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Thursday, August 9, 2007

who's on first, what's on second . . . Which Orisa is most important?

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

Someone had posted a piece citing how they believed that Orunmila was above other Orisa, and so I thought I would clarify what I believe the relationship is. Many times, we want to "rank" the Orisa, however I think this is a human construct, and not something that necessarily achieves anything constructive. We very often as humans resort to wanting to place something "first" or "last" or one above another, but I don't believe in the case of Orisa (with the exception of Olodumare) that it accomplishes anything, nor fully understands the symbiotic relationship that occurs even within the realm of Orisa.

For instance, how can we say Orunmila is "first" or "above" the irunmole when without Esu playing his role in the process, none of what Orunmila/Ifa says/does can come to pass? Does that not then make Esu "above" Orunmila in a sense? To me no, they both have their role to play. Also, how can one place Orunmila say above Oduduwa or Obatala? If those Orisa didn't exist, who would have moulded man's head? Without the human race, the role of Ifa in this context is meaningless as what role can any religion play without worshippers to follow it? We of course also have stories in Ose Otura about Oshun and her role in mankind, if she were to get mad and make women infertile, we would die as a race, and what use would religion be then? Certainly I know consulting Ifa would help us avoid this, but what if our Ori didn't make appropriate ebo, Oshun could cause the death of us, and so is that not a power stronger then simply knowledge of how to stop that when not used and indeed more powerful then even Ori?

I'm not saying these things will happen, but am trying to illustrate a point. That point is, it's not about who's first or second when we look beyond Olodumare and Ori, it's about the symbiotic relationship that exists amongst all Orisa that allow us to find our "path" and lead a long and healthy life. Orumila without Esu, Oshun, Obatala, Yemoja etc etc, is an unbalanced world, just as Esu, Obatala, Oshun etc etc without Orunmila is also a world without balance. Ranking the Orisa, as comforting as it may make us feel to be worshiping the "highest", is simply divisive and does not reflect the complex interconnectedness of Yoruba Theology and Cosmogony.

All our Orisa are important, and all have a vital and important role to play. Perhaps at times, one may be more important to us, but there will always be that one time when the key to survival is held, even by the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of Orisa, and at that precise moment, that Orisa means more to us and our survival then any other.