Our Culture

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As an ethnic description, the word "Yoruba" (or more correctly "Yaraba") was originally in reference to the Oyo Empire and is the usual Hausa name for Oyo people as noted by Hugh Clapperton and Richard Lander. It was therefore popularized by Hausa usage and ethnography written in Ajami during the 19th century by Sultan Muhammad Bello. The extension of the term to all speakers of dialects related to the language of the Oyo (in modern terminology North-West Yoruba) dates to the second half of the 19th century. It is due to the influence of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first Anglican bishop in Nigeria. Crowther was himself an Oyo Yoruba and compiled the first Yoruba dictionary as well as introducing a standard for Yoruba orthography. The alternative name Akú, derived from the first words of Yoruba greetings (such as Ẹ kú àárọ? "good morning", Ẹ kú alẹ? "good evening") has survived in certain parts of their diaspora as a self-descriptive, especially in Sierra Leone.

In the city-states and many of their neighbours, a reserved way of life remains, with the school of thought of their people serving as a major influence in West Africa and elsewhere.

Today, most contemporary Yoruba are Christians or Muslims. Be that as it may, many of the principles of the traditional faith of their ancestors are either knowingly or unknowingly upheld by a significant proportion of the populations of Nigeria, Benin and Togo.

The Yoruba religion comprises the traditional religious and spiritual concepts and practices of the Yoruba people. Its homeland is in Southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin and Togo, a region that has come to be known as Yorubaland. Yoruba religion is formed of diverse traditions and has no single founder. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of itan, the total complex of songs, histories, stories and other cultural concepts that make up the Yoruba society.

One of the most common Yoruba traditional religious concepts has been the concept of Orisa. Orisa (also spelled Orisha or Orixa) are various godly forms that reflect one of the various manifestations or avatars of God in the Yoruba religious system. Some widely known Orisa are Ogun, (a god of metal, war and victory), Shango or Jakuta (a god of thunder, lightning, fire and justice who manifests as a king and who always wields a double-edged axe that conveys his divine authority and power), Esu Elegbara (a trickster who serves as the sole messenger of the pantheon, and who conveys the wish of men to the gods. He understands every language spoken by humankind, and is also the guardian of the crossroads, Oríta méta in Yoruba) and Orunmila (a god of the Oracle). Eshu has two avatar forms, which are manifestations of his dual nature – positive and negative energies; Eshu Laroye, a teacher instructor and leader, and Eshu Ebita, a jester, deceitful, suggestive and cunning. Orunmila, for his part, reveals the past, gives solutions to problems in the present, and influences the future through the Ifa divination system, which is practised by oracle priests called Babalawos.

An Iroke or Irofa (Ìròkè Ifá) is the divination tapper of the Yoruba. It is long, slender and often slightly curved. Used in combination with the Opon Ifa or divination board. Traditionally made from ivory, but also brass and wood.

Olorun is one of the principal manifestations of the Supreme God of the Yoruba pantheon, the owner of the heavens, and is associated with the Sun known as Oòrùn in the Yoruba language. The two other principal forms of the supreme God are Olodumare—the supreme creator—and Olofin, who is the conduit between Òrunn (Heaven) and Ayé (Earth). Oshumare is a god that manifests in the form of a rainbow, also known as Òsùmàrè in Yoruba, while Obatala is the god of clarity and creativity., as well as in some aspects of Umbanda, Winti, Obeah, Vodun and a host of others. These varieties, or spiritual lineages as they are called, are practiced throughout areas of Nigeria, among others. As interest in African indigenous religions grows, Orisa communities and lineages can be found in parts of Europe and Asia as well. While estimates may vary, some scholars believe that there could be more than 100 million adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.