Saturday, September 23, 2006


A friend has just returned from Bahia, where the interest in maintaining Yoruba culture is much stronger than in Nigeria. He brought back a fascinating and chunky volume entitled Ewe: the use of plants in Yoruba Society, by the itinerant anthropologist Pierre Fatumbi Verger (published by Odebrecht). Verger spent 17 years amongst the Yoruba in the 1940's and 1950's. There are beautiful illustrations at the back, but the best bit are some of the recipes, which often come with an incantation. Here are some of my favourites:

Medicine to help a girl develop breasts
Leaf/bark of x, y, z
Fruit of x, y, z
Pound, boil in a pot, draw the odu in iyerosun, recite the incantation. Mix everything. The girl must wash her breasts with it:
'Ata oluigbo, go and bring the damsel's breasts
Pandoro says that her breasts should come out
Ogungun says that they should shoot out
Aidan says that they should not be afflicted
Oseyeku should bring them out'

There are medicines and incantations for all woes - itching vaginas, tapeworm infestation, ulcers, anaemia, stomach problems. There is a medicine to cure madness, something to reduce the size of the placenta, there are ways of sending Eshu to attack someone, chanting:
'The red ara says so-and-so should be killed
Oparun says that so-and-so should lose his memory
Sagere has compelled him/her to wander'

There is a spell to acquire many wives which involves use of a sparrow's penis and a chameleon (part of a series on 'beneficient works' (Awure). There's another to get twins, have one's opinion accepted, to find a missing person, to become wealthy. Then there's a whole series on 'evil works' (Abilu): to bewitch someone, to give someone a swollen leg, to render a penis impotent, to avert a woman from having sexual intercourse with another man, to drive an occupant out of the house, to break someone's leg, to provoke itching in someone.

Amidst all these colourful intentions, there is real wisdom of the plants, most of which has been lost. Yoruba learning is alive and well in Brazil. Perhaps one day the receptacle of knowledge will past back to Nigeria.


Anonymous,  2:27 pm  

not just yoruba, but all nigerian cultures. seems we want to wipe out our cultures at home.

Bayuze 4:14 pm  

I think that the Yoruba and indeed other cultures are still alive and vibrant in Nigeria but has been overshadowed by a lot of things such as abject poverty, Western culture etc. Who wants to give a damn about local herbs, plants and spells when I havent had a decent meal in days?
But in reality, most of what we know these "stuff" is that they are used for evil and not for good eg money rituals,revenge,plain wickedness(I have been a recipient so I know).Ever heard of 'MAGUN'?I have always wondered what the world would be like if we utilized our unorthodox knowledge for the good of mankind.

Anonymous,  11:01 pm  

I actually find this writing funny! I don't believe stuffs like these work. Call me naive/westernized, but in my opinion, I classify such things as witchcraft.

However, it is rather amazing how the yoruba culture travelled thousands of miles to Brazil, while such practices are almost extinct in Nigeria.

Anonymous,  3:51 am  

lol its there i think, we just need to stop labelling them all as demonic babalawos and ifa priests and record that knowledge before they die out or modern medicine relegates them into the shadows.

please post that breast growing spell sam sam. its for my 'friend' lol

Anonymous,  4:46 am  

oga jeremy where is the breast growing spell?

jeez, when we go for plastic surgery they talk

ranti,  10:29 am  

J, please post the complete recipe for the medicine to help girls develop breasts abeg!

ijebuman 2:21 pm  

I feel sorry for those who choose to believe that our cultural practices are evil or regards "such things as witchcraft."
We've allowed ourselves to be brain washed by those who colonised us, read up what Ifa ( is all about and you'll understand that its not about the crap portrayed in nollywood movies.
Our culture is dying because we don't see anything good in ourselves.
There's nothing wrong in embracing and assimilating other cultures but it should not be at the expense of our own.

To Bayuze
Magun doesn't exist; it’s all a myth that was used in the old days to discourage sexual infidelity. The fear that it may exist, was enough to dampen any ‘excitement’ on the part of the man engaged in any illicit affair.

Jeremy 2:31 pm  

Here is the full recipe:
Leaf of Pleiocarpa Pycnantha, Apocynaceae (Yoruba name: Orokoro Ata Oluigbo Elewe obe Aparan Aran Irokoro)

Bark of Cola Gigantea var. Glabrescens, Sterculiaceae (Yoruba: Ogungun)

Leaf of Cola Gigantea var. Glabrescens, Sterculiaceae

Bark of Kigelia Africana, Bignoniaceae(Yoruba: Pandoro Uyan Amuyan)

Fruit of Kigelia Africana, Bignoniaceae

Fruit of Tetrapleura Tetraptera, Leguminosae Mimosoideae (Yoruba: Aridan Aidan)

Pound, boil in a pot, draw the odu in iyerosun, recite the incantation (see the post for the incantation)

Jeremy 2:32 pm  

but hey - small breasts are underrated abi?

Anonymous,  8:14 pm  

most of the responses to this post tells why our cultures are dyiing. i cant believe in this day and age africans still fall for thos clol-mentality BS. our culture is just as legitimate as any other and certainly isnt witch crft. even oyinbo's sef don't call it evil as much as we do. they've long forgotten about it

Anthony Arojojoye 12:32 pm  

That growing breasts stuff sure is very funny. Though I've heard of others and there are claims that they work, I ain't seen 1 lady who claims her breasts are as a result of the incantations.
It's even evident in Nigeria that such incantations aren't potent.

IBeNaija 10:03 pm  

@ Jeremy, I agree with my WHOLE HEART! small breasts are underrated! LOL!

I don't beleive in anything but GOD,and when i say God, i mean Jesus Christ.

I can't go and mix some breast ogun and end up with a big fat lump on my chest.

Nefrem's Blog 2:04 am  

Agreed ijebuman, it is quite sad that people all over the world are proud of their indigenous spiritual practices (Indians-Hindu, Chinese-Chinese Religion, Arabs-Islam, Jews-Judiasm, and Christianity for Arabs and Middle Easterners, however, many Yoruba fail to see the cultural value of thier indigenous spiritual tradition as a WORLD religion like other major religions practiced all over the world. Be proud and support your tradition and don't let your desire to please Westerners push you away from your own tradition. Besided, many white folk and westerners are joining traditional Yoruba religion in droves.

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