O level Notes : FRS - Indigenous Religion - Attire in Indigenous Religion

The interaction between religion, culture, and dress is fascinating. Dress can be a window into the social world, which is bound by a tacit set of rules, customs, conventions, and rituals that guide face-to-face interaction.

To many religious organizations, clothing is an important symbol of religious identification. The term dress as it is used here includes clothing, grooming, and all forms of body adornment. Dress functions as an effective means of nonverbal communication. 

Attire or regalia can be defined as ceremonial clothes, dresses and objects that are used in different ceremonies and times. They are a type of dress meant specifically for an occasion and they vary from men and women. The regalia used also differ with rituals to be performed and offerings to be made on a particular day. Different practitioners wear different regalia, for example, traditional leaders wear different regalia from that of healers. Traditional leaders wear dress usually made from skins of different animals, bones of animals and reptile skins. 

The regalia have a deep connection with the spiritual world and in most cases are acquired under a strict instruction from the ancestors. In some communities and families, the type of animal skin that is used as regalia is usually the totem of that family or society. The regalia is in different types for: 

  • The kings and queens
  • The traditional leaders
  • The spiritual healers
  • The warriors
  • Men
  • Women
  • Children 


Significance of regalia in indigenous religion

The regalia used in Indigenous religion is sacred and has a significance and there are myths and beliefs aligned to these. 

  1. a) The Kings and queens' dresses

The attire or regalia symbolise royalty, power and wisdom. They are seen as representatives of God in human form. Their attire is made from animal skins like the leopard, lion and others. Just like the animals are sacred, so does the attire they wore from those animal skins. 

  1. b) Traditional leaders

The attire symbolise wisdom and power. Traditionally, chiefs used to wear animal skins of royalty like kings but the difference is that they don't wear crowns. Nowadays, most chiefs wear hats and badges which also symbolise royalty. When handling different cases, chiefs also put on different attire, for example the attire worn when handling a civil case is different from that one worn when handling a criminal case. 

  1. c) Spiritual healers

As for the spiritual healers' attire, it is believed that it is the ancestors that chose the type of material to be worn. The ancestors appear in a vision or dream and give instructions on which material to be used. The regalia is usually made from animal skins, bones and bird's feathers. The dress is not woven by any person, but by people with spiritual and healing responsibilities. The healer wears different regalia depending on the rituals, ceremonies and prayers to be done. With modernity, most spiritual healers are moving from wearing animal skins but are now wearing dresses made from cotton and the most preferred colours are red, black, white and blue. 

  1. d) Warriors

Military men wore their own type of dress different from the rest. The regalia was made from strong animal skins to withstand the conditions of the bush where they operate from. They used shields and spears.