Nigeria have many different ethnics majority. So the first mythology that we will take that is from Nigeria is the YORUBAN MYTHOLOGY.
What are Yoruba ?
The Yoruba are the majority ethnic group living in south west Nigeria; there is a Yoruba minority in east Benin. They number approximately 20 million in all, and their language belongs to the Kwa branch of the Niger- Congo family. The Yoruba established powerful city-states in the 15th century, known for their advanced culture which includes sculpture, art, and music. The Yoruba kingdom was broken up in 1820 by an invasion of the Fulahs who captured the city of Ilorin.
According to Kola Abimbola, the Yorùbá have evolved a robust philosophy , in brief, it holds that all human beings possess what is known as "Àyànmô" (destiny, fate) and are expected to eventually become one in spirit with Olódùmarè (Olòrún, the divine creator and source of all energy). Furthermore, the thoughts and actions of each person in Ayé (the physical realm) interact with all other living things, including the Earth itself. Each person attempts to achieve transcendence and find their destiny in Òrún-Réré (the spiritual realm of those who do good and beneficial things, a place somewhat similar to the Abrahamic kingdom of Heaven). One's Orí-Inu (spiritual consciousness in the physical realm) must grow in order to consummate union with one's "Ipônri" (Orí Òrún, spiritual self). Those who stop growing spiritually, in any of their given lives, are destined for "Òrún-Apadi" (Lit. the invisible realm of potsherds). Life and death are said to be cycles of existence in a series of physical bodies while one's spirit evolves toward transcendence. This evolution is said to be most evident amongst the Orishas, the divine viziers of the Almighty God.
Iwapẹlẹ (or well-balanced) meditation and sincere veneration is sufficient to strengthen the Orí-Inu of most people. Well-balanced people, it is believed, are able to make positive use of the simplest form of connection between their Oris and the omnipotent Olu-Òrún: an adúra (petition or prayer) for divine support.
Prayer to one's Orí Òrún has been known to produce an immediate sensation of joy. Ẹlégbara (Eṣu, the divine messenger) initiates contact with Òrún on behalf of the petitioner, and transmits the prayer to Ayé; the deliverer of àṣẹ or the spark of life. He transmits this prayer without distorting it in any way. Thereafter, the petitioner may be satisfied with a personal answer. In the event that he or she is not, the Ifa oracle of the Orisha Orunmila may also be consulted. All communication with Òrún, whether simplistic in the form of a personal prayer or complicated in the form of that done by an initiated priest of divination, however, is energized by invoking àṣẹ.
In the Yorùbá belief system, Olódùmarè has àṣẹ over all that is. It is for this reason that He is considered supreme.
According to a Yorùbá account of creation, during a certain stage in this process, the "truth" was sent to confirm the habitability of the newly formed planets. The earth being one of these was visited but deemed too wet for conventional life.
After a successful period of time, a number of divinities were commanded to accomplish the task of helping earth develop its crust. On one of their visits to the realm, the arch-divinity Obatala took to the stage equipped with a mollusk that held in its shell some form of soil; two winged beasts and some cloth like material. He emptied the soil onto what soon became a large mound on the surface of the water and soon after, the winged-beasts began to scatter this around until the point where it gradually made into a large patch of dry land; the various indentations they created eventually becoming hills and valleys.
Obatala leaped on to a high-ground and named the place Ife. The land became fertile and plant life began to flourish. From handfuls of earth he began to mould figurines. Meanwhile, as this was happening on earth, Olódùmarè gathered the gasses from the far reaches of space and sparked an explosion that shaped into a fireball. He subsequently sent it to Ife, where it dried much of the land and simultaneously began to bake the motionless figurines. It was at this point that Olódùmarè released the "breath of life" to blow across the land, and the figurines slowly came into "being" as the first people of Ife.
For this reason, Ile-Ife is localy referred to as the "cradle of existence".
Olódùmarè is the most important "state of existence". Regarded as being all-encompassing, no gender can therefore be assigned. Hence, it is commomn to hear referrences to "it" or "they" (although this is meant to address a somewhat singularity) in usual speech. "They" are the owner of all heads, for during human creation, Olódùmarè gave "êmí" (the breath of life) to humankind. In this, Olódùmarè is Supreme
Perhaps one of the most important human endeavors extolled within the tribe's literary corpus is the quest to better one's "Iwa" (character, behaviour). In this way the tribal teaching transcends religious doctrine, advising as it does that a person must also better his civic, social and intellectual spheres of being; every stanza of the sacred Ifa oracular poetry has a portion covering the importance of "Iwa". Central to this is the theme of righteousness, both individual and collective.
An AlTeRnAtIvE VeRsIoN Of ThE CrEaTiOn
The Yorùbá regard Olódùmarè as the principal agent of creation.
In another telling of the creation, Olódùmarè (also called Olorun) is the creator. In the beginning there is only water. Olódùmarè sends Obatala to bring forth land. Obatala descended from above on a long chain, bringing with him a rooster, some earth, and some iron. He stacked the iron in the water, the earth on the iron, and the chicken atop the earth. The chicken kicked and scattered the earth, creating land. Some of the other divinities descended upon it to live with Obatala. One of them, Chameleon, came first to judge if the earth was dry. When he said that it was, Olódùmarè called the land Ife for "wide". Obatala then created humans out of earth and called Olódùmarè to blow life into them. Some say Obatala was jealous and wished to be the only giver of life, but Olódùmarè put him to sleep as he worked. Conversely, it is also said by others that it is Obatala who shapes life while it is still in the womb.
An Orisha (Orisa or Orixa) is an entity that possesses the capability of reflecting some of the manifestations of Olódùmarè. Yòrùbá Orishas (translated "owners of heads") are often described as intermediaries between man and the supernatural. The term is often translated as "deities" or "divinities".
Orisha(s) are more like "anamistic entities" and have control over specific elements in nature, thus being better referred to as the divinities. Even so, there are those of their number that are more akin to ancient heroes and/or sages These are best addressed as dema deities. Even though in the basics of things, the term Orishaentities, it is mainly reserved for the former. is often used to describe either of these loose groups of
|Orunmila||The Yorùbá Grand Priest and custodian of the Ifa Oracle, source of knowledge who is believed to oversee the knowledge of the Human Form, Purity, the Cures of illnesses and deformities. His suburdinate priests or followers are the Awos.|
|Èsù or Elegbara||Often ill-translated as "The Devil" or "The Evil Being", Èsù is in truth neither of these. Best referred to as "The Trickster", he deals a hand of misfortune to those that do not offer tribute or are deemed to be spiritual novices. Also regarded as the "divine messenger", a prime negotiator between negative and positive forces in the body and an enforcer of the "law of being". He is said to assist in enhancing the power derived from herbal medicines.|
|Ogun||The divinity of iron and metallurgy.|
|Yemoja||Mother of Waters, Nurturer of Water Resources. According to Olorishas, she is the amniotic fluid in the womb of the pregnant woman, as well as the breasts which nurture. She is considered the protective energy of the feminine force.|
|Oshun||Wife of the former Oba of Oyo called Shango (another Yoruba Orisha, see below) is said to've turned into a river in Osogbo. The Yoruba clerics ascribed to her Sensuality, Beauty and Gracefulness, symbolizing both their people's search for clarity and a flowing motion. She is associated with several powers, including abilities to heal with cool water, induction of fertility and the control of the feminine essence. Women appeal to her for child-bearing and for the alleviation of female disorders. The Yoruba traditions describe her as being fond of babies and her intervention is sought if a baby becomes ill. Oshun is also known for her love of honey.|
|Shango||Associated with Virility, Masculinity, Fire, Lightning, Stones, Warriors and Magnetism. He is said to have the abilities to transform base substances into those that are pure and valuable. He was the Oba of Oyo at some point in its history. He derived his nickname Oba Koso from the tales of his immortality.|
|Oya||The other wife of the former Oba of Oyo called Shango (another Yoruba Orisha, see above), she is said to've turned into the River Niger. She is often described as the Tempest, Guardian of the Cemetery, Winds of Change, Storms and Progression. Due to her personal power, she is usually depicted as being in the company of her husband Shango. Orisha of rebirth.|IRúNmôLè
Irúnmôlè are entities sent by the Supreme (Olódùmarè) to complete given tasks, often acting as liaisons between Orun (the invisible realm) and Aiye (the physical realm). Irúnmôlè(s) can best be described as ranking divinities; whereby such divinities are regarded as the principal Orishas.
The Yoruba believe in reincarnation within the family. The names Babatunde (father returns), Yetunde (Mother returns), Jabatunji (Father wakes once again) and Sotunde (The wise man returns) all offer vivid evidence of the Ifa concept of familial or lineal rebirth. There is no simple guarantee that your grandfather or great uncle will "come back" in the birth of your child, however.
Whenever the time arrives for a spirit to return to Earth (otherwise known as The Marketplace) through the conception of a new life in the direct bloodline of the family, one of the component entities of a person's being returns, while the other remains in Heaven (Ikole Orun). The spirit that returns does so in the form of a Guardian Ori. One's Guardian Ori, which is represented and contained in the crown of the head, represents not only the spirit and energy of one's previous blood relative, but the accumulated wisdom he or she has acquired through a myriad of lifetimes. This is not to be confused with one’s spiritual Ori, which contains personal destiny, but instead refers to the coming back to The Marketplace of one's personal blood Ori through one's new life and experiences. The explanation in The Way of the Orisa was really quite clear. The Primary Ancestor (which should be identified in your Itefa (Life Path Reading) becomes - if you are aware and work with that specific energy - a “guide” for the individual throughout their lifetime. At the end of that life they return to their identical spirit self and merge into one, taking the additional knowledge gained from their experience with the individual as a form of payment.
Ayao is a minor orisha in the Lucumi/Santeria pantheon. She is the orisha of the air. Ayao is considered to reside in both the forest and in the eye of the tornado. She works closely with Osain and is a fierce warrior. Ayao has among her implements a crossbow with a serpent, a quill and nine stones. She is commonly placed next to her sister, Oya or on the boveda. Her colors are brown and green.
Ayao's cult in Lucumi had been thought to be lost among various adherents. However, a growing number of olorichas have her in their possession. Some individuals remove the crossbow from Oya's crown and place it in Ayao's receptacle.
In Yoruba mythology, Egungun-oya is a goddess of divination. "Egungun" refers to the collective spirits of the ancestral dead; the Orisha "Oya" is seen as the mother of the Egun.
In Egba and Egbado area, as well as many parts of Yorubaland, Odun Egungun festivals are held in communities to commemorate the ancestors. Egungun masquerade are performed during these annual or biennial ceremonies as well as during specific funeral rites throughout the year. The masquerade is a multifaceted ceremony which includes the making of offerings as well as the honoring of ancestors for past and future aid.
Egungun performances organized for funerary purposes mark the death of important individuals. In this context, the masks reflect a creative response to death as a time of crisis involving mourning and loss. Elaborate performances serve to commemorate the dead through the remembrance of their past life while simultaneously reinforcing the relationship between the living and the recently deceased ancestor.
Among the broad range of themes incorporated in the Egungun masks are representations of numerous societal and cultural stereotypes as well as acrobatic images in which dancers turn their clothing inside out, in part to suggest the power and distance of the ancestral world. Entertaining satirical masks depicting animals and humans are performed during the masquerade and often serve as a social commentary on the life of the community.
Olokun is considered the patron Orisa of the descendants of Africans that were carried away during the Transatlantic Slave Trade or Middle Passage, sometimes referred to in the United States by African-Americans as the Maafa. It works closely with Oya (Deity of the Winds) and Egungun (Collective Ancestral Spirits) to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship, as it plays a critical role in Iku, Aye and the transition of human beings and spirits between these two existences.
Olokun is experienced in male and female personifications, depending on what region of West Africa He/She is worshipped. It is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. Its name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun).
Olokun also signifies unfathomable wisdom. That is, the instinct that there is something worth knowing, perhaps more than can ever be learned, especially the spiritual sciences that most people spend a lifetime pondering. It also governs material wealth, psychic abilities, dreaming, meditation, mental health and water-based healing. Olokun is one of many Orisa known to help women that desire children. It is also worshipped by those that seek political and social ascension, which is why heads of state, royalty, entrepreneurs and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers.
Oshun, or Ochun (pronounced [ɔʃún]) in the Yoruba religion, is an Orisha who reigns over love, intimacy, beauty, wealth and diplomacy. She is worshipped also in Brazilian Candomblé Ketu, with the name spelled Oxum. She should not be confused, however, with a different Orisha of a similar name spelled "Osun," who is the protector of the Ori, or our heads and inner souls.
Ọṣhun is beneficent, generous and very kind. She does, however, have a horrific temper, one which she seldom ever loses but which causes untold destruction whenever she does. Oshun is said to have gone to a drum festival one day and to have fallen in love with the king-dancer Shango, Undergod of lightning & thunder. Since that day, Shango has been married to Oba, Oya, and Oshun, though Oshun is said to be considered his principal wife.
In Yoruba mythology, Oya (Alternative spellings: Oiá, Iansã, Iansan), is the Undergoddess of the Niger River. Oya has been syncretized in Santeria with the Catholic images of the Virgin of Candelaria.
Yemanja is an orisha, originally of the Yoruba religion, who has become prominent in many Afro-American religions. Africans from what is now called Yorubaland brought Yemaya and a host of other deities/energy forces in nature with them when they were brought to the shores of the Americas as captives. She is the ocean, the essence of motherhood, and a protector of children.
In Yoruba mythology, Aganju is the Orisha of volcanos, the wilderness, and the river. He is associated with Saint Christopher.
As the third Òrìsà said to have come to earth, Aganjú is an Òrìsà of great antiquity. Lukumi followers of this religion believe that Aganjú is a force that, like the sun that is his symbol, is essential for growth, as well as a cultivator of civilizations. Like the volcano with which he is also associated, he forms the foundation upon which societies are built and is the catalyst for the production of vast amounts of wealth and commerce needed for advanced development. He is most highly regarded by Lukumi practitioners for his role in assisting humans in overcoming great physical as well as psychological barriers. Like the volcano, Aganjú is noted for his legendary strength and his ability to bring about drastic change. His significance in Cuba in the past is most probably due in part to the fact that he was said to have delivered people out of bondage and helped one to carry the heaviest of burdens.
Aganju is heavily associated with Shango, with some stating that he is Shango's father, if not at least his brother. Aganju has been associated with Oshun, with whom he had a relationship, as well as with Yemoja. He is associated with the shoulder and has a strong, powerful, and determined character. Being a recognised member of the deified royal family of old Oyo, he is considered "one heart" with Oya and is received by all of Shango, Oshun and Oya's followers.
In the religious system of Orisha worship, Babalú-Ayé is the praise name of the spirit of the Earth and strongly associated with infectious disease, and healing. He is an Orisha, representing the Supreme God Olorun on Earth. The name Babalú-Ayé translates as “Father, Lord of the Earth” (Idowu 1962:95) and points to the authority this orisha exercises on all things earthly, including the body, wealth, and physical possessions. In West Africa, he was strongly associated with epidemics of smallpox, but in the contemporary Americas, he is more commonly thought of as the patron of leprosy, influenza, and AIDS (Thompson 1993:216). Although strongly associated with illness and disease, Babalú-Ayé is also the deity that cures these ailments. Both feared and loved, Babalú-Ayé is sometimes referred to as the “Wrath of the Supreme God” because he punishes people for their transgressions (Thompson 1993:217). People hold Babalú-Ayé in great respect and avoid calling his actual name, because they do not wish to invoke epidemics (Idowu 1962:97).
His worship is widely associated with the Earth itself, and his shrines are often separated from commonly travelled areas. His ritual tools include a ritual broom for purification (McKenzie 1997:70), a covered terra-cotta vessel, and abundant cowry shells (Brown 2003:262-263). Usually considered hobbled by disease, he universally takes grains as offerings (Thompson 1993:216). Through divination, he often speaks to his devotees through the Ifá signs (Odu Ifá) Ojuani Meyi and Irete Meyi, though as a sickness, he can manifest in any divination sign. In cowry shell divination, he is also strongly also associated with the sign called Metanlá (13 cowries).
Babalú-Ayé is often considered the son of Yemayá and the brother of Shango (Lucas 1996:112, Idowu 1962:99). However, some traditions maintain that the is the son of Nana Burukú (Thompson 1993:224), a Fon deity added to the Yoruba pantheon, and associated with fresh water moving underground and inscrutable female power, but others assert that she is his wife (Ramos 1996:68). However, some ritual lineages maintain that Nanú, a strong, mysterious orisha, is the mother of Babalú-Ayé (Mason 2010). Because of his knowledge of the forest and the healing power of plants, Babalú-Ayé is strongly associated with Osain, the orisha of herbs.
While it is difficult to identify a precise origin for Babalú-Ayé, he has a long history both in Yoruba and Fon communities in West Africa. Widely venerated in Yoruba areas, he is usually called Shopona and said to have dominion over the Earth and smallpox. He demands respect and even gratitude when he claims a victim, and so people sometimes honor him with the praise name Alápa-dúpé, meaning “One who kills and is thanked for it” (Idowu 1962:97). In one commonly recounted story, Shopona was old and lame. He attended a celebration at the palace of Obatalá, the father of the orishas. When Shopona tried to dance, he stumbled and fell. All the other orishas laughed at him, and he in turn tried to inflect them with smallpox. Obatalá stopped him and drove him in the bush, where he has lived as an outcast ever since (Ellis 1894:52). Some people use this story to suggest that Shopona went into exile among the neighboring Fon peoples to the West of the principal Yoruba areas.
In Fon areas of Benin, the deity is most commonly called Sagbatá. Here too he owns the Earth and has strong associations with smallpox and other infections. His worship is very diverse in Fon communities, where many distinct manifestations of the deity are venerated. Because the dead are buried in the Earth, the manifestation called Avimadye is considered the chief of the ancestors (Herskovits 1938:142). Because all people live on the Earth, which makes our existence possible, and because Sagbatá is considered by many to be the eldest child of the Supreme God (Herskovits 1938:131), he is considered the most senior deity (in stark contrast to Yoruba notions about the seniority of Obatalá).
Manifestations in Diverse Traditions
Names of the deity, sacred narratives about his life, and ritual practices from both Yoruba and Fon origins travelled to the Americas with enslaved and free people. These differences play a significant role in the worship of Babalú-Ayé in the Americas today, where these ethnic and political identities are continued as the Lucumí and Arará in Cuba and as the Nago and the Jeje in Brazil. Babalú-Ayé appears in most New World manifestations of Orisha religion.
In Lucumí Santería with its origins in Cuba, Babalú-Ayé is among the most popular orishas (Mason 2010). Syncretized by some with Saint Lazarus, and regarded as particularly miraculous, Babalú-Ayé is publicly honored with a pilgrimage on December 17, when tens of thousands of devoteess gather at the Church and Leprosorium of Saint Lazarus in El Rincón, in the outskirts of Santiago de Las Vegas, Havana Province. Arará communities in Cuba and its Diaspora honor the deity as Asojano and claim superior knowledge of his rituals (Brown 2003:138-139). Both traditions use sack cloth in rituals to evoke his humility. The deity also appears in the Afro-Cuban religious tradition Palo Mayombe as Pata en Llaga or Kobayende.
Called Omolu, “the son of the Lord,” or Obaluaiyé in Brazilian Candomblé (Verger 1957:248), the orisha’s face is thought to be so scarred by disease and so terrifying that he appears covered with a raffia masquerade that covers his whole body. He also manifests in other Brazilian traditions like Umbanda and Macumba.
Themes in the Worship of Babalú
The narratives and rituals that carry important cultural information about Babalú-Ayé include various recurring and interrelated themes.
- Earth: Babalú-Ayé’s worship is frequently linked to the Earth itself both in Africa and the Americas, and even his name identifies him with the Earth itself (McKenzie 1997:417). However, he also said to provide his followers with other material blessings as well. Taken as symbol of a large set of concerns, Babalú’s link with the Earth can be understood as an emphasis on the centrality of the material in human life.
- Illness and Suffering: Long referred to as the “god of smallpox,” Babalú certainly links back to disease in the body and the changes it brings (Wenger 1983:168). Because Babalú-Ayé both punishes people with illness and rewards them with health, his stories and ceremonies often deal with the body as a central locus of experience for both human limitations and divine power. Similarly, his mythical lameness evokes the idea of living in a constant state of limitation and physical pain, while people appeal to him to protect them from disease.
- The Permeable Nature of Things: In the Americas, Babalú-Ayé vessels always have various holes in their lids, allowing offerings to enter but also symbolizing the difficulty in containing illness completely. These holes are often explicitly compared to sores that pock the orisha’s skin (Brown 2003:263). This permeability also appears in the sack cloth and raffia fringe called mariwó used to dress the orisha. Things inside move out and things outside move in.
- Secrecy and Revelation: The contrast between silence and speech, darkness, and light, and secrecy and revelation permeate the worship of Babalú-Ayé. According to the tradition, certain things must remain secret to sustain their ritual power or their healthy function. In turn inappropriate revelation leads to illness and other negative manifestations (Buckley 1985). Conversely the appropriate revelation of information can provide important teaching and guidance.
- Wickedness and Righteousness: Represented in sacred narratives as a transgressor in some instances, Babalú-Ayé himself is condemned to exile because he breaks the social contract . The physical pain of his lame leg transforms into the emotional pain of exile. Only after spending much time in isolation does he return to society. In other contexts, he is lauded as the most righteous of all the orishas. Similarly he is often referred to as punishing the offense of human beings (Idowu 1962:97).
- Exile and Movement: Strongly associated with the forest and the road itself, the key stories and ceremonies related to Babalú-Ayé involve movement as an antidote to stagnation. In Lucumí and Arará ceremonies in Cuba, his vessel is ritually moved from place to place in important initiations. But through this movement through different spaces, Babalú-Ayé regularly appears as a complex, even liminal, figure who unites various realms. Strongly associated with powerful herbs used for poisons and panaceas, he is sometimes associated with Osain and the powerful acts of magicians. Strongly associated with the Earth and the ancestors buried within it, he is sometimes ritually honored with the dead (Herskovits 1938, Vol. 2:142). At the same time, he is widely included as an orisha or a fodun, as the Arará traditionally call their deities in Cuba (Mason 2009). Similarly the dogs strongly associated with Babalú move from the house, to the street, to the forest and back with relative facility. In Lucumí traditions, Babalú-Ayé is said to have traveled from the land of the Lucumí to the land of the neighboring Arará. Babalú-Ayé transcends various domains, often separated in other contexts, and thus asserts a near universal authority.
- Death and resurrection: Last but not least, Babalú-Ayé's own journey of exile, debilitation, and finally restoration addresses the cyclic nature of all life. While this theme of transcendence plays a much more prominent role in the Americas than in West Africa, it is also present there in narratives about epidemics befalling kings and kingdoms, only to find relief and remedy in Babalú-Ayé (Idowu 1962:99; Mason 2010).
In the Yoruba religion of Benin, a Kokou is one of the most highly feared warrior Undergods. It is the most violent and powerful of the Yoruba spirits and the voodoo rituals surrounding it involves its followers to fall into a deep trance with rapidly beating drums. Once possessed by the spirit, the body in which the Kokou inhabits may remain in a trance all day and in due course demonstrate a thirst for blood with glass bottles and knives, swallow sharp objects or repeatedly beat its head against the wall until it bleeds profusively, revealing a high tolerance to pain.
One who fails to respect the Kokou during a ceremonial trance may have a sacred calabash placed on their heads until it becomes excessively heavy.
In Ile Ife: the dying and rising divinity
According to mythical stories Obatala is the eldest of all orisha and was granted authority to create the earth. Before he could return to heaven and report to Olodumare however, his rival Oduduwa (also called Oduwa, Oodua, Odudua or Eleduwa) and younger brother usurped his position by taking the satchel and created in his stead the earth on the Primeval Ocean. A great feud ensued between the two that is re-enacted every year in the Itapa festival in Ile Ife, Nigeria. Ultimately, Oduduwa and his sons were able to rule with Obatala's reluctant consent. It appears from the cult dramas of the Itapa festival that Obatala was a dying and rising god. He left his Temple in the town on the seventh day of the festival, stayed in his grove outside the town on the eighth day and returned in a great procession to his Temple on the ninth day. The three days rythm of descent into the netherworld and subsequent resurrection on the third day shows the closeness of Obatala to the pre-canonical Israelite Yahweh and the mythologicized figure of Jesus..
In Ifa: essence of clarity
In Ifa, Obatala energy is the essence of Clarity. Within the myriad of kaleidoscopic energies that comprise our universe, the energy of Clarity is critically important. It is Clarity that allows us to make the right decisions, to differentiate right from wrong and perhaps most importantly, to see the other energies as they truly are! All the tales, or pataki, of Obatala, are designed to illuminate this reality.
Oral history of the Oyo-Yoruba recounts the coming of Oduduwa from the east, sometimes understood by some sources as the "vicinity" of Mecca, but more likely signifying the region of Ekiti and Okun sub-communities in northeastern Yorubaland/central Nigeria. Ekiti is near the confluence of the Niger and Benue rivers, and is where the Yoruba language is presumed to have separated from related ethno-linguistic groupings like Igala, Igbo, and Edo.
When Oduduwa arrived ancient Ife, he and his group are believed to have conquered the component communities and to have evolved the palace structure with its effective centralized power and dynasty. Going by the tribal records, he is commonly refered to as the first Ooni of Ife and progenitor of the Yoruba people.
Some oral traditions claim that Oduduwa was Olodumare's favourite orisha, and as such was sent from heaven to create the earth. This is generally seen as the Ife-Yoruba version of events, and is described in detail below.
There is much controversy concerning him and his place in the Yoruba pantheon, and consensus on the subject is as elusive as it is with any other "creation myth". However, the Ife are known for telling the following story:
A certain number of divinities were to accomplish the task of helping earth develop its crust. On one of these visits Obatala, the Great Spirit, took to the stage equipped with a mollusk that held in its shell some form of soil; two winged beasts and some cloth like material. Having made palm wine from the palm trees he caused to grow after shaping the planet, he began to drink ; soon falling into a drunken stupor, he was unable to accomplish the task he was originally given. Olodumare then sent Oduduwa to save what was left of the mission. When Oduduwa found the Obatala in a "tipsy" state, he simply took over and completed the tasks. The place which he leaped onto from the heavens and which he redeemed from the water to become land was named Ile-Ife and is now considered the sacred and spiritual heart of Yorubaland. Due to this experience, Obatala is said to have subsequently made it a taboo for any of his devotees to drink palm wine. Forgiven by Olodumare, he was later given the responsibility of molding the physical bodies of human beings; the making of land in this story is said to be a symbolic reference to the founding of the Yoruba kingdoms, and this is why Oduduwa is credited with the achievement.
In Yoruba religion, Ogun is a primordial Orisha whose first appearance was as a hunter named Tobe Ode. He is said to be the first of the Orisha to descend to the realm of Ile Aiye or the earth to find suitable habitation for future human life. In commemoration of this, one of his praise names is Osin Imole or the "first of the primordial Orisha to come to Earth". He is celebrated in places like Ekiti, Oyo and Ondo States. He is believed by his followers to have wo ile sun, which means to have disappearde into the earth surface instead of dying, in a place named Ire-Ekiti. Through out his earthly life, he is thought to have fought for the people of Ire thus known also as Onire.
Oxossi (also Oshosi, Ochosi, Ososi, Oxosi, or Osawsi) is both the Orisha of the forest and one of the three warrior orishas referred to as the "Ebora" in the Yoruba religion. He is a hunter, and his role as an often solitary figure in the wilderness lends him another role as a shaman. He is also connected with all hunter communities, and is often depicted as a friend or ally of both the caboclos and the nature spirits of the forests of Brazil. Oshosi is most important to the people of Brazil in Candomblé (a Latin American religion derived from the traditional spiritual practices of the Yoruba people of West Africa), as the Amazon Rainforest brings this element of him to the fore in Candomblé more than in its cousins, the island religions of Cuban Santeria and Haitian Voudoun.
During the period in which the majority of the orisha venerators in Latin America were slaves to Catholic Europeans, Oshosi came to be identified with Saint Sebastian in the Rio de Janeiro area of Brazil. San Sebatian is most often shown in representations tied and shot full of arrows, which led to his association with the hunter orisha. He is alternately depicted as Saint George in the Bahia region, and in Cuba, he is identified with Saint Norbert.
Oshosi is the patron justice and the hunt. As a master of all air attacks, he is prayed to when devotees are looking for swift justice from above. They also come to him in search of other things, a job or house for example. He is the patron of those who work with animals, dogs in particular, and is quite often supplicated when a wrong is done to an animal without cause.
Son of YEMAYA, he's one of the ORISHAS, but not a very nice one to get on the wrong side of. He inflicts smallpox or madness. Still, it's nice to have a choice.
In Yoruba mythology, Aja is an Orisha, patron of the forest, the animals within it and herbal healers, whom she taught their art.
Among the Yoruba, aja also refer to a "wild wind". It's believed that if someone is carried away by aja, and then returns, he becomes a powerful "jujuman" (or babalawo). The journey supposedly will have a duration of between 7 days to 3 months, and the person so carried is thought to have gone to the land of the dead or heaven (Orun).
Sopona (or Shapona) is the god of smallpox in the Yoruba religion.
The Yoruba people of Nigeria believed that smallpox was a disease foisted upon humans due to Shapona’s “divine displeasure”, and formal worship of the God of Smallpox was highly controlled by specific priests in charge of shrines to the God. People believed that if the priests were angered they were capable of causing smallpox outbreaks through their intimate relationship with Shapona. Suspecting that the priests were deliberately spreading the disease, the British colonial rulers banned the worship of Shapona in 1907. Worship continued, however, with the faithful paying homage to the God even after such activities were prohibited.
Shapona was exported to the New World in the slave trade, where he became known as Omolu or Babalu Aye in the Orisha religion. Shakpana is an equivalent in Dahomey mythology.