Yoruba gods and goddesses mesmerize ordinary people and scientists. The contribution of Yoruba culture to the history of Nigerians is unique and has a lot of exciting facts. Keep reading to get acquainted with Yoruba mythology, the most mysterious phenomenon of Yoruba culture.
The Yoruba are religious and liberal-minded people. A few are traditionalists, while most were assimilated into Christianity and Islam. Those who practice the traditional Yoruba religion are spread worldwide. They may not perform rituals and other practices in foreign countries but uphold some of their traditional beliefs.
History Of Yoruba gods and goddesses
The history of the Yoruba religion started in the Stone Age. Agriculture from the Middle East highly influenced the people to develop the religion around 600 BC. Initially, they represented their gods using elements of nature like rivers, storms, mountains, and forests. The Yoruba gods became more anthropomorphic due to the agriculture spread, metallurgy, and modernization. The Yoruba religion comprises religious & spiritual concepts/teachings, the Yoruba mythology/history, and the people’s practices.
The Yoruba gods and goddesses
The Supreme Deity of the Yoruba is called Olódùmarè. He is a distant god believed to live in the sky and the mightiest of the four supreme deities in the Yoruba religion:
Oludumare – the Supreme Creator;
Ọlọ́run – the ruler of the Heavens;
Olofi – the conduit between Orún (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth);
Nana Buluku – androgynous Supreme Creator.
Protectors called Orishas lead and control everyday prayers because they are intercessors between the world of humanity and the divine/spiritual world. Below is the Yoruba gods’ family tree:
The Yoruba Orisha gods and goddesses
The Yoruba creation story has different versions. Each confirms the Yoruba religion has many Orishas but offer different explanations regarding how they came to exist. Each one represents specific ideas, objects or natural phenomena.
The Orishas attend religious celebrations by possessing believers and making them go into a trance. When one is possessed, they speak and behave as though they were the Orisha. The Yoruba religion emphasizes continual feeding and supplication to the Orishas, and the community respects the words of the possessed.
The Orishas’ history based on the Yoruba creation story
Yorubas believe that Olodumare created the Orishas and threw powers of dominion into the air. Each caught powers that enabled them to participate in the creation and oversee different spheres of influence.
Olodumare created the Yoruba people through Oduduwa. Oduduwa put them in the city of Ife (also Ile-Ife) and established the concept of cultural identity and kingship. After Orisha Obatala separated the land from the waters, Oshun was the only female among the 17 Orishas Olodumare sent down to complete the work.
The male Orishas return to Olodumare to confess their failure. They told him that they ignored Oshun for being young and a woman. Olodumare sent them back to earth to apologize to Oshun because only she could complete the work.
Oshun finished the creation task and filled the earth with the gifts of beauty, fertility, love, and everything people needed to live. The Orishas give people Ashe/Ase (life) and Ayanmo (fate). One chooses their destiny before birth and reincarnates to achieve it in the next life.
Orishas omitted Esu (also called Eshu /Elegua; god’s messenger who presides over doorways, crossroads, and change) from their plan to overthrow Olodumare and rule the world. Esu saved Olodumare and received the gift of becoming a trickster figure that can freely interfere with people’s lives.
Olodumare stopped the rains. As a result, the plants died, and water bodies dried up. The Orishas wailed in repentance in vain. Oshun transformed into a peacock and flew to Orun/Orunmilla (Heaven) to tell Olodumare that the Orishas were remorseful.
She passed near the sun and lost most of her feathers. Oshun arrived at Orun, exhausted and ill. Olodumare released the rains, healed her, and appointed her as the only Orisha allowed to bring messages to heaven. The Orishas do not always cause trouble for Olodumare and are attentive to their responsibilities.
The story of Orishas, according to the archaeological history
The archaeological evidence from the West African sites states that Orishas developed between 500-300 BCE. The Orishas travelled to America and the Caribbean during the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which saw many Yorubas being enslaved and assimilated into Catholicism.