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Oduduwa, Locked in the Darkness, in a Calabash


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(Yoruba/Nigeria)

Oduduwa (Odudua, Oduwa) is the chief goddess of the Yoruba, the creator; she represents the earth. She is the wife of Obatala, but she is contemporary with Olorun—not made by him, as was her husband. She came from Ife, the holy city, in common with most of the other gods. Obatala and Oduduwa represent one androgynous divinity, an image of a human being with one arm and leg, and a tail terminating a sphere. But generally, Obatala and Oduduwa are regarded as two distinct persons. Oduduwa is both a primordial divinity and a deified ancestor.

Oduduwa was the creator of the earth and its inhabitants as a result of Obatala's failure through drunkenness to carry out Olodumare's injunction. (See: Obatala)

Obatala and Oduduwa, or heaven and earth, resemble two large cut-calabashes, which, when once shut, can never be opened. The shape of the universe is depicted 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 a myth, Oduduwa is blind. At 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 Oduduwa in the lower. They remained there for many days, cramped, hungry, and uncomfortable. Then Oduduwa 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, “You shall eat nothing but snails.”

Oduduwa is the patroness of love. She was once walking alone in the forest when she met a hunter, a man so handsome that the temperament of the goddess at once took fire. The advances that she made to him were favorably received, and they gratified their passion on the spot. After this, the goddess became still more enamored; unable to tear herself away from her lover, she lived with him for some weeks in a house that they constructed of branches at the foot of a large silk-cotton tree. At the end of this time, her passion had burned 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, a town named Ado, to commemorate the circumstances of its origin. See also: Ifa, Obatala, Ogun.

Subjects: Religion.


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