Traditional Yoruba marriage is a rich culture of holy solemnization, which has been in existence for centuries. It’s an institution designed to bring about decency, chastity and dignity for the individuals involved and the society at large. Traditional Yoruba marriage is popularly found among the Yoruba people who are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. This write-up specifically concerns itself with the traditional marriage for the Yoruba race and also makes some references to the contemporary Yoruba marriage. The below are some of the steps taken in Yoruba traditional marriage.
1. Searching- the parents of a man can either look for a lady from a good family for their son or the man looks for a lady he’s contented with. When the lady has been seen for their son, the parents of the man inquire from ifa (god for divinity) how the union would be. If ifa gives a positive answer, they proceed to the next step. (However, this does not apply to modern Yoruba marriage as Christianity and Islam have taken the centre stage.)
2. Intermediary- the parent of the man looks for a person that will be their spokesman in the woman’s family. He goes there to seek the consent of the family; the man and the woman meet and talk.
3. Contentment- the man then proposes to the lady and if she says yes, the man gives some token to her for agreeing to marry him. There, the work of the mediator comes to an end.
4. Supplication- in the older days, the man’s family goes to their prospective in-laws’ house for the first time to ask for the lady’s hand in marriage. This is done early in the morning before everybody goes about their daily duties. On that day, they go with palm wine, traditional gin and kola nut. Her parents call on her and ask if indeed she wants to marry the man, she says yes and they proceed to the next step
5. Engagement- this is either done early in the morning or in the evening. The man’s family goes there with items such as 40 tubers of yam , 40 bitter kola, 40 kola nuts, alligator pepper, honey, traditional gin, dowry, box of clothes, a goat etc. Here, a day is fixed for the wedding.
6. Wedding preparation- both families start to prepare for the wedding. They both decide if any “aso ebi” is to be taken, and also take decision on how they will entertain their guests.
7. Wedding day- this is the day the lady goes to her husband’s house. A day to this day, she performs a traditional song called “ekun Iyawo” for her family. Here she thanks her family for her upbringing, and bids them farewell for she’s going to start her own home. After they’ve had the party, she leaves to her husband’s house in the evening in the company of some of her friends and wife’s from her own family. It’s also tradition that:
• She must not meet her husband at home when she wants to enter her husband’s house; the husband goes out of the house so that he meets her inside later
• Her legs must be washed with cold water before she enters her husband’s house by one of the senior wife and she’s asked to smash the calabash with which the water was brought with. It’s traditionally believed that the number of pieces that the calabash breaks into shows the number of children she’ll bear for her husband.
8. Virginity- the issue of virginity is taken seriously in the olden days; a pride the bride’s family boasts of. However, this has been played down in modern traditional Yoruba marriage as often times some ladies have lost their virginity before marriage. In the olden days if a lady is met a virgin by her husband, he sends a keg full of palm wine or match box to his in laws but if she’s not met a virgin he sends a half full of either of the item. This will be a big a shame to her family especially the mother.
Afroscandic.com would like you to share your views about contemporary Yoruba marriage and traditional Yoruba marriage, most especially with respect to the issue of virginity with our audience. Please use the comment box below to write your comment and opinions.
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Written by Kemi Boyejo (Nee – Odumosu), an Afroscandic Contributor.
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