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Ife bronze head depicting a monarch (possibly the god Oduduwa)
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The Yoruba are one of the largest and most notable ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. Though concentrated in southwestern Nigeria where they make up around 1/4th of the population, they also make up a large historical minority in Benin as well as Togo. Even prior to colonization by the United Kingdom the Yoruba were among the most heavily urbanized ethnic groups in Africa, living in numerous rival city-states going back to the 11th century AD. More spiritually important than any other city was Ife which had been established in the late middle ages. The open grasslands of the Dahomey Gap allowed the Yoruba to become accomplished equestrians unlike their fellows in the rainforest belt of Guinea. The Yoruba states were united in the 17th century under the Oyo empire. With powerful cavalry they were even able to subjugate the fearsome Dahomeans to their west. Over the centuries Oyo declined due to internal conflicts between city-states and military pressure from not only the Fulani jihadists but the newly reinvigorated Dahomey kingdom which threw off the yoke of Yoruba power and became wealthy from the slave trade.

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The influence of Yoruba culture has been drastic not only on their immediate neighbors such as the Nupe, Gbe, Edo, Itsekiri, Ijaw, and Igala to name a few but across the Atlantic Ocean as well. Around 1/3rd of the slaves brought to the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade were from what is now Nigeria, of that grouping a huge number were Yoruba. The Yoruba carried with them their gods or "Orishas" along with their language, songs, rituals, and divination method which spread among the other slaves rapidly. Yoruba religion had a significant impact on the Vodun faith before and after leaving Africa, with some scholars considering them part of a single complex of associated beliefs much like Classical Mythology joined the Greek and Roman religions. Edo myth is so closely bound with Yoruba myth that it will be displayed here as well. The lifelike bronze sculptures of the Yoruba and in the Benin kingdom share much similarity which may point to common influence from the ancient Nok Culture of Central Nigeria.

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While today over half of Yorubas are Muslims with Christians being a large runner up, around 1 in 10 Yorubas still hold fast to their traditional beliefs. The late arrival of Eurasian religions allowed the traditional beliefs of the Yoruba to be recorded much more extensively than many of their neighbors. In the Americas slaves in the largely Roman Catholic Latin America were free to continue traditional forms of worship provided they masked the Orishas under the guise of saints. New World religions like Candomblé, Quimbanda, Umbanda, Palo, Santeria, Voodoo, and more owe influence to the Yoruba to varying degrees.

Yoruba mythology lent itself well to Roman Catholicism and many immediately saw a reflection of the almighty trinity of Olodumare/Olorun/Olofi above the 401 Orishas who manage the world. Some of the Orishas have always existed and others are mortals who Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence. Below the status of Orishas but also not part of the human or animal kingdoms were a class of various beings known as "Iwin", "Ajogun", "Egbe" or "Oro".

Yoruba Mythology provides examples of:

  • Abdicate the Throne: Oranmiyan gave the throne of Oyo to his son Shango in his twilight years and spent the remainder of his life in Ife.
  • Albinos Are Freaks: Downplayed. Rather than being targets of hatred or superstitious violence albinos among the Yoruba were thought to be under the special protection of the great god Obatala and often worked at his shrines.
    • Oduduwa was thought to be albino in some legends to contrast with his pitch black son Ogun.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Obatala once became very drunk and sculpted deformed and disabled human beings from clay. In penance Obatala and his worshipers refuse to drink alcohol, and people with birth defects live under his protection.
    • Obatala once become thirsty on a journey with Oduduwa to obtain the calabash of good character from Olodumare. On the road he met a woman with palm wine and guzzled it down until he was in a stupor. Obatala was given the calabash of good character instead. Obatala was so embarrassed by this he swore off alcohol.
    • Ogbe Baba Akinyelure was a mighty drinker as well as a mighty fighter. This proved to be his downfall. All other warriors knew how foolish it is to fight when drunk.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Babalú-Ayé was the outcast god because after Obatala stopped him from infecting all the other Orishas with smallpox he was banished to the wilderness.
    • Oshun's pumpkin was bullied by the jealous other pumpkins for being too good looking.
  • Arrows on Fire: General Timi of Oyo was a powerful fighter who could shoot arrows made of fire.
  • Attack the Mouth: King Evian defeated the flying monster Osogan by throwing a red hot hammer down its throat.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Aganju was enamored by the shapeshifted Obatala.
  • Barbarian Tribe: The people of Ile-Igbo were wild people of the forests who raided early Ife for slaves and other loot.
  • Battle Couple: Shango and Oya produce storms together and go to battle together.
  • Beautiful Dreamer: Olagbeno watched Irikure sleep for a few nights while her slave Ekpofi watched him in secret.
  • Beautiful Slave Girl: Lakange was so much so that Ogun claimed her as his War Bride. When Oduduwa learned about this he took Lakange away to be his own wife.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: All the people in Ife complained that everything was the same and boring. Everyone looked similar, similar property, similar status, similar ways, etc. When Olorun heard about this from his messenger he was annoyed. Thus he gave humanity all the differences they wanted. Some became rich and others poor, some became beautiful and others ugly, some became kings and others became slaves, some became tall and others short, some became darker skinned and others became lighter skinned. Then Olorun gave them different languages from each other. People quickly became suspicious, bitter, and resentful of each other. Everyone began to fight over their differences and soon mankind dispersed from Ife to the different countries of the world.
  • Betty and Veronica: Shango’s wives Oya and Oshun were jealous of each other. Oshun was a heart stopping Love Goddess but an awful cook. Oya was a Supreme Chef but pretty average by divine standards.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Eshu is an absurd trickster god, but even Obatala wisely avoided starting an argument with him after refusing to help him carry palm oil a third time. Eshu’s temper is terrifying, even for an Orisha.
  • Challenge Seeker: Igioromi had wrestled every mortal champion in the world and beaten them all with only one hand. He traveled to the spirit world in order to find stronger opponents.
  • Clothes Make the Superman: Oni had a pair of magic boots which made him invulnerable.
  • Constellations: Venus is called Aja-Oshu, the Moon's dog. As morning star she is "Ofere" meaning pale blue. As evening star she is "Irawo-ale" literally star of evening.
    • Sirius is "Irawo-oko" the canoe star, because it guides canoemen.
    • The Milky Way is likened to chicks following a hen (the moon).
  • Covered in Scars: Shango was angry at his Hausa slave for not obeying and had him cut 122 times with a razor blade. But surprisingly everyone was impressed with the beautiful design on his body and it became extremely popular in Yorubaland and beyond. The prince of Oyo wanted this treatment too and all his people had the procedure done at the same time. While they all lay around recovering, Shango seized the opportunity to conquer the city.
  • Creation Myth: In the beginning there was no land, only the sea ruled by Olokun and the sky ruled by Oramfe. Oramfe was already old beyond numbers when he was king. He sent his two sons Obatala and Oduduwa to make the earth. Obatala was given a bag full of arts and wisdom while Oduduwa was given kingship. Oduduwa made Obatala drunk and stole his bag. Oduduwa then sent down his priest Ojumu with a snail shell full of magic sand and a five toed fowl. The fowl kicked and scratched the sand around until land was made, at the center what became the holy city of Ile-Ife.When the land was firm, down came Obatala and Oduduwa. Obatala had to make humans in the cold and darkness until Oramfe sent down the sun, moon, and fire with a vulture. The vulture carried these things on his head and was burned bald.
    • Another version says Obatala went down alone on the advice of Orunmila with a golden chain bearing a snail, sand, palm nuts, a five toed white fowl, and a black cat.
  • "Day of the Week" Name: Inverted. Ojo-Aje is named for Aje-Shaluga. Ojo-Awo is named for Orunmila. Ojo-Ogun is named for Ogun. Ojo-Shango is named for Shango. Ojo-Obatala is named for Obatala.
  • Deal with the Devil: Oshun once wanted a baby very badly. She prayed often until the spirit of the Iroko tree spoke to her. The Iroko said he would give her a beautiful son but claim him as a sacrifice in his seventh year. Oshun thought she could cheat the Iroko and told him sure. Time passed and Oshun had the son. The Iroko reminded her of the deal every time she passed by so she began to avoid him. When the boy was seven years old she had long forgotten about the Iroko tree, only once warning him to stay away from him. One day hse could not find her son and raced in a panic to the tree where she saw him swallowed up by the earth below it. Iroko was finally appeased. Iroko tends to prey on desperate barren women.
  • The Death of Death: Subverted. Iku's mother was killed. He was so anguished he decided to make others die.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Oya transformed the hunter Huisi into an Orisha to save her from her furious husband Shango.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: King Ewuare of Benin wrestled Olokun and won his sacred red coral beads.
  • Disguised in Drag: Shango once wore Oya's dress and used her hair as a wig to disguise himself while on the run from his enemies in Oyo. He stayed silent due to his Badass Baritone until he could take them by suprise
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Oshun lured Ogun out of his hermit lifestyle by smearing honey on her lips and dancing. She sang about the wonders of her feminine sweetness and eventually brought him back to Ife.
  • Divine Conflict: When it came time to teach mankind the cultural arts, Oduduwa refused to give Obatala his bag back. His excuse was that he as king deserved it. The Orishas and mortals were divided. Many fought for Obatala, many fought for Oduduwa. Some were neutral or tried Playing Both Sides. Oramfe was frustrated about the violence and came down as a terrible storm, demanding they stop fighting. Neither side would listen to him, and he was not willing to use the terrible power of his thunder & lightning on them, so he returned to heaven sadly. Everyone became exhausted by the seemingly endless clashing, so Oduduwa's own son Ogun asked him to give the bag back to Obatala. Oduduwa defiantly rejected his son's attempts at reason and made himself into stone, sinking deep below the earth with his prize.
    • In other versions Oduduwa and Obatala made peace by agreeing to each sacrifice a man every seven months.
    • Eshu once challenged Iku to a fight. It didn't end well for him.
    • Oya once begged a mortal man named Huisi to save her from Shango. She gave him a powder to turn him into an Orisha and he fell into an abyss locked in battle with him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Babalú-Ayé once tried to dance at a party and fell very embarrassingly. All the Orishas laughed at him so he tried to infect them with smallpox.
  • Domestic Abuse: The goddess Oduduwa was once trapped in a calabash with her husband Obatala for many days. Oduduwa would not stop complaining about the situation and they began to fight. Obatala tore out her eyes.
    • Shango once attacked Oya for eating a magic powder meant for him.
  • Driven to Suicide: Shango hung himself from a tree after being forsaken by his people.
    • Subverted among those who believe Shango was taken up to the heavens and transformed into an Orisha. One of Shango’s praise chants is “The King does not hang!”.
  • Due to the Dead: Eshu once asked Yemoja, Oya, and Oshun to sell a goat for him while he visited Orunmila. He told them to sell the goat for 20 cowries: 10 for him and 10 for them. They agreed but realized that there was one too many left over. The three argued over who deserved it most: Yemoja for being the oldest, Oya for being the middle, or Oshun for being the youngest. They asked passerby who deserved the cowrie but the answers didn't satisfy the other two. Eshu came back and solved their dilemma. The extra belongs to the ancestors, the reason any stroke of good fortune is possible. To this very day any success in the marketplace is at least partly offered to the ancestor spirits.
  • Dying Curse: Akuko felt so betrayed by Owon that he gave a series of curses as the crowd brought him to his execution site. A drummer named Oge made fun of him and told him to be stoic in the face of death. Akuko told him he would be the first killed in Owon's next battle. He told someone else that the land of Owon would dry up and crops would not grow anymore. Akuko told another heckler that all the men of Owon would become sterile. Finally, Akuko said that the river would flow uphill away from Owon, this one made everyone laugh derisively. Annoyed with his curses, they put a cloth in his mouth. But as they moved across the river, Akuko stopped to wash his legs. On the other side they noticed the river was starting to reverse its course, despite this they hanged Akuko. All the curses he spoke of came to be and Owon quickly became a depopulated poor village. The people made countless sacrifices, but the river would never change back to normal.
  • Enmity with an Object: Orunmila was angry his wife Oshun allowed her pumpkin to sleep in their bed. So he threw it on the floor. The pumpkin retaliated by stealing money from Orunmila. Orunmila couldn't pay Eshu who opens the gates so Eshu allowed evil into his life. The pumpkin then paid Eshu with alcohol to torment Orunmila, but leave Oshun in peace. One night after a miserable day Orunmila tripped over Eshu at his house. He asked Eshu the meaning of all his sufferings and Eshu told him to ask the pumpkin. The pumpkin confessed to stealing money for Oshun and Oshun angrily denied this. Oshun slashed the pumpkin in half, and out flowed the gold coins. Ever since then Oshun has been the goddess of wealth and takes offerings of pumpkin.
  • The Exile: When Gbonka survived Shango’s unjust attempt to kill him, he ordered Shango to leave Oyo and never return. Shango was scared to fight Gbonka and walked away with his remaining followers until wistfully looking back to Oyo from a high rock and destroying the palace in a rage with his thunder & lightning.
  • The Fair Folk: The different beings in this category are known as Imale. Their temperments are as divergent and capricious as nature is.
    • Egbere is an evil dwarf which carries around a mat. They leave graves at midnight and terrorize humans as well as livestock until sunrise. They enjoy riding sheep to exhaustion and spreading illness. Egbere constantly cries and groans, especially if its mat has be taken. The mat of an Egbere makes the new owner extremely rich.
    • Eseku is a similar spirit to the Egbere except they are very hairy, so much so their eyes aren't visible. Esekus particularly like trying to abduct and harm children. It is thought by some they can kill by running between a person's legs. They can evade bullets, and being cut causes them to duplicate. Esekus generally don't attack unless harassed first however. Catching the Eseku or its mat confers riches.
    • Iwins and Oros are a bit less well defined. They are imagined as everything from sprites, to ghosts, to goblins, to Genius Loci. The only two consistent factors is their nocturnal behavior and association with the wilderness. Some are cruel, some are kind, some are tricksters, others run entirely on Blue-and-Orange Morality.
    • Agbako is the evil spirit of misfortune. He has sixteen eyes encircling his head, legs like palm leaves, chainmail around his midriff full of vermin like snakes, and thick matted hair. With his iron helmet, bronze coat, clubs, and swords he is the great bane of hunters who venture too deep into the bush.
    • Eboras are pitch black hill, swamp, and forest spirits reminiscent of scandinavian trolls in terms of narrative role. Some are benign while some are evil monsters. Sometimes they have multiple heads. Occasionally Ebora is used as a catchall term for spirits.
    • Abikus are bush spirits who incarnate as human children. They die early just to cause heartbreak over and over.
    • Emeres are similar to Abikus but freely navigate between the different worlds of earth, the underworld/bush, and the heavens. Sometimes they will die when they've had enough experiences. Emeres are even more powerful than witches.
    • Ikpatas are evil spirits who haunt lonely roads and uprooted trees.
    • The Iroko tree is haunted by a spirit in the form of an old man. He lurks around at night with a torch and scares travelers. Anyone who sees his face is driven insane and dies. Furniture made of Iroko wood is haunted, prone to making unsettling noises at night.
  • Familial Cannibalism Surprise: Oba is tricked by either Oshun, Oya, or sometimes Ifa into cutting off her own ear and serving it to Shango in soup.
  • Fisher King: Owodo was the last Sky King of Benin and was an awful leader. All the women became barren when he became Oba.
  • Foreign Ruling Class: After the last of the Sky Kings was removed from office the squabbling Edo people invited the Orisha Oranmiyan to come rule over them.
  • Frame-Up: Eshu caused Obatala to find Shango’s missing horse. Shango’s guards saw Obatala with the horse and immediately imprisoned him.
    • Orunmila once traveled to Owo and met Eshu thrice in three days during the journey. Orunmila thought nothing of it. On the fourth day Eshu dropped some Kola nuts on the path and hid. Orunmila was tired and decided he could use some refreshment, so he ate them. A local farmer approached Orunmila and called him a thief for messing with his kolas. The dispute turned violent and the farmer cut Orunmila's palm with a knife. Orunmila was summoned for trial in Owo and the king said he would be punished depending on the outcome the next day. That night Eshu cut the palms of everyone in Owo including the king himself. During the trial Eshu defended Orunmila by making everyone reveal their own hands. Orunmila was released and everyone was utterly baffled by what just happened.
  • Free-Fall Fight: Huisi and Shango opened a chasm in the earth during their duel and both fell in, locked in combat.
  • Giant Flyer: The Enfant Terrible Oni fought and slew the giant eagle Anodo who had been terrorizing Ajo.
  • Girl in a Box: Inverted. Olagbeno's father and his wizards placed him into a brass ball so a hawk could drop him near the chambers of Irikure unnoticed at night.
  • Girl in the Tower: Irikure's father was angry she would not marry any of the noble suitors offered to her, so he locked her in a building with 200 doors.
  • Girl of My Dreams: Irikure and Olagbeno fell in love in a dream.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The Edo took to Olokun worship like fish to water, he quickly became their most revered deity.
  • Half-Sibling Angst: When Oduduwa died his son Obalufon inherited his father’s wives, including Lakange. This enraged Oranmiyan his one-third-brother slash nephew slash son-in-law so much that he left his son Eweka on the throne of Benin and sent heralds telling Obalufon he was going to kill him. Obalufon was terrified and fled to Iddoh Oshun then Ifon. Oranmiyan rescued his mother and made himself king of Ife.
  • Has Two Mommies: Interesting case with Oranmiyan. His father Oduduwa was also his grandfather. His other father was Ogun. His mother was named Lakange. Because Oduduwa was albino and Ogun was pitch black Oranmiyan was black on the left side while white on the right side.
    • Shango is sometimes the son of Aganju and Obatala.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Akuko of Owon agreed during a city meeting that anyone who burned the sacred Elekute grove should be executed.
    • When the world was young everyone pestered Orunmila with questions about how to live their lives. Annoyed, he asked Eshu for advice. Eshu suggested giving people allotments based on direct answers to his direct questions, no ambiguity or being a smart aleck. The horse and goat got pretty humiliating lives because they chose to get mouthy rather than answer Orunmila directly. Eshu being the chaotic god he is was thinking of a way to mess with Orunmila when he was suddenly asked if he wanted to live indoors or outdoors. Eshu impulsively said outdoors but then tried to change his mind, it was too late. Ever since then Eshu lives and wanders outside, taking rest at the crossroads.
  • Horrifying the Horror: Iku and his minions attacked Ife mercilessly every four days. The remaining citizens begged Ooni Lafogido to do something. Lafogido invoked the Orishas but even they were powerless in the face of Iku. That was when Amaiyegun stepped in. He made a special costume called Egungun and the next time Iku attacked scared him as well as his henchmen away. Ever since then people have done Egungun masquerades to drive off dark forces.
  • Human Sacrifice: Long ago when Oranmiyan was being coronated as new king of Ife the people of the city prepared to sacrifice a slave to Obatala. However the slave was pregnant and thus she was spared, her son instead being dedicated as a priest to Obatala.
    • King Owodo sent his first wife Esaghlo to an oracle to learn how to restore fertility to Benin. The oracle said he must sacrifice his first wife. Fearing for her life, Esaghlo told Owodo the oracle said sacrifice his son Ekaledheran. Unwilling to kill his heir, Owodo had Ekaledheran banished for three years instead.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: Shango was not very happy when he noticed the ear in his soup. He banished Oba from his sight for this offense.
  • Involuntary Battle to the Death: Gbonka was sent by Shango to kill Timi, in hopes that both would die. Timi’s flame arrows were highly destructive, but Gbonka overcame him with his magic medicine that causes Forced Sleep. Gbonka captured Timi alive.
  • "Just So" Story: The owner of a forest once failed to make sacrifice so an Iroko tree fell on his property, but strangely it didn't touch the ground. The tree transformed into the sacred white Aje metal. Obatala made his slave take it to Ogun who made a pot and a boat from it. Obatala placed the pot in the boat and told the slave to sail the sky each day with the sun.
    • The Moon refused to sacrifice to Ifa and as such was condemned to never know peace of mind by Olodumare. So he is constantly spending 15 days in the world and 15 days in the heavens.
    • Ogun brought circumcision into the world because a chip of wood flew into his wife Olure's vagina while he was cutting a log. He used his knife to remove the splinter and later cut off part of his penis when he could not ejaculate fast enough.
    • Ogun was made king of the Orishas and Ife in exchange for the secret of iron. He was an avid hunter who later came back to Ife covered in animal blood, mud, sweat, twigs, and body odor. The other Orishas declared him unbecoming of a king and sent him away. Annoyed they had only cared about getting iron, Ogun went to the town of Ire where he cleaned up quite nicely and became their patron god.
    • Roosters have their legs thoroughly washed in memory of Akuko's sacrifice.
    • Orun the sky and Ile the earth were once dear friends. They began to argue over a bush rat they had caught. Both claimed to be eldest, and thus deserved deference. They went their separate ways but Orun was so angry he caused a drought. The people began suffering so they gave the bush rat to Orun, and rain returned.
  • Karmic Trickster: In the town of Ishokun there was a farmer who was tormented by Mischief Making Monkeys. The primates incessantly raided his crops and used magic to cause rain. The farmer made a shelter with his sons and eventually managed to kill some of the monkeys. A seer visited the farmer and his pregnant wife, warning him he should not kill monkeys as they are wise and powerful creatures. Meanwhile the monkeys decided to teach the farmer a lesson by transforming two of their number into abikus. They tormented the farmer and his family by being born then dying repeatedly. The farmer intensified his conflict with the monkeys, but nothing worked. So he visited a babalawo who told him to stop killing monkeys and let them eat freely in his fields. The farmer gave in and the monkeys ended their grudge with him. The next pair of twins born survived and grew up. But they were not ordinary children, they had magical powers like the monkeys they came from. From then on all twins were under the supernatural protection of the god Ibeji.
  • Kill It Through Its Stomach: Akiti slew the elephant by turning into a fly, flying into its ear, and cutting his way out.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Shango refused to believe Timi had been defeated by Gbonka and was also annoyed that Gbonka was still alive. So he forced them to have a rematch in the central market of Oyo where Gbonka won again. Shango then forced Gbonka to decapitate Timi.
  • Law of Inverse Paternity: Irikure's pregnancy did not go unnoticed and many were angry at her father, who they believed locked her away to have for himself. To prove his innocence, Sky King swore that whoever was the real cause of her pregnancy would be executed. Olagbeno decided to reveal himself and arose from the brass ball. The top half floated away and became the sun, the lower half became the moon. All the people of Benin were dazzled by him. The priests declared that the Sky King was responsible for Irikure's pregnancy because he was the one who gave her the beautiful brass ball he found to console her when she was imprisoned. He was promptly executed and Olagbeno became the Oba of Benin.
  • Like a Son to Me: Oranmiyan was very fond of the son of the nearly sacrificed slave and groomed him to be the head priest of Ife.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Shango proved to the skeptical fire god Aganju he was his son by diving into a river of lava and coming out unharmed.
  • Love at First Sight: After Ekpofe told her mistress Irikure about the beautiful prince in the bronze ball, they waited until sunset before Irikure pretended to sleep. When Olagbeno approached her she looked up at him and they instantly fell in love, conceiving a child that same night together.
    • The goddess Oduduwa and a hunter became enamored with each other during a chance meeting in the forest. They built a love nest and spent weeks together until the passion burned out. They went their separate ways amicably. But Oduduwa promised the hunter she would continue to look out for him, and anyone else who lived near the site of their coupling. A temple was built there in Ado.
  • Manipulative Bastard: There once was a king who wouldn’t sacrifice to Eshu. So Eshu told the king’s unfavorite wife to take some of his beard hairs in order to make a love charm. Eshu then told the prince his father meant to make war, and to provide soldiers to his chamber that night. Then Eshu told the king to beware his angry wife. So the queen approached the king with a knife meaning to collect hair, but the king thought she was attacking him so they wrestled for the knife. The son entered the room with his warriors and thought his father was trying to murder his mother, so he attacked. The king thought his son was trying to usurp him, so he called for help. There was a great chaotic massacre that night, leaving only Eshu laughing.
  • Mass Empowering Event: The Orishas all asked Orunmila to give them their special abilities. Orunmila did not want any of them to become jealous or claim he gave anyone special treatment. So his friend Agemo the cameleon suggested random chance for a change. Orunmila climbed to the highest parts of Orun and dropped various powers from the edge. The Orishas scrambled to gather the raining magic on earth and everybody felt satisfied with what they got.
  • The Migration: Oranmiyan set out to conquer the Nupe kingdom but all his attempts to cross the Niger River with his armies failed under a Rain of Arrows from the other side. Ashamed to return defeated he asked his friend the king of Borgu for advice. The king of Borgu said to tie a juju around the neck of a python and follow it to a new settlement. When the snake finally burrowed underground he founded the city of Oyo. The son of the would-be sacrifice had his name shortened from Owouni to Ooni and was installed as the first priest-king or Ooni of Ife. Even now the king of Oyo cannot be coronated unless the Ooni releases the sacred regalia to him.
  • Monster Suit: The Ugbo people would dress in grass monster costumes and terrorize the people of Ife. During her captivity the heroine Moremi discovered they were simply people in costumes. With this knowledge the Yorubas set fire to them and won their battles.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Igioromi wrestled several spirits in the spirit world. The first six spirits had legs ranging from one to six in number.
  • Non-Human Head: Aroni the god of the forest has a dog's head and tail. Otherwise his body is human but with only one leg.
  • Odd Friendship: Oshun was friends with a pumpkin.
    • Orunmila the god of destiny was best friends with Eshu the god of random chance.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Ugbogiorinmwin was a seven headed lord of the underworld who breathed fire, blood, and smoke. He liked eating humans and defeated the wrestler Igioromi.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Ighele-Erinmwin were "the Founding Fathers of The Underworld" for the Edo. Monstrous ghosts of elders who attacked souls trying to navigate the underworld, and harassing the living as well.
    • Egunguns are the ghosts of the dead. Olulu (Beater)Egunguns bear heavy war clubs. Alapa-Nsanpa Egunguns have very long arms. Etiyeri Egunguns have long ears. All Egunguns have masklike faces and raffia rather than body hair.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Ogbe went into battle drunk with his son Akinyelure. After the enemy had been routed he realized he couldn't find Akinyelure. On finding his corpse Ogbe dropped his weapons in grief and refused to go back to Ibode. He couldn't bear to face his wife after indirectly having their son killed. Ogbe stood at Akinyelure's body until he transformed into an Iroko tree. People still leave offerings and condolences now.
  • Out of the Inferno: Shango tried to execute Gbonka after the latter defeated Timi twice. Gbonka was cast into a massive fire where he miraculously walked out from three days later.
  • Parent-Child Team: Ogbe and his son Akinyelure were the two most powerful warriors in Ibode.
  • Parental Favoritism: Ogbe of Ibode made no secret of the special affection he had for his favorite son Akinyelure. The youth was the son of his favorite wife which made him love the boy more. His informal moniker was Ogbe Baba (father of) Akinyelure.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Obatala caused disasters and misery all throughout Yorubaland in anger for being imprisoned.
  • Pieces of God: Orisha was once a powerful deity who owned Eshu as a slave. Eshu secretly hated his master who lived at the foot of a sheer cliff. So Eshu rolled a massive boulder onto Orisha and crushed him mercilessly. Orisha was broken into 401 pieces and that is where the Orishas come from.
    • Yemoja once fell while being chased by her amorous rapist Orungan. She broke into many pieces that became new gods: Dada, Shango, Ogun, Olokun, Olosa, Oya, Oshun, Oba, Orisha Oko, Ochosi, Oke, Aje Shaluga, Soponna, Orun, and Oshu.
  • The Problem with Fighting Death: Eshu figured this out when he fought Iku and was wrecked so badly Orunmila had to save him. Then again, Eshu never had to worry about dying after that experience.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Shango was afraid of the growing power of his warriors Timi and Gbonka. So he ordered them sent to the far corners of Oyo where they couldn’t pose a threat to him. Gbonka refused to obey.
  • Reincarnation: Akuko was reincarnated as rooster.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: Oko was a great sage who lived in a cave until he became an Orisha. After his death his followers pretended to be a cave demon called Polo and performed witch hunting services. They would accuse people of dark sorcery, murder them in the cave, take their belongings, and throw their corpse out before the cheering audience as proof the demon punished them. One day they made the mistake of accusing a tall and very muscular man named Oso Ogiyan. After taking him to the cave for "judgement" he throttled every single one of them and threw the severed head of the "demon" outside.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Played for Drama. The legendary warrior Oranmiyan felt his time in the world was coming to an end, so he proclaimed he would enter the earth. The people of Ife pleaded for him not to in fear of enemies, but he told the priests he would save them if they said "Come swiftly, Oranmiyan. Ife is in danger.". For a time whenever enemies were at the city walls the citizens of Ife would summon Oranmiyan who would burst from the ground with a great sound like thunder. One day a group of drunken youths demanded a lone elder summon Oranmiyan to join the ongoing festival. Despite his pleas they forced him to say the magic words. Suddenly Oranmiyan appeared ready for battle but could not tell friend from foe in the darkness. So he ripped apart countless innocents with his sword and spear. At dawn Oranmiyan saw the horror he had inflicted on his own people and opened a gap in the earth once more. Promising to never return, he hopped in and was never seen again. All that is left of him is his great staff standing in Ife to this day.
  • Self-Imposed Exile: The Hot-Blooded Ogun once killed an entire village in a rage. He was so ashamed of this he went to live in the jungle alone.
  • Sex for Services: Obatala turned into a woman and had sex with Aganju in order to be ferried across his river.
    • Oshun once wanted to learn how to tell the future from Obatala. Obatala was very attracted to her, but said no anyway. One day Obatala went bathing in the river when Eshu saw him and decided to steal his clothes hanging from a nearby tree. Obatala couldn't go back to Ife nude and sulked about his predicament. Oshun saw him and asked him to teach her Ifa divination if she got him his clothes back. Obatala agreed. Oshun found Eshu laughing about the prank he pulled and asked for Obatala's clothing. Eshu refused to talk about anything besides having sex with her. Oshun refused to talk about anything besides Obatala's clothing. This went on for a while until Oshun agreed to have sex with Eshu in exchnage for the clothing. Obatala kept his end of the bargain and showed Oshun how to read the mind of Olorun.
  • Shapeshifting Lover: King Renrengenjen of Owo once was out hunting when he saw an antelope remove its skin to swim and from out of it came a beautiful girl. Renrengenjen wanted her to be his wife so he stole the skin and waited for her return. The girl cried and Renrengenjen told her life as a human is far superior to life as an animal. She decided to marry him and for a time the marriage was happy. The antelope-woman revealed her name was Oronsen. As the favorite wife, the other wives hated her but could do nothing out of fear of the king. That was until Renrengenjen went on a hunting trip and the other wives found the antelope skin. They mocked and insulted Oronsen as an animal, driving her away from Owo and back into the bush. Renrengenjen had his subjects search for her but could find nothing. Eventually they heard Oronsen speak from the heavens telling them that she lived in the presence of Olorun now in the sky country where nobody insults her true nature. Though she was angry at her mistreatment, she still loved Renrengenjen. So she said she would protect Owo always and be their guardian Orisha.
  • Silly Reason for War: Eshu once walked down the main road of a town wearing a two colored hat. Passerby on each side of the road greeted him and complimented his headgear. After Eshu left, two men disagreed about the color of the hat and it turned into a massive brawl which split the town. Eshu eventually returned to give An Aesop about why it's important to consider other points of view.
  • Spirit World: It was located in the bush. There are many bizarre places and beings there. People took great care to avoid being lost in it.
    • Igioromi climbed up a tall palm tree with a rope to reach the spirit world.
  • Sleep Paralysis Creature: Ogun Oru is the traditional explanation for many nocturnal disturbances in Southeast Nigeria, including sleep paralysis. It is culturally attributed to demons infiltrating one's body and mind during dreaming, and it is believed to be treated through rituals and Christian prayers
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Double subverted. The women of Ilesha initially form an Amazon Brigade under queen Aderemi to fight invaders. Against the opinions of the men they headed into battle armed with eggs and pestles, being swiftly routed by the enemy and pounding on the gates of Ilesha for the men's aid. The men of Ilesha came out and defeated the enemy quickly with their swords, spears, clubs, and bows. The two genders agreed that Obatala had made them special with their own distinct strengths. From then on, men did the ruling and fighting while the women did the commerce and domestic upkeep.
  • Sweet Sheep: While Oya was being chased by Shango she dived among a herd of sheep who shielded her with their bodies from Shango’s lighting attacks. In gratitude, worshippers of Oya are forbidden to eat mutton and lamb.
  • Taken for Granite: The entire city of Esie got this treatment. Everyone frozen for eternity in stone doing their daily tasks.
  • Taking the Heat: Akuko found two small boys crying on the road. They were carrying embers to their father's farm when the wind blew them into Elekute Grove and set it on fire. The boys knew they would be killed, so Akuko took the blame for them.
  • Tell Me About My Father!: Shango’s mother died when he was very young. All he knew about her was that she was a Nupe princess and daughter of king Elenpe. Shango sent two slaves to make offerings at Elenpe’s palace and learn her name. The Hausa slave didn’t pay attention and heard nothing. The other slave learned her name was Torosi.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Inverted. Like many other African peoples weaving was considered man's work among the Yoruba. When an angry Olokun challenged Olorun to a weaving contest he sent down his chameleon messenger Agemo to answer it as a bluff. Olokun was proud and showed off all her best cloths immediately. Agemo simply copied them no matter how brilliant the color was or intricate the pattern. Olokun was shocked and thought if the mere messenger of Olorun was capable of all this then she stood no chance of defeating him. So she surrendered and agreed Olorun is the mightier.
  • Thanatos Gambit: A long time ago in Ilesha there was a terrible drought. The city sent for many wizards and sages but no babalawo could change the will of the Orishas. The king saw his city depopulated by deaths and migrations each day until a mysterious stranger who called himself "O" arrived. O was a babalawo who said he could discern by the gods withheld rain from them. The ritual would need seven kola nuts, seven fish, seven alligator peppers, seven bush rats, and several of every other food. It also called for the sacrifice of a stranger. The king quickly realized O was the only stranger and decided to wait for the other ingredients to be gathered before sacrificing him. O was decapitated and his blood was smeared for the gods. Almost immediately a great downpour started. The king felt uneasy and had O's headless body sent into the bush. The king would have his servants check on the corpse each day. It did not decompose. This worried the king more and more until one day the body became a massive river that submerged Ilesha. It went right over the walls and drowned everything in its path. The king begged his babalawos to ask the Orishas what's wrong. They said O knew he was the only stranger and witheld seven kola nuts from the sacrifice in case he was betrayed. The king found and offered the kola nuts. The river calmed down and changed courses. But ever since then it is called Ora or "O ra" meaning "O does not decompose". O was worshiped as an orisha for this.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Oya was the bold warrior goddess of the tempest not afraid to join her husband in battle. Oshun was the goddess of romantic love, beauty, and childcare.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The Edo were so argumentative and belligerant even Oranmiyan couldn't stand ruling them anymore. He gave up the throne of the city saying only a native could rule over such a contentious people. He called them "Ile Bini" meaning people of frustration. From which we get the name Benin.
  • Troll: Eshu once tricked Obatala into helping him carry a jar of palm oil on his head. All this accomplished was dirtying Obatala’s brilliant white robes twice.
  • Ungrateful Townsfolk: Akuko was tried for the burning of Elekute Grove and worked out an agreement with the elders. If he could pay a fine of 2,400,000 cowrie shells within five days he would be spared. Akuko's family gathered as much as they were able to, but it wasn't anywhere near enough money. So he began to ask everyone in Owon for loans, promising to pay them back with interest. Unfortunately 2,400,000 cowries was a price that would leave even kings destitute. Nobody believed he could ever pay them back, and they even mocked his attempts to appeal to their sense of goodwill. Despite Akuko and his family being extremely charitable to their fellow citizens and respected defenders of the city, the people still told him that didn't make him exempt for the law. They even mocked him as he walked to the site of his execution.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Once the Orishas spoke badly of Olodumare, claiming they could run the universe better than he. Annoyed by this, Olodumare withheld rains to the world. All the people, plants, and animals quickly started to die off and they begged the Orishas to do something. The Orishas knew it was their fault but could not reach Olodumare. So Oshun transformed into a beautiful peacock and flew up to the heavens where she endured the intense heat until she was made bald and her feathers turned an ugly dull color. Olodumare pitied the wretched creature and nursed it back to health, discovering it was Oshun. Olodumare restored the rains and Oshun came back in her new vulture form as the divine herald of Olodumare.
    • Akiti the Hunter turned himself into a lion, then a snake, and finally a fly during his battle with the elephant.
    • Igioromi’s brother Ekpofi followed him to the spirit world as a bluebottle fly.
  • Wicked Witch: The Yoruba were as terrified of them as anyone else. Even the Orishas (except Orunmila) cannot protect people from witches.
    • Obatala himself was terrorized by a group of witches after he stole water from their well during a drought. Obatala begged everyone from Egungun to even the mighty God of Thunder Shango to protect him, but the witches casually threatened to destroy the Orishas if they got in the way of their chase. Eventually Obatala ran to a priest of Orunmila named Awoyeroye. Awoyeroye told Orunmila they were going to have a visitor soon and instructed Orunmila to make 400 bean cakes and offer 400 cowrie shells, then put the bean cakes on a tray with glue on the edges. On arrival the witches demanded they hand over Obatala. Orunmila insisted they eat first as honored guests. While the witches ate Orunmila chanted an Odu (divination song) and the witches were stuck, their feathers glued to the tray. The witches struggled before begging Orunmila to let them go. Orunmila made them swear they would never bother Obatala or his children again. Obatala was so grateful he gifted Orunmila an iron bell called the Ajila which his priests ring at night to this very day, driving off all evil forces.
  • Wild Wilderness: When the Orishas arrived in what is now Ife there was thick jungle impeding settlement. Ogun chopped it down with his axe and for this reason they made him king.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change!: As the god of chaos, uncertainty, and chance Eshu was a master of this. Even Ifa didn’t know what he’d do next.
  • 0% Approval Rating: King Owodo learned that his wife Esaghlo lied to him about the sacrifical victim and had her executed. He then tried to bring his heir Ekaledheran back from exile by force, but was soundly defeated by his cunning son who had founded a village. The killing of a pregnant woman angered the people of Benin so much they finally deposed Owodo.
    • King Ohen was a secret cripple and had to be carried everywhere. His chief minister discovered this and was killed to hide this knowledge. The minister was very popular and the angry citizens killed Ohen in an uprising.

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