The recent demise of a 27-year-old singer, Oladimeji Ilerioluwa Aloba popularly known as Mohbad ignited a lot of controversy on social media. Some people clamoured for autopsy while others who are probably in the minority claimed that his corpse should be treated in the Yoruba way – Oku Riro. Would this have occurred if people had continued to respect and tolerate the Yoruba practice of calling upon the spirits of the dead? Does this route truly exist? Is it still functional?
Every human being has a finite physical existence. At any given time, it will observe any reasons of death, including natural, accidental, homicidal, suicidal, and other causes. People who pass away too soon raise fear or concern for their family. They worry about what might have led to their loved ones’ untimely passing while they mourn their losses.
It is frightening and distressing how frequently disputed deaths occur. Without obvious causes of death, many human lives have been lost. There are a variety of dead bodies whose deaths are either unexplained or are simply labeled as “unreported,” including those that are lying on the ground, buried in bushes, thrown into water, chopped into pieces, kept in refrigerators for medical examination, and those that are left in morgues without being claimed by the respective families.
The adoption of autopsies in human science is thought to have been prompted by the growing number of disputed fatalities. While Bartolomeo da Varignana performed the first legal autopsy in 1301, it was requested by a magistrate to determine the cause of a specific death.
However, historical research has shown that the Yoruba people, who are primarily of the black race, have a method for determining the cause of death of any deceased person. The Yoruba method of determining the cause of death differs from autopsies in this regard.
In an autopsy, the body will likely be dissected after the organs have been removed, which will only show the cause of death. In the Yoruba method, known as “Riro Oku,” neither the organs nor the body are removed. The Yoruba method would also make the reason of death more obvious, giving the soul of the deceased the chance to exact revenge by murdering those who caused their death or compelling them to show themselves.
The spread of the Abrahamic religions—Islam and Christianity—and its effects on people who are full-blooded Yorubas have made the “Riro- Oku”—a Yoruba method of determining the reason of death to suffer non-acceptance.
Despite the widespread acceptance of autopsy as a superior alternative, some families have been put off by the procedures because it involves the removal of bodily organs.
Have you read about the deaths of prominent and well-known Yoruba sons and daughters, the causes of which are still unknown? Examples of notable Yoruba sons whose demise is yet unknown include Gbenga Adeboye, gospel singer Baba Ara, Toba Opaleye, and Kolawole Olawuyi.
Ifa priests play important roles in understanding Yoruba traditions and culture. They possess a rare ability to trace every incident back to its inception. A well-known ifa priest, poet, and Chief Araba of Osogboland named Ifayemi Osundagbonu Elebuibon was approached by WITHIN NIGERIA to learn more about what we may refer to as the “Yoruba autopsy.” As Baba Elebuibon traced its origins back to the beginning, it was a really illuminating and informative occasion.
IGBO IFEYINTI – What happens to bodies after death
‘Igbo ni jo oju, akala ni je edo. Ti oku ba ku, akala ni gbe oorun mo. Ti oku ba ku laye, akala lo ma mo. Akala lo ni agbara ati ji oku’.
According to Babalawo Elebuibon, who spoke to WITHIN NIGERIA, the bodies of the deceased were brought to Igbo Ifeyinti, or the Forest of the Remains, before burial.
“At this forest, Akala, a sizable bird, would appear, awaken the deceased, and inquire as to the manner in which they had passed away. If he or she died from a natural cause, accident, voodoo, or poison, the deceased would come to life and tell his or her story. When Akala calls the dead back to life, if it is not their time yet, they are asked to continue living; if it is, they will rest forever.
OBARA ISINKU – Why Yorubas bury dead bodies
According to Yemi Elebuibon, at the beginning of human existence, they do not bury dead bodies. They were taken to Igbo Ifeyinti – Forest of repose where they would be placed at the root of a tree before Akala and Igunugun would appear and eat them up, Babalawo Ifayemi added.
Burying dead ones was an act inspired by a unique myth. It is related to a story of a married woman who made up her demise. She was often bothered by her concubine’s insistence that they get married. She then devised a tale about dying with her male lover in order to be brought to the forest of repose. She had previously invited her lover to meet her in the forest after they dropped her body. She complained of a headache and a cold before her demise.
As soon as they abandoned her in the forest, her male lover showed up, and the two of them traveled to Iwoye. The male lover later rose to the position of king in Iwoye. They got hitched. The now-king’s wife began hawking merchandise in front of the palace. One of the Ife residents who travel to Iwoye every market day to conduct business recognized her and was left speechless as to what might have transpired.
He returned home and informed some people that Erelu, the wife of Orunmila, had not passed away. Ifa was contacted, and it was discovered that she had lied about dying and had not passed away. It was also discovered that sacrifice would be required in order for her to return. Ifa directed that masquerades be sent to Iwoye to perform dances and magical displays for the benefit of the crowds.
They should perform a brief play during the magic demonstration that describes how Erelu abandoned the town, conned the populace into believing she was dead, and was eventually brought to the Forest of Eternal Rest. When these masqueraders were ready to perform with magic for the king, chiefs, and towns, Orunmila traveled to Iwoye with them. They visited the Alaagba of the town to inform him and seek his cooperation by informing the king too.
When the woman grew suspicious and inquired about the origins of the masqueraders, they answered Ife. As her suspicion increased, she enquired about Orunmila and what he was not supposed to do. She was aware that Orunmila doesn’t consume any food or liquids or carry out any actions related to yesterday. “No,” they yelled in unison. They claimed they had nothing they were obligated to do. She was also at ease and joyful.
On the D-day, the monarch, the chiefs, and the populace assembled in front of the palace to see masquerades perform magic tricks. The masquerades sang “Ejeka sere, Ejeka sere ode iwoye e je ka sere” They also painted a picture of how Erelu abandoned Ife, made up his death, sent his sweetheart to meet her in the forest, and fled the city. She was so skeptical and icy. The king was also uneasy.
Orunmila took off the veil hiding his face, allowing them to see him. Orunmila sang that ‘Erelu ye puro. Erelu ye puro lo de Iwoye. Asobirin so Dale. Asodale se obinrin. Erelu ye puro. Since this incident, deceased bodies are properly buried beneath the earth’s surface. They ceased transporting corpses to the forest where Igun would consume eyes and Akala would eat liver. Akala are the ones who enquire about the causes of death from dead bodies. And the deceased would now describe their causes of death, including poisoning, illness, or natural causes. Isinku Obara.
HOW TO INVOKE SPIRIT OF THE DEAD FOR REVENGE
The dead person’s body will be cleaned with a special traditional soap, and a knife or gun will be placed in his or her hand, according to Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon. Without three months, those who carried out the murder would die.
The renowned ifa priest responded when questioned about the type of soap that will be used, ” you will grind Ewe Jaba, Ewe Jogbo, Ewe Ifalokeokun and others (not mentioned here) together. They will be mixed with black soap.
When performing ifa corpus with “Iyere Osu” , the spirit of the departed will be invoked and directed to rise and kill those who caused his or her demise.
When asked if those guilty might be saved or if there was anything they could do to prevent being slain by the spirit, a well-known ifa priest replied that the only way they could avoid death was to confess or else they would die within three months.
They would have to go through certain procedures in order to be completely free from the wrath of the dead if they made a confession. To resolve debt-related concerns, sand taken from the deceased person’s tomb can equally be used. Anyone who asserts that the deceased owes him or her money would be asked to drink the sand-filled water. He came to the conclusion that they would receive money if they drank it, whereas they would pass away after a few days if they told lies.