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The Yorùbá religion comprises religious beliefs and practices of the Yoruba people of old before the Yoruba community encountered Islam, Christianity and other faiths. It originated in Africa (chiefly in Nigeria and Benin), and in the New World, where it has influenced or given birth to several Afro-American religions such as Lucumí in Cuba and Umbanda and Candomblé in Brazil in addition to the transplantation of the homeland religions.

Yoruba religious beliefs are part of itan — the complex of songs, histories, stories and other cultural concepts which make up the Yorùbá religion and society.

Yorùbá, in brief

Yorùbá philosophy teaches that all humans have Ayanmo (manifest destiny) to become one in spirit with Olódùmarè (Olòrún, the divine creator and source of all energy). Each person in Ayé (the physical realm) uses thought or action energies to impact the community of all other living things including the Earth, and so to move towards destiny. As such, one's destiny is in one's hands. To attain transcendence and destiny in Òrún-Réré (spiritual realm of those who do good and beneficial things), one's Orí-Inu (spiritual consciousness in the physical realm) must be elevated to unify with one's Iponri (Orí Òrún). Those who stop improving are destined for Òrún-Apadi (spiritual realm of the forsaken). Life and death are cycles of habitation in physical body and spiritual realms while one's spirit evolves toward transcendence. This evolution is most advanced in Irùnmolẹ (oní irun, of the unique hair that distinguishes humans from beasts; imo, enlightened of destiny, ilẹ on the land)

For most people, iwapẹlẹ (well-balanced), meditation and sincere veneration sufficiently strengthen one's Orí-Inu. Being well-balanced, it is believed, that a person is in the prime position to make positive use of the simplest form of connection between eniyan and Olu-Òrún in the form of adúra (petition or prayer) for divine support.

Some feel it also binding to make a petition or prayer to one's Orí Òrún as it is said to yield quick and decisive pockets of joy. Ẹlégbara (Eṣu, the divine messenger) who, without distortion or partiality for good or for evil, negotiates communication to Òrún and navigates them to Ayé; deliverer of àṣẹ. It is thought that Ifá is called upon whilst in times of major decision making; whatever the 'offering'; the line of advice is commonly used to draw conclusions that would not have been first thought. Call Orunmila,Ifa; or try vice-versa; it is said that all communication with Òrún is energized by invoking àṣẹ.

In the Yoruba Theogany, Olódùmarè has àṣẹ over all.

Deities and other entities

Yòrùbá Orishas, literally, owners of heads, are the means to get into contact with the supernatural. The term is often translated as deities.[1]


Olódùmarè is the most important entity. Olódùmarè is so important, that there can be no gender assigned, for Olódùmarè is seen mostly as a spirit. Olódùmarè is therefore more correctly referred to as an IT. IT is the owner of all heads, because during human creation, Olódùmarè gave the emi, or breath of life to humans. To the Yorubas, Olódùmarè is Supreme. If there was a conflict among the other Orishas IT would take over and the fight would end.


The irunmole were spirits sent by Olodumare to complete various tasks, often between Orun (the invisible realm) and Aiye (the physical realm). Some were acknowledged as Orisha for their accomplishments. The orishas help to create and maintain order on earth.

Other concepts

Ifá dafa as well as merindinlogun or (cowrie shell divination) are important element of Yòrùbá religious practices.

  • Eledua is Olodumare the Pantheon of the - Yoruba theogany: In this,Olodumare is the supreme being;creator of night and day; the final recipient of all creation

'Emere' as well as 'akuda' is another manifestation of the yoruba belief in reincarnation is the belief in the emere.

Àjòdún / Festivals

This schedule, as determined by the Yoruba calendar, is illustrative for 10050 year (2008.CE) Note the actual dates may vary.

Ṣèrè / January

Erele / February
Olokún = Oríṣà of Okún, the deep seas or oceans, patron of sailors, and guardian of souls lost at sea Erele/Feb 21-25

Èrèna / March
Annual rites of passage for men Èrèna/March 12 – 28

Oduduwa (odudu, the dark pigment; ni ewa, is the beauty) / Iyaagbe (iya, mother; agbe, who receives) = Oríṣà of Earth and matron of the Ayé. Oduduwa endows the ebony dark skin pigment that accords great gifts of spirituality, beauty and intellect to the bearer. The essence of procreative love. Èrèna/March 15 – 19

Oshosi = Oríṣà of Adventure and the hunt Èrèna/March 21 – 24:

Igbe / April
Ogun = Oríṣà of the metal and war crafts, and engineering. The custodian of truth and executioner of justice, as such patron of the legal and counselling professions who must swear to uphold truth while biting on a piece of metal. Igbe

Oshun = Oríṣà of Fertility and custodian of the female essence. who guides pregnancies to term. Igbe starts last Saturday of April, for 5 days-

Onset of wet season (Spring)

Ebibi / May
Egungun (Commemoration of the Ancestors, including community founders and illustrious dead. Èbíbí: starts last Saturday of May, lasts for seven days

Okudu / June
Yoruba New Year Okudu 03: Onset of the Yoruba New Year (2008 is the 10,050th year of Yoruba culture)

Shopona (Oríṣà of Disease, shopona, smallpox is a virtual disease) and Osanyin (Oríṣà of Medicine and patron of the healing professions: osan, afternoon; yin, healing) Okudu 7 - 8

Annual rites of passage for women Okudu 10 - 23

Yemoja = matriarch of the Òrún-Rere). Oduduwa gave birth to a boy Aganju (Land) and Yemoja (Water) from marriage to Ọbàtala. Yemoja in turn birthed many other Oríṣà. The old Ile-Ife kingdom arose on her burial site. Okudu 18 - 21

Agẹmo / July
Ọrúnmilà / Ifá = Oríṣà of Divination and founder of the Ifá sciences, whose divination is with sixteen palm nuts. Mass gathering of the Yoruba Agẹmo: first and second weeks in July Oko (Agriculture) Harvesting of the new yam crop.

Ẹlégba-Bara (Ẹlégba, one who has power to seize) / Eṣu (shu, to release eject from; ara, the body) = Oríṣà of male essence and power, who is the great Communicator and messenger of the will of Olódùmarè. No woman should bara (ba ra, to rub with, have intercourse with) a man who has not done Ikola (circumcision: ike, cutting; ola, that saves) in sacrifice to Ẹlégba. Agẹmo second weekend of July

Ṣàngo (shan, to strike:/ Jakuta:ja, fight; pẹlu okuta, with stones. The Oríṣà of Energy – Ara (Thunder) and Manamana, make fire (Lightening) whose divination is with sixteen cowries and whose messenger and water-bearer is Oshumare (the Rainbow). Agẹmo: third week of July

Ogun / August
Ọbàtálá = (Obà,to possess; ti ala, of visions or Oríṣà-nla, the principal Oríṣà). Patriarch of Òrún-Rere, the heaven of goodly spirits and beneficial ancestors. As Olódùmarè is too powerful and busy to be pre-occupied by the affairs of any one living being. Ọbàtálá functions as the principal emissary of Olódùmarè on Aye, and is the custodian of Yoruba culture. The aso-ala (white cloth) worn by Ọbàtálá initiates is to signify need to be pure in intent and action: A recurring punishment for social misfits was to try to keep white cloth clean in Africa's tropical and dusty climate. The misappropriation of aso-ala connection to Ọbàtálá was/is a major weapon against the Yoruba in their psychological resistance of foreign invasion, as Christian and Islamic converts were/are indoctrinated that anything considered 'white' is pure: a notion that has also become a key tenet of racist supremacy. Ogun: last weekend of August

Òwéré / September

Ọwaro / October
Oya (Oríṣà of the odo Oya (river Niger) whose messenger is Afefe (the Wind), and guardian of gateway between the physical realm (Aye) and the spiritual realm (Òrún). Ọwaro Oṣun (Oríṣà of the odo Oṣun and patron of the (sovereign) Ijebu nation Ọwaro third weekend of October

Onset of the dry season (Autumn)

Shigidi (Oríṣà of Òrún-Apadi, the realm of the unsettled spirits and the ghosts of the dead that have left Aye and are forsaken of Òrún-Rere. Custodian of nightmares and patron of assassins. Solemn candlelight is used to guide the unsettled away from residences, to prevent them from settling in dolls or other toys Bèlu / November

Òpé / December
Obajulaiye (Oríṣà of Ṣòwò (Commerce) and owo (wealth). Òpé 15

Onset of the second dry season (winter solstice)


The Yoruba believe in reincarnation, similar to the Indian dharma and karma. They sometimes name children Babatunde ("Father returns") and Yetunde ("Mother returns") to signal this belief.[2]

Yoruba religion in the New World

Many ethnic Yoruba were taken as slaves to Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela and the rest of the New World (chiefly in the 19th century, after the Ọyọ Empire collapsed and the region plunged into civil war), and carried their religious beliefs with them. These concepts were combined with preexisting African-based cults, Christianity, Native American mythology, and Kardecist Spiritism into various New World lineages:

  • Santería (Cuba)
  • Oyotunji (U.S.)
  • Candomblé (Brazil)
  • Umbanda (Brazil)
  • Batuque (Brazil)

The popularly known Vodou religion of Haiti was founded by slaves from a different ethnic group (the Gba speaking peoples of modern-day Benin, Togo and Ghana), but shares many elements with the Yoruba-derived religions above. in addition, author Ed Morales has claimed that Yoruba religious beliefs and traditions played a part in early American blues music, citing blues guitarist Robert Johnson's Cross Road Blues as a "thinly veiled reference to Eleggua, the orisha in charge of the crossroads."


  1. Cf.The Concept of God: The People of Yoruba for the acceptability of the translation
  2. Murphy, Joseph. Santería. Malaysia: Beacon Press, 1993.

Other references

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Yoruba religion. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.