Black Spirituality Religion : Do the Yoruba Practice Ritual suicide?

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by river, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Or is this a myth like the Voodoo doll? Is there any truth to the story of Egbe Omo who is said to have pronounced a curse on all Yoruba when he was forced to commit suicide?
     
  2. Knowledge Seed

    Knowledge Seed Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    No its not true. Yoruba people are education freaks, so suicide would defeat that purpose.
     
  3. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Thanks Knowledge Seed,

    Actually I am writing a novel which begins with a young woman who is kidnapped from Egba (not to be confused with Egbe Omo) sometime between 1804 and 1808. In the course of the novel she must do some kind of spiritual work to assis t the spirit of a pregnant woman who jumped shi[ rather than be taken into slavery. That's how I found out about Egne Omo and ritual suicide.

    I still need to know what kind of rituals assist those whose spirits were troubled when they died.
     
  4. Alexandra

    Alexandra Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Greetings River,

    I am a huge fan of literature that has been based on African traditions/history, and would love to read this novel when it is published; that brief synopsis sounds interesting!

    In answer to your initial question, made an attempt to find an answer and this is the best that I could come up with;

    "Thus, put on board slave ships many West Africans attempted suicide, as Thomas Phillips of the Hannibal explained, because "tis their belief that when they die they return to their own country and friends."39 Under New World bondage Africans continued to cherish these beliefs; and, according to Zephaniah Swift, "to them the prospect of terminating life furnishes the pleasing consolation of terminating their wretchedness . . . and they fondly believe that they shall have a day of retribution in another existence in their native land."40 Swift's point was made more forcefully in May 1733 by an African woman in Salem, Massachusetts, who, after announcing she was going home to her own country, slit open her stomach.4' Similarly a woman captive aboard the slaver Canterbury in 1767 re- fused to speak to the white crew, and despite torture starved herself until her death-telling her black shipmates the night before she died that "she was going to her friends."42 Lieutenant Baker Davidson informed the House of Commons during their inquiry into the slave trade that it was common for sick Negroes to say, with much pleasure, that they were going to die, and were "going home from this Buccra country."43 It was generally accepted in the Afro-American subcul- tures that suicides would return to Africa after death, possessions and all. Fred- rika Bremer reports that female slaves commonly placed their favorite headker- chiefs on the corpse of a suicide; for each assumed that "it will thus be conveyed to those who are dear to her in the mother country; and will bear a salutation from her. The corpse of a suicide slave has been covered with hundreds of such to- kens. "

    "White Cannibals, Black Martyrs: Fear, Depression, and Religious Faith as Causes of Suicide Among New Slaves"William D. Piersen, The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr., 1977), pp. 147-159



    It would appear that among West African slaves, suicide did not hold any stigma and actually offered a means of liberation so much so their funerals reflected this. I hope this information helps some.

    Ps. the voodoo doll is not a myth; it is actually a powerful tool particularly if used for protection. I thought I would clarify this incase you decide to incorporate it into a future novel.

    Peace,
    Alexandra

     
  5. river

    river Watch Her Flow MEMBER

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    Thanks Alexandra.

    Clearly there were differing opinions among the Yoruba just like there are differing opinions among religious people today. That is good it adds a deeper dimension and conflict to my novel. I got a hold of The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts by Baba Ifa Karade. He says that many Yoruba teach that those who commit suicide go to the same place as those who lived a cruel and abusive life. a place where there is no reincarnation, no return to the land of the living. But my novel was inspired by the idea that hurricanes follow the path of slave sships and the possibility that hurricanes are actually the restless spirits of those slaves that died at sea either through suicide or disease.

    Yes, I know voodoo dolls were/are used for medical purposes. There is so much misinformation .

    Thanx again for sharing.
     
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