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While writing Black History, I found that I would have to write a manuscript on the religious beliefs of at least five of the seven African nations of our Ancestors (the other two are imbedded in the story), in order to understand and use their worldview to analyze our history, called an Afrocentric approach.
Using the example of the things Christians do and believe to bring love into their lives to save their souls through the father-son Gods of their Religion, Jesus Christ and Jehovah; the following is some of the things the Ancient Yoruba did and believed, in order to bring Creativity into their lives to become a nation of Artists, through the worship of the father-son Gods of their religion, Olodumare and Obatala. I used this as part of a foundation to write an Afrocentric history of African Americans.
The following is a section from the soon to be released book “The AfroSacredStar Story; Ancient West African Spirituality/Family Reunion with our Ancient African Ancestors” written by Orchester Benjamin. We believe there is more than enough information to cover the use of African-Traditional-Religion-at-work for people that are interested in going deeper into the subject.
IFA CREATION STORY
As we mentioned a number of times, IFA poems and stories serve the purpose of the Yoruba’s bible, as a bible it too has a creation story. Which gives the details of what was happening in heaven between the Gods and Goddesses just before, during, and after the creation of human beings? Yoruba’s Adam and Eve story so to speak. The story is as follows.
“In ancient days, at the beginning of time, but after OLODUMARE created the Gods, Goddesses, and the universe; there were no solid land on earth where people now live. There was only outer space, heaven, and down below, it was the Goddess OLOKUN, who ruled over the vast expanses of water known as earth.
Meanwhile, living in heaven were 1600 Gods and Goddesses, each having creative powers of their own, but none of whom had the creative knowledge and powers equal of those OLODUMARE. This is how it was, and all was satisfied.
That is, all except ORISANLA, king of the White Cloth, meaning he is OLODUMARE’s Executive Officer. Who was thinking, I have all of this power, but there is nothing for me to do.
Finally, he begins to think of a way to create images of Gods and Goddesses as a living work of art, called Human Beings. Looking around for a place to begin, he saw the wet earth, and got a great idea. After thinking about it a long time, he took the great idea to OLODUMARE.
ORISANLA: “The place ruled by Goddess OLOKUN is nothing but a great wet mess, and serve no purpose. If there were solid land in her kingdom like forests, hills, and valleys, surely it could be populated by Gods and Goddesses, and living things.
OLODUMARE, seeing that ORISANLA really wanted to create a heaven called earth, and Gods and Goddesses called Human Beings answered; “That would be a good thing, but to cover water with land is a complicated job, can you do it?”
ORISANLA replied: “Goddess OLYA NAL and I can get the job done.”
ORISANLA left OLODUMARE and went to the place of ORUNMILA, who understood the secrets of existence. And said to him, “OLODUMARE has instructed me to go down below, and make land where there is nothing but water, so that living things have a place to live. You, ORUNMILA, who can divine the meaning of all things, instruct me further on how to get the job done.”
ORUNMILA gathered his Divination tools, (sixteen palm nuts, tray, and yellow powder. He threw sixteen palm nuts, and read their meaning by the way they fell. He gathered them up and threw again, again reading their meaning. After repeating the process a number of times, adding meaning to meaning, and said, “This is what you must do. Descend to the water on a gold chain, taking with you a snail shell full of sand, a five toe hen to scatters the sand, and a palm nut.”
ORISANLA went next to OGUN’s blacksmith shop and asked him to make a gold chain long enough to reach from heaven to the surface of the water below.
OGUN asked, “Do you have gold to make such a chain.”
ORISANLA answered, “Don’t worry about that, and just begin the work.”
ORISANLA then went to SANGO who love to wear gold jewelry, and asked for his gold. Then he went to ESU, and asked for his gold, and took it to OGUN. OGUN said, “this is not enough gold.”
So ORISANLA continued look for gold, he asked all of the other Gods and Goddesses, asking each of them for all of the gold they had. Some gave gold dusk; some gave rings, bracelets and pendants.
He returns again to OGUN saying, “Here is more gold for the chain.”
OGUN answered, “this is not enough gold.”
ORISANLA replied, “This is all of the gold in heaven.”
OGUN said, “This will not make the chain long enough to reach the water.”
ORISANLA answered, “no matter, make the chain anyway.
OGUN went to work on the chain. When He finished, he took it to ORISANLA.
ORISANLA said, “It must have a hook on one end.”
OGUN replied, “There is no more gold.”
ORISANLA answered, “no matter, it must have a hook, melt down a few link.”
OGUN took a few links of chain and made a hook, and fasten it to one end of the chain. When he finish, he took the chain to ORISANLA.
Give me! I will give you.
The tether does not enter ground easily.
He preformed IFA divination for ORISANLA,
On the day he and OLYA NAL,
Was to enter the world.
On that day they went to OLODUMARE,
To receive the basket of good character.
OLODUMARE gave it to them.
On the way to the edge of the sky, ORISANLA became thirsty. They met a Goddess carrying palm wine. He drank until he could not control his senses. (This shows how ORISANLA were using the basket of good character).
OLYA NAL took the basket of good character back to OLODUARE. When she got there, OLODUMARE told her, “I give you this calabash to use.
When ORISANLA eyes open, he returned to OLODUMARE annoyed, and said “why has the basket of good character disappeared?”
OLODUMARE replied; “So.”
Then ORISANLA said that he would never again drink palm wine. ORISANLA lost the right to his idea to create dry land, this became OLYA NAL’s job, but being OLODUMARE’s Chief administrator, he was allowed to keep his idea of creating living things.
OLYA NAL, now the Goddess of Fortitude, fastened the hook of the gold chain to the edge of the sky and lowered the chain. ORUNMILA gave her the things that were needed, a snail shell of sand, a five toed hen, and a palm nut.
Then OLYA NAL gripped the chain with her hands and began the journey down to the watery world, followed by ORISANLA. Half way down she encountered darkness. Further down she could hear the wash of the waves and felt the damp mist rising from OLOKUN’s kingdom of the sea.
She reached the end of the golden chain, but she was not yet at the bottom, and she just hung there thinking, “If I let go of the chain I will fall into the sea.” Then she heard ORUNMILA’s voice from far above saying, “the sand.”
So OLYA NAL took the snail shell and poured out the sand. Again she heard ORUNMILA call to her, saying this time, “the hen.”
OLYA NAL dropped the hen where she had poured the sand. The hen began to scatter the sand unevenly, forming hills and valleys.
After accomplishing this, OLYA NAL and ORISANLA let go of the chain, and came down and walked on the solid earth that were created.
OLODUMARE wanted to know how OLYA NAL and ORISANLA were progressing and told Agemo the chameleon to visit the earth. Agemo went down the chain and found OLYA NAL. He said “OLODUMARE instructed me “go down, find out how things are going.”
OLYA NAL answered, “As you can see, land has been created, but there is too much darkness and coldness, the land should have light and heat.”
Agemo return to heaven then reported what he had heard. OLODUMARE agreed that there should be light down below, and made the sun and set it in motion in the sky. After that, there were warmth and light in the world.
OLYA NAL named the place where she had come down “Ife” (the future Yoruba’s cultural city). She built a house, and planted her palm nut and a palm tree sprang out of the land. It matured and dropped its palm seeds. More palm trees came into being. Thus, there was vegetation life in Ife.
One day ORISANLA thought, “Now it is time to create human life.” He dug clay from the ground; from the clay he shaped human figures in the image of Gods and Goddesses, with special emphasis on their heads.
He worked without resting and became tired and thirsty. He said, “There should be palm wine in this place to help in going on working.” So he stopped working, and turns his attention to the palm trees, where he drew their inner fluid to make palm wine.
When the palm juices were fermented ORISANLA began to drank and drank and drank, until he real mellow. Then he put his drinking cup aside and went back to making human being. (This shows again, that the like of Fortitude is a problem in getting things done).
But because he was so high on palm wine, his mind was going further and further from his original design. Some were humpbacked, club footed; some had six fingers or two fingers grown together, and all of the things we think of as birth defects.
However, like OLODUMARE did with the Gods and Goddesses, ORISANLA gave humans some of his creative intelligence, call their Outer Head; finally, being so high, he went to sleep.
Meanwhile, OLYA NAL were watching what was going on, and when ORISANLA went to sleep, she thought, “each of these figures is truly a work of art, but there is something missing,” so, she bestowed upon them good character.
When ORISANLA awoke, with a big hangover, and still not noticing what he had done with the clay figures, called out to OLODUMARE saying, “I have created human beings, but only you can give them the Spiritual Breath of Live. OLODUMARE heard ORISANLA’s request, and gave each figure a Purpose in Life, a Personal Destiny.
Now that people were living on the earth, ORISANLA gave them Tools of Survival, called Outer Head. (Outer Head means he gave them a creative mind to use to deal with living in the world). ORISANLA saw all he had created, he was pleased, but said, “Never again will I drink palm wine.”
The people planted and began growing food plants, and like the palm tree, they matured and dropped their seeds. Over time, Ife became a growing city. And OLYA NAL became its Goddess Queen.”
But a time came when ORISANLA grew lonesome for Heaven. He ascended by the golden chain, and there was a great festival on the occasion of his return.
The Gods and Goddesses heard him describe the land, and 401 of them decided to go down and live among the newly created humans.
Thus many Gods and Goddesses departed from heaven, but not before ORISANLA instructed them on their obligations. “When you settle on earth, never forget your duties to humans. Whenever you are approached for help, listen to what is being asked of you. You are the protector of human kind, but OLYA NAL and her descendants will rule.”
With ORISANLA now living in heaven full time, he created an Outer Head (creative mind) shop in heaven which is run by his chief assistant and craftsman, Ajala.
Although ORISANLA is OLODUMARE’s Chief Administrator in the management of the world affairs, he seems to not have it all together, there is always something missing in his work, and this definitely in the case when Ajala became his assistant.
Nobody knows why ORISANLA picked Ajala for his assistant, Maybe he is his son, or a palm-wine addict, for he operate just like ORISANLA, only Ajala’s weakness in his memory.
For example, he never remembered to pay his debts and always have creditors looking for him. And never having much money, he was always hiding out.
But this is not the problem, as ORISANLA’s Chief Craftsman, he sometimes forgot to put the necessary finishing touches to some of the outer-heads made by him.
For instance, he might forget to bake some of them in fire or he might over bake them. This makes the Outer Heads weak and unable to bear the strains of the long journey through life.
If a man or woman makes the mistake of picking one of these bad heads, he or she is doomed to failure in life. All of his or her time and energy is spent fixing mistakes made by their bad heads (bad minds).
But if a man or woman is lucky to choose one of the really goods heads made by Ajala, that person can spend all of their time and energy fulfilling their chosen destiny, and therefore have a successful life.
Now, Fellow Detectives lets take a look at where we have come so far investigating Yoruba religious Beliefs. We have OLODUMARE who created the Universe and Gods and Goddesses. And we have ORISANLA who Created Human Beings and OLYA NAL who created the land on which human being live.
Next we will turn our attention on the relationship between OLODUMARE and Human Beings. Recall after ORISANLA created people, he ask OLODUMARE give them the Spiritual breath of Life? But what is that?