It is largely known that Yoruba people hold the largest ethnic group in Nigeria. They have a very rich culture and tradition. The need for taboos was borne out to guide against cultural abuses and to sanitize the society.
Cultural taboos vary in different places. The way taboos have been used in past times have not really gone down with some individuals. Should taboos be extinct? Taboos are meant to protect the human individual, but there are numerous other reasons for their existence.
A taboo acknowledged by a particular group or tribe (like the Yoruba people here) as part of their ways, aids in the cohesion of the group.
It helps that particular group to stand out and maintain its identity in the face of others and therefore creates a feeling of belonging.
The Yoruba people of Southwest Nigeria holds cultural taboos in high esteem. The people don’t take their culture and traditions for granted. Cultural taboos even differ from community to community in Yorubaland.
They are being taught by the aged and elders mainly to protect individuals as a result of their past experiences or to make the younger ones desist from negative things that can affect the whole community.
Some of these taboos are put in place to protect the age-long traditions.
Here are cultural taboos in Yorubaland:
Sitting on a Mortar
Mortars are used by the people in preparing some of their favorite dishes such as pounded yam, fufu, and so on. A serious warning is then given not to sit on this mortar.
This is practically used as a means of hygiene. It is therefore used as a taboo to strike fear into the hearts of the people.
The killing of vulture
This scavenging animal is not common in most of the places. There is a serious warning that this bird that feeds on dead animals shouldn’t be killed. It is well said that anyone that kills a vulture will die when they do that.
Carrying a ladder on shoulders
In some places in Yoruba land, carrying a wooden ladder on the shoulder symbolizes a coffin. So for evil not to prevail, it is a taboo to carry a ladder just like undertakers who carry the coffin on their shoulders during burial.
Collecting rain with the hand
Children most especially are warned not to collect rainwater by spreading their hands in the downpour. It is even said that thunder can strike one down if it is done. This is actually used as a step to personal hygiene.
Talking while removing chicken feathers
The outer coverings of a bird, while it is being removed after the killing, is said to increase if you continue to talk while removing. The elderly ones make sure that the kids keep their mouths shut while they do. This is basically to improve speed and efficiency while at it.
Beating a male child with a broom
This is a common taboo. They say if you beat a male child with a broom, his s*xual organ will disappear. This is just a device used to protect the child from physical abuse. But, why just the male child though?
Pregnant woman walking on a sunny day
It is also a taboo for a pregnant woman to roam about in the hot sun. it is the belief of the Yoruba people that demons roam about at this time of the day. It is believed that the unborn baby or the mother can be possessed by these demons. This is also used as a form of protection for the pregnant woman. Don’t we all need a little extra ray from the sun?
When you see a grass cutter in the day
It is not a good omen to see a grass cutter (bushmeat) in the day. It is the belief that trouble or evil looms to a relative of the person that sight this animal during the day.
When a dog/cat cries
It is seen as a bad thing for a dog or a pu**y cat to cry. They are believed to be closer to the spirit so when they cry, it shows that death comes quickly to the relative of the owner. The people believe that once this animal is killed, the evil will be averted.
When a King looks into his crown
It is a taboo for a ruling king to look into his own crown. This is the reason why kings don’t remove their crowns by turning it upside down. This is a letter to death as the people believe.