Ile-Ife





Ile-Ife, also known as Ife or Ife-Lodun, is the holy city of the Yoruba people who live in Nigeria in West Africa. Ile-Ife appears in myths as the birthplace of creation and the location where the first humans took form.

According to Yoruba mythology, the world was originally a marshy, watery wasteland. In the sky above lived many gods, including the supreme god Olorun, the Owner of the Sky. These gods sometimes descended from the sky on spiderwebs and played in the marshy waters, but there was no land or human being there.

One day Olorun called Orisha Nla, the Great God, and told him to create solid land in the marshy waters below. He gave Orisha a pigeon, a hen, and the shell of a snail containing some loose earth. Orisha descended to the waters and threw the loose earth into a

Ile-Ife, a holy city in Nigeria, appears in African mythology as the birthplace of creation. It is the home of the Oni, the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people, who is shown here.
Ile-Ife, a holy city in Nigeria, appears in African mythology as the birthplace of creation. It is the home of the Oni, the spiritual leader of the Yoruba people, who is shown here.
small space. He then set loose the pigeon and hen, which began to scratch the earth and move it around. Soon the birds had covered a large area of the marshy waters and created solid ground.

Orisha reported back to Olorun, who sent a chameleon to see what had been accomplished. The chameleon found that the earth was wide but not very dry. After a while, Olorun sent the creature to inspect the work again. This time the chameleon discovered a wide, dry land, which was called Ife (meaning "wide") and Ile (meaning "house"). All other earthly dwellings later sprang from Ile-Ife, and it was revered forever after as a sacred spot. It remains the home of the Oni, the spiritual leader of the Yoruba.

See also African Mythology ; Animals in Mythology ; Creation Stories ; Olorun .

chameleon lizard that can change color

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.



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