Akinyemi Elebuibon Visits Temple University to Talk About Yoruba
By: Nick Santangelo
Introduced to a Gladfelter Hall auditorium full of College of Liberal Arts students on Tuesday as a professor of culture, an artist, a traditionalist and the high priest of Yoruba, Akinyemi Elebuibon told the audience about a religion few at 11th and Berks were intimately familiar with.
Elebuibon was born in Osogbo, Nigeria to a family recognized as one of the foremost authorities on Yoruba traditional culture and spirituality. He began his training to become a Yoruba priest at just four years old and has published a number of books on Yoruba traditions and culture.
The priest is an expert on the Yoruba culture and religion, which holds that all people have a destiny called “Ayanmo” and will eventually become one with the spirit of Olorun, the divine creator and source of all energy. The religion started in an area dubbed Yorubaland, which spans Southwest Nigeria and bordering Benin and Togo.
Elebuibon dedicated much of his talk to the Odu Ifa, which he explained is “like a bible of Yoruba.” One audience member said he saw some parallels there with Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) and asked the Yoruba priest to elaborate.
“The Odu Ifa is a message that God gave to all the people of Yoruba,” explained Elebuibon. “Everything came from Odu Ifa, which is the wisdom that God Almighty gave to all mankind to save them.”
Another question brought up how Yoruba is quite a bit different from the Abrahamic religions. In Yoruba, there is no real separation between life and religion. For many Jews, Muslims and Christians, however, a portion of their life is dedicated to their faith but much of their life is separate from it. Elebuibon allowed that this is the case for some Yoruba too, but he considers them to not be “true” to the religion.
“To be a true Yoruba, you have to properly do it together, the language, the culture and the religion,” he said.
If this seemed odd to some in the audience, Elebuibon added that the religion never asks its people to shirk their duties or do things that would be detrimental to their lives. Their life goals intersect with the needs of their religion.
“You need to respect your father. You need to respect your mother,” he continued. “You need to do good. You need to do the things you need to do.”
Still, the religion requires its people to make sacrifices. One attendee asked how Yoruba leaders decide what level of sacrifice is appropriate for each individual given that different people have different economic means. He wanted to know more about the power of sacrifice from person to person in Yoruba.
“If you go to consult Ifa, it always prescribes sacrifice,” explained Elebuibon. “Sacrifice is deeper. It is a remedy to all human problems. That is what sacrifice is.”
But the precise sacrifice required “depends on the level of the problem,” he added. As an example, Elebuibon said that sometimes a person must sacrifice five goats, sometimes 10. He also stressed that while this type of sacrifice may seem strange to outsiders, not all Yoruba sacrifice requires blood. Additionally, he stated that “there is no religion that does not have people sacrifice.” He referenced Mohammed sacrificing his son as an example.
In closing, Elebuibon stressed that Olorun, the divine creator and source of all energy in Yoruba, had given priests the power to bring goodness into people’s lives. So while life and religion may be one and the same for Yoruba and they may have to make sacrifices, they will be rewarded for their faith with the goodness they want in their lives.