Yoruba Creation/Flood Myth
In the beginning was only the sky above, water
and marshland below. The chief god Olorun ruled the sky, and the
goddess Olokun ruled what was below. Obatala, another god, reflected
upon this situation, then went to Olorun for permission to create
dry land for all kinds of living creatures to inhabit. He was
given permission, so he sought advice from Orunmila, oldest son
of Olorun and the god of prophecy. He was told he would need a
gold chain long enough to reach below, a snail's shell filled
with sand, a white hen, a black cat, and a palm nut, all of which
he was to carry in a bag. All the gods contributed what gold they
had, and Orunmila supplied the articles for the bag. When all
was ready, Obatala hung the chain from a corner of the sky, placed
the bag over his shoulder, and started the downward climb. When
he reached the end of the chain he saw he still had some distance
to go. From above he heard Orunmila instruct him to pour the sand
from the snail's shell, and to immediately release the white hen.
He did as he was told, whereupon the hen landing on the sand began
scratching and scattering it about. Wherever the sand landed it
formed dry land, the bigger piles becoming hills and the smaller
piles valleys. Obatala jumped to a hill and named the place Ife.
The dry land now extended as far as he could see. He dug a hole,
planted the palm nut, and saw it grow to maturity in a flash.
The mature palm tree dropped more palm nuts on the ground, each
of which grew immediately to maturity and repeated the process.
Obatala settled down with the cat for company. Many months passed,
and he grew bored with his routine. He decided to create beings
like himself to keep him company. He dug into the sand and soon
found clay with which to mold figures like himself and started
on his task, but he soon grew tired and decided to take a break.
He made wine from a nearby palm tree, and drank bowl after bowl.
Not realizing he was drunk, Obatala returned to his task of fashioning
the new beings; because of his condition he fashioned many imperfect
figures. Without realizing this, he called out to Olorun to breathe
life into his creatures. The next day he realized what he had
done and swore never to drink again, and to take care of those
who were deformed, thus becoming Protector of the Deformed. The
new people built huts as Obatala had done and soon Ife prospered
and became a city. All the other gods were happy with what Obatala
had done, and visited the land often, except for Olokun, the ruler
of all below the sky. She had not been consulted by Obatala and
grew angry that he had usurped so much of her kingdom. When Obatala
returned to his home in the sky for a visit, Olokun summoned the
great waves of her vast oceans and sent them surging across the
land. Wave after wave she unleashed, until much of the land was
underwater and many of the people were drowned. Those that had
fled to the highest land beseeched the god Eshu who had been visiting,
to return to the sky and report what was happening to them. Eshu
demanded sacrifice be made to Obatala and himself before he would
deliver the message. The people sacrificed some goats, and Eshu
returned to the sky. When Orunmila heard the news he climbed down
the golden chain to the earth, and cast many spells which caused
the flood waters to retreat and the dry land reappear. So ended
the great flood.
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