The Yorùbás understand that the òrìsà are agents of the Supreme God, which creates mutual respect among the different devotees of the various òrìsà. Also, the single most important unifying substructure of the different òrìsà is Ifá, the divination deity, and its corpus of divination chants, which embody the summation of Yorùbá beliefs, history, medicine and culture. Ifá informs everything from selecting a king to naming a child.
As the definitive source of Yorùbá indigenous knowledge, Ifá is the chosen spokesman of the òrìsàs. It is Ifá that allows one òrìsà – and its respective community of devotees – to communicate with another. Ifá is the oracle through which all of the divinities work in consonance with one another and never in discord. The Ifá oracle is their court, their judge, and their arbiter and its declarations and judgments are binding since disobedience carries sanctions from Olódùmarè.
Olódùmarè is worshiped through the various òrìsà, who control natural phenomena and social institutions, like spiritual offices and titles. Consequently, there are said to be 401 òrìsà, many of which are local avatars of universal spiritual phenomena. So, for example, in most Yorùbá kingdoms and villages, there are divinities associated with trees, hills, small bodies of water, such as Mokura at Ifè, the river Ofiki at Igana, òrìsà Alabaun at Ifon Alaiye and the great stone of Olumo at Abeokuta. Similarly, the same divinities manifest in various forms according to the local tradition. In Ifè, for example, Sango, the òrìsà of thunder and fire, is traditionally represented by Jakuta or Oramfe, the latter of whom also throws thunder axes, but does not make use of the symbolic paraphernalia characteristic of Sango.
The worship of the different deities does not, however, constitute denominations nor sects, and there are no complex organizations nor centrally planned liturgies. Similar to other aspects of Yorùbá folk tradition, like cooking, dancing or quilt making, each individual, family and state has a high degree of freedom to define its own recipe for religious activities. In every case, however, the primary objective of òrìsà worship is to venerate Olódùmarè by pacifying the deities to ward off evil and achieve peace and sustainable development. The sacred is regarded as part of the make-up of the entire society and, each man worships the various deities as is necessary in the general duty of serving the community. In so doing, he demonstrates his service of the one true God.
The worshipers do not, therefore, see themselves as belonging to different religions, sects or denominations. There is no justification for crusade, evangelizing and winning converts to the temple of another deity. Peaceful coexistence between the worshippers is, therefore, the direct sum of many, uncoordinated individual actions, where everyone works for common goals. In this way, it is possible for a husband to worship òrìsà Oko (deity of Agriculture), while his wife worships Oya. No need arises for the wife to seek the soul of the husband to worship her òrìsà. In fact, as we shall see more completely later on, the worshipers recognize the fact that spiritual
diversity is essential to the collective well-being.
In much the same way that a free market economy is strengthened by its diversity, so too, is Yorùbá tradition made stronger by worshippers of many different òrìsà. That is, it is through the òrìsà that each lineage defines its role in the society, spiritually, economically, politically and so on. Let us consider, for example, the mighty òrìsà, Ogún, who brought justice, metallurgy and warfare to earth. His descendants and devotees are the blacksmiths, hunters, carvers, pilots, drivers, barbers, policemen and the like. Ogun was a full-time warrior. He founded the town called Irè, which is today the most populous town in Oye Local Government Area in Ekiti State,Nigeria. As a warrior and a hunter, Ogun’s life was characterized by perpetual motion.
Consequently, he left his son as Oba (King) to govern the town when he went on his war expeditions. As a result of pestilence, the people of Irè had to relocate. On his return from war, Ogun could not find his people where he had originally settled them so he went in search of them. In the course of his search, he met a group of people practicing ritual silence. The meeting is up till today called Ijo Oríkì, (the silent gathering). Ogun greeted the gathering but there was no response in keeping with tradition.
Since he was very thirsty, he ignored their apparent lack of respect and made for one of the nearby kegs of palm wine. All the kegs, though standing, were empty. In a flash of rage, Ogun drew his sword and slaughtered the men at the ceremony. Those who managed to escape went to the palace to narrate their ordeal to the king. Immediately, the king was able to recognize the deed as the handiwork of his father who must have just returned from the war-front. The king quickly took some kegs of palm wine and roasted yam and palm oil (his father’s favorite dish and drink) and went with his people to welcome the great warrior, Ogun.
After eating and drinking, Ogun learned that the people he had just killed were indeed the very people that he had been looking for from the start. He was consumed with sadness and, to punish himself, refused to return to the palace in spite of all requests. He told his son that whenever his people needed his help they should come to that spot and call on him. He then drew his sword, drove it into the ground and vanished with it. A hut was then built on the spot and a Chief was appointed to take care of the site. The Chief is called the elepe (the Appeaser). The site is called Umeru. The Elepe is the mouth-piece of Ogun. He is forbidden from seeing the Kabiyesi Onire (king of Irè) face to face in keeping with the refusal of Ogun to return to his
The Chief Priest who is entitled to offer sacrifice to Ogun is called the aworo Ogun. He acts as the go-between for Ogun and the Onire (king). Ogun was one of the sons of Oduduwa and as such one of the compounds in Ilè-Ifè is, until today named Irè compound. As a Prince he was also given a crown by his father when he decided to go and fend for himself as a warrior. That is why the Kabiyesi Onire is till today one of the Oba Alade Merindinlogun (the 16 crowned Obas) in Yorubaland. In fact he is their Alaagbaakin, i.e. the Director of Socials, who shares gifts, food, etc. with each of the Obas at their meetings called Pelupelu.
Finally, this represents both an historical account of Ogún and a motif of Yorùbá migration and settlement patterns. Similar stories explain the lives of the 401 òrìsà, their Ifè origins, migration into new settlements, as well as their roles in those respective settlements.
 AJAYI, Ade J.F. “Promoting Religious Tolerance And Co-
operation In The West African Region: The Example Of Religious
Pluralism And Tolerance Among The Yorùbás”
 Bascom, William. The Sociological Role of the Yorùbá Cult
Group. Page 38
 Adekanmi, Adewale. Written communication.August 7, 2007.