Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Yoruba Traditional Medicine and the Challenge of Integration

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Yoruba Traditional Medicine and the Challenge of Integration

Article excerpt

Culture as Identity Marker

Culture is the totality of the ways of life of a people and it encompasses the totality of people's beliefs and practices. There are so many cultures in the world which are marked by their distinct qualities. For instance, we have American culture, British culture, Russian culture, etc. In Nigeria also, we have Hausa culture, Igbo culture, Urhobo culture, etc. One prominent of these Nigerian cultures is Yoruba culture which is the concern of this paper. One specific feature of culture is its originality. In this respect, for a way of life of a particular people to be regarded as a culture, it must be devoid of influx from people not of their culture.

Second, Yoruba culture is that it is situated in the metaphysical belief in the supernatural beings such as Olodumare, the Orisas, the oku orun. This marks their belief in two planes of existence; Orun and Aye. Aye (and everything therein including human body and soul) is believed to be created by Olodumare and the Orisas who resides in Orun (1). This informs their belief that the souls of the dead go to Orun, where it came from, to continue to live there. However, the requirement is that these souls must have fulfilled their mission in aye for them to be admitted to Orun to continue to live as ancestors. The souls of those who did not complete their mission before they died are believed to reincarnate and continue to live in aye until they complete their earthly mission. (2) These reincarnated souls are referred to as abarameji, or akudaaya (3)

Also, Yoruba moral codes and rules include and also have their justification in the gods. In fact, Kola Abimbola argued that "in Yoruba culture, ethics has a supernaturalistic dimension in the sense that moral issues also have to do with the relationship between spiritual beings and humans, and indeed, it also has to do with the relationship amongst spiritual beings" (4). He also argues that the spiritual and natural worlds form the same continuum in the Yoruba culture, unlike the Western conception. In a way, this may be so, in the sense that the life that started in aye is believed to be continued in orun, as ancestors are said to continue to live in orun. Moreover, the people in aye interact with the people in orun as in the same plane. This is exemplified by sacrifice and invocation of the spirits. But, hardly can all these support Kola Abimbola's idea of 'continuum'. This is because all the above may also be true of a conception that differentiates the two planes. Orun and aye need not form a 'continuum' for all the above to hold. In fact, an account that differentiates orun from aye, may still agree with all the senses above. But, however, this does not warrant any straight call for a collapse of the culture into an alien one, for lack of systematic explanation. The best that could be called for is systematic development in some aspects of the culture.

One of the covert aspects of Yoruba culture is to ensure the good health and wellbeing of the people. Good health includes the provision of healing from various kinds of illness and disease.

Correspondingly, Gbadegesin writes, "is sought for in all the nations of the world and is usually for various kind of diseases and sicknesses" (5) There are so many ways by which different cultures approach the issue of ensuring healing and good health of the people. Some cultures deal extensively with physical wellbeing of the people alone. This is achieved by providing a curative process to physical diseases and ailments. This is characteristic of Western medicine. But Yoruba culture, not only heal the physical ailment, but it also ensures the healing of the spiritual part of the patient. This is what is referred to as the holistic healing (6). This ultimately distinguishes Yoruba traditional healing from other modes of healings. To achieve this, Yoruba traditional healers make use of herbal medicine, and they also include the incantation and invocation of spirits to achieve an all round healing (7). …

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