The Yoruba of Nigeria and the Ontology of Death and Burial

  • Henri OripeloyeEmail author
  • Morufu Bukola Omigbule
Part of the Science Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Science book series (SACH, volume 9)


Death as the terminal point of series of experiences and stretch of existence which mark out every living creature is a phenomenon that has inspired different dispositions among the Yoruba of Nigeria. It is one phenomenon of existence that will continue to elicit many more attitudes since living is an experience in perpetuity among humans. While death remains a fact of life and imposes itself as a recurrent characteristic of all creatures, it often does not come as an experience in homogeneity. Death has different manifestations. And because it brings about the termination of series of experiences of people who have been considered the most rational of all creatures, it is often thought of as the beginning of another stretch of existence. Therefore, the Yoruba, both in their traditional and modern outlooks, have always explained it within their system of apprehending the cosmos. Hence, while birth is seen as the onset of life, death is taken for its termination. Since phenomena of life are meant to be interpreted and measured against human interest, death comes within the life purview of the Yoruba as transition. This perception has been influenced by diverse religious beliefs and cultural norms, though the Yoruba continue to hold on to their traditional cosmological belief in which death is a major factor in the system that the universe is believed to operate. Based on mortality which death encapsulates in living beings or organisms, the Yoruba take the world of humanity for a stage on which humans act different scripts which individual destinies represent. This symbolic way of seeing life has other variants among the Yoruba. In all, death is seen as the definer of human mortality which makes the Yoruba traditional view of life as stage and humans as actors and actresses fundamental bases for elaborate ceremonies that are equal to performances targeted at entertainment. The present study explores the conventional socio-cultural dimensions and the contemporary influences that shape Yoruba thoughts on dying, death and burial.


Death and burial Funeral Cultural realities Ancestors Modernity Yoruba 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishObafemi Awolowo UniversityIle-IfeNigeria

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