Yoruba Religion boarders around the long-established practices, spiritual concepts, and means of relating to spirits, both spirits considered good and those considered bad.
The religions practiced among Yoruba People dates medieval times. It is believed that the Yoruba people started their religious practices as far back as the 1st b.c. This was, however, the worship of idol which the relics are still found in different parts and cultures of the Yoruba states.
The Yoruba religion has continually advanced and evolved. Over time, the medieval religion practiced in Yoruba land has gone through a series of modifications in other to ensure adherence with acceptable standards.
The traditional religion was, for thousands of years, the epicenter of Yoruba worship until the 11th b.c when the Islamic religion was introduced to the Yoruba people. Later, the Christian religion came alongside colonialism.
With these two religious bodies, the traditional religion has only dwindled in the last 300 years.
1. Traditional Religion in Yorubaland
The Yoruba traditional religion is based on a belief system where humans are never dead. Dead parents are believed to continue their life in the land of the spirit and therefore could be summoned and even worshiped. Stones, carved woods, animals are used as a passage for these spirits.
The traditional religion of the Yoruba came in place with the transition of oduduwa from the land of mecca to southern Nigeria, the birth land of Yoruba people. He and his people were idol worshippers who were driven away from mecca by prophet Mohammad… as told by Yoruba historians.
They came along with their idols and upon winning the war over the citizens of the land. He enforced his idols on the land which the people readily accepted.
Subsequently, after his demise, his descendants continued with the culture of idol worship which included him as one of the Yoruba gods.
The other rulers after him were also worshipped as gods after their demise, as in the case of Ogun the god of iron, sango the god of thunder and lightning, Osun the river goddess, Yemoja the mother of all waters.
The traditional Yoruba religion is of the premise that when a man dies at a young age he walks around the world as he has no resting place and could even give birth to children.
It’s also believed there is reincarnation, which is simply the rebirth of an ancestor in the same ancestral lineage or another, hence the popular Yoruba names Iyabo (mother is back), Babatunde (father is back).
The traditional belief of Yoruba is that there is always a spirit in charge of everything whether a living or non-living thing.
2. The Yoruba Christian religion
The Christian religion came with the abolishment of the slave trade. Christianity was introduced alongside education, the reason it was received with open arms.
The earlier British missionaries started by organizing evangelical crusades where lots of people gave their lives to Christ, converted to Christianity and burned up their idols. The plan of the early Christians in the Yoruba land was destroying the works of idols and establish churches/schools instead.
3. The Yoruba Islamic Religion
Islam is one of the popular Yoruba religions, more than 35% of Yoruba people subscribe to the Islamic religion.
The Yoruba Islamic religion came before Christianity. The Islamic religion came due to Uthman Dan Fodio who, in collaboration with chief Afonja, overthrew the Alaafin
Uthman Dan Fodio had other ideas by conquering some parts of the southwest. Heach though the people thereof of the Islamic teachings by creating Islamic schools. Gradually other parts not conquered gradually embraced, Islam.
The Yoruba Churches
The first Christian church Was the Anglican church. The church was widespread throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Also, the Catholic Church was also in place.
This church was referred to as the orthodox churches. In the mid-1930′ the spring up of the now renowned Pentecostal churches of which the Christ apostolic church was at the forefront.
It is a fire-brand group of churches who believe in great and effective prayer and most especially the teachings on salvation. In the late 1980′ the new generational churches came up. This church was based on the premises of education, wealth and all-round prosperity. They are widespread all around the Yoruba states.
One can say authoritatively say that the Nigerian church that has produced world richest pastors/members and largest church buildings are headed by Yoruba Christians.
The Yoruba story can never be complete without a history of the Yoruba religion. Her religion over time has been a unifying factor for the Yoruba people to this day.