This article was written by Awo Fasina Falade in February 1995, and discussed on our Tuesday evening Class at the Ara Ifa Yourba Center in Leimert Park, hope you enjoy his point of view.
There have been many discussions about the Polygamous Society of the Yorubas’. If we are to understand the Ancient Traditional Society, we must rebuild or reorientate our thinking and not to substitute the dictionary meaning of Polygamy. We must also address the social conditioning of 400 years of separation from traditional values.
Firstly, this system isn’t a excuse for sexually promiscuous relationships, be it instigated by male or female. It is a system of developing family. Yoruba marriages traditionally, are the merging of families and not just the bringing together of a man and a woman. This is the reason the screening and dowries are part of the ritual. This is not the “Free and Easy” approach to marriage. If, for example, ones’ brother passes, it’s the responsibility of the next man in the family to support or provide for the wife and children of the deceased to maintain the family structure.
In our Social conditioning, we view things on a worldly or physical level and cannot see the important of “Spiritually Caring” for each other. Conditioned men use the term, Polygamy, to sexual exploit the mothers without respecting them. We find that in Traditional Society it approved of the multiple wives system, provided it was did in the open and not to the detriment of others. Without lies or deception. Most relationships in this Society begin with deception and then we sit back and wonder why we cannot have an enduring or secure relationship. Traditionally, there was also a multiple husband system, for a wife was free to leave her husband to take residence as the wife of another man, especially if the first husband failed to make her fruitful, but it had to be a clean break and in accordance with the custom which did not impose sanctions through the medium of high divorce fees or slander. This is not to be judged as adultery, which is not accepted in the tradition, but the right of the person to receive truth in relationships. Adultery is quite a different matter for this was a contract between God and Man, in which any individual culprit necessarily and automatically involved society-as the organic unit of which that individual is an integral part-in a crime against the gods and as such society became responsible and the punishment of the gods and as such society became responsible and the punishment of the gods would be meted out, not simply to the people involved, but to society as a whole. Again it’s necessary to be up=front in ones relationships or face the consequences of your actions.
I don’t believe that we have grown to the point of accepting responsibilities in polygamous relationships. Many who state that they are for this, get mid stream and reverse their direction. We must be sincere at the beginning of the affair and not to have hidden motives for involvements, e.g., money, titles, alimony, or sex, etc. If these are the motives they should be revealed in the beginning of the relationship and no deceit/lies. If the beginning is in this direction, not only will you have a lasting relationship, but be able to “have your cake and eat it to”, meaning that everything will be shared in harmony. Fasina 2/95