One of the three main ethnic groups of nigeria (along with hausa-fulani & igbo), their estimated numbers are about 30 million which also makes them one of the biggest ethnicities within africa. Benin also has a sizeable yoruba population.
Their cultural influence among afrodescendants in the new world is well documented, especially in brazil and cuba. Probably the most recognizably ethnic african influence within the americas.
Yoruba people (Yorùbá in Yoruba orthography) are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. The majority of the Yoruba speak the Yoruba language (Yoruba: èdèe Yorùbá; èdè). The Yoruba constitute between 30 and 50 million individuals throughout West Africa and are found predominantly in Nigeria with around 21 percent of its total population.
Yoruba religion and mythology is a major influence in West Africa, chiefly in Nigeria, and it has given origin to several New World religions such as Santería in Cuba and Puerto Rico, Voudoun in Haiti, and Candomblé in Brazil.
After the Ọyọ empire collapsed and the region plunged into civil war, ethnic Yoruba were among the largest in number of African peoples who were enslaved and taken by European traders to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and the rest of the New World (chiefly in the 19th century). The enslaved Africans carried their Orisha religious beliefs with them. These concepts were combined with preexisting African-based religions, Christianity, Native American mythology, and Kardecist Spiritism into various New World lineages which are Lucumí (Cuba, Puerto Rico), Oyotunji (U.S.), Anago (Nigeria), Candomblé (Brazil), Umbanda (Brazil), Batuque (Brazil) and Kaaro oojire (Nigeria).
The popularly known Vodou religion of Haiti combines the religious beliefs of the many different African ethnic nationalities taken to the island with the structure and liturgy from the Fon-Ewe of present-day Benin and the Congo-Angolan culture area, but Yoruba-derived religious ideology and deities also play an important role.
Yoruba deities include one creator God and approximately 400 supernatural spirits. Some of the most prominent spirits are "Olorun" (God of Heaven), "Ellegua" (The Road Opener), "Ogun" (god of Iron), "Obatala" (Spirit of justice), "Yemonja/Yamaya" (Spirit of fertility and salt waters; Mermaid), "Ọya" (Guardian of the cemetery/dead), "Orunmila" (Spirit of divination or fate), "Ibeji" (Spirit of twins), "Ọsanyin" (Spirit of medicines and healing), "Ọsun" (Spirit of love, protector of children and mothers, ruler of fresh waters), Sango (Spirit of thunder and lightning), and "Ochosi" (Spirit of the hunt/Protector of those with legal troubles). Some of these deities, actually lived amongst the people, often as warriors with fearsome reputations. These reputations often leads to them becoming deitified in death, with people naturally trying to harness their abilities. For instance Shango (Spirit of thunder and lightning)was known to emit fire from his mouth when he talks, and was able to initiate and control thunder and lightning.
Human beings and other sentient creatures are also assumed to have their own individual deity of destiny, called "Ori", who is venerated through a sculpture symbolically decorated with cowrie shells. Traditionally, dead parents and other ancestors are also believed to possess powers of protection over their descendants. This belief is expressed in veneration and sacrifice on the grave or symbol of the ancestor, or as a community in the observance of the Egungun festival where the ancestors are represented as a colorful masquerade of costumed and masked men who represent the ancestral spirits. Dead parents and ancestors are also commonly venerated by pouring libations to the earth and the breaking of kolanuts in their honor at special occasions.
Today, almost all contemporary Yoruba are Muslims and Christians. Waves of evangelism that accompanied liberated Yoruba slaves into Yorubaland had introduced many Yorubas to Christianity. The key factor in the spread of Christianity among the Yoruba however was the translation of the bible onto Yoruba by Bishop Samuel [Ajayi Crowther]. Infighting among the Yoruba city states at the close of the 19th century, specifically the Ijesa-Ekiti alliance versus Ibadan/oyo made it easier for the British to impose colonization upon the Yoruba people. That the Yoruba were ever colonized by Britain itself is a marvel, considering how advanced Yorubas were in the late 1800s. Less advanced African nations like Ethiopia and Liberia afterall escaped colonization. Islam found its way into Yoruba towns and cities long before Christianity through Muslim traders from Senegal. A small number of Yoruba, especially in the remote or rural areas, retain many Yoruba cultural concepts, yet they are likely to be Christians or Muslims.
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Last edited by oditous; 11-14-2010 at 12:10 AM.