“Who are the “aka” Yoruba Series”
Series -part #3
“For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. (Luke 6:44)
Circumcision – a practice of the Children of Israel, including the “aka” Yoruba.
Part 3 of the “Who are the “aka” Yoruba Series discusses circumcision. According to the Torah (Bible), it reads: …2“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: ‘When a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean. 3’On the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:2-3). Therefore, the male children of Israel are commanded to be circumcised on the 8th day after birth, just like the Children of Israel. In fact, Continuum Complete International Encyclopedia of Sexuality, edited by Robert T. Francoeur and Raymond J. Noonan, states “Normally circumcision is done in the first 3 months after birth,…but, in Yorubaland, male circumcision is generally practiced on the 8th day after birth” (https://books.google.com/books?id=dciuj1-F3fYC&pg=PA771&lpg=PA771&dq=yoruba+circumcise+on+the+eighth+day&source=bl&ots=NszDRzZ8RS&sig=WXC-OCgg0kY94bL_86Dzp-SxZaw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4fq8VNqvCYS7yQS3sYHoBA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=yoruba%20circumcise%20on%20the%20eighth%20day&f=false).
The Patriarch Abraham at the age of 99 years was the first Hebrew commanded by YHVH to circumcise himself (Abraham), in Genesis 17:9-14 and 23-27 as stated: 9 God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your [i]descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your[j]descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 Andyou shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 And every male among you who iseight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, a servantwho is born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your [k]descendants. 13 A servant who is born in your house or who is bought with your money shall surely be circumcised; thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 But an uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” 23 Then Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all the servants who were born in his house and all who were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s household, and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him. 24 Now Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26 In the very same day Abraham was circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 All the men of his household, who were born in the house or bought with money from a foreigner, were circumcised with him.
In addition, the Children of Israel who came out of Egypt under Moses would have been circumcised during their captivity there. However, while Moses and the children of Israel were in the wilderness those 40 years, they did not circumcise their children. However, in Joshua 5:2-7 it states, 2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.” 3 So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at [b]Gibeath-haaraloth.4 This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. 5 For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6 For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, [c]perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 Their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua[d]circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way.
Now let’s do some comparisons of male circumcision ages and people groups, some researchers would conclude as the origin or ancestry of the “aka” Yoruba people in consideration of their adopted practice of circumcision:
People group Circumcision Ages
Children of Israel boys generally 8 days after birth
“aka” Yoruba boys generally 8 days after birth (within 3 months after birth)
Muslims males ages 6 to 7 years old ( ages greater than 1 year old)
Ethiopian boys 7th day or the 12th day of birth
Nubian boys’ any time from 40 days after birth to age 10 (between 3-5 years of age)
Ancient Egyptians puberty age virgin boys/pre-adolescent stage of a male’s life
In fact, in regions such as Kano, Katsina, and Kaduna, ethnic groups including Muslim Hausa, male circumcision is done at the ages 6 to 7 years, when it is understood that the male child would be able to endure the pain (https://books.google.com/books?id=dciuj1-F3fYC&pg=PA771&lpg=PA771&dq=yoruba+circumcise+on+the+eighth+day&source=bl&ots=NszDRzZ8RS&sig=WXC-OCgg0kY94bL_86Dzp-SxZaw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4fq8VNqvCYS7yQS3sYHoBA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=yoruba%20circumcise%20on%20the%20eighth%20day&f=false). A recent study of mothers of infant boys in Mysore, southern India, found that, as expected, prevalence was associated with religion, with 57% of Muslim boys circumcised compared with 2.5% of non-Muslim boys. The relatively low prevalence of circumcision among the Muslim boys in this study is likely due to the young age of the boys at time of the interview (90% of the Muslim mothers reported that they would typically circumcise their sons at age greater than one year) (http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/malecircumcision/neonatal_child_MC_UNAIDS.pdf).
Also, an early Masonic historian, Godfrey Higgins (in Anacalypsis London in 1836), writes, “Priest only of the Egyptians were circumcised”. Candidates for priesthood, and for circumcision, were usually chosen from among puberty-age, virgin boys. A more modern Masonic historian, Manly P. Hall, asserts in Freemasonry of the Ancient Egyptians (Los Angeles 1936), “In ancient Egypt learning was regarded as a high privilege and education was under the direction of a small number of individuals who were organized into bonds, pledges and vows of secrecy….(a candidate) having applied at Heliopolis, was referred to the Learned of the Institution at Memphis, and these sent him to Thebes (where) he was circumcised” (http://www.circlist.com/rites/egypt.html). Also another author writes, “the prevailing evidence shows that circumcision was conducted in the pre-adolescent stage of a (Egyptian) male’s life. This is borne out in textual evidence as well as in the examinations of male mummies. As with other African peoples to this day, it was not done in infancy but perhaps in some cases marked an initiation rite between boyhood and manhood. At the same time, there is no extant evidence that circumcision was required for all males; likewise, there is no evidence that circumcision was governed by one’s social class or status (Nunn 2002: 171) (http://ancientneareast.org/2014/10/31/nip-tuck-circumcision-in-ancient-egypt/).
Below you will find an image of Egyptian circumcision (Tomb relief showing circumcision, Saqqara):
According to the history of the Ijebus, “the Yorubas in Nubia were the nearest people to the Ijebus in Owodaiye. Even the Ijebus differ from the Yoruba in many respects. For example, while the main Yoruba group practice circumcision on both male and female members of the family, the Ijebus never practice it on the female members” (http://ijebumn.org/Ijebu_History.html). The Ijebu was a Yoruba kingdom in pre-colonial Nigeria. It formed around the fifteenth century on the orders of the Oba of Benin. And it is the largest city inhabited by the Ijebus, a sub-group of the Yoruba ethnic group who speak the Ijebu dialect of Yoruba. In Ipoti-Ekiti (Yoruba), male and female circumcisions are usually carried out on the 8th day after birth. Female circumcision is practiced in some areas and not in others—in Ondo, IIesha, and Ekiti towns, but not among the Ijebus (https://books.google.com/books?id=dciuj1-F3fYC&pg=PA771&lpg=PA771&dq=yoruba+circumcise+on+the+eighth+day&source=bl&ots=NszDRzZ8RS&sig=WXC-OCgg0kY94bL_86Dzp-SxZaw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4fq8VNqvCYS7yQS3sYHoBA&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=yoruba%20circumcise%20on%20the%20eighth%20day&f=false).
There is disagreement regarding female circumcision existence in Egypt, during antiquity. One author states, “try as I might, I could find no corroboration that female circumcision was practiced in ancient Egypt. Examinations of female mummies have not revealed evidence of circumcision (Aufderheide 2003: 474). What we can say with a high level of confidence, then, is that circumcision in ancient Egypt was a male practice” (http://ancientneareast.org/2014/10/31/nip-tuck-circumcision-in-ancient-egypt/). However, Strabo reports Egyptians practiced female circumcision, along with several tribes of the Arabian Peninsula in pre-Islamic times, as well as in Islamic communities from India to Morocco (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2799646?sid=21105719278143&uid=4&uid=3739256&uid=3739656&uid=2).
Nubians also traditionally practice male and female circumcision (http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2799646?sid=21105719278143&uid=4&uid=3739256&uid=3739656&uid=2 ) Nubian boys’ circumcision ceremony take place at any time from 40 days after birth to age 10, with the peak between 3-5 years of age (http://www.popline.org/node/518714). Furthermore, an Ethiopian boy is circumcised on either the seventh day or the twelfth day, depending on the region of Ethiopia (https://ethnomed.org/culture/ethiopian/copy_of_ethiopian-cultural-profile). Circumcision for boys and girls use to be mandatory for health, religious, and cultural reasons within Ethiopia. However, female circumcision in Ethiopia is gradually diminishing as people become educated about its negative health effects (https://ethnomed.org/culture/ethiopian/copy_of_ethiopian-cultural-profile).
It also needs to be stated that one author finds that female circumcision, also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), has never been practiced within the Jewish community with the exception for within the context of a small portion of the Ethiopian Jewish population who are, within which the practice has since virtually disappeared. Ethiopian Jewish population is one of a few Jews from African recognized by Israeli Law as being a “Jew”. “Aside from the Beta Israel of Ethiopia (the so-called Falashas) […] no Jewish community, in either ancient, medieval or modern times, is known to have practiced female circumcision,” he wrote. “The practice of the Beta Israel is simply part of general Ethiopian culture, in which female circumcision is widely practiced, and is not a relic of some long-lost Jewish tradition.” (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/181326#.VMg5vGjF91E).
Female circumcision (aka FGM) is practiced in many areas of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, and Australia, etc. It also has been used in the United States as a treatment for females. “Secondly it is a medical intervention, justified by Victorian (and, in the USA, some twentieth century) doctors in exactly the same way as they rationalised circumcision of boys: to deter masturbation, to treat obscure nervous disorders such as hysteria, neurasthenia and epilepsy, and thereby to promote health” (http://www.historyofcircumcision.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=category§ionid=13&id=76&Itemid=6). “In the USA, while involuntary female circumcision never became routine like involuntary male circumcision became, it was promoted and done by some of the same doctors who were doing it to boys” (https://sites.google.com/site/completebaby/female).
Female circumcision (FGM) also took place in the Middle East, including Israel. According to the journal article abstract entitled, Successful cultural change: the example of female circumcision among Israeli Bedouins and Israeli Jews from Ethiopia, finds the following: “Although it is most common in Muslim populations it is not a dictate of Islam. In the 1980s this practice was reported among Bedouin tribes, originally nomadic, in the southern area of Israel. Almost all of the women interviewed in the first study intended to continue the practice by performing FGM on their daughters including educated women who were teachers, dental assistants or university students. A second study was therefore done based in the obstetrical clinic where only women from tribes reporting to undergo FGM were examined for signs of FGM by an experienced gynecologist, in the presence of an Arabic-speaking female nurse and translator, as part of a gynecologic examination that was indicated for other reasons. In no cases was clitoridectomy or any damage to the labia found. All women had a small scar from a 1cm. incision somewhere on the labia or prepuce of the clitoris. This study concluded that the importance of the ritual in this population was unrelated to its severity. The ritual had apparently become over time a small symbolic scar, even though this population continued to believe in its importance. By contrast, a group of Ethiopian Jews who had immigrated to Israel was interviewed by an Amharic translator, and examined during routine gynecological examination in the same manner as the Bedouin group above. In Ethiopia, FGM is universal among Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups. All women interviewed reported that FGM was universal in Ethiopia, but none intended to continue this practice with their daughters. All stated that this was a practice that would be left behind in their country of origin. On physical examination many of the women had amputation of the clitoris. The conclusion of this study was that the severity of the operation performed had no relation to the social and cultural adherence to the operation, since the Ethiopian Jews who practiced a more severe form of the operation intended to abandon this practice while the Muslim Bedouin who had a much milder form intended to continue it. A follow-up study in 2009 of the Bedouin population of southern Israel has found that FGM had disappeared, both by self-report of women under the age of 30, and by physical examination of women under the age of 30 in an obstetrical clinic.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23314088).
Was the “aka” Yoruba practice of female circumcision adopted from any one of the above stated people groups as a result of contact with these groups? I believe the “aka” Yoruba adopted this practice as referenced in Psalms 106. Psalms 106:6-7, We have sinned [g]like our fathers, We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly. 7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your [h]wonders; They did not remember [i]Your abundant kindnesses, But rebelled by the sea, at the [j]Red Sea. Psalms 106:34-39, They did not destroy the peoples, As the Lord commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the nations And learned their [x]practices,
36 And served their idols, Which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and their daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with the blood. 39 Thus they became unclean in their [y]practices, And played the harlot in their deeds. Psalms 106:47-48, Save us, O Lord our God, And gather us from among the nations, To give thanks to Your holy name And [ad]glory in Your praise. 48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, From everlasting even to everlasting. And let all the people say, “Amen.” [ae]Praise [af]the Lord!
In this “Who are the “aka” Yoruba Series,” we have established that the “aka” Yoruba share four customs/practices with the ancient Israelites which are:
- Practice of ear piercing, as paralleled and specified in Deuteronomy 15:12-17 (posted in series part #1);
- New Moon observance as paralleled in Psalm 104:19;.2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 23:31; Numbers 10:10; 28:11-15; 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Ezekiel 46:1, 3, 6, etc. (posted in series part #2);
- Male 8th day circumcision at 8 days old as paralleled and specified in Genesis 17:9-14 and Leviticus 12:2-3 (posted in series part #3);
- Female circumcision as a custom and practice of Ethiopian Jews and as practiced in Bedouin tribes, originally nomadic, in the southern area of Israel (posted in series part #3).
We will continue to examine the “aka” Yoruba practices, customs, and traditions; and thereby, further document the ancient Israelite origins of the “aka” Yoruba, and the tree from which the “aka” Yoruba is cut.
Writer/Researcher ~ “Doc”