Cosmologies

By Eileen Moyer
University of Amsterdam (formerly University of Iowa)

Benin, Yoruba peoples. Egungun masquerade. Photo by Dana Rush.

Yoruba cosmology holds that the world is divided into two distinct hemispheres that complement one another. Orun (the upper portion) is the invisible spiritual world, while aye (the lower world) is the visible world of the living (Drewal et al. 1989). Oludumare is recognized as the creator and remains separate from the daily lives of people. It is the orisa (gods), araorun (ancestors), and numerous spirits who are actively involved in human affairs. Ancestors are honored and remembered through Egungun festivals that are held every year throughout Yorubaland. Individual families honor the tradition of their ancestors and are responsible for maintaining the elaborate ensembles that the ancestors inhabit. During 1995, an ancestor of the Alapini famity of Ouidah in Benin made an appearance wearing a beautifully fashioned ade (crown), something that is highly unusual for Egungun. Among Fon audience members he was known as “the one who dances well,” or simply as “Adé” (Rush 1997).