-By Michael EKOKORUWE:
Land snail is the common name for terrestrial gastropod mollusks that have shells. Typical garden snails are usually safe to handle and eventually eaten by many, but forbidden by majority depending on the reasons which majorly stern from traditional believe and general concept of the importance attached to it.
Not everybody finds the snail spirit animal pleasant, but it symbolizes deep and powerful things that can bring you good tidings. This group of animals are often completely misunderstood and now endangered, and at the same time it is an example of how we are dealing with our environment.
The starting point is therefore the immediate environment and direct experience of the people. A snail’s body consists of five main parts, the head, the neck, the visceral hump, the tail and the foot.
The aesthetic appearance and diversity of snail’s starts in opposition to their very low popularity because of tradition and custom believe of some communities in Isoko land.
When they think about snails, many people associate them with the endless fight against the seemingly invincible protection it has for the people due to popular traditional instinct of it been used during war period to protect and safe people from enemies as it was used to prepare charms for protection.
The relationship with this interesting and extremely diverse group of animals is often reduced to that of invincible protection against enemies. Snails can cause feelings of disgust in many people because of traditional believe.
Many communities in Isoko, particularly Ozoro, Isoko North local government area of Delta State, believes that the snail protects against enemies, because during the war period, it was used by a female traditional doctor as sacrifice to the gods of the land known as “Odimodi” to protect the people from enemies.
The tradition and custom believe also emanated from the respect and regard given to snail because of the symbolic spiritual freedom from enemies during war period. The snail is a sacred animal that must not be killed or eaten by indigenes.
According to elders of the land, if knowingly eaten by indigenes, the repercussion is death as the gods of the land will attack the person that violates, showing desecration of the land and sanctity of the people.
The snail if found during the day time by indigenes, the disgust filling and respect is shown by using any object to push it away from coming close, even as touching it attracts evil curse which if not immediately cleaned through the use of white cockerel leads to death.
The snail is forbidden by most indigenes of the community except few that had intertribal marriages. However, visitors and non indigenes are free to eat and can take the snail for sale to other communities, but must be collected only at night and taken out at odd hours.
Snails are not kept in the house and also forbidden by Oleh community indigenes, in Isoko South local government area of Delta state. The animal is not sold in the market neither seen around the popular area of the community.
According to elders, snail was used to express anger and insults as a sign of hatred. This eventually developed a disgust feeling on snail consumption by indigenes of the area and it transcended from that generation to this present generation.
The elders disclosed that during war period, snail was used to treat wounds and injuries of war with instant solution to victims of gun and cutlass bruises. The importance and respect for snail as animal that protects became intrinsically accepted and taken as forbidden to the indigenes.
This also create a popular believe that snail is a sacred animal that saved victims of war and must not be eaten neither sold by indigenes of the community. Non indigenes are however allowed to eat and collect for sale in other communities.
Most communities in Isoko North and South local government area forbids eaten of snails.
Similar reasons were given at Olomoro, Irri and other communities, saying the snail was used as sacrifice to “Odimodi” god for protection against enemies during war and therefore cannot be killed or eaten as food.
But snail is delicacy to other tribes as it is highly priced due to the rich nature of the collagen – rich mucus from the mollusks, which to some cosmetic firm are now more valuable than gold.
Snail is rich diet food to many others in eateries and many big malls. The snail is processed as food and sold either as meat or added to other processed food. Snail has become a necessary meat that is eaten in prepared soup mixed with vegetable in other tribes.
The demand for snail in such area has motivated buyers to move to Isoko communities as private market is created for non indigenes that scant for it during the night and sold secretly at designated locations.
A small bag of snail costs between N26, 000 to N28, 000 because of the market value cashing on global snail beauty market even as many people are doing snail farms because the competition is high both in price and demand.
Conclusively, majority of Isoko people forbids snail because it was used as charm for preventive measures during the war and generally accepted till date.
In some part of Isoko land, eating the snail as food does not kill but the desecration and anticipated fear of the unknown which the elders described as inviting the wrath of the gods constitutes danger and eventually forbidden.
However, non indigenes and few others mostly Christians eat snail secretly which according to them has no effect of any sort because they do not believe the traditional custom and danger’s inherent in eating of the snail as instituted by the elders of the land.