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The Elders’ TabooReligious and social taboos are usually borne out of a reverence for the God, ancestry, elders, the mystical or that which is simply internal. In these parts, such taboos encourage respect including shaking hands when greeting elders, looking into the eyes of deity or gods, killing of snakes in some communities, dropping of the Bible on the ground, among others. Religious taboos make the members of the society have a personal relationship with the spiritual leaders or the higher being. Taboos are prohibitions understood in a society and designed to regulate behavior of members of that society.When it comes to elders, top on the list would be God. Though not technically seen as an elder, he is the highest of elders. Thus, any attitude that speaks disrespectfully of God is often seen as a taboo. This will include calling his name in vain, using his name to curse, speaking to him as though he were human, acting unbecomingly or wearing inappropriate clothes in the gathering of the faithful.One critical religious taboo is handling the holy books with disdain: throwing it on the ground, ripping out its pages or using it carelessly. There have been quite a number of incidents involving such taboos, though some were colored with political undertones.For spiritual elders, it is a taboo to make jokes that are explicit in nature or speak all too casually with them. While a number of spiritual leaders would like to be treated as individuals first and foremost, the office they occupy precludes them from ‘regular mingling’. It is further a taboo to dress indecently beside spiritual leaders or speak disrespectfully towards them even if they appear to be wrong. When it comes to elderly people generally, in most parts of the country, it is a taboo to shake their hands without some slight bowing of the head or double handclaps, or a genuflection. In some cultures, men have to prostrate before family elders while the women kneel. Specifically, among the Yoruba it is a taboo to stand and greet very elderly family members with just a hello or to even extend a hand shake. If an elder needs to shake hands with a younger person, it is the elder that extends a hand first.However, the taboo that prohibits the casual greeting of an elderly person may be waived where the elderly person begins to act in a way unbecoming of his age. When that happens, the elderly person often loses his respect and no longer deserves as much respect.Another aspect as it relates to elders is the taboo of not looking straight into the eyes of an elder, especially when being reprimanded by the elder. However, in more modern times, not to look into the eyes of anyone speaking to you is seen as either rude or a lack of self-esteem.It does not seem that the prohibition against respect for spiritual or elderly people will phase out anytime soon, subsequently; we shall look at more intriguing taboos, their rationale and their sanctions if any.Author: Tubonemi – Nigeria

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