Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief

By E. Bolaji Idowu | Go to book overview

3
In the Beginning

What are we taught by our forbears, according to the oral traditions about the world in which we live? Who made this world and all its fullness? And how are the affairs of the world managed?

Someone who has made a careful study of all the material which our sources afford will have no hesitation in asserting that Olódùmarè is the origin and ground of all that is.1 That is the fact which impresses itself upon us with the force of something incontrovertible. From all the evidence which we gather from the traditions, the Yoruba have never, strictly speaking, really thought further back than Olódùmarè, the Deity. There is no doubt that they have had their occasional worries, like all believers and thinkers all down the ages, with regard to the origin of Olódùmarè Himself; but whenever that question has raised its head, it has been nipped in the bud as the dangerous beginning of irreverent inquisitiveness.2 The existence of Olódùmarè eternally3 has, for all practical purposes, been taken for granted as a fact beyond question. It is upon this basic faith that the whole superstructure of Yoruba belief rests.

Then there are the divinities,4 especially the principal ones. All the indications which have come down to us are that they were all brought into existence by Olódùmarè that they might be His ministers in carrying out, each in his own office, the functions connected with the creation and theocratic government of the earth. But as to when they began to be, we have little information. They are first introduced to us in connection with the creation of the earth and the arrangement of its equipment.

And what about the creation of the original man or woman? When did this take place, or how? Here again, we are lost in the wilderness. All that is clear is that they were made by Olódùmarè, who also fixed their destiny.5 According to the oral traditions, some "creatures" who

____________________
1
See Chapter 4.
2
See Chapter 5, p. 46.
3
See Chapter 5, p. 46.
4
See Chapters 7 and 8.
5
See Chapter 13, pp. 173 ff.

-18-

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