Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief

By E. Bolaji Idowu | Go to book overview

9
The Cult of the Divinities

WORSHIP

To the casual observer, the objective phenomena in the religion of the Yoruba are the divinities and the cults attached to them. It will be worthwhile, therefore, to give attention to these cults; and to do that, we shall begin with the fundamental subject of worship.

Worship is an imperative urge in man. Its beginning may be traced back to the basic "instinct" which was evoked in man by the very fact of his confrontation with the "numinous".1 Man perceived that there was a Power other and greater than himself, a Power which dominated and controlled the unseen world in which he felt himself enveloped; a Power which he therefore made out by intuition to be the "ultimate Determiner of Destiny".2 "Ye worship that which ye know not" may be predicated of man's ritual acts in the beginning. What happened to him was that the urgent, awesome immanence of the "wholly other" impressed itself upon him in such a compulsive way that he reacted without pausing to think why. Thus worship in its rudimentary form originated in the spontaneous and extempore expression of man's reaction as he found himself confronted with the revelation which evoked in him an active response.

With the growth of spiritual perception, belief gradually became formulated; that formulation resulted in some patterns of worship which, with the passage of time, evolved into set orders. At this stage, worship had attained a social status wherein the force of habit born of frequent repetitions resulted in a demand for conformity to approved cults. Such, roughly, was the basic process which produced all the forms of worship which we have today.

In the life of the Yoruba, worship as an imperative factor stands out prominently. As a deeply religious people, worship for them begins,

____________________
1
Cf. Genesis 28:17; Ezekiel 1:28.
2
The Religious Consciousness, by J. P. Pratt ( New York, The Macmillan Co., 1946). Chapters 1 and 2 are very illuminating on this subject.

-107-

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