Prostration among the Aku (a.k.a. Omo Oduduwa) and the biblical Israelites


Idọbalẹ agba ni iṣ’ọmọ lẹgbẹ keredudu-keredudu.

Respect for age is the fountain of blessings for youth.

Ifa proverb

Deeply ingrained within the tradition of the Aku people of West Africa is their unique way of greeting elders and the Oba (royal father; king) by the males, commonly known as doba’le (prostration).

This is a posture that involves falling flat on one’s face as a sign of respect and submission. It has been a peculiar part of the culture that any male that does not practice it when considered necessary is seen as very disrespectful and having shameful character and morals. The origin and reason may have been forgotten with time or perhaps one has to look at the root of the word doba’le and/or search deep within the Ifa literary corpus to shed more light on it. However, the practice is being watered down as a result of the adoption of oyinbo lifestyles from oyinbo colonialists and missionaries. Personally, I consider handshakes to be a candidate for consideration as a public health nuisance. Prostration is still observed by some Aku Christians during prayer and worship which he considers as normal instead of during special occasions, and in deference to an Oba. For females the greeting, also known as ikun’le, is done by bowing on one or both knees.

Interestingly, in the bible are records of many incidents in which greeting, deference and worship involved a similar or exact style of prostration. There are probably over a hundred verses from Genesis to Revelations where it is mentioned either as prostrate or fall on the face or bow to the earth or even worship.

However, it seems the people who call themselves Jews today and fraudulently occupy the land they call Israel only prostrate during prayer and worship while some do it on certain days. I am yet to come across any mention of the practice being associated with other activities like greeting elders including their priests, and non-religious events like weddings. Could the reason be that they are impostors and thus it was alien to them when they invented Judaism?

It is also alien to the Igbo culture of which some of her people have claimed to have descended from the Jewish tribe of Gad. Some Igbos have been reacting with condescension to the Aku for posturing thus in showing respect for elders. If these look with scorn at those who prostrate then how would they react to the biblical records of the patriarchs and prophets doing same?

I have more questions like

  • Are there any other groups of people within the Niger-Congo and Afro-Asiatic language families that practice prostration as part of daily life like the Aku?
  • Do the Lemba, Abyssinians, Falasha and other “African” Jews prostrate likewise?
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22 thoughts on “Prostration among the Aku (a.k.a. Omo Oduduwa) and the biblical Israelites

  1. Fascinating!

    I am Eastern Orthodox and we also prostrate ourselves before the Sacrament and facing East (location of altar) during Great Lent.

    The Coptic Christians of Egypt also prostrate themsleves. It is the only proper posture of those who would humble themselves before God. When in our bodies we finally appear before Christ our God none will dare to shake His hand.

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  2. From what I have read in the Bible, it seems that the Temple design included no accommodation for seats (pews). Worshippers stood and had room to prostrate in the presence of Our Father, unlike the design of perhaps many churches today. I wonder at times if we have perhaps today become lazy in worship.

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    • In the USA, many of the big Evangelical churches have areas set up like coffee houses and serve designer coffee before the worship service. These churches now find that some people come only for coffee fellowship. Comfort reigns instead of God.

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  3. The church that I have been attending in Nigeria of late has the altar situated at the west side. I’ve not been comfortable with it.

    In Genesis 18: 2, is it possible that Abraham’s tent door was facing the east, that the “three men” came from that direction, and that he prostrated towards toward the east?

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    • The east end of the church building is the traditonal location of the altar. The priest faces east with upraised hands, his back to the people. He stands between the place of God’s presence and the people as a symbol of Jesus Christ our High Priest and Mediator. The priest must therefore be pure and holy.

      Abraham pitched his tent between Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. It is possible that he was facing east. What seems to be more significant here is that his tent is between two sacred shrines, at the sacred center, just as the Tree of Life was in the center of the garden. http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2010/10/sacred-center-in-biblical-theology.html

      Genesis 12:8 says that Abraham proceeded “to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.”
      Bethel means “House of God” and is associated with the east, the direction of the sunrise. Yet we are told that Abraham pitched his tent with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. This mysterious orientation represents a reversal. The word Ai suggests a mystical explanation. In Jewish mysticism, “Ain soph” is Hidden God and “Aima” is great reproductive Mother. Ain is one with Aima in a mystical union that signals that something new is about to be born. This is the forward motion of Abraham’s life.

      Now we must remember that Abraham had come into this land as a stranger and did not possess a territory. In this vicinity was the Oak of Moreh near “the navel of the earth” (Judges 9:37). “Moreh” means instructor or diviner. In other words, Abraham went to the Diviner’s oak for guidance about how he was to become established in the land.

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  4. I hadn’t noticed this reversal until you mentioned it. I wonder what prompted Abraham to do such.

    What then would you say of Solomon’s prayer as seen in 2 Chronicles 6: 20-39, where he asks Yahweh to listen to HIS people when they pray toward the Temple like Daniel did in Daniel 6: 10-11?
    Is there any more need to pray toward the east or does Jerusalem apply to the descendants of Israel?

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    • Reversals are very important when it comes to understanding the Bible. The involve consideration of binary sets and gender.
      http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2010/08/gender-reversal-and-sacred-mystery.html

      Think of the 4 directional poles – moving from east to north to west to south and then rising to the east again. The power of God is seen in the rising. This counter-clockwise movement represents God’s sovereignty over all the Earth.

      Clockwise movement from east to south to west to north suggests God coming down, the Incarnation of Christ. We note that Abraham went south after he met with the Lord and received instruction from the Moreh. In those times, the prophet and prophetess sat at trees. Men at Oaks and females at tamar (date nut palms).

      The Ark represents God’s presence, between the wings of the cherubim. This is the sacred center. In biblical theology the sacred center is where God and Man meet. Solomon faced the Ark in prayer. The Ark’s presence in Jerusalem made that the ombligo (naval or belly button) of the earth. In recognition of this, Ezekiel rearranges the tribal territories and places the Third Temple at the center of the tribes.

      Earlier, among Abrabam’s Nilotic ancestors the middle of the Nile river was regarded as the sacred center spatially, and high noon was the sacred center temporally. So the most sacred place and time was when the Sun rested directly above the middle of the Nile. One of the oldest creation myths envisioned the first place in the world as a mound emerging from the waters of a universal ocean. Here the first life form was seen as a lily, growing on the peak of the primeval mound. The mound itself was named Tatjenen (Egyptian?) , meaning “the emerging land”. This older understanding is represented by the arrangement of tribes of Manasseh on the two sides of the Jordan river.

      http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com/2011/09/scatter-gather-motif-in-judges.html

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  5. I read the comments at the forum. Very interesting!

    I’m struck by the remark about many African peoples have a “semitic tone” because from my research I would say it is the other way around. Semites have a strong Nilotic tone, and my guess is that this is because the Yoruba originated in the Nile region.

    What do you think?

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  6. The oracles of God that Paul refers to in Romans 3:2 are still in use today by the Yoruba. Not all Yoruba were originally Yoruba but some were absorbed. An example is the Ijebu who accepted judges (who later became kings) from Ife, just like the Edo requested for a king from Ife as well.

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    • I read Romans 3:2 and found a references to “being entrusted with the very words of God.” I assume this is what you mean by oracles. I imagine that even these oracles must be tested to see if they be true. How are the oracles tested?

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    • The o in ro (think) is pronounced almost as in gold.
      As for oro, both occurrences of ‘o’ are pronounced almost as in pot. Oro does not just mean ‘word’ but ‘spoken/uttered word(s)’ because the word we utter descends from our hearts and then mouths. From the link I suggested it can be seen that our ability to speak is an implication of Olodumare creating us in HIS likeness/image. The Word is true and cannot be contrary to the Father, hence a man defiles himself whenever he utters a lie or an error, which is contrary to his being and not according to the image of IYE (Olodumare).

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  9. Yes the Egyptians are the first people history records who prostrated and supplicated themselves in this way – If you give me your email address I can forward to you pictures of this. Another point, both the Yoruba and Igbo tribes are the first Africans to walk back into Africa approximately 7,000 years ago – via Egypt and brought a number of ancient Egyptian customs with them.

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    • Which record is older than Ifa? Can you prove that the Egyptians not the Yorubas started the act of prostrating?the Yoruba and Igbo did not walk back into Africa approximately 7,000 years ago. It is very sick and racist to say that the Yoruba adopted Egyptian customs. Why not the other way round. I do not want to waste time proving that to you.

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