Yoruba mythology

Posted by on 12/19/2005 11:28:56 AM

Yoruba mythology

The mythology of the Yoruba is sometimes claimed by its supporters to be one of the world's oldest widely practised religions. It is a major religion in Africa, chiefly in Nigeria, and it has given origin to several New World religions such as Santera in Cuba and Candombl in Brazil.

Yoruba mythology is only one part of itan the complex of myths, songs, histories and other cultural concepts which make up the Yorb religion and society.

Statue of the orisha Eshu, Oyo, Nigeria, c1920.Yoruba deities are called Orishas. The primordial, first-existing, Orishas are called Obatala and Odduw, brother and sister respectively, and their father Olorun. Obatala created humanity and Olorun gave life to the hollow shells Obatala had made. Obatala and Odduw later had a son, Aganyu, and a daughter, Yemaja, who was a mother goddess. Her son, Ogun, raped her twice; the second time, her body exploded and fifteen Orishas came out. They included Oshun, Olukun, Shakpana, Shango.

Shango is perhaps the most important Orisha; god of thunder and an ancestor of the Yorb. He was the fourth king of the Yorb, and deified after his death.

Eshu is another very important Orisha. He is a trickster and very well-respected both by the Yorb themselves and the other Orishas.

The Orisha

Other concepts
Yoruba mythology includes several other entities besides the Orisha, such as Egbere.

If dafa as well as merindinlogun or (cowrie shell divination) are important element of Yoruba religious practices.


Yoruba mythology in the New World
Many ethnic Yoruba were taken as slaves to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil and the rest of the New World (chiefly in the 19th century, after the Oyo empire collapsed and the region plunged into civil war), and carried their religious beliefs with them. These concepts were combined with preexisting African-based cults, Christianity, Native American mythology, and Kardecist Spiritism into various New World lineages:

Santera (Cuba)
Oyotunji (USA)]
Idigene (Nigeria)
Anago (Nigeria)
Candombl (Brazil)
Umbanda (Brazil)
Batuque (Brazil)

The popularly known Vodun religion of Haiti was founded by slaves from a different ethnic group (the Ewe of present-day Benin), but shares many elements with the Yoruba-derived religions above.

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