JAPHIL YILA



The concept of religion in its elementary perception implies the belief in and worship of a god, gods or any such notion of belief and worship. Simply put, it’s a belief and act of worship of a god or a deity. This can take the forms of greed, dogma, deism, paganism, idolatry, dharma, mysticism, Sufism, yoga, hath yoga, cults, occults, metaphysics etc; the list is endless.

From the above definition, two words comes to foreplay, ‘‘belief’’ and ‘‘worship’’ which bothers on a particular object in a form of a visible thing to any invisible personalities. In fact, it could be anything from natural to artificial, so long ones mind is convinced toward what it feet is the best.

Statistically, it is about mans innermost satisfaction that sprang from identifying himself to a god, gods or any physical and invisible objects where in some form of personal relationship is been observed between these two personalities. A kind of symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit from the stereotyped romance that flows between them, one superior, powerful, supreme and awesome, while the other a lesser being, obedient, submissive and loyal toward the former.

This article shall majorly focus on the practice of religion in the Tangale land before the impact of foreign religions like the HINDUISM (the search for liberation) where the practice involved the doing of puja- a ceremony that may include making offering to gods in a form of coconut, flowers and apples. With a priest officiating the ritual of applying red substances on the forehead of the worshippers and a yearly visit to river Ganges for purification.

Another primitive practice noted by European travellers was the belief and practice of fetishism – an African belief in objects as having supernatural powers. In 1760 Charles de Brosses, the talented French writer proposed the theory that religion, originated in the fetish phenomenon, long observed on the West African coast by Portuguese sailors.

And BUDDHISM , where abound the sight of Buddhist monks in saffron of black or red robes and a remarkable sight of ancient temples for worship.

And also, CATHOLICISM where one constantly sees people prays in churches and cathedrals while holding a crucifix or rosary with beads for counting prayers to Mary.

PROTESTANISM, that group of secessionist the Vatican City labelled rebels who can be seen in churches with fine cloths singing hymns and sermons to actualized the services.

 Finally, ISLAM, where the followers uphold and reverend the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] and the holy Quran which prescribed injections of life.

Below, I shall analyse the religion and rituals in the Tangale land as well as comparing such with the above mentioned religions and other Africa religions.

Usually as it’s with all African religion, the early traveller’s accounts of what was obtainable then was a bizarre beliefs and practices. As noted by Sir Edward Evans – Pritchard (1902-1973) one of the most notable anthropologists known for his ethnographic work among the various African tribes therefore, he observed that:

 ‘‘Cannibalism is the way of life in Africa.’’  He can’t be said to be far from right, for Rev. John – S. Hall (1883 – 1953) in his visit to the Tangale land observed same.

Another primitive practice noted by European travellers was the belief and practice of fetishism – an African belief in objects as having supernatural powers. In 1760 Charles de Brosses, the talented French writer proposed the theory that religion, originated in the fetish phenomenon, long observed on the West African coast by Portuguese sailors.

It should be noted that the word fetish originated from the Portuguese ‘fetico’ which was used to refer to West African images and charms. de Brosses, referred to fetishism to generally, the primitive phenomenon of endowing natural things like trees, mountains, waters, woods with sacred and divine power. Years later several other researchers ascribed the origin of religion to the belief in souls and were largely based in Africa.

But contrary to the above assertion, the prominent Yoruba scholar E. Bolaji Idowu has an opposed view, where he felt for a monotheistic interpretation of the Yoruba religion. That European views of the supreme god as a dues incertus or dues remotus was wrong (This will further be discuss as we sail through) meanwhile, just as was discovered in the African pre religions rituals, the Tangale earliest religion too was part and parcel of the whole fabric of their cultural life. Religious phenomena are thus closely interwoven with social, psychological and moral dimensions.

A remarkable and sensitive analysis from the above belief is; how and where did those ancient and primitive people hold to the notion that Yamba God dwells above (kitong)? Could it be instincts or a mere coincidence? Today both the two primary religions teach us that God lives above the skies in heaven and watches over us.

The Tangale pre- religion belief involved a body of doctrines, greed and principles often extremely complicated beyond the understanding of today’s curious young stars. Yet, and but the principle of cause and effect applies in understanding their operation of the rituals involved. In respecting and acknowledging  the above mentioned writers on African theories about pre- religion and paganism in Africa as a whole, one outstanding theory commonly called ‘animism’, propounded by Edward Tylor (1832- 1917) rightly described the pre-religion and paganism of the Tangale people before the coming of the white –men .

He accurately, pointed out that experiences such as dreams, visions, hallucinations and the deaths caused primitive people to conclude that the body is inhabited by a soul (animi).

That since they frequently dreamed about their deceased loved ones, they assumed that their souls lingers on trees, rocks and other places of worship. Eventually, the dead and the objects the souls were believed to dwelled came to be worship as gods. Thus according to Tylor, religion was born.

In cementing the above theory another writer R.R.marett (1866-1943) refined the theory from animism to animatism; that religion was mainly mans emotional response to the unknown. 20 years later James Frazer (1854-1941) narrowed religion to ‘‘….a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man.’’ And finally Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) attributed religion to fear of a father figure.

Therefore, to the pre- religion of the Tangale that ‘father figure is ‘Yamba’ or ‘Yambu.’ Over 90 years ago the late Rev. John Stevenson Hall observe that the starked primitive people of the Tangale  possessed and uphold the belief of that definite and unquestioned existence of a supreme being called ‘Yamba.’ The people believed in Yamba as God the supreme who dwells above the sky (tong – ‘up’, kitong- ‘up above’)  Just like the pre-religions perspective of the Yoruba as earlier pointed out, the Tangalu too hold the concept of a supreme deity as above all things living and dead including other lesser gods worshipped as ‘Anampure’the ancestral spirits. This can be captured in the belief of the primitive people that, ‘….. of all the great things we speak of and praise (God) Yamba who is in heaven is the greatest . But we do not know God and because we do not know God, we make gods of ghost and demons (anampure and shooro). Then when we pray to the ghosts (ancestors) and demons, we say, ’May God agree, so that our prayers will be answered.’’ On other occasion we say, ‘All things are with God; if God say that this shall not be, shall it be?’ This ancient belief further holds that. ‘All things come from God, if God says you will die today, will you live?  …… All deaths come from God, everything evil that can befall men comes from God if ‘ta’ she …. Purposed to create a man, ta creates him; if ‘hi’ purpose to kill him, ‘hi’ will kill him. Men are God’s food. The heart of God is cruel and kind’.

A remarkable and sensitive analysis from the above belief is; how and where did those ancient and primitive people hold to the notion that Yamba God dwells above (kitong)? Could it be instincts or a mere coincidence? Today both the two primary religions teach us that God lives above the skies in heaven and watches over us.

But surprisingly, how did such belief found its way in the hearts of the primitive people of Tangale centuries ago before the coming of the missionaries?

And more interesting, that yamba was viewed in dual personalities; in the first case, God world be addressed a male where ever he is expected to invoke his wrath upon the enemy or vengeance or anything horrible. He would be addressed a female whenever he is expected to act merciful.

Just like the Yoruba pre- religion, the Tangale acknowledges the existence of the supreme ‘Yamba’ above all other lesser gods which were found all over the land.

In Yoruba paganism, there existed the notion of a Supreme Being, subordinate deities, ancestors, sacred kings etc. That Supreme Being is ‘Olorun’, a king (Oba) and the other divinities are his ministers.

This culminates in the generally recognized analysis that there are different types of divinity in African religions: the one creator god, who is usually, remote from daily religions life, and the many other lesser gods and ancestral spirits which are constantly involved in everyday religions experience.

As James O’ Connell puts it, ‘there is an apparent contradiction between the supremacy of the high god and his withdrawal from concern with the world. The attributes assigned to him heighten this effect of contradiction. He is said to be at the origin of things, often as a creator, he is all – knowing and all – powerful. He introduces order in to the chaos of the universe, he is final arbiter of right and wrong …but in spite of these attributes the high god is not usually directly worshipped, …people may make a token offering to him in every sacrifice but hardly do they ever offer a sacrifice exclusive to him.’ (Except in expectation of a favour) emphasis mine.

The writer could be right but let’s consider the Yoruba, the Dinka and Tangalu and their salient features of transcendence;

The Yoruba religion is centred on the worship of a variety of divinities called Orisha, each having its priesthood, temples, cult community, and special section of town. People serve different Orisha, but everyone shares a common belief in a personal destiny determined by Olorun, and everyone practices a common method of divination (Ifa) which reveals the destinies and will of the Orisha.

Unlike the Yoruba, the Dinka are a non centralized, pastoralist society. They live dispersed in villages on both sides of the White Nile in the southern Sudan. Their religion is centered upon prophet – led cults of a few major sky divinities, which are closed related to the supreme god Nhialic, and upon totemic clan spirits.

Therefore while Olorun (lord of the sky ) delegated the task of creating the world to one of his sons, Obatala who failed to carry the task as a result of intoxication, the lord further appointed his younger son Oduduwa to do it. Oduduwa carried the task and created the world and further established the Yoruba kingdoms. With that done, Olorun entrusted Orisha to take care of the world. On the other hand, Nhialic was said to have created man from clay or from the river or possibly on the tree.

Other African religious beliefs may have ignored the notion of a supreme God that creates, but both the Yoruba, Dinka and Tangalu believe their God actually creates.  Only while the former believe in a God that created the world and mankind, the Tangalu believed in a God that creates man.

In any ways, according to Rev Hall; The features of the Tangalu pre-religion worship are:

  1. That the worship was spiritistic; which involve the trust in and worship of materially clothed or encased divinities or powers, for there abound shrines and other sacred places, places of religious assembly and meeting where metaphysical and spiritual beings were revered. The physical sight of pots, basins for the spirits were scattered all over the Land as every household possessed one or two of such mini shrines.
  2. The worship was purely emphatically ritualistic- it was entirely a matter of ritual, strict observance of prescribed rules and forms, where exceptions or deviation is well- nigh impossible. The ritualistic form was action not emotion. This ritual takes the form of prayers, sacrifice and offerings, the prayers ( puduk dilu) were offered to the great Yamba or the other lesser gods , ancestors  and other spirits which are accompanied by offerings of sacrifices of mainly blood and choice parts of a healthy and spotless slaughtered animals like goats and fowls. All that in anticipation of reward like protection against diseases, famine or deaths from the superior beings.
  3. As stated in no. 2 above, there existed a strict observance of prescribed rules and guidance with more severe punishment for whoever breaks any of it and more often, such punishment affect the entire family of the law breaker. These prescribed rules on one hand and taboo on the other hand form the bedrock of the religious practice of the people. During the period of worship, the practices considered taboo ranges from shouting in the nights and other things close to that. Everyone remains indoors all through except the elders.
  4. Another feature noted by the reverend was feast. The act of fasting was alien to the people he observed.

It should be noted, religiously in Tangale Land, the concept of ‘Yamba’  God starts with acknowledging his existence above the skies, an unknown personality- and ends with his occasional gender transformations. Although viewed as a supreme being but never a source of trepidation.

A concept very contrary to other African beliefs like the Yoruba, Igbo and more particularly the Masai  of south eastern Africa who believed in a creator ‘Ngai’ who places a guardian angel by each Masai as a protector. At death, the angel takes the warriors’ soul to the next world. Or that of the Greek triads that believed that Zeus created the world. Or the Pantheon of Hindu Gods that believed that Brahma is the creator of the world, Vishnu the preserver and Siva the destroyer. These beliefs can be found in other traditional history of many cultures all over the world.

Meanwhile, the religious belief of the existence of Yamba culminated into the creation of places of worship; the first and fundamental of such place was Ma’eku’ or ‘Yakku’ which belief still stands in the entire Tangale Land today, for annual worship in these shrines are still practice.

 The initial main places of worship are household shrines at everyone’s compound where ancestors are worship, although these worship have since ran into extinction. Ancestral spirit worship is hardly practice in the entire Tangale land today. Although family and clan shrines still exist in some quarters for observation of marriage rites and practices in connection to children. And in some few clan rain making ritual are also practiced.


  • Ma Eku or Yaku

As stated above, Ma Eku is the most fundamental and cherished shrine within the Tangalu religious background. These sacred shrines can be seen scattered all over the land. They are usually built and enclave under huge trees with  heavy thorns called kwiril, which are never trimmed or cut. Under these trees are usually a gray stone about 15 inches tall buried party under the ground, called pan-tilin known as the  ‘the male stone ‘and close to that stood a smaller one known as the ‘female stone’. Just adjacent to the mystical stones sits a large pot buried deep in the ground with only the neck above the ground for pouring beer during rituals and other religions ceremony. Neighbouring the two mytical stones lies the stones the Mai, sits and his assistant. The significance of these major shrines cannot be over emphasise; for the people regards these shrines as their hope of living. Prayers for rainfall for a good farming season, good harvest, success in war, disease free world etc, are all conducted in these major shrines.

Tradition among the Tangale suggest that Eku might have been borrowed from the Jukun who called it Yaku when the two groups interrelated at pindiga and kalshingi axis in the course of their migration.

It’s observed that the Jukun seems to have imposed religions influence over the Tangalu as well as Terawa, Wajawa and even Bolawa. According to C.A woodhouse, the Bolawa used to send representative to attend the Yaku festival of the Jukun. So also was the Tangalu before now who obviously were much fascinated by the displayed of the magical powers that they adopted some styles and almost the identical name ‘Yaku’ = ‘EKU’. 

 Rev. Isaac Laudarji further states that the Tangalu observed Eku or Yekku festival, which like the Jukun Yaku, is referred to as a female ritual worship, focused on fertility and productivity.

Obviously, the Jukun must hold originality of this ritual which the Tangalu adopted as a result of falling in love with it. Some few remarkable features of this worship are prayers offered to the gods’, ancestral spirits of long dead people, offerings of animal blood and meat, beer etc, dancing and merriment with abundant food for feasting.

Bellow this chiefly sacred and fundamental shrine were other lesser ones like:

  1. PIDOK mana (household shrines) the protective spirits- these shrines, a long time ago were found in every household. They were erected by the head of every household for ancestral worship and protection against evil spirits. It’s normally built a smallish circular hut, usually too small that even an infant cannot crawl in. Although there were some who built theirs big enough to accommodate just one person. Clay soil is used to build the hut and grasses for roofing it. Inside the family shrine are pots scattered all over, each representing every member of the family. The father of the house, being the head goes in occasionally to pray to his ancestors’ long dead for protection against diseases, death, evil men and evil spirits and more children.

Whenever a child is born a pot will be build and buried along his elders: and it would be said that the new born now possessed his Pidok mana. Similar practice were observed in Igbo religion setting where head of a family erect his personal ‘Chi’ called Ikenga for periodical worship.

And it would further be said that, that which took hold of the father has taken hold of the new born child. It should be noted that, unlike in these days where shooro is strictly referred to the devil or demons, in those days shooro may refer to spirits which can come either as a good spirit (shooron kong) or bad spirit (shooron dasa)

  1. Monje am: this is another protective spirit for a female child. It possesses a girl when still a child, the symtoms involved severe trembling and seizure with teeth gnashing. There a shrine will be set up for her where offerings and sacrifices are conducted. Monje am may loosely be translated to mean –‘ water woman’ but the water connotes beer, a very important substance in the religions lives of the people. The shrine to this spirit is erected in a secluded house for brewing beer. A gigantic clay pot called ‘puri is place between three posts for brewing the beer, The spirit of monje am appeared to be a person protective spirit that chooses its host at will and the reciprocal relationship involved constant offering of sacred animals, and in return a solid protection to the host. This goes on down to the host children.
  2. Kel: this spirit was more connected to the farms. A malevolent spirit that pricks the conscience of the people to do the needful by inflicting severe abdominal pain. Clay pots could be viewed scattered all over the farming areas for its worship. Failure of a family head to build a shrine for this violent spirit is meted with ones crop destruction or violent attack on one’s children. Its major role was the protection of farming produce and good harvest.
  3. KIDA: this worship was said to emanate from Shongom where the shrines involved the offerings made to the ancestral spirit of kel for protection during war. Every member of the family then were represented by a spear for male and a tiny clay pot for female. The head of the family would occasionally offer sacrifice to the spirit of kel for protection against the enemy during war.
  4. Njong pero and monje ngumyu were two aggressive spirits that were known to inflict terror in the land. They were rarely worshipped and shrines were never built for them.

NOTE: This list can never be said to be exhaustive.

SETTING  UP MA EKU                                                                                                                                                                                                According to NJWATA from Shongom land; any time as a people, we feel the need to re-locate or migrate to another land for fear of famine, diseases, deaths, defeat in war, unproductiveness in all sphere. The clan of Pargatak of Boh in Shongom would transform in to an eagle and cut off a tiny branch of the ‘Sholat tree’ (a sacred and ancestral tree of the Tangalu) and flew in search of a new country, suitable for habitation – free from calamities. Spotting one he selects an area convincing and plants the branch he carried from where they would settle.

The man – eagle would after performing the planting exercise comes back and report his adventure. After some days, the eagle would then be sent to ascertain whether the plant had hold roots and standing fresh. If it does that, then it signified that the land is good, but if the little plant shrinks, or dies, it means the land is disastrous and inhabitable. If peradventure, the omen is good, the Pargatak man with the chief priest would travel to the new land, taking with them a pot of brewed beer, grindstone, guinea – corn grain and a white fowl.

On reaching the new country the pot is placed at a convenient spot and the grain soak in it. With that done, they would retract back to their cursed land and remove the sacred grey stones already described above to the new country.

With the beer since brewed, the fowl would be slaughtered and the blood sprinked on the stones buried in the ground closed to the already blossom sholat infant tree. The quills of the  fowl plucked and planted around the ‘male’ grey stone while the rest of the feather would be littered all over the shrine.

It should be noted that this version seem to only apply to Ture, Kaltungo and Shongom; as Billiri claimed it was ‘miji’ python that usually sought out a suitable country for them to dwell. The said ‘miji’ was and still remain an ancestral sacred snake believed to hold an infinite power of protection all over the land and the people. The dwelling place of this mysterious giant is said to be on the hills of ‘Ballin’?

This ‘miji’ is believed to choose the current settlement today of the people known as Billiri LGA; establishing the sacred shrine of “Ma Yeku” as its pronounced therein and the protection of the people. Meanwhile, the fowl would be cut to pieces and cooked. The top form of the brewed beer in the pot called ‘pul- men’ or bul-men is collected and splashed on the sacred male stone and the rest to the female. The Liver of the fowl and other sacred parts are placed beside the sacred stone and the rest consumed. The chief priest known as ‘Mai Eku’ prays to the stone which served as Yamba representative. God was thus created since it was accepted that he cannot be seen it then became necessary to invent any symbol or idol to represent it.

‘………Behold now, I have brought you hither, to a place which I have thought promises to be good dwelling place. I have brought you from our former home. And now, as to this new place to which I have come, see to it that when we come down to inhabit it; we shall prosper in all things. What I do now our fathers did yesterday. We journey with you. Let this land be soft to us. Let it be good for farming. Give us children. Give us success in killing meat; wherever throughout its extent we go to hunt, grant us to kill much meat… ”

With that, the initiating and establishing ceremony of the new sacred shrine is completed and the priest would return and report its success and in turn the people would vacate to the new land carrying their belongings.

It should be noted that women are prohibited from approaching the shrine. Reason was that they are prone to quarrels and disorderliness in the sacred zones. The sick e.g the lepers, blind, paralysed and other related disabilities are not allowed entrance.

The shrine, as is expected of every other shrine in the world both now and years ago is kept clean and highly sanctified.

MAI EKU (chief priest)

The position of a chief priest is a tedious, expensive and extremely strict one – almost liken to what was obtainable in the days of the Jewish early religions times. He must be a man free from greed, glutton and fear. The gods approved the chief when chosen by an outgoing one – who must have already consulted with the ancestors known as ‘anampure’.

 Whenever the elders endorsed a candidate for the office, and by reason of fear or weakness, the candidate declined – the option opened to him is to run off with his family to another country or he will definitely suffer the wrath of the gods and ancestors. The last confirmation of the post can only come via dreams: the elders would retire to their rooms and sleep off, only counting on dreams for ascertaining the candidate they nodded to. If one or two of the elders dreamt about bad omen befallen the community, like nightmare of death, diseases and defeat in war, then it signifies that the candidate is cursed and can only bring disaster. But if the dream (s) goes the other way round, the candidate gets the smiles of the people. Therefore, the leader of the religion of the people is borne among others through dreams hence; the success of religion of the people is established via dreams as Edward Taylor rightly, puts it;

‘A chief priest is measure by the fortune or misfortune his role present to the people: if there abound bountiful harvest, disease free, successes in war and increase in healthy children, he remains in office for eternity. But if his reign is marred by calamities, he would be removed from office and another installed in his stead. The chief priest is assisted by one or two faithful who usually help him for the smooth running of the office as well as apprenticeship on the other hand.

The function of Mai – Eku among others involved; officiating in all religions functions, overseeing the community, mediates between the gods and the people, advise the people in the matter of politics, religion, war, farming, domestic dispute, clannish disputes and judicial functions.

Therefore, just like what was obtained in the Yoruba land where whenever there is eminent festival, the priest especially the Ogun priest must abstain from cursing, fighting sexual intercourse, and eating certain foods. Same applies to Mai Eku, the chief priest in Tangale land.

From extensive research carried by this Author, it appears, all African pre- religion carries similar function carried by the chief priest. The standard procedures regarding their elevation to office are basically the same. The role expected of them to play also the same. The general perspective of them equally the same.

Concerning African outlook of these personalities; they are reverend, feared and uphold, their pronouncements are deemed authoritative and believed sourced from mystical powers beyond the comprehension of men.

They stand as a source of strength and hope for the people. They accumulatively stand as the driven force for the people who usually look at them as super humans and to some quarters as spiritual entities beyond the reach of the people.


ANCESTRAL WORSHIP: In a small scale outlook like the Tangalu view and in a big scale out look like in Africa generally, the ancestors constitute the basic categories of moral and legal thought; this function raises them above the transition human level and invests them with sacred significance, superior and powerful beyond all human challenge. The rights, pronouncements sanctioned by the ancestors mostly defined the way and manner the society exists or cease to exist.

For instance in lo Dagaa from northern Ghana, the ancestors control social relationship pertaining to the sphere of domestic productivity. Then retain general rights in all basic properties which they pass to their descendants. Therefore every heir must periodically sacrifice a small portion of his inheritance to the ancestors.

Failure, the heir will suffer attack from the ancestor. That’s how social relationship is controlled by not instilling moral virtue or to promote benevolent acts but to govern the jural relationship which keep the social order together.

The reverence to ancestral worship extends to China where tradition of ancestors and idols worship reverence for a cosmic heaven, and generation of spirits in nature as well as the rites and rituals connected with them have become so deeply rooted in the Chinese way of thinking that they are accepted as the unspoken truth. Often it is very difficult to talk to a Chinese person about a personal God or creator.

Before now there abound numerous rituals, feast and festivals associated with religious belief laid down by the ancestors ‘ananpure’ loosely meant (men of the grave ) in Tangale land, in honour of them. That is why the Tangalu said of the ancestors thus; ‘As to all things, there is nothing that can excel Yamba in greatness. But when we pray, we pray to the ancestors, asking them to mediate and intercede by talking to God on our behalf. We believed that the ancestors have the powers to speak to God, because they are not in the body. [They are spirits] We beseech them to ask God to be merciful to us and heal our sickness, provide good farming season, protect us against shooron dasa, [evil spirit], and increase our population and success in battles. For God alone can do that through the interceding of our ancestors….’ Such acts and prayers in turn pricked the ancestors into performing their expected roles of protection, Guarding, and good living in the community. Usually food is kept under trees in the night for the ancestors to eat and empty plates are usually collected in the morning.And whenever game is to be feasted, vital parts are chunked off and offered to the dead men. Also seats are reserved under every family tree for them, for they were believed present in all activities among the people. But today virtually all these practices are lost and forgotten. But one remains, and that is:

TANGRA                                                                                                                                                                                                         Although its original glory is since lost, the ritual ceremonial practice of this feast miraculously stands. Albeit without its strength and back bone, It is normally celebrated in the month of January – April every year.

The people of Ture initiates the process by soaking guinea corn for brewing beer.

The preceding day would behold leading clans pounding the grain for more beer, at that period of the above preparation, no one is permitted to whistle in the night, fight, curse, roast anything etc. Anyone that breach the above prohibition will have his or her house engulf by fire. From Ture, Kaltungo would intercept the ceremony and thus the opening remarks by the priest at kaltungo goes simply.

‘Behold’ it is the practice my people initiated from Ture that I honour. Therefore, our forefathers let there be peace in the land; from kaltungo, it would be passes to shongom and there to Billiri.

The ceremony is marked by heavy eating, drinking and closely relationship between men and their girl friends.

Same scenario can be found in the Ashanti New Year in Ghana, a carnival atmosphere where people congregate in the streets to greet each other. Normally forbidden sexual advances are publicly permitted and the gods come out of their centauries to mingle with the people.

 In the  Tangale beliefs, it is said that,  ancestors roam the community and partake in the merriment. Food and beer are kept at vintage spots which normally disappear the following day as the ancestors have consumed them in the night.

A lot of ritualistic activities are conducted during the period, but most prominent are: Prayers, the Mai eku prays for all the goodies and thanks the ancestor for protection and expected fruitful year.

Secondly, the people, men in particular would dressed like warriors armed with spears, machetes and shields imitating war fare and singing while the women would be yelling in honour of great warriors known. This staged battle drama is called kal kalawo or Tenam. Finally, towards the evening time, every town carries the diseases lingering in the town to the out skirt of the town and dispose of it. (This is done figuratively) it’s believed that ‘loro’ (cartharrh) is taken from the town and disposed outside the town. When Ture disposed it in to kaltungo, kaltungo in Shongom and Shongom would to Billiri.

DO CANNIBALISM FEATURED IN THE TANGALU RELIGIOUS BELIEF?                                                                    Although the earliest writers of African religion ascribed cannibalism as way of African life. In some part of African, such can be said to be true, but the earliest known act of cannibalism connected to religion was the AZTEC who offer human beings as sacrifice to their sun god. Humans were known to be cut open and their hearts pulled out and offered to the son gods. This practice is known amongst the Amazon area and some part of South America and Haiti.

But in the Tangale pre- religions belief, cannibalism has never featured. The only few living animals needed for religions sacrifice are goats, fowls and in some few occasions dogs.

The only two instances human is eaten are during war- and that is done as a result of anger. Primitively, an aggrieved fighter kills his enemy, chunk part of the dead flesh, roast it, eat it in expression of anger. And also whenever a stubborn and troublesome enemy is defeated in battle, his flesh would be divided and brought home to be feasted on. Finally, some few medicine men believed that human flesh, blood and fats have special medical remedy. Aside these, cannibalism as a result of religious purposes did not feature in the Tangalu land.

Meanwhile, there abound then, numerous forms of ritualistic and magical ceremonies and worship in Tangale land which in time and the impact of Christianity were discarded and abandoned. But one of such worship I feel should be discussed.


This writer feels obliged to discuss this initiation been once initiated at age two. The practice of child initiation is well known in the African continent. For instance in BAMBARA KORE of Mali do practiced an act of transforming their young children into new roles of social responsibility. The complete initiation of boys into manhood takes several years and involves six distinct stages, each having its own initiation group or society. From the beginning to the end, the goal of this series of passage is the complete social and meta-physical transformation of the boys from childhood to adulthood, and ultimately from mortality to immortality.

This process culminates in the rites of the Kore, which is the  sixth and last initiation phase. As Dominique Zalan has stated. The purpose of the kore is to create new men who are both morally and intellectually enlightened and metaphysically endowed with immortal souls.

Meanwhile, In the Tangale pre-religious era this practice was not lost, as children who have begun walking are initiated in the shrines for onward connection with their ancestors. Children of same age group would be given a white cock each; their fathers would carry two pots of beer each. To the shrine all parade, on reaching the entrance of the shrine, every recruit will have his head shaved as the priest sits beside the shrine invoking the spirit of the dead to come forward and receive the recruits into their domain. Every child is then received by the priest and his cock slaughtered  with the blood sprinkled on the alter and the spirit of the cock offered to the ancestors for their nourishment and kneeling down the priest would laid a hand on the shaved head and pray to Yamba and the ancestors to receive the child.

With that done, every child is deemed initiated and accepted into the fold of ananpure, and the children would be sent home and the elders would roast the cocks and feast therein.

 While that of the Tangalu initiation of children ends with presenting them to their ancestors, and last for only a day, the Bambara on the other hand is a process of complete transformation and rebirth of the children into extra ordinary personalities and often takes more than 15 days to complete a single ritual.

All these and more abound in the earliest religious beliefs of the Tangalu and Africa at large. But unfortunately the impact of Christianity, Islam etc., had mitigated or even annihilated them, to such extend they are labelled barbaric and primitive.                                               



Arguably, the coming and impact of foreign religions on our original religion go a long way in robbing us of our true identity. We are forced to accept that which is alien to our beliefs and way of life. Now after accepting those foreign religions, what gains can we ascribe to them?  Before now, Africans lived in harmony with each member of their respective community and things are conducted in unity and love because every respective ethnic group practiced one accepted religion prescribed by the Gods and ancestors and were truly obedient as well as devoted to such religion. Because penalty for sinning was matted instantly, which most a times a members sin may affect the entire family, clan or even the ethnicity. The fear of such consequences’ made them to be law abiding by living holy and sanctified lives.    But today these strange religions only succeeded in tearing us apart! The multiple contradictions in these religions made everything confusing.  We just have us too many religions to make us love one another.                                                                                          


  1. Benjamin C. RAY; 1976, African Religion.
  2. Mankind’s Search for God; 1990 WATCH TOWER and TRACT SOCIETY                                                                                              
  3. John S, HALL; 1994, Religion, Myth and Magic in Tangale, H. Jungraithmayr and Adelberger [ed], Berlin.
  4. James B. SALIBA 2002, Migration and Culture Contact in the Gongola Basin. University of Maiduguri, Nigeria.   




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