Some cultural practices among Yoruba market women

Some cultural practices among Yoruba market women

Sunday, October 22, 2023 12:18 am

Market women in Nigeria. Credit: Google

Market women in Nigeria. Credit: Google

By Korede Abdullah

The other day, I wrote that many Yorùbás are ìṣẹ̀ṣe practitioners by default, some people argued against my position vehemently. It was yesterday morning I personally witnessed a Muslim woman going to market to ply her trade as she does on a daily basis.

As the woman stepped out of her house, a young guy was coming along her direction. The woman had to turn back to avoid having any encounter with the guy and allow him pass before she could continue her outing. This is a woman who is very devoted to her daily five times Muslim prayers, with even a rosery in her hand!

The practice of not meeting a particular gender along the road is very common among Yorùbá market women. They hold the belief that the kind of person you meet along the road may affect your fortune and sales for the day.

Another practice I have noticed over the years among some Yorùbá market women is the practice of not mixing the money used by a particular gender (and sometimes a particular known person) if he/she happens to be the first person to buy items from such trader, especially very early in the morning. Some traders will say: “Ọkùnrin ò kìí sẹ̀ mí lọ́wọ́.”, meaning “It doesn’t translate to good sales if a man is the first person to buy goods from me in the morning”.

No matter the amount of the money used to buy goods from her, the trader will not touch it and will not mix it with her money either unless another gender (or person as the case may be) comes to buy another item from her and receives fresh money apart from the earlier one.

In fact, some market women can fight and curse you if you go to her shop with a big money denomination very early in the morning to buy little items with the intention of collecting change. For example, you want to buy salt worth of N50 and you pay N1000 so that you may collect change. The woman seller will not give you the change and will also insult you in addition that: “Má fi ori burúkú ṣẹ̀ mí lọ́wọ́ láàárọ̀ kùtùkùtù.”, meaning, “don’t bring misfortune to me this early in the morning!” In fact that’s tantamount to looking for a big trouble in the morning!

Another one is hitting the left foot against a stone while going out in the morning. Some people will go back home if this happens. The reason for this is that, If anything negative eventually happenes that day, it will be attributed to and blamed on the mishap of hitting the left foot on the stone in the morning, rather than the right foot, which is believed to translate into good fortune.

Finally, you cannot buy goods on credit very early in the morning, even if the trader knows you personally that you have billions of naira in your bank account. It is believed to be against the spirt of Ajé. Ajé is a god of trade and money among the Yorùbás. For example, if you want to buy goods worth of N20k (Twenty Thousand Naira), and you don’t have cash, you must drop some money before you can be allowed to go with your bought items, even if the money you drop is as small as fifty naira out of the twenty thousand naira. Wọ́n gbọ́dọ̀ ṣẹwọ́ láàárọ̀. Yorùbá people so much attach importance to morning. That’s the reason it is said:

Òwúrọ̀ l’ọjọ́,
Ẹni máa ríre
Kó ṣe ìbà Òwúrọ̀

The early morning makes the day
Whoever desires good fortune
Should pay obeisance to the morning.

The above situations affect both Muslims and Christians and they believe they have some repercussions if they don’t observe them. This is the brand of ìṣẹ̀ṣe I am talking about. Just as every ethnic group has their own cultural practices that define their being, it is absolutely impossible to separate the Yorùbá people from this intangible aspect of non-material culture.


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