World Mapyoruba

Yoruba World – The Yoruba culture is one of the most important, ancient and refined in Africa. This blog is meant for Nigerians, Italians and other international people who may be interested in the culture and might want to become more familiar with it.

YORUBALAND

Most people who live in the western region of Nigeria and the former Federal Capital Lagos, are Yoruba. Yoruba have a long history; when and where the story begins, no one quite knows. In the olden days, there are not many written materials left behind for us to read today. Then how can we know about the distant past? The best we can do is listen to the stories which people have handed down from generations to generations.

STORIES:

These stories of legends as we call them, are still told today by parents to their children. They are still all true in every details. In fact, there are often several different versions of the same story, but if we put them all together, we can learn what really happened in the earliest days of the Yoruba.
The Yoruba are divided into several tribes cities and towns which include the Oyo, Ijebu, Ekiti, Egba, Ijesha, Ondo, Akoko and Ife.
The Yoruba, claiming a common descent from Oduduwa, have a fairly homogeneous culture.
The cultural homogeneity is reinforced by a powerful religious belief system which make Ile-Ife the spiritual centre as important as Oyo which was once a political centre of a large part of Yoruba land

PRESENTATION:

The Yoruba Culture originated from the Western Nigeria, and it is diffused in some neighbouring countries, but we know that their real origin was from somewhere else.

Through slave trade, the culture crossed the Atlantic ocean and took roots in Brazil, Cuba,  U.S.A. and many central American countries, where  it became  one of the dominant culture.   The slaves went without loads or properties, yet they conserved in their minds and souls the culture and deities which permitted many of them to survive.

For more than 50,000,000 people uprooted from Africa, of which many millions perished during the journey, up to date, nobody has asked pardon or forgiveness to Africa for that horible act as the whole world justly is everyday doing to state of Israel for the 6,000,000 Jews killed during the second world war. It is right and necessary  to ask forgiveness to all wrongs done by humanity in the world, so that we may return to live in harmony and peace.

              

Some ancient West African Empires.

 

Old Oyo Settlement
Map of Africa with Nigeria and the Yorubaland
World Map

 

Politics in the old Oyo kingdom:

As the years passed, the city of Oyo, which Oranmiyan, the son of Oduduwa founded, grew into a great and powerful kingdom, and remained strong and independent for hundred of years.

Oba – King in the ancient Kingdom

The King was called the Alafin, and he was known also as Ekeji Orisa –  that is, companion of the gods. The Yoruba kingdom was far too big for the Alafin to control by himself and under his rule were a number of smaller kings, and these were provincial kings, because each one ruled a particular area or province.

The provincial kings that lived near Oyo were completely under the rule of Alafin, but those who lived further away, became more independent and powerful for example; those in Ijebu, Egba or Ilesha.When the Alafin died, the next king was chosen by seven chief councillor of state, who were known as the Oyo Mesi. In the earliest days, they always choose the Aremo; the eldest son of the passed away king, but  unfortunately, the son sometimes kills his father, in order to become king himself. To avoid this, the Aremo was allowed to rule together with his father, and when his father died, the Aremo was expected to die too, by commititting suicide.

Yoruba’s Religious Beliefs:

Traditional Yoruba belief see the world made up of two connected realms; The visible world of the living which is called Aiye,  and the spiritual world of the Orisas, the ancestors and the spirits, which  is called Orun.  Ase is the life force that is given to everything by the Creator of the universe.

Ase is in everything: plants, animals, people, prayers, songs, woods, rocks, and rivers. Existence is dependent upon Ase  because  Ase is the power to make things happen and change. The Yoruba believe in the Creator who rules over the entire universe along with many other gods that serve underneath him. The Creator of the universe is called Olorun.

Olorun  lives in the sky and is considered to be the father of all the other gods. Olorun  is the only god that never lived on earth. Olorun  is the supreme God and has no special group of worshippers or shrine, like the other gods do. The Yoruba people worship over four hundred different deities. The gods are called Orisas.  Some of the Orisas  are worshiped by all of the Yoruba. Other gods are only worshiped by certain towns or families. Every person is given or receives a special deity to worship. A person usually worships the god of his father, but some worship the god of their mother. Some people are contacted by a particular god in their dreams and are instructed to worship them.

Creation according to the Yoruba’s Belief:

IFE – is an important Yoruba city, and It is their spiritual centre. It is believed that there, is kept a shrine for every Yoruba divinity.

Yoruba bronze head – 15th century

Ife  was also the intellectual centre of Yoruba traditional society. This ancient rain-forest city which now houses the University of Ife can be regarded as the Mecca of the Yoruba. It is, however, not certain whether the Ife of mythology where the divinities landed is the present-day Ile-Ife. There are several Ife known to Yoruba historians, but the one in which the divinities landed from heaven is known as Ife-Oodaye. The Yoruba people believe that Ife is the cradle of humanity. Ife therefore represents among other things to the Yoruba what could be termed the Garden of Eden. The mythology probably explains why the hen is used as an offering to Ifa more than any other creature. The hen was the first messenger of the divinities and therefore can be trusted as a means of sending messages through Ebo  (sacrifice) to the divinities. Hens which have five fingers, are regarded by the Yoruba as strange creatures, and they are therefore used in the preparation of important medicines. The chameleon is a sacred creature of the Yoruba. In traditional Yoruba society, it was forbidden to kill chameleon except for medicinal or ritualistic purposes. The Yoruba regard the chameleon as Ajeegun, (the one who makes medicines potent). The chameleon is usually included in many important medicinal preparations in order to increase their potency.

Creation Myth:

Every culture has stories that explain how the universe was created. This is one version of a creation story that is told by the Yoruba to explain the beginning of the universe.

 Olorun lived in the sky with all the other gods. He told Orisanla,  the god of whiteness, to create the earth for him. Olorun  gave Orisanla  some soil, a chain, a five toed chicken, and a snail shell and sent him on his way. When Orisanla  got to the gates of heaven he noticed some other gods having a party. He stopped to chat with them for a bit and drank some of their palm wine. Orisanla  became drunk from the palm wine and fell asleep. Orisanla’s  younger brother Oduduwa  noticed his brother fast       asleep. He took all the things that Olorun had given him and went to the edge of the heaven with Chameleon. Oduaduwa  dropped the chain and climbed down, throwing some of the soil onto the water. He then realized  the chicken scratched out the earth, expanding it in many directions until the ends of the earth were made. Chameleon then stepped upon the earth to make sure that it was stable and solid.  Oduduwa  followed and settled at a place called Idio.

Orisanla  soon woke and realized what happened. From that time on Orisanla put a taboo on palm wine. Even today those who worship Orisanla  are forbidden from drinking palm wine. Orisanla  came down to claim the earth but his brother, Oduduwa  claimed that he was to be the owner of the earth since he had created it. The two brothers quite drunk continued fighting until Olorun heard them and called them to report to him. Olorun  granted Oduduwa  the right to own the earth and rule over it. Olorun  then told  Orisanla  that he would become the creator of mankind. In order to keep peace amongst the two brothers Olorun sent them back to earth with Sango, the God of Thunder; Ifa the God of Divination; and Eleshije, the God of Medicine.

ODUDUWA – the father of the Yoruba:

There are three oral traditions among the Yoruba about the identity of  Oduduwa.

First Story:

The first oral tradition states that he descended from heaven and he was specifically sent to the world by God to rule mankind. He was said to have no earthly parents. According to this story, the creator of the world was Olodumare  (The only almighty God). Before the world was created, there was only a watery, marshy waste. Olodumare  live in heaven. In order to create the earth, Olodumare sent his son Oduduwa  down from heaven.  First, Olodumare  let his son down with a chain carrying a handful of earth, a cockerel and a palm-nut. from these things, plants and animals grew. Oduduwa  spread the earth over the marshes, the cockerel scratched it and the palm tree grew up in it from which all people came.

Second Story:

The second oral tradition which is a later tradition gives Oduduwa  an earthly personality. There are so many legends about the person of Oduduwa  that it is necessary to find out who he really was, and what part he played in the spiritual and political lives of the people who inhabited the territories now known as theWestern and Mid-Western areas of Nigeria.According to Yoruba legends, Oduduwa is the ancestor of the Yorubas and the progenitor of all the Yoruba Obas  (kings) and also the Oba of Benin. There are conflicting stories in Yoruba mythology about his origin but one thing that is certain is that Oduduwa  was a foreigner who settled in Ile-Ife. First, Yoruba people came to their present place from somewhere else, secondly, the first centre of Yoruba life was at Ile-Ife: (The Spiritual city).

 Third Story:

           Map: showing the movement of the Yoruba

The Yoruba people first came to Nigeria from somewhere, in the East.  An area which  included Israel,  Arabia and many parts termed Miiddle-East; known in ancient time as North-East Africa.

The story tells that Oduduwa was the son, not of Olodumare but of Lamurudu, a king of Mecca.
Oduduwa broke away from Islam, the religion of his people, and worshipped idols, He tried to force others to join him.
He converted the Muslim Mosque into a temple for worshipping idols. His priest and image maker was called Asara.
The story says that the religion of Islam triumphed in the end.
The priest Asara had a son called Braima, who was forced to sell idols even though he hated doing so.
When selling his father’s idols, he used to cry out:
“Who wants to purchase falsehood?” But when Braima grew up, he found
an opportunity to destroy the idols. He poured oil over some of them and set fire, while others he battered to pieces with an axe.
He left the axe hanging round the neck of one of the idols- a huge figure in a human shape.
When the damage was discovered, the people asked Braima what had happened. He replied;
“Ask that huge idol who did it.” The men replied!
“Can he speak?”  “Then,” said Braima,
“Why do you worship things which cannot speak?”
Braima was put to death for what he had done.
A war broke out between the Muslims and the idol worshippers. The Muslim party won.
They killed Lamurudu and drove away his children- including Oduduwa- from the town.
Oduduwa then travelled for about ninety days away from Mecca
until he and his party came to Ile-Ife and settled there.
It was there, too, that he met the founder of the Ifa religion, Agboniregun.
You will see that these three stories about Oduduwa are different.
But they do agree about two things.
One, that Yoruba people came to their present place from somewhere else.
Two, the first centre of Yoruba life was at Ile-Ife.

The Religion & Beliefs of the yoruba People’ –  (source: professor Bolaji Idowu Ph.D.)

ILE-IFE:  “Our Ancestral Home”– The first of the creation here below; the original home of all things;  the place from which the day dawns; the enchanted, holy city; the home of divinities and mysterious spirits!
That was the multifarious picture of Ile-Ife which use to form part of our childhood knowledge. Even today, in spite of several years of Western sophistication, the city still has a  certain enchantment for the Yoruba people,  if only because it is the heart which sets the religious blood coursing through their national veins.
Until comparatively recently, when easy communication has made it possible to travel almost all over the country safely and quickly, Ile-Ife used to be the sacred loadstone which filled the Yoruba people  everywhere with a deep yearning for pilgrimage.
There was ever in evidence something nostalgic in everyone, always a community of interest everywhere, about the city.

Who are the Yorubas, Where did they come from and What is their History

 

Chief Fani-Kayode

The ”Yorubas” are the descendants of Ham who was the third son of Noah. They are the direct ancestors of Cush, the son of Ham, and the black Cushite migrants and settlers that refused to go to Africa with the other descendants of Cush and his son Nimrod but that rather chose to settle in the ancient Cities of Mecca and Medina in what is presently known as Saudi Arabia. They were there as settlers for thousands of years and they constituted a prosperous powerful, large and respected minority within the larger Arab community.
However they were eventually driven out of those Arab towns and communities and forced to leave them for refusing to give up their religious faith, their deep mysticism and paganism and their idol worship after Islam was introduced to those places by the Prophet Mohammed in 600 AD. They then migrated to the banks of the great River Nile in Egypt where they intermingled with the Egyptian Arabs, the Nubians and the Sudanese of the Nile. Many remained there but the bulk of them eventually migrated to what is now known as the north-eastern zone of Nigeria and once again mingled and bred with the Shuwa  Arabs and the Kanuris of the Borno people. From there they eventually migrated down south to the forests and farm lands of Ile – Ife what is now known as south-western Nigeria making their primary place and location of pagan worship. Ife was to the Yoruba gods what Mecca is to the Muslims and the establishment of Ife as the centre of all that is Yoruba was confirmed by Oduduwa himself when he sent his sons out from Ife to other parts of Yorubaland  to establish their own independent kingdoms.

It was after that, that we broke up into various kingdoms and communities within what is now known as south-western Nigeria. Some of those kingdoms and empires were sophisticated, powerful, large and great (like the Oyo Empire which was one of the greatest empires that ever existed on the African continent and indeed the world and which was responsible for halting the ”jihad” of Usman Dan Fodio from coming any further south by defeating the Fulanis and their allies in battle and confining them to Ilorin) and some were not so great and large. These Yoruba kingdoms spent hundreds of years fighting one another in totally unnecessary wars but it is a historical fact that they were never defeated in any war or conquered by any foreign army. Yet the only thing that they had in common amongst themselves was their language (which broke into different dialects depending on where you were), their historical stock, their affinity and respect for Ile-Ife and their acknowledgement of it as being their spiritual home and their anthropological source.
This group of different kingdom states with a common ancient root were collectively known as the ”Yoruba” and the fact of the matter is that the word ”Yoruba” has NO meaning in our language or any other language that is known to man. No-one has been able to tell us the meaning of the word ”Yoruba” or indeed where it came from. This really is very strange and is indeed a deep and unsettling mystery. For all we know it could even be an ancient insult. That is why I have always preferred to be referred to as an ”Ife” rather than a ”Yoruba”. Another question that is often asked is why did our forefathers indulge in all the mass migrations from first Mecca, then to Egypt, then to Borno and then finally to the plains and forests of what was to become, thousands of years later, the western region of modern-day Nigeria? Well my own personal theory is that the reason that our forefathers kept having to emigrate until we found somewhere of our own was because we refused to give up our pagan beliefs and practices and when Islam was eventually introduced or took full root in all the areas that we once settled our forefathers were no longer comfortable there and they must have suffered all manner of persecution for their tenacity to their ancient pagan and ”Ifa” faith and practices. Whatever the reasons for the mass migrations may have been it is clear that the influences of paganism, their traditional faith of ”Ifa” worship, the Egyptians, the Nubians, the Sudanese, the Arabs and the Kanuris is very strong amongst the Yorubas, their music, their language and their culture till today.

The religious faiths of Islam and Christianity both came much later and were both established primarily through the strong trade links that existed between the Yoruba and the north-western Hausa/Fulani caliphate from the north, the Turkish traders of the Ottoman empire of the southern Atlantic African coast from the south, the primarily Portuguese and European sailors and traders who plied that same southern Atlantic coast from the south and finally with the strong efforts of the Christian missionaries of both the Anglican and Catholic churches respectively. Both of these two great monotheic faiths of Christianity and Islam eventually took full root in the land and in the hearts and minds of the Yoruba people whilst paganism, the worship of ”ifa” and the practice of our original and more traditional faith was eventually pushed to the back seat even though initially, and for hundreds of years, they were both fiercely resisted.

That is why, till today, it is very rare to find a Yoruba family that does not have Christians, Muslims and adherents of the more traditional and ancient tribal faiths in their ranks. The slow and massive migration of our forefathers from the Middle East, north Africa and north-eastern Nigeria to our own homelands in the south-west are why the Yoruba, together with the northerners of what is presently known as northern Nigeria are generally known as the ”Sudanese Nigerians” whilst the Nigerians from the rest of southern Nigeria, which comprise of the Igbo race and the people of the south-south are generally known as the ”Bantu Nigerians”.

(Chief Femi Fani-Kayode  was the spokesperson to President Olusegun Obasanjo; he subsequently became Minister of Tourism & Culture & later served as Aviation Minister for Federal Republic of Nigeria.)

Yoruba / the Egyptian Connection:

By Olomu and eyebira

Ooni of Ife – Bronze (15th Century

SIMILARITIES LINGUISTIC:

Ferdinand de Saussure: the surest way to prove a cultural contact between peoples is to adduce linguistic  evidence  (Since Ferdinand de Saussure (1972) General HISTORY OF AFRICA). One of the largest inhabitants of Egypt were Yoruboid, and it will be expected that a good percentage of their language will be yoruboid, too. See the table below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  EGYPT / YORUBA:

1). Wu (rise) Wu (rise)

2). Ere Serpent) Ere (Python / Serpent)

3). Horise (a great god) Orise (a great god)

4). Sen (group of worshippers) Sen ( to worship)

5). Ged (to Ausa (Osiris, father of the gods) Ausa (father)

6). Ta (sell / offer) Ta (sell/offer)

7). Sueg (a fool) Suegbe (a fool)

8). On ( living person) One ( living person)

9). Kum (a club) Kumo( a club)

10). Enru (fear / terrible) Eru (fear/terrible) /

11). Kun / qun (brave man) Ekun (title of a brave man)

12). Win (to be)  Wino (to be)

13). Odonit (festival) Odon (festival)

14). Ma or mi (to breath) Mi. (to breathe)

15). Tebu (a town) Tebu (a town)

16). Adumu (a water god) Adumu (a water god)

17). Khu (to kill) Ku (die)

18). Rekha (knowledge} Larikha (knowledge)

19). Hika (evil) Ika (evil)

20). Mhebi (humble) Mebi, humble to ones family

21) Sata (perfect) Santan (perfect)

22). Unas (lake of fire) Una (fire)

23). Tan (complete) Tan (complete)

24). Beru (force of emotion) Beru (fear)

25). Ma (to know) Ma (to know)

26). Mu (water) Mu (drink water)

27). Reti (to beseech) Retin (to listen)

28). Ta  (spread out) Ta (spread out)

29). Kurud (round) Kurudu (round)

The words above,  show that most Yoruba words are identical to the ancient Egyptian words, when Egypt was black, before the arabs and the muslim religion came there.

15th Century bronze head – representing Oduduwa.

BINIS: THE ODUDUWA LEGACY:

Since the month of May 2004, there has been a raging intellectual battle on the personality of Oduduwa. The Binis claim he was a Bini prince, the Ifes claim otherwise.

This approach will be purely scientific and will be as objective as possible. The following areas: (1) The personality of Oduduwa {Ikaladeran}; (2) archaeological researches; (3) the linguistic linkages; (4) scientific analysis of the myths; and (5) Benins historical debt to Oduduwa will be analyzed. (a) The monarchies; (b) the water religion, (c) beads manufacturing (d) salt industry; and (e) the Lagos conquest, will be scientifically analysed.

  1. THE PERSONALITY OF ODUDUWA:

The personality of Ikaladeran; whether he was the man who later became Oduduwa will be scientifically analyzed. In this discourse, Oduduwa is seen as the founder of the Yoruba monarchical system, or at least, a founder of a prominent dynasty in Yoruba history. There must have been many dynasties in Ife, as Ife legends put pre-Oduduwa monarchs at more than ninety. The personality of Oduduwa has suffered many attacks in recent times. The Binis claim he was a Benin prince (Ekaladerhan), who later became Imadoduwa or Izoduwa, and then Oduduwa. The Igbos claim he was an Igbo man from Nri. Some Igalas claim he hailed from Igala land. The Igalas have many Ifes, and they claim Oduduwa was from one of such Ifes. The Igala language is close enough to the Yoruba, to assert a common origin for both peoples.

The present writers are holding the following positions:
1. The Yorubas are aborigines or autochthonous to their present environment;
2. The monarchical structure seems to be alien. The present writers tend to place the origin of the Yoruba monarchy in ancient Egypt and Nubia. This is because a lot of Egyptian related relics, words and practices can still be discerned among the Yorubas, particularly among the following: Ife (where the Ifa oracle and Yoruba monarchical system blossomed); Ijebu (with some ancient settlements; Ijebu-Ode, the seat of the Awujale, Ode, the seat of Lenuwa, in present day Ogun Water side Local Government, Oke-Eri, purported to be the home of the biblical queen of Sheba, called Bilikisu in Ijebu legends), Ugbo, the ancient city of the Ilajes, Idanre (the home of Ogun, the god of iron), all show some similarities and identities in their monarchical and religious authorities. Basil Davidson, Olumide Lucas, Tariqh Sawandi, and even the present Awujale of Ijebu land, have pointed to ancient Egypt or Nubia as the origin of Yoruba monarchical system.  All the above have used the similarities or the identities of cultural practices to substantiate their claims. If the Yorubas left the Egyptian or the Nubian axis, they must have left during turbulent periods of war, economic stagnation or religious persecution. Thus, we shall examine the periods of upheavals in black Egypt and black Nubia; and examine when the Yoruban aristocracy descended from the Nile valley. They may not be one migration, but several migrations and the personality called Oduduwa, must have led one of the various migrations.

The first crop of migrants or southward push of the Egyptians took place about 2000BC  500BC. The Hyksos invasion (2000-1500 BC) caused some of these southward migrations. Many of the black Egyptians seemed to have moved to Yorubaland during this period.

The second wave of migrations will correspond to what Laoye Sanda, of the department of Public Administration, The Polytechnic Ibadan, refers to as the black Nubian emigrants. The Nubians were black, they occupied present day Sudan, which was an integral part of the Egyptian Empire. The vocabulary, body scarification, and religious discourse resemble those of the Ijebus and more so, the Itsekiri. The 1984 Awujales coronation manual will make this manifest. These migrations occurred about 500BC.  A third wave of migration took place between 90BC and 30BC. The present writers feel the personality called Oduduwa, came in that migration trend. A fourth migration will correspond to the Christian conquest of Egypt, about 100AD.

The last wave of migration will correspond to the Arab enforced emigration, between 700AD 1100AD, when the Arabs had consolidated their control over Egypt; they chased the last batch of traditional worshipping Egyptians from Egypt. This occurrence would have led to many Yoruba claiming that their ancestors were chased from somewhere in the Middle East for not accepting Islam.

The proof of archaeology:

Bronze head – (Yoruba 15th Century)

There has been a dearth of archaeological researches in Nigeria. Whatever research has been done is not final, for new finds can be found in future.

The most ancient archaeological finds in Nigeria are the following: (1) the relic at Iwo Eleru (with a radio carbon date of about 1000BC). Iwo Eleru is close to Akure, Ondo State. (2) The findings at Igbo-Ukwu of about 6000BC. (3) The findings at the Mejiro cave near Oyo (about 4000BC). The Nok culture that is more than 1000BC. (4) The Oke-Eri walls and graves purported to be more than a thousand years. The walls are reputed to be the biggest in the world, but for the walls of China. (5) The bronze heads at Ife about 1000AD. (6) The bronze heads at Benin about 1400AD. This might authenticate the Ife claim that the Binis got the civilization of bronze casting from the Ifes. Both the Binis and the Ifes claim that Igueghae was the one who taught the Binis how to cast bronze, during the reign of the Oba Oguola, fourth king from Eweka, the son of Oramiyan, a distant descendant of Oduduwa from Ife.

bronze head (Ife)

LINGUISTIC LINKAGES.

According to the studies of philology and etymology, most of the languages in Nigeria in the Kwa group of languages have a meeting point. The Yorubas and Idoma separated some six thousand years ago; while the Yoruba and Igalas separated about 2 thousand years ago; two thousand years ago corresponds to the time that the Yoruba dialects: Ekiti, Ijebu, Oyo, Itsekiri, Ilaje, Ikale etc started having distinct dialectical identities.

Linguistic studies have indicated that Yorubas in the Eastern Flanks of the Yoruba nation; Ekiti, Yagba, Kabba, Owo, Ijebu, Itsekiri and to some extent the Ifes, speak the most ancient Yoruba dialects. Glottochronological studies have shown that the dialects in the south east are more ancient than those of central Yoruba land and western Yoruba land. The table displays it further still.

Clay head of a Queen.

A table showing east to west ancientness of the Yoruboid languages.

Clay head of a Queen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 ENGLISH    –                ITSEKIRI –            YORUBA OYO / YORUBA

 RESPECT                   – OGHO                 – OWO
MONEY                        – OGHO                 -OWO
LOOK                            – GHO                    -WO
SAY                               – GIN                      -WI
FORBID                        – GHO( r )              -WO( r )
THEM                           – AGHAN              -AWON

The table shows that the Itsekiri dialect retains the more ancient gh or g guttural sound to the more liquid wof the Oyos. If it is taken that the Yoruban ruling class came from Egypt, the southern Yoruba block, particularly the Itsekiri, would have served as an initial stopping point and a secondary course of dispersal. The table displays it further still.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EGYPTIAN                                       –   ITSEKIRI                              –  YORUBA OYO-YORUBA
ADUMU (Water god)                       –  ADUMU (Water god)            –  ADAMU (A god)
Kuku (Darkness)                              –  Okuku (Darkness)                –  Ouku (Darkness)
Dudu (Black Image of Osiris)        –  Dudu (black )                        –  Dudu ( black )
Omi (Water)                                      –  Omi (Water)                          –  Omi (Water)
Heket-Re (Frog god)                        –  Ekere (Frog)                          –  Akere (Frog)
Horise (Sky god)                              –  Orise (Sky god)                     –  Orisa (A god)
Hika (Evil)                                          – Ika (Evil)                                  –  Ika (Evil)
Shu (Evil god)                                   – Eshu (Evil god)                       –  Eshu (Evil god)

Co-opted from 500 word-word correlation between, Yoruba and  anthic Egyptian languages. From the above, it means that the eastern Yoruba blocs such as the Itsekiri, Ilaje, Ijebu and the Owo are more cognate with the Egyptian than those of Oyo or Ife.

The Awujale has testified that the Itsekiri are speaking the original Ijebu dialect.  This is why Bolaji Idowu derived the origin of Oritse to the Itsekiri-Owo axis within the eastern Yoruba kingdoms…

It is proper here to state that the word Orise is almost cognate with the Egyptian, Horise. Both deities represent very high gods.. Both deities were first water divinities before they became sky or heavenly divinities. Both words are derived from identical etymological origins. Hori (Ori) means head in both places. Se means a source in both places. Thus both words mean a source of creation in both places. This type of linguistic similarity or identity cannot have arisen by mere accident – there was a concrete historical intercourse. The Binis call God Oyisa, a corruption of the eastern Yoruba form. This is certain because the Binis cannot derive the meaning of Oyisa by breaking the word into morphemes as the Yoruba can display, or draw up any identity with ancient Egypt.

A SCIENTIFIC ANALYSIS OF THE MYTH:

  1. Oduduwa:  The myth of Oduduwa seems to be valid. Minus the fact that many Yoruba claim descent from Oduduwa, some   Urhobos and even Ijaws also claim descent from Oduduwa.
  2. Ekaladerhan  This name exists in very little, if at all it exists, in the oral tradition of any of the Bini neighbors. There has been no relevant oral tradition among any of the circumjacent peoples that can recognize Ekaladerhan or identify him as Oduduwa. So, the Ife claim concerning Oduduwa seems to be more tenable.
  3. Oduduwa descent from heaven,  The Ifes have been totally embarrassed by the invectives thrown on them by the Binis in their claim that Oduduwa fell from the sky.

Yes! It is true. People can fall from the sky as modern interaction between earthmen and those from other planets have authenticated, and this can be displayed both in mythology and in real hardcore science in many parts of the world. The story of Ezekiel in the bible, the story of the Dogon mystic tribe of Mali are cases in point.

Then, some Yoruba ancestors would have been some of the Umales (aborigines) using their Umale-Olunas (spaceships) to travel across the universe, as this can still be sighted in Yoruba land today.

4.The huge bodies of water which the Bini and Yoruba mythologies claim their ancestors landed, would have been one of two waters (1) the Atlantic ocean, the home of Umale-Okun at the coastal flanks of Yoruba land , or the Mediterranean which was the biggest body of water known to the ancient Negro Egyptians.

BINI AND EASTERN YORUBA HISTORICAL LINKAGES:

– The Monarchies

There are areas where the eastern Yorubas and the Binis have a lot of historical linkages. It is an indisputable fact that the founder of the present Itsekiri dynasty was Ginuwa, the first son of Oba Olua of Benin. The Binis ruled over most parts of Ondo state: Akure and Ode-Ondo, to be more specific. They even established dynasties in some of these places, including Owo. There are a lot of titles that the Eastern Yorubas derived from the Binis. Those titles include: Ologbotsere, Iyatsere, Otsodin, Olisan (Oliha) etc. There are also many areas where the Binis are indebted to the Eastern Yorubas. Many of these have not been given prominence by historians. But the more we delve into History, the more we are convinced of Binis indebtedness to the Yorubas, particularly the Itsekiri-yorubas. Some of this indebtedness are the Bini religious discourse, the conquest of Lagos, the manufacture of salt etc.

BRONZE HEAD OF THE QUEEN-14th Century

THE CONQUEST OF LAGOS:
On face value, the Lagos conquest seemed to have been done by the Binis. Many authorities however, agree that it is the Itsekiri of Warri that served in the Navy that attacked Lagos. The assertion is likely to be true because of the following (1) The Binis are not watermen and could not easily travel on the lagoons to Lagos. (2) The name Olu is common among Lagos Obas eg. The Olu of Ikeja, the Olu Eko of Eko (Eleko) etc. The name Oluis Itsekiri or Oyo-yoruba and not Edo or Bini (3) The Eyo masquerade attire and dance style is similar to that of Awankere of Warri. It is true that the Eyo masquerade originated in Ijebu, but the attire is purely of Warri origin. This will authenticate a not-too-popular Okere(Warri) legend, that it was the descendants of Ekpen that accompanied Orhogbua (Osogbua) to conquer Lagos. Also, the drums used by the Awori people bear striking resemblance to the Itsekiri drums, but bear no resemblance to the Bini drums. In summary, the material culture of the Aworis is far more akin to the Itsekiri than to the Binis.

Now hear the authorities: Captain Leonard says; Of the Jekri (Itsekiri) also there is much more definite, although to a certain extent contradictory evidence. According to one account, they are said to be closely connected with the Yoruba, the Warri kingdom having extended to and embraced Lagos as well as some of the surrounding territories to this day (1906), in fact, Jekri inhabit the strip of country, along the coast from the Benin river westward to Lagos This might be due to the fact that Itsekiri held most of the trading posts along the coast when Leonard was writing.

Captain Leonard in another section of his work says: And from all accounts, it is more than possible, if not evident that the army of warriors who founded Lagos proceeded in reality from Warri, but doubtless by the command of the king of Benin. Corroborating Leonard and Nirven that the Itsekiri aristocracy has at least some politico-economic interests in Lagos, H. Ling Roth says Such corals as the Binis had, were obtained through Jekri traders either from the Benin River or Lagos

ORIGIN OF BINI BEADS:

The Itsekiri have always claimed that beads started with them and that the Binis got their beads from them. Settlements such as Omadino, Inorin, Ureju and Korobe area of the Warri kingdom are the ancient Itsekiri settlements with the bead industry.

The people of Ureju and Korobe in Koko claimed to have given Ogboruware (Ewuare), probably a usurper to the Bini throne, beads for the first time. There is a legend among the Korobes, that Ogboruware (Ewuare), had his swelling disease as a result of an affliction placed on him by Korobe, a legendary spiritual woman. Now hear the authorities:

King of Bini

H Ling Roth says

According to Bold, coral beads, are the intrinsic treasures of the rich, being held in highest estimation and from their rarity, are only in the hands of a few chiefs, whose avidity for them is immeasurable, the species admired are the pipe beads of various dimensions and are valued at ten large jars of oil an ounce, of the smaller sort, and so on in the proportion for the larger sized. Mr. Punch informs me that as a matter of fact, the king of Benin had few, if any of the large coral beads such as Nanna, Dore, Dudu and Jekri chiefs obtained from the merchants in the Benin River. His coral was insignificant pipe agate and was only significant when made up into vests and hats. The Benin value more the agate beads and especially the dull agate was a kings gift and no one could wear such a necklet unless it was given to him by the king. It was death in fact, to wear it otherwise. The shiny crystalline agate, with white quartz, anyone could wear. Such corals as the Binis had were obtained through Jeiri traders, either from the Benin river or Lagos. The Binis said it was dug up at the back of Benin but everything in the days I am speaking 14 15 years ago (from 1898) which was at all mysterious came from the back of Benin.

(Eve de Negri says,)

This coral was first discovered (so it is told) during the fifteenth century in the reign of Oba Ewuare. This type of coral was obtained from a tree, growing on the sandy bank of the Benin River. PC llyod also commented that Itsekiri legends claim that their ancestors, the Umales, got the blue corals from particular trees that were growing in the Jekri country.   From the above quotations, it is evident that the Benin got their beads from the Itsekiri, and the Itsekiri legends that they gave beads to Oba Ogboruware (Eware), has to be positively examined by scientific historians.

BINIS LEARNT ABOUT SALT FROM THE ITSEKIRI.
The Binis are land-bound people and they know very little about salt. Itsekiri legends testify that they gave salt to Binis for the first time. The Itsekiri are known as the manufacturers of salt.. Alagoa, H Ling Roth, and Obaro Ikime, agree to this position. H. Ling reports, According to Roupels officials, king Osogbua (Orhogbua) is credited with discovering salt in the Jekiri country. Pg. 142. H Ling Roth Great Benin. It is now factual that Orhogba discovered salt when he came to the Jekiri (Itsekiri) country to seek the assistance of the Itsekiri navy in order to attack Lagos. In 1818 they also sought the assistance of Kaye, an Itsekiri mystic-warrior in order to attack Akure. He was given Ologbo some 25 kilometres south of Benin city. The itsekiri were the major salt producers in the Niger delta area. On this hear Alagoa: the itsekiri supplied clay pots to such Ijo communities as the Gbaramatu and Bassan, and also sold salt to traders from eastern delta who took it up the Nigeria Other Ijo exchanged dried fish and salt, which was manufactured by the Itsekiri , with the Urhobo, Isoko and Igbo groups along the periphery of the Niger Delta and along the Lower Nigeria (Alagoa 1989)

WATER RELIGION OF THE BINIS

The cult of Olokun (the water religion) of the Binis seems to be purely alien. This is due to the following reasons: (1) the Binis are a land based people. Their main occupations are; farming, hunting and sculpture. So it will be unthinkable for the Binis to have a water religion as a major cult. (2) If a water religion exists among the Binis, and it has become prominent, the Binis might have copied from one of their riverine neighbors (3) these neighbours are the Ijaws, the Itsekiris, the Ilajes, and more distant neighbours being, the Asabas, the Onitshas, the Afenmai or Igala people around the river Niger. The Afenmais and the Igalas seem too distant from Benin to have a good influence on them. The Asabas and the Onitshas, also, seem to be too far away form Benin. Minus that, they don’t seem to have any serious water cult to influence the Binis to have a viable water religion.

Thus, the Bini (a land locked people) must have had their water religion from the Ijaws, the Itsekiris or the Ilajes. The Bini religious discourse has nothing to do with the Ijaws. Besides that, the Ijaws that are the immediate neighbours of the Binis did not have any significant civilization. These Ijaw neighbours are the Egbemas, the Arogbos, the Apois now Yoruba-speaking the Ogbe-Ijohs, the Isabas, the Gbaramatus, the Ogulaghas, the Oburutus, and the Meins. No significant civilization or kingdom has emerged from these Ijaw clans. E.J Alagoa asserted that most of these Ijaws did not arrive their area by 1500, which is quite recent according to historical chronology. The cases settled in the Supreme Court between the Ijaws and the Itsekiri; place the date of Ijaws coming to these areas at the early 19th century. Now, hear Prof.Alagoa , an Ijaw doyen of history:

Pereiras record suggests that those Ijo groups now living west of the Forcados and east of the Bonny had not yet arrived at their present territory by 1500. Thus, it is unthinkable for the Binis to have copied the water religion from the Ijaws.

The Itsekiri and the Ilajes receive the likelihoodof having given water religion to the Binis for the following reasons:1)The Binis situate the home of Olokun, the god of the sea, in the Atlantic Ocean. Both the Itsekiris and the Ilajes are in the Atlantic coast. (2) The Bini religious discourse shows a strong Yoruba affinity. The name, Olokun, (Olu Okun) is an eastern Yoruba name that can apply to the Itsekiri as well as Ilajes, as eastern Yoruba dialects. The Binis call God Osa, which is the same word that the Itsekiri call father. The other Bini word for God, Oyise, is clearly corruption of the much older Itsekiri name, Oritse. . In the early days of November 2004 , the Bini Monarch invoked an Ilaje deity, Aiyelala, to recover some property that was stolen from the Oba Market in Benin . This will authenticate the Ilaje story of the Binis coming to Ugbo once every year to serve Umaleokun, the water god of the Ugbo Yoruba.
H. Ling Roth went further, quoting Burton says:

Similar to other west Africans, the Bini When drinking, the Binis always pour a few drops upon the ground, muttering the while (Mobia, Malaku Mobia (Mobie, Umalokun, Mobie)  Ibeg, O Malaku (Umale-Okun, fetish guardian of lands and waters 1 beg of thee to defend me against all evil, to defeat and destroy all my foes. This said, a broken bittock of Kola (stercula acuminata) is thrown upon the ground, and is watered with a few drops of palm wine.  It is evident that the Bini religious discourse was, and to some extent is, still infiltrated with Itsekiri and Ilaje. This is most evident in the water religion of the Binis.

From the above, we see that some of the most important aspects of the Bini civilization: their bead industry, the cult of Olokun (Olu Okun King of the sea), their salt industry etc are from the eastern Yoruba land of Itsekiri and to some extent the Ilajes. Apart from this, the Itsekiri warrior, Ikaye, saved the Bini kingdom from being crushed by the Akures. For his settlement Oba Semede gave him Ologbo.
Again when there was leadership dispute between Obaseki and Aigwobasinwin, it was an Itsekiri chief, Dore Numa, who restored the Benin monarchy. He also gave them a lot of beads which the Bini aristocracy has not returned till today. It is therefore unthinkable that Ife, where the Yoruba kingship blossomed, would have copied from Benin. This is most evident when we consider the following facts: (I) The name, Oba (the Edo word for king), is copied from the Yorubas, particularly those from Ife (2) the heads of the Obas of Benin were taken to Ife, until very recently.

The place where the heads of the Obas of Benin were buried is still called Orun Oba Ado, the heaven of the kings of Benin. (3) The Binis normally take permission from the Ooni, to crown new kings. There is no recorded history that the Oonis took permission from the Binis before getting crowned (4) The official language in the court of the Oba of Benin until 1934 was Yoruba. There was no time that Bini language was spoken in Ife. The Portuguese and other Europeans who were in the Bini area for more than 500 years (from 1486 when they got to Benin till 1960.)had no knowledge of Oduduwa being a Bini man.

So, scientifically speaking, the Ife position seems more tenable than that of the Benin. Oral traditions can be fabricated. So, rigorous history of the 21st century must be purely scientific  even if we recourse to oral tradition, they must face scientific testing and not based on moribund oral tradition. Aspects such as linguistic analysis, archaeological discoveries, cultural practices etc, must come into the forefront when reconstructing the history of preliterate peoples like the Binis and the Ifes.

THE EDOS ARE DESCENDED FROM THE IRIGBO OF ODE_ITSEKIRI

In one of their accounts, the Edos claim discent from God himself, who they say is the grand father of Iso (Sky) who in turn is the grand father of Idu, ancestor of the Binis. One of the brothers of Idu called. Olukumi (the Yorubas were first called Olukumi, today a tribe called olukumi, speaking a language very similar to Itsekiri-Yoruba, and the legends claim they all descended from Egypt, are to be found in parts of Edo and Delta States) lived with him in Uhe (Ife) before they left to found Benin. Michael Crowder: The story of Nigeria, Page 63.

The word Olukumi in Itsekiri, means a friend of mine. The word Olukumi, rather than Ore is still used in Ife is evident that Idu and his brothers left to Ile-Ife, after the southward migration of the Yorubas to Ode-Itsekiri and thence to Ile-ife. This is why the story of a watery terrain remains in the tradition of the Binis and the Ifes who are located very far from the Atlantic coast. The vast expanse of water, where the ancestors of the Binis and the find themselves is no other place than the Itsekiri territory of the Atlantic coast.

At a time, the powerful Bini kingdom was paying tax to the Olu of Warri when the yoke of imperialism crumbled the once great kingdom of the Guinea. Concerning this issue Michael Crowder says: With the decline of Ughoton
the Benin had to use the ports of the Benin river and thus, pay dues to the Olu of Warri in whose territory the ports was located.

In conclusion the Itsekiris introduced the following to Benin: salt, beads, and the worship of Umale Okun. The Itsekiri under Dore also helped the Binis to revive their monarchy.

Origin of the Yoruba and “The Lost Tribes of Israel”
Dierk Lange.

Abstract. – On the basis of comparative studies between the dynastic tradition of the Ọyọ-Yoruba and ancient Near Eastern
history, the present article argues that Yoruba traditions of provenance, claiming immigration from the Near East, are basically correct. According to Ọyọ-Yoruba tradition, the ancestral Yoruba saw the Assyrian conquests of the Israelite kingdom from the ninth and the eighth centuries b.c. from the perspective of the Israelites. After the fall of Samaria in 722 b.c., they were deported to eastern Syria and adopted the ruling Assyrian kings as their own. The collapse of the Assyrian empire is, however, mainly seen through the eyes of the Babylonian conquerors of Nineveh in 612 b.c. This second shift of perspective reflects the disillusionment of the Israelite and Babylonian deportees from Syria- Palestine towards the Assyrian oppressors. After the defeat of the Egypto-Assyrian forces at Carchemish in Syria in 605 b.c.
numerous deportees followed the fleeing Egypto-Assyrian troops to the Nile valley, before continuing their migration to sub-Saharan. Africa. [Nigeria, Assyrians in Africa, Lost Tribes of Israel, migrations, state foundation, conquest state, dynastic traditions, oral traditions, African king lists].

Dierk Lange, Dr. Troisième Cycle (1974 Paris), Thèse d’État (1987 Paris); Prof. em. of African History, Univ. of Bayreuth.
–Field research in Nigeria, Niger, and Libya. – Publications include books and articles on the history of the medieval empires
of West Africa (Ghana, Mali, Songhay, Kanem-Bornu) and on the history and anthropology of the Yoruba, Hausa, and Kanuri. –
See References Cited. 
According to the present opinion, the Yoruba are of local origin, but this opinion reflects the great influence of postcolonialism on African historiography rather than sober text-critical research. It involves the fallacious dismissal of the major traditions of provenance suggesting an origin of the ancestral Yoruba in the Near East.

In fact, before the rise of academic African historiography in connection with the independence of African states around 1960,
scholars relied more directly on the available traditions of Yoruba origin and they did some comparative research between Yoruba, ancient Mediterranean and Israelite cultures. On the basis of this evidence they suggested that the Yoruba immigrated from far away: either from Phoenicia, the Mediterranean world, Egypt, or Nubia (Biobaku 1955:8 – 13; Lange 1995: 40 – 48). If any of these suppositions could be shown to be true and present opinion to be ideologically biased, it would mean that a culture
of the ancient world survived in sub-Saharan Africa, which in the area of origin was superseded by subsequent sweeping developments such as Hellenization, Christianization and Islamization (Lange 1995, 1997, 1999).Academic historians of the postcolonial period take a hypercritical position by pointing out several factors thought to invalidate the basic message
of the traditions which formerly had been considered to be of minor significance. They emphasize that migration of the Yoruba was unlikely as long as people further north were not immigrants. They estimate that traditions of migration from the Near
East were the result of an Islamic feedback, supposing that local keepers of traditions manipulated the historical data for the sake of inventing a prestigious history equivalent to that of Muslims and Christians (Fage 1976: 64 f.; Henige 1982: 81 f.). More
particularly they accuse scholars who do not conform to Afrocentric attempts to reconstruct African history of following the so-called Hamitic hypothesis, which supposedly denies Africans the ability to found their own states. With little concern for the 1.1 Migration from the Near East and the Foundation of the Sahelian States North of the Yoruba From the ninth century a.d. onward, numerous Arab authors provide information on African states south of the Sahara obtained from Arab and Berber traders who had visited them. Most of these authors were geographers with little interest in history.

In some Yoruba accounts of creation, the name Yoruba itself is, however, more likely to have been derived from the name of Jeroboam, designating the founder of the northern Israelite kingdom (Bowen 1857: 266). Bello mentions further the settlement of kindred refugees in the hill country – presumably South of Sokoto – and in the town of Yauri, people who have traditions of origin bearing great similarities to those of the Ọyọ-Yoruba (Hogben and Kirk-Greene 1966: 256 – 260). From the reading of the other traditions of origin recorded by Bello, it appears that the author credits with Near Eastern origins only those people whom he highly respects, such as his own Fulani, the Kanuri of Kanem-Bornu, and the Yoruba. He denies such provenance to those people
he looks down upon, such as the Hausa, who had recently been subjected by the Fulani, although the Hausa themselves hold such a tradition – which he mentions without any reference to their prestigious origins. It is difficult to think of any reason.

 

THE YORUBA (History)

 The African peoples who lived in the lower western Niger area, at least since the  4th century BC. they were not initially known as Yoruba, although they shared a group of ethnicity and common language. Both archeology and traditional oral historians Yoruba confirm the existence of people in this region for several millennia.

Oduduwa

Between 1100 and 1700 AD the Yoruba Kingdom of Ife experienced a golden age, the ruler, (Oba) of Ife, has the title of Ooni of Ife. Ife was then overtaken by the Empire of Oyo, dominant for military and political powers between 1700 AD. and 1900 AD.
The ruler, (Oba) of Oyo has the title of Alaafin of Oyo. Ife, however, has remained and continues to be  seen as the spiritual city of Yoruba. The neighboring Empire of Benin  with its capital in the city of Benin, which is also in Nigeria today, was an equally powerful force between 1300 and 1850 AD. its ruler is referred to as the Oba of Benin.
As for historical memory, the Yoruba were the dominant group on the western bank of Niger. Of mixed origin, they were the product of the assimilation of the periodic waves of migrants who have evolved common language and culture.
The Yoruba  were organized into matrilineal descent groups that occupied village communities and lived on agriculture, but by about the eleventh century, composed of adjacent villages, called (ile), began to merge into a series of territorial cities in which loyalty to the clan he became subordinate for loyalty to a dynastic leader. This transition produced an urbanized political and social context which was accompanied by a high level of artistic achievement, in particular in terracotta and ivory sculpture and in the sophisticated fusion of metal produced in Ife. The brass and bronze used by Yoruba craftsmen was a significant trade item, made from copper, tin and zinc either imported from North Africa or from mines in the Sahara and northern Nigeria.

GLI  YORUBA (Italian)  (Storia)

I popoli africani che vivevano nella zona del Niger occidentale bassa, almeno dal 4° secolo a.C. non erano inizialmente conosciuti come Yoruba, anche se hanno condiviso un gruppo di etnia e lingua comune. Sia archeologia e tradizionali storici orali Yoruba confermano l’esistenza di persone in questa regione per diversi millenni.

Yoruba Clay head 15th Century

Tra il 1100 e il 1700 d.C. il Regno Yoruba di Ife ha vissuto un periodo d’oro, il sovrano, (Oba) di Ife, ha il titolo di Ooni di Ife. Ife e’ stato poi superato dal Impero di Oyo, dominante per i poteri militare e politico tra il 1700 d.C. e il 1900 d.C.

Il sovrano, (Oba) di Oyo ha il titolo di Alaafin di Oyo. Ife, tuttavia, è rimasta e continua ad essere visto come la città spirituale del Yoruba. Il vicino Impero di Benin con la sua capitale nella città di Benin, che è anche nel Nigeria di oggi, era una forza altrettanto potente tra il 1300 e il 1850 d.C. il suo sovrano è indicato come il Oba del Benin.

Per quanto riguarda la memoria storica, gli Yoruba sono stati il ​​gruppo dominante sulla riva occidentale del Niger. Di origine mista, erano il prodotto della assimilazione delle onde periodiche di migranti che si sono evoluti lingua e cultura comuni. Gli Yoruba sono stati organizzati in gruppi di discendenza matrilineare che occupavano comunità di villaggio e vivevano di agricoltura, ma da circa il secolo undicesimo, composti villaggi adiacenti, chiamato (ile), ha cominciato a fondersi in una serie di città-territoriali in cui lealtà al clan divenne subordinato per fedeltà a un capo dinastico. Questa transizione ha prodotto un contesto politico e sociale urbanizzato che è stato accompagnato da un elevato livello di realizzazione artistica, in particolare in terracotta e scultura in avorio e nella sofisticata fusione di metallo prodotto a Ife. L’ottone e bronzo usato da artigiani Yoruba era una voce significativa del commercio, a base di rame, stagno e zinco sia importato dal Nord Africa o dalle miniere nel Sahara e nel nord della Nigeria.

SOME YORUBA TERMS:

ORUN RERE: “Good heaven” This statement is made when it is determined that the recently deceased Yoruba has lived a good life, and will be honored as a deceased ancestor.

AIYE: The Yoruba term for the earth, the home of animals, humans and warlocks/witches (omoraiye) Originally it was only marshland.

ARA: The Yoruba term for one’s physical body.

ASE: This is the source of power for the gods and originates from   orun.

A Yoruba bronze vase

                        

Yoruba bronze pot

 BABALAWO:  (A  Yoruba term for ‘priest.’)    “Father of sacred things. “This is the shaman-like figure who does the ritual of divination, “Ifa.” They will provide medicines and charms. Candomble Brazilian combination of Portugese Catholicism and the Yoruba.

ELEGUN: They are people who have become possessed by spirits. They are not shamans; for anyone can become one, and does not require any instruction or apprenticeship. Their function is that of spontaneous mediators between the people and the gods.

EMI: This is the Yoruba term for breath/spirit, that which animates us. Olorun breathed his emi into us, thus animating us.

ESU: This god was the teacher of Orunmila. He can be understood as a mediator between the orisha and humanity and he observers our actions, especially the sacrifices and rituals for the orisa. He can be described as a trickster in that he will try to deceive humanity as a means of testing one’s faith. There is no specific acts of worship or places of worship for him because he is present at all the rituals and sacrifices for the other orisha.

IFA: This is the ritual of divination that uses 16 kola nuts, divining powder and a divining board. This ritual is conducted throughout one’s life.

ILE-IFE: This is the major city of the Yoruba and can be traced back to the 9th century B.C.E. According to Yoruba tradition, this is where the act of creation took place.

OBA: This is the ‘chief’ of a Yoruba town or urban center. by tradition and Obas trace their origins back to Ife. The Obas are the priests of their towns and villages.

ODUDUWA: This is the major god of the city of Ile-Ife. According to Ife, it was he who finished the job of creation, not his brother (or his wife – depending on which version of the myth) because Orisa-nla had become drunk on palm wine.

OGUN:   He started out as a human king, the first king of Ife. And, like Sango, he lost control of himself. In this case a good number of his subjects did not show him the proper respect as a king. For this insult, Sango began to kill his subjects. When he finally got control of himself, he killed himself. His body mysterious disappeared into the earth and he was transformed into the orisha of iron and by extension tool making. Thus for the Yoruba, the origins of tools and tool making is from the gods themselves. The axe is the one tool that is especially associated with him, who used it to carve a road. And since it is by tools that the Yoruba were able to carve out their own ‘world,’ so to speak, he is associated with both heaven and earth. But tools also include weapons and so he is also considered the orisha/god of war which is associated with humanity, again showing a split origin of tool-making between heaven (the orishas) and earth (humanity). he is also the god of law, justice and truth. he presides over the making of contracts and for traditional Yoruban who have to testify in court, they swear to tell the truth by kissing a piece of iron. His colors are green and black, and is associated with the forges of blacksmiths and is found wherever iron is being used such as forests and railroads, but also automobiles, in which you can find a small statue of him to safeguard against accidents.

THE MYTHOLOGY OF IFA   

In Yoruba belief, Ifa (otherwise) known as Orunmila) was one of the four hundred divinities who came  from Orun (heaven to Aye (Earth).

OLODUMARE – the Yoruba high God, charged each one of these with a particular function to be performed on earth. For example,

OGUN-was put in charge of all things related to war and hunting and the use of iron implements while,

OOSAANLA- was charged with the responsibility for moulding human beings with clay.

ESU-was the universal policeman and keeper of Ase,- the divine power with which Olodumare created the Universe and maintained its physical laws.

IFA-was put in charge of divination because of his great wisdom which he acquired as a result of his presence  by the side of Olodumare when the later created the universe. Hence, his praise-name ; Akerefinusugbon (the small one whose mind is full of wisdom).

The Yoruba believe that the four hundred and one divinities mentioned above descended the skies into the city of IFE. At that time, there were no creatures of any kind on the earth.

The divinities were therefore the first inhabitants of the earth, and IFE was the first place on earth inhabited by human species.

When the divinities arrived on earth, they found the planet was completely covered up with water, but before they left Orun, (Heaven) OLODUMARE gave them a basketful of sand, a hen with five fingers and a Chameleon. Before the divinities landed, they sent the hen down to IFE with the parcel of sand. The hen scattered the earth  solid earth appeared.

The Chameleon then walked on it to find out how solid it was it. The divinities then descended upon the solid earth and pitched their camps in different parts of IFE.

The hen and the chameleon thus became the first creatures to live upon the molten primordial earth and the divinities were the first beings to live upon solid earth.

After the arrival of the divinities, human population developed at IFE in two two different ways.

The divinities married among themselves (there were males and well as females divinities), and gave birth to the lineage of men who later became the divine rulers of the Yoruba. Furthermore, Olodumare  with the help of Oosaanla created the human beings proper who became the subjects over whom the divinities and their descendants ruled.

Out of the descendants of the divinities, the children of Oduduwa became the most important politically, and they eventually formed the bulk of the ruling dynasty of the most powerful Yoruba kingdom.

The culminating point in the power of these divine rulers was achieved in the imperial organization of the old OYO empire.

ORUNMILA settled at IFE  at a place  known as Oke  Igeti, he lived there for many years. At first, he was childless, but later he had eight children.

He later left IFE  for ADO where he spent the remainder of his life.  Hence, the saying : Ado ni ile IFA (Ado is the home of IFA).

While on earth, ORUNMILA employed his timeless wisdom to organize human society on an orderly basis.

He also taught his disciples the secrets  of divination, but like the other divinities, ORUNMILA returned to ORUN (Heaven) after he had accomplished his tasks on earth.

His return to Orun (Heaven)  was however caused by a quarrel which occurred between him and one of his children, OLOWO,  his last born.

According to the story, one day,

ORUNMILA invited his eight children to celebrate an important festival with him.

As each  one of them arrived, he bowed down and salute his father with the  word : Aboruboye bo sise (May the sacrifices be accepted and blessed).

As a sign of his respect and obedience to ORUNMILA.

But when  it came to the turn of OLOWO, he stood still an said nothing. A dialogue  then ensued between father and son during which ORUNMILA ordered OLOWO  to give the salute given by his brothers.

But OLOWO  refused to give the salute pointing out that as he was crown king as his father, it was degrading for him to bow down to anyone.  When ORUNMILA  heard this, he became annoyed and  decided to return to Orun (Heaven)

Immediately after the departure of ORUNMILA, the earth was thrown into chaos  and confusion. The  cycle of fertility and regeneration both in nature and human beings collapsed.

Human  society moved  dangerously close to anarchy  and disorder as everything was faced with imminent destruction.

The state of confusion and uncertainty on earth, after the departure of ORUNMILA was terrible!

When the earth no longer had peace, it was decided that the children of ORUNMILA should go to Orun (Heaven)  and persuade their father to return to the earth.

Accordingly, the eight children of ORUNMILA went to ORUN (Heaven) where they met  their father at the foot of ‘The much climbed palm tree’ which branched here and there and had sixteen nuts like heads.

They persuaded their father to return to the earth, but  their refused; instead, he gave each one of them sixteen  palm-nuts and said: When you reach home,

If you want to have money, that is the person  you should consult, If you want to have wives that, is the person you should consult.

When the of ORUNMILA returned to the earth, they started to use these sixteen palm-nuts as instruments of divination to find out the wishes of the divinities.

ORUNMILA replaced himself here on earth with the sixteen palm-nuts known as  (Ikin) and from that time, those sixteen sacred palm-nuts became the most important instrument of IFA divination.

IFA occupies a unique position among the countless divinities in Yoruba tradition religion, hence, he is referred to by IFA priest as OBAORISA (the king of the divinities)

The kingly position which IFA occupies among the Yoruba divinities is the result of several factors. In the first place,  IFA is the mouth-piece of the divination and ancestors.

It is through the IFA divination system that human beings would find it difficult to reach heavenly powers and tap their resources of  divine power in the hour of need.

Furthermore, Ifa represents a special branch of  Yoruba  religion because of its intellectual outlook and its stock of tradition academic men.

In this sense, Ifa is more than a branch of Yoruba religion. Ifa is the means through which Yoruba culture informs and regenerate itself and preserve all that is considered good and memorable in the society.

Ifa is Yoruba culture in the true dynamic and traditional sense.

Ifa is a means whereby a non-literate society  attempts to keep and disseminate its own philosophy and valves despite the lapses  and imperfections of human memory on which the system is based.

It is therefore not surprising that Ifa means so much to the Yoruba society, the life is dominated and regulated by Ifa. No man takes any important step without consulting  the god of wisdom.

All the important rites of passage such as naming ceremonies, installation of kings, and burial ceremonies., have to be sanctioned and authenticated by Ifa.

The voice of the divinities and the wisdom of the Ancestors.

This is the meaning of the following lines of poetry:

“Ifa is the master of today, Ifa is the master of tomorrow, Ifa is the master of the day after tomorrow.

To Ifa belongs all the four days created by the divinities on earth”

SHANGO. – The Story:

MYTHOLOGY:

When Oranmiyan died, his elder son , Ajuan , became king. But he was a weak king and could not  keep all his chiefs in order. So he was removed from the throne and his his younger brother, Shango became king.

Shango was was a brave and warlike hero and and it was said that when he spoke, fire came out of his mouth, and smoke from his nostrils.

He soon  gained control over the chiefs and ruled them, strictly and it is said – cruelly.     Shango ruled for seven years, but his life came to a sad end. One day, he was trying to use his charms to attract lightning from the sky,  and his house was struck by lightning, and his wives  and children were.

 

 THE RELIGION & BELIEFS OF THE YORUBA PEOPLE

– by professor Bolaji Idowu Ph.D.

ILE-IFE    “Our Ancenstral Home”- The first of the creation here below; the original home of all things; the place from which the day dawns; the enchanted, holy city;  the home of divinities and mysterious spirits! That was the multifarious picture of Ile-Ife which use to form part of our childhood knowledge. Even today, in spite of several years of Western sophistication, the city still has a certain enchantment for the Yoruba people, if only because it is the heart which sets the religious blood coursing through their national veins.

Until comparatively recently, when easy communication has made it possible to travel almost all over the country safely and quickly, Ile-Ife used to be the sacred loadstone which filled the Yoruba people everywhere with a deep yearning for pilgrimage. There was ever in evidence something nostalgic in  everyone, always a community of interest everywhere, about the city.

Our elders used to have (they still have) many stories – entertaining, enchanting, or hair-raising – to tell about its manifold mysteries.  They told of places and things of great interest, of things permissible to the young to see, of things which not even an elder, and none at all except the initiated, might see on pain of grievous perils.

For example, there was the grove of Olofefura; he was a divinity reputed to have the habit of hailing and welcoming visitors even from the distance with laughter and spontaneous joy as one does an old , long-missed, beloved friend. If, however, any visitor responded correspondingly, his facial features would remain permanently fixed in the contortion of mirthless laughter.

How could a young, unwary, person visit such a perilously tantalising place without endangering his face! Or the shrine of the “ Moon”. There the “Moon” lay in the shape of a flat slab of stone. The visitor took a small piece of stone and rubbed hard on its surface. As he rubbed, he was sure, within a short time, to observe the movements of certain shadows: these were shades of people who  had  departed from this earth, among whom he was sure to recognise someone! He must not be startled or frightened, however, or his life would be in great danger. Therefore , that was another place out of bounds for the young and the nervous.

The “moon rubbing”  might not be undertaken by anyone at all during the  appearance of the moon in the sky as it was then unconditionally dangerous to do so.

A young person who was luck enough in those days to be taken by his parents to Ile-Ife would approach the city with feelings which  baffled analysis. He was bound  to assailed on entering the city with successive waves of emotion. He would be almost afraid top look; for at every turn might be walking or lurking, for all he  knew, some divinities or ghosts!

He would be shown several places and things, however. A very impressive one would be Opa Oranmiyan –“The staff of Oranmiyan”. Oranmiyan, as the oral traditions have it, was a powerful hero, a warrior son of the great Oduduwa, the royal, deified progenitor of the Yoruba. When he became very old, he  withdrew himself from the abode of men and lived in seclusion in a grove.

From there , he exercised a quasi-divine supervision over the affairs of his  children, the Ife. In the  case of an invasion, he went to their aid and,  single-handed, defeated their enemies. The Ife were forbidden to panic, fire   a single shot, or try to defend themselves in any way in such a crisis. They should rather sing and dance, after they had given out the shout,  Oranmiyan, Ogun ma de o!- “Oranmiyan. We are being attacked!”  Oranmiyan  would the go forth on a charger and put the invading army to rout with  much slaughter.

One day, however, during a great festival, when the city was thronged  with people all celebrating and rejoicing, in consequence of which wine  had flowed very freely, some frivolous Ife became inspired with alcohol,  and without knowing the harm they were causing shouted, “O Oranmiyan, we are being  attacked!” Immediately, the fierce warrior, blinded with the  passion for carnage, came out on his charger, sword unsheathed, and began the  ghastly work of wholesale massacre.

Oranmiyan, Ogun ma de o!- “Oranmiyan. We are being attacked!” Oranmiyan  would the go forth on a charger and put the invading army to rout with  much slaughter. One day, however, during a great festival, when the city was thronged  with people all celebrating and rejoicing, in consequence of which wine had flowed very freely, some frivolous Ife became inspired with alcohol,  and without knowing the harm they were causing shouted, “O Oranmiyan, we are being  attacked!” Immediately, the fierce warrior, blinded with the  passion for carnage, came out on his charger, sword unsheathed, and began  the ghastly work of wholesale massacre.

SHANGO  : (divinity of thunder and lightning)

THE KING DIDN’T HANG HIMSELF (OBA KOSO)

Once upon a time in the Yoruba kingdom, there was a powerful king called Shango, and as time went on, some of his army generals and counsellors became so powerful in the land that they constrained him to abduct.

The mutiny was so great and few loyal friends, counsellors and army wanted to fight to maintain him in power, but Shango knew that will blow into a bloody civil war, so he decided to step down. He was sent into exile by the new ruling council, so he took his loyal people with him and left the reign.  As they journeyed on, many other men left him one by one and returned to Oyo city. When he had only few of them left, for sadness, anguish and fear to continue alone the journey by himself, went aside from them, and decided to terminate the agony.

While they were sleeping, he comitted suicide by hanging. In those days it was a shame for anyone to hang himself, how much more if that person was a king.  When in the morning his men found out that he had passed away, they secretly buried him, and  all sworn an oath to keep the secret of Shango’s hanging, but for one reason or the other, the secret leaked to the public, and people in the kingdom began to make joke of their late king.

Shango’s loyal men did all they could to deny the news: many argued that he died a natural death, while others proclaimed that he was still alive in a northern country.   When many people still continued to mock the memory of Shango, his friends decided to punish all those that maintained that the king hanged himself.

When it rained, these friends will go and set fire on the houses, and burn down the huts of the people that continuedto  ridicule  the memory of Shango.   Since then, Shango who had become a powerful deity of justice, striking with lightning and thunder all those that lie, and didn’t tell the truth

ORANMIYAN
Oranmiyan’s staff -(Obelisk)

Oranyan, was the son of Oduduwa, and was also the first king of the Yoruba, from the kingdom of Ile-Ife. According to Yoruba history, he founded Oyo at  around the year 1170 and one of his children, Eweka I, went on to become the first Oba of the Benin Empire. Following the death of Oranmiyan, his family is fabled to have erected the miniature obelisk known as the (Opa Oranmiyan) ‘Staff of Oranmiyan’ at the place where their father died. Radiocarbon tests  however show this miniature obelisk was erected centuries before during the “classical” Ife period.
Yoruba people (Yorùbá ) are an ethnic group of West Africa. The Yoruba constitute close to 40 million people in total, found predominantly in Nigeria, making them one of the largest ethnic group of the Sub-Saharan Africa (alongside the Hausa-Fulani and the Igbo). The majority of the Yoruba speak the  Yoruba language (èdèe Yorùbá). While the majority of the Yoruba live in western Nigeria, there are also substantial indigenous Yoruba communities in the Republic of Benin. Comparatively numerous Yoruba  communities are found in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Mythic origin- Creation of the world,  Ife – the holy city, and Yoruba Faith:
The Yoruba language ( èdè Yorùbá) is a Niger-Congo language spoken in West Africa. The native tongue of the Yoruba people, is spoken, among   other languages, in Nigeria, Benin, and Togo and in communities in other parts of Africa, Europe and the Americas.
A variety of the language, Lucumi, from (olukunmi) is used as the liturgical language of the Santeria religion of Cuba, Puerto Rico,
Domenican Republic and the United States. It is most closely related to the Owo and Itsekiri language (spoken in the Niger-Delta) and Igala spoken in central Nigeria.
The Oyo Empire (Ilu-oba Oyo (c. 1400-1905)

was a Yoruba empire of what is today western and northern Nigeria. Established in the 14th century, the Oyo Empire grew to become one of the largest West African states encountered by pre-colonial explorers.

Oranmiyan staff – Obelisk (detail)

It rose through the outstanding organizational skills of the Yoruba, wealth gained from trade and its powerful cavalry.
The Oyo Empire was the most politically important state in the region from the mid-17th to the late 18th century, holding sway not only over most of the other kingdoms in Yorubaland, but also over nearby African states, notably the Fon Kingdom Dahomey in the modern Republic of Benin to the west  Ife or (Ilé-Ifẹ̀) is an ancient Yoruba city in south-western Nigeria. Evidence of habitation at the site has been discovered to date back to as early as 600 BC.
It is located in the present day Oshun State. Ife is about 218 kilometres) northeast of Lagos.

Mythic origin of Ife – the holy city: Creation of the world
Ife Queen
Origin of the regional states: Dispersal from the holy city, Ife Oduduwa had sons, daughters and a grandson who went on to found their own  kingdoms and empires, namely  Ila Orangun, Owo, Ketu, Sabe, Popo, Oyo and Benin. Oranmiyan, Oduduwa’s last born, was one of his father’s  principal ministers and overseer of the nascent Edo empire after Oduduwa granted the plea of the Edo people for his governance.
When Oranmiyan decided to go back to Ile Ife after a period of service in Benin, he left behind a child named Eweka that he had had in the  interim with an indigenous princess. The young boy went on to become the first legitimate ruler of the second Edo dynasty that has ruled what is now Benin from that day to this. Oranmiyan later went on to found the Oyo empire that stretched at its height from the western banks of  the river Niger to the Eastern banks of the river Volta. It would serve as one of the most powerful of Africa’s medieval states prior to its  collapse in the 19th century.
YORUBA DIVINATION
What is ifa?

Ifa is the name of the divination system in Yoruba religion. It uses palm nuts or coweries shells scattered across a board, mat or marked field. Depending on what side up the markers fall and what region they land in, the diviner is given a particular number — sort of like the (I Ching). This number stands for a sign, or odu/odun. There are more than 250 of them, and a proper babalawo knows all of them by memory.

Where does Voudou come from? and why are you spelling it that way?

It comes from Africa as part of the slave trade, created when the religions of the Yoruba, Ibo, Congo and other enslaved races syncretized with the European Christianity of slave-owning cultures. These are mostly Catholic, non-English-speaking cultures, because the English/American slave owners had rules against teaching the slaves too much about the Bible, and because Catholic saints were very convenient archetypal figures to fuse with African deities. The nearest equivalent in Protestant America would be the folk traditions of hoodoo.

For various reasons, the first of these African syncretic religions to capture the public imagination was the one practiced by the French Creole-speaking former slaves in Haiti and Louisiana. French speakers heard the African word vodun, or “spirit,” and transformed that into “voudoun,” and then “voudou.” English speakers heard that French word, and spelled it phonetically as voodoo.

 

 

 

 

 

YORUBA TRADITIONAL RELIGION:

Introduction

Looking at Yoruba religions, one must look at the entire area of Yoruba culture’s existence. Yoruba are located basically in the south-western part of Nigeria and in some parts of Benin and Togo. The history of the Yoruba religion seems to be somewhat of a controversial subject in most sources that deal with this topic. There was really no mention of when the religion started or the people because the beginning of their existence was always noted as being in Ife, the centre where the Yoruba people descended from heaven. Ife is said to have been founded around a thousand years ago and there was some mention of the Yoruba might have descended from some middle eastern heritage. As far as dealing with the actual religion’s origin itself it only referred to that it was from a surviving religion of a “higher” religion. That religion is said to be from the Ancient Egyptian­ Religion otherwise known as Khamet or Kemet. Being that the language of the Yoruba is so strongly tied to the culture there are many comparisons analyzed as to why there is a belief that Yoruba religion has been derived from Ancient Egyptian religion. For example, in Lucas’s “The religion of the Yoruba” word comparisons are made. Such a comparison is made with the Ancient Egyptian God Amon: “The God Amon is one of the Gods formerly known to the Yorubas”. The Yoruba words mon, mimon, “holy or sacred,” are probably derived from the name of the God”

The Orisha is one of the key spiritual elements of traditional Yoruba religion. It is an example of the many deep rooted meanings of the religion of the Yorubas. The Orisha, according to Baba Ifa Karade’s “The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts,” are a series of Gods or divinities under the Yoruba’s main­ God, Olorun or Oludumare. Karade also argues that there are many striking similarities between the ancient Egyptians and the Yorubas. The Orisha are “… an expression of the principles and functions of divine power manifesting on nature.”

The actual word “Orisha” has a deep meaning itself. For example, the word ori is the “reflective spark of human consciousness embedded on human essences, and sha which is the ultimate potentiality of that consciousness.” This gives a strong example of how strong language is tied to religion. This Ori is the aspect of the humans that is in a sense in control of their spiritual actions. The ori is divided into two which can be known as the ori apari and the ori apere. The ori apari represents the internal spiritual head and the ori apere represents the sign of an individuals personal protector. The common Orisha which seem to come up time after time are these major ones: Obatala, Elegba, Ogun, Yemoja, Oshun, Shango, and Oya.

Each of these gods has a specific purpose when dealing with the human spirit. Each of the orishas has a specific colour and natural environment associated with them. Obatala represents the embodiment of true purity of one’s soul. Obatala is also said to represent ethical purity. Such purity is represented by pure whiteness. There is great measure taken to carry out the importance of this pure whiteness because the temples which worship the divinity Obatala have the colour of white in all the instruments of worship. For example, the clothing of those involved with the worship in the temples are white. In addition, all the emblems are kept in white containers and the ornaments are white as are the beads for the priests and priestesses. Obatala is said to be the father of the Orisha and the divinity in charge of the carving of humans out of clay into the form they are today. He is worshiped or appeased to by his followers when they want children, revenge for wrong doings, cures for sickness.

Yemoja is the divinity that governs over all the waters or oceans. Yemoja is said to be the mother of all the Orisha. She is the water or is biotic fluid in the mother’s womb and the breasts which nurture a new born child. She is the Matriarchal head of the entire universe. Her natural environment are the salt water ­oceans and the lakes and the colours associated with her are blue and crystal. There is much confusion concerning the subject matter as to who is the chief female divinity because the different sources represent different view points on this subject matter and this was really unclear.

Sango or Shango to non Yoruba speakers is said to be a human that is made into a deity. He was said to be the old ruler of Oyo that was hung because of his greed for power. Sango is the god of lightning in addition to being the Orisha of drum and dance. He is also known to change things into pure and valuable objects. His followers come to him for legal problems, making bad situations better, and protection from enemies. His natural environment happens to be any place that has been struck lightning, and the base of trees. It is said that no god is more feared for malevolent action than sango.

 

 

Ogun is said to be the god of iron and basically everything that becomes iron. He is known for building or clearing paths for the building of civilizations and is the divinity of mechanization. Ogun is considered to be the holder of divine justice and truth. He is also said to be the executioner of the world. Natural environment are in the woods, railroads, and forges.

Oya is the divinity that is associated with the death or the rebirth into a new life. She is considered to be the wife of Sango. Oya is also known as the god of storms and hurricanes and has power over the winds. She is also the deity that is in charge of guarding the cemetery. Oshun is the deity of diplomacy and all giving or unconditional love. She is a river deity because she symbolizes clarity. She is the divinity of fertility and feminine essence. Oshun is said to represent the strength of feminine love and the power of motherhood. It is she who is appeased when it comes time for a mother to give birth.

Elegba is the messenger of the deities and his major role is to negotiate between the other orisha and the humans and is very close to all the forces of the deities. He is in charge of giving from the humans to the divinities. Elegba is the one who tests the human souls. Even when worshipping other divinities, he is also worshipped because of his important role in the Yoruba religion. Elegba can both punish and reward and is known for having great wisdom. He is also the divinity who takes the body upon death and the divinity that saves. Although he does not match the role exactly, he is what the western world would call the devil. Elegba is not evil.

It is particularly important to discuss the deities because they represent such an important aspect of Yoruba traditional religion. The Yorubas have a deep and symbolic meaning attached to each of the divinities which is exhibited through prayer and worship. These divinities give the reader some idea of the powerful belief system of the Yorubas. Many scholars or anyone not familiar with the Yoruba system of worship which is based in the belief in more than one god, may see this religion as “superstitious” or “pagan”.

The Yorubas have many festivals to give honour and praise to the many divinities within the Orisha system of belief. The Yoruba festivals are extremely elaborate and have much deep rooted meaning in practice related to them. Certain Yoruba towns have certain orishas which are honoured. This is extremely important because it shows the diversity of Yoruba culture and furthermore the differences of traditional Yoruba religion. It would be tedious and quite boring to examine and give an account of every single festival and the villages in which they take place because the Yoruba religion has so many towns. The topic could go on forever. However, I will give one account of this widely practiced aspect of Yoruba religion.

Among the people of Osogbo, the Orisa Osun is the centre of the town’s attention even though it is worshipped by the people in all areas of Yoruba land. The reason for this vast diversity may be due to the fact that there are major differences in the landscape of each of the villages where the Yorubas settled. Each orisa has a natural enviornment and a different emphasis may be put on a different orisa. For example, the reason why the people of Osogbo worship osun may be because their town was founded near a river and osun’s natural environment is in fresh rivers and lakes. The historical legend or belief behind the worship of osun is that the people of Osogbo found it hard to find any fresh drinking water for the village. It was the divinity osun who gave the people of Osogbo fresh water. Osun has also been credited to give infertile women children.

In Yoruba traditional religion, life is circular. What is meant by this is in the Yoruba religion there is no such thing as death. Death is seen as a transition from the physical plain to the spiritual plain. The life cycle of the Yoruba is very complex. Before an individual is born into the world, they choose a destiny with God (Olodumare)in heaven. The goal is to fulfil the destiny. There is one exception, once a child is born he or she forgets the destiny he or she has chosen. The purpose of this is for the individual to learn and gain wisdom for life in the spiritual plain. The Yoruba traditional religion believes in predestination. It is also important to point out that there is no hell in traditional Yoruba religion. The Yoruba believe that all one’s wrong doings will be paid for and all good dead will be rewarded. Under the orisa system, the early cycle of life is called “morning”. Morning of one’s life spans from the time of birth to the age of fifty. It is in this time period that the individual learns and experiences life’s most difficult lessons. This also the time where the Yoruba raise their families. The Yoruba believe that none is a master in any area of life until they reach age fifty. The time period from the age of fifty until the transition into the spirit realm is called the evening. It is in this time period that individuals enjoy life the most. By this time most Yoruba men and women would have raised their children and have much free time to enjoy the fruits of their labour. The evening is a time period when the Yoruba prepare for their transition. Long life and family are the two most important blessings in Yoruba religion.

The Yoruba believe that there are three types of people: achievers, people who assist achievers, and bystanders. Whichever role one chooses dictates the ‘type of life that person will live. The babalawo is the most important figure in Yoruba religion on the physical plain. His role is one of great respect and experience. The Babalawo’s training is long and indepth. It is said in some temples of Yoruba divination that Babalawos are said to stay in their temples for seven years before being released into the world to pracitce Orisha. The bablawo is the link between the divinities and man.

 

The Orishas

The orishas are the emissaries of Olodumare or God almighty. They rule over the forces of nature and the endeavors of humanity. They recognise themselves and are recognised through their different numbers and colors which are their marks, and each has their own favorite foods and other things which they like to receive as offerings and gifts. In this way we make our offerings in the manner they are accustomed to, in the way they have always received them, so that they will recognise our offerings and come to our aid.

The orishas are often best understood by observing the forces of nature they rule over. For instance, you can learn much about Oshún and her children by watching the rivers and streams she rules over and observing that though she always heads toward her sister Yemayá (the Sea) she does so on her own circuitous route. Also observe how the babbling brook and the flash flood reflect her changeable moods. As you observe the orishas at work in the world and in your own lives you will gain a better understanding of them and their ways. Yes, they are complex, but no more so than any other living being such as you or I. We are also blessed from time to time in the religion with the opportunity to meet the orishas face to face during a bembé where one or more of their priests will be mounted.

Elegba

Elegba (also referred to Eleggua or Elegguá) is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. He is the repository of ashé. The colors red and black or white and black are his and codify his contradictory nature. In particular, Elegba stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as he is child-like messenger between the two worlds. In this role, it is not surprising that he has a very close relationship with the orisha of divination, Orunmila. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Elegba is always propitiated and always called first before any other orisha as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life. He recognises himself and is recognised by the numbers 3 and 21.

Ogún

Ogún is the god of iron, war and labor. He is the owner of all technology and because this technology shares in his nature, it is almost always used first for war. As Elegba opens the roads, it is Ogún that clears the roads with his machete. He is recognised in the numbers 7 and the colours green and black.

Oshosi

Oshosi is the third member of the group known as the Guerreros or Warriors, and is received along with Elegba, Ogún and Osun in order to protect the Guerreros initiate and to open and clear their roads. Oshosi is the hunter and the scout of the orishas and assumes the role of translator for Obatalá with whom he has a very close relationship. His colors are blue and yellow.

Obatalá

Obatalá is the father of all the orishas and of all humanity. He is also the owner of all heads and the mind. Though it was Olorun who created the universe, it is Obatalá who is the creator of humanity. Obatalá is the source of all that is pure, peaceful and compassionate. He has a warrior side though, through which he enforces justice in the world. His color is white which is often accented with red, purple and other colors to represent his/her different paths. White is most appropriate for Obatalá as it contains all the colors of the rainbow yet is above them. Obatalá is also the only orisha that has both male and female paths.

Oyá

Oyá is the ruler of the winds, the whirlwind and the gates of the cemetery. Her number is nine which recalls her title of Yansa or “Mother of Nine” in which she rules over the egun or dead. She is also known for the colors of maroon, flowery patterns and nine different colors. She is a fierce warrior who rides to war with Shangó (sharing lightning and fire with him) and was once the wife of Ogún as well.

Oshún

 

Oshún rules over the sweet waters of the world, the brooks, streams and rivers, embodying love, fertility. She also is the one we most often approach to aid us in money matters. She is the youngest of the female orishas but retains the title of Iyalode or great queen. She heals with her sweet waters and with honey which she also owns. She is the femme fatale of the orishas and once saved the world by luring Ogún out of the forests using her feminine wiles. And,in her path or manifestation of Ibú Ikolé she saved the world from draught by flying up to heaven (turning into a vulture in the process). Ikolé means Messenger of the House (of Olodumare). For this reason all who are to be initiated as priests, no matter what orisha rules their head, must go to the river and give account of what they are about to do. She recognises herself in the colours yellow and gold and her number is five. Peacocks and vultures are hers and we use them often to represent her.

Yemayá

Yemayá lives and rules over the seas and lakes. She also rules over maternity in our lives as she is the Mother of All. Her name, a shortened version of Yeyé Omo Eja means “Mother Whose Children are the Fish” to reflect the fact that her children are uncountable. All life started in the sea, the amneotic fluid inside the mother’s womb is a form of sea where the embryo must transform and evolve through the form of a fish before becoming a human baby. In this way Yemayá displays herself as truly the mother of all. She, and the root of all the paths or manifestations, Olokun is the source of all riches which she freely gives to her little sister Oshún. She dresses herself in seven skirts of blue and white and like the seas and profound lakes she is deep and unknowable. In her path of Okutti she is the queen of witches carrying within her deep and dark secrets.

Orunmila

Orunmila is the orisha of wisdom and divination. He was the only orisha allowed to witness the creation of the universe by Olorun and bears witness to our destinies in the making as well. This is the source of his title of Eleri Ipin or “Witness to Destiny in its Creation”. His priests, the babalawos or “Fathers of the Secrets” must devote themselves entirely to the practice of divination and the accompanying arts. Through the Table of Ifá his priests unfold the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the unfolding of our lives. His colours are green and yellow which reflect Orunmila’s relationship with Osayín (the secrets of the plant world) and with Oshún, who is his apeteví with whom he has an extremely close relationship. It is said Orunmila is wisdom and Oshún is knowledge, for wisdom without knowledge is useless, and one who has knowledge without wisdom is merely a danger to themselves and others.

 

What is Santeria?

Santeria or La Regla Lucumi originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico among others. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

First of all, Santeria is not a ‘primitive’ religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one God known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

 

Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

Communication between orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms, and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and how we are able to affect our day to day lives so that they we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

In the New World the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slave owners would then say “look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara.” Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the Lord of Lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slave owner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santeria. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santeria as a pejorative and derogatory.

Ebó (Sacrifice)

Animal Sacrifice is just a small part of the much larger definition of ebó (sacrifice or offering) in the religion. There are many categories of ebó. There are offerings such as addimú which can include candles, fruits, candy, or any number of items or actions that may be appreciated by the deities or orishas in the religion. In divination, the orishas may ask for a favourite fruit or dish, or they may call for the person to heed advice given. At times they may ask that a person give up drinking or other practices that are unwise for that individual. They may request a person to wear certain jewelleries, receive initiations or any number of other things. Or they may request an animal, usually a chicken or a dove, so the orisha will come to that person’s aid. As a rule, animal sacrifice is called for only in major situations such as sickness or serious misfortune. Animals are also offered when a new priest is consecrated in service of her or his orisha during the birthing process of initiation. In every birth there is blood.

What is Santeria?

The traditions of Santeria are fiercely preserved and full knowledge of the rites, songs, and language are prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or Iyawó or ‘bride’ of the orisha must dress in white for an entire year. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup, or go out at night for this year.

La Santeria is famous for its ‘magic’. This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems ‘supernatural’ only to those who don’t understand it, but it really is quite natural. Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down and the religion survives now. Not as an anachronism, but ever growing even now in such places as France and the Netherlands,  Maferefún gbogbo orisha!!!

 

Trance Possession:

Trance possession is an important part of our religion. During a bembé or drumming party for the orishas an orisha may be persuaded to join the party by entering the body of one of the priests consecrated to that orisha. This is referred to as the person being ‘mounted’ by the orisha or that the orisha has ‘come down’ from heaven to be with us. The songs, rythms and dances are actually calculated to entreating the orishas to come down so that we may be blessed by their counsel, cleansings and their sheer presence. When an orisha decides to use one our bodies for a time it is, of course, a cause of great joy for us.

The orishas only rarely mount an aleyo or person who has not been initiated as a priest, and then usually only to point this person out as a person who needs to be initiated as a priest(ess) in the religion. It is not forced on people nor is it a thing of evil such as portrayed in movies like “The Exorcist” nor does anyone spit pea soup. If someone is not ready, the orisha will be gently persuaded to leave until the person is initiated and prepared for such an event. And anyone who has experienced being ‘touched’ or actually mounted will tell you the profound feelings of joy and wisdom that accompany the presence of these great spiritual beings known as orishas.

Egungun: The Dead

Most simply put the eggun are the spirits of the dead. Often egungun are referred to as the ancestors, but this is not entirely true, though your ancestor’s are certainly included among the egungun. Your personal or fundamental egungun will of course include your deceased family members as well as the priests and priestesses who are Ibae (have passed away) in your god family. But also included among your personal egungun are your spiritual guides, who may or may not be family members.

One important thing to remember with eggun is that they are the spirits of people. And just as there are the good and the bad, the liars and the reliable, and the refined and the crude on earth, so it is with the world of the eggun or spirits. And it is up to us to determine which sort of eggun we have relationships with, just as it is up to us what kind of living people we associate with. We always have the choice of whether we befriend people who will lift us up or find our friends among the more dangerous elements, such as the mafia, in this world or the other. This is why we don’t throw coconut to eggun except to ask if they accept an offering. It is simply a matter of not knowing who would be answering…

Eggun are always taken care of first as the old saying says, “Egungun before Ocha, always”. In any rite in the religion, first Olorun (God) is saluted, then egungun, the orishas being reserved for last.

Orisha

Orishas are guardian spirits. The Lucumi Yoruba believe in one Higher Power. They call him  Olodumare. They believe that each person  has a Guardian Spirit called an “Orisha”. Orisha are aspects of the Supreme Being that are manifested as forces of nature. When Yoruba slaves were brought to the New World they brought their beliefs with them.  This belief system is known  as Lukumi in Cuba, and Puerto Rico, though it is often referred to as “Santeria”.   These beliefs are known as Candomble in Brazil,   and Shango Baptist in Trinidad. For many years I have had a great interest in Candomblé , and Orisha practices in Brazil, since I have always thought of all other Orisha practitioners in the New World as the cousins of Cuban Lukumi (Santeria) lineages, and Brazil has more Orisha worshippers than Nigeria, the birthplace of Orisha.  Brazil has the largest African descended population in the world – the only country with a larger black population is Nigeria, but Nigeria has 3 major ethnic groups, only one of which – the Yoruba,  are followers of Orisha.

 

FAQ LUKUMI SANTERIA

 

1.GENERAL QUESTIONS FROM OUTSIDERS/NEWCOMERS ABOUT LUKUMI (Santeria)

  1. What is Lukumi?

Lukumi (often spelled Lucumi), popularly known as Santeria, or La Regla de Ocha is a religious system brought to the New World island of Cuba by Yoruba slaves from Africa in the area that is now Nigeria .

  1. Where did Lukumi come from?

The roots of Lukumi are from the Yoruba speaking peoples of West Africa – who had various sub-ethnic groups. Lukumi evolved out of contact between enslaved Africans brought to Cuba with other African ethnic groups, and the diffusion of the Roman Catholic rituals of the slaveholders. This process is often referred to as syncretism.  Elements of contact with surviving indigenous Caribs, and with Chinese indentured labor on the island also affected Lukumi ritual practices.

  1. What is Santeria?

A popular name for the New World African based religion, Lukumi or La Regla de Ocha, which has incorporated elements of Catholic worship. Orisha are often popularly referred to as “saints”, however – Shango is not Saint Barbara, nor is Babaluaye Saint Lazarus.

  1. Why do you call your religion “santeria” and yourselves “santera/santeros” if you don’t worship saints?

Since slaves In Cuba were not allowed to practice their religions openly, and slaves were also baptized Catholic by their Spaniard enslavers, the practice of Yoruba religion had to incorporate elements of Catholicism in order to survive.  Over time – descendants of Africans in Cuba continued to practice Catholicism – but to also continued their earlier beliefs.  There was diffusion of Catholicism into Yoruba belief. Slaves were allowed to join societies called Cabildos, which were devoted to specific saints.  Members of the Cabildos paraded – and formed groups ostensibly devoted to the Catholic images, while still practicing as priests in the older Yoruba tradition.  These Lukumi priests, as a result, were called “santeros”.

  1. What/who are the Orisha?

Orisha are deified ancestors – symbolic of both natural forces and energies who stand between the living and the Creator (Olodumare) in Yoruba belief.  Their energies directly interact with humans, since Olodumare is distant and removed from human affairs.

  1. What are Egun?

Lineal ancestral spirits.  All  ceremonies and rituals in the Lukumi religion begin with paying homage to one’s ancestors.

  1. Why is your religion secret?

Because it was repressed under slavery, its adherents arrested and persecuted, open worship was impossible both during enslavement and after emancipation.  Due to the ethnocentrism and racism of practitioners of mainstream religions who did not recognize African systems of belief as religions, and to their attitudes towards animal sacrifice as part of ritual, Lukumi was banned.

When the Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah won a Supreme court case in 1993, it opened the doors for Lukumi worshippers to begin to practice openly in the United States .  There is still a level or fear and paranoia – heightened by media sensationalism, misinformation, and local ordinances that restrict Lukumi  worshippers from openly declaring their faith and exercising their right to worship.  As more scholarly books are published, as Lukumi’s become more pro-active, this situation is changing.  The Internet has played a major role in this process.

  1. How do I deal with a Lukumi practitioner as an employer, co-worker, teacher, health practitioner, corrections officer?

The same way you would deal with people of other faiths – with respect. If they are wearing bead necklaces – refrain from touching them.  If they have their heads covered – respect that the same way you would respect the yarmulke of a Jewish person, the turban of a Sikh or the kufi of a Muslim.

 

  1. QUESTIONS ABOUT LUKUMI AS A BELIEF SYSTEM AND IN RELATIONSHIP TO OTHER RELIGIONS/FAITHS
  2. Do you believe in God?

Yes we believe in a Creator who we call Olodumare.

  1. Do you believe in the Devil?

No.   Yoruba belief  has no oppositional set up – good versus evil, God versus a Devil.  One strives to develop good character and good works during your lifetime.  There are concepts of negative energies however – most generated by human foibles.

  1. Do you have a Church or place to worship?

Lucumi practitioners have shrines and altars in their own homes, but come together for group worship in a variety of locations for specific events.  This is one of the main differences between Lukumi and Candomble of Brazil – a sister worship system, where there are terreiros or houses of worship.

  1. Do you have a religious text like the Bible or Koran?

Yes – but it was orally transmitted until recently.  This corpus of knowledge includes Odu Ifa and patakis (moral parables)

  1. Where can I find / read your sacred text? Who wrote it?

There are numerous ethnographic texts compiling portions of Odu Ifa, prayers (Oriki) and patakis (parables) as well as the body of religious ceremonial songs and drum patterns which are prayer as well.  No one text exists with the entire corpus since it is still oral and passed down from teachers to students.

  1. Is Lukumi/Santeria a cult?

No. “Cult” is a pejorative term.   Lukumi is a religion.  It has over 20 million adherents in the New World when you include the branches in Brazil .

  1. Isn’t Lukumi/Santeria voodoo?

No.  Voudou or Vodoun is an West African religion brought to the New World by the Fon people of Dahomey , and though they have similarities they are different in genesis.

  1. What’s the difference between Lukumi and Espiritismo?

They are completely different systems of belief.  Lucumi is a religion, Espiritismo is the practice of medium-ship, dealing with the dead and guardian spirits – based on French spiritism which became popularized in the New World in the early 1900’s, particularly in Puerto Rico.   In the 1940’s and 1950’s some practitioners of Espiritismo also became Santeros – and have grafted the two practices together.

  1. Is Lukumi a Pagan religion and if not what makes Lukumi different? If you define Pagan as a pan-theistic folk tradition, then no – because Lukumi Yoruba belief is mono-theistic and urban. We open each ceremony with homage to Elegua. We offer a libation of water, and say a simple prayer  to him:

“Omi Tutu, Ana Tutu,

Tutu Ile,

Tutu Laroye”

Elegua opens the doors to all endeavors. He is the guardian of the Crossroads

and the messenger to God.Elegua especially loves children.

Also known as the Trickster, Elegua must never be ignored, are opened with

prayers and songs to him. Elegua’s numbers are 3 and 21 His day is Monday. His colours are black and red. Offerings to Elegua include: candy, cigars and rum Obatala is called “The Owner of All Heads” and “The King of the White  Cloth”. He represents coolness of thought, wisdom, and clarity. Obatala fashioned the bodies of mankind. He is also the special guardian of those people who  suffer from mental illness, birth defects, drug  addiction, and alcoholism. Obatala’s colour is white, and his ornaments are made of silver. His number is 8 His feast day is celebrated on September 24th. Some of the animals associated with Obatala are: the elephant and the snail

Orunmila/ Orula

is the Orisha of divination and wisdom.Priests of Orunmila are called Babalawo’s

and are priests of Ifa.

 

Elegua, Ogun, Ochosi, and Osun,

are called “The Warriors” by the Lucumi Ogun is the Orisha of iron and metals. He is responsible for all things mechanical.  Many people think of Ogun only in terms of weapons of war,  because he is a fierce warrior.  But Ogun also  makes implements for farming and medicine; like the hoe,  and the surgeon’s scalpel. His symbol is the knife.His number in some Lucumi houses is 7, others use 3. His colors are green and black. His feast day is June 29th.

Ochosi is the Hunter, and is symbolized by a bow and arrow.  He is the Orisha who metes out Justice, and is sometimes referred to as the “the Messenger of Obatala”.

A brass sculpture of Ochosi click thumbnail to view full sized photo All hunting birds like hawks, eagles, and falcons are his. His colors are blue and gold, or green and blue His feast day is April 23rd His number is 7 Osun is the staff of Osanyin, who is the Orisha of herbs and herbal healing.  He lives in the forest, and does not speak. He is represented standing on one leg.

 

 

 

Shango or Chango

is the Orisha of thunder, the drums and dance. He is a warrior King, and we salute him by saying  “Cabio sile Shango” when thunder is heard. His number is 6 His colors are red and white Offerings to Shango include: green bananas, hot cornmeal and okra,  and red apples. His symbol is a double-headed axe.

His animals are the rooster and the turtle. His feast day is December 4th.

Iyemoja – Yemaya

is the Orisha of the oceans and seas.  African slaves were brought on ships

across the ocean to the New World.  They gave thanks to Yemaya for making the crossing alive. Wemba pays tribute to Yemaya in a performance  called, “The Middle Passage”.

 

Denise in  Yemaya costume  in the style worn in Brazil Like the ocean Yemaya can be calm or  turbulent.  The oceans gave birth to life as we know it, and Yemaya is called, “The Mother of the Orishas”.

Meaning of her Yoruba name: “Yeye mo oja”  Mother of the Children of FishesHer Spiritual Principle:   motherhood, the birth of life on earth Element – ocean/salt water (For the Yoruba – the Ogun River) Colors – blue and white, blue and crystal Feast Day – September 7th Day of the week – Saturday Her Number – 7 Her animals are: ducks, sea birds, & goats,  Her foods are: watermelon, molasses,   black eyed-peas and fried pork rinds Emblems – fan, sea-shells, and her ornaments  are made of silver.

 

Oya

Oya is the Orisha who rules the winds. Tornados and whirlwinds accompanied by lightening  are her element.   She is a warrior orisha who rides  to do battle at the side of Shango. She is also the guardian of the gates to the cemetery. Her symbols are:  masks, and a horsetail fly-whisk.

A mask for Oya Her number is 9 Her colors are maroon and variegated nine colors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ORGANIZATION OF THE YORUBA FAMILIES:

Yoruba families are so organised in a very clear pattern that there is no
way of confusion; the head of the family is the father, or the grandfather or the great grandfather
as the case may be, the male is always the head, and all important decisions made in the family must
be filtered through the oldest of the family towards the outside world.
The same way, all disputes in the family, is laid in front of the elders of the family for settlement.
Since the Yoruba families are patriarchal, the reason why Yoruba homes are
organised in compounds, where the grandfathers or the grandparents have their buildings on the property of the family,
and lands are given out to the males of the family to build home for themselves just before they get married,
forming new nuclei of families.
Where the parents or grandparents have very huge buildings, the various new families may find independent quarters
in the property.
The sense of belonging is very important to the Yoruba families, and when a man dies in the family, the wife if she’s
still young, she’s made to remain in the family to take care of her children, or she may marry another single man in the
family, so the wealth of the husband, may remain in that family.
She may become a second wife to a a man in the family. Since polygamy is allowed, in a royal family, all the wives
left by the king, go to the next King!
The grand father or the oldest man in the family see to the smooth running of the entire family.
In ceremonies he’s the one to lead and give his blessings, and his words are very much respected.
In the evenings children gather round him to listen to fables or bedtime stories invented, or those related to the family.
In the absence of the grandfathers, it’s the grandmothers that takes over the reign of the families.
She is respected as the eldest of the family. Her male children respect her and so, their wives.
In Yorubaland all is based on age, that is respecting the oldest in the compounds or of the
families, and during the various celebrations, things are done always in commune, according to the families’ concerns.

ROLES OF THE ELDERS:

The roles of elders in Yorubaland cannot be over emphasised as they are the keepers of the chronicles
and secrets of the community.
They record all events and register the dates of births of each in the families.
They are treasurers, and keepers of the myths- a whole library which young people could always turn to,
to tap all the necessary information concerning the community, most especially of the past, when things
were not written on papers, but on masks, masquerades and in the memories of these elders.
As in the families the oldest rules, so it is in the Yoruba communities, the elders and the councils of advise
rule in conjunction with the kings, (Obas) the natural rulers of the cities, towns and the villages.

OBAS (KINGS) OR NATURAL RULERS:

In Yorubaland, there are different grades of natural rulers depending if it is a village, town or
city. In the villages and small towns, it is the Baale (Baba-ile) (literally, the father of the land).
The Baale: rules the village supported by the council of lower chiefs of the village, see to the affairs
of the land, settling and judging disputes, giving advises and keeping laws and orders. Also they make
sure that all the rituals and feasts of the villages are kept and carried out properly to appease the spirits of the land.
Obas: – (Kings) The Oba is much higher than the Baale as they rule over big towns and cities. The order is coming from
Ile-Ife, the spiritual city of the Yoruba and in ancient times, imported from Egypt!
The Obas are always natural rulers as the Yoruba people come to recognise them, and they believe that they
are representatives of gods, and seconds to the divinities on earth. In order words a lot of respects are accorded to them.
The Obas come in line, (passed from father to son) and in many cases it is the same family that breed the kings
and the future Obas in the city. In some cases they may be from different families and they go to the throne in sucession.
Unlike in the western world where you have a Mayor which are elected, in the Yorubaland the Obas are not elected,
they’re first Princes and then becomes the Oba (king), after he’s screened by the King makers, who will ascertain
that he could become a good Oba. To this effect, they will act as his counsellors making sure that he doesn’t
go off the designed paths of a natural ruler; representing the spirit and physical worlds.
The Obas are very powerful, and all must obey them including the king makers, elders and the community
even if he’s younger in age.
He represents his town or the city and also other lower rulers of villages and towns in his zone of power,
because there are some Obas who are more powerful than others depending on the hierarchy of the
towns or cities in the Yorubaland.
The Oba of Ile-Ife (Oni of Ife) is highest in rank, as he rules the sacred city of the Yorubaland,
then the Obas of Oyo (Alafin of Oyo) rules one of the oldest city and kingdom of the Yorubaland.
Oba of Ibadan -(Olu of Ibadan) the ruler of the largest city in west Africa.
Oba of Ijebuland (Awujale of Ijebuland) he rules on the city of Ijebu-Ode and he’s over all other Obas and
Baale of Ijebuland.
Oba of Abeokuta is called (Alake of Abeokuta) and all the Obas and Baale of Egbaland are under him.
All Yoruba villages, towns and cities have either, Baale, or Kings with lower chiefs and king-makers as
counsellors.
Balogun: is the military chief and he played important roles in the past as they led men to
wars and conflicts to conquer more territories, bringing more riches to their lands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL LIFE:

CEREMONIES:

Yoruba people are probably the most liveliest people in the world.
They like enjoying life, and they believe that every occasion in human’s life is to be celebrated, with food,
drinks and music.
Nothing is taken for granted in Yorubaland, and there are meanings to all things and in everything, starting with names
given to children, taking into consideration things and events around him or her at birth.
It is also noted that if the child carries with him or her at birth special names; (examples are in the case of Twins).
The first to come out is Taiwo or Tayewo (which means the first to taste or test the world; the first to see the light!
The second child of the twins Kehinde (the last to come out from the mother’s womb) is believed
to be first conceived, hence the ‘elder’ or ‘senior’ of the two, he stays back inside the womb and
expects ‘junior’ Taiwo to see what the outside world, and after hearing the crying and yelling of
Taiwo, Kehinde comes out!
Children like these are special in the Yorubaland, and for the fact that the arrived two at a time, for the Yoruba,
it is a special thing to celebrate, because they feel over blessed, And so they made them divinity!
In the past, other neighbouring lands; in Igboland, it was a bad omen to have twins, so they were
killing one of the two!
The Yoruba constantly celebrate with special food stuffs monthly.

(i) WEDDINGS:

Wedding in Yorubaland is a special affaire as it is the only ceremony in which one personal really fully participate!
At naming, one is too small to remember things, at death, one is ‘too dead’ to know what is going on around him!
In fact there’s a Yoruba adage which says, ‘If it is possible to die and rewake again, it will be seen clearly who
really loves or cares for us!’
Of course things have changed, as in many places all over the world, but in the past, marriages were families’ affaires.
When a young man eyed a young lady of his interest in town or village, he tries to trace her to her house, and then he goes
home and tells his parent.
Then the parents find out from whic family the girl comes from, and then send an envoy or the ‘go between’ to
talk to the girl’s parents.
This ‘go between’ are professionals, and they get paid for their job! They are people of tact and diplomacy, They had
the right words and said the right things to make the match works out.
They were like ‘lawyers’ and the more success they achieve in this job, the more people look for them for their service.
They were paid either in money, or in kinds; goats, fowls, sheep, just to mention a few.
After the agreement between the families, a date for the wedding is set, and preparations for the event will start.
The bride will choose a stuff for her wedding dress and another stuff for her friends and age mates in the quarter to
buy (it must be the same dress for all others).
The same thing for the bridegroom, and while the men have (Sokoto)-Yoruba trousers, (Buba) -Yoruba shirts
(Agbada)-flowing gown, and (Fila)- cap, the Ladies have (Iro)- Yoruba wrappers, (Buba) blouses, (Gele) head ties, and
(Iborun)- foulards.
On the day of the wedding, different foodstuffs are prepared both in the house of the bride and bridegroom, and whoever
enter in the two houses are served with things to eat and drink.
The first part of the weeding celebration is done in the house of the bride with prayers and nothing of the tradition is
left behind, after which the bride is officially ‘handed’ to the parents of the bridegroom.
In the morning of the wedding day, the bridegroom is at home with friends celebrating expecting the bride for the
ceremony later in the day.
The parents of the bridegroom return home to expect the bride together with the bridegroom!
In the evening, the bride is escorted with her parents, family and friends, with music and dance, and with people carrying
along with her all her belongings. Reaching the house of the bridegroom that’s always
in the same quarter or two quarters away, the bride is made to wash her feet before entering her future house and
this symbolises washing away all bad omens before starting a new life in her husband’s house!

Giving names in the Yorubaland.
Naming a child in Yorubaland is something very important and of a difference. Many customs are similar
to the Hebrew origin. A child receive name in Yorubaland at 8 days, while if they are males, circumcision
comes up at 40 days.
Many children come already with their names attached; and many others, have to be given one by the grandfathers
or grand grandparents depending who is available. Not even the parents are supposed to give names to the children;
it is the duties of the elders in the family. The Yoruba people just don’t give names as they come, because
names have great meaning and importance among the Yoruba people. The elders know the history (itan) and the (oriki);
the poems of the house (ile) and the compound (Agbole), so they are qualify for the job.
If the children are twins (ibeji) they need no other names more than (Taiwo or To-aiye-wo taste the world).
The name that is given to the first of the twins to come out of the womb. The small one is sent on errand by
the elder; Kehinde (Ke-hin-de), the last to come out. Kehinde; means the last to arrive. The one who comes behind;
the one to be conceive first the elder who sent his Aburo – (younger) on errand to taste the world, to see if it is good).
Other names are decided from house to house depending on the family, and which divity or divinities they worship,
if they’re from the royal family or kings’ makers – (Alafobaje), thus they are likely to be called with Ade;
(Crown) Adewale, Adesola, Adelola, Adeniran, and so on.
If the family worshipped Ogun; Oguntola, Ogunbiyi, Ogunbamidele.
If rather is ỌȘun, Osunmakinde, ỌȘunwale.
If it is Ifa, Ifawole, Ifasina, Ifakolade
Odu ifa; Oduwole, Odusola, Odutola
if they’re hunters (Ode); Odekoya, Odewale, Odebiyi.
if is an important family; Ola; Ọlaniran Olawale. Oladele.
As we can see, these names can continue a long way with other examples.
With advent of christianity, many have add biblical or christian names during baptism in the Church,
but our Yoruba names which are given in the family must be prominent always.
In general, the Africans have meaningful and beautiful names.

 

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