And God was Drunk…a Yoruba Creation Myth

Most people would agree that on the whole, we humans are a flawed lot. Some of us blame this on Original Sin (think Adam and Eve), some of us blame this on angry gods (Zeus giving mankind the first female, Pandora, and her well known box of woes), and others still on a combination of bad genes and cosmic indifference. This is all a little humorless; the Yoruba creation myth from Western Africa has a far better punch line for why we are the way we are.

Cast of Divinities:

Olurun, god of the heavens
Olukun, goddess of the watery abyss
Obatala, their son who intends to unite them through creating the Earth
Orunmilla, their other son, who is a master of divination
black cat – a black cat who might be a bad influence…
the palm seed – definitely a bad influence

To connect the heavens and the oceans, Obatala proposed the creation of the Earth. His father told him to seek advice from his brother, who was skilled in the art of divination (known in Yorubaland as Ifa). He gave Obatala a list of seven necessary items. Obatala then proceeded to start his Terraforming endeavor.

After much toil and turmoil, Obatala had only two unused items: a black cat and a palm seed. Eventually, he had a fine palm tree, and he and the cat spent their time lounging in its shade. Obatala still hadn’t finished his final task, which was to fill the land with living things. However, after the cat pointed out the joys of palm wine, Obatala found himself a little distracted.

After a night of drinking and dancing, Obatala fell into a drunken stupor (no one knows the fate of the cat). While he slumbered, his brother Orunmila descended to Earth, and set about creating life; all that swims through the water, crawls on the land, or flies through air can thank Orunmila, as Obatala was too drunk to finish his work.

Obatala woke up shocked. He ascended to the heavens and confronted his father, who shrugged off his anger. However, as a peace gesture, he pointed out that Ournmila had failed to create humanity, and offered that job to Obatala as a consolation prize.

Obatala seized the opportunity, and returned to the Earth to create human beings. Unfortunately,  he was still drunk. And thus, all human maladies, misfortunes and mishaps can be explained by the day god drank too much.

Or as we like to say, don’t blame us, god was drunk when he made us this way.


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