Orunmila, The god of Knowledge in Yorubaland

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Orunmila, The god of Knowledge in Yorubaland

Many years ago, even before the earth was formed, there existed people who, according to history, were the close pals and messengers of Olodumare (God). People like Obatala, Orunmila, Oduduwa, and Orisa-nla, among others, were with Olodumare while he was considering creating the earth and everything within it.

Although other religions have their own stories about the creation of the earth, the Yoruba Kingdom believes that the earth was created by the messengers of Orunmila and not by God himself, as claimed by those religions.

The Yoruba creation story claims that the earth began as a marshy, watery wasteland. Olodumare and a few other gods lived in heaven, descending and ascending on spider webs or chains. They come to Earth frequently, especially for hunting. Because there was no land, humanity did not exist.

When Olodumare saw that it was time for him to make creations that would live on earth, maintain it and ensure procreation, he was ready to send one of his messengers to survey, and he decided to send Orunmila (the god of knowledge) instead. Many years before sending Obatala and Oduduwa, Oludumare sent Orunmila to the earth with sixteen gourds of wisdom for him to swallow. When the largest of the gourds fell and broke into pieces while Orunmila was swallowing them, Olodumare told Orunmila to pick up the broken pieces, scrape the leftovers, and swallow everything, which Orunmila did. Following that, Olodumare informed him that he had ingested wisdom, which would enrich him spiritually in all aspects of his life and enable him to see beyond all of his peers in the spiritual realm.

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History has it that Orunmila spent about 400 years on earth without food because there was no land to till and plant food crops. Meanwhile, during those years, Orunmila fed himself from the air once a year by opening his mouth. He then returned to heaven after 400 years on earth and met with Oludumare.

Before descending to the earth, the power given to him by Olodumare allowed him to see what has happened in the past, what is happening now, and what will happen in the future. This ability to view the past, present, and future is still prevalent in Ifa (Orunmila) to this day.

Picture of Orunmila

Who is Orunmila?

Orunmila is the short form for ‘Orun-lo-mo-eni-ti-o-la’ meaning ‘it is only God who knows who will succeed.’ Also, his (Orunmila) other name is Baramiagbonmiregun. Orunmila is Olodumare’s second-in-command, and he stands alongside Obatala, both of whom are close generals to  Olodumare. Orunmila is a mystery Orisha who is constantly in favor of righteousness and goodness. Babalawos, who are his earthly representatives, are taught not to desire anything from the material world that might take them away from their path of Ifa and sully them as Ifa representatives.

Because of his wisdom, Orisha-nla took Orunmila with him to the earth to be his advisor and counselor—at the time, Orunmila was the oracle divinity. The objective of the message to Orunmila was to plant trees and provide humanity with food and prosperity. He gave the palm tree to be planted as a source of food, water, oil, and shelter.

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Babalawos are the earthly representatives of Orunmila and are taught not to desire anything from the material world that might take them away from their path of Ifa and sully them as Ifa representatives. If this occurs, one who has strayed from Orunmila’s doctrine undoubtedly will face the consequences, as all that he has obtained will be stripped away and he will be returned to his proper position as Orunmila’s student and therefore a servant of mankind.

The Ifa divination

Orunmila’s Visit to the Earth

Orunmila returned to heaven after 400 years on earth and met with Oludumare. Oludumare then dispatched Obatala and Oduduwa to the Earth by Oludumare. The cock that was used to construct the earth was given to Oduduwa by Orunmila. Orunmila descended from the heavens with the Ewon (chain) when the earth was created. Orunmila set foot at Oke Igeti, the location where the chain fell and Orunmila set foot.

History has it that when he arrived at Oke Igeti, the people of the community did not appreciate his visit. Orunmila was angry and wished for Oke Igeti’s stunted growth so that their compound would always be modest. Orunmila put Origi in Oke Igeti before he went.

Orunmila also traveled to Oke Ileri and other compounds like Ejio and Monliki after leaving there. People in these places did not honor Orunmila. Orunmila prayed once more for Oke Ileri especially for their compound’s stunted growth, that it would remain modest. Orunmila then delivered the Orisha Dawo to the people of Oke Ileri before he left.


Orunmila departed from there on her way to Oketase. The inhabitants of Oketase were ready for Orunmila’s arrival when he came. They sang, danced, and drummed in honor of him. Orunmila was content and settled in Oketase. Orunmila rose to the position of Oketase’s leader. Orunmila rewarded the Ope (palm tree) because he was the one who took Orunmila to all of the numerous compounds. Orunmila prayed that everything on Ope’s body would turn into money. Epo (palm oil), Ewo (palm wine), Ikin, Adin (black oil), Adiabo (cream), etc.

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