The Yoruba religion, comprising the traditional religious concepts and practices of the Yoruba people, is found primarily in southwestern Nigeria and the adjoining parts of Benin, and Togo, commonly known asYorubaland. Yoruba religion is ancestral to the American religions Santería, Umbanda, and Candomblé. Yoruba religious beliefs are part of itan, the complex cultural concepts which make up the Yoruba society.
According to Kola Abimbola, the Yoruba have evolved a robust cosmology. In brief, it holds that all human beings possess what is known as “Ayanmo” (destiny, fate) and are expected to eventually become one in spirit with Olodumare (Olorun, the divine creator and source of all energy). Furthermore, the thoughts and actions of each person in Ayé (the physical realm/Life) interact with all other living things, including the Earth itself.
Each person attempts to achieve transcendence and find their destiny in Orun-Rere (the spiritual realm of those who do good and beneficial things). One’s ori-inu (spiritual consciousness in the physical realm) must grow in order to consummate union with one’s “Iponri” (Ori Orun, spiritual self).
Those who stop growing spiritually, in any of their given lives, are destined for “Orun-Apadi” (the invisible realm of potsherds). Life and death are said to be cycles of existence in a series of physical bodies while one’s spirit evolves toward transcendence. This evolution is said to be most evident amongst the Orishas, the divine viziers of Olorun.
Iwapẹlẹ (or well-balanced) meditative recitation and sincere veneration is sufficient to strengthen the ori-inu of most people. Well-balanced people, it is believed, are able to make positive use of the simplest form of connection between their Oris and the omnipotent Olu-Orun: an adura (petition or prayer) for divine support.
Prayer to one’s Ori Orun produces an immediate sensation of joy. Elegbara (Eshu, not the divine messenger but accuser of the righteous) initiates contact with spiritual realm on behalf of the petitioner, and transmits the prayer to Ayé; the deliverer of ase or the spark of life. He transmits this prayer without distorting it in any way. Thereafter, the petitioner may be satisfied with a personal answer. In the event that he or she is not, the Ifá oracle of the Orisha Orunmila may also be consulted. All communication with Orun, whether simplistic in the form of a personal prayer or complicated in the form of that done by an initiated Babalawo (priest of divination), however, is energized by invoking ase.
In the Yoruba belief system, Olodumare has ase over all that is, and hence Is considered supreme.