The Traditional Life of the Igala Tribe (Part 2 Traditional Practices)

Good day, readers. Today, as we delve further into some of the traditional practices of this unique tribe (Igala). We would be focusing on how the women in these Igala communities give birth to their children.


Of all the tribes prevalent in Nigeria, it is only but a select few, Igala inclusive, who had upheld their cultural heritage and its implications in an unwavering manner and this is precisely why this Middle-Belt region would form the basis of such back-breaking research work. The sacredness of their tradition to them is such in a way which need not to be overlooked.

Put in the fact that they are devout care-takers of culture, having being taught right from infancy what it entails to be an igala-born native. They might not be sanctimonious but the obeisance they pay to their tradition just about made up for their fallibility in that regard. Right from the art of child-birth, the ceremonial cognizance of tradition would begin for them.

Igala pregnant women

BIRTH RITES:(IBI-OMA) The systematic approach to this sensitive activity was rather explained distinctly by Okwoli, in a way that that suggested that the igala women, might have inherited natural mid-wifery abilities from their mothers past. This thankless task these women play can as well be synonymously likened to the significant roles the Igbo women folk play in certain western Igbo communities.

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“These women possess mystical powers protecting the obi and the town from any danger. Dressed in what looks like a small skirt reaching only to the knee, bare-chested body and faces painted with nzu, (white chalk) and adorned with charms, these women, past menopause, are revered in those western ibo communities.”
The Installation of the Obi of Igbodo
— Dayo keshi (Nigerian magazine, vol 53.) No 1 Jan-March, 1988

The depiction might be a bit dissimilar, but it all goes to show how women can equally affect certain traditions, in their own unique way in the society.

igala people

“In igala traditional communities, when a woman becomes pregnant, special care is taken to ensure the safety of both the child and the mother. Firstly, the husband sought the advice of diviners. The advice centered around the offering of sacrifices or making offerings to the spirits and ancestors.

Secondly, the pregnant woman is put under the care of a herbalist or a medicine man. The herbalist would ensure steady attention, giving her medicine prepared from roots and herbs in certain cases of severe attack by witches, evil spirits and sorcerers, the medicine ma would also prepare charms for the woman”.

In every community, there were women who acted as mid-wives. On the day of delivery, these women were contacted for necessary assistance. Women in difficult labour were usually asked to confess their sins. Sacrifices were also made to the ancestral spirits for safe delivery.

Women usually deliver at the back of their houses (ogwe). The ‘mid- wife’ performed certain rites when burying the placenta. Firstly, she would face the east and say , “ oma gbomu ata we” (child, you must obey your father). This is done thrice. She again would face the west and say, “ oma gbomu iye we” (child, obey your mother). This is equally repeated three times. The significance of this rite or ceremony is that from birth, the Igala tribe lay much emphasis on discipline.

After washing both the child and the mother with warm water, they are ceremoniously accompanied from the back into the house. On-reaching the door of the house, water will be poured out on the ground and the women will be asked to step on it. This symbolizes cleansing. The woman has to be purified or properly cleansed before she could enter the house.

Then, the mother and her child would remain indoors for thirteen days. The mother would only go out to ease herself or to take her bath. According to the tradition, titled elders could not see the child until the child is about two or three months old. The mother of the child would also not be allowed to enter her husband’s house until her child is about here months old.” — P.E Okwoli, The Pastoral Centre,
Diocese of Idah, Kogi state.


The women who had their say on life and child delivery reiterated the need to preserve the life of the new baby and the mother. Failure to do so, according to them, was very likely to have its harsh repercussions.


We value life and that is why so much attention is given to birth. We believe that the loss of any might incur the wrath of our ancestors and bring calamity unto us. Every woman is meant to preserve life and the continuity it brings. Normally, the process of child delivery would not take a lot of time because we are naturally skilled in such art”.
— Mrs. Adejoh Salime
Iyale, 2017.

The next article would focus on medicine and sorcery in the native Igala community. We hope you had a wonderful time reading through. Thank you!


The Author

Emmanuel Chinaza

Hi! This is Emmanuel Chinaza. A seasoned content writer on all things necessary(it just helps that creativity spurs me on) . An optimist who is very willing to take risks, a big fan of Marcelo Biesla. With my pen, i just might change the world and lest i forget, nothing beats a plate of pounded cassava and Egusi soup!

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