The Science, Reality, and Panacea of Orisha

 The Yoruba African Spiritual system has gone viral. It presents a broad framework with fascinating social and inclusive indigenous appeal, embracing a holistic and intuitive approach which incorporates history, flexibility, science, portability, and functionality, simultaneously making allowance for individuality and originality. This system was one of the driving forces behind the development of African Tribal art in Nigeria. The framework is similar to the methodology used in Object Oriented Programming (OOP) which utilizes objects, classes, and procedures.

Shango Dance Staff of a Standing Mother Carrying a Child. c. 1900.

A simple example should illustrate.

Note the Specific individuality.

If Jesus Christ were to be incorporated as an Orisha (spiritual being or divinity), the narrative would probably read as follows; His primary paths would be those of peace, sacrifice, and love. The offerings given to a shrine dedicated to him would consist of bread, fish, and wine. His colors would be “white” say, and his emblems would be the cross, the palm/olive branch, or thorns.

Note the General Characteristics

He would lie in the second of five levels of the Yoruba pantheon, below the level of Oldumare, Creator and Supreme Being. The third level would be the “Egungun” which are the ancestral spirits of the people. The next two levels consist of humans, grouped by kings, queens, chiefs, priests and priestesses ,while devotees complete the bottom level.

“The Orisha are seen as emissaries of Oldumare from whom they emanated. These Orisha are ancestors whose great deeds earned them divinity. The Orisha are said to recognize each other and are themselves identified or associated with different numbers and colors. “These polarities which each Orisha exhibits are expressed as personalities called Roads or Paths of the Orisha.” This is done through offerings to Orisha of their particular favorite foods and other gifts. One can learn much about these different Orishas by watching the forces of nature at work about you. “

“For instance, you can learn much about Oshún and her children by watching the rivers and streams she rules over and observing that though she always heads toward her sister Yemayá (the Sea) she does so on her own circuitous route. Also observe how the babbling brook and the flash flood reflect her changeable moods.” [1]

These Orishas can be contacted during a “bembe” where one or more of their priests will be mounted in a form of highly spiritualized trance possession. This possession by an Orisha is an integral part of Yoruba religious ritual as it serves as a means of communicating with the forces of Oldumare (God).

Shango Dancing Staff

Portability

This is demonstrated as follows – “Yoruba spiritual beliefs were retained in several systems including Batuque, Candomble, Tambor De Mina and Umbanda in Brazil, Lucumi and Santeria in Cuba, Shango in Trinidad and Jamaica, Venezuela, Palo, Vodou or Voodoo in Haiti. Consequently, slaves did not completely disconnect with their culture, nor blindly convert as the Christian Churches describe as “good sheep.” “Autonomous organizational structures, the framework of forced and eventual free migration, mutual contact and exchange stimulated the development of Orisha religions in the New World.” [2]

Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka (the first African awarded the Nobel Prize (’86) for Literature) , explained the Yoruba worldview as centered in compromise and stated that the greatest Yoruba virtue is tolerance. He claims that the survival of Yoruba religion in Cuba and Brazil is because of the powerful sense of tolerance and compromise.

“The deities have compromised with present times and modern technologies,” he said, citing, “the practice of placing god representations and saints on the single same altar in Brazil.”

” The gods are exemplars of human striving,” said Soyinka, “paradigms of existence and phenomenon… Yoruba gods are not perfect or infallible, “infallibility is seen as mystification.” [3]

[1] http://www.orishanet.org/ocha.html

[2] http://www.rootsandrooted.org/?p=1123

[3] http://www.loyno.edu/newsandcalendars/loyolatoday/2003/12/soyinka.html

E1 : http://ocw.nd.edu/anthropology

E2 : www.ohio.edu/africanart/gallerypageq.html

E3 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wole_Soyinka

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