Yoruba Mythology: The Orishas of the Yoruba Race (3)
Three weeks ago, we began to explore Eledumare and the Orishas sent to serve as a guide in this human race. So far, we started with our appreciation of Sango, the most feared and powerful Orisha to Babalú-Ayé, the curer of illnesses. Is Esu Satan? Let’s find out.
He is the Orisha of iron and war. He was a warrior and was mighty in metalwork. He cleared the
path for the Orisha to enter, using his mighty axe and a dog to guide him. One of his praise
names is Osin Imole. As a human, he was one of the first kings of Ife. A story has it that after the
death of Obatala, he seized the throne but was ousted by Obamakin and sent into exile. Another
story is that some of his subjects failed to respect him as a king, so he killed them and killed
himself with his sword. He is also said not to have died but disappeared into the earth at Ire-Ekiti
with the promise to help those who call on him. The primary symbols of Ogun are iron, a dog,
and the palm frond.
They represent his role in transformation, mediation and function, and he is also depicted with
the spitting cobra (black snake) due to its aggressiveness and fearlessness. Shrines and altars of
Ogun displays and use iron objects. His followers wear chains of iron implements and show
knives, guns, scissors, wrenches, and other iron implements from daily life. Meats are mainly
sacrificed to him. Other materials like catfish, alligator pepper, kola nuts, palm wine, red palm
oil, small rats, roosters, salt, snails, tortoise, water and yams are also offered as a sacrifice.
He is currently worshipped in all Yoruba states in Nigeria, in other African countries and the
This is the Orisha sent by Olodumare to be the chief enforcer of natural and divine laws. He is
the Orisha of balance, crossroads, duality, orderliness and beginnings. He is powerful and
relevant in Yoruba culture and is the only Orisha to be worshipped every day in the traditional
four-day Yoruba week. Esu is a very complex and unpredictable orisha which is why he is known as A-bá-ni-wá-ọ̀ràn- bá-ò-rí-dá, that is, He who creates problems for the innocent. He is very mischievous and teaches that there are always two or more sides to every issue. Still, he is good and just to those of good character and morally upright people.
Beyond Olodumare, Esu is also a messenger to other Orishas and an intermediary between the
Orishas and humans.
Other male Orishas include;
Ibeji: The Orisha of youth and vitality. He represents a pair of twins. In Yoruba culture, twins
are believed to be a gift from Olodumare and are granted protection by Sango. In Yoruba culture,
the twins are Taiwo (1st twin) and Kehinde (2nd twin). It is also believed that the older one is
Kehinde, but they send Taiwo to check the world first before deciding to come out.
Oṣùmàrè: It means rainbow in the Yoruba Language. This is the divine rainbow serpent
associated with creation and procreation.
Osanyin: He is the Orisha of the forest, herbs, and medicine. He is one-eyed, one-armed and
Erinlẹ̀: This Orisha was a great hunter. He was a superb elephant hunter and herbalist and is now
a physician to the gods. The name is derived from Erin, which means elephant and ilẹ which is
earth or house.
Ọ̀ṣọ́ọ̀si: The Orisha of the hunt, forest, strategy, and knowledge and is worshipped in the Yoruba
religion and in other religions.