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bk Songs in Yorb Land

George Olusola Ajbd

This ethnographical work examines the Yorb concept of "bk" (lit. born-to-die)1 by analysing their songs. The
study begins with the analyses various "bk"names seen in their songs by looking at their interpretations from
sociological perspective. It delves into classification of bk among Yorb drawing line of demarcation from
varying attributes given as their characteristics for categorization. The paper discusses the social context
of bk songs in the Yorb indigenous religious system. It proves that regardless of Western scientific medical
justification that proves the non-existence of bk, The Yorb still believe in its existence up to the moment.
Though the context of bk songs and rituals associated with it had given way to modernization and foreign
religions. Still, the practices of domesticated religions-Islam and Christianity authenticate the Yorb belief
in bk syndrome. This work concludes with the examination of some bk songs by categorizing them into
Propitiatory, Incantatory, Satirical and Praise.

Introduction
Song is part of Yorb culture. It is a form of poetry or verbal art that has become integrated into their lives. Yorb
people love to express the intent of their hearts including thoughts or feelings of joy or of sadness in songs. They use
songs to express joy, happiness, sadness, protest, resentment, worship, invoking of spirits, among others. Many
scholars have worked on Yorb poetry especially songs. Among them are Olukoju (1973), Beier (1974), Ogunba
(1975), latunji (1982), Vidal (1982), Ilesanmi (1985), Agbaje (1995) and Akinymi (1998). Attempts have been made
to classify Yorb songs and the widely accepted classification based on utilitarian as criteria is that which classifies
them into religious and secular. This classification may not be regarded as all embracing; neither is it all
encompassing. This is because it is difficult to put a clear-cut demarcation.
bk songs fall into religious category. Though the songs of bk and rituals associated with it had given way to
modernization and foreign religions still the practices of domesticated religions-Islam and Christianity also
authenticate the belief in bksyndrome in Yorb land. A close observation of the prayers and deliverance services
of the African Indigenous Churches (AIC) proves that the Yorb belief about bk still exists. Many of their
prayers and deliverance especially for a barren woman or a pregnant woman focuses on prayers against bk and
deliverance from the spirit of bk. The idea of dissociating an bk andemr (yyo kr lgb) from their
heavenly mates in the traditional practice by the If priests is equivalent to deliverance from the spirit
of bk and emr by the deliverance ministers and preachers in the Indigenous Churches in the contemporary
society. They adapt this Yorb belief in order to fit the new beliefs. This idea of spirit-children among the
Christians in Yorb land is not limited to prayer and deliverance services, it is finding its way in the Christian
home videos. The Captive of the Mightyproduced by Mike Bamiloye, a popular Yorb Christian dramatist is a good
example that illustrates the belief of Yorb Christians in the existence of bk/emr even in the contemporary
society. Thus, it is a way of revitalizing the Yorb indigenous cultural forms.
Who are the bk Children?
Death is not a strange phenomenon among the Yorb. However, premature death is considered mysterious and
tragic. This is called k f. The Yorb belief that everybody is going to die is revealed in one of the sayings that
"wy k k s, run nkan lrmab" (trans. "Everybody born into the world is bound to die, it is only existence in
heaven that is permanent"). In Yorb society a bk child is that child believed to have been born and has died but

reincarnation several times and being born each time by the same mother or another depending on circumstances.
Therefore, when a woman loses her infant children several times consequently not long after birth, it is believed
that it is the same child that has come to the world several times. This belief in reincarnation is reinforced if the new
child bears resemblance to the deceased. Idowu (1973: 175) spoke about bk that:
There is a strong belief about another curious category of spirits. It is not certain whether these began as spirits of
deceased persons or not. But they are the spirits known to the Yorb as bk or to the Igb as Ogbanje: that is,
spirits 'born-to-die'. The belief here is that there are wandering spirits who specialize in the sadistic mischief of
finding the way into wombs to be born in order to die.
From the above, it is clearly evident that the concept of "bk", that is, 'born -to-die' children is prominent among
the Yorb. Not only this, the belief that some children are born to die is not limited to the Yorb people. The
phenomenon is also prevalent among the Igb people of Eastern Nigeria. It has also been suggested that "bk" are
wicked spirits who engage in the mischievous enterprise of coming to this world several times to torment the
parents by dying young.
Ladele et al (1986: 87) prove that "bk" are spirit children and that they are common among small children.
Furthermore, are"bk" believed bot God-given but that they originate from the Devil (s, the Yorb Trickster
Deity) with the covenant to trouble the mother who give birth to them in the world. Maduka (1987: 17) opines
that "bk" is an aspect of Yorb religion dealing with the beliefs in reincarnation and predestination. He
describes the "bk" as:
The child, who is generally a paragon of beauty, constitutes a constant source of anxiety to his/her parents because
of his/her idiosyncratic behaviour, which may manifest itself in any form of mental or physical illness. The parents
make frantic efforts to perform rituals (normally supervised by specialist priests/doctors) in order to break the bond
of kinship of the "bk" and the kindred spirits.
In his contribution, Maduka makes us to realize that the sadistic acts of these spirit-world children constitute a
psychological problem to the earthly parents. Not only this, their earthly parents take various precaution to prevent
further occurrence including visiting traditional healers.
Another scholar, Wenger (1990: 58-59) has also carried out studies on "bk". On them, she says:
bk are children who are so emphatically concerned with experience of their "playmates in heaven" (i.e. their
distracted subconscious emotional complexity) that they mostly die young, so as to return to them. But, they do so
only to long again for their earthly parents, allowing them to give birth to them again, only to desert them soon
again. One performs ritual to the sacred central instance of gb, where with one may find the remedy for this
calamity. One also inflicts scares on the little dead body, with which they are often reborn (as a fact). These scars
then help as a psychic focus in the forthcoming ceremonies, destined to make the mischievous "angle" stay...
According to (Hawley 1995: 30), bk are regarded as spirit children who are given special treatment such as
special jewellery and foods prepared to tempt them to choose life rather than return to their playmates in "heaven".
Abimbla (1995: 57) describes "bk" as a situation, When a mother loses her young children, one after the other,
she is believed to be troubled by a certain kind of wicked children who are born only to die sooner or later. Such
children are known as "bk"
Abimbla's explanation of "bk" also corroborates others' explanation on "bk" that they are special children
wielded with power to die and come again.
In this work it has been found out from If priests and traditional healers that there are different categories

of "bk". Not only this, they have been given various names that show Yorb cosmological beliefs about these
strange children. Looking at these various names that bk is called will shed more light on their personality and
attributes.
Appellation of bk
Apart from the common name "bk", there are about seven other names by which they are called. These are: -

Emr - The one who takes/uses the profit


Elr - The one who exhibits mysterious attitude
r igb - Mysterious being who lives inside the bush
Onpr - The one who repeats visits
gbrun - The society in heaven
sk orun - The Fairy beings in heaven.
Egbe we - The society of little children.
These are not ork (verbal salutes/praise descriptive poetry/panegyric) but proper names, though; they could form
part of theirork. bk is synonymous to the above names hence they are used interchangeably. They are also
called "r", which is a short form of r igb .
One could observe that these names give insights into the personality of the "bk" as conceived in the philosophy
of Yorb people.2 It is noted that "bk" children are from heaven or the spirit-world, who usually cause grief to
their earthly parents in the world by making them to spend their profits on unproductive ventures. They are also
seen as a formidable group or society in the spirit-world with the power to shuttle between the spirit-world and
earth whenever they liked with their earthly parents being the victims of their shenanigans. In fact, there is a
Yorb saying that confirms the people's belief that bk children have powers above that of traditional healers
and herbalists. "bk s olgn dk- herbalist turned into a liar by bk "). This implies that abk child is so
powerful that no herbalist can curb his/her powers.
Among the Yorb where this belief prevails, people are always seeking protection against this category of spirits. It
is believed that divination and certain rituals can curb them or prevent them from ever again attempting the prank
on the same woman. Even though it is difficult to curb bk from their evil acts, but sometimes, the spirit may be
made to decide to break the pact with its spirit companions and remain a human being on earth. Therefore, when it
is noted that any bk child has decided to stay he/she will be given name like: Kky (death rejects this
one), Mlm (Don't go back), Bmijk (Sit/stay with me) etc.
Classification of bk
The concept of bk children has faced a great challenge especially from modern medical practitioners. It has been
vigorously suggested that the high rate of infant mortality in ancient Yorb society was the influence of lack of
parental care and diseases including sickle cell anemia. This is contrary to Yorb world-view that is founded on
their belief and sociological experiences. From the data collected on this subject, the Yorb have classified
the bk into three types:

rn-s-n-dbk / Diseases turned them into bk.


j-s-n-dbk / Witches turned them into bk.
bk-gbrun / bk of the heaven's society.
rn-s-n-dbk are those children who die repeatedly at a tender age or those that die in the womb, at

childbirth or the stillbirth (sb).


This group also includes those affected by abortion and miscarriage. Those in this category are not regarded as
belonging to the spirit world (bk gbrun).
Witches are members of female secret cults who possess irresistible powers. They are believed to have power of
second or spiritual sight and are able to see the foetus inside the womb and inflict such with death marks. They
usually trouble people with different mishaps such as barrenness and pre-mature death among others (Thompson
1984: 74). They are believed to be the source of j-s-n-dbk children. Again, those in this group are not
members of children of the spirit world (bk gbrun). Their deaths could be traced to witchcraft through
divination.
The third category is the bk gbrun also called "bb".3 They are believed to belong to a strong and
unconquerable society and reside, meet and operate in and from the spirit world. They operate independently and
whatever effort made by their victims they would not stop until they are ready to go to somewhere else. They are
given various names to demonstrate despite for them and various "punishments" are inflicted on their corpses in
order to deter them from revisiting their victims. Usually, all these are to no avail.4
This categorization confirms that the spirit-world bk are those in the third category. Our analysis of bk is
worthwhile in that it shows us that the third category are the original bk in Yorb belief, those who are
wondering spirits, who have their company or cult. The songs would apply specifically to this category. The
categorization is also useful as it corroborates the claims of modern medicine to a great extent, confirming that
medical inadequacies might be the source of high or incessant infant mortality rate in particular families, among the
Yorb before the advent of orthodox medical care and among the poor households. But it does not nullify the
Yorb philosophy and belief in bk in their cosmology.

The Social Context of bk Songs among the Yorb


It is pertinent to know that there are three social contexts of performance of bk songs in the indigenous Yorb
society. In the past in Yorb land (and even to the present in certain remote places) sacrifice is made to appease
these mysterious children. A shrine is usually made for them in the bush in the outskirts of the town. In sogbo, a
community in sun state of Nigeria, there isbk shrine located in the main shrine of sun, which is the civil deity
of this community. It is called gb shrine as seen in the picture below.

A day is dedicated to bk children during the period they are worshiping npnn.5 They are also worshiped
weekly6 at the same spot with items like he-goat (bko), groundnuts (p), wine (ot), kola nuts (ob), sugarcane
(rk), bitter kola (orgb), alligator pepper (ataare) and other edible materials or food items. Their shrine is
usually made by If priests.7 Most of the bksongs are rendered either during the annual or weekly or periodical
worship usually by women who have been or still victims of their mischievous acts. Here we categorize them into
satirical, praise, propitiatory and incantatory. The reason why gb/bkshrine is located within the court of
sun is not far fetched. sun, the communal River Deity of sogbo community is a goddess associated with healing
all manners of paediatric diseases and sicknesses with her mystic water (Ajibade, 2003). Hence, she is praised as
the one capable of solving problems of barrenness, infertility and bk. She is praised in this manner to portray
this trait:
Ongb bk
Ongb rn

- the one who has the capacity to handle bk cases,


- the one who has the capacity to solve diseases,

rmi tutu sogn bk - the one who uses ritualised cold water to cure bk
Various songs have been developed among the Yorb to addressing the bk for the purpose of entreating or
warding them off. This is the second social context of producing bk songs. There are masquerades (Egngn) in
many Yorb communities that are used for the purpose of warding off epidemics and bane forces and spirits
including the spirits of bk. They believe that the deities (rs) and ancestors in the form of Egngn through
piety, rituals and sacrifices can help to prevent or avoid the wrath of bane forces in their communities. The deities
gives the benefit of sound health, wealth and blessings of children and at the same time they punish neglect and
breaking of social and religious taboos. This idea reinforces their attitude of venerating the deities and ancestors to
help them ward off the wicked spirits and powers that are inimical to their existence. During this kind of occasion
many songs are rendered the masquerades that is chorused by the spectators to ward off bk and other pernicious
spirits. The type of drum designed for the masquerade usually accompanies the song. But Bt drum is the
commonly used drum by many masquerades. As they sing they dance with the hope of being victorious over these
forces.
Another context of performance of bk songs among the Yorb people is during the preparation of a prospective
couple for the marriage ceremony. In the past among the Yorb, every step in marriage contract involves different
types of divination with the ultimate aim of enhancing peaceful and fruitful marriage. This divination involves
knowing through oracular consultation the type of person a prospective wife would be. If If oracle forecasts that
the would-be wife belongs to the children of the spirit world (bk or Emr) there is the need to undergo a ritual
whereby they will prepare a type of sacrifice called r k run literally load for the husband in heaven. The ritual
is to detach the born-to-die child from the assumed husband in the spirit world. It is the belief of Yorb that most
of these bk that are females are already married to their male mates in the spirit world ever before they were
born by their earthly parents. It is the belief that if the ritual is not observed the betrothed lady might die before her
marriage day. And that the spirit husband (oko run) might be tormenting her and consequently render her
marriage childless. It is also the folk belief that the spirit-husband will have sexual intercourse with her and will also
bear him children in the spirit world.
In order to forestall this the If priest (Babalwo) prescribes the ritual items similar to the aforementioned ones to
be offered to the sprit-husband and his other mates. These sacrifice materials are carried into the bush at the
outskirt of the town in a place chosen by If oracle. This is usually at the base of either Mahogany (rb)
or rk tree. These trees are believed to be the major meeting places of these groups of mysterious children. They
sing to detach the spit-child from her mates in the spirit-word as they carry the sacrifice to the chosen spot. The
parents of the bk may also join cults devoted to interventionists sacrifices and prayers (wre) meant to detach
the bk from the spirit-world mates. Another context of producing bk songs is during the bride rendition of
valedictory poetry- nuptial poetry. It is the customary practice among the Yorb girls during their marriage to
ritualise their parting with their kinsmen and women with the nuptial poetry. Some of the songs render by the bride
are for deliverance from this kind of wicked children who are born only to die prematurely. This is an example of
such songs:
Ire, n k n m fbk sw - pray for me so that my first child will not be bk,
Ire, n k n m y ns gn - pray for me so that I will not be numbered with barren women.
The havoc brought by women in Yorb society especially during the time that there was high rate of infant
mortality is enormous. In order not to suffer from their mischievous acts new brides make it a cogent prayer point
when performing epithalamium.
Here, a few bk songs are examined in order to bring out what they reveal about the cosmological beliefs and
practices of Yorb people of Western Nigeria.

Satirical Songs
Satire serves as corrective measure for people who are in dire straits of social misbehaviour. It improves the moral
standard that sustains the society. It expresses dislike for a particular deviant behaviour in a person, group of
people, idea, opinion and institution. This is concomitant to Gilbert (1962: 231) who maintains that satire wounds
and destroys individuals and groups in order to benefit society as a whole.
It is the belief of Yorb people that when they give certain names or make some statements to ridicule or lampoon
the bk it could help to discourage them from perpetrating their vices. Names in this category include ktnky (the dunghill has rejected this), Ksk (there is no hoe - to dig ground - for your corpse), and many others. It is
believed that open rebuke can make way for a change of attitude.
The Yorb placed much value on children as they despise barrenness and infertility. They believe that it is better
for someone to have bk than not to have child at all. This captured in the Yorb saying: "bk p jgn",
meaning, "Having bk is better than barrenness". However, bk are regarded as mysterious children and that is
why they are ridiculed. In a particular song they are likened to useless plants, which are found on human body.
They are found on human body because they are essential as children but they need to be ridiculed if this can
prevent them from embarking upon their mischievous acts. The song says:
r-igb dojm o, Pnt jmra db o
(Good-bye fairy being in the bush, good bye useless plants on the body).
A number of other songs also belong to this group of satirical songs. The essence of satirical in Yorb ontology is to
curb bad behaviour.

Praise Songs
There are songs that portray bk as special beings that need to be revered and worshiped may be if they are
praised they can change their attitude. One of such songs goes thus:
y r l r l dr
y r l r l br
yin br kra r yn
dr gangan blsin dgba
sin r o
r l sn
ni t sn
r tanra r j

-You saw the leader of r and you are standing.


- You saw the mother r you did not prostrate.
-You did not prostrate and live peacefully.
- You are standing as the horse rider.
- You must worship r.
- r must be worship.
- Anyone who refuses to worship.
- r deceives him/herself.

The above song is cryptic with meanings. There is a myth about bk that in the spirit world they have their society
and that their leader or mother called y r or y Jnjs coordinates the society. She is the one who gives any
of the members who wants to go into the world the permission to do so. Thus, whenever people worship bk, this
mother of bk is present with them to listen to their plea and might thereby show mercies on them. The song is
also revealing the power and prowess of bk and that anyone that refuses to hallow them could suffer punishment
and have no peace. That is why the call is made that "r" must be worshiped. The singers at the shrine
of r believe that the y r is present with them at the shrine that is why they made their requests known to her
though she is not visible. Another song in this category goes thus:
b r o
r, mo jb o
Bmd krin

- I pay homage to r
- r, I pay homage to you.
- When a child is singing.

A jb r o
r, mo jb
Aragb adamyy
Mo pal
Mo ss
M d mi lr
Fm mi fn mi

- He/she must pay homage to r.


- r, I pay homage to you.
- Fellow in the bush who is accompanied by plenty children.
- I've beautified the house.
- I've performed weekly ritual.
- Don't harm me.
- Give me my children.

Rituals accompanied by praises are of great importance in the worship of the bk children. This is because of the
peoples belief that the Leader of these mysterious children is at present with them at the scene. They will dance to
her, and make genuflexions to reverence her so that she can grant them their requests. It is a form of performance
that could be regarded as cult drama and each phase is symbolic. Till today, this ritual process of appealing to their
society in the spirit world for their favour and mercies is still in operation. It has not given itself to modernism or
technological inventions for people still hold reference to beliefs in mystical beings and powers. Even, the incursion
of Islam and Christianity has not succeeded in eroding this traditional belief from the people. Instead, these
domesticated religions reinforce it in some ways.

Incantatory and Propitiatory Songs


The next category of bk songs is incantatory and propitiatory songs. As noted earlier, the Yorb believe that it is
rare for the power of Yorb traditional healers to curb the activities of the bk. Therefore, they try to employ
incantations, which they believe can ward off these strange spirits. This idea is reflected in a song rendered by a
masquerade called JDK.8 This masquerade comes out annually during egngn festival in a town called
Ekosin.9 As the masquerade sings round the town many items including, blood of he-goat, groundnuts, wine, kola
nuts, bitter kola and honey. This pot will be thrown in a flowing river called gn, located at the outskirts of the
community. As they move round the town, these children will be singing after the masquerade thus:
Ll: n lbk l nl y o
gb: n llm jr m-n r
Ll: n lemr l nl y o
gb: n llm jr m-n r

Solo: Today, bk will cease from this land


All: Today, parents will have profit from their children
Solo: Today, Emr will cease from this land
All: Today, parents will have profit from their children

Though the above song is a kind of incantation, but it is also a form of prayers. It is meant to ward off evil,
including bk spirits, and to prophesy into the community that parents who have been suffering from
the bk menace would begin to experience the joy of parenthood. This is because the children would live to ripe
old age and succeed their parents. That children are expected to outlive their parents is further confirmed in
another Yorb proverb that says, "m k lyl, ni m sin l bm". (Trans., your rejoicing at the birth of a new
baby is not real, it is only the person whose children succeeded or who was buried by his children after his/her
death could be regarded as the one who has given birth to children).
If somebody lived to a ripe old age but his children had died while he was still alive - no matter the age of the
children - such person is not considered a successful parent. That is why everything possible is done in Yorb
communities to prevent premature death, which they regard as a bad omen. It is relevant to know that there is a
kind of link between masquerade and bk. The Yorb word for the masquerade is either egngn or ar
run (host/person from heaven). Similarly, the bk are called ar run.
Apart from this, the babalwo and Onsgn (Native doctor) who are exponents of incantations use the same to
ward off thesebk children. This they do as they carry their rituals to the outskirts of the town. This is contained
in Ejogb of Ifs literature. The ritual materials include: fifteen fowls, fifteen pigeons, sugarcane, grind dry corn
mixed with palm oil (dn), groundnuts, salt, pepper and bean cake. They put these materials inside new

calabashes and clay pots and it is carried to a dunghill where the ritual takes place. The If priest will be reciting the
incantation as they put the articles of rituals on the ground thus:
Ar run gb yw
b k r o
Ar run gb yw
Ar run pynd
b jogb m n mi r o
Ar run pynd
sk run pynd
sk run pynd
b jogbe m n mi r o.

Host of heaven consider this


This is sacrifice for long life
Host of heaven consider this
Host of heaven from him/her
This is jogb sacrifice
Host of heaven abstain from him/her
sk of heaven abstain from him/her
sk of heaven from him/her
This is the jogb sacrifice of my son.

The Yorb believe that the inner selves of these spirit children have control over their heath and their willingness,
either to live or to die. Therefore, the incantation-like song is used to address the inner selves (Or in) of these
spirit children in order to secure their lives.
Though the Yorb employ incantation as a means of solving the problems of bk in their communities, yet they
have found out that they need to entreat the bk rather than resort to force. That is why Yorb will say "b l
b sk", that is "the wicked person is entreated". This takes us to the last category of bk songs, the propitiatory
songs.
This category of bk songs reveals many things about them. These include their personality as spirits or gods to be
worshiped and propitiated so that they can show pity on people. They also reveal the articles of propitiation or
worship, and the nature and structure of their society. This class of their songs constitutes the bulk of the songs that
are sung for them. A possible explanation for this could be the inadequacy of using charms and incantations to curb
their activities. This is why some bk bear names that suggest they are being propitiated such as BLK10
(trans; the only thing left is to treat the child). One such song is rendered thus:
Solo
All
Solo
All
Solo
All
Solo
All
All

Ta l le sr na?
Maa ser
bk blj
Maa ser
kk ggr
Maa ser
Ow orp wwo
Maa ser
r l sn ni t sr tanra r j

- Who is capable to worship r?


- I will worship r
- (With) fat calf
- I will worship r
- (With) a tall or hefty fowl
- I will worship r
- (With) big plenty of money
- I will worship r
- The person who refuses to worship r is deceiving him/herself.

The above song shows that Yorb people regard bk as objects of worship. Also materials used in worshiping
them are seen mentioned in the song. These include fatted calf, fowl and money. Women suffering from bk
syndrome would present the items. Due to the special nature of these children, only special materials could be used
in worship and not the ordinary or regular ones. This is reflected in the adjectives describing those materials
including "fat", "hefty", and "plenty". The song concludes with an important warning that it is compulsory to
worship bk children who operate mainly in the spirit world. It is not that they are physically seen when called but
they are believed to be present at their shrine.
These children are regarded as mysterious and terrible and they can put their parents into shame due to
childlessness or grief over their loss. Hence they appeal to them in a song like this:
m m j n t o - Child, don't put me to disgrace
m gbb mi - Child, accept my plea
m m j n t o - Child, don't put me to disgrace

It implies that they need to be entreated so that they will not nip the joy of their parents in the bud by dying
prematurely. It is the belief of the singers of this song that the inner selves of the bk child hears the requests of
the mother and consent to them. Childlessness brings a lot of reproaches to women in indigenous Yorb society
and even till now. That is why a Yorb woman does all she could in order to have child that last. In the philosophy
of the Yorb people a woman is not seen as a bonafidemember of her husbands family unless she has child. A
typical Yorb woman would therefore prays that, K lrun j k n rd jk nil k mi -may God give me the
chance to sit down in my husbands house. Sitting down in her husbands house portends bearing children for the
husband that will make her to be well respected and treated as someone that has come to add to the numbers of
people in her husbands house. Another bk propitiatory song that portrays them as powerful individuals who can
show pity on their earthly mothers when entreated goes like this:
Lile:
M pal
Mo Ss
M d mi lr fm mi fn mi
gb:
M pal
y r mo Ss
Oj n rj sn
M dmi lr fm mi fn mi

Solo:
I have tidied up the house
I have performed rituals
Don't punish me, give me my child
Chorus:
I have tidied up the house
I have performed ritual, mother of r
An eye shows compassion on eyes
Don't punish me, give me my child

The above song is loaded with meanings. Apart from confirming that rituals and sacrifices are offered to
the bk children, it also reveals that they have mother in the spirit world called "y r".11 y r is believed to
be the one presiding over the meetings of the bk group in the spirit world. She is also regarded as having the
power to recall any bk who is over staying his/her specified time on earth. Due to this tremendous power the y
r possesses, those suffering from bk syndrome/disorder entreat her.
Since women are easily the most affected when their offspring dies, they are usually the ones worshiping at
the bk shrine. That is why the mother of bk is regarded as "Eyes" that should pity or have compassion on
"Eyes" which stands for the mothers ofbk on earth.
In most cases, all pleas, rituals, sacrifices and propitiatory services made are directed towards this mother of
the bk children. She is also called "y Olpde" in another song in Eksin.12 In that song, she is the
mother Olpde, the mother of born-to-die children who is called or entreated. The song goes thus:
Solo:
All:
Solo:
All:
Solo:
All:
Solo:
All:
Solo:
All:
Solo:
All:
All:

y Olpde
Ma, p
Ogn Orgbo
Ma, p
j ob
Ma, p
kuru wlm
Ma, p
bk blj
Ma, p
kk ggr
Ma, p
gb
y

- Mother Olpde
- I will call her
- (With) forty bitter Kola nuts
- I will call her
- (With) forty Kola nuts
- I will call her
- (With) fine bean cake
- I will call her
- (With) fat calf
- I will call her
- (With) a tall and hefty fowl
- I will call her
-Members of the society
- Mother.

From this song, different materials used in offering sacrifice to the mother of bk children in the spirit world are
mentioned. These are twenty bitter kola nuts, forty kola nuts, fine bean cak,13 a fat calf, and a huge fowl. bk are

worshiped like any other god or goddess in Yorb pantheon of r. The mother (Olpde) is considered
important and worthy to be called upon in order to show mercies on women suffering from child loss through
the bk syndrome. It is observed that women shoulder almost all responsibilities for child-care. That is why they
are found entreating bk children. It is believed that the spirit of mother r orJnjs is present at the place of
worship. Whatever ridicule cannot achieve; it is possible that praises can do.
From this song, different materials used in offering sacrifice to the mother of bk children in the spirit world are
mentioned. These are twenty bitter kola nuts, forty kola nuts, fine bean cak, a fat calf, and a huge fowl. bk are
worshiped like any other god or goddess in Yorb pantheon of r. The mother (Olpde) is considered
important and worthy to be called upon in order to show mercies on women suffering from child loss through
the bk syndrome. It is observed that women shoulder almost all responsibilities for child-care. That is why they
are found entreating bk children. It is believed that the spirit of mother r orJnjs is present at the place of
worship. Whatever ridicule cannot achieve; it is possible that praises can do.

We gathered from our field work that many Yorb people still believe that bk exist up till today and that when
they are properly entreated they will stay with their mother on earth. In sogbo, many of these children who
believed that they belong to this group of spirit children usually come together at the main shrine of sun during
the annual communal worship of this civil Deity to sing with pride that they belong to the group. Below is an
example of their songs.
A jogn nn gb
A jogn nn gb o
Olrs l jogn j
A jogn nn gb

- we have inheritance in our society,


- we have inheritance in our society,
- It is the btl worshippers that inherit the lead,
- we have inheritance in our society.

This group of women are still visible during the performance of sun festival in sogbo. It shows that the belief in
this mysterious group of children still exists.

Conclusions
This study examined the Yorb philosophical concept of bk by analysing their songs, which forms an integral of
Yorb cultural practices. The study has brought out the various names given to the bk and the meanings in
relation to their characters in Yorb cosmography. This work also attempts a classification of bk taken both the
scientific or modern healthcare justification and the Yorb biosocial into consideration. By highlighting the
performance of bk songs among the Yorb people, I extend the analysis beyond the text in order to include the
social context and extra-textual components such as the ritual objects. It also attempts a classification
of bk genre based on their attributes and identified the various categories of songs rendered to them. These are
propitiatory, incantatory, satirical and praise songs. The study showed that propitiatory songs form the largest
number of songs. The peculiarity of bk children as powerful and special children makes this possible. In
conclusion, the phenomenon of bk among the Yorb has not given way to modernism and domesticated
religions in their society; instead, they reinforce this belief in a different dimension, solving the problem with a
different approach.
AJBD, GEORGE OLUSOLA, PhD,
E-mail: solajibade@yahoo.com
Department of African Languages and Literatures,
Faculty of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State,

Nigeria.

Oral Sources
1. Pa ytgn E.A.100, Native Doctor (Onsgn) in Eeksin, Od-tn Local Government, un State, Nigeria. He was
interviewed in 2000 and 2001.
2. Mrs. Safuratu Ifdoyin 94, Olfin priestess (ylrs) and a singer of bk songs, ksin, Od-tn Local
Government, un State Nigeria. She was interviewed in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
3. Fagbade Aderemi, 41, If priest (Babalwo), kigb, in kigb/Il-Olji Local Government, Ondo State,
Nigeria. He was interviewed in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
4. Chief Ifayinka Isola Olutolu, 94, Ifa Priest (Babalwo), Abeokuta, Chairman, Traditional Council, Ogun State,
Nigeria. He was interviewed in 1999.
5. Chief-Ifaymi, lbuibn, 56, w of Osogboland, Oogbo, un State, Nigeria. He was interviewed in 1999, 2000 and
2001.
6. Chief Ganiyu Awotunde Agbaakin of If, 61, sanyn priest, Iyekere, Ile-Ife, un State, Nigeria. He was interviewed in
1999, 2000 and 2001.
7. Chief Adwl Ifrnwl gndran, 60, a Traditional healer and w of Modakk, un State, Nigeria. He was
interviewed in 1999 and 2000.
8. Chief Jwl Adwl wl, 55, Apn of syn, traditional healer, y State, Nigeria. He was interviewed in 1998,
1999 and 2000.
Mrs. Adenle Omileye, 59, Chief Priestess of Osun Cult in Osogbo, 1999 to date. She was interviewed in 1999, 2000
and 2001.

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Footnotes
1. In this work, bk, which is the Yorb word for the studied subject, is used synonymously as born-to-die
children. The plurality marker cannot be indicated. In Igbo language bk is called Ogbanje. bk is also
called r. [back]
2. People here refer to the informants who are mainly Traditional Healers, old people, and If Priests. [back]
3. bb is another names for a class of bk. Literally, it means died before another one is born. This refer to the
condition whereby a woman victim of bk will have a small baby and carrying another pregnancy but shortly
before she delivers the new baby, the small baby is nursing will die. The new baby will not meet the baby already
born. [back]
4. They also have society called "gb". That is why gb-related names such as gbbnmi-the society gave/dashed
me, gbfnmik- the society has given me this to nurse/pet, gbdnnn-Society is good to have and so on are
found among the Yorb. [back]
5. npnn is also called balay who kills children with small pox. [back]
6. Their own week is seventeen days. It means that they are worshiped on every seventeenth day in many Yorb
communities, even till today in many rural places. [back]
7. If speaks a lot about bk, myths of bk could be found in some If verses, such as fnrosn, Ogbs, rtk,
and so on.[back]
8. JDK means a thug. This is the name of a masquerade specifically designed for the purpose of warding off evil
from Ekosin Community. [back]
9. A Community is Od-tn Local Government, un State Nigeria. [back]
10. This is one of the names usually given to these strange children. It connotes that after several means of
sustaining a particular child after several births proved futile, the only means of sustaining such is by entreating
him/her. This is just to proof that these children have irresistible powers. [back]
11. If has said a lot about mother of bk in the spirit. This is covered by forth-coming paper by Ajbd G.O.,
titled "Ifa Myths of bk". [back]

12. Eksin as earlier pointed out in this work is one of the locations where this research was carried out. [back]
13. This cake is made from beans. It is the cake made from grounded raw beans without adding palm oil as in case
of Mn-mn. Potassium Hydroxide (Knn) is added to it. [back]