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Yoruba Gods and Their Origins

Yoruba Gods and Their Origins

Yoruba Gods have been called Metaphysical entities; Spirits, Supreme being, Orisha, and have a widespread acceptance of Olodumare being the Supreme God who created the Orishas of which 17 of them were sent to Populate the earth.

Some of the Yoruba Orishas

  • Olodumare (The Supreme)
Depiction of the concept of Olodumare

“Olodumare” is the name of a divine creature that has neither parent or mother and is both tied and unbound by space, time, and dimension .

He is all mighty and the Source of all, according to the Yoruba. Olodumare is distant; he avoids getting involved in earthly problems and instead relies on his sons and daughters, the Orisha, to address human worries through divination, possession, sacrifice, and other means. When they retire to bed at night, though, everything is in Olodumare’s hands.

  • Ośun (goddess of water and fertility)
Statue of Osun

While some mythologies consider her Sango’s wife, Ośun was considered the only female deity among the Orishas and depicted as the savior and nurturer of humanity when the male gods were unsuccessful at their quests to revive and populate the Earth.

The male deities had begged her to help them fulfil the quest given to them by Olodumare, and she brought in all her sweet and powerful water and brought humanity and life to earth and can also take it.

Described as Olodumare’s favorite orisha due to her beauty, she was generally associated with water, love, fertility and purity but with human attributes such as jealousy, vanity and spite but considered to be one of the most powerful Orishas.

  • Obalúwayé (god of healing)
Orisha Ṣọpọna,

The orisha of healing, Obalúwayé, is also known as Oluaye, Ṣọpọna, or even Obaluaiye and summoned at anytime infirmity is a threat.

He supports illness cures, particularly for people on the verge of death. He is always near Iku (the orisha who takes life), but he is largely feared because he is thought to bring sickness to people, notably smallpox, for which is also called Ṣọpọna.

  • Erinle (the rivergod)
Figurative cover for Erinle river stone found in shrines

Currently existing as a cult with existing shrines found in the towns of the former Oyo Empire. Erinle shrines contains smooth, round stones from the Erinle River covered and used by the members.

Not exactly one of the Yoruba Gods, Erinle was a legendary hunter who eventually evolved into an orisha. He is claimed to have led the first Olobu of Ilobu to the location of Ilobu town and to have safeguarded the town’s people from Fulani invasions. He is commonly depicted as a hunter, but he is sometimes depicted as a herbalist or a farmer and reported to have sunk into the ground near Ilobu and turned into a river that runs south of Offa.

  • Èṣù (god of trickster)
Eśu Statue

He was referred to as the “guardian of the crossroads”. Because it was believed that he sees in several directions at once. And he’s also the master of chance and indeterminacy, able to take on different identities. Èṣù was seen as one of the Yoruba Gods; a famous primordial Divinity sent by Olódùmarè. He descended from Ìkọ̀lé Ọ̀run as the Chief Enforcer of natural and divine laws – he is the Deity in charge of law enforcement and orderliness. 

  • Obatala (Great Orisha)
Yoruba Gods and their Origins
Orisha Obatala

Olodumare gave Obatala permission to make land on the seas underneath the sky.

The first Yoruba city, Ife, was created as a result of his efforts. Of the Yoruba Gods, Obatala was tagged maker of human beings and Olodumare’s emissary on Earth. He is thought to be the Sky Father and the creator of human bodies, which were given life by Olodumare’s gentle breath. Obatala is said to be the father of all orisha’s(irunmole or imole) and Yemaya is his primary partner(wife).

The mortal Obatala served as king of Ife during its classical period, according to Ife’s oral tales. At some point, his throne passed to his opponent Oduduwa’s bloodline.

  • Oduduwa (The great Ancestral spirit)

According to Legend, Oduduwa was a divine Yoruba king; the Ooni of Ile-Ife, the Yoruba holy city.  The first unified Ife monarch, and the creator of several distinct royal dynasties in Yoruba land, he is well known as the ancestor of their countless crowned rulers.

He was believed to be the creator of all the earth with his throne capital at Ile-Ife. Odua (shortened from Oduduwa) defeated opposing armies of the 13 indigenous villages of Ife headed by Obatala. This was a long-running conflict to become King of Ife and unite these villages into a unified Ife nation.

Olofin Adimula, Olofin Aye, and Olufe were the praise names of Oduduwa. He was accepted into the Yoruba Gods pantheon as an element of a primordial divinity of the same name after his posthumous deification.

  • Ogun (god of iron & war)
Ogun Statue

After Oduduwa’s death, Ogun became the first Ooni of Ife. A powerful spirit of metal craftsmanship, as well as rum-maker, and a fighter. He is popularly also known as the ‘Iron God’.

Ogun is a primordial orisha in Yoruba Land, according to Yoruba religion. Said to have opened a passage for other orishas to enter Earth with the help of a dog & metal ax; Osin Imole, which means “first of the primordial Orisha to enter Earth,” is one of his praise names, or oriki. He is the deity of metals and war.

Ogun is reported to have been the first monarch of Ife during his earthly existence. When some of his subjects disobeyed him, Ogun killed them and then stabbed himself with his own sword.

He vanished beneath the earth to a location known as Ire-Ekiti, promising to assist anyone who invoke his name. Instead of dying, his followers say he vanished into the earth’s surface.

  • Sango (god of lightening & thunder)
Orisha Sango with his double-bladed axe – his symbol of power

Prior to his posthumous deification, Shango was the third Alaafin of the Oyo Kingdom, making him a Yoruba royal ancestor. Well-known for his lethal axe and widely regarded as one of the most powerful monarchs Yoruba land has ever produced.

He ruled for seven years, during which he waged numerous campaigns and wars. His rule came to an end when lightning struck his palace and destroyed it.

Queen Oshun, Queen Oba, and Queen Oya were his three wives.

The orisha pantheon’s most powerful and dreaded orisha is Sàngó.

To anyone who offends him, he casts a “thunderstone” to the earth, which causes thunder and lightning.

His symbol of power was a double-bladed axe which signified; “My strength cuts both ways,”. Meaning that no onenot even the most distant citizen of Oyowas beyond reach of his authority or immune to punishment for misdeeds. The people of Oyo called him by his praise name, Oba Jakuta, the Stone Thrower Oba.

Believing that it will bring down the wrath of the deity of iron, worshippers in Yoruba land do not eat cowpea till date.

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