Orisa devotion: sources for religious education

A number of scholars consider Yoruba religions, also known as Orisa devotion, to be a world religion. For example, Stephen Prothero counts Yoruba religions as a major world religion in his book God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World, and Why Their Differences Matter. The scholarly essays in Òrìsà Devotion as World Religion: The Globalization of Yorùbá Religious Culture, ed. Jacob K. Olupona and Terry Rey (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 2008), also make the case that Yoruba religions are a world religion. Yoruba religions include some indigenous African religious traditions as well as religious traditions of the African diaspora including Santeria, Vodoun, Candomble, etc.

Because of their importance, I’ve been searching for ways to present Yoruba religions to children in Sunday school. I have plenty of resources for presenting Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism — and (to a lesser extent) Daoism and Confucianism. But most of the books I’ve found on Yoruba religions are heavily academic, and concerned with matters that would not interest children all that much. What I really want is stories from Yoruba religious traditions; I have stories from Islamic sources, stories from the Christian scriptures, stories from the Hebrew Bible, etc. — but I’ve been having a hard time finding stories from Yoruba religions.

Recently, however, I came across a Web site that provides some of what I want. The Web site is titled Awonifa: Study the Teachings of Orunmila; authorship of the site is credited to Awo Ni Ifabité. Of particular interest for my purposes is the page on this site titled The Orishas, with links to fifty-eight stories that are more or less suitable for use with school-aged children. (Elsewhere on the site are twenty-one stories taken from yoruba folklore.)

My only problem: I have no idea how reliable this Web site is; none of the stories has a citation or source or attribution. Looking at other parts of the site that cover material that I can check against other sources, I’d say the site appears to be fairly reliable; so I’ll probably use some of these stories in Sunday school classes this year, though I will do so very cautiously.

One thought on “Orisa devotion: sources for religious education”

  1. This comes at just the right time. I have been listening to Brazilian music for 30-something years now, and so am dimly aware of Candomble. Jeanne Gagné mentioned Yoruba religious music as the root of American (Cuban, Brazilian) popular music in a UUMN workshop last month. And now this comes along. My head is opening up again.

    The Bay Area is full of Brazilians, and I’m sure that you could turn up some practitioners of Candomble by calling a Brazilian percussion shop or capoeira school. Who knows — there might even be a Candomble listing in the phone book.

    A few minutes of googling turned up
    http://www.gamodapaz.com/
    http://www.jorgealabe.com/classeswork.html

    Those two seem to be the big names in your area. I hope you’ll post a follow-up to let us know how this develops.

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