the goddess at once took fire. The advances which she made to 
him were favourably received, and they forthwith mutually gratified their 
passion on the spot. After this, the goddess became still mora enamoured, 
and, unable to tear herself away from her lover, she lived with him for some 
weeks in a hut, which they constructed of branches at the foot of a large 
silk-cotton tree. At the end of this time her passion had burnt out, and 
having become weary of the hunter, she left him; but before doing so she 
promised to protect him and all others who might come and dwell in the 
favoured spot wliere she had passed so many pleasant hours. In consequence 
many people came and settled there, and a town gradually grew up, which was 
named Ado, to commemorate the circumstances of its origin. A temple was 
built for the protecting goddess; and there, on her feast days, sacrifices 
of cattle and sheep are made, and women abandon themselves indiscriminately 
to the male worshippers in her honour.

Before her amour with the hunter, Odudua bore to her husband, Obatala, a boy 
and a girl, named respectively Aganju. and Yemaja. The name Aganju means 
uninhabited tract of country, wilderness, plain, or forest, and Yemaja, 
"Mother of fish" (yeye, mother; eja, fish). The offspring of the union of 
Heaven and Earth, that is, of Obatala and Odudua, may thus be said to 
represent Land and Water. Yemaja is the goddess of brooks and streams, and 
presides over ordeals by water. She is represented by a female figure, 
yellow in colour, wearing blue beads and a white cloth. The worship of 
Aganju seems to have fallen into disuse, or to have become merged in that of 
his mother; but there is said to be an open space in front of the king's 
residence in Oyo where the god was formerly worshipped, which is still 
called Oju-Aganju-"Front of Aga-nju."

Yemaja married her brother Aganju, and bore a son named Orungan. This name 
is compounded of orun, sky, and gan, from ga, to be high; and appears to 
mean "In the height of the sky." It seems to answer to the khekheme, or 
"Free-air Region" of the Ewe peoples; and, like it, to mean the apparent 
space between the sky and the earth. The offspring of Land and Water would 
thus be what we call Air.

Orungan fell in love with his mother, and as she refused to listen to his 
guilty passion, he one day took advantage of his father's absence, and 
ravished her. Immediately after the act, Yemaja sprang to her feet and fled 
from the place wringing her hands and lamenting; and was pursued by Orungan, 
who strove to console her by saying that no one should know of what had 
occurred, and declared that he could not live without her. He held out to 
her the alluring prospect of living with two husbands, one acknowledged, and 
the other in secret; but she rejected all his proposals with loathing, and 
continued to run away. Orungan, however, rapidly gained upon her, and was 
just stretching out his hand to seize her, when she fell backward to the 
ground. Then her body immediately began to swell in a fearful manner, two 
streams of water gushed from her breasts, and her abdomen burst open. The 
streams from Yemaja's breasts joined and formed a lagoon, and from her 
gaping body came the following:-(l) Dada (god of vegetables), (2) Shango 
(god of lightning), (3) Ogun (god of iron and war), (4) Olokun (god of the 
sea), (5) Olosa (goddess of the lagoon), (6) Oya (goddess of the river 
Niger), (7) Oshun (goddess of the river Oshun), (8) Oba (goddess of the 
river Oba), (9) Orisha Oko (god of agriculture), (10) Oshosi (god of 
hunters), (11) Oke (god of mountains), (12) Aje Shaluga (god of wealth), 
(13) Shankpanna (god of small-pox), (14) Orun (the sun), and (15) Oshu (the 
moon).[1] To commemorate this event, a town which was given the name of Ife 
(distention, enlargement, or swelling up), was built on the spot where 
Yemaja's body burst open, and became the holy city of the Yoruba-speaking 
tribes. The place where her body fell used to be shown, and probably still 
is; but the town was destroyed in 1882, in the war between the Ifes on the 
one hand and the Ibadans and Modakekes on the other.

The myth of Yemaja thus accounts for the origin of several of the gods, by 
making them the grandchildren of Obatala and Odudua; but there are other 
gods, who

[1. The order, according to some, was Olokun, Oloss, Shango, Oye, Oshun, 
Oba, Ogun, Dada, and the remainder as above.]

do not belong to this family group, and whose genesis is not accounted for 
in any way. Two, at least, of the principal gods are in this category, and 
we therefore leave for the moment the minor deities who sprung from Yemaja, 
and proceed with the chief gods, irrespective of their origin.

Shango, the god of thunder and lightning, is, next to Obatala, the most 
powerful god of the Yorubas; he was the second to spring from the body of 
Yemaja. His name appears to be derived from shan, "to strike violently," and 
go, "to bewilder;" and to have reference to peals of thunder, which are 
supposed to be produced by violent blows.[1] He has the epithet of Jakuta, 
"Hurler of stones," or "Fighter with stones" (Ja, to hurl from aloft, or ja, 
to fight, and okuta, stone); and stone implements, which have long ceased to 
be used in West Africa, are believed to be his thunderbolts.

To wield the thunderbolt is certainly one of the proper functions of the 
sky-god, and the process by which he becomes deprived of it is not by any 
means clear. It does not appear to be the result of advancing culture, for 
the Zeus of the Greeks and the Jupiter of the Romans, who had respectively 
the epithets Kerauneios and Tonans, retained it; as do the Nyankupon of the 
Tshis and the Nyonmo of the Gas; while, like the Ewes and Yorubas, the Aryan 

[1. For the same notion among the Tshis and Gas, see Note at p. 36.]

made another god, namely, Indra, offspring of Dyaus, wield the lightning.

The notion we found amongst the Ewes that a birdlike creature was the 
animating entity of the thunderstorm has no parallel here, and Shango is 
purely anthropomorphic. He dwells in the clouds in an immense brazen palace, 
where he maintains a large retinue and keeps a great number of horses; for, 
besides being the thunder-god, he is also the god of the chase and of 
pillage.[1] From his palace, Shango hurls upon those who have offended him 
red-hot chains of iron, which are forged for him by his brother Ogun, god of 
the river Ogun, of iron and of war; but this, it should be observed, is 
seemingly a modern notion, and the red-hot chains furnished by Ogun have a 
suspicious resemblance to the thundefbolts of Jupiter, forged by Vulcan. The 
Yoruba word for lightning is mana-mana (ma-ina, a making of fire), and has 
no connection either with iron (irin) or a chain (ewon); while the name 
Jakuta shows that Shango is believed to hurl stones and not iron. The iron-
chain notion, therefore, appears to have been borrowed from some foreign 
source, and, moreover, not to yet have made much progress. The Oni-Shango, 
or Priests of Shango,[2] in their chants always speak of Shango as hurling 
stones; and whenever a house is struck by lightning they rush in a body to 
pillage it and to find the stone, which, as they take

[1. Hunting and thunder were likewise the functions of the Aztec god, or 
goddess, Mixcoatl. (Nadaillac, "Prehistoric America," p. 298.)

2. Oni, one who possesses or gets.]

it with them secretly, they always succeed in doing. A chant of the Oni-
Shango very commonly heard is, "Oh Shango, thou art the master. Thou takest 
in thy hand thy fiery stones, to punish the guilty and satisfy thine anger. 
Everything that they strike is destroyed. Their fire eats up the forest, the 
trees are broken down, and all living creatures are slain;" and the lay-
worshippers of Shango flock into the streets during a thunderstorm crying, " 
Shango, Shango, Great King! Shango is the lord and master. In the storm he 
hurls his fiery stones against his enemies, and their track gleams in the 
midst of the darkness." "May Shango's stone strike you," is a very common 

According to some natives, Oshumare, the Rainbow, is the servant of Shango, 
his office being to take up water frorn the earth to the palace in the 
clouds. He has a messenger named Ara, "Thunder-clap," whom he sends out with 
a loud noise. A small bird called papagori is sacred to Shango, and his 
worshippers profess to be able to understand its cry.

Shango married three of his sisters: Oya, the Niger; Oshun, the river of the 
same name, which rises in Ijesa and flows into the water-way between Lagos 
and the Lekki lagoon, near Emina; and Oba, also a river, which rises in 
Ibadan and flows into the Kradu Water. All three accompany their husband 
when he goes out, Oya taking with her her messenger Afefe (the Wind, or Gale 
of Wind), and Oshun and Oba carrying his bow and sword. Shaugo's slave Biri 
(Darkness) goes in attendance.

The image of Shango generally represents him as a man standing, and is 
surrounded by images, smaller in size, of his three wives; who are also 
represented as standing up, with the palms of their hands joined together in 
front of the bosom. Oxen, sheep, and fowls are the offerings ordinarily made 
to Shango, and, on important occasions, human beings. His colours are red 
and white. He is consulted with sixteen cowries, which are thrown on the 
ground, those which lie with the back uppermost being favourable, and those 
with the back downward the reverse. He usually goes armed with a club called 
oshe, made of the wood of the ayan tree, which is so hard that a proverb 
says, "The ayan tree resists the axe." In consequence of his club being made 
of this wood, the tree is sacred to him.

The priests and followers of Shango wear a wallet, emblematic of the 
plundering propensities of their lord, and the chief priest is called Magba, 
" The Receiver." As amongst the Ewe tribes, a house struck by lightning is 
at once invaded and plundered by the disciples of the god, and a fine 
imposed on the occupants, who, it is held, must have offended him. Persons 
who are killed by lightning may not, properly speaking, be buried; but if 
the relations of the deceased offer a sufficient payment, the priests 
usually allow the corpse to be redeemed and buried. Individuals rendered 
insensible by lightning are at once despatched by the priests, the accident 
being regarded as proof positive that Shango requires them. A common idea is 
that Shango is subject to frequent outbursts of ungovernable temper, during 
which he thumps and bangs overhead, and hurls down stones at those who have 
given him cause for offence.

The foregoing are, with the exception of the myth of the fiery chains, the 
old ideas respecting Shango; but on to them are now rapidly becoming grafted 
some later myths, which make Shango, an earthly king who afterwards became a 
god. This Shango was King of Oyo, capital of Yoruba, and became so 
unbearable through rapacity, cruelty, and tyranny, that the chiefs and 
people at last sent him a calabash of parrots' eggs, in accordance with the 
custom that has already been mentioned; with a message that he must be 
fatigued with the cares of government, and that it was time for him to go to 
sleep. On receiving this intimation, Shango, instead of allowing himself to 
be quietly strangled by his wives, defied public opinion and endeavoured to 
assemble his adherents; and, when this failed, sought safety in flight. He 
left the palace by night, intending to endeavour to reach Tapa, beyond the 
Niger, which was his mother's native place; and was accompanied only by one 
wife and one slave, the rest of his household having deserted him. During 
the night the wife repented of her hasty action, and also left him; so, when 
in the morning Shango found himself lost in the midst of a pathless forest, 
he had no one with him but his slave. They wandered about without food for 
some days, seeking in vain for a path which would lead them out of the 
forest, and at last Shango, left his slave, saying, "Wait here till I 
return, and we will then try further." After waiting a long time, the slave, 
as his master did not appear, went in search of him, and before long found 
his corpse hanging by the neck from an ayan-tree. Eventually the slave 
succeeded in extricating himself from the forest, and finding himself in a 
part of the country he knew, made his way towards Oyo, where he told the 

When the chiefs and elders heard that Shango had hanged himself they were 
much alarmed, fearing that they would be held responsible for his death. 
They went, in company, with the priests, to the place where the slave had 
left the body, but were unable to find it, for it was no longer on the tree. 
They searched in every direction, and at last found a deep pit in the earth, 
from which the end of an iron chain protruded. They stooped over the pit and 
listened, and could hear Shango talking down in the earth. They at once 
erected a small temple over the pit, and leaving some priests there to 
propitiate the new god, and establish a worship, returned to Oyo, where they 
proclaimed: "Shango is not dead. He has become an orisha. He has descended 
into the earth, and lives among the dead people, with whom we have heard him 
conversing." Some of the townspeople, however, being ignorant and foolish, 
did not believe the story, and when the criers cried, "Shango is not dead," 
they laughed and shouted in return, "Shango is dead. Shango hanged himself." 
In consequence of this wicked conduct, Shango came in person, with a 
terrific thunderstorm, to punish them for their behaviour; and, in order to 
show his power, he killed many of the scoffers with his fiery stones, and 
set the town on fire. Then the priests and elders ran about -among the 
burning houses, shouting, "Shango did not hang himself. Shango has become an 
orisha. See what these bad men have brought upon you by their unbelief. He 
is angry because they laughed at him, and he has burned your houses with his 
fiery stones because you did not vindicate his honour." Then the populace 
fell upon the scoffers and beat them to death, so that Shango was appeased, 
and his anger turned away. The place where Shango descended into the earth 
was called Kuso, and soon became a town, for many people went to dwell 

Perhaps this myth really does refer to some former King of Oyo, though why 
such a king should usurp the functions of the thunder-god, is not at all 
clear. It is inconsistent in part, for it makes the chiefs and elders 
alarmed at the suicide of Shango, because they feared to be held responsible 
for his death; yet they would have been equally responsible had he complied 
with established custom, and committed suicide when he received the parrots' 
eggs they sent him. The fact of the ayan being sacred to the god Shango, no 
doubt caused that tree to be selected for the legendary suicide of the king 
Shango; and the iron chain which protruded from the hole in the ground was 
probably suggested by the notion of red-hot chains of lightning. As we have 
said, this myth is rapidly becoming blended with the older ones, and, in 
consequence of these events having taken place at Kuso, Shango has the title 
of Oba-Kuso, "King of Kuso."

Another myth makes Shango the son of Obatala, and married to the three river 
goddesses Oya, Oshun, and Oba, but reigning as an earthly king at Oyo. The 
story relates that one day Shango obtained from his father Obatala a 
powerful charm, which, when eaten, would enable him to vanquish all who 
opposed him. Shango ate most of the medicament, and then gave the rest to 
Oya to keep for him; but she, as soon as his back was turned, ate the rest 
herself. Next morning the chiefs and elders assembled at the palace as 
usual, to judge the affairs of the people, and each spoke in his turn; but 
when it came to Shango's turn to speak, flames burst forth from his mouth, 
and all fled in terror. Oya, too, when she began to scold ber women in the 
palace, similarly belched forth flames, so that everybody ran away, and the 
palace was deserted. Shango now saw that he was, as a god, inferior to none; 
so calling his three wives to him, and taking in his hand a long iron-chain, 
he stamped on the earth till it opened under him, and descended into it with 
his wives. The earth closed again over them, after they had gone down, but 
the end of the chain was left protruding from the ground.

This myth well exemplifies the confusion that has now been created in men's 
minds between the thunder-god proper and the demi-god, the result being a 
kind of compound Shango, possessing attributes of each. The Shango of this 
story resembles in his marital relations the thunder-god, but the descent 
into the earth with the iron chain, the end of which is left above ground, 
is like the legendary descent of the deified king, and is probably only 
another version of the same event. It is probable that contact with 
Mohammedans has had something to do with the invention of this myth. The 
genii, as we read of them in the "Arabian Nights," are frequently described 
as breathing forth flames to destroy their opponents; and a descent into the 
earth, which opens when stamped upon, is a mode of exit often found in the 
same collection. These ideas do not appear to be ones at all likely to have 
arisen spontaneously in the negro mind, and we find nothing of the sort in 
the groups cognate to the Yoruba. Moreover, a thunder-god must, from the 
very nature of his being, live above the eaxth amongst the clouds; and to 
make him descend into the bowels of the earth, is to place him in a 
situation where he could not exercise the functions of his office. These 
remarks equally apply to the following myth.

Since his descent into the earth with his three wives at Oyo, Shango has 
often come back to the world. One day, when down in the earth, he quarrelled 
with Oya, who had stolen some of his "medicines;" and she, terrified at his 
violence, ran away, and took refuge with her brother the Sea-God (Olokun). 
As soon as Shango discovered where she had gone, he swore a great oath to 
beat her so that she would never forget it. Next morning he came up from 
below with the Sun, and, following him in his course all the day, arrived 
with him in the evening at the place where the sea and sky join, and so 
descended with him into the territories of his brother Olokun. The Sun had 
not knowingly shown Shango the road across the sky to Olokun's palace, for 
Shango had been careful to keep behind him all the time, nearly out of 
sight, and to hide when the Sun looked round.

When Shango reached Olokun's palace and saw his wife Oya there, he made a 
great noise and commotion. He rushed towards her to seize her, but Olokun 
held him; and while the two were struggling together Oya escaped, and ran to 
bide with her sister Olosa (the Lagoon). When Olokun saw that Oya had gone 
he released Shango, who, now more furious than ever, ran after his wife 
cursing and threatening her. In his rage he tore up the trees by their 
roots, as he ran along, tossing them here and there. Oya, looking out from 
her sister's house, saw him coming along the banks of the lagoon, and, 
knowing that Olosa could not protect her, ran out again, and fled along the 
shores towards the place where the Sun goes down. As she was running, and 
Shango coming behind, roaring and yelling, she saw a house near at hand, 
and, rushing into it, claimed protection of a man whom she found there, 
whose name was Huisi. She begged Huisi to defend her. Huisi asked what he, a 
man, could do against Shango; but Oya gave him to eat of the "medicines" she 
had stolen from her husband, and he, being thus made an orisha, promised to 
protect her. As Shango approached, Huisi ran from his house down to the 
banks of the lagoon, and tearing up a large tree by the roots, brandished it 
in the air, and defied Shango. There being no other tree there, Shango 
seized Huisi's canoe, shook it like a club, and the two weapons, striking 
together, were shattered to pieces. Then the two oiishas wrestled together. 
Flames burst from their mouths, and their feet tore great fissures in the 
earth as they dragged each other to and fro. This struggle lasted a long 
time without either being able to gain the mastery, and at last Shango, 
filled with fury at being baffled, and feeling his strength failing, stamped 
on the earth, which opened under him, and he descended into it, dragging 
Huisi down with him. At the commencement of the combat, Oya had fled to 
Lokoro;[1] she remained there, and the people built a temple in her honour. 
Huisi, who had become a god by virtue of the "medicine" he had eaten, also 
had a temple erected in his honour, on the spot where he had fought with 

In this myth Oya steals the medicine " and gives it to Huisi; in the former 
one she also stole it, but ate it herself. In each case it caused flames to 
burst from the mouth.

(6) IFA.
Ifa, god of divination, who is usually termed the God of Palm Nuts, because 
sixteen palm-nuts are used in the process of divination, comes after Shango 
in order of eminence. The name Ifa apparently means something scraped or 
wiped off: he has the title of Gbangba (explanation, demonstration, proof). 
Ifa's secondary attribute is to cause fecundity: he presides at births, and 
women pray to him to be made fruitful; while on this account offerings are 
always made to him before marriage, it being considered a disgrace not to 
bear children. To the native mind there is no conflict of function between 
Ifa and Obatala, for the former causes the woman to become pregnant, while 
the latter forms the child in the womb, which is supposed to be a different 
thing altogether.

[1. Near Porto Novo.]

Ifa first appeared on the earth at Ife, but lie did not come from the body 
of Yemaja, and his parentage and origin are unexplained. He tried to teach 
the inhabitants of Ife how to foretell future events, but they would not 
listen to him, so lie left the town and wandered about the world teaching 
mankind. After roaming about for a long time, and indulging in a variety of 
amours, Ifa fixed his residence at Ado, where he planted on a rock a palm-
nut, from which sixteen palm-trees grew up at once.

Ifa has an attendant or companion named Odu (? One who emulates), and a 
messenger called Opele (ope, puzzle, or ope, palm-tree). The bandicoot 
(okete) is sacred to him, because it lives chiefly upon palm-nuts. The first 
day of the Yoruba week is Ifa's holy day, and is called ajo awo, "day of the 
secret." On this day sacrifices of pigeons, fowls, and goats are made to 
him, and nobody can perform any business before accomplishing this duty. On 
very important occasions a human victim is immolated.

A priest of Ifa is termed a babalawo (baba-ni-awo), "Father who has the 
secret," and the profession is very lucrative, as the natives never 
undertake anything of.importance without consulting the god, and always act 
in accordance with the answer returned. Hence a proverb says, "The priest 
who is more shrewd than another adopts the worship of Ifa." As Ifa knows all 
futurity, and reveals coming events to his faithful followers, he is 
considered the god of wisdom, and the benefactor of mankind. He also 
instructs man how to secure the goodwill of the other gods, and conveys to 
him their wishes, His priests pluck all the hair from their bodies and shave 
their heads, and always appear attired in white cloths.

The general belief is that Ifa possessed the faculty of divination from the 
beginning, but there is a myth which makes him acquire the art from the 
phallic god Elegba. In the early days of the world, says the myth, there 
were but few people on the earth, and the gods found themselves stinted in 
the matter of sacrifices to such an extent that, not obtaining enough to eat 
from the offerings made by their followers,[1] they were obliged to have 
recourse to various pursuits in order to obtain food. Ifa, who was in the 
same straits as the other gods, took to fishing, with, however, but small 
success; and one day, when he had failed to catch any fish at all, and was 
very hungry, he consulted the crafty Elegba, who was also in want, as to 
what they could do to improve their condition. Elegba replied that if he 
could only obtain the sixteen palm-nuts from the two palms -that Orungan[2] 
the chief man, had in his plantation, he would show Ifa how to forecast the 
future; and that he could then use his knowledge in the service of mankind, 
and so receive an abundance of offerings. He stipulated that in return for 
instructing Ifa in the art of divination, he should always be allowed the 
first choice of all offerings made. Ifa agreed to the bargain, and going to 
Orungan, asked for the sixteen palm-nuts, explaining

[1. Compare this with Lucian, "Zeus in Tragedy," where Zeus complains that 
the sea captain Mnesitheus had, only sacrificed one cock to entertain 
sixteen gods.

2. The son and ravisher of Yemaja is also so named]

to him what he proposed to do with them. Orungan, very eager to know what 
the future had in store for him, at once promised the nuts, and ran with his 
wife Orisha-bi, " Orisha-born," to get them. The trees, however, were too 
lofty for them to be able to reach the palm-nuts, and the stems too smooth 
to be climbed; so they retired to a little distance and drove some monkeys 
that were in the vicinity into the palms. No sooner were the monkeys in the 
trees than they seized the nuts, and, after eating the red pulp that covered 
them, threw the bard kernels down on the ground, where Orungan and his wife 
picked them up. Having collected the whole sixteen, Orisha-bi tied them up 
in a piece of cloth, and put the bundle under her waist-cloth, on her back, 
as if she were carryino, a child. Then they carried the palm-nuts to Ifa. 
Elegba kept his promise and taught Ifa the art of divination, and Ifa in his 
turn taught Oruno-an, who thus became the first babalawo, It is in memory of 
these events that when a man wishes to consult Ifa, he takes his wife with 
him, if he be married, and his mother if he be single, who carries the 
sixteen palm-nuts, tied up in a bundle, on her back, like a child; and that 
the babalawo, before consulting the god, always says, "Orugan, ajuba oh. 
Orisha-bi ajuba oh." ("Orungan, I hold you in grateful remembrance. Orisha-
bi, I hold you in grateful remembrance."

For the consultation of Ifa a whitened board is employed, exactly similar to 
those used by children in Moslem schools in lieu of slates, about two feet 
long and eight or nine inches broad, on which are marked sixteen figures. 
These figures are called "mothers." The sixteen palm-nuts are held loosely 
in the right hand, and thrown through the half-closed fingers into the left 
hand. If one nut remain in the right hand, two marks are made, thus |  |; 
and if two remain. one mark, |.[1] In this way are formed the sixteen 
"mothers," one of which is declared by the babalawo to represent the 
inquirer; and from the order in which the others are produced he deduces 
certain results. The interpretation appears to be in accordance with 
established rule, but what that rule is is only known to the initiated. The 
following are the "mothers":

[1. This process is repeated eight times, and the marks are made in 
succession in two columns of four each.]

No. 6 is No. 5 inverted; 8 is 7 inverted; 10, 9 inverted; 13, 12 inverted; 
and 14, 11 inverted. Meji means "two," or "a pair," and the following 
appears to be the meaning of the names:-(1) The close pair (buru, closely). 
(2) The removed pair (Yekuro, to remove). (3) The street pair (Ode, a 
street). (4) The closed-up pair (Di, to close up, make dense). (5) The 
squatting-dog pair (losho, to squat like a dog). (6) The cross-bow pair 
(oron, cross-bow). (7) The striped pair (abila, striped). (8) ?Vulture-pair 
(akala, vulture). (9) The pointing pair (sha, to point). (10) The pair 
ending downward (Ku, to end, da, to upset on the ground). (11) ?The top-
heavy pair (Dura, to make an effort to recover from a stumble; opin, end, 
point). (12) The tattoo-mark pair (ture, name of certain tattoo-marks). (13) 
The edge pair (leti, on the edge of). (14) The folded-up pair (Ka, to fold 
or coil). (15) The opened pair (shi, to open). (16) The alternate pair (fo, 
to pass over, pass by, jump over, skip).

From these sixteen "mothers" a great many combinations can be made by taking 
a column from two different "mothers," and figures thus formed are called 
"children." Thus (13) and (2) and (11) and (10) make respectively-

As the figures are read from right to left, the system is probably derived 
from the Mobammedans. James Hamilton, indeed, describes[1] a very similar 
mode of divination which he saw in the oasis of Siwah, where it was called 
Derb el ful, or Derb el raml, according to whether beans or sand were used. 
He says: "Seven beans are held in the palm of the left hand, which is struck 
with a smart blow with the right half-closed fist, so that some of the beans 
jump into the right hand - if an odd number, one is marked; if even, two. 
The beans are replaced in the left hand, which is again struck with the 
right, and the result marked below the first. This being repeated four times 
gives the first figure, and the operation is performed until there are 
obtained four figures, which are placed side by side in a square; these are 
then read vertically and perpendicularly (sic), and also from corner to 
corner, thus giving in all ten figures. As each may contain four odd or four 
even numbers, they are capable of sixteen permutations, each of which has a 
separate signification, and a proper house, or part of the square in which 
it should appear."

The initiation fee paid to a priest for teaching the art of divination is, 
it is said, very heavy, and moreover does not cover the whole of the 
expense; for the Oracle is, like Oracles generally, ambiguous and obscure, 
and the neophyte finds that he constantly has to refer to the priests for 
explanations of its meaning, and on each such occasion he is required to pay 
a consultation fee. When a man is initiated the priest usually informs him 
that he must

[1. "Wanderings in North Africa," pp. 264-65.]

henceforward abstain from some particular article of food, which varies with 
the individual.

Ifa figures in connection with a legendary deluge, the story of which, now 
adapted to the Yoruba theology, was probably derived from the Mohammedans. 
Some time after settling at Ado, Ifa became tired of living in the world, 
and accordingly went to dwell in the firmament, with Obatala. After his 
departure, mankind, deprived of his assistance, was unable to properly 
interpret the desires of the gods, most of whom became in consequence 
annoyed. Olokun was the most angry, and in a fit of rage he destroyed nearly 
all the inhabitants of the world in a great flood, only a few being saved by 
Obatala, who drew them up into the sky by means of a long iron chain. After 
this ebullition of anger, Olokun retired once more to his own domains, but 
the world was nothing but mud, and quite unfit to live in, till Ifa came 
down from the sky, and, in conjunction with Odudua, once more made it 

Elegba, or Elegbara (Elegba-Bara), often called Esbu, is the same phallic 
divinity who was described in the volume on the Ewe-speaking Peoples. The 
name Elegba seems to mean, "He who seizes" (Eni-gba), and Bara is perhaps 
Oba-ra, "Lord of the rubbing " (Ra, to rub one thing against another). Eshu 
appears to be from shu, to emit, throw out, evacuate, The propensity to make 
mischief, which we noted as a minor characteristic of the Ewe Elegba, is 
much more prominent in the Yoruba god, who thus more nearly approaches a 
personification of evil. He is supposed always to carry a short knobbed 
club, which, originally intended to be a rude representation of the phallus, 
has, partly through want of skill on the part of the modellers of the 
images, and partly through the growing belief in Elegba's malevolence, come 
to be regarded as a weapon of offence.[1] Because he bears this club he has 
the title of Agongo ogo. Ogo is the name of the knobbed club, and is most 
probably a euphemism for the phallus; it is derived from go, to hide in a 
bending or stooping posture. The derivation of agongo is less easy to 
determine, but it seems to be from gongo, tip, extremity.

The image of Elegba, who is always represented naked, seated with his bands 
on his knees, and with an immensely, disproportionate phallus, is found in 
front of almost every house, protected by a small hut roofed with palm-
leaves. It is with reference to this that the proverb says: "As Eshw has a 
malicious disposition, his house is made for him in the street" (instead of 
indoors). The rude wooden representation of the phallus is planted in the 
earth by the side of the hut, and is seen in almost every public place; 
while at certain festivals it is paraded in great pomp, and pointed towards 
the young girls, who dance round it.

Elegba, in consequence of the bargain he made with

[1. In the case of Priapus we find a similar connection between the phallus 
and a cudgel. See Catullus, xx., "The Garden God."]

Ifa, receives a share of every sacrifice offered to the other gods. His own 
proper sacrifices are, as among the Ewe tribes, cocks, dogs and he-goats, 
chosen on account of their amorous propensities; but on very important 
occasions a human victim is offered. In such a case, after the head has been 
struck off, the corpse is disembowelled, and the entrails placed in front of 
the image in a large calabash or wooden dish; after which the body is 
suspended from a tree, or, if no tree be at hand, from a scaffolding of 
poles. Turkeybuzzards are sacred to Elegba and are considered his 
messengers, no doubt because they devour the entrails and bodies of the 

There is a noted temple Lo Elegba in a grove of palms near Wuru, a village 
situated about ten miles to the east of Badagry. The market of Wuru is under 
his protection, and each vendor throws a few cowries on the ground as a 
thank-offering. Once a year these cowries are swept up by the priests, and 
with the sum thus collected a slave is purchased to be sacrificed to the 
god. A slave is also sacrificed annually, towards the end of July, to Elegba 
in the town of Ondo, the capital of the state of the same name. Elegba's 
principal residence is said to be on a mountain named Igbeti, supposed to be 
situated near the Niger. Here he has a vast palace of brass, and a large 
number of attendants.

Circumcision among the Yorubas, as among the Ewes, is connected with the 
worship of Elegba, and appears to be a sacrifice of a portion of the organ 
which the god inspires, to ensure the well-being of the remainder. To 
circumcise is dako (da-oko) da, to be acceptable as a sacrifice, and oko, 
the foreskin. Circumcision is ileyika, or ikola, the former of which means 
"the circular cutting" (ike, the act of cutting, and ikeya, a circuit), and 
the latter, "the cutting that saves" (ike, the act of cutting, and ola, that 
which saves). Except among the Mohammedans there is no special time for 
performing the rite of circumcision, it being fixed for each individual by 
Ifa, after consultation, but usually it is done early in life. No woman 
would have connection with an uncircumcised man. A similar operation is 
performed on girls, who are excised, by women operators, shortly before 
puberty, that is, between the ages of ten and twelve years.

As is the case in the western half of the Slave Coast, erotic dreams are 
attributed to Elegba, who, either as a female or male, consorts sexually 
with men and women during their sleep, and so fulfils in his own person the 
functions of the incubi and succubi of mediaeval Europe.

(8) OGUN.
Ogun is the god of iron and of war, and, like Shango, is also a patron of 
hunters. Iron is sacred to him, and when swearing by Ogun it is usual to 
touch an iron implement with the 1LORgUe. The name Ogun seems to mean "One 
who pierces" (gun, to pierce, or thrust with something pointed). He is 
specially worshipped by blacksmiths, and by those who make use of iron 
weapons or tools. Any piece of iron can be used as a symbol of Ogun, and the 
ground is sacred to him because iron ore is found in it. He is one of those 
who sprang from the body of Yemaja.

The usual sacrifice offered to Ogun is a dog, together with fowls, palm oil, 
and minor articles of food. A proverb says, "An old dog must be sacrificed 
to Ogun," meaning that Ogun claims the best; and a dog's head, emblematic of 
this sacrifice, is always to be seen fastened up in some conspicuous part of 
the workshops of blacksmiths. On very important occasions, however, a human 
victim is offered, and, as in the case of a sacrifice to Elegba, the 
entrails are exposed before the image and the body suspended from a tree. 
The victim is slain by having his head struck off upon the stool of Ogun, 
over which the blood is made to gush. The reason of this is that the blood 
is believed to contain the vital principle, and therefore to be an offering, 
particularly acceptable to the gods.

This belief appears to be common to most barbarons peoples; the Israelites 
held it,[1] and blood was considered to be so peculiarly the portion of 
their national god, that the blood of all animals slain, whether for 
sacrifice or food, had to be presented as an offering, no one being allowed 
to eat it under pain of death.[2]

When war has been decided upon, a slave is purchased at the expense of the 
town, or tribe, and offered as a sacrifice to Ogun, to ensure success. The 
day before that on which he is to be immolated, the victim is led with great 
ceremony through the principal thoroughfares, and paraded in the market, 
where he is allowed to say or do anything he pleases (short of escaping his 
impending fate), may gratify his

[1. Genesis ix. 4; Leviticus xvii. 11, 14.

2. Leviticus xvii. 3,4; iii. 16,17; vii. 28-27.]

desire with any woman who takes his fancy, and give his tongue every 
licence. The reason of his being thus honoured for the twenty-four hours 
before being sacrificed, is that it is believed he will be born again and 
become a king; and, after the head has been struck off, the corpse is 
treated with the greatest respect by all. In order for this sacrifice to be 
effective, it is necessary that the war leaders should take the field before 
the body begins to become offensive. The Ibadans, who appear to be rather 
averse to human sacrifice, always used to perform this duty by deputy, 
paying the priests of Ife to sacrifice for them a slave in that town. When 
the war of 1877 began they omitted to do this, thinking that the affair 
would not be serious; and, attributing their subsequent want of success to 
the omission, they afterwards sacrificed a slave to Ogun in their camp at 
Kiji in 1885, they having been prevented from doing it earlier by their 
leader, a Mohammedan, who died in that year.

The priests of Ogun usually take out the hearts of human victims, which are 
dried, reduced to powder, then mixed with rum, and sold to persons who wish 
to be endowed with great courage, and who drink the mixture. The reason of 
this is that the heart is believed to be the seat of courage and to 
inherently possess that quality; and that when the heart is devoured or 
swallowed the quality with which it is inspired is also taken into the 

OLOKUN (oni-okun, he who owns the sea), "Lord of the Sea," is the sea-god of 
the Yorubas. He is one of those who came from the body of Yemaja.

As man worships that from which he has most to fear, or from which he hopes 
to receive the greatest benefits, the inland tribes pay little or no 
attention to Olokun, who is, however, the chief god of fishermen and of all 
others whose avocations take them upon the sea. When Olokun is angry he 
causes the sea to be rough and stirs up a raging surf upon the shore; and it 
is he who drowns men, upsets boats or canoes, and causes shipwrecks.

Olokun is not the personally divine sea but an anthropomorphic conception. 
He is of human shape and black in colour, but with long flowing hair, and 
resides in a vast palace under the sea, where he is served by a number of 
sea-spirits, some of whom are human in shape, while others partake more or 
less of the nature of fish. On ordinary occasions animals are sacrificed to 
Olokun, but when the condition of the surf prevents canoes from putting to 
sea for many days at a time, a human victim is offered to appease him. It is 
said that such sacrifices have been made in recent times, even at Lagos, by 
the people of the Isaleko quarter, who are chiefly worshippers of Olokun. 
The sacrifice was of course secret, and according to native report the 
canoemen used to watch by night till they caught some solitary wayfarer, 
whom they gagged and conveyed across the lagoon to the sea-shore, where they 
struck off his head and threw the body into the surf.

A myth says that Olokun, becoming enraged with mankind on account of their 
neglect of him, endeavoured to destroy them by overflowing the land; and had 
drowned large numbers when Obatala interfered to save the remainder, and 
forced Olokun back to his palace, where he bound him with seven iron chains 
till he promised to abandon his design. This, perhaps, has reference to some 
former encroachment of the sea upon the low-lying sandy shores, which are 
even now liable to be submerged at spring-tides.[1]

Olokun has a wife named Olokun-su, or Elusu, who lives in the harbour bar at 
Lagos. She is white in colour and human in shape, but is covered with fish-
scales from below the breasts to the hips. The fish in the waters of the bar 
are sacred to her, and should anyone catch them, she takes vengeance by 
upsetting canoes and drowning the occupants. A man who should be so ill-
advised as to attempt to fish on the bar would run a great risk of being

[1. Another myth of this nature has been mentioned in Chapter II., under 

thrown overboard by the other canoemen. Olokunsu is an example of a local 
sea-goddess, originally, as on the Gold Coast at the present day, considered 
quite independent, being attached to the general god of the sea, and 
accounted for as belonging to him.

(2) OLOSA.
Olosa (oni-osa, owner of the laaoon) is the goddess of the Lagos Lagoon, and 
the principal wife of her brother Olokim, the sea-god. Like her husband she 
is long-haired. She sprang from the body of Yemaja.

Olosa supplies her votaries with fish, and there are several temples 
dedicated to her along the shores of the lagoon, where offerings of fowls 
and sheep are made to her to render her propitious. When the lagoon is 
swollen by rain and overflows its banks she is angry, and if the inundation 
be serious a human victim is offered to her-, to induce her to return within 
her proper limits.

Crocodiles ate Olosa's messengers, and may not be molested. They are 
supposed to bear to the goddess the offerings which the faithful deposit on 
the shores of the lagoon or throw into the sedge. Some crocodiles, selected 
by the priests on account of certain marks borne by them, are treated with 
great veneration; and have rude sheds, thatched with palm leaves, erected 
for their accommodation near the water's edge. Food is regagularly supplied 
to these reptiles every fifth day, or festival, and many of them become 
sufficiently tame to come for the offering as soon as they see or hear the 
worshippers gathering on the bank.

Shankpanna, or Shakpana, who also came from the body of Yemaja, is the 
Small-pox god. The name appears to be derived from shan, to daub, smear, or 
plaster, which probably has reference to the pustules with which a small-pox 
patient is covered, and akpania,[1] a man-killer, homicide. He is 
accompanied by an assistant named Buku,[2] who kills those attacked by 
small-pox by wringing their necks.

Shan-kpanna is old and lame, and is depicted as limping along with the aid 
of a stick. According to a myth he has a withered leg. One day, when the 
gods were all assembled at the palace of Obatala, and were dancing and 
making merry, Shankpanna endeavoured to join in the dance, but, owing to his 
deformity, stumbled and fell. All the gods and goddesses thereupon burst out 
laughing, and Shankpanna, in revenge, strove to infect them with small-pox, 
but Obatala came to the rescue, and, seizing his spear, drove Shankpanna 
away. From that day Shankpanna was forbidden to associate with the other 
gods, and he became an outcast who has since lived in desolate and 
uninhabited tracts of country.

Temples dedicated to Shankpanna are always built in the bush, at some little 
distance from a town or village, with a view to keeping him away from 

[1. Akpania, kpa, to kill, and enia, a person.

2. Perhaps bu, to rot, emit a.stench, and iku, death.]

habitations. He is much dreaded, and when there is an epidemic of small-pox 
the priests who serve him are able to impose almost any terms they please 
upon the terrified people, as the price of their mediation, To whistle by 
night near one of Shankpanna's haunts is believed to be a certain way of 
attracting his notice and contracting the disease. As is the case with 
Sapatan, the small-pox god of the Ewe tribes, who have perhaps adopted the 
notion from the Yorubas, flies and mosquitos are the messengers of 
Sbankpanna, and his emblem is a stick covered with red and white blotches, 
symbolic, it seems, of the marks he makes on the bodies of his victims.

Shigidi, or Shugudu, is deified nightmare. The name appears to mean 
"something short and bulky," and the god, or demon, is represented by a 
broad and short head, made of clay, or, more commonly, by a thick, blunted 
cone of clay, which is ornamented with cowries, and is no doubt emblematic 
of the head.

Shigidi is an evil god, and enables man to gratify his hate in secret and 
without risk to himself. When a man wishes to revenge himself upon another 
he, offers a sacrifice to Shigidi, who thereupon proceeds at night to the 
house of the person indicated and kills him. His mode of procedure is to 
squat upon the breast of his victim and "press out his breath;" but it often 
happens that the tutelary deity of the sufferer comes to the rescue and 
wakes him, uponwhich Sbigidi leaps off, falls upon the earthen floor, and 
disappears, for he only has power over man dur ing sleep. This superstition 
still lingers among the negroes of the Bahamas of Yoruba descent, who talk 
of being "hagged," and believe that nightmare is caused by a demon that 
crouches upon the breast of the sleeper. The word nightmare is itself a 
survival from a similar belief once held by ourselves, mare being the Anglo-
Saxon mære, elf or goblin.

The person -who employs Shigidi, and sends him out to kill, must remain 
awake till the god returns, for if he were to fall asleep Shigidi would at 
that moment turn back, and the mission would fail. Shigidi either travels on 
the wind, or raises a wind to waft him along; on this point opinions differ. 
The first symptom of being attacked by Shigidi, is a feeling of heat and 
oppression at the pit of the stomach, "like hot, boiled rice," said a 
native. If a man experiences this when he is falling asleep, it behoves him 
to get up at once and seek the protection of the god he usually serves.

Houses and enclosed yards can be placed under the guardianship of Shigidi. 
In order to do this a hole is dug in the earth and a fowl, sheep, or, in 
exceptional cases, a human victim is slaughtered, so that the blood drains 
into the hole, and is then buried. A short, conical mound of red earth is 
next built over the spot, and an earthen saucer placed on the summit to 
receive occasional sacrifices. When a site has thus been placed under the 
protection of Shigidi, he kills, in his typical manner, those who injure the 
buildings, or who trespass there with bad intentions.

Olarosa (?Alarense, helper) is the tutelary deity of Houses. He is 
represented as armed with a stick or sword, and his image is found in almost 
every household guarding the entrance. His office is to drive away sorcerers 
and evil spirits, and to keep Elegba from entering the house.

(6) DADA.
Dada, more properly Eda, or Ida, is the god of New-born Babes and 
Vegetables. The name appears to mean natural production, anything produced 
or brought forth by natural process. Dada is repre. sented by a calabash 
ornamented with cowries, on which is placed a ball of indigo. He is one of 
those who came from the body of Yemaja.

(7) OYA.
Oya is the goddess of the Niger, which is called Odo Oya, the river of Oya. 
She is the chief wife of the thunder-god, Shango, and, as has already been 
said, her messenger is Afefe, the Wind. At Lokoro, near Porto Novo, there is 
said to be a temple of Oya containing an image of the goddess with eight 
heads surrounding a central head. This is supposed to be symbolical of the 
numerous outfalls of the Niger through its delta. Oya, and the two following 
sprang from Yemaja.

(8) OSHUN.
Oshun, goddess of the river of the same name, which is the sacred river of 
Jebu Ode, is the second wife of Shango. Crocodiles which bear certain marks 
are sacred to her, and are considered her messengers. Human sacrifices are 
made to Oshun in time of need.

(9) OBA.
Oba, the third wife of Shango, is the goddess of the River Ibu, or Oba.

Aje Shaluga is the god of Wealth, and confers riches on his worshippers. The 
name appears to mean either "the gainer who makes to recur," or "the 
sorcerer who makes to recur." (Aje, sorcerer; aje, earner, or gainer, and 
shalu, to recur.) His emblem is a large cowry. One proverb says, "Aje 
Shaluga often passes by the first caravan as it comes to the market, and 
loads the last with benefits;" and another, "He who while walking finds a 
cowry is favoured by Aje Shaluga." The large cowry, emblematic of Aje 
Shaluga, has no value as. a medium of exchange, the small white cowries 
being alone used for that purpose. He is the patron of dyes and of colours 
generally. He came from the body of Yemaja.

Orisha Oko (oko, farm, garden, plantation) is the god of Agriculture, and is 
one of those who sprang from the body of Yemaja. As the natives chiefly 
depend upon the fruits of the earth for their food, Orisha Oko is much 
honoured. There is scarcely a town or village that has not a temple 
dedicated to him, and he has a large number of priests and priestesses in 
his service.

Although his first care is to promote the fertility of the earth, he is also 
-the god of natural fertility in general, for he is a phallic divinity, and 
his image is always provided with an enormous phallus. He thus resembles 
Priapus, who, although a phallic deity, was, apparently, primarily a garden-
god, who fostered and protected crops. (Catullus, xix. xx.; Tibullus, I. i.)

An emblem of Orisha Oko is an iron rod, and honey bees are his messengers. 
It is probably with reference to his phallic attributes that he has the 
title of Eni-duru- "the erect personage." One of his functions is to cure 
malarial fevers, to which those who disturb the soil in the process of 
cultivation are particularly liable.

There is an annual festival to Orisha Oko, held when the yam crop is ripe, 
and all then partake of new yams. At this festival general licence prevails, 
the priestesses give themselves indiscriminately to all the male worshippers 
of the god, and, theoretically, every man has a right to sexual intercourse 
with every woman he may meet abroad. Social prejudices have, however, 
restricted the application of this privilege, and it is now only slave-
girls, or women of the lowest order, who are really at the disposal of the 
public, and then only if they are consenting parties. At this festival all 
kinds of vegetable productions are cooked and placed in vessels in the 
streets, for general use.

Osanhin (san, to benefit) is the god of Medicine, and, as he is always 
applied to in cases of sickness, his worship is very general. His emblem is 
the figure of a bird perched upon an iron bar.

(13) ARONI.
Aroni is the Forest-god, and, like the last, has a knowledge of medicine, 
though the cure of disease is not his special function. The name means "One 
having a withered limb," and Aroni is always represented as of human shape 
but with only one leg, the head of a dog, and a dog's tail.

Aroni seizes and devours those who meet him in the forest and attempt to run 
away when they see him; but if a man faces him boldly and shows no sign 'of 
fear, he leads him to his dwelling in the fastnesses of the forest, and 
keeps him there for two or three months, during which time he teaches him 
the secrets of the plants and their medicinal properties. When the pupil has 
no more to learn Aroni dismisses him, giving him a hair from his tail to 
prove to the incredulous that he has really been initiated.

An eddy of wind, rushing through the forest and swirling up the dead leaves, 
is considered a manifestation of Aroni.

(14) AJA.
Aja, whose name appears to mean a wild vine, is a deity somewhat similar to 
Aroni. Like Aroni, she carries off persons who meet her into the depths of 
the forest, and teaches them the medicinal properties of plants; but she 
never harms anyone. Aja is of human shape, but very diminutive, she being 
only from one to two feet high. The aja vine is used by women to cure 
enflamed breasts.

(15) OYE.
Oye, the god of the Harmattan wind, is a giant who, according to some, lives 
in a cavern to the north of Ilorin, while others say that 'he resides on the 
mountain named Igbeti, where Elegba is supposed to have his palace.

(16) IBEJI.
lbeji, Twins (bi, to beget, eji, two) is the tutelary deity of twins, and 
answers to the god Hoho of the Ewe-tribes. A small black monkey, generally 
found amongst mangrove trees, is sacred to Ibeji. Offerings of fruit are 
made to it, and its flesh may not be eaten by twins or the parents of twins. 
This monkey is called Edon dudu, or Edun oriokun, and one of twin children 
is generally named after it Edon, or Edun.

When one of twins dies, the mother carries with the surviving child, to keep 
it from pining for its lost comrade, and also to give the spirit of the 
deceased child something to enter without disturbing the living child, a 
small wooden figure, seven or eight inches long, roughly fashioned in human 
shape, and of the sex of the dead child. Such figures are nude, as an infant 
would be, with beads round the waist.

At Erapo, a village on the Lagoon between Lagos and Badagry, there is a 
celebrated temple to Ibeji, to which all twins, and the parents of twins, 
from a long distance round make pilgrimages.

It is said to be usual in Ondo to destroy one of twins. This is contrary to 
the practice of the Yorubas, and, if true, the custom has probably been 
borrowed from the Benin tribes to the east.

Oshumare is the Rainbow-god, the Great Snake of the Underneath, who comes up 
at times above the edge of the earth to drink water from the sky. The name 
is compounded of shu, to gather in dark clouds, to become gloomy, and the 
word mare, or maye, which occurs in one of the epithets of Olorun, and the 
meaning of which is uncertain. This god is also common to the Ewe-tribes, 
under the name of Anyiewo, and has been described in "The Ewe-Speaking 
People of the Slave Coast of West Africa." A variety of the python, called 
by the Yorubas ere, is the messenger of the rainbow-god, and is sacred to 

(18) OKE.
Oke, mountain, or hill, is the god of Mountains, and is worshipped by those 
who live in mountainous or rocky country. If neglected, he is apt to roll 
down huge masses of rock upon the habitations of those who have been 
forgetful of his wants, or to sweep them away by a landslip. When any great 
mishap of this nature occurs, a human victim is offered up to turn away his 
anger. The falling of boulders or detached pieces of rock is always 
considered the handiwork of Oke and a sign that something is required. The 
emblem of Oke is a stone or fragment of rock. He is one of those who sprang 
from Yemaja.

At Abeokuta there is a rocky cavern in which Oke is worshipped. It is 
popularly believed by the other tribes that the Egbas, when defeated in war, 
can retire into this cavern, which then hermetically seats itself till the 
danger is past.

(19) OSHOSI.
Oshosi, who is also one of those who came from Yemaja, is the patron of 
Hunters. He resides in the forest, and drives the game into the snares and 
pitfalls of his faithful followers, whom he also protects from beasts of 
prey. He is represented as a man armed with a bow, or frequently by a bow 
alone. Offerings are made to him of the fruits of the chase, chiefly of 

According to the myth, the sun, moon, and stars came from the body of 
Yemaja. Orun, the Sun, and Oshu, the Moon, are gods, but the stars do not 
seem to have been deified. The worship of the sun and moon is, moreover, now 
very nearly obsolete, and sacrifices are no longer offered to them, though 
the appearance of the -new moon is commonly celebrated by a festival.

The stars are the daughters of the sun and moon. The boys, or young suns, on 
growing up tried to follow their father in his course across the sky to 
where the sea and the sky meet, and which, say the Yorubas, is the place 
where the white men go and find all the things with which they fill their 
ships; but he, jealous of his power, turned upon them and tried to kill 
them. Some of them sought refuge with Olosa, some with Olokun, and the 
remainder with their grandmother, Yemaja, who turned them into fish. Thus 
all the sons were driven out of the sky, but the daughters remained with 
their mother and still accompany her by night. This myth is virtually the 
same as that current among the eastern Ewe-tribes, who have almost certainly 
learnt it from their Yoruba neighbours.

To see the new moon is lucky, and, just as in England, people wish when they 
first see it. As amongst the Ewe-tribes, an eclipse of the Moon is supposed 
to indicate that the Sun is beating her, and steps are taken to drive him 
away, similar to those described in "The Ewe-Speaking People."

The Yorubas pay some attention to the heavenly bodies. The planet Venus, 
when near the Moon, is called Aja-Oshu, the Moon's Dog, becauseshe travels 
with it. When a morning star she is called Ofere, or Ofe, which seems to 
mean a pale blue colour. When an evening star she is called Irawo-ale, Star 
of the Evening. Sirius is called Irawo-oko, Canoe Star, because it is 
believed to be a guide to canoemen. A proverbial saying likens the stars to 
chickens following a hen, the Moon; and the Milky Way is called the group of 

Olori-merin, possessor of four heads, is another god whose worship is 
nearly, if not quite, obsolete. He was the tutelary deity of towns, and was 
represented by a hillock, or, if no hillock existed within the precincts of 
the town, by an artificial mound.

Sacrifice was made to Olori-merin every three months, or four times a year, 
and always consisted of a new-born child not more than three or four days' 
old. The child's throat was cut by a priest, and the blood, caught in a 
calabash or earthen vessel, was placed on the summit of the mound, after 
which the flesh was sliced up into small pieces and buried in the mound. 
During this dreadful scene the mother had to be present. This sacrifice was 
called Ejodun (Eje-odun), "The season of blood."

Olori-merin had, as his name betokens, four heads, with which he watched the 
four points of the compass from the top of his mound, and it was believed 
that no war or pestilence could attack a town under his protection. He had 
the legs and feet of a goat. Sometimes, at -night, he appeared in the shape 
of a venomous serpent.

IN the myths of the origin of the various gods described in the last two 
chapters we probably see the result of the indwelling-spirit theory having 
been lost sight of. As long as a god was accepted to be the animating 
principle or spiritual entity of some natural object or feature, his origin 
required no explanation, for his existence was bound up with the feature or 
object, and, if the question was thought of at all, he must have been, in 
the native mind, coeval with the origin of the world. When, however, as has 
been the case with most of the deities worshipped by the Yoruba tribes as a 
whole, the gods ceased to be identified with local objects or natural 
phenomena, some other explanation of their origin became necessary; for man, 
however low he may be in the scale of civilisation, is always desirous of 
knowing the reasons for everything, and the West African negro in particular 
is of a very inquisitive turn of mind. Then, in order to satisfy the natural 
desire to know who the gods were and whence they came, the myths we have 
already recounted grew up, and the numerous discrepancies in them appear to 
show that the process was comparatively recent. It looks as if the stories 
had not yet had sufficient time to become generally known in a commonly 
accepted version.

The deities Obatala and Odudua represent, say the priests, Heaven and Earth. 
Oloran is the real Heaven-god, or Sky-god, answering to the Ewe Mawu, but he 
is now almost pushed out of sight, and Obatala, a more active agent, acts 
for him. The difference between Olorun and Obatala appears to be that the 
former is the personal divine firmament, and the latter an anthropomorphic 
sky-god, a later conception; and we perhaps here see a repetition of the 
process by which in the religion of ancient Greece Kronos supplanted Uranus. 
Obatala, or Heaven, marries Odudua, or Earth,[1] and has two children, named 
Aganju and Yemaja, who, according to the priests, represent Land and Water. 
These two intermarry and have a son, Orungan, "Air," the region between the 
solid firmament, and the earth. Orungan ravishes his mother Yemaja, who, 
while endeavouring to escape from further outrage, falls and bursts open, 
whereupon a number of gods emerge from her gaping body.

The gods whose origin is thus accounted for as the offspring of Yemaja, are 
of various types. The Sea-god (Olokun), the Thunder-god (Shango), the Sun, 
the Moon, the Lagoon (Olosa), the three river-goddesses Oya, Oshun, and Oba, 
the god of Mountains (Oke), and Ogun, god of iron and war and of the River 
Ogun, are all the product of Nature-worship, but are not of one type, for 
the Sun and Moon belong to the

[1. Rhea, bride of Kronos, to some extent represented the earth in Grecian 

old order of things, to the same religious system as Olorun, and are 
personally divine, while the others belong to the new order, and are 
anthropomorphic. Shankpanna, god of small-pox, is personified pestilence, 
and belongs to another type; while Dada, Oshosi, Aje Shaluga, and Orisha 
Oko, as the respective patrons of vegetable productions, hunters, wealth, 
and agriculture, may be regarded as the tutelary deities of industries, and 
as belonging to a third class of religious conceptions. The myth thus 
assigns a common origin alike to the ancient gods and to those which are 
more modern.

There are, however, other gods who do not belong to this family circle; that 
is, they are not descendants of Obatala and Odudua, so the mythological 
scheme is incomplete, no attempt being made to account for their origin. 
These gods are the God of Divination (Ifa), the Forest-god (Aroni), the 
Phallic-god (Elegba), the Harmattan Wind (Oye), the Rainbow (Oshumare), the 
tutelary deity of households (Olarosa), the god of Medicine (Osanhin), and 
Shigidi. These also are of various types. The Harmattan Wind and the Rainbow 
are Nature-gods of the old order, and Aroni, god of forests, of the new. 
Olarosa and Osanhin are tutelary deities, and Shigidi is personified 
nightmare. Ifa was probably originally the God of fecundation, though now 
his chief function is to foretell the future. Elegba, primarily a phallic 
divinity, seems to be gradually becoming a personification of evil, and here 
we perhaps see a tendency towards Dualism, which in the future might, if 
undisturbed, result in Elegba becoming the Evil Deity, and Obatala or Ifa 
the Good.

The incompleteness of the scheme seems, as has been said, to show that the 
myth of Yemaja is comparatively recent, and this is supported by the fact 
that the myth itself is not universally accepted in its entirety. Shango, 
for example, is said by some to be of independent origin, like Ifa; and 
Odudua, the mother of Yemaja, according to the myth, is by others included 
in the number of those who sprang from Yemaja's body. No general consensus 
of opinion has yet been arrived at, but the myth of Yemaja is the only one 
that holds the field, and no doubt in course of time the gods whose origin 
is as yet unexplained would also be held to have come from the daugliter of 
Obatala, and Odudua.

We find the same want of accord in the myths of the origin of man. According 
to some, Obatala made the first man and woman out of clay or mud, whence he 
has obtained his titles of Alamorere and Orisha Kpokpo; while, according to 
others, the first pair came, with the gods, from the body of Yemaja. 
Although the first story somewhat resembles the account of the origin of man 
given in the Book of Genesis, there is no reason for supposing it to be 
borrowed. When uncivilised man, after speculating about the origin of 
mankind, has come to the conclusion that there must have been a first pair, 
and has accounted for that first pair by the theory that they were made by a 
superior being out of something; the material which he would be most likely 
to select for their manufacture is clay or mud, because it is with these 
that he makes his own first rude attempts to model the human form. To make a 
rude imitation of the figure of a man in clay requires far less skill and 
far less labour than to carve one out of a block of wood, whence it is that 
most of the images of the gods are made of clay. Clay figures being 
primordial, and images being ordinarily made of clay even when the arts have 
somewhat advanced, this would be the substance which the myth-makers would 
introduce into their myths describing the origin of the first pair, a 
connection of ideas between clay and the human form already existing.[1]

The second story, which cannot be any older than the myth of Yemaja, of 
which it is a part, is sufficiently precise to give the name of the first 
couple, that of the man being Obalofun (Lord of Speech), and that of the 
woman Iya (Mother). After coming out of the goddess at Ife, they settled 
there, and had a numerous progeny, which increased and multiplied till the 
whole earth was populated, hence it is that Ife is considered the cradle of 
the human race. Of course Obalofun and Iya were Yorubas, for it is a 
peculiarity of every uucivilised people to believe that the first man and 
woman were of their race.

Another tradition, though it makes Ife the place of origin of the Yoruba 
tribes, represents it as being colonised by persons migrating from the 
interior. This tradition is perhaps a dim recollection of a historical fact, 
historical, that is, in so far that the Yoruba tribes probably did in the 
remote past come

[1. According to one Greek myth, Pandora, the first woman, was ruade by 
Hepæestus out of earth, and, according to anotlier, Prometheus made man out 
of earth and water. See also Lucian, " Dialogues of the Gods," i.]

down from the interior, and occupy the territory in which they were found at 
the commencement of the present century; for the cognate Tshi tribes of the 
Gold Coast also have a tradition of a migration from the interior. Most 
probably the two traditions refer to a great southward movement of the 
original stock from which the Tshi, Gă, Ewe, and Yomba tribes are descended, 
and which, starting from some central point in the interior, spread out in 
fan-shape till it reached the sea-coast. The tradition of the Yoruba 
migration is as follows.

Long ago a certain person living in the far interior sent fifteen people 
from his country to go to the south, and with them came, of his own free 
will, one named Okambi,[1] who afterwards became the first King of Yoruba. 
When they were leaving, the person who sent them gave Okambi a slave, a 
trumpeter named Okinkin,[2] a fowl, and something tied up in a piece of 
black cloth. They journeyed for some time, and when they opened the gate of 
the south and passed into the unknown country, they found nothing but water 
spread out before them. At first they thought of returning, but fearing the 
anger of the person who had sent them, they entered the water; and, finding 
it quite shallow, waded on through it. This they did for some time until 
Okinkin the trumpeter sounded his trumpet, in accordance with the 
instructions the person had given, and thereby reminded Okambi of the 
something tied up in black cloth, which was to be opened when the trumpet

[1. This name means "an only child." Okan, one, and bi, to bear. 

2. Okinkin appears to mean "owner of a very small portion."]

sounded. The cloth was accordingly untied, and a palm-nut, with some earth 
fell into the water from it. The nut immediately began to grow, and shot up 
so rapidly that in a few minutes it had become a tall palm with sixteen 
branches.[1] All the party, being very tired from their long wading climbed 
up into the tree and rested on the branches till next morning, in which 
position a certain person named Okiki[2] saw them from the country from 
which they had been sent out. When he saw them, Okiki reminded Okinkin the 
trumpeter that it was his duty to sound the trumpet again, whereupon he 
sounded it, and Okambi untied the piece of black cloth a second time. When 
it was opened, earth fell from it, and, drying up the water, made a small 
mound. The fowl that the personage had given Okambi then flew on to the 
mound and scratched the earth here and there, and wherever the earth fell it 
dried up the water. When there was a good space covered with earth, Okambi 
came down from the tree, bringing with him his trumpeter Okinkin and his 
slave Tetu.[2] The other persons wished to come down also, but Okambi would 

[1. This number often recurs in Yoruba myths. There were sixteen palm-nuts 
on the two palms in the garden of Orungan, the chief man, which Ifa obtained 
for the purpose of divination, and sixteen palm trees grew up from the palm-
nut that Ifa planted on the rock at Ado. Sixteen persons, viz. fifteen and 
Okambi, commence the journey to the south.

2. This name is sometimes given as Okiki-shi. Okiki means rumour, or report, 
and Okiki-sbi, "borrowed from report." There is an unintelligible Gă 
proverb, "Nobody knows who has born Okaikoi," which perhaps refers to the 
same personage.

Tetu means "executioner."]

allow them to do so until they had promised to pay him, at stipulated 
periods of time, a tribute of 200 cowries apiece. The place where the palm 
sprung up from the water afterwards became Ife, and, some time after, three 
brothers set out from there in different directions, to make fresh 
discoveries. When they went away they left a slave, named Adimu,[1] to rule 
Ife during their absence.

This tradition is vague and meagre of detail, the only points brought out 
being that a certain number of persons migrated southward from the interior, 
and found a region covered with water. This latter detail, however, strongly 
supports the theory that a real migration took place; for the large 
stretches of shallow water of the lagoon system, which during the rainy 
season are enormously extended by the inundation of the low-lying portions 
of the surrounding country, could scarcely have failed to excite the wonder 
of a people accustomed to the plateaus and mountain ranges of the interior, 
and to leave a lasting impression upon their memories.

[1. Adimu, a tight grasp, hold-fast.]

THE Yoruba priesthood is divided into recognised orders, but before 
describing them it will be necessary to give some account of a secret 
society which is inseparably connected with the priesthood, and which, 
except in Jebu, Where it is called Oshogbo, is known as the Ogboni Society.

The Ogboni Society really holds the reins of government, and kings 
themselves are obliged to submit to its decrees. The members are popularly 
believed to possess a secret from which they derive their power, but their 
only secret appears to be that of a powerful and unscrupulous organisation, 
each member of which is bound to assist every other, while all are bound to 
carry out, and if necessary enforce, the decrees of the body. Each town and 
village has its Ogboni "lodge," and the members recognise each other by 
conventional signs and passwords.. At their meetings, which are held with a 
great affectation of mystery, they deliberate upon all matters which 
interest the tribe or community. The decisions of the Ogboni are final, and 
nothing of importance can be done without their consent When the 
missionaries wished to establish theniselves at Abeokuta, the king could not 
grant the necessary permission till the Ogbonis had considered the matter 
and signified their consent. The power of the Ogbonis, however, varies in 
different states, and in Ibadan they seem to be little more than public 

Of course, since the organization is secret, little can really be known 
about it. Death is said to be the penalty for betraying the secrets of the 
order. According to native report, a member who has been convicted of such 
an offence is placed in a narrow cell, with his legs protruding through two 
holes in the wall into an adjoining cell, where they are fastened to two 
stakes driven into the earthen floor. The executioner sits in this adjoining 
cell, and the offender is tortured to death by having the flesh scraped from 
his legs with sharp-edged shells. Whether this is true or not it is 
impossible to say.

According to some natives the Ogboni Society has for its chief object the 
preservation of established religious customs, while according to others it 
is principally occupied with the civil power. It really appears to concern 
itself with every matter of public interest, and seems to resemble in all 
important particulars a very similar society, called Porro, which is found 
among the Timnis of Sierra Leone. What is quite certain is that the 
protecting deity of the Ogboni is the goddess Odudua, who is generally 
spoken of by members by her title Ile (Earth). It seems probable that the 
society was originally intended for the initiation to manhood of youths who 
had arrived at puberty, like the Boguera of the Beebuanas, the Niamwali of 
the Manganja, and the ceremony of the Mpongwe, described by Mr. Winwood 
Reade,[1] and that its civil and judicial functions are later usurpations. 
If this were so, it would to some extent be connected with phallic worship, 
and phallic emblems are very commonly seen carved on the doors of Ogboni 
lodges. The name Ogboni is probably derived from Ogba, "Companion."

The Alafin of Yoruba is the chief of all the Ogboni, and he thus is able to 
exert influence beyond the limits of his own kingdom. In most states the 
chief of the Ogboni is the head of the priesthood, and is styled Ekeji 
Orisha, "Next to the Gods." He convokes councils of priests on extraordinary 
occasions, and decides disputed points. In Jebu every man of rank is an 
Oshogbo, but in lbadan, as has been said, the Ogboni seem chiefly to 
exercise the functions of executioners. Criminals are delivered to them for 
execution and are put to death secretly in the Ogboni lodge. The heads are 
afterwards fixed to a tree in the market-place, but the bodies are never 
seen again, and the relatives are thus unable to give them the rites of 
sepulture, which is considered a great disgrace.

The Yoruba priesthood (Olorisha, priest) is divided into three orders, each 
of which is further subdivided into ranks or classes.

The first order comprises three ranks, viz. (1) the Babalawo, or priests of 
Ifa; (2) priests who practise medicine, and who serve Osanhin and Aroni, 
gods of medicine; (3) priests of Obatala and Odudua. White 

[1. "Savage Africa," p. 246.]

is the distinguishing colour of this order, and all priests belonging to it 
invariably wear white cloths. The Babalawo wear armlets made of palm-fibre, 
and carry a cow-tail (iruke), while priests of Obatala are distinguished by 
necklaces of white beads. There are two high priests of this order, one of 
whom resides at Ife and the other at Ika, some distance to the north.

The second order comprises (1) the Oni-Shango, or priests of Shango; and (2) 
priests of all other gods not before mentioned, except Orisha Oko. Red and 
white are the distinguishing colours of this order, and all members of it 
shave the crown of the head. Priests of Shango wear necklaces of black, red, 
and white beads; those of Ogun an iron bracelet on the left arm; and those 
of Oshun, one of Shango's wives, brass armlets and anklets.

The third order consists of (1) priests of Orisha Oko, god of Agriculture, 
and (2) priests of demi-gods, or deified men, such as Huisi, who defended 
Oya against Shango. Priests of this order are distinguished by a small white 
mark painted on the forehead.

The reason of the Babalawo taking the highest place in the priesthood is 
that it is through his agency, as the priest of Ifa, the god of divination, 
that man learns what is necessary to be done to please the other gods. The 
priests of Ifa thus, to a certain extent, control and direct the worship of 
the other gods, and in time of calamity, war, or pestilence it is their 
business to declare what ought to be done to make the gods propitious.

The Magba, or chief priest of Shango, has twelve assistants, who are termed, 
in order of authority, right-hand (Oton), left-hand (Osin), third, fourth, 
fifth, and so on. They reside near Kuso, the spot at which Shango is said to 
have descended into the earth.

The priests, besides acting as intermediaries between the gods and men, 
preside at all trials by ordeal, and prepare and sell charms, amulets, &c. 
The priests of Ifa are diviners proper, but other priests also practise 
divination, though not with palm-nuts and the board peculiar to Ifa. The 
methods are various; one, called keke, is a casting of lots by means of 
small sticks or stalks of grass, each of which represents a particular 
individual; another, called gogo, is a drawing of lots. A certain number of 
grass stalks, one of which is bent, are held in the band or wrapped in a 
piece of cloth, so that the ends only show; and each person in turn draws 
one, the bent stalk indicating the one who is in fault. The person of a 
priest is sacred, and violence offered to one is severely punished.

The office of priest is hereditary in the families of priests, but members 
are recruited in other modes. Seminaries for youths and girls, like those of 
the kosio of the Ewe tribes, are a regular institution, and in them 
applicants for the priestly office undergo a novitiate of two or three 
years, at the end of which they are consecrated and take a new name. The 
ceremony of consecration is very similar to that described in the last 

[1. Ewe-Speaking Peoples," p. 143.]

The ordinary service of the temples is performed by the dependents of the 
priesthood, the affiliated youths, and the "wives" of the gods, who keep the 
vessels filled with water, and every fifth day sweep out the temples. In the 
vicinity the affiliated young people practise the religious dances and 
songs, and for hours together may be heard repeating chants of only two or 
three notes, till they work themselves up into a state of frenzy, and break 
out into loud shrieks and cries.

Temples are ordinarily circular huts built of clay, with conical roofs 
thatched with grass; the interior is usually painted with the colour sacred 
to the god, and the doors and shutters, and the posts which support the 
overhanging eaves, are carved. The temples of the chief gods are usually 
situated in groves of fine trees, amongst which one or two large silk-cotton 
trees (Bombaces), which seem to be regarded with veneration throughout all 
West Africa, tower above the rest. From the summits of the trees, or from 
tall bamboos, long streamers flutter in the wind and testify to the sanctity 
of the locality. Sometimes there is a grove only, without any temple, but 
more frequently the grove or avenue adjoins a shrine. These groves are 
regarded with superstitious reverence, and have proper names; a grove sacred 
to Ifa and his companion Odu is, for instance, called an Igbodu. Near the 
western entrance of the town of Ode Ondo is a celebrated grove or sacred 
avenue, to one side of which, in the adjoining bush, the sacrifice of human 
victims and the execution of criminals takes place. Persons approaching each 
other in opposite directions are not allowed to pass each other in this 
avenue, one of them being required to turn back and wait till the path is 

The temples of tutelary deities of towns are usually to be found in the 
central square of the town, or near the principal gate, and those of the 
tutelary deities of families or households near the house-door or in the 
yard. In shape and construction they resemble the temples of the chief gods, 
but those of the pro. tecting deities of households are mere miniatures, and 
are sometimes only small sheds, open at the ends and sides. Besides these 
structures, which are seen in every street, one often finds larger huts, 
circular in shape, thatched with grass, and larcre enough to contain a 
seated man. These, which might be mistaken for temples but for the fact that 
they contain no images, are built for the accommodation of pious persons who 
wish to meditate and pray. A temple is called Ile Orisha, " House of the 

The Yoruba gods are almost invariably represented by images in human form, 
which appear grotesque, but are not meant to be so, the grotesqueness being 
merely the result of want of skill. These images are regarded as emblems of 
absent gods. They themselves are not worshipped, and there is no idolatry in 
the proper sense of the word, though no doubt there is a tendency to confuse 
the symbol with the god. Likewise, through a confusion of objective and 
subjective connection, there is an idea that the god enters into the image 
to receive the sacrifices offered by his faithful followers, and to listen 
to their adoration and prayers. Earthen vessels receive the libations of 
blood -and palm-oil, while the yolks of eggs, which here, as elsewhere in 
West Africa, are regarded as offerings peculiarly proper to the gods, are 
smeared upon the posts, door-sills, and threshold.[1] In important temples, 
and also in the houses of kings and chiefs of high rank, a tall drum, called 
a gbedu, is kept. It is usually covered with carvings representing animals 
and birds, and the phallus. This drum is only beaten at religious fetes and 
public ceremonies, and a portion of the blood of the victims immolated is 
always sprinkled upon the symbolic carvings, upon which palm-wine, the yolks 
of eggs, and the feathers of sacrificed chickens are also smeared. In this 
case the offering is to the protecting spirit of the drum, which is that of 
a slave who has been sacrificed on it. This plan of supplying an artificial 
guardian-spirit for objects, other than natural objects, which are 
considered of importance, is a development of ghostworship, and on the Gold 
Coast such guardians are provided for the "stools" of kings and chiefs, as 
well as for temple and state drums.

Sacrifice is the most important part of ceremonial worship, and no god can 
be consulted without it, the value of the offering varying with the 
importance of the occasion. Besides the offerings thus made for special 
purposes, or on special occasions, persons who are the followers of a god-
that is, those who wear his distinguishing badge and are believed to be 
under his protection- make, as a rule, daily offerings of small

[1. A purificatory egg was used to propitiate the goddess Isis (Juvenal, 
Sat. vi. 518).]

value, such as a few cowries, or a little maize-flour, palm-oil, or palm-

As has already been mentioned, each god has certain animals which it is 
proper to sacrifice to him; to use the phraseology of the Old Testament, 
every god has his "clean" and his "unclean" animals. Some sacrifices are 
"unclean" to all the gods, as the turkey-buzzard (gunu-gunu), the vulture 
(akala), and the grey parrot (ofe). As the two former devour offal and 
carrion, and are, in fact, scavengers, we can see a reason for considering 
them unclean; but why the grey parrot should also be so considered is not 
evident. The natives endeavour to account for the "uncleanliness" of these 
birds by two popular sayings, which run as follows:-

"The turkey-buzzard was required to offer sacrifice, but he refused to do 
so; the vulture was required to offer sacrifice, but he also refused. When 
the pigeon was required to offer sacrifice, he did so."

"The grey parrot being required to offer sacrifice, refused to offer it; but 
the green parrot took the sacrifice and offered it. After all, the grey 
parrot is a citizen of Oyo (the capital of Yoruba) and the green parrot an 
inhabitant of the country, and yet people thoughit that the grey parrot was 
not wise."

As the turkey-buzzard, vulture, and grey parrot refused to offer sacrifice, 
they became "unclean," while the pigeon and the green parrot, which offered 
it, remained "clean." The latter part of the second saying appears to be 
ironical, for the grey parrot, in consequence of its uncleanliness, is never 
offered up, while the green parrot is sacrificed.

On important occasions the priest designates to the suppliants the sacrifice 
which he thinks necessary to induce the god to lend a favourable ear. They 
prostrate themselves before the shrine with cries of "Toto, toto-huu," an 
exclamation which denotes humiliation and submission, while the priest, in a 
long harangue, presents their petition, or case, to the god. He usually 
begins his address by flattering the god, dwelling upon his fame and power, 
and showing how his humble servitors are entirely dependent upon his good-
will. Then he calls attention to the self-abasement of the god's faithful 
followers "So-and-so," to the value of the victim which they have brought 
him, and begs him to be propitious and listen to their humble prayer. He 
then sacrifices the victim, sprinkles some of the blood on the image, pours 
the remainder on the ground,[1] and places the head and entrails in a 
shallow earthen vessel in front of the temple.

Sacrifices are thus offered in the presence of the god, that is, before his 
image, which he is supposed to animate for the time being, but there is one 
exception to this general rule. This is, on occasions when sacrifice is made 
at cross-roads, or at a point where several roads meet, in order to avert an 
impending calamity. In this case the sacrifice is probably made to the 
legion of spirits, mostly evil, who are supposed to haunt the forests and 
uninhabited tracts of country; and the general belief is that the 
approaching danger is diverted from the proper road., and turned away from 
the community which it

[1. Whence it is that tbe verb da, "to be poured out," has also the meaniug 
"to be acceptable as a sacrifice."]

threatened. In reference to this practice a proverb says, " The cross-roads 
do not dread sacrifices."[1]

Sometimes, in response to the appeal of the priest, the god answers in a 
bird-like, twittering voice, first heard whispering at a little distance and 
then comingnearer. When this occurs, the worshippers lie prone with their 
faces to the ground, awe-stricken, while the priest carries on a 
conversation with the spirit voice, and subsequently interprets it to the 
auditors. This conception that a spirit-voice should be a twittering, 
chirping, or whistling sound is very wide-spread; as Dr. Tyler has shown, it 
used to exist ainong the Greeks and Romans, and it may at the present day be 
found aniong the Indian tribes of North America, the Zulus, and the 
Polynesians.[2] The spirit-voice is no doubt produced by a confederate 
priest, by incans of a blade of grass, or a leaf, placed between the teeth.

The image of a god which is merely tutelar to one individual is only treated 
with respect during the life of that individual, after which it is thrown 
away. Since the god is personal to the individual, and has no other purpose 
than to protect him, the image is only of use as a vehicle of communication 
between them so long as the man lives. After his death the god no longer 
enters or animates the image, which in consequelice loses its sacred 
character, and becomes an ordinary object of no value. Thus, whenever a man 
dies, his tutelary god, if he had one, is thrown away

[1. The ancients offered sacrifices -it the cross-roads to Hekate, Goddess 
of Night. (Lucian, "Dialogues of the Dead," I.).

2. "Primitive Culture," vol. i. p. 452]

by the surviving members of the household, and the extraordinary belief, 
held by some Europeans, that the negro makes and breaks his gods at will, 
may probably be accounted for as a misconception of this practice.

Although human sacrifices occur amongst the Yoruba tribes, we find among 
them no parallel to the wholesale slaughters which take place, or rather 
used to take place, in Ashanti and Dahoini. The reason no doubt is, that the 
Yoruba kings and chiefs are not sufficiently powerful to be able to 
sacrifice life on a large scale; for the more powerful the monarch, the more 
he can afford to disregard public opinion, and since the masses supply the 
victims, human sacrifices are never regarded by them with favour. Whether, 
when Yoruba was a homogeneous and powerful state, human sacrifices were a 
state institution, as they were in Dahomi, we have no means of ascertaining, 
but all the probabilities point in that direction.

During the period that the Yorubas have been known to Europeans no large 
number of victims has been put to death even on the occasion of the death of 
a king. A king of Oyo died on April 27th, 1859, and only four men were 
sacrificed, but forty-two of his wives poisoned themselves in order to 
accompany him to the Land of the Dead. In Ondo about twenty persons were 
sacrificed when a king died, and there was an established procedure, one 
victim having to be immolated when the corpse was washed, four at different 
entrances to the palace, and a sixth in the market-place. On the day of the 
burial from eight to ten victims, with a cat, were either killed and 
interred with the corpse or buried alive, and during the three months which 
are required to elapse before a new king can be installed there were 
occasional sacrifices. In 1882 the king of Ondo entered into an engagement 
with the government of Lagos to put an end to human sacrifices, but he does 
not appear to have kept it. At the present day, amongst all the tribes, when 
a king or chief dies it is usual for two of his wives to commit suicide, and 
should no volunteers be forthcoming, two are selected and put to death. 
Horses are often killed and buried with their owners.

There was until very recently, and perhaps still is, an annual human 
sacrifice at Abeokuta, called the "basket-sacrifice," a euphemism designed 
to conceal the real nature of the ceremony. The victim was enclosed in a 
long basket, as in Dabomi, from whence perhaps the custom was adopted, 
thrown down from a height, and despatched by a mob armed with clubs. It was 
a national offering, but when times were prosperous the victim was often 
spared and dedicated to a god, whose temple-slave be then became. There used 
also to be an annual sacrifice of one human victim at Ikoradu, and a similar 
offering every sixth year to the god Ogun at Ikriku.

In times of great urgency human sacrifices are offered to some of the gods, 
for example, to Shango, Ifa, Elegba, Ogun, Olokun, and Olosa; but they are 
nearly always made at night, and the people are required to remain in their 
houses. There is none of the publicity and display which we found in Ashanti 
and Dahoini, and so the people escape the brutalising effect which the 
frequent spectacle of scenes of bloodshed must produce. Even the priests, 
always the last to be influenced by a change of public opinion, seem to 
regard human sacrifice as something to be deplored, but occasionally 
necessary. The victim is slaughtered almost in secret, and the sound of the 
temple-drunis and the mournful chants of the assistants alone inform the 
people of what is taking place. The natives avoid any direct reference to 
the subject. "The night is bad," they say. As on the Gold Coast, the victim 
is always decapitated in front of the image, so that the blood from the 
severed arteries may spurt over it. For Elegba the body is opened and the 
entrails placed before him in a shallow dish. The body of a man sacrificed 
to the sea-god Olokun is thrown into the sea, and that of a man offered to 
Olosa into the lagoon.

The Commissioners who were sent to the interior in 1886 to break up the 
camps of the belligerent tribes, succeeded in inducing the rulers of Ijesa 
and Ekiti to sign an enactment abolishing human sacrifices, both to the gods 
and at the funeral obsequies of men of rank. They endeavoured to obtain a 
similar undertaking from the Ifes, but here they met with some difficulty, 
Ife being the home of human sacrifice, and though the chief men promised to 
put an end to the practice, only four of the eighteen persons who composed 
the Ife Counoil signed the agreement. The Oni of Ife said that sacrifice was 
made at Ife for the whole human race, the white man not excepted; and that 
if the sacrifice made on his behalf were to be discontinued, his superior 
knowled, and the arts derived therefrom, would depart from him.

EGUNGUN really means "bone," hence "skeleton," and Egungun himself is 
supposed to be a man risen from the dead. The part is acted by a man 
disguised in a long robe, usually made of grass, and a mask of wood, which 
generally represents a hideous human face, with a long pointed nose and thin 
lips, but sometimes the head of an animal.

Egungun appears in the streets by day or night indifferently, leaping, 
dancing, or walking grotesquely, and uttering loud cries. He is supposed to 
have returned from the land of the dead in order to ascertain what is going 
on in the land of the living, and his function is to carry away those 
persons who are troublesome to their neighbors. He may thus be considered a 
kind of supernatitral inquisitor who appears from time to time to inquire 
into the general domestic conduct of people, particularly of women, and to 
punish misdeeds. Although it is very well known that Egungun is only a 
disguised man, yet it is popularly believed that to touch him, even by 
accident, causes death.

A crowd always stands round watching, at a respectful distance, the gambols 
of an Egungun, and one of the chief amusements of the performer is to rush 
suddenly towards the spectators, who fly before him in every direction in 
great disorder, to avoid the fatal touch. To raise the hand against Egungun 
is punished with death, and women are forbidden, on pain of death, to laugh 
at him, speak disparagingly of him, or say he is not one who has risen from 
the dead. "May Egungun cut you in pieces," is an imprecation often heard.

Egungun is thus at the present day a sort of "bogey," or make-believe demon, 
whose chief business is to frighten termagants, busybodies, scandalmongers, 
and others, but it seems probable that originally he was regarded as the 
incarnation of the dead, and that the whole custom is connected with manes-
worship. In June there is an annual feast for Egungun lasting seven days, 
during which lamentations are made for those who have died within the last 
few years. It is a kind of All-Souls festival, and resembles the Affirah-bi 
festival of the Tshi tribes, described in the first volume of this 
series.[1] Moreover, Egungun also appears in connection with funeral 
ceremonies. A few days after the funeral an Egungun, accompanied by masked 
and disguised men, parades the streets of the town at night, and, as in the 
Roman conclainatio, calls upon the deceased loudly by name. A superstitious 
and half -frightened crowd follows, listening for any response that may be 
given to the weird cries of

[1. See 61 The Tshi-Speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast," p. 227.]

the Egungun. A few days later the Egungun, again accompanied by several 
followers, proceeds to the house in which the death took place, and brings 
to the relatives news of the deceased, usually that he has arrived in 
Deadland safely, and is quite well. In return for the good news the family 
set food, rum, and palm-wine in a room of the house, and inviting the 
Egungun to partake of it, themselves retire, for to see Egungun eating is 
death. When Egungun and his followers have consumed everything loud groans 
are heard to issue from the room, and, this being a sign that be is about to 
depart, the family re-enter and entrust him with messages for the deceased.

A large proportion of the slaves landed at Sierra Leone, at the beginning of 
the present century, from slave-ships that had been captured by British 
cruisers, were Yorubas, and their Christian descendants have preserved the 
practice of Egungun, who may often be seen performing his antics in the 
streets of Freetown. There, however, his disguise is less elaborate than in 
Yoruba country, and he appears in a long robe of cotton-print, with a piece 
of cloth, having apertures for the eyes, covering the face and head. 
Spectators soon gather round him, and though, if asked, they will tell you 
that it is only "play," many of them are half-doubtful, and whenever the 
Egungun makes a rush forward the crowd flees before him to escape his touch.

The word Oro means fierceness, tempest, or provocation, and Oro himself 
appears to be personified executive power.

Oro is supposed to haunt the forest in the neighbourhood of towns, and he 
makes his approach known by a strange, whirring, roaring noise. As soon as 
this is heard, all women must shut themselves up in their houses, and 
refrain from looking out on pain of death. The voice of Oro is produced by 
whirling round and round a thin strip of wood, some 21/2 inches broad, 12 
inches long, and tapering at both ends, which is fastened to a stick by a 
long string. It is, in fact, the instrument known to English boys as the 
"bull-roarer," and which Mr. Andrew Lang has shown to have been used in the 
mysteries of Ancient Greece, Australia, New Mexico, New Zealand, and South 
Africa.[1] No women may see the "bullroarer" and live, and all women are 
obliged, under pain of death, to say that they believe Oro to be a powerful 
Orisha, and to act up to that belief.

In Yoruba country Oro is manipulated by the Ogboni Society. Criminals 
condemned to death are sometimes given to Oro, in which case they are 
ordinarily never seen again, but their clothes are shown entangled in the 
branches of a lofty tree, where Oro is said to have left them when flying 
through the air. In such a case Oro is said to have devoured the bodies. 
Sometimes, however, the headless corpse of the criminal is discovered in the 
forest on the outskirts of the town, but nobody is allowed to bury it. 
Unlike Egungun, Oro only appears on his feast-days, or, to use the native 
expression, when a town has an

[1. "Custom and Myth," Art. "The Bull-Roarer."]

Oro-day. The voice of Oro heard from morning to night, -and all women are 
closely confined to their houses, while Oro himself, in a long robe hung 
with shells, and a wooden mask painted white, with the lips smeared with 
blood, parades the town with a numerous following.

In Ondo there is an annual festival to Oro, called Oro Doko. It lasts for 
three lunar months, and every ninth dav women are obliged to remain within 
their houses from daybreak till noon, while the men parade the streets, 
whirling the bull-roarer, dancing, singing and beating druims and killing 
all stray dogs and fowls, on which tbev afterwards feast. A large boulder of 
granite, cailed Olumo, on the summit of a hill in Abeokuta, is sacred to 
Oro, and no one may ascend it.

Just as Egungun is now used for social purposes, and to preserve order in 
private life, so is Oro used for political purposes, to preserve order in 
the communitv at large; yet, from. the analogy of other peoples, and from 
the fact that it is death for a woman to see the instrument which produces 
the voice of Oro, there can be no doubt that originally Oro was the spirit 
that presided at the celebration of male mysteries, such as are found among 
the Kurnai of Australia, and he has perhaps been diverted from his proper 
purpose by the influence of the Ogboni.

Abiku, abi, " that which possesses iku, "death"; hence, "predestined to 
death" is a word used to mean the spirits of children who die before 
reaching puberty, and also a class of evil spirits who cause children to 
die; a child who dies before twelve years of age being called an Abiku, and 
the spirit, or spirits, who caused the death being also called Abiku.

The general idea seems to be that the uninhabited tracts of country abound 
with numbers of evil spirits or demons, who suffer from hunger, thirst, and 
cold, since nobody offers sacrifice to them and they have no temples, and 
who are constantly endeavouring to improve their condition by entering the 
bodies of new-born babes. Only one Abiku can enter and dwell in the body of 
the same child, and, as there is great competition amongst the Abikus for 
such a position, an Abiku is only suffered by his companions to enter 
peaceably, and, in fact, to be recognised as having vested rights in a 
child, on condition of his promising them a share of the comforts he is 
about to obtain.

When an Abiku has entered a child he takes for his own use, and for the -use 
of his companions, the greater part of the food that the child eats, who in 
consequence begins to pine away and become emaciated. If an Abiku who had 
entered a child were not bound to supply the wants of other Abikus who had 
not succeeded in obtaining human tenements, no great harm would ensue, since 
the sustenance taken could be made sufficient both for the child and his 
tenant. It is the incessant demands that are made by the hungry Abikus 
outside, and which the indwelling Abiku has to satisfy, that destroy the 
child, for the whole of his food is insufficient for their requirements. 
When a child is peevish and fretful it is believed that the outside Abikus 
are hurting him in order to make the indwelling Abiku give them more to eat; 
for everything done to the child is felt by his Abiku. The indwelling Abiku 
is thus, to a great extent, identified with the child himself, and it is 
possible that the whole superstition may be a corruption of the Gold Coast 
belief in the sisa.[1]

A mother who sees her child gradually wasting away without apparent cause, 
concludes that an Abiku has entered it, or, as the natives frequently 
express it, that she has given birth to an Abiku, and that it is being 
starved because the Abiku is stealing all its nourishment. To get rid of the 
indwelling Abiku, and its companions outside, the anxious mother offers a 
sacrifice of food; and while the Abikus are supposed to be devouring the 
spiritual part of the food, and to have their attention diverted, she 
attaches iron rings and small bells to the ankles of the child, and hangs 
iron chains round his neck. The jingling of the iron and the tinkling of the 
bells is supposed to keep the Abikus at a distance, hence the number of 
children that are to be seen with their feet weighed down with iron 

Sometimes the child recovers its health, and it is then believed that this 
procedure has been effective, and that the Abikus have been driven away. If, 
however, no improvement takes place, or the child grows worse, the mother 
endeavours to drive out the Abiku by making small incisions in the body of 
the child, and putting therein green peppers or spices,

[1. Tshi-Speaking reopies of the Gold Coast," chap. xi.]

believing that she will thereby cause pain to the Abiku and make him depart. 
The poor child screams with pain, but the mother hardens her heart in the 
belief that the Abiku is suffering equally.

Should the child die it is, if buried at all, buried without any funeral 
ceremony, beyond the precincts of the town or village, in the bush; most 
other interments being made in the floors of the dwellinghouses. Often the 
corpse is simply thrown into the bush, to punish the Abiku, say the natives. 
Sometimes a mother, to deter the Abiku which has destroyed her child from 
entering the body of any other infant she may bear in the future, will beat, 
pound, and mutilate the little corpse, while threatening and invoking every 
evil upon the Abiku which has caused the calamity. The indwelling, Abiku is 
believed to feel the blows and wounds inflicted on the body, and to hear and 
be terrified by the threats and curses.

Several varieties of trees are believed to be inhabited by indwelling 
spirits, which are not exactly gods, but answer more to the hama-dryads of 
Ancient Greece, or to the elves of mediaeval Europe. From the analogy of the 
Tshi tribes there is little doubt but that these tree-spirits were once gods 
of the Srahmantin type, i.e., of the type of those which on the Gold Coast 
are believed to animate the gigantic silk-cotton trees; but now, owing to 
the great increase in the number of general objects of worship, which makes 
the propitiation of the local object a matter of less importance, they have 
been shorn of a great deal of their power, and pushed more into the 

The Ashorin tree is, one which is inhabited by a spirit who, it is believed, 
would, if its attention were not diverted, drive away anyone who attempted 
to fell the tree. The woodman therefore places a little palm-oil on the 
ground as a lure, and when the spirit leaves the tree to lick up the 
delicacy, proceeds to cut down its late abode.

The Apa, frequently called the African mahogany, is inhabited by an evil 
spirit, and is commonly seen encircled with palm-leaves, and with an earthen 
pot at its foot to receive the offerings of woodcutters. It is believed to 
emit a phosphorescent light by night. The wood of this tree is in some 
demand for the construction of drums, which are hollow wooden cylinders 
covered with hide at one end; but before it can be out down the spirit must 
be propitiated by an offering, usually consisting of a fowl and some palm-
oil. The Apa is the emblem of vengeance.

The Iroko (silk-cotton tree) is also inhabited by a spirit, but it is not 
very powerful or malicious, and when a man desires to fell such a tree it is 
sufficient protection for him to invoke the indwelling spirit of his own 
head by rubbing a little palm-oil on his forehead. The Iroko is used chiefly 
for building, whence probably it comes to be the emblem of refuge.

A proverb, referring to the risks a man runs in cutting down trees inhabited 
by spirits, says "The axe that cuts the tree is not afraid, but the woodman 
covers his head with etu" (a magic powder).

These customs may be compared with those of the modern Greeks of Siphinos, 
one of the Cyclades. Mr. Bent says [1] that when the woodcutters have to cut 
down a tree they suppose to be inhabited by a spirit (hamadryad), they are 
exceedingly careful when it falls to prostrate themselves humbly and in 
silence, lest the spirit should chastise them as it escapes. Cato also [2] 
instructs a woodcutter that, in order to escape the consequences of thinning 
a sacred grove, he must sacrifice a hog, and beg permission to thin the 
grove in order to restrain its overgrowth.

As is the case among the Ewe tribes of the Slave Coast, wizards and witches 
are by the Yorubas believed to hold nocturnal meetinus at the foot of trees 
tenanted by spirits, more especially the Apa, whose indwelling spirit is 
believed to assist them in their malpractices. Here, too, the owl again 
appears, but now, instead of the bird being the messenger or agent of the 
tree spirit, it is the wizard (Aje) himself, who metamorphoses himself into 
an owl and proceeds on the mission of death.

Witchcraft is, in the minds of the natives, the chief cause of sickness and 
death. They cannot, they think, attribute these evils to the gods, unless 
they occur in some way special to a god; as, for instance, when a man is 
struck by lightning, in which case the event would be attributed to Shango-
or contracts small-pox, when the disease would be attributed to Shanpanna; 
for they are very careful to keep on good terms with the gods, by 

[1. "The Cyclades," p. 27.

2. "De Re Rustica," 139.]

observing their religious duties. They consequently attribute sickness and 
death, other than death resulting from injury or violence, to persons who 
have for bad purposes enlisted the services of evil spirits, that is to say, 
to wizards and witches. Witches are more common than wizards, and here, as 
elsewhere in the world, it is the oldest and most hideous of their sex who 
are accused of the crime.

Properly speaking, a person charged with witchcraft should be subjected to 
trial by ordeal, and then, if found guilty, immediately executed; but the 
excited populace, filled with superstitious terror, frequently acts without 
waiting for proof, and puts the accused to death without trial. Curiously 
enough, the phenomenon that so frequently occurred in England, when a belief 
in witchcraft was an article of faith, appears here also; and old women, 
accused of being witches, very often acknowledge that they are, and charge 
themselves with deaths which may have recently occurred in the community.

Amulets and charms (onde) are numerous and of various kinds. Some, like the 
vo-sesao of the Ewe tribes, are really the badges of different gods, such as 
the ajude, or iron armlet worn by hunters, who are the servitors of Ogun, 
god of iron, and possess no virtue of themselves, being merely useful as 
serving to remind the gods that the wearers are under their protection. 
Others are amulets proper, and are believed to derive a protecting power 
from the gods, from whom they have, through the agency of the priests, been 
obtained. Amulets are generally sewn up in leather cases; those obtained 
from Mohammedans, and which usually consist of a verse from the Koran, 
always are.

The name onde means "one in bondage," and is compounded of eni, "a person," 
or "one who," and ide, " the act of being confined." This name seems to 
point to the former existence of a belief similar to that now held by the 
Tshi-tribes in regard to the Suhman; namely, that the amulet is animated by 
an indwelling spirit, who has been confined therein by a superior power. At 
the present time, however, the onde cannot be regarded in any way as being 
animated, or an orisha. Prayers are never addressed to it, nor are offerings 
presented to it; it is merely the instrument or vehicle through which the 
god from whom it was obtained acts, and by means of which events which 
affect the wearer of the onde are brought to the knowledge of the god.

An onde for the protection of the person is worn on the body, being tied 
round the wrist, neck, or ankle, or placed in the hair. Others, for the 
protection of property, are fastened to houses, or tied to sticks and stumps 
of trees in cultivated plots of ground. In consequence of their being tied 
on to the person or object they protect, the word edi, which really means 
the act of tying or binding, has now the meaning of amulet or charm, just as 
in Ewe the word vo-sesa (amulet) is derived from vo and sa, to tie or bind. 
Another word sometimes used to express amulet is ogun, which, however, more 
properly means medicinal preparation, poison, or magical drug.

The following are some examples of current superstitions.

(1) The fur of the choro, a kind of hare, is a charm which protects the 
house from fire.

(2) A house fumigated with the bark of the crun tree is purged of evil 
spirits and, consequently, of sickness. Charcoal made from the wood of this 
tree is largelyused as a medicine.

(3) Powder made of the leaves of the sensitive plant, is a charm to make the 
inmates of a house fall into a deep sleep, and is used by thieves.

(4) To kill an ajako, a kind of jackal, brings misfortune upon the slayer. A 
proverb says, "He who kills an ajako will suffer for it."

(5) The flocking of vultures denotes impending war. These birds prey on the 
slain, and so, by an inversion of ideas, are supposed to cause war.

(6) To break the bones of the crane called agufon causes calamity.

(7) Whoever touches the nest of the bird called ogarodo will die.

The Yorubas have the same superstitions in regard to the hooded crow, 
porcupine, tortoise, and wild cat (ogboya) as have the Ewe tribes.[1]

By country-custom no Yoruba may milk a cow, and in consequence cows are 
always tended by foreignborn slaves, usually Fulani.

We find a curious example of the manner in which objective and subjective 
connection are confused in the expression, Abede ni ti okira-" Right through 
is the cutting of the sword-fish." This saying is used as a charm by 
warriors, and is believed to ensure success, 

[1. "Ewe Speaking Peoples," pp. 95, 97, and 98.]

because it is supposed that the sword-fish (okira) cuts in two all its foes 
in the sea.

The Yorubas have a superstition which has close points of resemblance to the 
"changeling" superstition of Northern Europe. It is referred to in many 
folk-lore tales, and the following is an example.

"There lived at Otta " (a village on the River Ibo, which is a tributary of 
the Ogun) "a woman named Bola, who had a male child. When the child was 
small the mother carried him on her back when she went to market, but when 
he became about nine months old she used to lay him down on a mat in her 
house, fasten the door, and go to market by herself. After this it always 
happened that when she returned from the market she found that all the food 
she had left in the house had disappeared. This seemed to her very strange, 
and she at first suspected her neighbours, but she always found the 
doorfastening untouched, and was unable to fathom the mystery.

"One day a neighbour came to her and said, 'I am going to the market at 
Orichi to-morrow morning early, and therefore must ask you to repay me the 
string of cowries that you sent your little boy to borrow from me.' Bola, 
much astonished, declared that she had borrowed no cowries from the woman, 
and had sent no one to her; but the neighbour persisted that Bola's child 
had come to her, and had borrowed a string of cowries in the name of his 
mother. 'Come, then,' said Bola, 'and see my child.'

"The two women went into the house where the child was sleeping on his mat. 
'You see him,' said Bola, 'there he is, sleeping. Do you not see that be is 
yet too young, to walk? How then could he come to you? And how could he ask 
you for cowries, seeing that he cannot yet talk?

"The neighbour looked closely at the child, and then solemnly declared that 
it was really he who had come to her, but that when he came he was much big 
er than he was now, and had the appearance of a child of about ten years of 
age. "When Bola, heard this she was much distressed. She could not doubt her 
neighbour's word, and she feared that her child must be possessed by an evil 
spirit. She paid the neighbour the string of cowries, and begged her to say, 
nothing; then, when the child's father came to the house, she told him the 
whole story.

"The father and mother decided to search into the mystery. The father, 
therefore, carefully hid himself in the house, one day while the mother and 
child were out. Then Bola returned to the house with the child, put him down 
on the mat, said to him, 'Sleep good while I go to the market,' and then 
went out, and fastened the door as usual.

"Scarcely had Bola gone, than the father, from his hiding-place, saw the 
baby stand up, and begin to grow till he became a big boy. Then he went to 
the calabashes where the food was kept, and was beginning to eat it, when 
the father came out from his hiding-place.

"Immediately the child saw his father he became a little baby again, and lay 
on the floor crying. He was possessed by a spirit. His mother came back, and 
they beat him to drive the spirit out, so that the spirit fled."

The parallel between this tale and the changeling stories of Northern Europe 
is close. In the latter, as in the Yoruba version, the changeling, while in 
the presence of its foster-mother and others, affects to be an infant, but 
throws off his disguise as soon as he imagines himself to be alone. See, for 
instance, the tale called "The Father of Eighteen Elves," in Arnason's 
collection of Icelandic legends.[1] The only difference-an important one, it 
is true-is in the genesis of the changeling. In Europe it is an elfin child, 
who is substituted for a stolen human child, but here it is the child 
himself who is possessed by an evil spirit, just as an Abiku possesses a 
child, though with different results.

We also find a superstition which recalls that of the were-wolf, for the 
hyena (Kpelekpe) is often supposed to be a man who assumes that disguise at 
night, to prey upon sheep and cattle, and, if the opportunity offers, upon 
human beings. Such man-hyenas are believed to be able, by means of certain 
howls and cries, to compel people to go out to them in the dark forest to be 
devoured. A similar belief is found in Abyssinia.[2] The weird "laugh" of 
the hyena, and its nocturnal habits, no doubt account for this superstition, 
just as similar causes have led to the owl being universally regarded as a 
bird of ill omen.

A belief in metamorphosis is universal, and is not

[1. London, R. Bentley, 1864.

2. Mansfield Parkyns, "Life in Abyssinia," vol. ii. p. 146.]

limited to a change to an animal form, since men and women are sometimes 
transformed into trees, shrubs, rocks, or natural features. The shrub buje, 
whose fruit is used to stain the skin in imitation of tattoo marks, was a 
Yoruba belle of that name, who was metamorphosed. Her story will be found 
among the Tortoise Stories in the chapter on Folklore.

The Iyewa lagoon is also said to have been a woman. The story runs that a 
poor woman, named Iyewa, had two children, whom she had a hard struggle to 
support; but she used every day to go with them into the forest to gather 
firewood, which she carried to the town and sold for food. One day, when 
following her customary avocation, she and the children, finding wood 
scarce, wandered further into the forest than usual, and, when it was time 
to return, they could not find their way out. They walked hither and thither 
looking for the path, but in vain, and at last, tired out and tormented with 
thirst, they lay down to rest under a large tree. This rested their limbs, 
but their thirst increased, and the two children filled the forest with 
their lamentations, crying to their mother for water. The poor woman, half 
distracted, sprang to her feet, and again searched in every direction for 
the path and for water, but fruitlessly, and when at last she returned to 
her children she found them almost at the last gasp. Then, prostrating 
herself upon the earth, she called upon the gods to come to her assistance 
and save her children. The gods listened to her prayer, and Iyewa was at 
once changed into a lagoon, at which the children drank and so recovered; 
while next day they were found by neighbours who had come in search of them, 
and taken back to the town. When the children grew up they built a house by 
the side of the lagoon, which, in memory of their mother, they called Odo 
Iyewa, "The Lagoon of Iyewa."

IN the first volume of this series we found that the Tshi-speaking peoples 
believe that every man has dwelling in him a spirit termed a kra, which 
enters him at birth and quits him at death, and is entirely distinct from 
the soul, which, at the death of the body, proceeds to the Land of the Dead, 
and there continues the life formerly led by the man in the world. In the 
second volume, we found that the Ewe speaking peoples have a similar belief, 
the indwelling spirit being by them termed a luwo. The Gă-speaking tribes, 
situated geographically between the Tshi and Ewe tribes, have modified this 
belief, and they assign to each individual two indwelling spirits, called 
kla, one male and one female, the former being of a bad and the latter of a 
good disposition. Each kla, like the kra and the luwo, is a guardian-spirit, 
but-and this is a new departure-they give good or bad advice, and prompt 
good or bad actions, according to their respective dispositions. The Yorubas 
also have modified what appears to be the original theory of one in-dwelling 
and guardian-spirit, and they hold that each man has three spiritual 
inmates, the first of whom, Olori, dwells in the head, the second, Ipin 
ijeun, in the stomach, and the third, Ipori, in the great toe.

Olori (Oni-ori, owner, or lord, of the head) sometimes called Ori (head, 
faculty, talent), seems to be the spirit which answers to the kra or luwo. 
He is the protector, guardian, and guide. Offerings are made to him, chiefly 
fowls, as with the kra and luwo, and some of the blood, mixed with palm-oil, 
is rubbed upon the forehead. Olori brings good-fortune, whence the proverb, 
"Olori causes the owner of the head to prosper, and not the crab on the bank 
of the river." The symbol of Olori is half a calabash studded over with 

Ipin ijeun, or ipin ojehun (ipin, share, portion; ijeun, act of eating, from 
je ohun, to eat; hence "he who shares in the food"), is perhaps considered 
the most important of the three indwelling spirits, but as he shares in all 
that the man eats, he has no special sacrifice offered to him. A proverb 
says, "There is no orisha like the stomach; it receives food every day." In 
some respects hunger (ebi) seems to be personified, and to be considered the 
agent of Ipin ijeun; for he is said to communicate to the man, by pinching 
his stomach, the desire of his principal for food. Curiously enough, Ipin 
ijeun is connected with fire-worship. There is among the Yorubas no god of 
fire, answering to the Ewe god Dso, but fire (ina) was probably once 
personified, for it is still spoken of as Abanigbele, "the Inmate." It is 
not clear by what process fire-worship came to be blended with that of the 
indwelling spirit of the stomach; but the natives explain the connection 
between the two by saying that fire is necessary for the preparation of 
food, and food is necessary to Ipin ijeun, therefore he takes fire under his 
protection, and takes care that it is not extinguished. A proverbial saying 
runs, "Ipin ijeun does not allow fire to depart from the earth." When fire 
could only be produced by the tedious process of rubbing together two 
sticks, it was no doubt important to keep one or two embers of a fire always 

Ipori, the great toe, is the least important of the three guardian spirits, 
and sacrifice is rarely offered to him, except when a man is about to set 
out on a journey; in which case he anoints the great toe with a mixture of 
fowl's blood and palm-oil. Waterfowl are apparently "unclean" for this 
purpose, for a proverb says, "A waterfowl is not fit for the worship of 

The ghost-man, or soul, the "vehicle of individual personal existence," is 
called iwin, or olcan, but the latter also means "heart." Another word is 
ojiji, or oji, which has the meanings of ghost, shade, or shadow. After the 
death of the body, the ghost-man goes to Ipo-oku, "the Land of the Dead " 
(Ipo, place; oku, dead), which is beneath the earth, and where each man does 
that which he has been accustomed to do, and holds the same social position 
as he did in the world. To enable the ghost to reach this land it is 
essential that he should have the prescribed funeral rites performed over 
him. Should they be omitted, the ghost wanders about the world, cold, 
hungry, and homeless, and he runs the risk of being seized by some of the 
evil spirits which roam about the earth in great numbers, and cast by them 
into Orun-apadi, "the unseen world of potsherds," an uncomfortable place 
like a pottery furnace, heaped up with charcoal and the débris of broken 
earthen pots. Funeral rites cannot, of course, be performed at the moment 
that breath leaves the body, but as an earnest of their intention to perform 
them, and to prevent the evil spirits from seizing the ghost, the relations 
at once offer a sacrifice to propitiate them; and when the corpse is buried, 
a fowl, called Adire-iranna,[1] "the fowl that buys the road," that is, 
"that opens a right of way," is sacrificed.

A comparison of the beliefs held by uncivilised peoples concerning the dead, 
seems to show that when in a very low state of culture, the ghost, no doubt 
from the association of ideas, is held to remain in the vicinity of the 
grave in which the body was interred; and that the notion of a distinct and 
separate place of abode for the dead, or Deadland, is only formed when a 
higher degree of culture is attained. The first belief often lingers on 
alongside the second, as in England, where the churchyard is considered to 
be the most likely place in which to see a ghost; and a similar survival 
among the Yorubas, or a trace of the former belief, is found in the word 
iboji, " a grave," which means, literally, " place of the ghost" (ibi, 
place; oji, ghost).

The dead often return to earth, and are born again in the families to which 
they belonged in their former life. In fact, one might say that they always 
return, since every mother sends for a babalawo to tell her

[1. Adire, a fowl; iranna, the act of purchasing a right of way, from ra, to 
buy, and ona, road,]

what ancestral ghost has animated her new-born child, and the babalawo 
always tells her which it is. As the births at least equal in number the 
deaths, and the process of being re-born is supposed to have gone on "from 
the beginning," logically there ought to be few, if any, departed souls in 
Deadland; but the natives do not critically examine such questions as this, 
and they imagine Deadland to be thickly populated, and at the same time 
every now-born child, or almost every one, to be a re-born ghost. As was 
mentioned in the volume on the Ewe-speaking peoples,[1] this belief in 
metempsychosis is probably a result of a confusion between the ńoli, or 
disembodied luko (in Tshi, the sisa), and the soul or ghostman, and we may 
here endeavour to sketch in the origin and probable development of these 
vaxious beliefs.

There can be little reasonable doubt but that the notion that man possesses 
a soul, an entity that continues his personality after death, arose from 
dreams, after the manner shown by Mr. Herbert Spencer in his " Principles of 
Sociology." [2] A man dreams that he is going through various adventures, 
but, as the evidence of his companions shows him that he has not really left 
their company, he comes to the conclusion that he has a second 
individuality, something that is himself and yet is detachable, something 
that can go out of him, and does so go out when he is asleep. Among the 
lower races all over the world, dreams are believed to be the adventures of

[1. Pp. 114 and 115. 

2. Pp. 148 et seq.]

the spiritual man while detached from the bodily man during sleep. Then, as 
he dreams of men whom he knows to be dead and buried, and naturally dreams 
of them as he was accustomed to see them, he concludes that this second 
individuality can and does exist, entirely independently of the body, after 
death, and preserves the appearance and characteristics of the bodily-man. 
At this stage of belief the spiritual-man, or life-phantom, and the soul, or 
ghost-man, are one and the same. Then, seemingly, in some cases, this second 
individuality becomes divided into two separate entities-one, a life-
phantom, which enters the body at birth, goes out and indulges in adventures 
during the sleep of the body, and quits it at death; the other, a soul, or 
death-phantom, which, after death, continues the life. and personality of 
the former bodily-man.

It is possible that this conception of two different entities was brought 
about, partly at least, by the desire to explain the reproduction by 
heredity of physical characteristics. Children generally resemble their 
parents, and frequently reproduce their mannerisms most remarkably. As soon 
as the savage begins to speculate at all, he begins to think of this 
phenomenon, which cannot fail to arrest his attention. He can, and no doubt 
often does, come to the conclusion that the dead are reborn again in their 
descendants; he invents the doctrine of metempsychosis; but in some cases, 
and the negro tribes of the Gold and Slave Coasts seem to be examples, he 
appears to feel that this explanation is unsatisfactory. And for this 
reason. He still dreams of persons who are dead, whence he believes that 
they exist after death; and he must often dream of dead friends or relations 
whose characteristics have been reproduced in their children, or, since they 
had a common ancestor, in some collateral member of the same family. He 
cannot, then, in these cases, conclude that the dead have returned to earth 
in the persons of their descendants; for the evidence of his dreams proves 
to him that they still exist as ghost-men, and are in every respect as they 
were when alive in the world. On the other hand, the evidence of his eyes 
shows him that their physical peculiarities are reborn in children now 
living. He therefore divides the second individuality into two -from, so to 
say, the kra-soul, which was one entity, he makes two, the kra and the soul, 
the former of which inhabits the body during life, and after death enters a 
new human body in the same family; while the latter remains dormant, as it 
were, during life, but after death continues the existence of the man as an 
individual. The reproduction of features, mannerisms, &c., is thus accounted 
for by the kra, while the theory of the soul satisfactorily accounts for 
what the uncivilised man believes to be the incontestable evidence of his 

If this view be correct it will probably be found that several other races 
have divided the originally conceived entity into two. The genius natalis of 

[1. The Awunas, an Eastern Ewe tribe, say that the lower jaw is the only 
part of the body which a child derives from its mother, all the rest being 
derived from the. ancestral luwoo (the Tshi kra). The father furnishes 

Romans resembled the kra in that it was a gnardian-spirit which entered man 
at birth, but, unlike the kra, it perished at his death. It was certainly 
quite separate and distinct from the soul, or ghost-man, which went to 
Hades. We say advisedly that the genius natalis dwelt in the man from birth, 
because to practise abstinence was "to defraud one's genius," and to eat, 
drink, and be merry was "to indulge one's genius," [1] thus showing that the 
genius was bound up with the man just as is the kra. As with the kra, the 
birthday was particularly set apart for the worship of the genius. 
Subsequently, the Romans, under the influence of dualism, just as the Gă-
tribes have done, divided the genius into two-one of a good disposition and 
one of a bad.

Similar conceptions of two entities, the kra, or life-phantom, and the soul, 
or death-phantom, among the Navajo and Algonquin Indians of North America, 
the Karens of Burma, and the Fijians, were mentioned in the last volume,[2] 
but whether these people believe in metempsychosis is uncertain; and to them 
we may now add the Greenlanders,[3] and the ancient Egyptians, whose ka 
appears to closely resemble the kra.[4] A correspondent informs me that the 
Irish peasants of County Mayo also believe in an entity like the kra. They 
call it the "spirit," consider it to be perfectly distinct from the soul, 
and liable to be stolen by the fairies during the sleep of its possessor, 
who, on awakening, is ignorant of his loss, but 

[1. See Tibullus, Bohn's Edition, note 1, p. 126.

2. Pp. 16 and 17.

3. Cranz, Grönland, p. 251.

4. S. Laing, Human Origins, p. 119

gradually fades away and dies. It is also liable to be seized by the 
fairies, at the moment of death of the person whose body it bas tenanted.

The Yorubas, it seems probable, have arrived at the doctrine of 
inetempsychosis after having passed through a phase of belief similar to 
that now held by the Tshi and Ewe tribes. The belief in one indwelling 
spirit has been changed into a belief in three indwelling spirits, and this 
multiplication has caused confusion. These indwelling spirits do not, at the 
death of the body, enter a new-born human child in the same family, so that 
the phenomena of heredity cannot be explained as being due to their agency; 
and the Yorubas have reverted to the theory of metempsychosis to account for 
them. The belief in the spirits called abiku is very probably a corruption 
of the former kra-a belief, for if a sisa, or disembodied kra, enters a 
human body it causes sickness and death, just as the abiku does.

The souls of the dead are sometimes reborn in animals, and occasionally, 
though but rarely, in plants. In the ideas of the natives, animals, though 
they differ in shape from a man, possess passions and moral qualities 
identical with those of the human being. Animals also possess souls which, 
like the souls of men, go to Deadland. Hence, as men and animals have so 
many characteristics in common, it does not require any great stretch of 
iniagination for the native to fancy that the soul may be re-born in an 
animal. When a plant is concerned the difference is greater; but if, as we 
hold, the Yoruba tribes passed through a phase of belief similar to that 
held by the Tshi tribes at the present day, they at one time believed that 
trees, shrubs, &c., and, in fact, all things not made by human hands, were 
animated by kras, which may account for the extension of the doctrine of 
metempsychosis to objects so unlike man.

The animal in which human souls are most commonly re-born is the hyena, 
whose half-human laugh may perhaps account for the belief. Human souls are 
also reborn in different kinds of monkeys, but chiefly in the solitary 
yellow monkey, called oloyo; and in these cases the human appearance and 
characteristics of monkeys no doubt furnishes the key to the belief.

As has been said, the re-birth of a human soul in a plant is rarely spoken 
of, and usually we can discover the reason for the supposed transmigration, 
as in the following tale:

"There were two boys, brothers, who knew and sang the popular songs of the 
country so well, that they were in great demand for festive occasions.

"One day they were asked to go to a festival at a neighbouring village, and 
their mother gave them permission.

"They went to the village, where the people were assembled to play, and they 
sang their songs and beat their drums so well that the people rewarded them 
highly. They gave to each boy a thousand cowries, and plenty to eat and 
drink. Then they dismissed them next morning to return home.

"On the way back the elder boy, covetous of the thousand cowries that had 
been given to the younger, led him off the path into the forest, and 
murdered him. Then he took the thousand cowries, added them to those which 
he already had, and returned home.

"When he came back alone, his mother asked him where was his brother. 'I 
left him behind on the road,' said the boy.

"The day passed, and night began to fall, and still the younger brother had 
not returned home. Then his mother and her neighbours went to look for the 
child, but they could not find him. They searched for him for many days, but 
found him not. They concluded that someone had carried him off to sell him.

"Some months afterwards the mother went into the forest to look for leaves 
for medicine, and she came to the place where the child had been murdered. 
The body of the boy had already decayed, and from his bones had sprung up an 
olu.[1] The olu was very fine and large, and when the mother saw it she 
cried, I Oh! what a fine olu.' She was stooping down to pick it, when the 
olu began singing~--

'Do not pluck me, mother,
Do not pluck me, mother,
Do not pluck me, mother,
I'm a lowly plant on the ground.

I went to the village frolic,
I went to the village frolic,
I'm a lowly plant on the ground.
I was given a thousand cowries,
I'm a lowly plant on the ground.

[1. Olu, an edible fungus.]

'Do not pluck me, mother,
Do not pluck me, mother,
Do not pluck me, mother,
I'm a lowly plant on the ground.

'My brother receivcd a thousand cowries,
My brother received a thousand cowries,
I'm a lowly plant on the ground.
But he slew me here for my cowries,
I'm a lowly plant on the ground.'

"When the mother heard the olu sing this she ran home, called her husband, 
and the two returned to the forest. When the man saw the fine olu, he 
stretched out his hand to gather it, and the olu sang again-

'Do not pluck me, father.'
(etc., etc., as before.)

The father went to the king of the country, and told him all that had 
happened. The king himself came to see the olu. He stooped to pick the olu, 
and the olu, sang-

'Do not pluck me, oba.'[1]
(etc., etc., as before.)

Then the king sent and ordered the elder brother to be brought before him. 
And when the boy beard what the olu had sung he confessed. The king said, 
'As you took your brother and slew him, so will we now take you and slay 
you. Then shall the child come back to life.'

"So the elder brother was killed and the younger came back to life, as the 
king had said."

Here the connection between the obu and the dead

[1. Oba, king.]

child is obvious. It sprang from his bones, and was nourished by his 
decaying body, so that it might well be imagined that the soul of the child, 
which stayed with the remains instead of proceeding to Deadland, because no 
funeral rites had been performed, passed into the fungus.

As we have said, the soul, or ghost-man, after the death of the body, 
proceeds to Deadland, and food, drink, cowries, and property of various 
kinds are placed in the grave with the corpse, to equip the ghost for his 
new sphere; while, before the grave is filled up, a goat is sacrificed to 
the deceased, and wishes offered for his safe journey, such as "May you 
arrive in peace," "May you not stray from the right path," &c.

It would certainly appear as if the dead were cognizant of and able to 
influence the affairs of the living, for it is usual for offerings and 
prayers to be made to them from time to time; and sometimes the skull of the 
deceased is exhumed and placed in a small temple, where offerings are made 
to it. Before taking the field for war, too, offerings are made at the 
graves of warriors of renown, and their assistance in the coming campaign is 
supplicated. Yet a proverb says, "As grass cannot grow in the sky, so the 
dead cannot look out of the grave into the street," from which it might be 
inferred that the dead are not cognizant of what is taking place in the 
world, or at all events do not know what is occurring till it is made known 
to them through the medium of sacrifice, and several folk-lore tales point 
to this conclusion as well. The following is an example:

A woman, an inhabitant of an inland town, who was going to the sea-shore to 
make salt by boiling sea-water, a common industry, and who expected to be 
away from home for some time, gave, on the eve of her departure, and in the 
presence of witnesses, a necklace of valuable beads to a neighbour, to be 
kept for her during her absence. The neighbour, a woman with two boys, 
accepted the trust, and, for safe custody, made a hole in the mud wall of 
her house, into which she put the necklace, and then closed the aperture 
with fresh mud, which she smoothed down to conform with the wall. 
Unfortunately the woman died before the owner of the necklace returned, and 
the secret of its hiding-place died with her, so that when the owner at last 
came back and claimed her property, it could not be found.

The woman made a great commotion about the loss. She would not believe the 
two children when they declared that they had not seen or even heard of the 
necklace, and she took them before the chief, and charged them with theft. 
The chief heard the case. The fact of the necklace having been entrusted to 
the deceased woman was proved; the boys declared that they knew nothing of 
it, but the chief held that they were responsible. If they had not stolen it 
they knew where it was. They must restore it or pay the value. Such was the 
chief's decision, and in order to compel the elder boy to make restitution, 
he caused the younger to be "put in log," and threatened to sell him if the 
missing property were not recovered within a certain time.

In this dilemma the elder boy, knowing that human agency could avail him 
nought, souoght assistance from the gods. He went to the head priest of the 
babalawos at the town of Ife, unfolded his tale, and begged for aid. The 
priest consulted the god Ifa, and Ifa replied that in order to know what his 
mother had done with the necklace, the boy must go to Deadland and ask her. 
The child said he was ready to go, but how was he to get there? Then the 
oracle instructed him as follows:-

"Let the child in search of his mother
Offer an ebon sheep to the dead,
When night falls in the grove of Ifa.

Let the child in search of his mother
Sprinkle his eyes with lustral water,
Then shall the dead be visible to him.

Let the child in search of his mother
Follow the shadows' noiseless footsteps,
So shall he reach the land of the dead."

The babalawo instructed the boy that, upon making the necessary, payment, 
the door-keeper of Deadland would allow him to enter, and he warned him not 
to touch any of the dead, or else he would not be able to return to earth. 
Supposing all went well, and he returned again to the grove of Ifa, from 
which he would set forth, he must again sprinkle his eyes with the water of 
purification, to restore their natural properties to them, and then offer a 
living sacrifice to Ifa in gratitude for his assistance.

The boy followed out his instructions to the letter, and arrived safely in 
Deadland, where he saw his mother seated near a spring, around which many 
other dead people were walking slowly or sitting down. He approached his 
mother and called to her, whereupon she rose and came to him, saying, "What 
brings thee here my son? Why hast thou come to the land of the dead?" The 
boy replied, "The chief has put my brother in log, and will sell him as a 
slave if the necklace which was given thee to keep is not restored to our 
neighbour. Ifa the Great, the Unveiler of Futurity, the Governor of Lots, 
has permitted me to come here to ask thee where it is. Say, where is it?" 
His mother told him that it was hidden in the wall, explaining to him how to 
find the exact spot, and the boy was so overjoyed that, forgetting the 
warning of the priest, he tried to embrace her; but she stepped back hastily 
and avoided him, saying, "Touch me not my son, or the road to the world will 
be closed to thee for ever. Go home and effect thy brother's deliverance, 
and make frequent offerings to me, for I need them much." Then she turned 
away and went and sat down again by the spring.

The boy came back to the world, and found himself in the grove of Ifa, where 
he sprinkled his eyes as directed, and offered sacrifices. Then he went to 
the chief and told him what had occurred; so the necklace was found and his 
brother released. The two boys were not neglectful of their mother's last 
request. Everyfifth day they placed fresh offerings on her grave, and kept 
it always plentifully supplied with fresh water.

In this story the dead mother evidently did not know what was going on in 
the world above, for she had to ask her son why he came, yet she was able to 
reap the advantage of the offerings made on her grave.

Ordinarily, people do not have to undertake the dangerous journey to 
Deadland in order to consult the dead. When the members of a family wish to 
know how a departed relative is faring below, they apply to a priest, who 
takes a young child, bathes his face in water of purification, which, it may 
be remarked, is prepared with edible snails aud shea-butter, offers a 
sacrifice in a new earthen vessel, digs a hole in the earth in a sacred 
grove in the middle of the night, and bids the child look into it. Through 
the magical properties of the lustral water, the child, on looking down into 
the hole, is able to see into Deadland, and so can tell the priest all that 
is going on there. When the priest has obtained the information he requires, 
he again bathes the child's eyes with the water of purification, which 
causes him instantly to lose all recollection of what he has seen and heard. 
The priest thus remains the sole possessor of the information, and be is 
able to tell the family that employed him what he pleases.

THE Yorubas reckon time by moons and weeks. A moon, or month, is the period 
of time between one new moon and the next, and, as is the case with all 
peoples who count by lunar months, the day commences at sunset, that is at 
the hour at which a new moon would ordinarily be first perceived.

The custom of measuring time by lunar months appears to be common to all 
uncivilised peoples, the regular recurrence of the moon at fixed intervals 
of time affording a natural and easy mode of computing its lapse. The 
measurement of time by weeks, that is, by sub-divisions of the lunar month, 
seems, in the present state of our knowledge of the modes of measuring time 
amongst the lower races, to be rather exceptional; but the subject is one 
that has been much neglected by travellers, and there is but little 
information from which a conclusion may be drawn.

The Tshi-tribes of the Gold Coast have (as was stated in the first volume of 
this series) a seven-day week, or, to be more correct, they have divided the 
lunar month, which is approximately twenty-nine and a-half days long, into 
four parts, each of seven days and about nine hours. Hence, as before 
said,[1] each week commences at a different hour of the day, the reason of 
this arrangement being that twenty-nine and a-half will not divide exactly 
into halves and quarters. The first day of the first week of the lunar month 
commences when the new moon is first seen; the first day of the second week 
commences some nine hours later, and so on.

The Gă-tribes have an exactly similar mode of measuring time, but their 
names for the days of the week are not the same as those used by the Tshi-
tribes. They are-

1st. Dsu.
2nd. Dsu-fo.
3rd. Fso.
4th. So.
5th. So-ha.
6th. Ho.
7th. Ho-gba.

which, it will be seen, seem to consist of three pairs and an odd one, the 
third day.

The Yoruba week consists of five days, and six of them are supposed to make 
a lunar month; bnt, as a matter of fact, since the first day of the first 
week always commences with the appearance of the now moon, the month really 
contains five weeks of five days' duration, and one of four day-, and a-
half, approximately. The Benin-tribes to the cast are said to have a similar 
method, and the Yoruba-tribes have perhaps borrowed the five-day week from 

The Tsbi and Gă-tribes thus add a few hours to each seven-day week in order 
to make four of these periods coincident with a lunar month, and the 
Yorubatribes deduct about twelve hours from the last five

[1. "Tshi-speaking Peoples of the Gold Coast" pp. 215, 216.]

day week in order to make six of these periods agree with a lunar month. The 
reason is obvious. Twenty-nine and a-half will not divide, and the nearest 
numbers that will are twenty-eight and thirty. The Tshi and Gă-tribes have 
adopted the former as the integer to be divided, and consequently have had 
to add some hours, while the Yorubas have adopted the latter and have had to 

We have said that to divide the lunar month into weeks appears to be 
exceptional among the lower races, but we have some examples. The Ahantas, 
who inhabit the western portion of the Gold Coast, divide the lunar month 
into three periods, two of ten days' duration, and the third lasting till 
the next new moon appears, that is, for about nine days and a-half. The 
Sofalese of East Africa must have had the same system, for De Faria says 
that they divided the month into three weeks of ten days each, and that the 
first day of the first week was the festival of the new moon.[1]

When a people has progressed sufficiently far in astronomical knowledge to 
have adopted the solar year as a measurement of time, the month, for the 
reason that an exact number of lunar months will not make up a solar year, 
becomes a civil period or calendar month, and is arbitrarily fixed at a 
certain number of days, or some months are made of one length and some of 
another. When this occurs, and the month is disconnected from the moon and 
its phases, it seems that the week-which was properly a sub-division of the 
lunar month, and was no doubt

[1. Astley's Collection, vol. iii., p. 397.]

designed to mark the chief phases of the moon-also becomes a civil period, 
and is a sub-division of the civil month. The ancient Greeks had a civil 
month of thirty days, divided into three weeks, each of ten days; and the 
Javanese, before the seven-day week was adopted from the Mohammedans, had a 
civil week of five days.[1] The former thus resembled the Ahantas, and the 
latter the Yorabas, and no doubt when the Greeks and Javanese reckoned time 
by lunar months instead of by civil, they, like the Ahantas and Yorubas, 
struck off the superfluous hours from the last sub-division of the month.

The names of the days of the Yoruba week are as follows:-

1. Ako-ojo. First day.

2. Ojo-awo. Day of the Secret (sacred to Ifa).

3. Ojo-Ogun. Ogun's Day.

4. Ojo-Shango. Shango's Day.

5. Ojo-Obatala. Obatala's Day.

Ako-ojo is a Sabbath, or day of general rest. It is considered unlucky, and 
no business of importance is ever undertaken on it. On this day all the 
temples are swept out, and water, for the use of the gods, is brought in 
procession. Each of the other days is a day of rest for the followers of the 
god to which it is dedicated, and for them only, Ojo-Shango being the 
Sabbath of the worshippers of the thunder-god, and Ojo-Ogun for those of the 
god of iron, but Ako-Ojo is a day of rest for all. A holy day is called Ose 
(se, to disallow), and because each holy day recurs weekly,

[1. Raffles' "History of Java," vol. i. p. 475.]

Ose has come also to mean the week of five days, or the period intervening 
between two holy days.

There appears to be good reason for supposing that the institution of a 
general day of rest, not only among the Yorubas, but in most, if not all, 
other cases, may be referred to moon-worship. The first day of the first 
week of the lunar month is reckoned from the appearance of the new moon, and 
was, we think, a moon-festival, or holy day sacred to the moon. This holy 
day, before the invention of weeks, recurred monthly, but after the lunar 
month was subdivided, it recurred weekly, and was held on the first day of 
the week. The Mendis of the hinterland of Sierra Leone, who reckon time bv 
lunar months, but have not divided the month into weeks, hold a new-moon 
festival, and abstain from all work on the day of the new moon, alleging 
that if they infringed this rule corn and rice would grow red, the new moon 
being a "day of blood." From this we may perhaps infer that it was at one 
time customary to offer human sacrifices to the new moon. The Bechuanas of 
South Africa keep the twenty-four hours, from the evening on which the new 
moon appears till the next evening, as a day of rest, and refrain from going 
to their gardens.[1] These are examples of monthly moon. Sabbaths observed 
by peoples who do not reckon by weeks.

The first day of the Tshi week, which in the first week of the lunar month 
is the day of the new moon, is called Dyo-da (Adjwo-da) "Day of Rest," and 
is a

[1. Livingstone, "Travels in Sonth Africa," p. 235.]

general day of rest. The other days of the week are, as with the Yorubas, 
days of rest also, but only for particular persons, and not for the whole 
community. The second day, Bna-da, is sacred to the sea-gods, and is the 
fisherman's Sabbath; while the fifth day, Fi-da, is the Sabbath of 
agriculturists. The first clay of the Gă week, which is also a general day 
of rest, is called Dsu, "Purification." Dsu seems also to have been used as 
a title of the moon, for we find silver called dsu-etci, " moon substance," 
or "moon stone," and in the cognate Ewe and Yoruba languages, the moon is 
called Dsu-nu and Oshu respectively. Owing to later and more anthropomorphic 
conceptions of gods moon-worship appears to have died out, though all these 
peoples salute the now moon respectfully when it is first seen, and a Tshi 
epithet of the moon is bohsun, "Sacred," or "God." When, however, moon-
worship flourished, the moon would undoubtedly have been a general god, 
worshipped by the community as a whole; and hence the day dedicated to the 
moon is a general day of rest, and not, like the other days of the week, a 
day of rest for certain persons only. In the case of the Tshi and Gă tribes, 
we thus have examples of a weekly moon-Sabbath, observed by peoples who 
reckon by weeks.

It seems probable that the Jewish Sabbath was also connected primarily with 
moon-worship, and at first was a monthly festival like that of the Mendis 
and Bechuanas, but became a weekly festival after the Jews adopted the 
seven-day week from the Babylonians. In the historical books of the Old 
Testament, viz., Joshua, Judges, the books of Samuel, and the first book of 
Kings, there is not only no mention of a weekly Sabbath, which is first 
spoken of in II. Kings iv. 23, but there is evidence that such an 
institution was unknown; for the encompassing of Jericho,[1] the events 
described in I. Samuel xxix. and xxx., and Solomon's fourteen-day feast,[2] 
would all have violated the injunction, "Let no man go out of his place on 
the seventh day,"[3] had there been a weekly Sabbath. But while the weekly 
Sabbath is not mentioned we find a new moon festival spoken of. [4] In all 
the later works, written after contact with the Babylonians, we find 
frequent mention of Sabbaths, but nearly always in connection with new 
moons, and the day of the new moon was itself observed as a day of rest, or 
Sabbath.[5] That the Jewish Sabbath should come to be called the seventh 
day, though originally the day of the new moon, and consequently the first 
day of the limar month, can be readily understood. When a holy day recurs 
every seventh day, the day on which it is held is naturally called the 
seventh day. Thus the day of the Yoruba Sabbath, which recurs every fifth 
day, is called the fifth day of the week, though the meaning of the name 
ako-ojo is first day.

That, on a day dedicated to a god, no manner of work should be done by the 
followers of that god, seems to be a custom of universal application. 
Abstention from work was doubtless considered a mode

[1. Joshua vi. 13-16. t

2. I. Kings viii. 65.

3. Exodus xvi. 29. 

4. Samuel xx. 5, 18, 24, 26.

5. Ezekiel xlvi. 1; Amos viii. 5. See also Nehemiah x. 23; Isaiah i. 13; 
1xvi, 23; Ezekiel x1v. 17; Hosea ii. 11.]

of showing respect for the god, and Since a want of respect for a god would 
be commonly believed to be followed by some punishment inflicted by him, the 
proposition that it is unlucky to do work on a holy day naturally becomes 
accepted. Thus the Yorubas consider it unlucky for anyone to work on the 
alo-ojo, or general Sabbath, and for the followers of the gods to whom the 
other days are dedicated to work on those days. For a follower of a god to 
violate the day sacred to that god is as serious offence among the Tshi, Gă, 
Ewe, and Yoruba tribes, as to break the Sabbath was among the Jews; and, as 
with the Jews, is punished with death, the notion being that if the honour 
of the god is not vindicated by his followers, they will stiffer for the 
neglect. The Sabbath-breaker is, in fact, killed by the other worshippers of 
the god from motives of self -protection. On the Gold Coast any fisherman 
who dared to put to sea on Bua-da, the fisherman's Sabbath, would 
inevitably, in the old days, have been put to death. Persons who were not 
fisherinen, and who consequently were not followers of the gods of the sea, 
might do as they pleased; for in that spirit of toleration which always 
accompanies polytheism, they were held to be only accountable to their own 

Among the Yoruba tribes markets are held weekly, that is, every fifth day. 
The day of the market varies in different townships, but it is never held on 
the alo-oljo. From this custom of holding markets every fifth day has arisen 
another mode of computing time, namely, by periods of seventeen days, called 
eta-di-ogun (three less than twenty). This is the outcome of the Esu 
societies, or subscription clubs, which are general amongst the Yoruba 
tribes, and still exist, under the same name, among the negroes of Yoruba 
descent in the Bahamas. The members of an Elsu society meet every fifth 
market-day and pay their subscriptions, each member in turn taking the whole 
sum contributed at a meeting. The first and fifth market-days are counted 
in, and thus the number seventeen is obtained. For instance, supposing the 
second day of a month to be -a market-day, the second market would fall on 
the 6th, the third on the 10th, the fourth on the 14th, and the fifth on the 
18th. The fifth market-day, on which the members meet and pay their 
subscriptions, is counted again as the first of the next series. These clubs 
or societies are so common that the seventeen-day period has become a kind 
of auxiliary measure of time.

Osan is day, in contradistinction to oru, night. The division of the day and 
night into hours is not known, but the day is divided into the following 
periods, viz., kutu-kutu, early morning; owuro, morning, forenoon; gangan, 
or osan gangan (gangan, upright, perpendicular), noon; iji-she kpale 
(shadow-lengthening), afternoon; and ashale, or ashewale, evening, twilight. 
The night is divided into periods of cock-crowing, as akuko-shiwaju (the 
cock opening the way), first cock-crowing; ada-ji, or ada-jiwa, time of 
second cock-crowing; and ofere, or ofe, the time of cock-crowing just before 

Odun means "Year," and, like the word ose, "week," also an annual festival 
which is celebrated in October, and the period of time intervening between 
two such festivals. The year is divided into seasons Ewo-erun, dry season; 
Ewo-oye, season of the Harmattan wind; and Ewo-ajo, rainy season. The last 
is again divided into ako-ro, first rains, and aro-kuro, last rains, or 
little rainy season.

THE ceremonies at birth resemble in the main those observed by the Ewe-
speaking peoples, and described in the last volume, but there are a few 
changes which may be attributed to increased priestly influence.

As soon as the pangs of labour seize a woman a priestess takes charge of 
her, and has the care of her and the child; while, soon after the child is 
born, a babalawo appears on the scene to ascertain what ancestral soul has 
been re-born in the infant. As soon as this important point is decided, the 
parents are informed that the child must conform in all respects to the 
manner of life of the ancestor who now animates it; and if, as often 
happens, they profess ignorance, the babalawo supplies the necessary 

Seven days after birth, if the child be a girl, nine days, if it be a boy, 
the babalawo comes again and offers a sacrifice of a cock and a hen to Ifa 
and the Olori, or indwelling spirit of the child's head; after which, in 
order to prevent Elegba from interfering with the mother and child, the 
entrails of the two sacrifices are sprinkled with palm-wine, taken outside 
the house, and placed before his image.

Then follows a ceremony which appears to be one of purification, for here, 
as among the Tshi and Ewe tribes, the mother and child are considered 
unclean, as are women during the menses. The water which is always in the 
earthen vessels placed before the images of the gods, is brought to the 
house and thrown up on the thatched roof, and as it drips down from the 
eaves the mother and child pass three times through the falling drops. The 
babalawo next makes a water of purification with which he bathes the child's 
head, he repeats three times the name by which the infant is to be known, 
and then holds him in his arms so that his feet touch the ground. After 
these ceremonies have been duly performed the fare is extinguished and the 
embers carried away; the house is then carefully swept out, live coals are 
brought, and a fresh fire lighted. We thus appear to have a combination of a 
purification by water and a purification by fire. After the new fire has 
been kindled, another sacrifice of fowls is made to Ifa, and the proceedings 
are at an end.

When a man desires to marry a girl, his parents visit her parents and make 
proposals of marriage. If they are accepted, the suitor sends a present of 
native cloths and kola-nuts, and, after consulting a babalawo, a day is 
appointed for the wedding.

The marriage-feast is held at the house of the parents of the bridegroom, 
and the bride is conducted there by a procession of women, who sing an 
epithalamium. The bride is put to bed by a female of the bridegroom's 
family, who remains concealed in the apartment till the bridegroom has 
joined the bride; after which she secures the "tokens of virginity," and, 
coming out of the room, displays them to the assembled company. She then 
carries them to the house of the parents of the bride, who never attend a 
daughter's wedding-feast, and next morning they are hung on the fence for 
the edification of the public. In this abstention of the bride's parents 
from the feasting and merrymaking, we perhaps find a lingering survival from 
marriage by capture. The producer of the "tokens " is selected from the 
family of the bridegroom to ensure that there is no deception, because the 
husband's family has no interest in falsifying the facts, while the wife's 
family has; but virginity in a bride is only of paramount importance when 
the girl has been betrothed in childhood. The marriage-feast is continued on 
the next day.

It is not uncommon for newly-married couples to visit some celebrated shrine 
and offer sacrifice together, a practice which, together with the fixing of 
the wedding-day by a babalawo, shows an increasing disposition on the part 
of the priests to control or interfere with matters which are purely social 
and quite beyond the domain of religion.

The ceremonies observed by the Yoruba tribes at death chiefly differ from 
those of the Ewe tribes in the addition of various religious observances.

When the breath has departed from the body there is the usual outburst of 
exaggerated grief, with loud cries, lamentations, and frenzied gestures, and 
the eldest son of the deceased, or the brother, if there be no son, at once 
sends for a babalawo, to ascertain if the deceased died from natural causes, 
or through the machinations of witches. The babalawo, after sacrificing. a 
fowl, inquires at the oracle of Ifa, by means of the board and sixteen palm-
nuts; and if it affirms that the death was caused by witchcraft, further 
inquiry is made to know if any other member of the family is threatened with 
a like fate, and also if the soul of the deceased is in danger of further 
molestation from the evil spirits who have been influenced by the 
malpractices of the sorcerers. Should the oracle declare that the soul of 
the deceased is in danger, a sheep or goat is sacrificed, and the carcass, 
sprinkled with palm-oil, is carried outside the town, and deposited at a 
spot where two or more paths meet, which has the effect of causing the evil 
spirits to disperse in as many directions as there are paths. The babalawo 
then prepares the usual water of purification with shea-butter and edible 
snails, and dipping into the vessel a palm-branch, sacred to Ifa, sprinkles 
the corpse, the room, and the spectators with the fluid. At the same time he 
invokes the soul of the deceased to leave the house as soon as the funeral 
rites have been performed, and proceed peacefully to its destination, 
wishing it a safe journey. He says, "May the road be open to you. May 
nothing evil meet you on the way. May you find the road good when you go in 

After these preliminaries, the corpse is washedwith rum, or a decoction of 
aromatic herbs, and attired in its best clothes. The thumbs and the great 
toes are then tied tocether. If the deceased be a man the head is shaved, 
and the hair, carefully wrapped up in a piece of -white cotton, is buried in 
the earth behind the house. If a woman, the exposed parts of the body are 
stained with a decoction of the bark of a tree, which gives a reddish hue to 
the skin. Finally, the corpse is wrapped up in many native cloths, and 
placed on a mat at the door of the room.

In the meantime a death-feast has been prepared, and now commences, while 
outside the house a continual beating of drunis is kept up, together with 
frequent discharges of musketry, fired in honour of the deceased. The feast, 
at which intoxicants are used lavishly, soon becomes a veritable orgie, in 
which, however, the chief mourners, that is, the widows and daughters of the 
deceased, take no part; for as soon as they have performed the last offices 
for the dead, and have placed the corpse at the door, they are shut up in an 
adjacent apartment, where they are compelled by custom to remain during, the 
three days that a corpse invariably lies in state. While thus immured they 
are forbidden to wash, and usage requires them to refuse all food, at least 
for the first twenty-four hours, after which they usually allow themselves 
to be persuaded to take some nourishment.

The conventional mourning is the business of the women of the household, 
who, while the men are feasting utter loud lamentations in the room in which 
they are confined; and, in consequence of this, the epithet isokun, "a 
mourner," is often applied to a female child; a male, on the other hand, 
being sometimes called iwale, "a digger," i.e., of a grave. A father might 
thus say that he had begotten two mourners and a digger, meanin, two 
daughters and a son. Female friends usually come to join in the 
lamentations, the conventional character of which is referred to in the 
proverb " A mourner mourns and goes on her way (without afterthought), but 
one who ponders over sad memories mourns without ceasing." There are also 
professional mourners, chosen for their poetical turn of expression, whose 
services are engaged in well-to-do households, and who often contrive to 
work up the real mourners to a condition of frenzied grief. A professional 
mourner sings in a sad tone, which rises and falls in -a modulated wail; "He 
is gone, the lion of a man. He was not a sapling, or a bush, to be torn out 
of the earth, but a tree-a tree to brave the hurricane; a, spreading tree, 
under which the hearts of his family could rest in peace," &c. &c. while the 
widows and daughters lament their lonely and unprotected state, somewhat as 

"I go to the market; it is crowded. There are many people there, but he is 
not among them. I wait, but he comes not. Ah me! I am alone.

"Never more shall I see him. It is over; he is gone. I shall see him no 
more. Ah me! I am alone. "I go into the street. The people pass, but he is 
not there. Night falls, but he comes not. Ah me! I am alone.

"Alas! I am alone. Alone in the day-alone in the darkness of the night. 
Alas! my father (or husband) is dead. Who will take care of me?"

On the afternoon of the third day of the wake the body is placed on some 
boards, or on a door taken off its hinges, covered with a rich native cloth, 
and borne at a trot through the streets by the men. Male friends and 
relations accompany the bier, singing the praises of the deceased, and 
throwing handfuls of cowries among the spectators. This procession returns 
to the house towards evening, and the corpse is then interred in a grave 
that has been dug in the earthen floor, and which is so contrived that the 
head of the deceased may project beyond the line of the outer wall of the 
house. Most of the cloths in which the corpse is wrapped are taken off, and 
the body, covered with grass mats so that no earth may soil it, is carefully 
lowered into the grave. A coffin is sometimes used, but not often. Food, 
rum, and cowries are placed in the grave, the body is sprinkled with the 
blood of a he-goat, sacrificed to propitiate Elegba, a few more cowries are 
thrown in, and then the grave is filled up amid the wishes for a safe and 
pleasant journey to which we have already referred.[1]

When the grave is full the earth is smoothed down,

[1. Chapter vii.]

and sometimes, when many articles of value have been entombed, the surface 
is moistened with water to make the earth settle down, and slaves and 
dependents are made to sleep on it night after night, for the double purpose 
of protecting it and of obliterating all trace of its exact position. After 
the interment, the feast, which had been suspended since the afternoon, 
recominences; and drinking and shouting. amid the firing of muskets, the 
jangle of native gongs, and the dull thud of the drums, continues all night.

Next day, about noon, the male relations walk out in a body, and wander 
about the town, as if looking for the deceased, and chanting "We look for 
our father, and cannot find him"; to which the bystanders reply, "He has 
gone to his house." Returning from this, the mourners carry on the feast 
till the evening of the next day, when the bones of the victims that have 
been sacrificed, and those of the fowls and sheep that have been eaten by 
the guests, are collected and placed over the grave. All the articles which 
the deceased had in daily use, such as his pipe, the mat on which he slept, 
the plate or vessel froin which he ate, his calabashes, and other things of 
sinall value, are carried out into the bush and burned.

Up to this point the soul of the deceased is supposed to have been lingering 
near his old home, and this destruction of his property is intended to 
signify to the soul that he must now depart, since there is no longer 
anything belonging to him. In former tinics the destruction of property was 
carried much further than at present. Usually the apartment in which the 
deceased is buried is closed, and never used again, and sometimes the roof 
is removed. Rich families even abandon the house altogether, and it is said 
to have been usual in days bygone to burn it. The deceased is called three 
times by name, and adjured to depart, and no longer haunt the dwellings of 
the living. After this invitation to be gone, the fowl, called adire-
iranna,[1] is sacrificed, which, besides securing a right-of-way for the 
soul, is supposed also to guide it. The feathers. of the fowl are scattered 
around the house, and the bird itself carried out to a bush-road, where it 
is cooked and eaten. The road on which the adire-iranna is eaten must be 
outside the town and lead away from it, for though the natives believe that 
Deadland is under the earth, they think that it is necessary to eat the fowl 
on a road leading into the bush, in order to place it in a proper position 
for commencing its office of guide to the soul.

The relations may not wash themselves or comb their hair during the funeral 
ceremonies, in consequence of which the rites themselves are sometimes 
styled Ofo, "Unwashed." On the last day they shave their heads, and then pay 
visits of thanks to those who assisted at the funeral. The time of mourning 
after the conclusion of these ceremonies varies with the rank and influence 
of the deceased, and with the locality. Three months is usually considered 
long enough, but a commemoration-feast is often held a year after the death. 
During the period of mourning the hair must be left unkempt as it grows, and 

[1. See p. 128.]

must cover the head with a cloth of a dark blue colour. A widow remains shut 
up for forty days, and may not wash her cloths during that time.

It is considered the greatest disgrace to a family not to be able to hold 
the proper ceremonies at the death of one of their number, a notion which is 
comprehensible when we remember how much the welfare of the soul of the 
deceased is supposed to depend upon their performance. Hence families not 
unfrequently reduce themselves almost to beggary in order to carry them out, 
or pawn or sell their children to raise the money necessary. Sometimes, too, 
they conceal the death and bide the body until they have secured the 
requisite means, and such concealments have been known to last for three or 
four months. The body is treated with resinous herbs so that it becomes 
desiccated, and while it remains in the house, the soul is believed to abide 
in its old home, where food and drink are provided for it, till such time as 
the proper ceremonies can be held, and it be legitimately ushered on its new 

A common imprecation is Oku igbe, "Bush death," meaning "May you die in the 
bush, alone and uncared for, and so receive no funeral-rites." A proverb 
contrasts a man's duties to his relations with those towards the members of 
any secret society to which he may belong, such as the Ogboni, and insists 
upon the importance of the former, because of the obligation upon his 
relations to bury him.

It runs, "A man must honestly perform all the duties incumbent on 
relationship, even though he may belong to a secret society. When he has 
attended to the society he must attend to his relations, because it is they 
who must bury him when he dies."

This desire for a very ceremonial funeral, which owes its origin to the 
native beliefs concerning the soul, lasts long after the negro has been 
transplanted across the Atlantic, and has lost all notion of its motive. In 
most of the West India Islands, but particularly in the Bahamas, where the 
bulk of the negro population is of Yoruba descent, a grand funeral is 
considered the greatest desideratum. To attain this end, burial-societies 
are formed, the members of which pay subscriptions all their lives in order 
to be buried with pomp. Every member of such a society is bound to attend 
the funeral of another member, and the result is a procession of men in 
uniforms, more or less grotesque, with banners and various insignia. Often a 
band heads the cortége, and many a man occupies his last moments in giving 
directions as to the manner in which the funeral is to take place."

[1. See the following, which appeared in the Nassau Guardian, New 
Providence, Bahamas, 10th January, 1891:-


All to whom it may concern.

Dear Friends,

Mr. A- B- had been a member of the Grant's Town Friendly Society for many 
years, and was financial up to July, 1891. During his illness he requested 
that the Band of the said Society play the Dead March in Saul wben be died. 
The message came to the President from Mr. J- C. S-, ex-President of the 
Society. The Band, in conjunction with the members, was summoned to meet at 
the Society's Hall, in uniform, at 3 o'clock sharp. The members were present 
waiting on the Band, but only the Bandmaster and three other members came, 
and they had to leave the Hall, proceeding to the house of the deceased 
without the Band.

I am sorry to say that if the Band cannot attend on members (deceased) of 
the Society to which they belong, it will be best for the Society to do away 
with the Band. If members are paying, their monies towards Band Funds, they 
should have the use of the Band when required.

(Signed) Z. C-.

Pres. G. T. F. Society.]

When a man dies abroad his family make the greatest exertions to obtain 
something belonging to him, over which the usual rites may be held. Hair or 
nailparings are most sought for this purpose, but, if these cannot be 
obtained, a portion of the clothing worn by the deceased suffices. Such 
remains are called eta, a word which seems to mean something brought from 
one place to another. Through a confusion between objective and subjective 
connection, these relics, which bring the deceased to mind, are suppposed to 
bring the soul to the place where the funeral ceremonies are held.

[Chapter X, Systems of Government, omitted]

[Chapter XI, Laws and Customs, omitted]

[Chapter XII, Language, omitted]

THE Yorubas have an extraordinary number of proverbial sayings, and regard a 
knowledge of them as a proof of great wisdom, whence the saying, "A 
counsellor who understands proverbs soon sets matters right." They are in 
constant use, and another saying runs, "A proverb is the horse of 
conversation. When the conversation droops a proverb revives it. Proverbs 
and conversation follow each other." Several of the proverbs given in the 
volume on the Ewe-speaking peoples are known to and used by the Yoruba-
speaking peoples; but they have hundreds of others which appear to be 
peculiar to themselves, and from these the following are taken as examples:-

1. Secrets should never be told to a tattler.

2. What is not wished to be known is done in secret.

3. He who has done something in secret, and sees people talking together, 
thinks they are talking of his action.

4. A whisperer looks suspiciously at the forest when he hears a noise, but 
the forest does not tell tales.

5. Rags make up a pad.

6. Continual sweepings make a dust-heap.

7. One here: two there: a great crowd.

8. One here: two there: the market is filled up.

(Nos. 5 to 8 are equivalent to our " Many a mickle makes a muckle.")

9. Boasting is not courage.

10. He who boasts much cannot do much.

11. Much gesticulation does not prove courage.

12. It is easy to cut to pieces a dead elephant.

(Nos. 9 to 12 resemble our " Deeds, not words.")

13. "1 nearly killed the bird." No one can cat nearly in a stew.

(Answers to " Catch your hare before you cook him.")

14. A hog that has wallowed in the mud seeks a clean person to rub against.

15. A man in a white cloth is never looked for in the palm-oil market.

(Is something akin to "You cannot touch pitch without behig defiled.")

16. The cross-roads do not fear sacrifices.

17. The sieve never sifts meal by itself.

18. Disobedience will drink water with his hands tied up.

19. Disobedience is the father of insolence.

20. Calamity has no voice; suffering cannot speak to tell who is really in 

21. He who owns the inner square of the house is the master of the outer.

22. Peace is the father of friendship.

23. Strife never begets a gentle child.

24. He who forgives ends the quarrel.

25. A sharp word is as tough as a bow-string. A sharp word cannot be cured, 
but a wound may.

26. A peacemaker often receives blows.

27. There is no medicine against old age.

28. The afomo (a parasitical plant) has no roots; it claims relationship 
with every tree.

29. A man with a cough can never conceal himself.

30. Full-belly child says to hungry-belly child, "Keep good heart."

31. A jealous woman has no flesh upon her breast, for however much she may 
feed upon jealousy, she will never be satisfied.

32. Houses that are not adjacent do not readily catch fire.

33. Do not attempt what you cannot bring to a good end.

31. Each coloured cloth has its name.

35. He who marries a beauty marries trouble.

36. A man of the town knows nothing about farming, or the seasons for 
planting, yet the yam he buys must always be large.

37. A witch kills but never inherits.

38. Unless the tree falls you will never be able to reach the branches.

39. Another's eye is not like one's own.

40. The bite of the sand-fly is not so bad as poverty.

41. Poverty destroys a man's reputation.

42. A poor man has no relations.

43. Poverty never visits a poor man without visiting his children also.

44. The white man is the father of merchants, and want of money is the 
father of disgrace.

45. A man may be born to a fortune, but wisdom only comes with length of 

46. People think that the poor are not so wise as the rich, for if a man be 
wise, why is he poor?

47. The appearance of the wise differs from that of the fool.

48. The labourer is always in the sun, the plantation-owner always in the 

(Answers to " One sows, another reaps.")

49. A lazy man looks for light employment.

50. Laziness lends assistance to fatigue.

51. The potsherd goes in front of the man who has taken embers on it from 
the fire.

(Means that every enterprise requires a leader.)

52. The partridge says: "What business has the farmer to bring his cloth 
here?" (fearing it may be a bird-trap). The farmer says: "How could I go to 
my farm without my cloth? "

(This means that there are two sides to every question.)

53. Ear, hear the other before you decide.

54. He who annoys another only teaches him to streno,then himself.

55. He who waits for a chance will have to wait for a year.

56. When the jackal dies the fowls do not mourn, for the jackal never brings 
up a chicken.

57. When fire burns in the bush, smuts fly into the town.

(Answers to " Evil communication corrupts good manners.")

58. Tale-bearing is the older brother, vexation the younger.

59. He who knows a matter beforehand confuses the liar.

60. Time may be very long but a lie will not go to forgetfulness.

61. A lie costs nothing to a liar.

62. A man walks calmly in the presence of his defamer; -a man walks proudly 
in the presence of his slanderer, when he knows that the slanderer has only 
twenty cowries in his house.

63. To be trodden upon here, to be trodden upon there, is the fate of the 
palm-kernel lying in the, road.

64. The sole of the foot is exposed to all the dirt of the road.

65. He who eats akashu does not know that a famine prevails.

(Akashu is a large ball of agidi, and hence emblematic of plenty.)

66. Consideration is the senior, calculation the junior, and wisdom the 

67. Want of consideration and forethought made six brothers pawn themselves 
for six dollars.

(Instead of one brother pawning himself for the whole amount, in which case 
the others would be free to work and earn money with which to redeem him.)

68. An obstinate man soon falls into disgrace.

69. Inquiry saves a man from making mistakes. He who makes no inquiry gets 
himself into trouble.

70. Though a man may miss other things, he never misses his mouth.

71. Not to aid one in distress is to kill him in your heart.

72. Charity is the father of sacrifice.

73. Covetousness is the father of disease.

74. Never did our fathers honour an orisha of this kind.

(Is used to discountenance innovations.)

75. A white cloth and a stain never agree.

76. Thorns do not agree with the foot.

77. The stream may dry up, but the watercourse still keeps its name.

78. When water is poured on the head it finds its way down to the feet.

79. A gift is a gift, and a purchase is a purchase; so no one will thank you 
for saying "I sold it You very cheap."

80. Hawks go away for the nesting-season, and fools think they have gone 
away for ever.

81. Ashes fly back in the face of him who throws them.

(Is equivalent to our " Curses come home to roost.")

82. It is the path of the needle that the thread is accustomed to follow.

83. If a matter be dark, dive to the bottom.

84. He who is pierced with a thorn must limp off to him who has a knife.

85. Every man's character is good in his own eyes.

(This resembles "Self-praise is no recommendation.")

86. Wherever a man goes to dwell, his character goes with him.

87. Frogs' spawn does not attract the attention of the robber.

(Frogs' spawn is supposed to resemble a mass of beads.)

88. The white ant may well admire the bird, for it loses its wings only 
after only one day.

89. Gently! gently! still hurts the snail.

90. A bribe blinds the judge's eyes, for bribes never speak the truth.

91. A witness speaks the truth; a witness is not a partisan.

92. Iwo is the home of the grey parrot, Ibara the home of the hawk, but 
where is the home of the green parrot?

(Is used to persons making false pretences.)

93. Bank rises after bank, and ditch follows after ditch. When the rain 
falls into the ditch the banks are envious.

(Is said of those who are dissatisfied with their station in life.)

94. The strength of a mortar (made of wood) is not like the strength of a 
pot (made of clay). Place a mortar on the fire and it will burn; pound a yam 
in a pot and it will break.

(Means that there is a proper use for everything.)

95. When the monkey jumps from the tree he jumps into the house.

(Inculcates the danger of leaving one's proper station.)

96. A tick having fixed itself on the mouth of a jackal, a fowl was asked to 
take it off; but the fowl knew that she was food for the jackal just as the 
tick was for her.

97. Gossip is unbecoming in an elder.

98. Three elders cannot all fail to pronounce the word ekulu; one may say 
ekúlu, another ekulú, but tho third will say ekulu.

(Ekulu is the name of antelope. The saying means that there is safety in a 
number of counsellors.)

99. The younger should not thrust himself into the seat of the elders.

100. The young cannot teach the elders traditions.

101. As a calabash receives the sediment of the water, so inust in elder 
exercise forbearance.

102. A man does not run among thorns for nothing. Either he is pursuing a 
snake or a snake is pursuing him.

103. As no subject may keep a herald, so it is not every man who may own a 

104. Everyone in the assembly has a name, but when you are summoned "in the 
name of the assembly" (instead of in the name of some individual in it) evil 
awaits you.

105. A near neighbour need not say good-bye till to-morrow.

106. A thing thrown forward will surely be overtaken, and a thing put in the 
ground will be there to be dug up; but if nothing has been thrown forward, 
what shall be overtaken? and if nothing has been buried, what shall be dug 

(Is used to inculcate provident habits.)

107. The name given to a child becomes natural to it.

108. Gold should be sold to him who knows its value.

109. Time is longer than a rope.

110. The dawn does not come twice to wake a man.

111. If clothes remain long in the bag they rot.

112. The agbi (a bird with blue plumage) is the dyer in blue; the aluko (a 
bird with purple plumage) is the painter of purple; but the lekileki (the 
white crane) is the owner of the white cloth.

(Means each to his own pursuits.)

113. When the rain fell upon the parrot the aluko rejoiced, thinking that 
the red tail of the parrot would be spoiled, but the rain only increased its 

114. The akala (vulture) smells the carrion, no matter how high in the air 
he may be.

115. The bat hangs with his head down, watching the actions of the birds.

(Is used to inculcate silent observation.)

116. He that has copper ornaments looks after the lime; he that has brass 
ornaments looks after the awedi.

(The lime is used for cleaning copper and the awedi for cleaning brass.)

117. Though the dengi is cold on the top, yet the inside is very hot.

(Dengi is a kind of gruel made of pounded maize. The proverb means "Do not 
judge by appearances.")

118. A small bed will not hold two persons.

119. The elephant makes a dust and the buffalo makes a dust, but the dust of 
the buffalo is lost in that of the elephant.

120. Though you appear very sharp you cannot tell nine times nine.

121. A large morsel chokes a child.

122. He who cannot lift an ant, and yet tries to lift an elephant, will find 
out his folly.

123. He who tries to shake the trunk of a tree only shakes himself.

124. The world is the ocean and mankind is the lagoon. However well a man 
can swim he cannot cross the world.

(Nos. 119 to 124 are used to check presumption and over-confidence.)

125. When the eya (a wild cat) has reached to the ferocity of the leopard he 
will kill animals to feed on.

126. Though the fire is burning the walls do not shrink from it, and yet the 
fire is trying to burn the water.

(Is said of persons who aim at the greater when they cannot accomplish the 

127. The cry of the bird kegio does not reach the sky.

(Is used of one whose opinion or advice is not valued.)

128. Cocoa-nut is not good for a bird to eat.

(This is used in the same way as our "Sour grapes.")

129. The bill-hook cuts the bush, but receives no profit from the bush. It 
clears the road, but receives no profit from the road. The bill-hook is 
badly bent, the bill-hook is badly bent. The billhook is bent; it pays five 
cowries to bind its neck (handle) with a ring. When the bill-hook reaches 
its owner's farm with the ring on its neck, it is girded tightly for new 

(This saying refers to the labour of slaves, which brings them no 
remuneration. In the original it forms a kind of verse. Thus:-

Ada shan igbo,
Ko ri ere igbo.
O ro ona,
Ko ri ere ona.
Ada da ida kuda,
Ada da ida kuda.

Ada da; o fi arun gbadi o di oko olowo.
Ada li eka oron gbadsa giri-giri.)

130. The pot-lid is always badly off, for the pot gets all the sweet and the 
lid nothing but the steam.

("Pot-lid" is here used to mean "slave.")

131. Job-work is not the slave's first care; the master's work has the first 
claim on his time.

132. A slave is not the child of a tree (i.e., made of wood). When a slave 
dies his mother hears nothing of it, but when a free man dies there is 
mourning; yet the slave, too, was once a child in his mother's house.

133. As the yam-flour was once a soft unripe yam, so was the slave once a 
child in his father's house.

134. Birth does not differ from birth; as the free man was born so was the 

135. You find a hen in the market and hasten to buy her. Had she been worth 
keeping the owner would not have sold her.

(This is said in warning to any man who is about to buy a female slave.)

136. He who gathers locust-fruit spends the money of death.

(Is used to check rashness. The wood of the locust-tree breaks easily, and 
this proverb contemplates a man perched on a lofty limb to pick the fruit.)

137. A hunchback is never asked to stand up straight.

(That is, no one expects the impossible.)

138. He who has only an eyebrow for a bow can never kill an animal.

139. You cannot kill game by looking at it.

140. When the hawk hovers the fowl-owner feels uneasy.

141. No one carrying elephant-beef on his head should look for crickets 

(Elephant-beef here means the food of the rich, and crickets that of the 
poor. The saying means tbat the rich should not stoop to petty gains.)

142. No one should draw water from the spring in order to supply the river.

(This means that no poor man should stint himself in order to make presents 
to the rich.)

143. The glutton, having eaten his fill, then calls his companions to come 

144. If you are not able to build a house at once, you first build a shed.

145. If one has not an adan (a large kind of bat), one sacrifices an ode 
(small bat).

(Nos. 144 and 145 mean "Do your best.")

146. If one is carrying water, and it gets spilt, so long as the calabash is 
not broken one can still get more.

(Is used to encourage those who think a disaster irreparable.)

147. No snuff-seller likes to own that she sells bad tobacco, but all 
profess to sell tobacco as sweet as honey.

("No one cries stinking fish.")

148. The esuo (gazelle), claiming relationship with the ekulu (a large 
antelope), says his mother was the daughter of an ekulu.

149. If you abuse the etu, you make the head of the awo ache.

(The etu and the awo are two varieties of guinea-fowl. The proverb means 
that people do not like to hear their relations badly spoken of.)

150. He runs away from the sword and hides himself in the scabbard.

This answers to our "Out of the frying-pan into the fire," as the sword will 
return to the scabbard.)

151. The sword shows no respect for its maker.

152. The spoon, seeing death, ventures his head into it.

(That is, into the boiling fluid. The proverb is used to check rashness.)

153. After the agbeji has saved men from starving, it is thought only fit to 
be cut into a common calabash.

(The agbeji is a kind of calabash-gourd, which ripens early in the season, 
when vegetables are scarce. When over-ripe it is bitter to the taste. The 
saying is used to reprove ingratitude.)

154. The agbeji is never bitter in a large family.

(This resembles "Hunger is the best sauce.")

155. Leprosy, desiring to disfigure a man, attacks the tip of his nose.

(Said of one who tells the faults of another in public.)

156. The first-born is due to the sheep-owner.

(This answers to "Give to each one his due." It refers to a custom by which, 
when ewes are put in charge of a shepherd, he receives in payment a certain 
proportion of the young, after the first-born.)

157. Contraction of words conceals the sense.

(The Yorabas talk habitually with great rapidity, contracting words, and 
often not giving themselves time to think of the proper word to use. Hence, 
the meaning of what they say is very often obscure, and their convenation is 
in consequence continually interrupted by the question"Ogbo?" "Do you 
understand?" literally,"Do you hear?")

158. When the face is washed you finish at the chin.

(This is a saying used when a dispute is ended. It means, "Well, that's 

159. No one should ask the fish what takes place on the land, nor should the 
rat be asked what takes place in the water.

160. A large cook does not allow a small one to crow.

161. A rock is the father of stones.

162. Two rams cannot drink out of the same calabash.

163. No one will throw away antelope-venison to pick up squirrel-meat.

164. When the spider intends to attack you it encircles you with its web.

165. The deaf look with surprise at a speaker's mouth.

166. Although you are about to die, need you split up the mortar for 

(Means, have some consideration for others.)

167. "To-day I am going; to-morrow I am going," gives the stranger no 
encouragement to plant the ahusa (a plant which bears fruit very rapidly).

168. What good have the gods done to the hunchback that he should name his 
child Orishagbemi (the gods have blessed me)?

(This means, why should one return thanks when unkindness only has been 

169. He who does not understand the cry of the palm-bird (ega) complains of 
the noise it makes.

(Means that people are prone to contemn [sic] what they do not understand.)

170. A large cock, crowing in the middle of the night, settles the dispute 
(as to what the time is).

171. A lame man said the load on his head was not properly balanced, and was 
told "Its unevenness began from the ground" (i.e., from his lame leg).

(This is used to reprove those who find fault when the fault really lies 
with them.)

172. When the bush is on fire the pigeon leaves the grass; when the fire is 
extinguished everyone returns home.

173. The akpena says to the cotton, "Do not hang your trouble round my 

(The akpena is a kind of spindle, on which spun cotton is wound for sale. 
The proverb is used to one who is involving another in a difficulty.)

174. The aro does not bear its load for ever; sooner or later it will put it 

(The aro is the hearth, or fire-place, consisting of three rounded cones of 
clay, between which the fire is lighted, and on which the cooking-pot rests. 
The proverb means, "Sooner or later matters must mend.")

175. Self-conceit deprives the wasp of honey.

176. He who begs with importunity will obtain what he wants.

177. The pond stands aside, as if it were not related to the river.

(Is used to reprove pride.)

178. The ago (a striped rat noted for its cunning) is caught in a trap, how 
much more then the malaju (a water-rat remarkable for its stupidity).

179. The ajao (flying-fox) is neither rat nor bird.

(Is used of a person who remains neutral during a quarrel.)

180. When a Mohammedan is not pinched with hunger he says, "I never eat 

181. The rat has no voice to call the eat to account.

182. When the man on the stilts falls, another hand gets possession of the 

183. One man makes bill-hooks and others use them.

181. If you send no one to the market the market will send no one to you.

185. There is no tallness among pigeons; they are all dwarfs.

186. No one would expose fowls on the top of a rock in sight of a hawk.

187. The rat does not show his companion the hole in the roof.

(Each one for himself.)

188. You cannot shave a man's head in his absence.

(This means that a matter cannot be settled in the absence of the people 

189. A bald-headed man does not care for a razor.

190. A mouth not keeping shut, and lips not keeping close, bring trouble to 
the jaws.

(Answers to our "Speech is silver, bat silence is gold.")

191. With the forefinger one takes up the sauce.

192. A chicken having been delivered from death (i.e., from the hawk) by 
being shut up, complained because it was not allowed to feed openly on the 

193. The dog that is known to be very swift is the one chosen to catch the 

194. If the dog has his master behind him he will not be afraid of the 

195. An old dog cannot be taught.

196. The butcher pays no regard to any particular breed of animals.

(That is, "All it; fish that comes to his net.")

197. A rogue never closes the mouth of his wallet.

198. The birdlime is the death of the bird.

199. When the shin-bone is not hurt, it says it has no flesh to protect it.

(This means, "You do not know what you can do till you try.")

200. Working in competition quickens the hands.

201. The coloured calico deceives the country-cloth, but it is not really 
what the country-cloth takes it to be, for the thread is fine.

(Country-cloth, that is, native-made cotton-cloth, is only dyed to disguise 
its coarseness, and it is here represented as imagining that coloured calico 
is coloured for the same reason. The proverb means that first impressions 
are often erroneous.)

202. He who goes into a river, may fear, but the river does not fear.

203. No one confesses that he has eaten yam with a knife that is missing.

204. A fool of Ika and an idiot of Iluka meet together to make friends.

(" Birds of a feather flock together.")

205. The palm of the hand deceives no one.

(This answers to our "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.")

206. No matter how well an idol is made, it must have something to stand on.

(Is used like our "There is no smoke without fire.")

207. Though the host may be obliged to eat gbingbindo, the guest expects at 
least to be given a handful of corn.

(The fruit of the gbingbindo is only eaten in time of famine. The proverb is 
used to check unreasonable demands.)

208. When a fish is killed its tail is put in its mouth.

(Is said of those who reap, the fruit of their own misdeeds.)

209. Thanks are due to the shoulders which keep the shirt from slipping off.

210. As one is walking, so is he met.

211. The monkey is sure to tear the cloth of anyone who resembles himself.

212. An accident is not like a result that is foreseen.

213. One lock does not know the wards of another.

214. If the stomach is not strong, do not eat cockroaches.

215. The pangolin dwelt in a forest, not in a plain.

(This is a mode of saying that a person is bashful.)

216. If a man powerful in authority should ill-treat you, smile at him.

217. He who claps hands for a fool to dance is no better than the fool.

218. When the agbali is overpowered, there remains only the strength of the 
arabi to be overcome.

(The agbali and arabi are two insects which, it is popularly believed, are 
always found in company.)

219. The thumb cannot point straight forward.

(Is used when a person has been detected in some deceit.)

220. To prostrate oneself and keep the elbows close (to the side) does 
something for you.

(This resembles our saying about holding a candle to the devil.)

221. The trader never acknowledges that he has sold all his goods. When 
asked, he will only say, "Trade is a little better."

222. Everything has a price, but who can put a price on blood?

223. Famine compels one to eat the fruit of all kinds of trees.

("Necessity knows no law.")

224. A fugitive does not stop to pick the thorns from his foot, neither does 
he make choice of his sauce.

225. The ground-pig (bandicoot) said: "I do not feel so angry with the man 
who killed, me, as with the one who dashed me on the ground afterwards."

("Insult adds to injury.")

226. Never take hold of a man who has a drawn knife in his hand.

227. By labour comes wealth.

228. A thief is more merciful than a fire.

229. Odofin tells a bigger lie than Aro.

Aro says he dropped his needle in the water;

Odofin says he heard the splash of it.

230. A knife cannot be so sharp as to sharpen its own handle.

231. Joy has a small body.

232. Number one always precedes number two.

233. The horse never refuses a homeward gallop.

234. The wife saying, "I am going to see my mother," deceives the husband.

235. He who waits to see a crab wink will tarry long upon the shore.

236. The butterfly that brushes against thorns will tear its wings.

237. If an orisha would kill a man for cooking an unpalatable soup, what 
would become of those who cook nothing at all?

238. A rat that has a navel is a witch.

239. That which a child likes never injures its stomach.

240. Quick loving a woman means quick not loving a woman.

("Marry in haste and repent at leisure.")

241. One cannot show darkness by, pointing it out.

242. The greater covers the less.

243. Ropes are entangled when goats are tied to the same post.

244. Hilts are unconscious of the strain to which the blades are subjected.

245. We say, "Know it who can." The knower will know.

("The cap fits.')

246. Without bad news there is no sadness of heart.

247. The dove would not eat the ground-nuts, or the crow the white beans.

("One man's food is another man's poison,")

248. Health is the stepping-stone to wealth.

219. Dada cannot fight, but he has a brave brother.

250. As a girl is, so is her "head-money."

Many of the proverbial sayings run in couplets, and resemble in construction 
some of those found in the Hebrew Book of Proverbs, the object being to 
establish an antithesis between two consecutive lines, in which noun is made 
to answer to noun, and verb to verb. For instance, compare:-

The simple inherit folly,
But the prudent are crowned with knowledge.

(Proverbs xiv. 18).

A gracious woman retaineth honour,
And strong men retain riches.

(Proverbs xi. 16.)

with the following Yoruba aphorisms:-

1. Ordinary people are as common as grass,
But good people are dearer than the eye.

2. A matter dealt with gently is sure to prosper,
But a matter dealt with violently causes vexation.

3. Familiairity induces contempt,
But distance secures respect.

4. The public assembly belongs to the town,
But a select council belongs to the king.

5. Anger does nobody good,
But patience is the father of kindness.
Anger draws arrows from the quiver,
But good words draw kola-nuts from the bag.

6. A fruitful woman is the enemy of the barren,
And an industrious man is the foe of the lazy.

7. Beg for help, and you will meet with refusers;
Ask for alms, and you will meet with misers.

8. A wild boar in the place of a hog would ravage the town,
And a slave, made king, would spare nobody.

9. When there are no elders the town is ruined,
And when the master dies the house is desolate.

10. The absence of powder converts a gun into a stick,
And the death of a father causes the dispersion of his children.

11. The sharpness of an arrow is not like that of a razor,
And the wickedness of a horse is not like that of a man.

12. A pistol has not a bore like a cannon,
And a poor man has not money like a rich.

13. Sorrow is after weeping,
And mortification is after trouble.

14. To-day is the elder brother of to-morrow,
And a heavy dew is the elder brother of rain.

15. A ram's mane gives him a noble appearance,
And a father's honour makes a son proud.

16. No one can separate the agbali from the arabi,[1]
And no one can deprive a man of his inheritance,

The Yoruba-speaking peoples are fond of composing punning sentences, made up 
of words having similar sounds but different meanings. Thus:-

(1) Abebi ni ibe iku.

Abebi ni ibe orun.

Bi oru ba inu abebi ni ibe e.

Abebi means a fan, an advocate, or an intercessor, and the above is

An intercessor (with the gods) wards off death.
An advocate (with the judge) wards off punishment.
A fan wards off the heat when it is hot.

[1. See Proverb 218.]

(2) Igun ti ogun mi ko jo i egun. Stabbing is not like pricking me with a 
thorn." The play here is in the resemblance between the words igun, ogun, 
and egun.

(3) Bi alapata ba pa eran, awon alagbata abu u li ajan. When the butcher 
kills the animal the retailers cut it into pieces." Here the play is upon 
the words alalgata (butcher) and alagbata (pedlar, retailer, petty trader).

(4) The following is on the words bata (shoes), bata-bata (an onomatopœic 
word like our "patter patter "), apata (rock), ajulabata (chief drummer), 
and bata (a long drum):-

Ojo pa bata, bata-bata-bata, li ori apata; li ode ajulabata, bata ni igi, 
bata li awo.

"The rain on the bata (shoes), goes patter, patter, patter, as on the apata 
(rock); in the street of ajulabata, the bata (drum) is wood, the bata 
(shoes) are of hide."

(5) Igba dodo li agbado, igba ni? "What supports the people if it is not 
maize?" Here the play is on igba dodo and agbado.

It is a favourite game to repeat as fast as possible sentences difficult to 
pronounce, like the following:-

Iyan mu ire yo; iyan ro ire ru. "When there is famine the cricket is fat" 
(that is, is considered good enough to eat); "when the famine is over the 
cricket is lean" (i.e., is rejected).

Kanakana ba kanakana ja, kanakana da kanakana. "The crow met the crow and 
fought, the crow beat the crow."

The two following are examples of a play of a different sort:-

(1) The cry of the squirrel sounds like the word korokoro, whence "It was 
the squirrel's own mouth that betrayed her, for when she had brought forth 
two young ones she carried them to the roadside and said, My children are 
very sound, very sound, very sound (Omo mi ije korokoro, korokoro, 

(2) The cry of the bush-fowl (partridge) resembles the words kiki ora, 
"nothing but fat"; hence the saying, "With its mouth the bush-fowl declares 
its fatness, crying, 'Nothing but fat! Nothing but fat.'" (Kiki-ora! Kiki-

Riddles are sufficiently common, but few of them are good. The following are 

Q. A small confined room, with hardly anything in it but pegs.
A. The mouth, with the teeth.

Q. An associate who cannot be tamed.
A. Fire.

Q. There is no market in which the dove with the prominent breast has not 
A. The cowry.

Q. A hen that has many chickens.
A. The Milky Way.

Q. I am long and slim, I am engaged in commerce, and yet I never reach the 
A. The canoe (which carries the goods but stops at the landing-place).

THE Yoruba folk-lore tales are very numerous. The word now commonly used to 
mean one of these popular fables is alo, which more properly means a riddle, 
or something invented, literally something twisted, or inverted. A reciter 
of tales, called an akpalo (kpa-alo) "maker of alo," is a personage highly 
esteemed, and in great demand for social gatherings. Some men, indeed, make 
a profession of story-telling, and wander from place to place reciting 
tales. Such a man is termed an akpalo kpatita, "one who makes a trade of 
telling fables." As among the Ewe tribes, the professional story-teller very 
often uses a drum, with the rhythm of which the pauses in the narrative are 
filled up. When he has gathered an audience around him, he cries out, "My 
alo is about so-and-so," mentioning the name of the hero or heroine of the 
tale; or "My alo is about a man (or woman) who did so-and-so," and, after 
this preface, proceeds with the recital. The professional story teller must 
not be confounded with the arokin, or narrator of the national traditions, 
several of whom are attached to each king or paramount chief, and who may be 
regarded as the depositaries of the ancient Chronicles. The chief of the 
arokin is a councillor, bearing the title of Ologbo "one who possesses the 
old times," and a proverb says "Ologbo baba arokin" "Ologbo is the father of 

My alo is about a woman whose little girl made palm-oil.

One day when she had made palm-oil she took it to the market to sell.

She stayed in the market selling her palm-oil until it was quite dark. And 
when it was dark, a goblin[1] came to her to buy palm-oil, and paid her with 
some cowries.

When the little girl counted the cowries she found that there was one short, 
and she asked the goblin for the cowry that was wanting.

The goblin said that he had no more cowries, and the little girl began 
crying, "My mother will beat me if I go home with a cowry short."

The goblin walked away, and the little girl walked after him.

"Go away," said the goblin; turn back, for no one can enter the country 
where I live."

"No," said the little girl; "wherever you go I will follow, until you pay me 
my cowry."

So the little girl followed, followed a long, long way, till they came to 
the country where the people stand on their heads in their mortars and pound 
yams with their heads.

[1. Iwin, goblin, spirit, ghost.]

Then they went on again a long way, and they came to a river of filth. And 
the goblin sang:-

"Oh! young palm-oil seller,
You must now turn back."

And the girl sang:

"Save I get my cowry,
I'll not leave your track."

Then the goblin sang again:-

"Oh! young palm-oil seller,
Soon will lead this track,
To the bloody river,
Then you must turn back."

And she:-

"I will not turn back."

And he:-

"See yon gloomy forest?"

And she:-

"I will not turn back."

And he:-

"See yon craggy mountain?"

And she:-

"I will not turn back.
Save I get my cowry
I'll not leave your track."

Then they walked on again, a long, long way; and at last they arrived at the 
land of dead people.

The goblin gave the little girl some palm-nuts, with which to make palm-oil, 
and said to her: "Eat the palm-oil and give me the ha-ha.[1]

[1. Ha-ha, the stringy remains of the pulp of the nut after the oil has been 

But when the palm-oil was made the little girl gave it to the goblin, and 
eat the ha-ha herself, and the goblin said, "Very well."

By-and-by the goblin gave a banana to the little girl, and said: "Eat this 
banana, and give me the skin." But the little girl peeled the banana and 
gave it to the goblin, and eat the skin herself.

Then the goblin said to the little girl: "Go and pick three ados.[1] Do not 
pick the ados which cry 'Pick me, pick me, pick me,' but pick those which 
say nothing, and then return to your home. When you are half-way back break 
one ado, break another when you are at the house-door, and the third when 
you are inside the house." And the little girl said, "Very well."

She picked the ados as she was told, and returned home.

When she was half-way she broke one ado, and behold, many slaves and horses 
appeared, and followed her.

When she was at the house-door, the little girl broke the second ado, and 
behold, many creatures appeared, sheep, and goats, and fowls, more than two 
hundred, and followed her.

Then, when she had entered the house, the little girl broke the last ado, 
and at once the house was filled to overflowing with cowries, which poured 
out of the doors and windows.

The mother of the little girl took twenty countrycloths, twenty strings of 
valuable beads, twenty sheep

[1. The ado is a very small calabash, commonly used for keeping medicinal 
powders in.]

and goats, and twenty fowls, and went to make a present to the head wife.[1]

The head wife asked whence all these things came, and when she had been 
told, she refused to accept them. She said she would send her own child to 
do the same, and that she could easily get as much.[2]

Then the head wife made palm-oil, and gave it to her own little girl, and 
told her to go and sell it in the market.

The little girl -went to the market. The goblin came, bought palin-oil of 
her, and paid her with cowries. He gave the proper number of cowries, but 
the little girl hid one and pretended that he had not given her enough.

"What am I to do? " said the goblin. "I have no more cowries."

"Oh," said the little girl, "I will follow you to your house, and then you 
can pay me."

And the goblin said: "Very well."

Then the two walked together, and presently the goblin began singing, as he 
had done the first time. He sang:-

"Oh young palm-oil seller,
You must now turn back."

[1. Head wife, Iyale (Iya-ile, Mistress of the House). As already explained, 
the subordinate wives, of which the mother of the girl in the story was one, 
are called Iya-wo.

2. From the European point of view this would appear to be a good trait on 
the part of the iyale, for the inference would be that she did not wish to 
deprive the sub-wife of so much property, but that is not the native view. 
To the native mind a person only refuses a present when he is nurturing 
rancour against the donor, and to refuse a gift is regarded is a sign of 

And the little girl sang:-

"I will not turn back."

And the goblin:-

You must leave the track."

And the girl:-

"I will not turn back."

Then the goblin said: "Very well. Come along." And they walked on till they 
reached the land of dead people.

The goblin gave the little girl some palm-nuts, and told her to make palm-
oil. He said: "When the palm-oil is made, eat it yourself, and bring me the 
ha-ha." And the little girl eat the palm-oil and brought the ha-ha to the 
goblin. And the goblin said: "Very well."

Then the goblin gave a banana to the little girl, and told her to peel it. 
He said: "Eat the banana yourself and bring me the skin." And the little 
girl eat the banana and carried the skin to the goblin.

Then the goblin said: "Go and pick three ados. Do not pick those which cry 
'Pick me, pick me, pick me,' but pick those which say nothing."

The little girl went. She found ados which said nothing and she left them 
alone. She found others which cried, "Pick me, pick me, pick me," and she 
picked three of them.

Then the goblin said to her, "When you are halfway home break one ado; when 
you are at the door break another; and break the third when you are inside 
the house."

Half-way home the little girl broke one ado, and behold, numbers of lions, 
and leopards, and hyenas, and snakes, appeared. They ran after her, and 
harassed her, and bit her till she reached the door of the house.

Then she broke the seeond ado, and behold, more ferocious animals came upon 
her and bit her and tore her at the door. The door was shut, and there was 
only a deaf person in the house. The little girl called to the deaf person 
to open the door, but he heard her not. And there, upon the threshold, the 
wild beasts killed the little girl.

My alo is about a poor young woman.[1]

There was a poor young woman who had a child. She was so poor that she could 
not even buy a cloth to wear, and her child was held on her back with a 

The poor young woman used to go into the forest to cut fire-wood to sell. 
One day she went there as usual. There was a tall tree, and under it she put 
down her child to sleep in the shade.

Now in this tree there was an aranran,[2] and while the young woman was 
cutting fire-wood, the aranran seized the child, and carried it up into the 

When the young woman had made up her bundle of wood, she came back to the 
place where she bad left her child, and could not find it.

[1. This story is also about the discomfiture of an iyale, which is a 
favourite theme. The plot resemblcs the foregoing.

2. Aranran, a bird of prey; probably from ra, to hover.]

She looked everywhere, but still could not find it, and she ran to-and-fro, 
crying bitterly.

At last she looked up, and then she saw her child in the claws of the 
aranran, high up in the tree-top. And she began to sing:-

"Aranran, eiye igbo, igbo,[1]
Give me back my child, oh, igbo.
Here is a rope of tie-tie,[2] igbo;
Quickly let my child down, igbo."

When the young woman had sung this, the aranran threw down to her a bag of 
coral beads.

The young woman ran to the bag and opened it, but her child was not in it, 
so she threw the bag down and sang again:-

"Aranran, eiye igbo, igbo,
Give me back my child, oh, igbo.
Here is a rope of tie-tie, igbo;
Quickly let my child down, igbo."

Then the aranran took all kinds of valuable property, and threw them down to 
her. And the mother looked here and looked there as the things fell, but her 
child was still not there, so she sang again, the same song, a third time.

Then the aranran took the child and flew down with it and placed it gently 
on the ground.

The young woman ran to her child, took him up,

[1. Eiye, bird; igbo, forest, bush. Hence eiye igbo answers to our "wild 
bird." The native words are here retained in order to preserve the rhythm.

2. Tie-tie is an Anglo-African term for the various kinds of parasitical 
vines which are used as substitutes for cord. They are sometimes called 

and put him on her back. She picked up also all the things that the aranran 
had thrown down to her. And from being poor, she now became rich.

After returning home the young woman took twenty strings of coral beads, and 
went to offer them to the iyale; but the iyale, when she learned how the 
young woman had come by the beads, refused them.

The iyale took a child belonging to one of the other wives and carried it 
into the bush. She put it under the tree of the aranran, and went away to 
cut wood.

But while she was away cutting wood the aranran carried off the child, and 
killed and ate it.

When the iyale, returned to the foot of the tree, and could not find the 
child, she began to sing, as the young woman had done:-

Aranran, eiye igbo, igbo,
Give me back my child, oh, igbo.
Here is a rope of tie-tie, igbo;
Quickly let my child down, igbo."

Then the aranran voided copiously into a bag, tied up the neck of the bag, 
and throw it down.

The iyale ran to the bag, picked it up, and untied it. She found it full of 
filth, and she threw it away. Then she sang again, as before.

This time the aranran made water in a large calabash, and let it fall, so 
that it broke upon the woman's head. And the iyale sang a third time:-

Aranran, eiye igbo, igbo,
Give me back my child, oh, igbo.
Here is a rope of tie-tie, igbo;
Quickly let my child down, igbo."

Then the aranran took up the bones of the child and throw thein down -at 

The iyale ran and looked at the bones of the child, and she cried out, "This 
is not my child. It is the child of another woman that this bird has killed, 
believing it to be mine." And she went away.

When she reached home, the mother of the child came to the iyale for her 
little one. And the iyale said that the child was quite well, but was not 
with her.

Many times the mother came to ask for her child, and when three months had 
passed and the child had not been restored to her, she carried the case 
before the king.

She told the king all that had taken place, that the iyale had taken the 
child from her hands, and, though three months had passed, had not yet 
brought it back.

The king summoned the iyale to his court, and asked her, "What have you done 
with the child? Where is it?" And the iyale answered, "What do you suppose I 
should do with it? "

Then the king said to the people who were assembled, "If this woman belonged 
to you, what would you do with her? " And all the people replied, "If she 
belonged to us we would put her to death."

And the king said, "Let her then be put to death." And so the iylale was 

Why the ajao remained unburied.
My alo is of the ajao.[1]

[1. Ajao, a kind of flying-fox, or large bat.]

The ajao lay in his house very sick, and there was no one to tend him. The 
ajao died.

The neighbours said, "The ajao is dead; we must call his relatives to come, 
and perform the funeral ceremonies, and bury him." And they went and called 
the birds, saying "Your relation is dead."

The birds came, and when they saw that the deceased was an ajao, they said, 
"This is not one of our family. All our family wear feathers, and you see 
the ajao has none. He does not belong to us." And they went away.

The neighbours consulted together. They said, "The birds are right. The ajao 
has no feathers, and is not of the family of birds. He must be of the family 
of rats." And they went and called the rats, saying, "Your relation is 

The rats came, but when they saw that the deceased was an ajao they also 
denied him. They said, "This is not one of our family. Everyone who is of 
our family has a tail, and you see the ajao has none." And they went away.

Thus the ajao, having no relations, remained unburied.[1]

My alo is something about a certain king.

One day the king called all the birds to come and clear a piece of ground. 
But be forgot to call kini-kini. [2]

[1. See Proverb 179.

2. A small black and white bird, sometimes called the doctor-bird. It is 
named from its cry, which rescinbles the words kini-kini.]

All the birds came. They set to work, and they cleared a large piece of 

In the middle of the piece of ground was an odan-tree.[1] At mid-day, when 
the sun was hot, and all the birds had left their work for the day, kini-
kini came and perched on the odan-tree, and began to sing:-

The king sent to invite my companions,


He assembled all the children of the folk with wings,


Grow grass, sprout bush,


Come, let us go to the house,


And there we can dance the bata,


If the bata will not sound we will dance the dandun,


If the dundun will not sound we will dance the gangan,[2]


Next morning, when the birds came to work, they found the ground they had 
cleared all grown over with grass and bush. They went and told the king. The 
king said, "That is nothing; clear it again."

[1. Odan, a variety of ficus, which is planted in streets and open spaces as 
a shade-tree.

2. Bata, dundun, and yangan, are the names of different kinds of drums. The 
bata is a tall drum, the dundun is hung with little bells, and the yangan is 
properly a war-drum. These names are onomatopœic. Each drum has its own 
measure and rhythm, and people say "to dance the bata, to dance the dundun, 
or to dance the yangan," just as we say, "to dance a waltz, to dance a 
polka, or to dance a quadrille."]

The birds went to work and cleared it again, and at mid-day went away. The 
kini-kini came back and sang his song again, and again the grass and bush 
sprang up.

Next day the birds, when they saw what had happened, went and informed the 
king. "No matter," said the king, "clear the ground again."

A third time the birds cleared the ground and went away, and a third time 
the kini-kini came and sang so that the grass and bush sprang up.

The next day, when. the birds found the ground covered with bush, they went 
to the king. They asked the king to give them authority to seize the person 
who had played this trick. The king said, "Very well."

Then all the birds went back to the piece of ground; they put a great 
quantity of birdlime on the odan-tree; then they went home.

Next morning they came and cleared the ground again, and at mid-day went and 
hid in the bush close by.

The kini-kini came and perched on the odan. He sang his song, and the grass 
and bush grew up. Then he wanted to fly away, but he found himself held by 
the birdlime.

Then all the birds flocked to the tree and saw the kini-kini. They seized 
him and brought him to the king. They said to the king, "Behold the one who 
has caused us so much trouble."

The king made the kini-kini come near. "What have I done to you," he asked, 
"that you should act thus?" The kini-kini said, "When you called all my 
companions to clear the ground you left me out, therefore I have revenged 

When the king heard this, he raised his hand to give the kini-kini a slap.

"Pardon, pardon," said the kini-kini." If I find any cowries I will give 
them to you. When I get any kola-nuts I will bring them to you."

The king gave the bird a slap, and the kini-kini voided out cowries till the 
room was filled.

"What is this? " said the king, much astonished, and he raised his hand 
again to give the kini-kini a slap.

"I beg pardon," said the bird. "If I find any cowries I will give them to 
you. When I get any kola-nuts I will bring them to you."

The king gave him a slap, and the kini-kini voided from his body still more 
cowries than the first time.

Tile king sent messengers through all the country, and summoned all his 
people to assemble on the fifth day, to see a marvel. All the people 
promised to come.

Then.the king put the kini-kini in a basket. He covered the top of the 
basket and went out. His little son, who wanted to give the kini-kini a slap 
himself, uncovered the basket, and the bird flew away.

When the king came home he went to the basket. He found no bird in it, and 
he called his son.

Where is the kini-kini? " he asked.

The little boy answered that he had gone to play with it, and that the bird 
had flown away. The king took the little boy and beat him. He beat him-he 
beat him, and, in his anger, he cut off one of his ears. "Go quick," he 
said. "Go quick, and find the bird." He pushed him out of the house.

The boy made a little drum, and went on the road to the bush. He sat down in 
a place in the bush where the birds were accustomed to come. He began to 
beat on his drum, and the drum said:-

"Tinliki, thiliki, tinli-puru.


All the birds flocked round, and each danced in turn. When it came to the 
turn of the kini-kini to dance, the kini-kini did not want to dance. All the 
birds begged him to dance, but he refused.

Then the boy played quicker on the drum. He beat, and beat, and beat, while 
all the birds begged the kini-kini.

At last the kini-kini began to yield. He twisted here and he twisted there. 
He flew three times round the head of the little boy. The boy continued 
beating as if he had not noticed anything, and the kini-kini began to dance.

He turned here and twisted there. He turned, and twisted, and turned, till 
he came quite close up to the drum. Then the little boy thrust out his hand 
and seized the kini-kini by the leg. All the other birds flew away.

The boy brought the kini-kini to his father. "I have caught hirn," he said. 
"Here he is. Won't you do something now to restore my ear?"

Then the king got up. He took a dead leaf and put it in the place of the 
ear. And the dead leaf softened and changed into an ear.


We now come to those tales which may be called "Tortoise Stories," since the 
tortoise (awon) always plays a leading part in them. The tortoise has, in 
these tales, various superhuman powers attributed to him, and, in most, is 
described as acting craftily or mischievously. He, in fact, fills in the 
folk-lore tales of the Slave Coast the place of the spider (anansi) in the 
tales of the Gold Coast, and which are in consequence known as Anansi 'sem 
(Anansi asem), "Spider Stories." In these the spider is always depicted as 
showing great skill and craft, and, like the minor gods, is represented as 
speaking through the nose.

The names Tortoise and Spider are in these stories used as the proper names 
of anthropomorphic personages, and among the Tshi tribes the latter is 
called Ajya Anansi, "Father Spider," or "Father Anansi." Thus, the Yoruba 
proverbial saying, Eji Awon ko kon ni li owo, used to convey the meaning 
that a matter which at first sight appears insignificant may really be one 
of great importance, should not be translated

"The blood of the tortoise is not a handful" (literally, does not fill a 
hand "), but "the blood of Awon" (the mythical personage, or anthropomorphic 
tortoise) "is not a handful." An epithet of the tortoise is ajapa, "bald-
headed elf," or "hairless elf " (aja, elf; pa, to be bald or bare). The 
flickering appearance seen near the ground on sultry days is called 
"tortoise-fire," and is believed to be caused by a subterranean fire made by 
the tortoise to destroy the roots of trees. The tortoise appears in several 
proverbial sayings, as "The tortoise (or Awon) is always the subject of an 
alo" (tale), and "The house of the tortoise is not large enough for itself. 
The verandah" (that is, that part of the shell which projects over the tail) 
"of a tortoise will not accommodate a guest. The tortoise, having built its 
house, makes the verandah behind it;" while "As the tortoise meets with due 
regard, so also should the snail," seems to indicate that the tortoise is 
regarded with reverence or respect.

It is possible that totemism lies at the root of these phenomena. On the 
Gold Coast there is a tradition that all mankind are descended from Anansi, 
and on the Slave Coast the figure of the tortoise is frequently seen carved 
on the doors of temples, together with the leopard, serpent, and a fish. On 
the whole, however, it seems more probable that the peculiarities which make 
the spider and the tortoise each in its own way remarkable, have led to 
their selection for the chief role in the popular fables. The tales being 
largely about animals, those creatures which most excited wonder and 
speculation in the minds of the natives would be the ones to which the most 
wonderful attributes would be ascribed; and, in the case, of the spider, the 
ingenuity and patience displayed by it in the construction of its web would 
be attributed to the anthropomorphic spider of the stories. There is at the 
present time no spider-clan among the totem-clans of the Gold Coast, and, as 
the communities of the Gold Coast are heterogeneous, we cannot suppose that 
an entire clan has become extinct, unless the extinction took place in the 
remote past when cominunitics were hornogeneous; in which case there seems 
no sufficient reason for the memory of the totem-ancestor being preserved, 
after the disappearance of all those who were supposed to be descended from 

Tortoise Stories.
My alo is something about a woman named Olu.

Olu had a son named Sigo, and Sigo determined to be a hunter.

His father gave him a horse, his mother gave him a sheep, and they told him 
to go and hunt. So Sigo took his bow and arrows, mounted the horse, and rode 
away into the bush.

He travelled a long way, and at last arrived at the haunt of animals.

Then the sky became overcast, and it grew so dark that Sigo could scarcely 
see. Soon the rain poured in torrents. It fell so heavily that Sigo was 
washed by the water into a deep gully. He tried to get out, but could not, 
and remained there weeping and lamenting.

The rain ceased, and Tortoise, always on the lookout for opportunities, came 
to the gully.

Sigo saw him, and stretched his neck up to the brink of the gully. "Hi! 
Tortoise! Oh! bald-headed elf! Hi!" he cried.

Tortoise came and leant over the edge of the gully to see who was calling 
him. "What are you doing there?" he said. "The flood of the rain washed me 
in here," said Sigo.

What will you give me if I pull you out?" asked Tortoise. "I will be your 
slave," replied Sigo. "Very well," said Tortoise, the bald-headed elf.

Tortoise climbed down into the gully and took Sigo out. He said to him, "I 
am going to make a large drum, and shall put you inside it. When we come to 
any house, and I begin playing on the drum, take care that you sing well." 
"I understand," said Sigo.

When he reached the town in which he lived, Tortoise, the bald-headed elf, 
went to the king and boasted of the fine sound of his drum. The king ordered 
Tortoise to bring the drum and beat it in his presence, so that he could 
hear the sound.

"Very well," said Tortoise, "send and call all the town to the dance." "Very 
good," said the king, and be sent all through the town to invite the people 
to come and dance. When all the people had assembled the king sent to call 
the bald-headed elf. The bald-headed elf took his drum, and came into the 
midst of the assembly. He beat the drum with the stick, and the drum 
sounded, saying:-

Sigo is the son of Olu;[1]

Ah! let me be rescued.

His mother gave him a sheep, and told him to go and hunt;

Ah! let me be rescued.

His father gave him a horse, and told him to go and hunt;

Ah! let me be rescued.

[1. There is perhaps some pun in this. Olu means a clapper, or anything to 
strike with, and ilu means a drum.]

Listen to what I say. He went to the elephant's haunt;

Ah! let me be rescued.

Listen to what I say. He went to the buffalo's lair;

Ah! let me be rescued.

The flood of the rain wasbed him into the cleft;

Ah! let me be rescued.

And so he became the Tortoise's slave;

Ah! let me be rescued.

The people were much astonished, and clapped their hands to their mouths in 
wonder. The king told Tortoise to beat the drum again, and let him hear once 

Tortoise beat his drum a second time, and the people cried out aloud at the 
marvel. Then Tortoise returned home.

Before long the mistresses of the house to which Sigo belonged came to 
Tortoise, and asked him to come and beat his drum at a dance they were about 
to have. The bald-headed elf said "Very good." He took his drum and he went 

When he arrived the wives made ready some gruel of Indian corn,[1] and 
bought some rum. They asked Tortoise to beat his drum. Tortoise beat his 
drum, and the drum sang:-

"Sigo, is the son of Olu;

Ah! let me be rescued.

His mother gave him a sheep, and told him to go and hunt;

Ah! let me be rescued.

His father gave him a horse, and told him to go and hunt;

Ah! let me be rescued.

Listen to what I say. He went to the elephant's haunt;

Ah! let me be rescued.

Listen to what I say. He went to the buffalo's lair;

Ah! let me be rescued.

The flood of the rain washed him into the cleft;

Ah! let me be rescued.

And so he became the Tortoise's slave;

Ah! let me be rescued.

[1. Oka.]

They gave Tortoise to eat. Tortoise ate. They gave him rum to drink. He 
drank, and, becoming drunk, fell asleep.

When Tortoise was asleep they took his drum. They took off the drum-head, 
and took Sigo out. Then they put the head back as it was before.

When he awoke, Tortoise took his drum and began beating on it. A crow 
croaked in the drum. Tortoise beat harder and quicker, and the crow croaked 
louder and louder. He cried, as loud as he could, "Why, when you were 
eating, did you not give something to eat to the drum? Why, when you were 
drinking, did not you give some of the rum to the drum?"

Tortoise went home. He took off the drum-head, and found a crow in the drum.

My alo is something about a certain king.

The king had a daughter who was dumb. The girl's name was Bola.

The king did all he could to make his daughter speak. All that he did was of 
no avail, so he did not keep the girl in the town; he sent her into the 

Tortoise, of the thousand cunning tricks, came to the king and said to him, 
"What will you give me if I make your child speak.?" "I will divide my house 
into two halves," said the king, "and I will give you one half."

The bald-headed elf went and bought a bottle of honey, and came to the bush, 
where the girl was living. He put the honey on the ground and went and hid 

The girl came and saw the bottle of honey and put out her hand to it.

Tortoise cameout of his hiding-place, came behind the girl, and gave her a 
slap, crying, "Thief! So it is you who steal my honey and eat it."

"I?" said the young girl. I have stolen your honey to eat? I?"

Then Tortoise, the crafty, tied her with a rope, and sang:-

"Bola stole honey to eat;

Kayin, Kayin.*

Bola is a cunning cheat;

Kayin, Kayin.

Bola is a shameless thief;

Kayin, Kayin."

When Tortoise sung this, the young girl sang:-

"Into the wood of the elephant I went with the elephant;

Kayin, Kayin.

Into the wood of the buffalo I went with the buffalo;

Kayin, Kayin.

And Tortoise has come to accuse me of stealing honey to eat

Kayin, Kayin."

Tortoise, the mischievous, led the young girl back to

[1. Kayin (ka-iyin), to celebrate, or sing the praises of.]

the town. He was singing his song, and she was answering with her song. In 
this manner they arrived before the king), who cried out with astonishment, 
"My daughter, who has never been heard to speak, speaks to-day!"

The king divided his palace in half, and gave one half to Tortoise, the 
bald-headed elf.

That is how Tortoise succeeds in everything.

My alo is about Tortoise and the elephant.

The bald-headed elf one day told the other animals that he would ride the 
elephant, but all the animals said: "No, you can't ride the elephant."

The bald-headed elf said: "Well, I will make a wager that I will ride the 
elephant into town." And the other animals agreed to the wager.

Tortoise went into the forest and met the elephant. He said to him: "My 
father, all the animals say you are too stout and big to come to town."

The elephant was vexed. Ile said: "The animals are fools. If I do not come 
to town it is because I prefer the forest. Besides, I do not know the way to 

"Oh!" said the bald-headed elf, "then come with me. I will show you the way 
to the town, and you can put all the animals to shame."

So the elephant followed him.

When they were near the town the bald-headed elf said: "My father, I am 
tired. Will you kindly allow me to get, on your back."

"All right," said the elephant. He knelt down, and Tortoise climbed -up on 
his back. Then they went on along the road.

The bald-headed elf said: "My father, when I scratch your back you must run, 
and when I knock my head against your back you must run faster; then you 
will make a fine display in the town." The elephant said: "Very well."

When they came near the town, the bald-headed elf scratched the elephant's 
back, and he began to run. He knocked his back with his head, and the 
elephant ran faster.

The animals, when they saw this, were frightened. They went into their 
houses, but they looked out of their windows. And Tortoise called out to 
them: "Did I not say I would ride my father's slave to town?"

"What do you mean by 'your father's slave'?" said the elephant, growing 

"I am only praising you," said Tortoise.

But the elephant saw the other animals laughing, and grew more angry. "I 
will throw you down on the hard stones here, and break you to pieces," he 

"Yes, yes, that is right," said the bald-headed elf.

"Throw me down here. That will be all right. 'Then I shall not die; then I 
shall not be hurt. If you really want to kill me, you ought to carry me to a 
swamp. There I shall die at once, for the mud and water will drown me."

The elephant believed the bald-headed elf. He ran to the swamp, and threw 
Tortoise into the mud.

Then he stretched out his foot to kick him, but the bald-headed elf dived in 
the mire, and came up in another place.

The other animals were there, looking on, and Tortoise called out to them, 
"Did I not say I would ride my father's slave to town?"

When the elephant found that he could not catch the bald-headed elf, he ran 
away at full speed back to the forest.

When he reached there he said to the other elephants, "Do you know what that 
broken-back [1] has done to me?" And he told them the story.

The other elephants said, "You were a fool to carry that broken-back to 

Since then the elephant has not come to town any more.

[1. An epithet of the tortoise. It probably refers to the notched appearance 
of the back.]

My alo is about a woman named Adun.

Adun was very beautiful, and all the men wanted her. They were always 
entreating her, but she always refused.

One market-day a person borrowed legs from one, arms from another, and a 
body from a third. He joined all together, and went to the market. He wanted 
Adun, and he would have her.

His appearance pleased Adun, and they talked together. Although he belonged 
to a distant country, she consented to go with him. She took him to the

house and showed him to her mothers.[1] Her mothers said, "Very well, go 
with him."

They went. On the road, the master of the legs took away the legs, the 
master of the arms took away the arms, and the master of the body took away 
the body. Nothing was left but the head. And the head went on, on, while 
Adun, nearly dead with fear, could not run away.

They arrived at the house of the head.

Next morning, before he went to work in his plantation, the head said to 
Tortoise, "If Adun tries to run away, sound the horn to warn me."

The head had scarcely gone out of sight when Adun took her bundle, and began 
to run away.

Then Tortoise sounded the horn. "Head, head," he cried, "Adun is going. She 
has tied up her calabaslies, she has gathered her dishes."

The head ran up and made big round eyes. "Where are you going?" he asked. "I 
am going to relieve nature,"[2] said Adun. "You are running away," said the 

Every day Adun tried to run away, but without success. Then she went to ask 
the babalawo what she should do.

The babalawo said, "Go and buy some ekurus.[3] Buy plenty of them. Soak them 
in palm-oil, and

[1. The wives in the household.

2. The ordinary excuse of a native who has no pretext ready.

3. Ekuru is a cake made of the flour of a white bean called ere. It is very 
dry, and a proverbial saying, said of a tedious visitor, runs, "He chokes me 
like ekuru."]

stuff them into Tortoise's horn." "Very good," said Adun.

She did as she was told. Then she took up her bundle and started off. 
Tortoise took the horn to blow it. The ekurus came into his mouth. He ate, 
ate, ate, and Adun ran away.

My alo is about a maiden named Buje, the slender.

There was a young maiden named Buje, the slender, whom all the men wanted. 
The rich wanted her, but she refused. Chiefs wanted, and she refused. The 
king wanted her, and she still refused.

Tortoise came to the king, and said to him, "She whom you all want, and 
cannot get, I will get. I will have her, I." And the king said, "If you 
succeed in having her, I will divide my palace into two halves and will give 
you one half."

One day, Buje, the slender, took an earthen pot and went to fetch water. 
Tortoise, seeing this, took his hoe, and cleared the path that led to the 
spring. He found a snake in the grass, and killed it. Then he put the snake 
in the middle of the path.

When Buje, the slender, had filled her pot, she came back. She saw the snake 
in the path, and called out "Hi! hi! Come and kill this snake."

Tortoise ran up, with his cutlass in his hand. He struck at the snake, and 
wounded himself in the leg.

Then he cried out "Buje, the slender, has killed me. I was cutting the bush, 
I was clearing the path for her. She called to me to kill the snake, and I 
came quickly. Buje, the slender, Buje, the slender, I have killed the snake, 
but I have wounded myself in the leg. Oh, Buje, the slender, Buje, the 
slender, take me up on your back like a child. Take me up on your back and 
hold me close."

He cried this many times, and at last Buje, the slender, took Tortoise and 
put him up on her back. And then Tortoise slipped his legs down over her 
hips, and violated Buje, the slender, from behind.

Next day, as soon as it was light, Tortoise went to the king. He said, "Did 
I not tell you that I would have Buje, the slender? Call all the people of 
the town to assemble on the fifth day, and you will hear what I have to 

When it was the fifth day, the king sent out his crier to call all the 
people together. The people came. Tortoise cried out, "Everybody wanted 
Buje, the slender, and Buje refused everybody, but I have had her."

The king sent a messenger, with his stick, to summon Bujo, the slender. When 
she came the king said, "We have heard that Tortoise is your husband; is it 

Buje, the slender, was ashamed, and could not answer. She covered her head 
with her cloth, and ran away into the bush.

And there she was changed into the plant called Buje.[1]

[1. There is a version of this story, current among the English and 
Americans, which makes Buje be ravished by a deformed man, instead of by the 
Tortoise. It is to be found, I believe, in "Central Africa," a work I have 
not seen, but which was written. by Mr. Bowen, an American Missionary, and 
published at Charleston, United States of America. in 1857. All natives are 
agreed that this version is incorrect, and that Tortise was the ravisher, 
and the only probable explanation of the mistake seems to be that Mr. Bowen 
learnt the story from a native who spoke French, and either confused la 
tortue with le tortu, or concluded that the narrator meant the latter when 
he said the former. If the hearer had never heard of the mythical personage, 
the antbropomorphic Tortoise, he, thinking it impossible that Buje could be 
violated by a tortoise, would very naturally suppose that the narrator meant 
to say le tortu, and erred through an insufficient knowledge of French.

The pulp of the fruit of the Buje-shrub turns black when exposed to the air, 
and is used by the natives to stain the skin in imitation of tattooing. It 
leaves marks like lamp-black.]

My alo is about Tortoise.

There was a famine, and there was a great scarcity of food all through the 

One day the lizard was in a plantation searching for something to eat, when 
he found a large rock full of yams.

The owner of the plantation was near the rock. He cried "Rock, open," and 
the rock opened. He went in and took yams, and came out again. Then he said, 
"Rock, shut," and the rock closed up.

The lizard saw all this. He heard also what the man said, and he went home.

Next morning, at cock-crow, he went to the rock. He said, "Rock, open," and 
the rock opened. He went in and carried out yams to take home and eat. Then 
he said, "Rock, shut," and the rock shut. Every day the lizard did this.

One day Tortoise, the bald-headed elf, met the lizard on the road carrying 
yams. He said to him, "Where did yoti get your food from, comrade?

The lizard said, "If I were to tell you that, and take you to the place, I 
should be killed." The baldheaded elf answered, "No, I will not say a word 
to anyone. Please take me." And the lizard said, "Very well, then; come and 
call me to-morrow morning at cock-crow, and we will go together."

Next morning, long before cock-crow, Tortoise came to the house of the 
lizard. He stood outside the house and cried "Cock-a-doodle-do." [1] Again 
he cried "Cock-a-doodle-do." Then he went in and woke the lizard. "The cock 
lias crowed," he said.

"Let me sleep," said the lizard; "it is not yet cock-crow." "Very well," 
said Tortoise. And they both went to sleep till cock-crow.

Then the lizard got up, and the two went together. As soon as they arrived 
at the. place the lizard said, "Rock, open," and the rock opened. The lizard 
went in, took yams, and came out again.

He said to Tortoise, "It is time to go. Take your yams and come." "Wait a 
mimite," said Tortoise.

"Very well," said the lizard. "Rock, shut." And he went away without 

Tortoise, the bald-headed elf, helped himself to yams. He put yams on his 
back and yams on his head; he put yams on his arms and yams on his legs.

[1. In Yoruba, kekere-ke, an onomatopœic word supposed to resemble the crow 
of a cock. It is from keke, which, like our onomatopœic word "cackle," means 
the cry of the hen.]

The lizard had already gone home. He lighted a fire. Then he lay on his 
back, with his feet in the air, as if he were dead; and he remained like 
that all day.

When Tortoise, the bald-headed elf, was ready to go, he wanted to make the 
rock open. But he could not remember what he ought to say. He said many many 
words, but not the right words; and the rock remained shut.

By-and-bye came the plantation-owner. He opened the rock, and found Tortoise 
inside. He took him and beat him. He beat him badly.

"Who brought you here?" asked the man. "It was the lizard who brought me," 
replied Tortoise. Then the man tied a string to Tortoise, and took him to 
the lizard.

When the man reached the house of the lizard, he found the lizard lying on 
his back, with his feet in the air, as if he were dead. He shook him. He 
said to him, "This bald-headed elf says it was you who took him to my 
plantation, and showed him my store of yams."

"I?" said the lizard. "You call see for yourself that it is impossible. I am 
not in a state to go out. I have been sick here for three months, lying on 
my back. I do not even know where your plantation is."

Then the man took Tortoise and smashed him. And Tortoise, groaning and 
moaning, said in a pitiful voice, "Cockroach, come and mend me. Ant, come 
and mend me."

And the cockroach and the ant mended him. And the places where they mended 
him are those parts of Tortoise which are rough.[1]

[1. In this tale, Tortoise's usual cunning fails him. It is to be noted 
that, whenever be is shown as being over-reached or unsuccessful, the want 
of success is due to greediness-as in the first tale, where be eats and 
drinks till he falls asleep, so that Sigo is rescued from the drum; and in 
the fourth talc, where he is so busily engaged in eating the ekuras placed 
in the horn, that he forgets to sound it. Here his greediness wakes him stay 
behind, to get more yams.]

IN the preface to the second volume of this series it was said that, in 
collecting information concerning the religions of the cognate tribes dealt 
with, my chief purpose was to endeavour to ascertain to what extent 
different conditions of culture led to the modifications of religious 
conceptions. Three groups of tribes have now been considered, the Tshi, the 
Ewe, and the Yoruba, who represent three stages of progress, the Tshi being 
in the lowest stage and the Yoruba in the highest. As these tribal groups 
undoubtedly had a common origin, it is reasonable to suppose that the Yoruba 
tribes were once in the social and mental condition in which the Tshi tribes 
are now, and that, in fact, in these groups we find the same race in 
different states of culture. Assuming then, as we legitimately may, that the 
religious beliefs of the Ewes are modifications of earlier belief resembling 
those now held by the Tshis, and that those of the Yorubas are similarly 
modifications of beliefs like those now held by the Ewes, we here have an 
opportunity of observing how the evolution of religion may proceed.

Among the Tshi-speaking tribes we found that everything in nature is 
believed to be animated-that is to say, everything not inade by human hands 
has an animating principle, spiritual second-self, or indwelling spirit, 
possessing powers which may be beneficial or prejudicial to man, according 
to whether it is propitiated or neglected. It seems probable that the belief 
in all nature being thus animated was an extension of the belief that man 
possesses a spiritual second-self, or indwelling spirit, which belief is 
beyond dispute the result of savage speculation concerning dreams. Man, 
having decided that he possessed an indwelling spirit, would extend the same 
possession to animals, then to vegetable life, and finally to inanimate 
nature, partly because he does not perceive any strict line of demarcation 
between these, and partly because he as frequently sees the phantoms of such 
things in his dreams as he does the phantoms of living men. He would be led 
to extend the indwelling-spirit theory to all nature, because it would 
account for many things that would otherwise be incomprehensible, since 
uncivilised man believes that every occurrence is the result of design, and 
that nothing ever happens by accident. The theory that a man who is drowned 
has been drawn down and strangled by the water-spirit, seems to him much 
more satisfactory than to suppose that the death was the result of chance 

All indwelling spirits are, however, not equally revered. Those of bushes, 
grasses, stones, &c., are not much regarded, and the most important are 
those of rivers, lagoons, the sea, mountains, rocks, and shoals. The reason 
of this, no doubt, is that no loss of life or injury to person or property 
can be directly connected with a bush, or grass, or a stone, without, at 
least, the intervention of human agency; while, in the nature of things, men 
must occasionally be drowned in rivers, canoes capsized in the sea, and 
property and life destroyed or injured by flood or landslip, or other 
natural causes. Timor fecit deos, and those natural features and objects 
which experience has shown to be more frequently the apparent cause of 
mishaps, have more regard paid to them, or rather to their animating 
principles, than those which have proved to be innocuous. Every man worships 
that from which he has most to fear or most to expect, and it is commonly 
something with which he is daily brought into contact. Thus, fishermen pay 
most attention to the indwelling spirits of the sea and of the shoals and 
reefs on which their canoes might be wrecked; while the agriculturist 
worships the spirit of the stream that flows near his dwelling, or that of 
the cliff or mass of rock which overhangs his plantation, and those of the 
gigantic silk-cotton trees, whose downfall so frequently crushes to death 
the inhabitant of the forest. Objects of worship are thus local, and are 
worshipped only by those in the neighbourhood. In most cases worship and 
sacrifice are made in the habitat of the spirit, or god, under the boulder 
of rock, or on the bank of the, stream or lagoon; and, as the nature of the 
god is well understood, as he is believed to be the indwelling spirit of the 
rock or the stream, there is no need for any myth explanatory of his origin, 
or for an image or tangible representation of him. This is the condition in 
which the great majority of the Tshi tribes are at the present day.

The first change appears to be caused by the making of an image, or 
simulacrum, of a god, which has the effect of weakening the tie between the 
indwelling spirit and the object it animates. If the image were kept in the 
habitat of the local god, the connection of the god with the particular 
rock, cliff, or stream would not be lost sight of; but it would serve no 
useful purpose to keep an image there, since the god himself is present, and 
the only object in making one is to bring the god to some place nearer at 
hand, which will be more convenient for the worshippers, and at the same 
time bring the protecting power more directly into contact with them. To 
effect this removal of a god it is a sine qua non that the simulacrum must 
be made from material obtained from the habitat of the god, or be a portion 
of that which he animates. A fragment of rock from a boulder inhabited by an 
indwelling spirit, or a figure carved from wood taken from a tree in a grove 
inhabited by a spirit, preserves in the minds of the worshippers the 
subjective connection between the fragment and the boulder, or the figure 
and the grove; and, by a confusion of ideas which is well known, he thinks 
that the objective connection is likewise unbroken, and that the god, or 
spirit, is by means of the simulacrum brought before him.

This removal, as it were, of a god from his proper dwelling-place, 
necessarily leads, first, to a weakening of the tie between the god and that 
which he animates, and, finally, to the nature of the god, as an indwelling 
spirit of a natural object, being completely lost sight of. Let us imagine, 
for example, that the inhabitants of a village who have been in the habit of 
worshipping the indwelling spirit of a precipitous cliff in the 
neighbourhood, come to the conclusion that it would be more convenient, and 
at the same time place them more effectually under the protection of the 
spirit, if they were to bring him into the village. They accordingly make a 
figure of clay taken from the cliff, and set it up in the village in a 
miniature hut erected for its protection. This hut then becomes the sacred 
place, and the sacrifices and sacred dances are performed before it, instead 
of, as heretofore, at the cliff. The god, however, is not supposed to have 
absolutely abandoned the cliff, and persons whose avocations took them to it 
would still think it necessary to propitiate him with small offering of 
food. Practically he is believed to be in the cliff and yet also in the 
image in the village, for although a man, if asked to explain the seeming 
impossibility of one and the same person being in two places at once, might 
say that the god only entered the image in order to receive the offerings 
and listen to the prayers of the faithful, or that the image merely served 
as an instrument through which the god could take cognizance of the wants of 
his followers, yet, as a matter of fact, they never seem to think about the 
matter at all, and it is taken for granted by the villagers that the god is 
in their midst. Generations are born and die, and are succeeded by others, 
all of which have been accustomed to perform religious ceremonies before the 
miniature hut, and the inevitable result is that, sooner or later, the 
connection of the god with the cliff, of which he was the aniniating 
principle, is completely lost sight of, and he is regarded as the tutelary 
deity of the village, pure and simple. In this way undoubtedly originated 
many of the tutelary deities of towns and villages on the Gold Coast, for 
the process can be seen going on at the present day. By carrying it a little 
further, tribal or national gods might be similarly produced, but, with two 
or three exceptions, the Tshi tribes have not progressed so far as that, and 
most of the gods worshipped by complete tribes are simply the indwelling 
spirits of very remarkable natural objects situated in the territories 
occupied by the tribes.

Besides the gods which are the animating principles or indwelling spirits of 
natural features and objects, and which we may call nature-gods, we have 
objects of worship of another class, which are the product of manes-worship, 
and which we may therefore term ghost-gods. The ghosts, or souls of deceased 
men of rank and power, are supplicated and propitiated in the same way and 
to the same extent as are the nature-gods, and it is often difficult to 
decide where the one worship begins and the other ends.

Manes-worship reaches its fullest development in the royal houses of Ashanti 
and Dahomi, that is to say, in those situations where the conditions are 
most favourable for preserving the memory of the wisdom and power of 
deceased men. In both these houses periodical human sacrifices are made on 
the tombs of the former kings, in addition to the daily minor offerings of 
food and drink. We find the same confusion between objective and subjective 
connection in the case of these ghost-gods as we do in that of the nature-
gods; and the skulls of chiefs and others are often exhumed and placed in 
small temples adjoining the dwelling-houses, in the idea that the guardian-
ghost is thereby brought to the spot. At the battle of Dodowah, near Accra, 
where the Ashantis were defeated in 1826, a head, wrapped in a silk 
handkerchief, and covered with a leopard-skin, the emblem of royalty, was 
captured. This was the head of the late king, Tutu Kwamina, and his 
successor had brought it with him, in the idea that he would thereby be able 
to obtain the support of the gliostly king against his enemies. Before the 
battle offerings were made to it, and the ghost was invoked to cause the 
heads of all the white men in the field to he beside his before night.

Many tutelary deities of towns, clans, and families doubtless owe their 
origin to manes-worship. The dead are ordinarily, one might almost say 
invariably, buried in or near to the habitations of the living, and it is 
certain that in many cases the habit of offering sacrifices at the place of 
sepulture has been continued, simply through habit, long after the fact that 
a man was buried there has been forgotten. In such a case, the guardian-
ghost being lost sight of, the god is simply a tutelary god, whose origin is 
either unexplained, or which the priests explain in any way that may suit 
them best. We thus have two explanations of the origin of tutelary deities. 
They are either nature-gods who have been severed from their proper 
surroundings, or ghost-gods whose origin has been forgotten. Of couse the 
manes themselves are tuletar.

Nature-gods themselves are no doubt in several cases blended with ghost-
gods. The reverence paid to certain rivers, cliffs, &c., must have often 
dated from some fatal accident that occurred in connection with them. It was 
this which first attracted attention, and primitive man would not be likely 
to discriminate between the ghost of the victim, which would haunt the spot 
where the latter lost its life, and the indwelling spirit of the natural 
feature. Nevertheless, that the nature-gods are, as a whole, the product of 
manes-worship, is, we think, a theory not warranted by the evidence, though 
apparently supported by the high authority of Mr. Herbert Spencer. It often 
occurs that a family settles near to some river, lake, or hill, and 
forthwith commences a cult of this indwelling spirit, without any 
catastrophe having taken place near it. In fact, it may be said to be the 
rule that whenever a Tshi group takes up its abode near any remarkable 
natural feature of object, it worships and seeks to propitiate its 
indwelling spirit, fearing that otherwise it may do some harm. Many of the 
nature-gods are non-terrestrial, and it is difficult to see by what process 
they could ever become confused with dead men. Nobody could be buried in the 
sky, sun, moon, rainbow, or wind; and if these could be conceived to be 
animate without the intervention of the souls of the dead, why could not 
terrestrial objects also? Manes-worship is the result of the belief that man 
has an indwelling spirit which survives after the death of the body, and 
nature worship is the result of the belief that all nature is animate. Which 
was first in order it would be difficult to determine with absolute 
certainty, but, from the analogy of the lower animals, it seems probable 
that the second was. Animals regard objects which move as alive, whout 
having come to the conclusion that they themselves have spiritual second 
selves, and primitive man, who would know litle more of naturea cuasation 
than an animal does, probably did also. When a rock slipped, or a tree fell, 
the unusual behavior suggested animation. Afterwards, when he had come to 
believe that he himself possessed an indwelling spirit, he probably 
conceived the animating entites of natural objects to be somewhat analogous, 
and made the gods the reflex of his own kra.

Objects made by human hands are not animate, and do not possess indwelling 
spirits, though they have ghosts, which the souls of the dead are able to 
make use of in deadland. There are, however, many such objects upon which 
the native sets great value, and as they do not possess guardian-spirits of 
themselves, he provides them with artificial ones. Thus, just as he kills 
the wives of his chief, and buries them with him, releasing their ghosts, or 
souls, from their bodies to enable them to continue their ministrations to 
their lord, so, perfectly logically, he slays a slave on the family stool, 
the emblem of office, or upon the great drum of the tribe, releasing the 
ghost from the body in order to enable it to become the guardian-spirit of 
the stool or drum. This is a luxury that can only be afforded by men of 
rank, or to ensure the safekeeping of national trophies or emblems, and 
hence it is only the royal stools of kings and chiefs, or paraphernalia 
belonging to the tribe as a whole, that are, as a rule, thus protected. The 
victim is decapitated upon the object so that the blood gushes over it, and 
on the, Gold Coast many tribal stools and drums are clotted thick with the 
blood of those who have been slain upon them, for it seems to be thought 
necessary to renew the guardian from time to time. As, when a human 
sacrifice is offered to a god, the victim is similarly slain upon the sacred 
stool or chair, it seems probable that the ghost is in this case also 
believed to become a guardian-spirit. No doubt the belief that all objects 
not made by human hands possessed indwelling, or guardian-spirits, suggested 
the idea of supplying artificial guardian-spirits to objects which did not 
come under this category. The practice is very widespread, and the custom of 
immolating human victims at the launching of war-canoes in the islands of 
the Pacific, so that the bows were sprinkled with their blood, and the Dyak 
practice of crushing a slave-girl to death under the first post erected at 
the building of a communal house, are cases in point, the sacrifice being in 
each case designed to provide a guardian-spirit.

With some two or three exceptions, all the gods worshipped by the Tshi 
tribes are purely local and have a limited area of worship. If they are 
nature-gods they are bound up with the natural objects they animate, if they 
are ghost-gods they are localised by the place of sepulture, and if they are 
tuletary deities, whose origin has been forgotten, their position is 
necessarily fixed by that of the town, village, or family they protect. In 
any case they are worshipped only by those who live in the neighbourbood. 
The exceptions are the sky-god, the earthquake-god, and the goddess of the 
silk-cotton trees. The vault of the heaven overhangs every town and hamlet, 
so that Nyankupon,[1] the god of the sky, which is believed to be solid, and 
the roof of the world, is universally known. Similarly, earthquakes are felt 
over the whole country, so that Sasabonsum, the earth-god, who is held to 
produce these phenomena, is also widely known. Silk-cotton trees are found 
everywhere, so that Srahmantin, the goddess of these trees, is feared and 
worshipped everywhere. With these three exceptions there are no general 
gods, that is, no gods known to the Tshi tribes as a whole; and two of them, 
it may be observed, in accordance with the principle that every man worships 
that which is most likely to affect his lot, and which is ordinarily near at 
hand, though known to all, are not paid much regard to, except when they 
force themselves upon the attention. Nyankupon is generally considered too 
distant to have much weight in the affairs of mankind, or to take much 
interest therein, but when he thunders and lightens-for to thunder, lighten, 
and pour out rain are his functions and thereby reminds men that he has 
power to injure, they become polite to him, and seek to propitiate him

[1. Nyankupon. Nyan means "to awake," but seems primarily to have meant "to 
stretch," or "to extend." Pon is anything flat, as "door, table-top "; po, 
"ocean," is from the same root. Ku seems to be a euphonic change from kru, 
"rounded, curved." The word Nyankupon would thus mean "the stretched-out, 
curved, flat surface," or shortly "the outspread vault."]

by flattery and praise. Sasabonsum likewise is not paid much attention to, 
except when an earthquake happens, and then everybody hastens to offer 
sacrifices. As silk-cotton trees are everywhere close at hand, and a great 
many pesrions are cushed to death by them-for they seem particularly liable 
to the ravages of white ants, and then blown down by a very moderate gale of 
wind-it is considered of some importance to propitiate Srahmantin, who is 
the only spirit-or class of spirits, for it is not quite clear which it is-
that can be said to be generally worshipped by the tribes as a whole.

The indwelling spirits of natural objects are held to be of human shape, but 
to possess the more striking characteristics of the objects they animate. 
Thus, because the silk-cotton tree has a gaunt, greyish-white trunk, which 
towers high above the other trees of the forest, and often reaches to a 
height of 100 feet before it throws out a branch, Srahmantin is said to be 
of gigantic stature and greyish-white in color. To these characteristics 
native imagination has added long flowing hair, and long pendent breasts. 
Similarly, Tahbi, the indwelling spirt of the huge mass of black rock on 
which Cape Coast Castle is built, is of immense size, and black; and Abroh-
ku, the surf-god of the landing place, is of the colour of wood ashes, and 
small and round, like a breaking wave.

Among the Ewe tribes we find the smae fundamental belief that all nature is 
animate, and the local nature-gods are as among the Tshi tribes, the 
indwelling spirits of natural objects and features; but simulacra are much 
more common on the Slave coast than on the Gold Coast, and, as a 
consequence, the tie between nature-gods and their habitiats, and between 
ghost-gods and their human origin, has been more frequently weakened and 
lost sight of. Hence we find a large increase in the number of tribal and 
general gods, many of which have now no connection with any natural object 
or with manes-worship. Concurrently with the increase in the number of 
tribal and general gods runs the relegation of the purely local gods to an 
inferior position. A god who is worshipped over a large area is naturally 
believed to be more powerful than one whose area of worship is 
circumscribed, and the trial and general gods, having each their special 
functions and attributes, monpolise between them nearly all the phenomena 
and qualities which excite fear and respect in man. The local gods are thus 
pushed back from the prominent position they are held among the Tshi tribes, 
with whom to propitiate the local gods was considered all important, and 
though they are worshipped by small communities and solitary families, the 
inhabitants of towns do not pay much attention to them. Almost every person 
is enrolled as a follower of one, at least, of the general and tribal gods, 
and when a man is secure of the favour and protection of the king, the 
goodwill of the court-underling is no longer of much moment to him.

Among the general deities of the Ewe tribes, Mawu, the sky-god, whose name 
also means to stretch over or overshadow, answers to the Nyankuopon of the 
Tshi tribes, and the silk-cotton tree spirits appear under the names of 
Huntin and Loko. The Ewes have no earthquake-god, probably because the 
shocks of earthquakes are rarely felt on the Slave Coast, two only being 
known to have occurred since 1778, whereas slight shocks are experienced on 
the Gold Coast every two or three years. Mawu, like Nyankupon, is considered 
too distant to interfere in human affairs, and as he no longer thunders and 
lightens, which phenomena are attributed to a new conception, Khebioso, a 
bird-like god, who appears to be the personified thunder-cloud, he does 
nothing but control the rain, and his importance has been thereby lessened. 
Other general deities are Aizan, protector of markets and public places, who 
seems to be a type generalised from the multitudinous tutelary gods of the 
Gold Coast; Dso, the god of fire, Legba, a phallic divinity, and Sapatan, 
the small-pox god. In this deification, or personification, of fire, love, 
and pestilence, we see a new departure. Fire is not worshipped on the Gold 
Coast, and there it is the local gods who inflict pestilence on their 
worshippers as a punishment for neglect; while love, or desire, is usually 
stimulated by the ghost-gods, who, as the forefathers of the ghost-gods are 
believed to take an interest in the propagation of their descendants, though 
occasionally the exciting of this passion may be found to be one out of the 
many attributes of a nature-god.

When we come to the Yoruba-speaking tribes we find simulacra in universal 
use, and the belief that nature-gods are the animating principles of natural 
objects only lingering in places remote from populous centres, and among the 
Jebus, who live isolated in their forests and shun intercourse with the 
other tribes. There are, in consequence, few local gods proper, but many 
tutelary deities of tribes, towns, villages, and families, and there is a 
very large increase in the number of general deities. Olorun, the sky god, 
answers to the Ewe Mawu and the Tshi Nyankupon, but he is rapidly being 
displaced by Obatala, a more anthropomorphic conception, and who very 
probably was a ghost-god whose origin has been lost sight of. The god of 
thunder and lightning appears under the name of Shango, and that of small-
pox under the name of Shan-kpanna. Legba has become a combination of desire 
and evil, and Odudua, a goddess, said by the priests to be the earth, 
presides over the passion of love. Orisha Oko, who represents natural. 
fertility, Aje Shaluga, god of wealth, Shigidi, personified nightmare, and 
Dada, patron of vegetables, are new conceptions. A native of the Gold Coast 
who found his yam-crop thrive would attribute it to the fostering care of 
the local nature-god, and if he acquired wealth it would probably be 
considered due to the efforts of his tutelary deity, but here gods appear to 
have been made out of abstractions.

The evolution of types has been carried further than among the Ewes, and 
instead of each hill and mountain having its own indwelling god we have Oke, 
god of heights in general; while in place of the multitude of local sea-gods 
found on the Gold Coast and the western half of the Slave Coast, we have one 
general god of the sea, Olokun. Aroni, god of forests, is another example. 
Olosa, the lagoon, Oya, the river Niger, and the two rivers Oshun and Oba, 
are nature-gods, which, from being strictly local, have now become general. 
Ifa, god of divination, who is the benefactor of man and the unveiler of the 
future, was probably originally a ghost-god as no doubt was Osanhin, god of 
medicine. Ogun, god of iron, and hence of war, may be a personification of 
iron, but it is just as probable that he was the traditional discoverer of 
the use of iron, and hence a ghost-god, who has now been raised to the first 
rank. In the general tendency to regard Legba as the evil principle, we 
perhaps see a first step towards dualism, in which Ifa, for choice, would 
represent the good principle. All the gods are more anthropomorphic than was 
the case with the Ewe and Tshi tribes.

Looking, then, at these three groups of tribes, we find what seems to be a 
regular progression from the gods of hamlets and small communities, as among 
the Tshis, to the gods of a whole people, as among the Yorubas; and from the 
worship of the indwelling spirits of tangible objects, or objects believed 
to be tangible, as the sky, and of dead men, to the worship of personified 
principles. With the aggregation of peoples comes the concretion of gods. On 
the Gold Coast the natives dwell in small groups, isolated from
one another by large tracts of forest. There are no towns, properly 
speaking, except on the sea-coast, and only a few large villages. Ideas 
percolate but slowly, and people live in the narrow circle of their own 
lives, knowing little or nothing of anything that transpires outside their 
own hamlet. To them their own surroundings are of the first importance, and 
the local god is the first in their estimation. There is no room here for 
the growth of national and general gods, for everything is narrowed down to 
the village circle.

Among those Ewe tribes who inhabit the western and forested portion of the 
Slave Coast we find much the same condition of affairs; but in the eastern 
Ewe districts the country is comparitively open, communities are larger, and 
communication is in every way freer. Here ideas circulate readily, man is 
constantly meeting with man, and as his mental circle widens, so do his 
conceptions concerning the nature of gods. Thus, among the eastern Ewe 
tribes we find many national and tribal gods, and several general gods, 
while the local gods have sunk in general estimation.

Among the Yoruba tribes this evolution has been carried still further, the 
county, except that inhabitated by the Jebus, being fairly open, large towns 
numerous, and circulation constant. Here the local god has almost 
disappeared, and the great majority of the gods are known to, and worshipped 
by, the whole of the tribes. The origin and inception of the nature-gods, as 
the indwelling spirits of natural objects or phenomena, being generally lost 
sight of, some explanation of their existence becomes necessary, and, ill 
consequence, we find a variety of myths dealing with the parentage and 
adventures of the gods.

As far as manes-worship alone is concerned-that is, the worship of spirits 
or gods which are known to have once been men-there is no great difference 
between the three lingual groups. Among the Yorubas it is, if anything, 
rather less developed than among the Tshis and Ewes, or rather relegated to 
an inferior position, in consequence of the greater power and sway of the 
gods generally worshipped. Whenever, however, the human origin of the ghost-
god has been lost sight of, he seems to have conformed to the general rule; 
that is, where the circumstances have been unfavourable, he has, like the 
minor local nature-gods, disappeared, or been absorbed in the personality of 
another god, and where they have been favourable, he has acquired increased 
renown and area of worship, and become a national or general god.

That with the nationalisation of gods the priesthood should also become 
organised and developed is a natural result. Both on the Gold and Slave 
Coasts, and, indeed, everywhere else, the priesthood is a guild, or 
fraternity, the members of which require a special knowledge; and no man or 
woman can become a member of it without a preliminary training, or 
apprenticeship. On the Gold Coast, however, there are no distinct orders, or 
bodies, of priests. The gods being infinite in number, and local, the groups 
of priests are infinite in number, and local, and have no cohesion. In every 
village there will be found three or four priests who know the sacred dances 
and special ceremonies required for the worship of the gods peculiar to that 
village, but they know nothing of the rites and ceremonies of the gods of 
other towns. On the Slave Coast, on the other hand, each general god of the 
Ewe tribes, except Mawu, has in every town and village a considerable number 
of priests, whose duty it is to minister to him and to him alone. Colleges 
and seminaries for the instruction of novices are numerous, and to each god 
are attached a number of temple-women, or wives. Among the Yoruba tribes 
priestly organisation is carried still further, and there are three 
recognised orders of priests, each of which is subdivided into grades. On 
the Gold Coast a priest might officiate indifferently before any god of the 
locality for which he was, so to speak, ordained; but if a Yoruba priest of 
Shango were to attempt to consult Ifa there would be as great a commotion as 
there would be if a Roman Catholic priest were to attempt to preach in a 
Baptist Chapel. There is, in fact, a healthy competition between the priests 
of the principal gods, and each guard their own privileges very jealously.

Religion, at the stage of growth in which we find it among, these three 
groups of tribes, has no connection with morals, or the relations of men to 
one another. It consists solely of ceremonial worship, and the gods are only 
offended when some rite or ceremony has been neglected or omitted. If the 
omission be quite unintentional the result is just the same, as the gods, 
like uncivilised man, judge by acts and not by motives. In all ages man 
makes God the moral counterpart of himself, and in savage life he only 
revenges that which affects himself. With the wrongs of others he has 
nothing to do. If a man murdered his neighbour and robbed the widow and 
orphans, that would be a matter that would not concern the gods in the 
least, and, provided he paid the usual homage expected by gods from their 
followers, he would be as secure of their favour and protection as if he 
were perfectly innocent of all crime. On the other hand, years of blameless 
life would not save a man from punishment if he omitted some customary rite, 
or inadvertently gave offence. Similarly, in the Hebrew books, we find that 
the detestable fraud perpetrated by Jacob upon his brother Esau did not in 
any way lessen the favour with which he was regarded by the national god; 
but when the unfortunate Uzzah, with the best intentions in the world, put 
forth his hand and held the ark to keep it from falling, he was struck dead, 
because the action implied that the god was not able to protect himself. So, 
too, among the ancient Greeks, the gods took no cognisance of social 
offences, and only revenged slights offered to themselves; as, when they 
caused Protesilaus, the husband of Laodamia, to be the first hero slain 
before Troy, because she, in her eagerness to consummate her marriage, 
forgot to propitiate them with the usual sacrifices.

The belief that religion has no connection with morals thus seems to be 
inherent in man when in a certain intellectual and social condition, and it 
is not by any means at once got rid of by the adoption of the religion of a 
higher race in which the two are associated. The uneducated negroes of our 
colonies, for instance, who have been nominally Christian for some three 
generations, practically believe that the commission of grave moral 
offences, and even crimes, will not in the least affect their prospects of 
future "salvation," provided that they go to church or chapel regularly, 
and, in fact, pay their god all that ceremonial homage and lip-service which 
is, in their view, the essence of religion.

On the Gold and Slave Coasts, there is perfect liberty of thought in 
inatters of religion, but a man must show outward respect for the gods, 
because to do otherwise is to provoke calamities. A man may worship many 
gods, or none, just as he pleases, but he must not insult any. In fact, at 
this stage, man tolerates any form of religion that tolerates others and as 
he thinks it perfectly natural that different people should worship 
different gods, he does not attempt to force his own personal opinions upon 
anyone, or to establish conformity of ideas.

The striking resemblance which the Yoruba religious system bears to that of 
the ancient Greeks can scarcely have escaped notice. Olorun, the sky-god 
proper, now being gradually displaced by the more anthropomorphic Obatala, 
resembles Uranus, who was displaced by Kronos. In Greek mythology Kronos 
married his sister Rhea, the earth, and the Yoruba myth makes Obatala marry 
Odudua, who also represents the earth, though the qualities of Aphrodite 
appear to predominate. Olokun answers to Poseidon, Ogun, worker in iron, to 
Hephœstus, Orisha Oko to Priapus, Osanhin to Æsklepius, Orun, the sun, to 
Helios, and Oshu, the moon, to Selene. Zeus' messenger, Hermes, the 
lightning, was the protector of plunderers, and Shango is the god of 
lightning and plunder. Ifa, as the, god of prophecy, and the being who wards 
off evil and affords help, resembles Apollo, who, in Homer, is perfectly 
distinct from the sun-god, though identified with him in later times.[1]

[1. In the Roman mythology Air married Earth,and the marriage was renewed 
every year in spring. (Virgil, Georg. ii., 325.) Here, Air (Orungan) marries 
Water (Yemaja).]

The spirits of the trees answer to the Hama-dryads, and we have river-gods 
and sea-spirits. Metamorphosis to a brook, spring, or lagoon is common, and 
we have one example of a girl, being transformed, like Daphne, into a shrub. 
The gods, when consulted, gave oracular responses that differ in no 
essential particular from the answers given by the Oracle of Delphi. The 
Yorubas, like the Greeks, offer human sacrifices in time of national need. 
Dancing was, with the Greeks, intimately connected with worship, as Lucian 
says: [1] "You cannot find a single ancient mystery in which there is not 
dancing;" and on the Gold and Slave Coasts every god of note has his own 
dance, which is sacred to him, and known only to the initiated. The religion 
of ancient Greece has been obscured by a great deal of later poetic imagery; 
but, when we look into it closely, it is found to be similar to that of the 
Yorubas, and was no doubt produced when the Greeks were in a like 
intellectual condition. It is a pantheon which seems peculiar to a certain 
stage of culture, and is composed of nature-gods and ghost-gods. The Khonds 
of India have almost exactly the same objects of worship as the Yorubas, 
their gods being the sun-god, moon-god, earth-god, god of iron and arms, 
small-pox-god, god of hills, god of streams, forest-god, god of limits, god 
of fountains, god of rain, god of hunting, god of births, village-god, and 
tank-god.[2] Similar resemblances are forthcoming from almost every part of

[1. On "Dancing," c. 15.

2. Latham, "Ethnology of the British Colonies," p. 140.]

the world. In fact, the gods are everywhere much the same, because much the 
same phenomena and natnral objects are found everywhere, and because mankind 
[1] on the same plane of civilisation has much the same wants and 

From a comparison of the systems of consaugainity of these lingual groups we 
are able to trace the order of evolution of the family, and the results go 
to show that Dr. Starcke's [1] theories of the priority of a system of 
kinship through fathers are incorrect, and that Mr. McLennin was right, in 
his gencral conclusions that descent through mothers was first in order.

Among the Tshi tribes of the Gold Coast descent is solely and exchisively in 
the female line. A family is a number of persons connected by uterine ties, 
all of whom bear the same clan-name. The clan-name is the test of kinship, 
and a family is a small circle of persons whose exact degrees of 
consanguinity to each other are known, within the wider circle of more 
distant relations, that is, the clan at large. Marriage within the clan is 
forbidden, and hence a father cannot be related by blood to his children, or 
be of the same family. Succession to property, office, or dignity follows 
the line of blood-descent, and a man's heir is his brother, or, failing a 
brother, his sister's son.

Among the Gă tribes of the Gold Coast descent is also solely and exchisively 
in the female line, and marriage in the mother's family is forbidden; but 
here the influence of the father in the household

[1. "The Primitive Family."]


has begun to assert itself, and in some cases, chiefly where tho father is a 
man of some rank and power, office or dignity descends from father to son. 
Property is still considered to be vested in families, rather than in 
individuals, and succession to property remains in the female line, in the 
same order as among the Tshi tribes.

Among the western Ewe tribes the law of blood-descent, and of succession to 
office or property, is the same as with the Gă tribes; but among the eastern 
Ewe tribes, in Dahomi, blood-descent is on both sides of the house, and 
succession in the male line. This change has, however, only taken place in 
the royal family of Dahomi, and among what may be termed the aristocracy, 
who appear to have followed the lead of their sovereign. The lower orders 
still trace descent in the female line, and that the higher orders used also 
to do so is shown by the terms in use for expressing relationships. Brother 
and sister, for instance, can only be rendered by "mother's son" and 
"mother's daughter" respectively.

Among the Yoruba tribes descent is through both parents with succession in 
the male line, and marriage is forbidden both in the father's and mother's 
family so long as relationship can be traced. A man's heirs are his sons, 
among whom the property is equally divided. If a man have no sons, his 
brothers inherit. The old ideas concerning blood-descent still, however, 
exercise some influence, and children by the same father, but different 
mothers, are not generally considered proper blood-relations. Thus, going 
from the Tshi tribes to the Yoruba, from the least cultured to the most 
cultured, we find a gradual but regular change from kinship and descent 
through mothers only, to kinship and descent through both parents.

We are also able to trace the evolution of society from the stage in which 
the group, or community, as a whole, protected its own rights and exacted 
redress for injuries, to that in which the state protects the individual and 
punishes crime.

It would appear that, at first, the community or group was the social unit, 
and had collective rights and responsibilities, every member of the group 
having a, right to the protection of the group as a whole, and being in turn 
responsible individually for the acts or omissions of the group as a whole, 
or of any member of it. If we might speculate on this subject we might say 
that this condition dated from the time when the group was homogeneous, and 
had not yet been broken up into different clans by the system of blood-
descent through mothers. Either no notion of blood-descent at all had been 
formed, or, if formed, the group-tie, the tie of association and 
comradeship, was considered of more moment than the blood-tie. The sole 
remaining trace of this condition to be found among the three lingual groups 
under consideration lies in the right which a creditor, whose debtor belongs 
to another community, has to seize the property of a third party, belonging 
to the same community as the person indebted, instead of recovering what is 
due from the latter. The group is individually and collectively responsible 
for debts contracted by any member.

Among the Tshi, Gă, and Ewe tribes the family, connected by uterine ties, is 
the social unit, and each member of a family is individually. responsible 
for all the others. The state, represented by the tribal or village-chief, 
takes no cognisance of offences unless they are such as directly concern, or 
are believed to concern, the interests of the community as a whole. Treason 
and witchcraft are almost the only offences that the state takes cognisance 
of. In cases of homicide, theft, rape, assault, and injury to the person or 
property, it is the family of the person who has suffered that alone can 
demand and exact satisfaction. No one else has a right to interfere, and, if 
the family should choose to forego all demands, no one has a right to say 
anything. Reparation is not sought directly from the offender, but from the 
family to which he belongs. It is, in fact, a case of one family arrayed 
against another.

Where the contending parties cannot come to mutual agreement as to the 
reparation, the injured party brings the case before the state, that is, the 
chief, who, until thus called upon to arbitrate, has no power to act. There 
is no fixed scale of punishments or awards; the injured family assesses its 
damages, and, if the injuring family does not accept the terms or effect a 
compromise, the dispute is referred to the chief for settlement. Murder is 
not necessarily, punished with death, for the family of the deceased may, if 
they think fit, accept a money-compensation in lieu for the loss of the 
services of the deceased. If the family be poor, and that of the murderer 
rich, they usually deem it better to exact payment than to enjoy the luxury 
of revenge, which the injurers would only have the effect of depriving of 
one of their number, without improving the position of the injured. In the 
contrary case the feeling of revenge is allowed to have its way; and when 
this occurs, the homicide is handed over to the injured family and put to 
death by them. In cases of theft, or injury to property, the stolen goods 
are returned or the amount of the damage made good, by the family to which 
the offender belongs; which is also liable to a fine for not having 
controlled the actions of the guilty member. The family itself then deals 
with its erring member, and punishes or pardons him, just as it thinks fit, 
that being a matter with which the outside public has nothing to do.

No distinction is made between crimes and accidents. Motive is never taken 
into account, and the harm done is always deliberated upon from the point of 
view of loss to the family. If a man be deliberately murdered, or killed by 
accident, there is equally a loss of an individual to the family, and they, 
can in either case take a life in exchange, or accept compensation. We saw 
the reflex of this condition in their religious views, the gods being 
likewise believed not to take motive into consideration.

Among the Yorubas, in consequence of the change in the system of blood-
descents, the family has lost cohesion. It is no longer the powerful 
organisation it was when it rested upon the basis of the clan; for, instead 
of being a large group of kindred, it has become a congeries of households, 
each with two lines of descent, and as the family has weakened, the state 
has gradually usurped its privileges. The state here takes cognisance of 
serious crimes, and only minor injuries to the person or property are left 
to the initiative of the family. The restoration of the stolen property, and 
the imposition of a fine on the family, is no longer considered a, 
sufficient reparation for theft. Theft has come to be regarded as all 
offence against social order, in which the whole community is interested, 
and lience a first offence is punished by flogging or fine, a second by 
mutilation, and a third by death. The family, being no longer collectively 
responsible for the actions of its several members, is not allowed to deal 
with the guilty member as it thinks fit. The state motes out justice; every 
man is responsible for his own conduct, and punishment falls upon the guilty 
individual instead of upon the group of kindred.

We are also able to trace to some extent the evolution of ideas concerning 
property. In those groups of tribes which trace descent through mothers 
only, property is vested in families rather than in individuals. There is, 
of course, individual property, but it usually is limited to minor articles, 
such as utensils, weapons, &c. Houses, the family gold ornaments, insignia, 
stools, and properties that have been handed down from bygone generations, 
are vested in the head of the family, and cannot be alienated without the 
consent of the family as a whole. At the demise of the head of the family 
the next of kin who succeeds has the usufruct of the family property in his 
turn, and is responsible for its safe custody. Among the Yorubas, in 
consequence of the change in the system of descents, property is vested in 
households, that is, in a smaller group of kindred, and divided among the 
heirs, who are the sons, or, in default of sons, brothers. As here, equally 
with the tribes who trace descent solely in the female line, the order of 
succession is unalterable; property in all cases remains in the family, the 
only difference being that among the Yorubas it is distributed with each 
succeeding generation, instead of being kept together; but the tendency of 
the Yoruba custom undoubtedly is to destroy the notion that property belongs 
to the group of kindred, and to make it individual.

In the case of all the tribes land is held in common, and there is no 
individual property in land, though the notion that land can be the property 
of the individual, instead of the community, has, as has been said, begun to 
appear among the Yorubas. Probably, in early times, moveable as well as 
immoveable property was once common. It still is, to a large extent, common 
to the family, and, at all earlier stages when the group was homogeneous, it 
was no doubt common to the group or community; for the custom which allows a 
creditor to seize the property of a third party belonging to the same 
community as the debtor, seems to point to a notion that the community as a 
whole must have benefited by what the debtor received. If all property were 
once common to the group, as land is now, then the following changes 
probably occurred. When the homogeneous group became heterogeneous, and 
broke up into clans in consequence of the system of female descents, 
property became common to the clan. Then, when the clan became divided into 
uterine families, property became common to the uterine family, as it still 
is on the Gold Coast; and, when the uterine families came to an end, owing 
to the recognition of the blood-tie between father and child, property 
became vested in households, as it is with the Yorubas. In other words, as 
the units of, which society was originally composed became subdivided into 
smaller and smaller groups, so did property become vested in a gradually 
decreasing number of persons, until it finally became individual.

[Appendix, "A comparison of the Tshi (or Oji), Gă, Ewe, and Yoruba 
Languages", omitted]