Project Work about the Yoruba Religion
ProjectWork about the Yoruba Religion
ProjectWork about the Yoruba Religion
Yoruba is amongone of the most researched ethnic groups in Africa. The group isdistinct in its culture and religious beliefs. The kingdom of Yorubawas among the strongest in the West Africa. However, the constant warwith their neighbors Fulani from the north made them collaborate withthe Europeans (Akintoye, 2010). The colonization led to the loss oftheir territories. Moreover, the missionaries greatly influenced theYoruba modern culture and religious beliefs. The paper will discussthe history, religion, and culture of the Yoruba people.
The Yoruba arebelieved to have originated from the Eastern Africa. They followedthe mid-Nile River and later the Niger to settle in the West Africa.The migration is estimated to have taken place around 500 B.C. Whenthey arrived in the West Africa, they settled on already establishedkingdom Ile-Ife (Drewal, Pemberton & Abiodun, 1989). The domainserved as the sacred city for the natives Nok. As the empire grew,war arose with other kingdoms over territory claims. The arrival ofslave merchant also brought another war, this time to secure slavesfor trade. The trade with the Portuguese gave Yoruba access to theguns, and this technology made them very influential and powerful.
Therefore,before the scramble for Africa, the Yoruba occupied lands extendingfrom Nigeria to the Angola. However, the partitioning of the Africasignificantly reduced the territories held by the group. In addition,slavery reduced their number as many of the youths from West Africawere shipped to work in sugar plantations in America. Consequently,their number dwindled. Therefore, the population of this group hasbeen affected by colonization and slavery. Notably, the division ofthe African continent to different countries divided the Yoruba`s andchanged their culture and religious beliefs. The most considerablechange took place in their languages, for example, the Angolans spokePortuguese while the Nigerians spoke English. On the other hand,Benin, Cote de` Voire spoke French (Drewal, Pemberton & Abiodun,1989).
ReligiousBeliefs and Sacrifices In the religious beliefs of theYoruba, there exists a Supreme Being referred to as Oludumare. TheOludumare has servants who often communicate his message to theYoruba people. The servants (deities) are the angels. In Yoruba,these gods are called the Orisha. The Yoruba believes in thetransamination of the soul (reincarnation) and destiny. The fate of aperson is good or bad depending on their interactions with theorisha. In their beliefs, for one to fulfill his or her purpose inlife, they must avoid angering the Orisha and attacks from thewitches and sorcerers (Akintoye, 2010).
Many things mustbe done to avoid the attacks of the sorcerers and witches. One mustbe in good terms with the ancestors and the orisha. Importantly, theymust be able to foretell the future. However, to see the future, theymust make sacrifices to the ancestors and the orisha. Notably, havinga good relationship with orisha ensures the witches and the sorcerersdo not interfere with one`s destiny. It is very much like therelationship Christians make with Jesus to protect them from Satan(evil spirits). Orisha gains their power and status through theolodumare, who is the immortal being, the omniscient and above all hegives the right things to the humankind.
Each orisha hasits meaning and importance. Some orisha are only worshiped by a smallgroup while others command a huge following. Notably, the source andnature of the orisha also differ. For example, some are in the formsof hill or rivers. Others are personified in the form of naturalforces, for example, earthquakes and so on. Importantly, the orishais also grouped according to its divinities. The higher the divinityof the orisha the greater its importance (Akintoye, 2010). Notably,there is an association in the Yoruba ranking of the orisha and theirpolitical systems, which are defined by an oligarch. The higher theroyalty of the family, the greater the level of respect and obediencehe is given.
Important tonote, the orisha is also defined and ranked according to theirsymbols and the functions they play. The strongest and the fiercestof all is ogun. Ogun is famed for hunting and war. He carries a lotof importance to men (Akintoye, 2010). On the other hand, weak orishalike orisanla have little importance to men and are worshiped by thewomen.
Like mentionedearlier, there are many orisha and their importance varies. However,the major ones have their shrines where priests clad in special robesand marked with insignia perform sacrifices. Importantly, during theofferings, the followers of the orisha must observe certain foodtaboos. For example, during the offerings of orisanla, the priestswear white clothes and so do the worshippers. Importantly, the itemssacrificed to the orisanla, are white for examples, yams, snails andfufu (Drewal, Pemberton & Abiodun, 1989).
Notably, thetype of dances and music differs depending on the orisha. Thesacrifices and worship of orisha are supposed to bring good health,wealth, and children. However, the orisha can also punish if thepeople show a lack of respect for god or break taboos. People wouldonly join the cult of an individual orisha if their parents did soand only when the orisha calls them in their dreams, divination orsickness. For instance, if a child was born through the prayers madeto an orisha by the mother, the child will worship the orisha for therest of their life.
The initiationof the child to join the cult of a given orisha requires intensetraining and may raise emotional distress in the child. Particularlyfor the strong orisha, the initiation may involve purepossessiveness. Some of the activities that are undertaken in theritual include dancing, fire eating, piercing the lips, smokingleaves as cigarettes among others. The initiates are trained beforethe ceremony, for example, a particular pattern of drumming may sendthe initiates into a specific trance dance (Akintoye, 2010).
Mainly, threetypes of rituals are performed when worshiping the orisha. The firstceremony is carried out when an individual enters a hut and greetsthe orisha with a kola nut. The second ritual is performed on theparticular orisha shrine. It occurs during the Yoruba four-day week.The last festival happens annually and involves cult members fromother regions (Akintoye, 2010).
The powerpossessed by an orisha determine their prestige among the politicalclass. For example, the palace often organized the festivals forSango, and the king and other political officials attended thecelebrations.
Notably, theYoruba have special intercessors who communicate with the spiritualrealm. In other words, not everyone talks to an orisha. If theintercessor is a man, he is called Babalawao. On the other hand, ifshe is a woman, she is referred to as Iyalawalo (Akintoye, 2010).
The culture ofthe Yoruba is best told through their religious beliefs. Forinstance, the beliefs in the Supreme Being olodumare are passed on tothe next generation through stories, poems, fables and mythicallegends. Importantly, they practiced beading and weaving displayed intheir colorful artworks. In addition, sculptures were also part oftheir artistic works. The music of Yoruba involves drumming (Drewal,Pemberton & Abiodun, 1989). In fact, drumming is their culturalheritage. The group lived in together in cities or big towns. Thetraditional food has always been yams and cassava.
In conclusion, Yoruba is rich in culture and religious beliefs.Before the colonization of Africa by the Europeans, the Yoruba heldlarge territories (from Angola to western Nigeria). The division ofthe Africa led to the dissipation of their cultural and religiousheritage. The majority of the Yoruba are concentrated in the WestAfrica, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo. Among the Yoruba, religiousbeliefs are the one’s destiny, a journey of self-exploration. Inaddition, they believe in the olodumare, only referred to as it,since he belongs to no gender. Oludumare does not activelyparticipate in the day-to-day lives of men. Instead, that role isleft to the servants’ orisas. Dances and drum beating are meant toinvite the orisha to possess the body of men.
Akintoye, S. A. (2010). A history of the Yoruba people.Dakar: Amalion Publishing.
Drewal, H. J., Pemberton III, J., & Abiodun, R. (1989). Yoruba:Nine centuries of African art and thought. Africanarts, 23(1), 68-104.
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