The Isoko Traditional Marriage Rites
Marriage is an important institution recognized by Religion, Culture, and Society. These three (3) pillars are well compensated for in typical African homes if marriage procedures and marital laws are adhered to. Speaking of Laws and procedures, the Isoko tribe, who are persons identified as an ethnolinguistic group inhabiting the Delta and Bayelsa states in the south-south geo zones of Nigeria, are people with unique traditions as should be, language, attire, food, and even marriage is spiced by these peculiar traditions enlisting them as among the major tribes in Delta state.
Culture when defined as a people’s way of life was very much intended to define unchanging diversity and societal embrace which can now be seen in intra and intercultural marriages and in this tribe, acceptance of the 1:2 ratio of the bride price to show no interpretation of discrimination hints, to a certain degree of inclusiveness of progressive intersocial relationships hence the possibility of marriage outside one’s tribe and the beauty of culture upholding traditions.
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Among these traditions is the Isoko marriage rite, one so distinct from several other cultures or general yet dignifying to a particular geography.
The ISOKO Marriage Rites
The marriage rite in Isoko has 3 major stages:
- the Disclosure
- the Yay or Nay
- the Bride price visit.
The Isoko tribe shares similar rites with the Urhobo marriage tradition and these two tribes are found in Delta state; in the south-south geo zone of Nigeria.
The Disclosure/ Knocking: this is the first visit, a quest for approval to the girl’s family, respecting culture by leaving a question of approval for deliberation. The Man visits the girl’s home with few family members to inform of their intentions.
During this visit, they are entertained by the bride’s family with kola nut and drinks (this is no gesture of approval, but a typical African culture of entertaining guests moreso, marriage knocking guests). The girl’s father, now aware of their mission, gives them an amount of money- a tribal compensation ritual for their troubles of locating his house. The man’s family in turn offers drinks and kola nut in response to the earlier gesture and then doubles the amount of money given to them by the bride’s father.
The Yay or Nay- an introduction: this is the second visit where the response to the first visit is given- a much-deliberated response of approval or disapproval. An introduction where the Man presents his gifts of drinks and kola nut to the Fiancee’s father and makes known his intention to marry his daughter (a reminder).
Already, enquires have been made, questions have been asked of the man’s family; of history, ancestral curses, and whatnot, therefore a premeditated decision had been made of approval or disapproval. The drama livens where the girl’s father proceeds to ask of the girl’s description- the Rachael whom such visit was for and the father confirms if he has such a child given the name and modest description.
The girl is called out. She is then asked if she knew the stranger in their home and if it is her wish to be wedded to him; if yes, gifts are presented and a list of items is given to the groom, of which he is required to provide before the next visit. This introduction is usually done in the presence of the man’s family members both paternal and maternal relatives- clear distinction is done at the introduction as to explain from which side of the family they stay related. A date is fixed for the bride price remittance when on said date, family dignity should be upheld for cultural preservation and an auction atmosphere should be avoided- tradition warns.
The Bride price visit: This is the last acquisition visit. During this visit, the now pronounced fiance and his family presents the items requested on the list which includes an amount of money. The bride price is then paid- usually a reviewed price of N500 for an Isoko man or N1000 for a stranger. Culture in no way interprets such concession as tribalism, in fact respect for one’s cultural demands should get you an 8/10 approval from the elders, the rest is up to you.
At the time of these three (3) visits, the girl remains hidden unless when called upon.