The Creation, Yoruba Position and the Myth
The Yoruba believes that the supreme essence or force from which all creation emanated is recognized as Olodumare or Olorun which means ‘Owner of Heaven’ or ‘Lord of Heaven’, ‘The Supreme Head of all divinities’. Olodumare is the author and source of all living things and the foundation from which men derive their soul and life sustaining breath – ‘The Spirit of Olodumare’. Olodumare is the final recipient of all sacrifices, rituals and initiations. He is both the giver and the receiver and at the same time he transcends all in his transcendence. Olodumare is not physical or empirical accessible to man. Through initiations, meditations, prayer, fasting and the development of mental and spiritual awareness man can know and feel the power of Olodumare through his intermediaries, the Irunmole and Orisas. Through his intermediaries we can come to know the powerful nature of Olodumare – The Lord of Heaven and gain insight into his mysteries.
He is the creator of the whole universe, a king who rules over all things in the universe, his universality is embedded in the physical habitation of man and in the mystic realm where spirit dwells. He is all wise, all knowing, all seeing, he is able to solve all problems without compelling us to do his will but by giving us free will to chose between what is good and what is bad, between what is moral and immoral, between what is evil and what is good, what is dark and what is pure. He is a loving God, a father who all the time demonstrates his love for us when we make the right choices, the choices that bring us good fortune. By doing this we live our life to Olodumare’s glory. Olodumare is immortal and holy. He is the head of all Irunmole (immortal spirits dwelling in heaven)and Agba Orisa (the Arch-Orisa or Arch-Angels/Spirits). He controls the seasons to turn and causes all natural events to occur for his glory. .He is the first and the last. He is the fountain of all wisdom, knowledge and reason.
Yoruba mythology and theology realize and emphasize on the uniqueness and the unique status of Olodumare, ‘The Living and Immortal God’. The divinities with all their attributes and wise knowledge, power and forces belong to Olodumare, and his supremacy is absolute. Everything that occurs in our mysterious world, Aye Akamara, happens because he allows them to happen. Nothing comes to pass unless he approves them to happen. Olodumare possess the absolute power and authority which is why we say:
” EWE KAN KI JABO LEHIN OLODUMARE ”
Which means: ‘No leaf can fall from the tree without the authority, power and knowledge of God’
We can not speak about the Yoruba belief, about God and the spiritual phenomena of our faith without tracing its origin. The whole composite of Yoruba culture, its language, the nations’ identity, moral systems and beliefs came from the present middle-east. Our ancestors settled in the western part of Africa in areas that today are defined as Nigeria, Togo, Benin as well as parts of Ghana and Sierra Leone. From here the Yoruba spread to all of the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe.
One account of origin tells us that the Yoruba people were a part of a pre-Jewish tradition in the middle-east. Through communal effort and cooperation the tradition dispersed all over the world. We can find great similarities in the tradition of circumcision, tribal markings and the whole body of knowledge concerning sacrifice, rituals, prayer, fasting, as well as its mysticism and traditional philosophy – all elements that form the foundation of classical Judaism can be found in the practice of Yoruba religiosity. All these components can in turn be traced back to the time of Adam and later Abraham. As we see, the Yoruba, with its culture, religion and language predated Christianity and Islam, as recorded in the research by Hamilton Bailey concerning the practice of circumcision amongst the Jews and Yoruba.
We can also gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the term Yoruba by translating this into Hebrew. The word Yoruba is formed by yud, resh, vau, beth and aleph
Yud – YO- referring to a divine order and being the spark of divinity
Resh – R- referring to psychic union ns also being related to the Sun, the lifegiving male principle
Heh – U- The gateway for the divine powers and its source
Beth – B – The active motion of the divine spark within man as referring to the construction of man as a house for God.
Aleph – A – The collective stabilizing power of the human being.
Hence the word Yoruba then refers to a divine order born by the psychic union of life that resulted into the source of the everlasting providence as well as an active movement of divine power within man that are utilized to ensure the collective stability of humanity. This results in equilibrium and stability, the needed foundation for accomplishing effective communication between the physical and spiritual realm. We need Ifá as a tool for accomplishing this mediation between the physical and invisible world. Ifá as a tool for divination is a problem solving tool, with the aim of finding solutions to all of man’s problems with the aid of the immortal beings and the ancestors.
Having said this, it is important to stress that Olodumare is a God who embraces all people, we might say that the global spread of the Yoruba people indicates the universality of Olodumare. The Yoruba is convinced that Olodumare is the king of kings and the mysterious ruler that knows everything, it be in the light or in the darkness. A Yoruba proverb says:
agbokunkun, tafa si imole , boba aye kori o, orun wo ooo,
this means; ‘those who is in darkness and does evil to the children of light , if the earthly king does not see you, the heavenly ruler is watching you”.