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Title:Yoruba traditional medical therapy and Ifa art of divination: a case study of the Babalawo in Ibadan, past and present
Author:Adekola, O.O.
Periodical:African Notes: Bulletin of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan (ISSN 0002-0087)
Geographic term:Nigeria
Abstract:Among the Yoruba of southwestern Nigeria there are two categories of therapists: the 'onesigun' (secular doctors or herbalists) and 'babalawo' ('Ifa' priests). Of the two, it is the 'babalawo' who are considered to be religiously skilled medical experts. This paper discusses Yoruba traditional medicine therapy with a particular focus on the art of divination and the role of the 'babalawo' before and after the introduction of orthodox medicine. The 'babalawo' practise the art of 'Ifa' or divination. This oracle stands under the protection of Orunmila, who is the deity who taught his followers the art of reading the 'Ifa'. This research, which was carried out in the city of Ibadan, covered a period of fourteen months and examined sixty-six 'babalawo'. Only 3 to 4.5 percent of these were women, as generally speaking women are not thought to be strong enough to undergo the arduous and rigorous training. Particular stress is laid on the significance of language in the healing system and the symbolic and figurative uses of words. The 'Ifa' corpus is a body of linguistic and artistic renditions and the belief in the power of words. Bibliogr.