What is in a name… On names and Religion shaming


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Religion, shaming  is really a vogue thing to do and every religion is in on it,

When we were growing up as Christians, we were sheltered from the African traditional religion as much as possible. Our fiery Sunday school teachers unequivocal in condemning heathens as they were called, they were polytheists, the confused people who worshipped a gaggle of gods, while we were the Christians who worshipped only one. We were the people who were washed in the blood of the lamb, while they were he people who sprinkled, poured palm oil and smelly animal blood in their shrines and created a smelly mess.

But then I grew older and learnt some history. I came to realize that perharps my fiery Sunday school teachers were not totally correct, perharps they were so judgemental of the traditional religion because they had developed blind spots  to some parts of the traditional religion. I sympathized with the “religion of our forefathers”, but I did not switch religions. I saw no reason to. It is said that if you are with a brand, and no other brand has offered you superior quality, there is no need to switch brands. But I realized that my fiery Sunday school teachers were guilty of religion shaming. For a while I felt the traditional religions got a raw deal from Christianity, that all they wanted was  space to practice without being shamed, to survive. That it was the alien Christian religion that was shaming the religion of our fore fathers.
Then I read some more history and then I found out that the religious shaming is mutual, that the proponents of traditional culture and religion have taken to shaming “alien religions” and no where has this manifested  than in the traditional versus modern naming.  People change names because of religion all the time, mostly from traditional names to Christian names. Names like Jekayinfa become Jekayinoluwa, Ogundare becomes Olorundare, Ogundunni becomes Jesudunni and so on and so forth.

We love to bash the Europeans, for forcing colonialism and their religion on us. I have not come here to argue this. Europeans eroded our identity, shamed our languages, assimilated our beliefs and made us forget our culture. They should be blamed alright. However in our cultural and religious fervour, we tend to view culture according to the image created by modern pop culture. Many people, because of the fact that standard Yoruba is now a thing, believe that the domination of the Yoruba culture by the British was like a huge war, where the Britons stood on one side with their modern weapons and the whole Yoruba Kingdom stood to the other with their dane guns. When the British won this giant  war, they became lord and master of everything and they then proceeded to destroy a huge chunk of the Yoruba Gods and packed the rest abroad.
      However anybody who has spent considerable time in two or more towns  in different south western states will know that this cannot totally be the case. for example I was born in Ile-Ife in Osun State and spent the first twenty one years of my life there, till date I cannot follow a conversation in the Ife dialect for more than a few minutes before I get lost.  I recently attended an Ondo wedding one time and I discovered that there were plenty of things that were present, which we didn’t have in the Ibadan weddings that i am more familiar with.  Standard Yoruba makes it look like the Yoruba has always being an homogenous ethnic group. However what we now take for granted now would not have been easy for our ancestors of say three hundred years ago.Try and imagine the distance between, say Abeokuta in Ogun State and Ado Ekiti in Ekiti State, without the cars and the modern roads and social media, you will come to realize that the Egbas will not likely have much interaction with the Ekitis for example, at least beyond the  occasional trade and the wars.

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The point I am making here is that  what we often glibly refer to as Yoruba culture that we bash the Europeans for destroying, is less like an organized nation and more like several groups, each doing its own thing. So if the Europeans had not come, there will be nothing like a Yoruba nation, just a collection of communities who have little interaction with each other beyond trade and war, because they speak different languages and  have different customs.
Religion too is like that. A study of the Yoruba Orisa reveals that  a lot of the Orisa originated from specific areas, Sango for instance has become one of the most popular deities in Yoruba land, but it is said that he was originally an Alaafin of Oyo. When he died his devotees spread his worship all over Yorubaland. So in way the worship of Sango spread in the same way as Christianity, the only difference being that it didn’t come from across the ocean like the latter did. In other words an Ekiti Sango worshipper has no reason to condemn an Ekiti Christian or Muslim. Also given that Sango was human before he became a diety, the people who became his devotees were likely devotees of another deity (given that atheists were not common among the Yorubas or a least so we were told) which means some Fayemis might have become Sangoyemi and some Ogundejis  might have turned to Sangodejis at some point. So if Christians had not come, with their “Jesu-” or “Olorun-” or “Olu-” names, there would still have been someone somewhere converting from Ogundeyi to Oyadeyi or from Osuntola to Oguntola and so on.
    The point is there is absolutely no big deal in changing your name from Oyadunni to Jesudunni, or from Ogundare to Olorundare. Ogunyemi is not superior to Olorunyomi because the latter has a “Christian” prefix. Christianity has been assimilated into our culture just like Sango and Oya were assimilated into our “culture” when they died. So nobody should be made to feel like an outcast because He chose an “Olorun” or “Jesu” name. It is just like saying we shouldn’t use “Alùbòsà for Onions because it is not Yoruba in origin. Even the name Yoruba (depending on who you ask) is not Yoruba in origin. While this that does not mean Christians who are still belligerent towards people from other faiths are still not assholes, but all this god-shaming in the name of culture has to stop. If there is ever a complete dictionary of names like Kola Tubosun is doing here , No name, whether Ogun or Oya or Olu or Osun should be  discriminated against. A name so far it connotes something positive within a culture needs not be shamed.

For further reading
Daramola, O. And Jeje, A. (1967): Awon Asa ati Orisa Ile Yoruba, Ibadan. Onibonoje

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