Olaodaumarae: God in Yoruba Belief

By E. BȨlaji Idowu | Go to book overview
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7
The Ministers of Olódùmarè

In the earlier chapters, we have referred to certain beings whom we designated as divinities. These, according to the indigenous belief of the Yoruba, serve the will of Olódùmarè in the creation and theocratic government of the world. We shall now give a closer attention to them and consider their functions in some detail.

The problem with which we are to deal here is a delicate one. It is that of resolving the age-long riddle with regard to "gods many and lords many" in religion. The subject appears to be perennial, inasmuch as it belongs to the very existence of man in his dealings with a world which, at best, he can only see darkly--rather darkly, as in a mirror, while he remains in his "native sphere".

But, that the problem arises so persistently and demands to be examined so constantly is a proof that it is real. It presents itself under several questions--Have the gods come into being in consequence of the "retreat" of the Deity from the day-to-day life of man? Are the gods after all nothing more than a result of the intellectual fragmentation of the one Deity? Or, are they indeed celestial overlords among whom the universe has been partitioned? To a few aspects of this problem we shall give more attention below. Let us look now at some of the attempts which have been made to deal with it.

John Oman1 summarises the well-known opinion of Andrew Lang on the topic. To Lang, the sorry situation had been caused mainly by the advance of culture: the moral pre-eminence of a God who could not be bribed proved too much a handicap in competition with the ravenous but serviceable ghosts or ghost-gods, and shades of ancestors; add to that the rise of autocratic institutions, and you have arrived at the reason why "the old supreme Being was obscured or superannuated or at best enthroned as Emperor-God". In dealing with this question, John Oman himself said, "Polytheism is far from being the simplest

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1
The Natural and the Supernatural ( Cambridge University Press, 1931), pp. 485 f.

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