Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief

By E. Bolaji Idowu | Go to book overview
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Olódùmarè--His Status

Hitherto, so much has been revealed to us about Olódùmarè that we should be able to infer easily what the Yoruba believe and think with regard to His relationship to the divinities in particular, and the universe in general. Our sources, however, encourage us to search further, dangling before our eyes the concrete, irresistible promise of a wealth of material which will put the matter beyond dispute.

There have been a few things written on this theme,1 all of which agree in making Him of little account in the religious life of the Yoruba. But, as we develop this thesis, we shall soon discover that the authors of this conception of Him have erred; and they have erred in that way because they have been ignorant of that which forms the real core of the religion which they endeavour to study. Appearance has been sufficient for them as the criterion of judgment.

Truly, to the cursory observer, the "gods many and lords many" which form the Yoruba pantheon are, to all intents and purposes, sufficient for the needs of the people: to these the Yoruba address their worship and prayers as a general rule. It seems, therefore, that Olódùmarè is a remote Deity who could be thought of or called upon very occasionally. But we have to agree that the truth in a matter of this nature consists not in what the outside observer thinks, but in what the Yoruba themselves think and believe about the Deity.

In order to see clearly how the conception of the Yoruba with regard to the status of the Deity stands, we shall do well to consider one or two illustrations. First let us take an earthly governmental system. Think in particular of a government which is a Monarchy. In such a state, the function of the government is portioned out to a hierarchy of officials at the head of which is the King. The citizens know that they have a King; but each of them contents himself with the particular section of the government, and the head of the department in that section, which answers his immediate needs. As a matter of fact, he probably does not

See Chapter 11, pp. 140 f.


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