what is west african culture

The Yoruba Creation Story

The Yoruba people of Nigeria discuss the creation story to this day. They discuss the creation of life and the universe itself. It was common among the Yoruba people to quarrel with different city-states. The Yoruba people used to identify with the city-state they lived in rather than their people as a whole. The principal Yoruba city was called Ife. It was considered sacred among the people. The myth behind the Yoruba creation story attempts to explain humanity and its origins. What makes Yoruba gods different from other mythological gods is that they experience human emotions like anger and love.


To better understand the Yoruba creation story, it is important to learn more about the main characters. These are described below.

  • Olorun is the creator of the sun and the ruler of the sky.
  • Obatala is the creator of the land on Earth and humans. He is Olorun’s favorite god.
  • Olokun is the ruler of the sea.
  • Eshu is the Messenger God.
  • Orunmila is the oldest son of Olorun and is considered the Prophet God.


The Story

Now that you have an idea about the different Gods according to the Yoruba people, you will have an easier time understanding the Yoruba creation story. At the beginning of time, our universe only consisted of the wild marshlands, the water, and the sky. It was Obatala who thought that the world could use more. Therefore, he went to ask Olorun for permission to create fields, forests, valleys, and mountains. Thus, Olorun gave Obatala permission to create solid land on the earth.

After, Obatala went to Orunmila. The Prophet God told Obatala that a gold chain is required to reach the waters below from the sky. Hence, Obatala went to the goldsmith to get the chain made. Once the chain was complete, Obatala descended onto the Earth. He carried a snail shell containing sand, a palm nut, a black cat, and a white hen. As Obatala tried to climb down, he quickly realized that his chain was not long enough. Then, Orunmila told Obatala to dump all of the sand and hen onto the earth. As the hen started scratching the sand, it spread it around and formed solid land onto the earth.

Finally, Obatala let go of his chain and fell onto earth. He named the place where he fell down Ife. Then, he planted the palm nut, which sprouted and became a palm tree immediately. Obatala kept the cat as company.

Despite having the cat with him, Obatala still felt lonely. Thus, he started making clay figures in his image. Then, he drank some wine as he got tired. The wine was made from palm tree juice. As he tried to make clay figures while being drunk, he realized that the figures were deformed. Lastly, Olorun breathed life into these figures, which became humans.