The Yoruba people have an amazingly rich mythology and a fantastic history that dates back to powerful city-states that flourished in the 15th century. The Yoruba were known for their mastery of the arts.
Yorubaland is in a region in Southwest Nigeria and also in adjoining Benin and Togo. Before an 1820 invasion, the Yoruba resided in powerful city-states with a very advanced culture in all the arts. Due to the slave trade, many people of African descent in the Americas trace their lineage to the Yoruba.
Now on to the Yoruba myth. (There is far too much to cover, but there are some great resources listed at the end of this post).
Itan is a collection of all Yoruba myths, songs, and histories. Itan is accepted as fact and is often used to settle disputes.
There is a strong belief in pursuing a constant quest to better one’s Iwa (moral character and behavior). Each person is responsible for making all aspects of himself better. This quest leads to transcendence and finding one’s destiny.
The belief is that each person has a destiny and each person will one day become one in spirit with Olodumare, the divine creator and source of all energy.
If becoming one with Olodumare is not one’s destiny then maybe it is to come back as a new member of the family. The Yoruba believe in reincarnation within the family.
After Olodumare, there are a multitude of deities known as Orisa (Orisha). The Orisas are both manifestations of Olodumare and are intermediaries between man and the supernatural. The Orisas have control over elements and nature.
One of the most important of the Orisa is the god Ogun. Ogun is the god of war, the hunt, contracts and iron working. The followers of Ogun would swear to tell the truth by kissing a machete sacred to Ogun.
Shango, once a king of the Yoruba, is the Sky Father and god of thunder. Shango creates thunder and lightning by casting thunder stones to down to earth. Priests search for the thunder stone which contains great powers. – This is so cool.
The Yoruba trickster god is called Eshu and he is well-respected by the other Orisas. The Yoruba think rather highly of him. Since I love almost all trickster characters I will be colleting Eshu stories to share in later posts.
The Yoruba are a large population with a strong oral tradition. All of these myths may vary from village to village by name and even by the gender of the gods.
If you experience a storm, then I wish you both a beautiful rainbow and a thunder stone as a souvenir.
A Must-Read – Best Site on Nigerian Mythology, complete with a great list of Orishas http://darkmythology-dark234.blogspot.com/2011/05/nigeria-mythology.html
Excellent rendition of a Yoruba Creation Myth http://www.gateway-africa.com/stories/Yoruba_Creation_Myth.html
A very good listing of Orishas http://www.fact-index.com/y/yo/yoruba_mythology.html