The sacrifice would result in failure. What could be responsible for this turn of events wondered Orunmila. Soon, there was a report from IFE that the city was under heavy plague and many problems. Fishes were dying in the river, sickness and illness became the order of the day. The pregnant women would no longer find it easy to have their children, men became infertile and the barren could not conceive. There was total chaos and pandemonium and nobody in the city was able to find a solution to the problem.

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It is through him that the will of Olodumare is most strongly made known, and though he leaves true kingship to the more volatile members of his pantheon, he still wields an ancient authority that few can ignore. No human exists who was not created by his hands, no land or creatures or sky that did not come from his holy work of creation, and if he occasionally overindulges in relaxation, he does so because his labors are that much greater than those of most of the other Orisha.

Obatala and the Orisha Before the other gods were born, Obatala lived alone in a small hut with only a slave for company. Obatala loved the slave, who cooked and looked after him, but the slave secretly hated him and plotted his death. He waited until Obatala was walking home one evening, and when he saw him walk into his hut rolled a huge boulder down into the house, crushing Obatala into hundreds and hundreds of people. When Orunmila came to visit him and saw what had happened, he was appalled and attempted to save his brother, gathering as many of the pieces as he could find.

All those lost parts that Orunmila did not find grew up to live again themselves, and became all the other orisha. Obatala and the Sun When Obatala planted the first tree, a man came to live beneath it. When he consulted the diviner to learn his fortune, he was told that he must sacrifice to Obatala lest the tree fall on his house and kill him. The man refused, but Obatala took pity on him and saw an opportunity to punish his slave, so that when the tree fell it stopped before hitting the ground and hovered in midair.

The man was amazed and tried to cut the tree down to stop it from hanging above him, but Obatala appeared and turned it at once into a bright, sacred metal. He then called his slave to take the metal to Ogun, who fashioned it into a richly decorated pot and a shining boat. When the slave had returned with these items, Obatala placed him in the boat and covered him with a brass dress, and then ordered him to travel from heaven to earth in a single day and then back.

Obatala and the Creation of the World When the great god Olodumare decided he wanted the world to be created, he summoned Obatala and instructed him to go make the land and populate it, giving him some earth, a hen and a pigeon with which to accomlish this. Obatala descended down the heavenly chain to the watery vastness of the uncreated world and dropped the earth down into it, after which he let the birds loose so that they scratched and flapped and scattered it all over the world, creating dry land.

He then planted the first palm tree to provide leaves, shelter, food and drink for the inhabitants of the world, and encouraged the pigeons and hens to multiply. There was work still to be done, but Obatala, sampling the wine of the palm tree he had created, became drunken and passed out in its shade; seeing this and disapproving, his younger brotherqe Oduduwa sneaked down, gathered up his tools and finished the rest of the work of creation for him before he awoke. He gave Obatala dominion over the creation and destiny of all mankind, and Oduduwa the earthly power to rule and command them.

His weakness for palm wine has remained since he invented it, however, and once in a while he becomes drunk while fashioning new people, which causes him to create deformed or strangely shaped people, who are considered under his special protections.

Obatala also creates the clay heads that are the destinies of all mankind, and his workshop is filled with them, awaiting the day that a mortal chooses one of them and embarks upon the journey of their fate in the world. Obatala and Shango Obatala decided one day to visit Shango, and as was customary he first consulted a diviner to see if this was a wise course of action. The diviner told him that the journey would end in his death, but Obatala ignored his words, eager to see his friend, and instead undertook a sacred vow to never complain, retaliate or refuse anything while on the journey, by which he could make the journey merely disastrous instead of fatal.

As he traveled, he met Eshu, who was sitting with a large pot of palm oil; he asked Obatala for help lifting it, but as Obatala agreed Eshu poured the red oil all over him. Obatala took a bath and replaced his white garment, but twice more Eshu played the same trick on him, until he had no more clean clothes and was forced to continue on soiled. At a loss as to why his land was suffering so, Shango consulted Orunmila for a divination and was told that someone was wrongfully imprisoned in his dungeons.

Determined to find the innocent, Shango ransacked his prisons until he discovered Obatala in one of them; horrified that his fellow god had been imprisoned for so long, he fell to his knees and apologized, and Obatala was freed.

Obatala and Oshun When the gods first descended to earth, Oshun was left behind by the other gods and cursed them in her irritation, declaring that their efforts to exert their control oevr the world would fail unless the child she was carrying was male. Orunmila knew that she was carrying a female child, so he persuaded her to go meet Obatala, who had already been apprised of the situation.

Obatala and the First Man After he created the world, Obatala made the first man, who he instructed to establish law and order and punish those who broke the rules, in return acting as his special protector and patron.

Oduduwa, however, treated this man with disdain because he was a mere mortal, and refused to abide by any mortal laws. In order to punish him, the first man poisoned his daughter, who fell gravely ill; Oduduwa attempted every remedy to heal her, and finally was forced to beg Obatala to share his healing with her. Obatala told him to ask the man he had disrespected, and when he did so Obatala healed the girl through him so that no one would question those he protected again.



Not a good thing when you have a holy mission to perform. His father, the supreme sky god Olorun , gave him the mighty task of building the Earth. Meanwhile, little sibling Oduduwa spotted an opportunity. Why should big brother get all the fame and glory? So he stole the holy building materials and did a little planet-constructing behind his back. As you can see if you look around you, he did a pretty good job.


Yoruba Mythology



The Imprisonment of Obtala



The imprisonment of Obatala, and other plays;


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