A comparative study of ancestor worship in Yoruba indigenous religion and sainthood in the Roman Catholic church

Adeosun, Deborah Ibukunoluwa (2015)



The study identified and categorised ancestor worship among the Yoruba and the veneration of saints in Roman Catholic Church in selected Yoruba towns. It compared the elements and discussed the similarities and differences in ancestral worship in Yoruba indigenous religion and veneration of saints in Roman Catholic Church. It also examined the significance of ancestor worship and veneration of saints to the spirituality of adherents in the two traditions. This was done with a view to finding comparative elements in ancestor worship and the veneration of saints in Yoruba Indigenous Religion and the Roman Catholic Church respectively. The study employed both primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary source included participant observation and semi-structured interviews. The interviews were conducted with five purposively selected ritual specialists from each of the cults of Egungun in Òșogbo and Ibadan, Sàngó in Ợyó, Òsun in Òșogbo and Morèmí in Ilé-Ifè. The selected cults of ancestors were chosen because of their prominence in Òșogbo, Ìbàdàn, Ợyó and Ilé-Ifè, which were core traditional Yoruba towns. In addition, two purposively selected Catholic priests and devoted members were interviewed in churches at Òșogbo, Ợyó, Ibadan and Ilé-Ifè. The selected towns had Roman Catholic Churches with massive followership, and their spaces were well adorned with images and icons of the saints. The differences in the number of interviewees in ancestor worship and sainthood was because there were variations in ritual practices in the ancestral cult selected while there was infinity in the practice of the veneration of Saints in Catholicism. The secondary source included books, journal articles and the Internet. The data collected were analysed using the sociological and comparative approaches. The results showed that there were two categories of ancestors in Yoruba Indigenous Religion which were family and community (deified) ancestors, and three categories of saints in the Roman Catholic Church which were Acclaimed, Canonized and Patron saints. The study revealed that ancestor worship and the veneration of saints were similar because they were practices aimed at seeking the mediatory help of the ancestors and saints. It also found out that both practices differed in terms of the relationship between the ancestors and saints, and their devotees. It further found out that the practice of ancestor worship and the veneration of saints was significant to the spirituality of the adherents because they strengthened their faith in both traditions. The study concluded that there were several comparative elements in ancestor worship and the veneration of saints which included belief, rituals, sacred objects and symbols, cult custodians, ties between the ancestors/saints and their adherents as well as speciality of the ancestors/saints in specific causes.