The Basics of Yoruba – An African Spiritual Tradition

A Divine Journey to the Inner Self and God Consciousness.


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Yoruba is a West African spirituality that some Anthropologists estimate is 10,000 years old! It comprises the beliefs of the Yoruba people, whose homeland is in the South Western part of Nigeria and adjoining parts of Benin and Togo. Yet the beliefs of Yoruba are also incredibly widespread around the world. Some of this was due to migration that occurred before the Egyptian dynasties. Yet the most recent migration is because of the Atlantic Slave Trade that brought the peoples of Yoruba to Trinidad, Tobago, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Venezuela, North America and elsewhere.

Today, many people of African descent are returning to their roots via exploration with the Yoruba spirituality. There is a great article on this very phenomenon on NPR.

The spirituality of Yoruba focuses deeply on self exploration, learning one’s destiny (or fate), interacting with the spirits of nature as well as one’s ancestors, and getting yourself right with the almighty creator Oludumare.



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Oludumare is not a “he” or a “she.” The only appropriate pronoun here is “it” because Oludumare is a genderless being who is responsible for all creation. It lives in a heavenly realm, far from its creation. Yet it has holy messengers who help to intercede between the Almighty and Mankind itself. These messengers are spirits called “Orishas.” In Yoruba you must believe and interact with the Orishas to reach God Consciousness.



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There are many types of Orishas. Some who have always been present and others are humans who made the leap to divinity. And then there are spirits who take the form of natural resources such as rivers and trees. While some are similar to the Western concept of an Angel, there are also some key differences. Orisha’s are not perfect beings. They actually have very human characteristics, a variety of quirks and different attitudes. They marry, divorce and even have their own favorite beers and foods. Orishas also live on the Earth, rather than the sky. Some say that there are 400 and others say that there are more than 3,000. Of the real number no one can be certain. Each Orisha has their own color, drum beat and even an article of clothing that is associated with them.

Orishas are also capable of possessing the bodies of their followers or priests. This is done through an elaborate dance ritual where certain orishas are evoked through a particular dance and drum beat. The Orishas rise up from the Earth and mount the bodies and souls of those involved in the ritual. Men and women can both take place in these rituals. Some humans involved in the ritual even gender bend in terms of their clothing, if they want to summon an Orisha of the opposite gender.



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However, not all spirits are good. There are some negative spirits called “Ajogun.” These spirits are typically responsible for the bad things that might happen in someone’s life: accidents, depression or an illness. People trying to get rid of an Ajogun will consult a priest, who performs a divination ritual to learn the spirit’s motives and the best way to banish them.



Ashe is a life force similar to Chi in Chinese traditions or the energy that flows through the chakras in Indian belief. Ashe is a force that has the power to bring about change – whether good or bad – and is contained in everything from lightning and hurricanes to blood and sacred names (Source: God Paths).



Rather than focusing on salvation, much of the focus has been on living a good life in the here and now. While there is some mention of a “good and bad heaven” most followers hope for reincarnation, which is actually a good thing in this religion, while it is something to be escaped in Buddhism. People who are bad or who commit suicide do not get to be reborn. There is also a belief that reincarnation matches family lines. Therefore, that a grandmother or grandfather will reincarnated back into his or her family tree. It’s not uncommon for a boy to be called names like Babatunde which means “Father Returns” or Yetunde which means “the mother comes back again”.  Gender is hardly ever taken into account because its believed that it often changes with reincarnation.



In Yoruba, we get to choose our own destinies before we are born. This can be to the very exact details of where we live, who we love and our life purpose. Yet once we are born, we forget these destinies and must struggle to remember them again. Consulting the spirits is a good way to learn one’s life destiny and purpose.



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In the Yoruba tradition, there are men and women who are specially trained to communicate with the heavenly realm. You see the Yoruba have specially trained intercessors called either Babalawo if men (which means Father of secrets) or Iyalawo if women (Mother of Secrets) who through an intense period of training are taught divination techniques that allow clients to seek help or advice from the Heavenly realm on anything from relationship problems to job issues.  Babalawo are different from your typical psychic though.

They don’t claim to have any special power in and of themselves.  They are merely people who are masters of the art of divination which involves knowing how to cast divinations with palm nuts, recording the results, and reciting the poem connected with each result.  This however is not very easy since the chances of any one result coming up are 1 in 256 and four poems must be memorized for each one. Therefore, it takes a lot of work, memorization and dedication to be a Babalawo or Iyalawo



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When Europeans came to Africa, or traded Africans abroad, the Africans were forced to embrace many of the European ways – including their religion. The Yoruba spirituality survived better under Spanish and Portuguese Catholicism than the English Evangelical Christianity.

Catholicism had parallels similar to the Yoruba Faith. A belief in an almighty God who had many helpers (saints and angels). When the Yoruba converted to Catholicism, they made their Orisha’s into saints. However, the conversion wasn’t such a simple affair – since the Yoruba had less of a belief in black and white “good and evil.” Yet at least their Orishas were able to maintain some worship in Catholicism.

In the Christian Evangelical system, many of the Orisha’s were simply abolished.

Yet the Catholic Yoruba synthesis is alive and well in Puerto Rico, Brazil, Trinidad, Haiti, Cuba and New Orleans.

Because of Yoruba’s elasticity, it can adopt other religions quite easily. This may be part of the religion’s popularity. Some say that Yoruba – with its many different versions included – is the world’s top 6 most practiced religion.

Some have chosen to practice both Catholicism and Yoruba simultaneously. Yet others are leaving their Christian Faith behind altogether. They are enticed by a faith with African Roots, a personal connection to the spirits of the divine, and a deep connection with the spirits of nature. If you are still curious for deeper knowledge about this ancient faith, check out my resources below.


Jah Shaka & Mad Professor – People of Yoruba


Ancient African Religion Finds Roots in America (NPR)

Yoruba Basics

Introduction to Yoruba

The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts (Book on Amazon)

42 responses

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  5. Natacha

    That’s why the word of God says his people perish due to lack of knowledge. JESUS is the true God! No one else deserves to be worshiped but him. All these practices and ocult spirits is a lie from the devil because the devil knows the bible, and he knows that the Lord saud only he should be praised and served, but he wants the same done for him and he doesn’t want people to do it fir Jesus so he lies behinds these spirits so you can disobey God. Look for the truth. Thats why many nations are poor, because they have worshiped other gods and given their backs to Jesus, the one who died for humankind. That’s why we see earthquakes occuring, because people idolize ocult spirits, instead of directly speaking to God and live a righteous life before him and follow his true words that are in the bible. As we can see everything from the bible is being fufiled. That book doesn’t lie, but these false gods and ocult spirits are all a lie from satan to fool humanity.

    May 10, 2016 at 12:06 am

    • athena

      LOL. Judge not, that ye be not judged

      June 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    • Princhella

      All has a right to believe whatever resonates with their spirit. The most high will do the judging not man and his books.

      July 14, 2016 at 1:22 am

    • Oliver

      There is one Creator. Some religions give it a gender, some do not. It is given many names according to geography. It is arrogant to think the religion you happened to be brought up on is the only correct interpretation of the Truth. Believe in God, love and do unto others as you would have done to yourself, always be humble about yourself. These are the core of practically all religions. Some might say other religions are corruptions of their true religion designed to tempt or deceive, others, see that they all stem from a common source, as do we as a people. I think it’s rather narrowminded to think only one religion will be saved. Being saved is all about love and sincerity, not rules and regulations and one church vs another. If you are true in your heart you are pure in intent and I believe intent is where we can be saved. I have noticed the most genuine Spiritualists are also the most open minded about other faiths and the most close minded are the false prophets for example, TV evangelists. Open your eyes and your heart. We are all God’s children. We all came from God and He is in all of us. We are one family, we do not need pastors or anyone else telling us to put up borders between our brothers and sisters.

      November 25, 2016 at 12:17 am

      • Ondrea

        I agree with you 100%

        December 16, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      • Eleisa

        Very well say. I like your comments.

        October 2, 2017 at 9:19 am

      • Thank you!

        October 2, 2017 at 11:27 am

      • Eleisa


        October 2, 2017 at 9:19 am

      • Eleisa


        October 2, 2017 at 9:20 am

      • angel

        You need to stop. Wakeup! Religion: christianity, Judaism, islam is man made. There is no Jesus. He never walked the earth. He is not a physical man. He doesn’t exist.

        October 27, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      • May

        very much agree, i work with Archangels and they have shown me through various texts how they are all the same spirits going by different names in different religions and practices, close minded fear has been implemented for control of the masses. blessings to all!

        December 24, 2017 at 9:11 pm

    • Ondrea

      Im sorry. But the yoruba and other african spiritual systems predate both christianity and the bible. Also the bible is a plagiarized copy of other books of antiquity.

      December 16, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    • SIRKO

      This by far is the dumbest comment I’ve ever seen… Most countries are poor because of the greed of the American Government… You’re Central Banking System!! Do some real research!! Question? Why are you on this page anyway? There must be something you re looking for. I’m sure this didnt come up in a google search about Jesus!!

      June 11, 2017 at 7:00 pm

      • It’s sad how much the World Bank and IMF are fucking over countries like Haiti and Jamaica.

        October 2, 2017 at 11:29 am

      • Val

        SIRIKO, I was thinking the same why even be here…go to another page.. and please dont say Cheezus sent you here to spread the good word

        August 3, 2018 at 8:26 pm

      • Haha, Cheezus! I would love to go to the church of Cheezus and take communion there.

        August 9, 2018 at 11:00 am

    • angel

      you need to stop

      October 27, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    • Kenny

      Council of Nicaea 325A.D. Said Jesus is Soter…So Serapis is the true and living God? Adage African proverb find correlation within the Bible because the hymn of atum originally says that the people perish because of a lack of knowledge.

      February 27, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    • Latrice


      February 28, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    • Glendon Mullings

      Total nonsense for people of color to believe in anything other than what their ancestral roots believed in.The Christian , Jewish & Islam religions are foreign dogmas which only seeked to dominate and control blacks worldwide in becoming negropean in order to neutralize their growth in freedom justice & equality.All have oppressed non whites whith this fear of hell fire and the devil . Not even the jews believe in the devil only evil which can come from the God head as well as good .

      May 20, 2020 at 7:21 pm

  6. anders

    The practical side of this could be what michael tellinger call Ubuntu.

    June 13, 2016 at 5:10 am

  7. Hello i disagree and agree with natacha the religions here are not good God forbids approaoching spirits of the other world and forbids magic and not without any reason,you can see everything in this sort of religions is bad and filth wath religion needs artifacts an all that nonsense also God says no idols comparing these religions are a lack of knoledge and knoledge of evil only.Why need other mediums who are not clear while Godis the only tru one .

    January 9, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    • sam

      why you hate if they believe in them then that makes them real but whatever God you follow if you truly believe in them no mater what god

      December 5, 2018 at 12:31 am

  8. J

    i also agree with the other person who says it is narrowminded because you will never know God sended angels to earth to direct his people so you never know about figures in religions etc etc and no one will ever know untill you are dead i don’t belive stories about people dying for several minutes and coming back yes they could be dead clinicly and all that and see things but i don’ belive wath they then see is the truth knoledge about what happens when you die maybe a sort of experience or something but not the real thing wath awaits us i think and know a lot of things are tru mysterisch.

    January 9, 2017 at 8:20 pm

  9. J

    I belive whe can have a lot of discusions here about things that you and whe just canot explain jut leave it the knoledge whe don’t have about this so let it go,only the Higher being God knows everything also about the mysterial figures that other belivers jave like one said it is not us to Judge,it is his work to Judge is his world hemade everything so why waisting time and energy in a yes/no discussion leave it up to him unless you have gifts about seeing these things of Him and knoledge you should’dt talk but if you don’t know wath you are talking about just let it,it is not our job.I don’t know wath some people are always concerened about other peoples there lifes if it don’t bother you let it be you are not Jesus the savior of the world let him save the world he knows it all.Some things you just don’t or cannot know with human knoledge.

    January 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm

  10. J

    But as you can see the differents between good and evil in th ebible it says Jesus has no evil in Him nothing is only peace and love and never lies,comparing that to surten yoruba belives you can see the different they talk about spirits eshu”s who are un trust worthy trick eshus now then you can see it is bad the bible say’s “: In God you can truly trust as a Rock he is faithfull and not a trick player on people who is the only one doing that the devil who is a liar and wanto fool people,and so on more things that you can comment about when laying them next to the bible u just see that those other religions are not good and have evil aspects in them very simple now in the bible u don’t need fighting amonngst ecaughter etc etc and in those religion they do have all kind of this things like i say it is not worth a discussion that never ends let him or he do wath he wants and let God judge or do his thing,if he wanto do he will do but yeah not all will be saved.

    January 9, 2017 at 8:41 pm

  11. J

    This first comment i agree but als disagree this person talks about : that’s why nations are poor because they worshipped other God’s i dis agree you cannot say that that is the reason simply because you don’t know the second thing is wath do you call poor?I think this is very full of stupidity of you to say and you say it out ofg a mind wich perspectif lay’s on the western ideoligy the brainwashed idea of recording to them being Rich and succesfull.But is this succe and being a rich country really so i mean wealth and everything the way you see it brings forth alot of ruin let me talk about the polution of the earth the destruction of planet earth the destruction of mankind itself because other countries are blinded by the greed of sources like oil etc etc for wath they kill lie and set up aother people and make war for their own personal greed and succes war’s are going on for oil example so one could’d have all the money so you call that rich and the other country poor out of your western idoligy but is it really being rich when the earth is being poluted because of all the toxic gasses cars factories and other thing produces that come forth out of trying to be rich and greedy you call that pore and then blaming on other countries they are poor etc,people have survied in simple ways jsut being down to earth with wath nature has given them untill the wealthy greedy european people came who’s mind was only set on greedienes and power,and started doing tardes etc etc and destroyed everything.So you call that poor people in other countries can live just in simple houses etc etc and be happy it is because of everything that came forth out of the so called Christian peoples minds that where the exploreres of the world that brought forth the whole ruin of total nations because they wanted more land more wealth etc etc and used slaved and fucked up every thing yes untill today look at the world is being destroyed by toxic wast in the sea people cannot even eat a normal fish or hunt a normal animal or you will get sick or drink a normal water because the earth is made so sick,and then you talk about yes other people country are living bad because they practice a sort of religion etc etc it is that christian religion that devides and destroys people because they wanto force their will on others and iam not saying the christian belive itself is wrong but ht e people who brought it and that youy should’t not say o other countries are poor because they still live with the simple things that the earth gives them and not all the modern polution of this western civilazation very stupid of you to say maybe the earth is fucked up so bad by polutions of factories that it is so twisted that it doesn’t rain in certain countries you never know.Yes so it is very stupid because wath is wealth look wath it is producing this so called wealth in yor western mind it only produces polution war out of greed because one wants more and more and a lot of garbage because of over production and people not knowing wath to do with all the stuff they produce and not being able to get rid of their robbish so the earth is poluted with garbage of overproduction so you caal that then wealth andd other people who make things out of ht e aerth only that are being brakeddown by the earth poor,very stupid,even the bible says a lot about being rich ertc etc that that is not the main focus in life and the want for money.Yes planet earth an it’s people have survived for thousands of years without modern technoligy and people stayed healthy and now everything is being poluted with unnececary things that come forth out of greed.Sso you talk here about other countries are poor because of this and this no other countries got fucked up because of people like columbus and slave tarders and people who came after who setled in those countries that wanted to be wealthy out of greed,yes wealth todayt is only builded up most of the tme out of pure greed,think very good before you just give a stupid answer about other countries are poor and this and that and saying who this and that happens because of thiis and that things that you don’t even know is just like a sheep who blates after the crowed that is talking the same thing.

    January 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm

  12. J

    Yes and it is for comments like this that people will not think for there selffs and jsut follow the crowed and be in the same stupidity like u.

    January 9, 2017 at 9:55 pm

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  14. SIRKO

    The name jesus christ according to the kaballah breaks down to the numeral or gematria 888. And the 8th element on the periodic table is oxygen.
    Which is really
    8 protons 8 neutrons and 8 electrons So oxygen is jesus.
    Jesus name in aramaic is yashua and in Egypt shu means to uplift and is the personification of air his symbol is a feather…hence the breath of life.
    So god breathed his divine self into man and man became a living soul and when the christians say that god and Jesus was together in the beginning thats what they are talking about.
    The breath is always with you.
    God breathed his divine breath of life into man so man is god by way of mastering the breath.
    In the book of acts 1:13 when it talk about him going to the upper room, the upper room really symbolizes the head.
    The breath is the mediator between the lower self and the higher self.
    So in john 20:22 Jesus breathed on his disciples and they received the holy spirit or the holy breath.
    You can charge the breath with so much universal life force called prana by inhale/exhale which in science is called centripetal and centrifugal force, push and pull. That is what keeps your physical composition together. Keeps all 76 trillion cells in your body together. Without the breath you decompose.
    The difference between a living and dead person is that one is breathing and the other one is not. The one who is breathing is composed. The one who is not breathing will soon be decomposed. Cause there is no push/pull-inhale/exhale of the breath to keep the cells together.
    At birth when the doctor slaps you on your ass you take your first inhalation and at that moment life begins. And when you take your last breath the spirit or breath spirals upward out your body. The word spirit means breath.
    When you die your breath or spirit is the last thing to spiral out your body.
    The breath goes upward into the ionosphere which is really the astral plane.
    The ionosphere is a exact mirror image of every object on earth
    No matter how faint it still shows up there. And at the point if death the electrons and the breath vapors(spirit) is released and goes upward into the ionosphere or the dream world or purgatory.
    You have the earthly plane then the etherial plane and your etherial body is about two inches outside your physical body its color is electric blue. Then you have the astral plane which is your emotional body. Then you have the mental plane then the causal plane the spiritual plane and then the soul plane. These are the seven heavens which are symbolic to the seven atmospheres. The troposphere the stratosphere the mesosphere the ionosphere the exosphere the thermosphere and magnetosphere.
    So these seven atmosphere correlates to the consciousness that you gathered and what goes up must come down.
    So if the breath goes up cause water goes up which is a water vapor,when you take your last breath your spirit goes up into the various atmosphere. And based on your conscious level depends on which atmosohere you go to.
    Some people consciousness is still at the lowest chakre when they die so they never leave the physical plane. Thats why sometimes you might see spirits of dead people.
    So When you master chi or qi energy and become the true magi. And not the magician. Cause one deal with smoking mirrors and tricks which is the magician and the other one actually developes the gift of mastering chi or qi energy and will actually be able to do the same thing and will be at the greater mysteries and not the lesser mysteries.
    He/she is the magi.
    You always want to be at the greater mysteries.
    The 1st and 2nd overtone can be your hell cause on the astral plane your thoughts become things and if you always thought hell was what the bible say. Then it will really exist. Same for heaven on the astral plane…..
    Jesus name in Aramaic is the same sound you make every time you sneeze. Which is ya-shu-a. And the sound you make when you sneeze just happens to be ya-shu and if its really good you go AH, hence yashua. Nobody taught you how to say this name when you sneeze so its a natural sound you make when you sneeze out the breath.
    And in the egyptian mysteries it say that the god atum decided to make more gods so he sneezed and spit flew out of his mouth and snot blew out of his nose and splattered on the ground and two beautiful children was created from this mess.
    Atum named the boy shu which means air and he named the girl tefnut which means moisture. And snot looks just like sperm, sperm is sticky and moist properties which creates life.
    So the breath of life has a name and its yashua, when you sneeze its giving you a clue of the name of the breath of life. The holy breath which the bible calls the holy ghost or holy spirit.
    And within old Hebrew which is Aramaic the name yashua means salvation cause you only receive salvation by unifying the lower self into the higher self.
    By mastering the lower mysteries and mastering the higher mysteries. This only happens by way of the breath cause it is the mediator.
    So when in the book of john 14:6 jesus say the only way to the father (which is the soul inside of the pineal gland)is but by me, i am the way the truth and the light. This is really talking about the breath of life.
    So this is a story about each and every one of us that we should master. Its not about no man coming out the sky on a white horses to save you. The whitehorse is really symbolic to the hippocampus area of the brain, cause the word hippocampus means white horse. This is pegasus from greek mythology. And the clouds is the white and gray matter of your brain. Which are the same colors as the clouds.

    Don’t take the bible literal these stories are all allegories, even Jesus said he speaks in parables in Mathews 13:10. Parables are stories that has a deeper meaning than what you are reading on the surface.

    June 11, 2017 at 8:10 pm

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  17. This was so helpful. Thank you for being so organized and writing so clearly. I just started researching this and it’s made it much easier. Also thanks for the other suggestions at the end.

    November 11, 2018 at 4:07 pm

  18. Aly

    What is the belief on how the people got here with this religion?

    March 5, 2019 at 12:05 pm

    • Aly

      (on earth)(how the universe started)

      March 5, 2019 at 12:07 pm

  19. OGA

    Now, That’s a different story…

    March 15, 2019 at 10:58 pm

  20. Bunmi

    Well I have to admit that this is impressive. I am Yoruba myself and I am familiar with what you’ve written. Some spelling errors, but it’s ok. The person that said the country is poor because the people worship a different God other than that of Christians obviously doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Nigeria is arguably the most religious country in the world with over 200 million people either Christian or Moslem. Yet majority are poor because they’d rather pray away their problems instead of holding the government accountable. Before the Yorubas were joined forcefully to Nigeria, it was a practice in Ancient Oyo Empire, one of several in the Yoruba nation to hold the ruler of Oyo accountable. If he was a wayward king, they’d give him a calabash to open which would eventually lead to his immediate demise if he was guilty. Today, we are all praying to Jesus to help us fix the economy of Nigeria. Too bad.

    September 17, 2019 at 4:16 am

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