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#Reno Omikro Series 32

 

By HEADLINENEWS.NEWS correspondent 

Yoruba: Olorun Is Not God, and Esu is Not Satan

After I wrote about the origin of the word Yoruba, a young Yoruba man WhatsApp’ed me, asking me the right word for God in his language.

In his memoirs, Ajayi Crowther revealed that after he was raided from his village in Osogun (in present day Oyo state) by Fulani slave raiders, he could not understand the Egba or Awori language.

Although he meant well, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther unintentionally damaged both what has now become the Yoruba language (which is actually the Edekiri Olukumi language) and Igbo.

Because he wrote the first books in both languages, many words that we use in those tongues for such concepts as God, Devil, demons, heaven and hell are not entirely accurate.

In addition to his many works in the Yoruba language, Bishop Ajayi Crowther also wrote the first ever book in the Igbo language, titled Isoama-Ibo: A Primer, published in 1857. Bishop Crowther also wrote the second book about the Igbo language titled ‘Vocabulary of the Ibo Language’ published in 1882.

I will not go into the wrong translations in Igbo, because I frankly do not have the strength to respond to insults from a few of our brothers and sisters who give the bulk of the well behaved people of their region a bad name.

But for the Yoruba, note that before colonialism, you were either Oyo, Egba, Ondo, Awori, Owu, Ekiti, Ijebu and so on.

It was the British, who, in search of an ethnic identity for the Omo Oduduwa, took the derogatory Fufulde word for the Olukumi and mispronounced it as Yoruba with the help of Ajayi Crowther. That word was what his Fulani captors called him after raiding him from Osogun.

The Fulanis themselves may have learnt that word from the Malians, who used it earlier. Let me note here that a significant proportion of Northern Nigeria residents actually originated from ancient Mali, and many are still known as Bamali till today. Even the word Hausa is actually a Songhai word meaning Southerner.

The actual word for God in the Edekiri Olukumi language (the real name of what is wrongly called the Yoruba language) is not Olorun, as widely believed.

The word for the Omnipotent God is Oritse. Oritse is a word that shows you how spiritually developed the Omoluabi are (the actual name of the Yoruba people-the language is Edekiri, the people are Olukumi or Lukumi, and when you fulfil the ethos of the race, you become an Omoluabi or Omo-ti-Olu-Iwa-bi). Not all Olukumi will be Omoluabi.

Ori means head. For example, you can say ge ori mi, or g’ori mi, which means shave my head. That is where the name of the palace slave, gorimapa (Ge ori mo apa) in the now rested Village Headmaster TV series came from.

Tse means to create or to do. For instance, tse b’ayi meaning do it like this or create it like this. We Itsekiri use tse, but the Olukumi closer to Lagos and Oyo use șe or she.

The word Oritse is a compound word comprising of Ori-meaning Head, and Tse, meaning Create. Thus, Oritse means Head Creator.

His children are referred to as Orisa or Orisha.

So, in pure Edekiri language, there is only One Oritse and many Orisas.

The word Olorun comes from the older Edekiri word Olofin-Orun. It means Lord of the heavens. It is actually a title for Oritse. In modern Yoruba, Olofin-Orun is shortened to Olorun.

Also, the word for devil in modern day Yoruba, as introduced by Bishop Crowther, is wrong.

One thing I learnt in Cuba is that Èṣù, or Echú as they pronounce it, is actually not satan. Cuban and Brazilian Lukumi people (the word is pronounced Lukumi in Cuba and Brazil, with the o silent) left Nigeria before Ajayi Crowther corrupted that word. They were not affected by the corruption. Èṣù is actually an Òrìṣà (a god or deity). But he is not satan himself.

Interestingly, the Lukumi language is taught in schools in Cuba, and Ifa worship (known there as Santeria, although there are other things included, not just Ifa) is very widespread and done openly. In Florida, Oyibo (White European) babalawo exists. If you search for me on YouTube, you will see a video I did where I went to the Ojubo of an Oyinbo Babalawo in Daytona, Florida. Èṣù is one of the Òrìṣà of Santería. Black, White and Latin are all deeply into Santeria in the Americas. I know because I traveled to research this.

The issue is that when Samuel Ajayi Crowther was translating the Bible into Yoruba, he could not find a suitable word for satan, and rather than just leave it as satan, he took one of the deities in Ifa worship, Èṣù, and turned him into satan.

While it is hard to translate satan into Yoruba, because there is no such concept, the nearest being to satan is not Èṣù. Even the word Èṣù is not complete. In Cuba, the full name is Èṣù-Ẹlẹ́gbára, sometimes shortened to Ẹlẹ́gbá, or Echú Eleguá, as the Cubans call it. In Brazil, the deity is sometimes known as Exu. It was in Cuba that I was educated about the fact that the place in Lagos called Ojuelegba, is actually Ojubo Ẹlẹ́gbá, meaning altar, or shrine of Ẹlẹ́gbá, or more accurately, a portal from which the deity enters and exits the spiritual realm to enter the physical realm. And we in Nigeria are blissfully unaware of this!

And the thing is that the word Èṣù refers to (and I know I will annoy a lot of Christians with this truth) more or less a messenger of God (Oritse Olódùmarè or Elódùmarè in the Yoruba pantheon of gods, as opposed to Olorun, which as I said earlier is rather a vague honorific).

The reason is because there are more than one Èṣù. Each Èṣù is a messenger of Olódùmarè for a specific purpose.

For example, you have Èṣù Odara, which some say is a different messenger from Èṣù-Ẹlẹ́gbára.

The point I am making is that we need to study and properly situate the ancient Yoruba pantheon of gods, not so we can worship them.

For instance, if we are calling a being who is, in fact, not satan, satan, then the real satan is left off the hook, and the minds of millions of Yoruba speaking people, who are adherents of Abrahamic faiths, are contaminated or corrupted by this wrong association.

Reno Omokri

Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #TableShaker. Ruffler of the Feathers of Obidents. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Hodophile. Hollywood Magazine Humanitarian of the Year, 2019. Business Insider Influencer of the Year 2022.

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