Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Princess Odudua, the chief goddess of the Yorubas

Odudua, or Odua, who has the title of Iya agbe, The mother who receives," is the chief goddess of the Yorubas. The name means "Black One" (dit, to be black; dudit, black), and the Yoruba consider a smooth, glossy, black skin a great beauty, and far superior to one of the ordinary cigar-colour. She is always represented as a woman sitting down, and nursing a child.

Odudua is the wife of Obatala, but she was coeval with Olorun, and not made by him, as was her husband. Other natives, however, say that she came from Ife, the holy city, in common with most of the other gods, as described in a myth which we shall come to shortly. Odudua represents the earth, married to the anthropomorphic sky-god. Obatala and Odudua, or Heaven and Earth, resemble, say the priests, two large cut-calabashes, which, when once shut, can never be opened. This is symbolize in the temples by two whitened saucer-shaped calabashes, placed one covering the other; the upper one of which represents the concave firmament stretching over and meeting the earth, the lower one, at the horizon.

According to some priests, Obatala and Odudua represent one androgynous divinity; and they say that an image which is sufficiently common, of a human being with one arm and leg, and a tail terminating in a sphere, symbolizes this. This notion, however, is not one commonly held, Obutala and Odudua being generally, and almost universally, regarded as two distinct persons. The phallus and yoni in juxtaposition are often seen carved on the doors of the temples both of Obatala and Odudua; but this does not seem to have any reference to androgyny, since they are also found similarly depicted in other places which are in no way connected with either of these deities.

According to a myth Odudua is blind. In the beginning of the world she and her husband Obatala were shut up in darkness in a large, closed calabash, Obatala being in the upper part and Odudua in the lower. The myth does not state how they came to be in this situation, but they remained there for many days, cramped, hungry, and uncomfortable. Then Odudua began complaining, blaming her husband for the confinement; and a violent quarrel ensued, in the course of which, in a frenzy of rage, Obatala tore out her eyes, because she would not bridle her tongue. In return she cursed him, saying "Naught shalt thou eat but snails," which is the reason why snails are now offered to Obatala.

Odudua is patroness of love, and many stories are told of her adventures and amours. Her chief temple is in Ado, the principal town of the state of the same name, situated about fifteen miles to the north of Badagry. The word Ado means a lewd person of either sex, and its selection for the name of this town is accounted for by the following legend: Odudua was once walking alone in the forest when she met a hunter, who was so handsome that the ardent temperament of the goddess at once took fire. The advances which she made to him were favorably received, and they forthwith mutually gratified their passion on the spot. After this, the goddess became still mora enamoured, and, unable to tear herself away from her lover, she lived with him for some weeks in a hut, which they constructed of branches at the foot of a large silk-cotton tree. At the end of this time her passion had burnt out, and having become weary of the hunter, she left him; but before doing so she promised to protect him and all others who might come and dwell in the favored spot where she had passed so many pleasant hours. In consequence many people came and settled there, and a town gradually grew up, which was named Ado, to commemorate the circumstances of its origin. A temple was built for the protecting goddess; and there, on her feast days, sacrifices of cattle and sheep are made, and women abandon themselves indiscriminately to the male worshipers in her honor.

Article by IfaBite