8 weirdest Nigerian traditions

Nigeria is the most populous black nation on Earth with over 250 ethnic groups so, it is not exactly a surprise that there are certain strange traditions and customs rooted in each tribe. Some of these are:

1. Magun

The magun is a powerful juju associated with the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria. Although the literal meaning of magun is “do not climb”, it is often referred to as thunderbolt. The Yorubas frown on adultery, so, magun is a charm used to curb promiscuity. Magun is placed on a married woman by her husband or his family without her consent. A broomstick or thread may be put on the doorstep for her to walk over. A woman who is unfaithful and has been bound with magun can be cursed with strange illnesses, boils or smallpox. In some cases, the woman in question dies. However, the usual manifestation of magun is that when a woman with magun commits adultery, the man involved either dies on the spot or simply gets stuck till the husband or the caster of the spell comes to break it.

2. The Sharo

Among the Fulani of Northern Nigeria, there is a ceremonial flogging tradition called Sharo. The sharo is used to test the manhood of young men in search of wives. The man in need of a wife must submit himself to a severe beating and must show no signs of pain or weakness. Otherwise, his readiness to take up the responsibility of marriage will not be welcomed. In preparation for the Sharo, the contenders undergo a traditional spiritual fortification to steel them for the pain. The Sharo festival is held twice a year in the Fulani community. First, during the dry season while they prepare to harvest guinea corn and second during the Muslim celebration of Eid el-Kabir. The festival marks a transition into manhood for the contenders who succeed.

3. Widowhood traditions

In some Nigerian communities, when a woman loses her husband, there are a series of rites for her to go through to prove that she ad nothing to do with her husband’s death. The woman whose husband died must spend a total of 41 days in seclusion to mourn the death of her husband. Among the Igbo of Southeastern Nigeria, a widow’s head is shaved immediately upon the death of her husband. In some communities, a widow is made to drink the water used to wash the corpse of her husband. Some are locked into a room with the corpses of their husbands for several days. Afterwards, some are made to cook for their husband’s spirit with the belief that if the food is gone by morning then the husband bears the wife no ill will but if the food remains then the wife must have something to do with her husband’s death.

4. Kola nut ceremony

The kola nut is said to be the most important object in Igbo tradition. It is regarded as a sacred fruit, revered, respected and celebrated. Kola is used to perform traditional or cultural ceremonies in Igboland. No marriage ceremonies, installation of traditional rulers, settling of disputes or cultural festivals are done without performing the kola ritual in Igbo language. In Igboland, kola nut symbolizes peace, unity, reconciliation, integrity, life, fraternity, hospitality, goodwill and kindness. Another practice is that kola nut must be blessed before it is broken. It is believed that kola is used to call on the ancestors and is a representation of good omen, love and togetherness.

5. Inheriting women

The practice of inheriting women in Yoruba is called “opo sisu.” This means that a woman whose husband died will be inherited along with the rest of her husband’s possessions. The reason for this is that the Yoruba believe that if the woman marries someone from the family, probably her dead husband’s brother, she will be well taken care of and her children will not have to suffer. However, greedy relatives often take advantage of this tradition and use it as a means to access the late man’s wealth. The practice is fast becoming extinct because more women are rejecting it.

6. Female circumcision

Most of the women in Nigeria today have undergone female circumcision. Female circumcision is the removal of external female genitalia or damage to other parts of female genitalia for non-medical reasons. Among the Yoruba, the practice is said to curb promiscuity in a woman by cutting off the clitoris. Some believe that female circumcision is to beautify the female genitalia. In these communities, uncircumcised girls are not seen as women and may not be able to find a husband. In the Ijaw society, if an uncircumcised woman dies, crying is prohibited until she is circumcised. For women who have been circumcised, sex is not often enjoyable.

7. The left-hand phenomenon

There is a general taboo on the use of the left hand. In almost every culture in Nigeria, giving, receiving, eating and drinking with the left hand is considered an insult in the community. Due to the fact that the left hand is often associated with disrespect, it is considered a great insult to use the left hand in giving to or receiving from an elderly person. The elderly person involved will often refuse to take whatever has been offered to them with the left hand. In most Nigerian cultures, giving and receiving with the right hand shows respect and willfulness.

8. Water spirits

The religious world of the Ijaw is centered around the water spirits. The Ijaw pray to the water spirits because they believe that the water is friendlier to them. All Ijaw festivals have their origins in water. The Ijaw are fishermen by trade. They believe that every unmarried girl has a water lover. So they use the ritual of Iria to connect women with their water spirits to ensure their future fertility.

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