Traditional Yoruba religion is centered around a pantheon of deities called
orisha. When a child is born, a diviner, or Babalawo,
will be consulted to determine which orisha the child should follow. As adults,
the Yoruba often honor several of these deities. According to oral tradition,
the high god, Olorun (Olodumare), asked Orishala to descend from the heaven to
create the first Earth at Ile-Ife. Orishala was delayed and his younger brother,
Oduduwa, accomplished the task. Shortly afterwards, sixteen other orisha came
down from heaven to create human beings and live on Earth with him. The
descendants of each of these deities are said to have spread Yoruba culture and
religious principles throughout the rest of Yorubaland.
Respecting the ritual primacy of the holy city of Ife legitimizes both a
royal hierarchy and the basic pantheon of Yoruba gods, estimated variously at
201, 401, 601, or more. Some divinities are primordial, having existed when
Oduduwa was creating the Earth, and others are heroes or heroines who left an
important impression on the people. Divinities may also be natural phenomena,
such as mountains, hills, and rivers that have influenced the peoples' history
and lives. Of the hundreds of gods worshipped by the Yoruba, the most popular are Sango
(god of thunder and lightning), Ifa ( also
known as Orunmila, god of divination), Eshu (the
messenger and trickster god), Ogun
(god of iron and of war), Osanyin (god of herbal medicines), and Oko (associated
with agricultural success).
Much of Yoruba art is commissioned for use in the ceremonies and shrines connected with these founding kings and related deities.
Source: - Indiana University