AJT/4:l/90 RITUALS, SYMBOLISM AND SYMBOLS IN YORUBA TRADITIONAL RELIGIOUS THOUGHT E. Dada Adelowo* Introduction This paper' is moti~ated by ' the need. to ' correct the erroneOUS observatiods, notions, assertions and pontifications of some foreign armchair investigators about . religious situations, facts and values in Africa as a whole. Examples of such ' observ~tions, notions and so on can be multiplied in this regard. Baudin, for example, moved by his pre-conceived notions and possibly moved by cultural pride and prejudice declares: The idea they (Africans) have of God is most unworthy of His Divine majesty. They represent that God, aft~rhaving commenced the organisation of the world, charged Obatala with the completion and government of it, retired and entered into an eternal rest, occupying himself only with His own happiness; too great to interest Himself in the affairs of His world. He remains like a negro king, in a sleep of idleness. 1 This is purely a definite reading in of the Western deistic philosophy into pure African belief. . Another foreign investigator, Diedrich Westermann, wrote on African belief system when he probably had little access to the proper sources of African beliefs and practices or when he had little more than ' a chance opportunity of a cursory glimpse of a gagantuancontinent. Thus in connection with the African concept of God, he declares: J The high-god is, as a rule, not the object of a'religious cult and is of small or almost no significance in practical religion. People acknowledge him but neither fear nor love nor serve him.2 It is to be noted that a good number of such scholars had, over the years, taken appearance for reality, symbol for the symbolised, means for the end with regard to the religious situation in Africa. Reasons for this step are not far-fetched. A lot of them were staying behind the garden and at the same time trying to pontificate on the items in the garden. Some had not even touched the African soil. Rather, they relied on the reports of traders and missionaries in dishing out information on the religious situation in Africa. * E. Dada Adelwo is a Professor in the Department of Religious Studies, Ondo State University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria. 162
AJT/4:1/90 Thus, ,the need is felt to present the topic -rituals, symbolism and symbols which are sure sources of African beliefs and practices -'-- as a means to intimate the cursory observers about what, in fact, constitutes the actual religious situations in Africa and in Yorubaland in particular. Rituals and Rites: An Issue of Functionality Rituals and rites are a means of bringing into the limelight the ~eligio~s experience . ofa group of people; Rituals and rites thus constitute some kind of religious expression. They are a means of concretising one's belief system. They are a means of expressing one's experience of the supersensible world and the supernatural beings. In short and simple terms, they are acts of forms of worship or communion and communication between one and one's objects of worship.