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Yoruba Symbols of Communication in the Middle Ages

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Yoruba of old used  the Aroko  system of symbols. Physical objects were used as  symbols and their meaning was shared among  people in communication with each other through a messenger. The response to the message was also sent back through a messenger.

Yoruba in those days used symbols to convey warnings, make a beloved one aware of impending threat, advise a lover of a break up or disagreement, advise family of a death. Symbols were used in every aspect of life

 

 

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A weapon wrapped in palm fronds was a warning  of  war

 

 

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A pile of earth wrapped in a leaf and sent to someone was an ‘invitation’ for the recipient to go into exile

 

 

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Palm fronds torn from the leaf were  used to disown a blood relative

 

 

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A fire brand would be laid at the  back door of  a man who was having an affair with the sender’s wife to communicate that the husband was aware and to demand that the recipient desist or face dire consequences

 

 

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Feathers were also laid at the door of adulterers for the same purpose as the fire brand

 

 

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Cowrie shells tied back to back was sent by a lover to  break up  a relationship with the recipient

 

 

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Two cowrie shells tied together with black thread signified an impending danger and was sent to advise the recipient to take heed

 

 

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Three cowrie shells wrapped in a leaf was a demand to pay up a debt or face consequences

 

 

 

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A comb for parting the hair signified the irreconcilable end of a relationship
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To signify a serious disagreement with the recipient the sender would despatch three agbaarin (a non edible fruit )

 

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Overbearing or arrogant characters would receive a pile of odan leaves at their door to request that they check their behaviour

 

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Kings also were not exempt. A king who no longer had the confidence of his people would receive a calabash of parrot eggs  as a message that his reign had come to an end. such a king was expected to commit suicide or submit to be killed by his wives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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