Everything known of Olodumare (The Almighty), is handed down from the oral verses of Ifa, Ifa being the perfect wisdom and spoken word of God which embodies the 256 sacred odus of the Ifa divination corpus. Olodumare is the living word of Ifa: “Atewilese” – He that speaks and makes it so. Creator of heaven and earth, orun and aiye, he gave life to the Yoruba race. Having no equal, he is perceived as being unfathomable and omnipotent in the form of a blinding light. The many other names of Olodumare are Olorun (owner of heaven), Alaaye (the living one), Oba aire (the King no one can see) and many others.
Historically, the Yoruba did not worship Olodumare directly, meaning it is not customary to have dedicated shrines or direct sacrifices, though some modern day Yoruba do have a shrine for Olodumare in their home. Olodumare created the primordial divinities, the irunmole, and these lived in heaven, fashioned in the image of Olodumare. The creation myth varies greatly as to who helped create solid earth and descended first, with the role being assigned at times to Orunmila, Obatala (Orisa nla), or Odudua (Oodua), but most agree on basic points.
In the beginning there was only heaven, water, an iron chain or thread to descend to aiye and one sacred palm tree sticking up from the marshy vastness. Since Olodumare wanted to populate the earth with humans, the earth needed to become solid ground. It is said he gave Orunmila (or Obatala/Orisa nla) the very important task of moulding human beings from clay, and these bodies along with their heads would be set aside after formed until the time that Olodumare would come and breathe life into them. Other orisa were also involved in creating the human beings but it was mainly Obatala who was entrusted. Now Orunmila was said to be the only one who witnessed the process of Olodumare breathing life into the clay figures, the secret being unknown to all the rest of the orisa, so he is also known by the name of eleri ipin, the witness of human destiny. Odu Ifa say this is the reason why Orunmila is so successful in aiding man, as Olodumare gave him not only the knowledge of their destinies, but also the divine knowledge contained in the Ifa divination corpus to fix any shortcomings in life.
According to the oral verses of Ifa, Olodumare ordered Orunmila (or Odudua or Obatala, according to which area in Yoruba land you are residing), to create solid earth below so they could spread out and achieve their greatness each one according to the talents bestowed upon them by Olodumare. Orunmila was given a snail’s shell with a little earth inside which he sprinkled far below in the vicinity of the sacred palm tree. Immediately the water begun to bubble up and sand rose from underneath the water and mounded itself around the palm tree. Seeing that there was now an island of sand below, Orunmila sent down a five-toed hen which immediately set about scratching and flinging the sand far and wide, creating the four corners of the earth. To this day one can see the hen behaving just as she did when the earth was first formed. Next, in order to make sure the earth was truly firm and habitable, Orunmila sent down the chameleon to test the surface. With tentative steps the chameleon walked first this way, then that, stepping carefully before committing to put his full weight upon the rich red soil. He found everything was good and solid so went back up to report back to Orunmila. The place where the earth was first spread is known as Ile-Ife, the spiritual birthplace of the Yoruba people and still the spiritual center of all things Yoruba in modern day Nigeria.
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