In the last chapter we have considered the etymological significance of the name of the Deity. We have, in that way, learnt that the Yoruba think of Him as One who possesses superlative greatness and fullness of all excellent attributes. By calling Him Olódùmarè, the Yoruba acknowledge Him to be unique in heaven and on earth, supreme over all.
We observed, however, that we cannot depend upon the etymology of the name only for a detailed knowledge of His essential attributes. And, fortunately, we have other sources1 which give ample confirmation to what we have learnt through the study of the name, and which will give us a great deal more. With these sources, we shall find our feet on a surer ground, because they bring us into actual contact with the Yoruba in the business of daily living as they think, worship, and express their beliefs. We shall learn, especially, that the Deity is, after all, not as distant from man's daily life and thought as some would lead us to think.2 Let us, therefore, hear what those sources have to say on the subject.
A question of first importance is, "Who or what is Olódùmarè?" The Yoruba conception of the nature of the Deity is naturally anthropomorphic. But what worshipping people can wholly divest their thoughts of anthropomorphism in a matter such as this? We know how difficult it becomes in the more "developed" religions, and in Christianity, to make Him comprehensible in abstract terms to the worshipping and praying mind. We note with interest the prayer of the Indian sage Sankara3:
O Lord, pardon my three sins.
I have in contemplation clothed in form Thee Who art formless:
I have in praise described Thee Who art ineffable:
And in visiting temples I have ignored Thine omnipresence.