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Obatala Is Tempted with Palm Wine


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(Yoruba/Nigeria)

Obatala was the creator.

In the beginning, the earth was water. Olodumare, the supreme being and sky god, summoned Obatala (Orisa-nla), charging him with the first act of creation—the making of land. Obatala descended to earth with a hen with five toes, a pigeon, and a calabash containing a piece of dry soil. He dropped the soil on the surface of the water, then freed the hen and pigeon, who proceeded to scatter the soil. Obatala then returned to Olodumare to inform him that the earth had been created. Olodumare sent a chameleon to inspect what Obatala had done. The chameleon reported that the creation was a success, that there was much land. Olodumare then sent Obatala to earth once more, this time to create man. Obatala went to earth with the materials of creation. He descended upon Ife, the wide landmass, and began to create man out of clay. As he did this work, he became very tired. He came upon a receptacle filled with palm wine, and he drank and became drunk. As he continued his work, he created the victims of his drunkenness, various afflicted people. Finally, exhausted, he fell into a deep sleep. Some say that Esu, the divine trickster, Orunmila's messenger, unhappy with Obatala's success as a creator, tempted Obatala with the palm wine. Olodumare saw that Obatala was not doing his work properly, so he sent Oduduwa to complete the job. Oduduwa descended upon Ife and found Obatala asleep. He took the receptacle containing the means of creation away from him, peopled Ife with his own brand of humans, and settled them under his powerful leadership. Obatala later awakened, discovered that he had been replaced, and began a lengthy struggle with Oduduwa. (For another version of this story, see: Olodumare.)

Some say that the earth and the heavens resemble each other, as a gourd and its cover which float on the water, the submerged part corresponding to the other world, or to the home of invisible forces. See also: Esu, Ifa, Oduduwa, Olodumare.

Subjects: Religion.


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