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YORUBA BELIEF REGARDING 'ORI' AND 'ELEDA'





By
Sanusi Lafiagi

There’s something about the Yoruba connotation of the words “ori” and “eleda” that I still find hard to comprehend. I’m not a Yoruba person so it’s possible that my understanding is faulty. Literally, “ori” connotes ‘head’ while “eleda” implies ‘creator/God’. 

However, in certain contexts, both terms appear to be used interchangeably to imply Creator. This is why I find it confusing. Is it that the Yoruba believe that one’s head is his/her creator or what? Take for instance the popular song: “ori mi, eleda mi” meaning, “my head, my creator.” If my knowledge of grammar has not failed me, ori in this context implies ‘my creator’. This can be  better understood when one listens to “ori mi ma jente” (My creator, do not put me to shame) by Ebenezer Obe, or “ohun gbogbo l’owo ori (everything is in the Creator’s hand). 

In some other contexts, it is said that “ori mi ja fun mi” (my creator, fight on my behalf), “ori mi gba mi/ ko mi yo” (my creator, save me), ori eni ni ni akunle bo”,(one’s creator deserves to be worshipped) “ori eni ni apesin”, “ori sun mi ba ire”, etc.

In none of the above contexts does it make sense to interpret “ori” as ‘head’. However, in contexts like, “ori mi ma gba abode” (my head, do not betray me), and “ori mi ma ta ko mi”(my head, do not sabotage my efforts), it’s even more confusing, as “ori” in this context is more spiritual than literal. The Yoruba do not mean, by those statements the physical head housing the medulla oblongata. However, what confuses me even more is the fact that people who use these expressions touch their heads while saying them. Could they be referring to the head? Or are they merely confused?

أفيدونا يا أرباب اليوروبا وباباها، أليست هذه الكلمات مخالفة للعقيدة الإسلامية في مفهوم اليوروبا قديما بل وحديثا؟

Sanusi Lafiagi

7 comments:

  1. Eleda is your creator, while Ori is your personal spirit being, your spiritual head!

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  2. Ori personalises the creator, your personal spirit being in charge of your own destiny. We all have one Eleda but with our individual Oris.

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  3. I find this very interesting. My first observation is for us to first appreciate the fact that there is indeed a Yoruba Philosophy that is different and distinct from the Christain, Islamic and many more others.
    The confusion you expressed may be as a result of trying to situate the concepts of Ori and Eleda within frameworks already set by Islam and Christianity.
    The Yoruba Philosophy is so robust and when well studied and understood offers better understanding to life and appears to conform more to science than myths unlike the other major philosophies.
    The concept of Ori is central to Yoruba tradition as Ori is believed to actually be the custodian of the individual's destiny on earth with which the individual must align to achieve peace and success on earth.Hence the saying, Ori la ba bo ka fi Orisa sile.

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  4. Yes, the concept of Ori is confusing. If ori is one's destiny - this seems to be synonymous with an inescapable fate...

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  5. Yoruba language happen to be a logical language that if someone say something, it's best as a Yoruba is to ask what do you imply else it could be truncated, so Ori literally means your physical Head, yet in another context it simply means your guardian Angel(like your bodyguard) which must be always alert; Ori mi ma sun "my head don't be dizzy", Ori mi gbami "my head save/protect me" etc
    So its not confusing its just logical, So Islam is a plain and not logical, so be a pure al Sunnah and not logical al bid'ah

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  6. it will be funny to me to hear a born again Christian use this phrase above. to be it shows you still in the deity worship because that's its origin

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