3 Basic Concepts of Tiv Traditional Religion

Tiv religious thought is hinged on three basic concepts. These are Aondo, Tsav and Akombo — all of which work together for stability, harmony and communal well being (see Wegh 1998). Though Aondo is the Tiv word for God, the Tiv do not have a personal relationship with Him. As explained earlier, Aondo used to live nearer the earth but was forced to retreat into the skies after he was struck by a woman pounding food.

There is however a deep acknowledgement of the hand of God (Aondo) in the physical setting as in rain (Aondo ngu noon), thunder (Aondo ngu kumen) lightening (Aondo ngu nyiar) and sun light (Aondo ta yange). According to Wegh (1998 p.42) though the relationship between the Tiv and Aondo may seem “remote” to outsiders, the Tiv acknowledge that most of the actions necessary for the existence and sustenance of life are

carried out only by God (Aondo). This world view leaves the day to day regulations of relationships between individuals on the one hand and between individuals and the cosmos on the other hand to Tsav and Akombo.

Tsav is a reference to “a cosmic potency internalized in man as part of his personality” (see Rubingh 1969). Gundu (1980) has argued that it manifests in people in three different forms. The first and most potent form appears like the crown of a cock and covers the heart of the individual with “claws”. The second is a dwarf type with no “claws”. (Kpum utsa) while the third type is a small point projection from the heart which gives the possessor some awareness of the supernatural. This is called ‘ishima nomsoor’ (a man’s heart) by the Tiv.

Those who possess tsav are called Mbatsav (singular is Ormbatsav) and their activities are theoretically geared towards good governance (tar soron), personal comfort, security and communal well-being. Practically however, the extent to which any ormbatsav can be beneficial to society in the context of his activities is a factor of the type of tsav “growing” on his heart and particular akombo being manipulated at the point in time. This is probably why Bohannan (1965) argues that tsav is morally neutral and can be deployed for either good or bad. If deployed for good, society is assured of a potent social control mechanism. On the other hand, if it is deployed for evil individuals can be bewitched — leading to sickness and sometimes death. Other malevolent aspects include crop failure, bad dreams, ill luck, barrenness and the like.

The third basic concept in Tiv religion which is akombo can be defined as some unique mystical forces deployed to ensure a balanced and healthy tar (community) in which individuals are at peace with each other and the physical components of the environment are regulated and protected from “damage”. Each kombo (singular of akombo) is represented by an emblem, which could be any relic ranging from a potsherd to a carved piece of wood. Though an acceptable classification of the whole range of akombo is yet to be done here, the Tiv see akombo in two major categories. Category one is akombo a kiriki (lesser akombo) while category two is akombo atamen (greater akombo). Each ailment and socio-economic component in society has its kombo with full compliments of emblem and a structured process of “restoration” (sorun) when its foundation is undermined or violated by people who come into contact with it.

Each kombo has its master whose specialty is in ensuring a viable role for the kombo in the community. He does this by “restoring” (sorun) the kombo’s equilibrium if and when it is violated, thus, neutralising the damage that would otherwise have been visited on the violator or even the whole community as the case may be.