Yes people, this is me giving you History 101. Do you know the orisas of Yoruba land? The spirits your forefathers revered a long time ago. These are things that you don’t learn in classrooms anymore.
I went to Osun State, and saw a statue at the Osun Grove that was meant to represent the Osun goddess. She is one of the Orisas of the Yoruba land and is the goddess of fertility, beauty, divinity of rivers and love.
My friend said the movie avatar was based off our gods as we have the god of water, thunder etc.
Traditionally, the Yorubas believed that for almost every issue or battle, there was an Orisa that could help with the outcome. If you had a problem, they was an Orisa to appease or pray to. They are intermediaries between mankind and the supernatural..
Orisas (pronounced Orisha) according to Yoruba religion are deities that are one of the many manifestations of Eledumare (God). There are about 401 of them, and they are even worshiped in other countries like Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico etc. Some of them are heroes, and don’t necessarily have any powers.
They are also syncretized with various saints.
So when you go to certain tourist attractions, you’ll see statues that represent these gods. This falls under what is termed cultural/traditional tourism. In no particular order, these are some of the important Orisas in Yoruba religion.
1. Orunmila – The Orisa of wisdom, knowledge & divination
It is said that he was present at the beginning of creation. He is the grand priest, and his followers are commonly known as babalawos. He was sent down to earth by Eledumare and after 400 years went back to meet him.
Eledumare then sent Oduduwa and Obatala down to earth, and Orunmila gave Oduduwa a cock which was then used to create earth.
After earth was created, he came back using ewon (chain) to come down from heaven. Where he landed is known as Oke Igeti.
His taboos are gig rats, rainwater and the skin around Ikin (Kolanut)
2. Eshu – The trickster, guardian of the cross roads
Nowadays, this is referred to as the devil, but according to Yoruba religion, this is one of the most powerful Orisas. When sacrifices are made, he must be appeased first. If not the problem will not be delivered to Eledumare. It is whoever appeases him that he favors.
He was like a leprechaun, you get a pot of gold or nothing at all.
He is the messenger of the Orisas and is known for his exploits. It is said that he stands at crossroads and introduces chance, accidents and misfortune to humans.
His taboo is adin (black oil)
3. Oduduwa – The father of the Yorubas
He is said to be Eledumare’s favourite Orisa, which is why he was chosen by him to come and create earth. He did this with the use of Atepe (sand), Ewe (herbs) and adeye (a cock) which he took from his brother Obatala while he was drunk. One would think he was helping his big brother, but he had his own plans.
He is considered the first contemporary king of Ife, and sent out his daughters and sons to rule other Yoruba kingdoms. This is why the Ooni of Ife is regarded as the first among equals among other Yoruba monarchs. Also all Yoruba dynasties claim to be in one way or the other from his lineage.
4. Obatala – The orisa of creativity
This is Odudwa’s elder brother, and he was meant to be the one who created earth. However, after getting to earth, he was tricked by Eshu and he got drunk so he couldn’t complete his task. It was while he was drunk Oduduwa came in and took over. Sibling rivalry has been a thing for a long time
A great fight broke out between Obatala and Oduduwa, (which is now re-enacted during the Itapa festival), but ultimately he allowed Oduduwa and his children to rule.
His thoughts are said be pure, and he is always dressed in white to represent his clarity of thoughts and truthful manner.
It is believed that because of what his drunken state cost him, he banned his followers from drinking strong alcohol.
He is also the creator of human bodies.
His taboos are emu (palm wine) & aja (dog)
5. Ogun – The God of Iron and war
Have you ever seen people kiss machetes? It is to show that they are telling the truth as metal is sacred to this orisa and he was thought to swift and terrible in revenge.
He was meant to be the king of the orisas but didn’t want the position.
It is said that he did not want to stay on earth, but was later convinced by Orunmila. Anything concerning iron, he was the go to Orisa. He is celebrated in Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo States.
His followers believe he did not die, but simply disappeared from Earth in a place called Ire-Ekiti.
He presides over contracts and deals.
His taboo is Eworo (Rabbit)
6. Yemoja – The goddess of waters, nurturer
‘omo yen maa sa, she fine like yemoja’
She is very beautiful, the mother of all Orisas and the daughter of Obatala. She is the protective energy of the feminine force, and when her name is translated mean ‘mother of children who are like fishes’ to represent her motherhood.
She is usually depicted as a mermaid or maami water as Nigerians call it.
She controls the abundance of fishing and tries to make sure canoes or boats do not have accidents.
Her children do not eat watercress. When their health is at stake, they bring basket of roses to the sea shore because she loves them and throws them in while saying her name.
7, Sango – The god of thunder
Strategy and tactics were his strongest points. Our very own Hercules.
He was the 3rd Alaafin of Oyo State. He was a very powerful ruler who reigned for 7 years, and violence and battles kept recurring. He only spoke once and was represented by fire.
He had the ability to turn normal substances into elements that are pure and valuable. He had 3 wives, Osun, Oba and Oya.
I find it ironic that his reign was brought to an end when his palace was struck by lightening. If you’re in Lagos you can see his statue in Marina in front of the Eko Electricity Distribution Company.
As stated earlier, goddess of fertility, beauty, divinity of rivers and love.
Myth says that she went to a drum festival one day, and fell in love with Sango. She is widely loved as she heals the sick, brings fertility, prosperity and protects the poor. She is also fond of babies which is why she’s willing to give women children when appeased.
The myth is she turned into the osun river, and because of this the river has healing powers. People bring bottles here so as to take the water back home.
Every year, the Osun festival takes place and people from all over the world troop to the Osun Grove to worship her as it is along the bank of the Osun river.
Her depiction can be found along the river Osun bank.
9. Oya – the goddess of winds, sudden change and powerful sorcery
Approach her with caution, this is one scary orisa.
She is the 3rd wife of Sango, and because of her powers she was always with him. Thunder and winds go together right?
It is said that she turned into the River Niger and so is known as the mother of nine because it has 9 tributaries.
She wasn’t very patient and so was greatly feared. Because she controls the cemeteries and the realm of the dead, she could hold back the spirit of death or call it forth.
She is also referred to as a dark goddess due to her sorcery, she could be as gentle as the wind or as fierce as a hurricane.
What do you think? I think it would be awesome if a movie was made on the Orisas. Who’s your favorite?
ps Alot of people have always wondered what these Orisas actually looked like, so Atlanta based photographer held an exhibition showing what he thought the would look like. See below for pictures and let me know if you agree with him.