The language of libation rituals among the Efik

  • Eyo Mensah
  • Ekawan Silva
Keywords: Libation rituals, morphosyntax, spirituality, ancestors, Efik, traditional marriage, ethnography, objects


Libation rituals establish strong connections between the present (living beings) and the past (ancestors) as crucial components of African traditional culture and spirituality; they thus emphasise the belief in ancestors and man’s dependence on supernatural forces for existence, growth, and wellbeing. This article examines the language of libation rituals in the context of Efik traditional marriage from literary, ethnographic, and linguistic perspectives. It describes the form and style of language use as well as the structure (morphology and syntax) of libation prayers, which are coded in specific cultural messages. The study reveals that the ritualised and symbolic language of Efik libation performances is generally solemn, poetic, less manipulative and not structurally open-ended, and that though they may employ commonplace everyday narratives, they have pragmatic connotations that can broadly be contextualised and understood in terms of the values and belief system of the Efik, given their culturally-shaped meanings and metaphysical presuppositions.