Swem Is A Place And Not A Thing!
It is a Mountain in the Republic of Cameroon and not a pot or calabash or any other fetish object. Any person versed in Tiv history and culture will tell you that. It is Karagbe’s Swem (what is popularly called Swem Karagbe) that is a thing, an object, and fetish. The real Swem which is Divine and of God was displaced and replaced by this fetish one (and our traditional rulers are well aware of this). A coup d’etat was cleverly planned and executed by the enemies of God and of the Tiv nation when Karagbe replaced the original Swem with a replica. After returning from the errand on behalf of the Tiv nation, he told the Tiv people that he had brought Swem (their God) to them and so they didn’t need to go to Swem Mountain to meet God thereafter. This is the origin of the current object in the Tor Tiv’s palace called Swem (u Karagbe).
Swem is a replica of the Biblical Mount Sinai.
Mount Sinai was Israel’s place of meeting with God. It was a Holy Mountain. Nothing unclean could approach it and live. When the Tiv people came into present day Nigeria from Cameroon, they chose and dedicated Swem Mountain as a replica of Mount Sinai.
Firstly, it was to be a memorial and a reminder that they are descendants of Abraham. Secondly, it was to serve as the Holy of Holies where they will meet with their God: the God of Abaver (Abraham), the God of Gbirekper (Isaac) and the God of Iyorkor (Jacob). When the children of Israel were approaching the Promised Land from Egypt, the tribe of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh erected a similar memorial as recorded in Joshua chapter 22:9-32.
Swem mountain was revered by the Tiv people. Whenever the land faced drought, famine, war, pestilence or any serious adversity, holy men would be selected go to Swem mountain and commune with God and bring back answers and solutions. This was the original Tiv lifestyle. Why Karagbe (a Minda elder and leader of this group) turned back from this journey to Swem Mountain has not been clearly explained for historical documentation. I trust that it will be done under the current Tor Tiv.
The Tiv people have ever been a Godly, principled and God fearing people and never fetish.
Yes, their interaction with foreign peoples like Udam, Jukun, Etulo, Alago and others brought about significant corruption of the Tiv way of life. Intermarriage and trade began to erode the Tiv fabric and the Tiv began to imbibe strange cultural values. Highly demonic practices gradually but steadily found space in the Tiv lifestyle: Imbyor-ivungu, Girinya, Atsuku, Ivom-unden and several of these fetish practices and cults sipped into the Tiv fabric and took root downward.
Today, these have become venomous and perilous snares to the Tiv people. Karagbe’s Swem equally sneaked in during this dark period of Tiv history! The new Tor Tiv and the Tiv Traditional Council must take steps to vigorously return the Tiv people to their original cultural fabric and values that define the true Tiv identity!
History has full proof that the Tiv people had no gods or idols. They worshipped the One True God who they referred to as Aondo U Sha! (The God Above). In fact, the Tiv tribe is perhaps the only tribe in Nigeria that does not have other gods as part and parcel of culture. Witchcraft and magic and fetishism were abominations in Tiv culture. Culprits were paraded, punished, disgraced and banished where necessary. This is well known. How then can any knowledgeable Tiv son or daughter associate the Tiv people with cultism, fetishism, witchcraft, sorcery, magic and the like? They were and still are very un-Tiv!
The story is the same about what is today called Ikyarem (the snake). Originally it was Ikyarem (friend). Tiv people never worshipped nor revered snakes or any lower animal. There is no such reference in Tiv history or culture. It was Ikyarem (friend) that helped the Tiv people overcome that obstacle and not (Ikyarem (snake). All through Israeli and Tiv history, God would send an Angel (a friend: Ikyarem) to provide supernatural solutions to them. Ikyarem (friend) was changed to ikyarem (snake) to align with the new fetish Tiv spirit of the time. This Ikyarem (friend) symbolism also has Biblical roots. It was a reference to the Biblical supernatural crossing of the Red Sea and the River Jordan by the children of Israel. The depicting of this supernatural experience of the Tiv was another pointer to the fact that they belonged to Israel: a reference to their Abrahamic lineage. It had nothing to do with satan or snake!
It is my prayer that the new Tor Tiv will help our Tiv youth with the correct Tiv history so that they will imbibe proper values that made the Tiv people unique and awesome! Most Tiv youth in their 40s are appallingly ignorant of true Tiv history and culture. What they know is the jaundiced, polluted, doctored, and dismembered Tiv history and culture. Unless this is done and done quickly, we will bequeath the future of the Tiv nation to successors that have no true sense and grasp of the Tiv National Conscience! This will quickly lead to the Tiv Waterloo! Permit me to rest my case!
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