Ọrun- The Sacred Abode and The Aboriginals

Ọrun (the sacred realm) is the abode of sacred and unseen beings, it habituates a countless number of life forces and energies such as Olodumare, the Oriṣas (divine energies), Oku ọrun/Alalẹ/Egungun (ancestors), Oro, Iwin, Ẹgbẹ(variety of spirits).

Olodumare (also known as Eledumare, Eledua, Ẹlẹda, Odumare, Ọlọrun) is known to be the creator of existence, the vessel of all energies. However, Olodumare has never been identified with gender, as a result, the native speakers of the Yoruba language refer to Olodumare as O/Wọn(It/They). As one of the names imply, Olu-ọrun- Ọlọrun is known to be the one that embodies Ọrun and all of its habitants. Olodumare is the source of Aṣe, the life force possessed by everything to come into existence. Olorun isn’t just the Lord over ọrun, It embodies both Ọrun and Aye within and as a result can’t be seen but seen in various manifestations as spirits, humans, animals and plants. As a result, all life forces- in this realm shall call ọrun home.

The Oriṣas

The Oriṣas are the divine forces- primordial, deified and sometimes personified divinities.
The primordial divinities are the ones known to be involved in the creation of the world we see today- Ogun (The God of iron, clearer of the path for both humans and divinities), Eṣu (The inspector General of Sacrifices, divine messenger and activator), Oṣun (the river Goddess, mother of love and fertility), Ọbatala/Oriṣa NLA (the divine sculptor of humans), Ọrunmila (the giver of wisdom, the one who reveals the unseen to humans, the witness of humans and the destiny).

The deified/personified divinities are ancestors who have been deified for possessing an unnamed Aṣe of Eledua. Sometimes, the deified ancestors are reincarnated to manifest in various forms. The most known deified divinity is Ṣango (Former Alaafin of Ọyọ, The will, fire and thunder of Eledua), Ọya(mother of whirlwind and lightning) there is also Mọrẹmi (mother of liberation), Oduduwa (the father of Yorubas). The use and meaning of names can, however, confuse those with little understanding of the Yoruba Cosmos. In the case of Oṣun (the wife of Sango, Mother of all twins) she is sometimes mistaken to be the primordial Iyami Ọṣun (Mother of rivers, fertility and love) It is no news that Gods/Goddesses possess devotees to manifest in a certain lifetime.

The Oriṣas can be grouped into two categories based on their personalities and operations. There are some with a cool temperament and the ones that have no chills. The ones with the cool temperament are known to be gentle, calm, soothing, reflective and includes; Ọbatala/Oriṣa NLA, Oṣoosi(Hunter, God of focus/Patience), Ọsanyin (Lord of leaves and medicine), Oduduwa (the first Monarch of Ile-Ife and deified patriarch of Yorubas), Yemọja, Ọṣun, Yewa, Ọ̀bà,( Queen mothers ruling respective rivers), Olosa, the Queen mother of the Lagoons to come as one- Olokun (Mother of the Sea, Oceans and Sky waters). They are mostly called upon for guidance, blessings and protection.

A majority of the Oriṣas that have the hot temperament are masculine energies, only a few are feminine. They include; Ogun (the God of iron, war and clearer of paths), Ṣango, Ọbaluaye(the Lord and bringer of pestilence), Ọya, Ṣopona(Lord of smallpox). The hot-tempered ones are usually called upon to bring justice upon violators, protect and defend the land during wars or invasion.

However, the classifications of these Oriṣas doesn’t have a thing to do with good versus evil. All Oriṣas possess their different values- positive and negative- order and chaos. Their modes of operation differ based on their manifestation of the unique Ase, as seen by their personalities. Moreso, they are not ranked in a hierarchy as each of them are relatively important in the Yoruba cosmos. Even when they are invoked in ceremonies, they are summoned based on their roles in the ritual and their relationships with each other.

The Oriṣas, however, engage in the affairs of the world through their mediums- devotees who have been trained and initiated to receive and manifest the divinity within. When the Gods/Goddesses manifest this way, they speak and act through the devotees.

Amongst the Oriṣas, there are two key ones; Ọrunmila and Eṣu- they are the pillars between the sacred and human realms. Ifa is the divination system given to the Yorubas by Ọrunmila. Eṣu is the divine messenger between humans and the sacred realm.

As Ọrunmila is the giver of wisdom and witness to humans and their selected destinies, Ifa offers the knowledge of unseen forces that influence the humans and their abode. The diviner is known as Babalawo (Father and keeper of secret wisdom) or Iyanifa (Mother and Keeper of Sacred realm and wisdom). The diviners use the poetry and rituals of Ifa to understand the cosmic forces. The Ifa system can also reveal to every human what their life path is, what sacrifice is needed from them to live life as chosen by the Ẹda(being) before coming to earth. Ifa can warn about a necessary/reversible evil, its causes, and how to reverse it.

Where Ifa reveals, Eṣu plays the role of an agent to execute the action. Eṣu, the inspector general of sacrifices, the one who accepts or declines the sacrifice given to whatever Oriṣa or ancestor. Eṣu doesn’t choose who he likes or hates when inspecting a sacrifice or offering. He looks into the intentions and conscience of the giver. Eṣu is also the God of crossroads- the revealer of choices one can make- this makes Eṣu the free will of humans, the reason he is called a trickster God- whenever humans summon Esu with woeful and uncalled for intentions, he offers choices and the invoker tricks themselves. Esu is not a devil but the reflection of choices we all make.

The Ancestors

According to Kwame Gyekye,

The ancestors are certain individuals of the past generations of a lineage who are said to have distinguished themselves in many ways and, in particular, to have led virtuous and exemplary lives worthy of emulation by succeeding generations of the lineage. Such individuals are regarded as… as mortal paragons.

Africans generally do not consider death as the end of the journey in life, only a transition to the state of immortality and in so doing, a link between the other realm and the physical one mortals habituate. Among the Yorubas, death gives more power and prestige- this helps the ancestors oversee the affairs of their younger ones. As a result, an ancestor can be reincarnated. When an ancestor is reincarnated, the male is called Babatunde(Father has returned) or Babajide(Father has risen)- the female is called Yetunde/Yeside(Mother has returned).

The ancestors are venerated in different levels; the ones prayed to as Ara/Oku Ọrun(The immortal/the dead that lives on). To be venerated as such, one must have lived a good life, done good deeds, died a good death, and given the proper funeral rites. One will hear the true practitioners of the Yoruba religion say “Oku Ọrun ki’n sun (the dead ones living don’t sleep)”

Egungun is the mask/regalia that represents the ancestors during festivals or sacred rituals. Certain sacrifices can’t be offered without the presence of the ancestors- many ceremonies would be considered void if the Egungun of the ancestors is absent.

A few African scholars assert that veneration of ancestors is not the same as worship, but veneration is a part of worship. According to Idowu- when African people venerate their ancestors, they go beyond boundaries and this propels observers to refer to the act as worship. A close observation when practised makes it clear that ancestors are not worshipped but venerated to sustain a cordial relationship between offspring and transcended elders- to prostrate/bow is to greet an elder, to feed an elder is to attract their blessing, and this is how the society continues to venerate their ancestors.

During communal ceremonies and festivities, the presence of ancestors as Egungun restores unity. The Egungun would dance; the community would sing, clap and dance along in merriment. According to Awolalu and Dopamu,

The coming together of the people is re-enacted and many people for the first time in the year meet on festival occasions. Men and women are brought together in one crowd and there is usually a sort of social reunion.

It is of a great tragedy that modernization seeks to eliminate the place of ancestors in the Yoruba and African society at large. Originally, the ancestors are consulted through the oracle before any ceremony but today, humans have taken over the positions of ancestors and money is the oracle. As a result, the ancestors depart from us and let us remain in a state of confusion- bad governance, mishaps on ceremonies, joys turning sour. The ancestors by now would be crying for justice, restoration and reinstatement. I can’t help but agree with Kofi Awoonor when he said:

The gods are crying, my father’s gods are crying for a burial… for a final ritual… but they that should build the fallen shrines have joined the dawn marchers singing their way towards Gethsemane… the gods cried, shedding clayey tears on calico; the drink offering had dried up in the harmattan and the fetish priest is dressing up for the Easter service.

Having explored the role of the ancestors in the society, it is understandable that colonialism displaced the position of ancestors. According to Alamu A.G,

The current paradigms of the ancestors as well as their achievements indicate that they must be remembered, praised and celebrated, but cannot enjoy such a powerful position and influence that they once enjoyed. The post-independence terrain does not guarantee such a place anymore.

We must venerate our ancestors because they lead the way long before us. Understanding the place of the ancestors in our society eventually puts us in position to be venerated as well. We are our ancestors because we are a seed from the family tree that sprouted from one seed.


Oro is the spirit of fierceness, tempest, or provocation- he is the personified executive power. When Oro haunts the forest, neighbourhood of towns, he makes a whirring, roaring noise to avert perpetrators and trespassers of his community. Due to the fierce nature of Oro and his provocation, women are to shut themselves in and avoid looking out on the pain of death. Where Egungun comes out for social activities, Oro comes out for political and security reasons- criminals condemned to death are for Oro as Oro fiercely wards off thieves and corrupt political practices. When a valuable person is assassinated, Oro is called upon to assist the victim to find justice. Oro is not a spirit to be toyed with or invoked when there are order and peace in the community. Unlike Egungun which prays for the community, Oro only comes out to execute a state of emergency. In other words, the Oro may be considered an Oriṣa of its own.


Iwin is a spirit that likes to travel, looking for the human worthy enough to serve. The closest to translate it as is the fairy. Just like in the English fairytales and the famous Genes- Iwin assists humans to carry out activities on command by calling out their names.

Ẹgbẹ (Sacred Mates)

Ẹgbẹ means group/society. It is the classification of spirits in the sacred realm. There are more than groups/societies in the sacred realm.

Ẹgbẹ Emere (Spirits of Children that can transcend through realms), Ẹgbẹ Abiku (Spirits of Children who tend to teach relatives a lesson or not comfortable with the affairs of the lifetime they visit), Ẹgbẹ Omi (The marine spirits).

The Ẹgbẹ spirits are the ones in human form many may consider weird, dangerous, or unnatural. They come with special attributes- healing people emotionally and spiritually- high intuition to judge and guide. The Ẹgbẹ are not the same as the Oriṣas, they all have missions before coming to this earth and unlike everyone else, they remember who they were, what Ọrun is and how to transcend between both realms without death. They are the ones with the knowledge of all truth as they are the ones to ensure the continuum of the universe- creating causes and effects, maintaining order when there is chaos and bringing an end to the wicked.

Not all humans that we see walking the surface of this realm are ordinary. some are Gods/Goddesses, some are spirits, some are initiates, few are all, and many are clueless.

Significance of the talking drum in Yoruba tradition

What is a talking drum? The talking drum is an hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa, whose pitch can be regulated to imitate the tone and prosody of human speech. It has two drum-heads attached by leather tension ropes, which allow the player to transform the pitch of the drum by squeezing the cords between their arm and body. A skilled player is able to play whole phrases. Most […]

Significance of the talking drum in Yoruba tradition


All Afrikan belief systems have one or more similarities when it comes to the supreme being- Sun God, Sky God, God of creation… The only religions that make these “Gods” false are the ones that have created an opposing side (Devil/Satan). In other words, Afrikans didn’t honour or worship the supreme being just so to make heaven, flee from the devil, be rich, be holy or punish our enemies- you won’t have an enemy in ONENESS. The concept of worship, was to understand the universe we live in as spirits experiencing a human life. Hence, we looked up to the sky (gives rain, accommodates the sun, moon and stars). More so, we looked up to the sun, moon and stars for consciousness, as a result of being condensed light our selves. None of it was to make heaven, but oneness with the universe- becoming a divinity between the universe and those who are yet to remember or come to relive with you.

When the Hibru and Arabic people found this concept, there was no full understanding of what they had come across because the intention was to make something perfect that would be easy for practice without embodying energies (divinities) from the one source- most importantly, to have everyone in their fear and under one control. As a result, death became the punishment for not acknowledging what is supposed to give eternal life- to make life, is to give life. No child will be born if one doesn’t go. Blood is life and Breathe is spirit. They drained blood of spiritual people and drew their last breathe declaring a name- this gave the names life and existence.

How can someone who is living the umpteenth lifetime lose eternal life?

Crowns were taken and replaced with caps- the ones who possessed spirits, were stoned to death by the ones without souls. The entity “Jehovah” “Allah” “Yahweh” “Jesus” were given birth to by the loss of other lives- blood sacrifices were made to turn an idea into a reality.

Religion didn’t create morals, tradition did- knowing your tradition and doing what it is you must in order to be one with the Supreme being as you were before coming in this form. Everyone you know (blood or water), is only a reflection and creation of you. Your experiences were authored by you, your PAST experiences are to guide you in the present journey. This is why it is necessary to feed your ancestors- you are your ancestor, a star light returned from the universe. You are to libate the earth, so you can draw the information that you had kept with Onile(Mother Earth) in the previous HOUR. Onile(Earth) is known to always return what you have given to her.

However, religion is what creates sides- each religion claims to be the TRUE RELIGION. Every other religion is seen as a counterfeit, THE EVIL ONES USED BY THE DEVIL TO DESTROY THE WORLD. While as a Christian, it will be taboo to worship Allah and vice versa. As a Buddhist, you only acknowledge Buddah… But being spiritually conscious is different- it is the knowledge of self, the acknowledgement and appeasing of your Ori, the Knowledge of the Orisha(Energy) within you- you appease and honour your divinity. This doesn’t stop you from reaching out to the other energies in areas you need them manifesting. This is ONENESS WITH THE UNIVERSE. Understanding that before you was Olodumare- the first, the omniscient, the creator, the supreme being. This is no God, This is the Source, beginning and end link of all life forms. The Oneness of Life. This is you, this is me. So when I say Olodumare, I don’t mean a God sitting and watching the earth burn, drown or argue and kill themselves over who knows IT or not- I mean, the one that comes into being as you, as me. Eleda… Afrikan spirituality is understanding that before you on this earth(Onile), was the ancestors- the ancestors are you.

Not one of the Afrikan belief systems have a Satan/Devil. There is only one Supreme Being that represents each person in a different realm- this supreme being with various manifestations. Each person- A star with several lights (humans). When we leave, we leave a part of us behind (the ones that feel the pain of loss), we return to the rest of us (being born/reincarnation). This is why no one goes to hell but may still perish, as reincarnation may go wrong, dumping a large number in realms they see and know but can’t be a part of. Being incomplete through existence- which is also a state of mind.

You represent Olodumare as a divinity of a lineage, clan, tribe… As a result, you are you, you are your father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter and what not. The Supreme being is the root of that family tree. Still you but the you as ONE, not the You distributed throughout your nuclear or extended family. In the real sense, there won’t be a God without you. All creation stories depict the Supreme Being to have created life force to experience essence. You have come to live the experience you were attracted to, just so you find essence.

Heaven is the acclaimed abode of God. What you create as a fortress, where you find comfort and maintain authority is the state of mind called heaven. Heaven can be on earth or in another dimension where you have returned to simply BREATHE. This is why it was a mandate to create great kingdoms upon kingdoms across Afrika. Each Kingdom had it’s own way of (RE)presenting the Supreme being and welcoming IT into the society.

The Supreme Being/Creator, is the one entity we remember we have a connection to. This connection is what ensures a continuum. Your father dies but you ensure to prolong the lineage (creation/procreation).

If it were that complicated, you won’t form, off the earthly nutrients supplied in God’s womb. Sucking the first meal from God’s breast is what gives life. THE WORLD WAS WITHOUT FORM AND VOID; NOTHING BUT DARKNESS AND WATER- No one remembers what the womb they stayed in for 9months looks like, cause it was dark… And you hear women say their water broke… LET THERE BE LIGHT- You open your eyes to see the world for the first time.

Believe in God or Not; You will be born, you will cry at birth, you will suck breast, eat, walk, run, shit, piss, f*(k, be hurt, be sad, be happy, be in need, have in abundance, walk on water, walk on sand, heal the sick, raise the dead… Above all, you and all the dead you brought back to life will eventually die. From one maker (your mother), to another maker (mother earth). Hence, we return to our maker in a form of no languages or words of mouth. Without the word God, there won’t be any but you in a state of all seeing and knowing, as a life force(breathe/spirit).

So, where is God, where is the devil, where is Heaven, Where is Hell, if not within you?