THE SYMBOLIC RELATIONSHIP OF THE MORTAR AND PESTLE: MYTH OR REALITY

 THE SYMBOLIC RELATIONSHIP OF THE MORTAR AND PESTLE: MYTH OR REALITY
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When you hear words like “my village people are at work” we all laugh it out like it is not real. Most people don’t believe our African tales by moonlight because it seems to be stories made for us to laugh.

 

We hear African stories on while certain things are done, what is forbidden to do and what is accepted in our African society. The mortal and the pestle are symbolic items in an African home. There is no home in any village, city or tribe that does not have a mortal or pestle. It is essentially the helping hand of the wife to provide a special delicacy for her husband. It is known to be a proper African traditional meal that gives the husband stomach satisfaction.

 

I had travelled for a friend’s wedding in Benin city. She is from the Esan speaking part of Edo state. After the wedding celebrations. The bride was given several gifts amongst which was a mortal and a pestle which will be used in preparing a meal of pounded yam with her husband’s favourite soup.

 

We all got to the park to travel down to Abuja. We boarded the bus and as the person was loading the vehicle, he drew the attention of the bride to the mortar and the pestle. He clearly stated that “he cannot put the mortar and the pestle in the boot”. We were surprised so we asked why and he said that “if a vehicle has a mortar and a pestle in it, the vehicle will not move”. We laughed at the statement and called it a superstitious belief. He later placed the mortal in the vehicle and requested for N10, N20 and N50 to put inside the mortar and the pestle was given to us.

 

We left the park around 10am. On getting close to Auchi, the vehicle developed fault. The driver asked all of us to come down from the vehicle. He was able to get the vehicle working and we continued our journey. We complained to the driver about not doing proper maintenance on the vehicle as it was an old bus. The driver claimed he had never had issues with his vehicle. The vehicle kept having issues till we got to a mechanic in Okene town.

 

While there, I suddenly remembered what the loader of the vehicle had said about the mortar. I drew the attention of my companions to it and they all said it’s a superstitious belief. The driver overhead us and said that he wouldn’t have carried us if he knew we were traveling with a mortar and we told him it was because of his poor maintenance of his bus.

The journey was not going smoothly as the bus was still having issues. On getting to lokoja around 6pm, we met a vehicle that left Benin around 12pm at lokoja before us. We had to conclude within ourselves that this was not ordinary. We called our elders to ask how true the myth was. We were told that two engines (mortar and the vehicle) cannot be in the same place. We were asked if money was placed in the mortar and we said yes. The bride mother then asked if the pestle was inside the mortar and we said no and she told us to put them together as they cannot be separated.

 

We started looking for the pestle and realized that the pestle had rolled to where the mortar was which confirmed the statement that they cannot be separated. We later placed the pestle in the mortar and coincidentally, the driver just finished fixing the vehicle for the 3rd time. Believe me not, we had a smooth journey straight to Abuja.

 

Here lies the question? Was the vehicle stopping on the road due to myth or as a result of poor vehicle maintenance. This belief is common among the Edo and Yoruba speaking people in Nigeria. The Yoruba people believe in turning the mortar face down when traveling.

 

 

 

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Anita Uzama

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