Archetypes, Imprecators, and Victims of Fate: Origins and Developments of Satire in Black Drama

By Femi Euba | Go to book overview

1
Concepts of Fate

When David Worcester describes satire as "The Proteus of Literature,"1 the image evoked suggests not only the many guises in form assumed by the genre, which in fact are almost all the other literary forms, but also that often elusive power of satire that compels and sustains its impact. This is analogous to the efficacious power of ritual which, as Elliott has elaborately argued, is both magical and artistic. It is the power that has also given this book its main thrust in the consideration of Esu-Elegbara's potential. My objective will be to come to terms with satire as an expression and ritual power of the Yoruba divine trickster and god of fate. As implied in the introduction, to say this is of course to assume immediately that satire involves the fate of the individual. Therefore, before getting into Esu's satiric vein, it seems imperative to first establish the deity, in all his capacities, not only as one whose design is to control the fate of mankind, but also as fate itself, that is, the essence. In doing this, I shall rely heavily on theories and narratives of Esu collected by other scholars and found in the Ifa literary corpus; also on interviews with the devotees of Esu, from whom I learnt a great deal about their relationship with their god and about aspects of his fast-dying-out festival. I must, however, reiterate that the ritual of worship that is fundamental to this analysis and concept of satire, one that most vividly projects perspectives of fate in relation to his devotees-- indeed to mankind--is the simple act of libation on Esu's laterite symbol, "yangi." This is the commonest but most important ritual for Esu, whether as a daily supplication with the coolant palm oil, or as a special worship at festivals with the sacrificial blood of a dog (aja), of a pig (elede) or of a he-goat (oruko).

In identifying Esu-Elegbara as fate god or fate-essence, it would seem a pointless endeavor to try to locate his place of origin, as has been suggested

-17-

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Archetypes, Imprecators, and Victims of Fate: Origins and Developments of Satire in Black Drama
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Afro-American and African Studies ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 12
  • I - ORIGINS 15
  • 1 - Concepts of Fate 17
  • 2 - Archetypes: Satire and Satirist 45
  • II - DEVELOPMENTS 69
  • 3 - Victims of Satire 71
  • 4 - Drama of Epidemic 121
  • Conclusion 163
  • Appendix: List of Informants 165
  • Glossary: Yoruba Tones in Words, Phrases, and Sentences 167
  • Selected Bibliography 173
  • Index 191
  • About the Author 201
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