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Yoruba Responses to the Fear of Death

  • Peter Morton-Williams


The certainty of the individual's extinction as a human being contradicts so outrageously the value and effort of living that most cultures minimize the confrontation with this certainty, or cushion it with assurances of some form of immortality. I am going to describe some of the ways in which the Yoruba express their fear of death, and the response they make to it, especially through their traditional religion, which is still the religion of a good proportion of the five million Yoruba in South-West Nigeria and Southern Dahomey. These examples show the wide range of their attempts to cope with this recurrent fear.



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Beier, H. U. (1956) ‘The Egungun Cult’, Nigeria Magazine, No. 51. Lagos, The Federal Government.
Johnson, S. (1921) (Johnson, O., ed.), The History of the Yorubas. Lagos, C.M.S. Bookshop.
Morton-Williams, P. (1956 a) ‘The Atinga Cult among the South-Western Yoruba: a Sociological Analysis of a Witch-finding Movement’, Bull. De l'IFAN, xviii, sér. B, Nos. 3–4. Dakar, IFAN.
Morton-williams, P.(1956b)‘The Egungun Society in South-Western Yoruba Kingdoms ’,Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the West African Institute of Social and Economic Research.Ibadan, University College.
Talbot, P. A. (1926) The Peoples of Southern Nigeria. London, Oxford University Press. 3 vols.
Verger, P. (1957) Notes sur le Culte des Orisa et Vodun. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire, No. 51. Dakar, IFAN.
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  • ISSN: 0001-9720
  • EISSN: 1750-0184
  • URL: /core/journals/africa
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