Yoruba Religion: Its Origin and Its Spread

The People:

The Yoruba religion originated from the Yoruba people. These people are scattered in different geographical locations and are connected by language, beliefs, and customs. The Yoruba people occupy the West of Nigeria in West Africa. They hold a strong belief that they are descendants of the great hero, Oduduwa. The Yoruba people can also be found in the Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Argentina, Uruguay, and Togo. This spread was majorly due to the slave trade. The Atlantic slave trade is a major factor as many Yoruba indigenes were moved to several cities and countries as slaves.

The Religion:

The Yoruba religion forms the basis of other religions such as Santeria and Voodoo. It is however not fully practiced by all the Yoruba people. The Yorubas are divided into Christian, Muslims and only about 20% still practice the religion. The Yoruba religion focuses on the belief in Olorun, the Creator god and other minor deities called Orisas.

These Orisas stand as intermediaries between the Supreme deity and mankind. Some are believed to have existed since before man came to be, others being humans who attained that spiritual height and others assuming the form of natural forces such as waters, rocks, and trees. They are said to be able to engage in marriage, divorce, eating, drinking, dancing to music and every other activity man can engage in.

These Orisas are responsible for carrying prayer requests, messages from man to Olodumare. Followers also believe in body possession by the Orisas. This is done through ritualistic dancing, music, drum beats, and chants. As the participants dance, the Orisa rise from its place of residence, which is the Earth and rests on the soul of the follower or priest. From thence he is possessed of the Orisa which begins to express itself through the participant’s body.

The Story Of Creation:

The account of creation forms part of the peculiarities of the Yoruba religion. It is believed that Olodumare is the Supreme Deity that created the entire universe. He sent the Truth to identify habitable planets in the Universe and the Earth was reported to be too wet for the existence of life.

Olodumare then sent the other gods led by Obatala to develop the earth’s crust. Obatala in getting to the earth, armed with soil, winged beasts, and a cloth. A large heap was formed on the water and the winged beast began to spread it. This activity formed the dry land, mountains, and hills. 

Obatala stood on the dry ground and called it Ife. It became fertile and began to sprout plants. Obatala further took soil and began to mold images that would become humans. Olodumare then sent fire to bake those images. He further sent the breath of life that blew across the land and brought those images to life. Those images became the first living beings. It is believed that life began in Ife.

The Yoruba religion has notable differences when compared to Palo Mayombe. Despite the latter being the basis of some other religions, Palo Mayombe is still referred to as the most powerful dark religion.