Magun in Contemporary Yoruba Traditions.

Author:Fabarebo, S.I.


Against arrays of contemporary issues bordering on politics, economics, medicine, education, etc., this paper makes a foray into Yoruba social cultural phenomenon-magun, a fidelity-enforcing device meant to prevent, expose or punish adultery of a paramour or the unfaithful spouse, or both. The mystical sex trap has been exhaustively dealt with in many works elsewhere (Rafiu, 2015, Adeleke, 2015, Fabarebo 1990, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000a, 2000b); thus, we will only focus here on the Yoruba traditions on Magun and not on its operation.

It has been stated in some quarters that the greatest snag in researching African Religion is its preliterate nature. However, even though the doctrine of the religion cannot be found in the form of sacred books, it is located in the whole of the African landscape, and it is written particularly in the heart of every African adherent. This claim is a truism in respect of magun. This no doubt has been responsible for the dearth of materials, information and documents on magun, up till date.

This bleak and demoralizing picture notwithstanding, it is heartening that information on African Traditional Religion is nonetheless siftable from the institutionalized devices for preserving and transmitting the beliefs and the practices. Thus, African religious facts are ingeniously embalmed in Art forms, Institutions and oral traditions (Ikenga-Metuh, 1987:20).

Of these three sources, emphasis and interest are focused towards exposing the beliefs and thoughts of Yoruba on magun as preserved in their oral traditions. In this respect, this paper intends to pry into their proverbs, chants, incantations, curses, prayers, songs, daily speech, folklore and contemporary films, which are the veritable vehicles of the authentic beliefs of the people.


The Yoruba are perhaps unmatched in Africa in the richness of proverbs in which all the beliefs of ancient wisdom and accumulated experience of most generations are condensed. "Proverbs are short sayings, full of sense which come into common and recognized use" (Ikenga-Metuh, 1987:12). They emanate from the people themselves and as such are a "true index of what a people regard as true, and are interpretative of their principles of life and conduct".

The quest for the peoples' assessment and appraisal of magun in their oral tradition begins with their proverbs. This painstaking attempt at discovering and gathering magunanchored proverbs has been understandably difficult, simply because of the dreadful attributes of magun, which naturally douse the flames of proverbial creativity in this direction. Our effort however has not been in vain, as a bountiful harvest of few but significant proverbs has become our lot. The Yoruba say, magun, "idekun afowofa eda" "magun is a self-inflicted snare". The Yoruba believe that the victims of magun are never innocent and that it is either the victim is an adulterer, or a member of his family sets the trap on him, for one reason or another. In other words, even the seemingly innocent husband who has been eliminated by a wife's concubine is not at all innocent because he made himself to marry a promiscuous woman, on whose account, he meets his fate. This filial connection implicates the husband, in that he married a woman whose immorality caused his death.

An interesting proverb has it that "A kii rojo pelu magun ka jarere" "A disputer in a case involving magun never wins". This is in reference to the popular conception of magun as an instant judge. In every case involving magun it is both a defender and judge, and it is usually the winner because the plaintiff would have been judged (killed) before the case is tabled for hearing. The complainant (victim) could infact have a case (where a man has been killed in a socially unapproved manner) but magun waits for no trial before delivering its judgement. Therefore, it is better to have no case with magun than to seek solace in justice.

"Ajoje eyi, ajoje tohun, ajoje magun kii se fun pansaga obinrin". We ate this together, we shared that together, ajoje magun (a silent magun) food shared by a husband and wife, to kill any other man, besides the husband (in sexual congress with the wife) is never for the adulteress". In dealing with magun, one should critically examine ones own moral qualities before going into partnership. Failure to do this could lead to embarrassment and unnecessary loss of human lives. In the case of magun ajoje, only the husband could sexually cohabit with the wife without violent consequences because of the immunity given to him as a result of the shared magun food. Every other man who attempts to have sexual relations with the wife is death-bound. Thus, magun ajoje is never for a promiscuous woman, for she will become a death trap to men.

A proverb about magun defends chastity and good moral conduct by stating that, "A kii gbe je, ka ma beru magun", we cannot be celibate and still fear magun. Only those who have a penchant for other people's wives need to fear being killed by magun. A sexually responsible man has no need for such fears, for indeed, "only the guilty hearts are afraid, since they are the ones that need judges". The potency and virility of magun is exemplified in another Yoruba proverb which says, "magun ki duro sara dake, abo ejo ki gbenu isa" magun does not reside quietly in the human body (male body) as a sliced snake will not remain still in a hole. Unlike the female, the first contact of a man with...

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