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Question of the Week !

Olodumare has been called the Supreme God of the Orisa people.
A couple of questions arise:

Is there a Supreme God, like Yahweh among the Hebrews, among the Orisa people?

Or is it more like in the Hindu religion, where the idea of a Supreme God is less distinctive?

We have no image of Olodumare.
Is this divinity male or female? Or both?

Is there any Ifa verse that informs us about these questions?

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  1. Temitayo Adedigba

    All Odu Ifa never gave Olodumare a particular gender, all we know is that Olodumare is the supreme being and the one in charge of all Irunmole/Orisa.

  2. Temitayo Adedigba

    Odù Ìwòrì Méjì, Ọ̀ṣá-Òtúrá,… Bàntàbanta ni a Olódùmarè, Ó ju gbogbo òrìṣà lọ.

  3. Jamiu Raji Rassaki

    But does that identify Olodumare as him or her? “Ó” does not identify gender.
    Second, the idea of “Ọlọ́run” implies “Olú ọ̀run” just as we Olókun as “Olú òkun.” Does this not suggest sheer separation of duties, rather than any form of supremacy?

    • Temitayo Adedigba

      well, “ó” does not portray Olódùmarè as male or female, however from the etymology, Olódùmarè (oní Èdùmàrè) means the owner of the universe, while Ọ̀run is the heavens, where virtually everything thing including forces emanates from, and don’t forget that òkun (Olókun), ọ̀sà (Ọlọ́ṣà), afẹ́fẹ́ (Ọya), igi (ọ̀rọ̀), irin (Ògún) et cetera all belong to the universe.

      It is said in a verse that Olódùmarè is surrounded by igba irúnmọlẹ̀ ojúkọ̀tún and igba (200) ojúkòsì.

      I think Elédùmarè own the àṣẹ kept in the office possession of Èṣù (Aṣe burúkú ṣe rere, Akúrúga), That means that Olódùmarè is dual, can take on the form of akọ and abo, all òrìṣà, objects and elements portray what Elédùmarè is.

  4. Ajayi Modupe

    It could be our minds cannot comprehend a genderless creative energy. I read somewhere about Olodumare being the supreme being of this solar system but there is another name given to a supreme deity of the universe (or maybe our galaxy). I will try to find the information. I believe the first letter of the name of this deity is A.

  5. Omotayo Amire

    in order to answer some of your questions sir, I will have to go to Baba Oluwo Solagbade Popoola. I will encourage everyone to register for his “Ifa International Training Institute” established by Oluwo Solagbade Popoola.

    Continuing with Oluwo Solagbade Popoola’s module on Olódùmarè, he said and I quote:
    “When one refers to Olódùmarè in Ifá, it alludes to the supreme deity, that one that created and controls All the Universe. The origin of this deity is surrounded by deep mystery. Several times attempts have been made to unravel the mystery of its origin; however, sooner or later invariably one arrives at a dead end. Trying to understand this deity can only give us a glimpse of Him, who can understand a thousandth part of what He really is and encompasses.
    According to Ifá, the search for the origin of Olódùmarè involves the knowledge and understanding of all creatures in the Universe, as well as the mysteries surrounding each one of them. It is only when one attains such wisdom and understanding of ALL the things of the Universe that one can be sure of knowing the origin and existence of Olódùmarè. This is because according to Ifá, in Odú Oyeku-Logbe, all the things of the Universe are part of Olódùmarè.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      You use the pronoun “Him” to describe Olodumare.
      How did you arrive at this gender-specific description?
      Why not “Her?”

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede Olódùmarè has no gender as him or her. He is not like us human being. It’s just a matter of convenience that we use He/Him…. Some uses Him/Her but these are just for convenience sake.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Omotayo Amire you know that as a institution, we must examine all interpretations very closely; and while we celebrate and respect Oluwo Popoola’s authority, as a university we cannot regard the teachings of any single authority as supreme. It is just a school of ecclesiastic teaching.

      I was introduced to Ifa as a student of Awise Wande Abimbola in the early seventies. And I clearly remember him teaching us that Yoruba is not a monotheism. This means, from his learned explanation, that Olodumare is not the supreme God, because there is no such notion in a polytheism. That is the Awise Abimbola’s school.

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede sir, can you share any lecture note or slide or book where Awise Wande Abimbola said this? I will like to examine and analyze it. This is because from all the books and videos of Awise which I have seen and read, he sees Olódùmarè as the Supreme Being of Yoruba Spirituality. I wont mind to see his views in the classroom.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Omotayo Amire I speak of 1973 to 75.
      No lecture notes.
      We did not even take notes in those days. We just listened attentively as in an oral tradition. He did not teach from notes. He was our pope.
      Can you send us a quote in which Awise Wande Abimbola mentions Olodumare as the Supreme Being, from all his writings and speeches?

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede I have to search for any. People can also reach out to him for clarifications. It doesn’t hurt. Whatever he says, I’m 100% sure that he has his basis. I will be glad to know his view as well. Let me also try and check my library if I will be lucky.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Omotayo Amire I await the fruit of your search.

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede Lol….. also sir help us reach out to him if possible

    • Balogun Adesina

      It’s in “Ifá: An Exposition of the Ifá Literary Corpus,” and I have heard Baba lecture on the subject, and he said personification or assigning gender to Olódùmare is something of an insult, as Olódùmare is indescribable and undefinable.

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede I found the a class note from Awise Wande Abimbola on IFA.

    • Ajayi Modupe

      I believe Baba ‘Wande mentions in “Ifa Will Mend Our Broken World” something about Olodumare not having a shrine or being directly worshipped. I don’t have my copy because I am out of town for another week. Perhaps someone can check. Also, it may be that Baba ‘Wande has refined his viewpoint over the years as I recall him saying Ifa is a monotheistic religion, with Olodumare being the supreme being.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Omotayo Amire you want me to go talk with the POPE!
      No, sir. I will not reach out to Awise Wande Abimbola.
      He is already in me. He has given me enough time in the prime of his blazing youth, to nurture me into whom I am today.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Ajayi Modupe viewpoints may change.
      Teachings abide.

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede lol….. the IFA Pope is an humble man o. I will post the class note here. Watch out for it soon!

    • Miriam Archibong

      Some would call the tradition henotheism, meaning there is the sort of supreme deity that does not directly influence the daily matters of human beings, and that even praise or supplication would be useless, if not outright presumptuous.

    • Ajayi Modupe

      The deity mentioned above, Akamara, came to my attention only recently from a post by a student of Chief Popoola. It is the first time I heard this. Perhaps this is one of those situations where one town has a different viewpoint than another. For example in Oyo, it is said Osoosi is female (Ogun’s wife) whereas in Osogbo, Osoosi is male.

    • Jamiu Raji Rassaki

      Matthew Oluyede True, I said that when I referred to using Ayé Àkámọrà in situations of agony and miseries

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Jamiu Raji Rassaki When we are struck by the puzzling, sometimes ruinous behavior of people, we say “Ayé Àkámarà, ayé tótó; ẹ̀rù ayé bà mí.”
      Àkámarà may, therefore, be decoded as À ká ọmọ rà bí ẹja gbígbẹ́–a dreadful alienating force that contorts the body as if it was dry fish and then markets it. A reference, apparently, to the horrendous trade in humans.

    • Jamiu Raji Rassaki

      Matthew Oluyede Thank you for your interpretation, but rà is also “to spoil/form maggots.” That’s another insight into the probability of the diction

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Jamiu Raji Rassaki Yoruba, being syntactically tonal, makes room for ample elastic expansion in terms of semantics. That flexibility is a blessing, which Shangowale Pablo Oyinbo mentions in his readings. The plastic semantics, which poets and singers exploit to the maximum, is a blessing especially in discussions of mystic terms because they add endless layers of meanings and possibilities that further enrich the scope of explorations and applications.

    • Jamiu Raji Rassaki

      Matthew Oluyede First and foremost, we should take the Christian and Islamic concept of a big God and smaller gods off our heads, because there is nothing like small gods, it was an attempt to suppress our pantheon of òrìṣà (as lesser gods).

      The one and blatant truth is that there is one God known as Olódùmarè which we have other names for in other ancient African cultures.
      Olódùmarè is supreme (Ifá verses attested to this), the one and only, òrìṣà/Irúnmọlẹ̀ work to achieve a common goal of Olódùmarè, simple as A B D.

    • Balogun Adesina

      I was Awise Wande Abimbola’s student at Ifa Heritage Institute from 2009 to 2011. Understand the study of Ifa Practicum, Baba made us understand that Olodumare is the head of all Irunmole/Orisa.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Balogun Adesina I heard baba Awise Wande Abimbola’s views is now that Yoruba is a monotheism, and that Olodumare is the Supreme Being. This is fine.
      Yet I maintain that this was not his teaching in the early 70s when I was his student.

      Without any doubt, I recall being fascinated by Baba’s position that we should not be apologetic that Yoruba spirituality does not follow the pattern of the monotheism of Christianity or Islam.

      I prefer to hold on to that earlier stance by the Awise. It seems to me more radically engaging than what is being presented as his new stance. That earlier position is a disciplinary balance to resist the threatening invasion by Judaic and Islamic encroachment.

    • Balogun Adesina

      You are right Matthew Oluyede while I was studying under Awise, I could still remember he use to say some stuffs like that too and he even used to say that Ifa is more important and superior to Olodumare. At some point I got confused because we all agree that Ifa is the word of Olodumare so how come? Baba even said we shouldn’t say Iwure to Olodumare and some other stuffs which I later comprehend on the long of my research.

    • Omotayo Amire

      Matthew Oluyede I stand with the view of Awise that Yoruba Spirituality is not Monotheism of Christianity and Islam. Yet the definition of Monotheism in Yoruba Spirituality is that Olodumare is the Supreme being while the Orishas are his/her emissaries.

      However, if we go by the definition of Monotheism in Christianity and Islam, Yoruba Spirituality or even African Spirituality will never and ever converge. We have a richer view of Olodumare and the Orishas who are parr of our nature. If you say that is not the definition of Monotheism, then I agree with you. We have Pantheons of Orishas actively involved with us humans. The reality is that both Christianity and Islam subscribed to the

      Yoruba view on Olodumare but because of supremacy, they belief in the Orishas which they call angels or Malaika, yet they condemn the Africans as idol worshippers. What is the point of having the cross in your house, what’s the point of having the images of Paul, Peter etc; what’s the point of kissing the Ka’aba during the pilgrimages? Are these not idol worshipping? However, Afrucans do not worship wood or stone but represents each Orisha based on the nature they disappeared into.

  6. Treasure Ozioma

    Linguist Ayo Bamgbose wrote an academic article about the word olodumare in the 1970s, I think there are about 30 versions where it could come from, he could not tell which version is “the root”, all is speculation, like the “Orisa” or “Orunmila” interpretations breaking up the words into small syllables, it is just a play on words, often ignoring the tones on vowels. I believe the monotheism concept became part of the “Orisha” world when Islam reached Yorubaland in the 16th century and later was reinforced by the Christian missionaries and the idea of an Orisha “pantheon” compared to ancient Greece and the pan-Yoruba movement, when the “Yoruba” identity evolved around in the Lagos Renaissance in 19th century (connected to the term “Yoruba”). All the early influential Yoruba writers were Christians.

    • Ajayi Modupe

      This is very wrong!! It is the exact opposite. Specifically Igbale Aiye, a Yoruba town has been carbon dated to 450,000 BC!!!! Where were Islam and Christianity then?? Names may have changed; especially descriptive ones for peoples and tribes like Katunga; but definitely monotheism migrated from West Africa through Sudan , Egypt and then to Ethiopia in 4 BC. More escavations and facts are confirming this migration.

    • Matthew Oluyede

      Ajayi Modupe I don’t think Shangowale Treasure Ozioma is stating that settlements in present Yorubaland are not old.
      He or she is talking about the idea of “Yoruba” itself as a cohesive, single-nation entity, which scholars have argued is pretty recent.

      I do not know that we can use terms such as monotheism, polytheism, etc to describe these practices without getting into the pitfalls of confusion. Oyinbo terms, (apologies to Shangowale Pablo Oyinbo), like mono and poly only bring western lenses that fail to capture the views that Yoruba thoughts envision.ration.

    • Ajayi Modupe

      Matthew Oluyede It’s true that these descriptions are actually inappropriate for us.

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