Skip to Content

Olorun: African Gods – Unveiling the Divine and Powerful Deities

Olorun, also known as Olodumare, is the supreme god in the Yoruba religion of West Africa. This powerful and wise deity is credited with creating the universe, the heavens, the earth, and all living things. As the ruler of the heavens, Olorun is often associated with the sky and is regarded as the father of all other gods, or orishas, in the Yoruba pantheon.

Worshipped for his omniscience and omnipresence, Olorun is believed to be a fair and wise judge, actively involved in both the affairs of heaven and earth. Yoruba culture sees him as a guiding force, offering protection and counsel throughout the journey of life.

In this article, we will delve further into the significance of Olorun as well as his attributes and roles within the Yoruba religion. We will also explore how he is connected to other African gods and the influence of the Yoruba cosmology on contemporary African spirituality.

The Pantheon of Yoruba Religion

Role of Olorun in Yoruba Theology

Olorun, also known as Olodumare, is the Supreme God in the Yoruba pantheon. He is primarily worshipped as the god of heaven as well as a wise and fair judge of people’s hearts. Olorun is omniscient, omnipresent, and the creator of the universe, heaven, Earth, and all living things.

Yoruba theology credits Olorun as the originator of all life. It holds that the Almighty Creator oversees a pantheon of secondary divinities, the orisha. While devotion to the orisha is active and widespread, Olorun has neither priests nor cult groups, reflecting his elevated status.

Olorun’s Place Among Other Deities

In the Yoruba religion, Olorun’s role as the Supreme Creator puts him above all other deities. Below Olorun, there are several notable deities, including:

  • Obatalá: The god of fertility
  • Oshun: The goddess of love and beauty
  • Shango: The god of thunder

Despite Olorun’s primacy, these and many other orishas have their own unique domains and are important in Yoruba worship. The pantheon serves to maintain balance and order in the world.

Understanding Olorun

Attributes and Powers

Olorun, also known as Olodumare, is the supreme god in Yoruba religion. He is considered the creator of the universe and the most powerful and wisest god. Being the “Owner of Heaven,” Olorun actively takes part in the affairs of both heaven and earth.

Furthermore, Olorun possesses multiple manifestations or forms. As Olodumare, he is recognized as the “Great Everlasting Majesty” and creator of the universe. When referred to as Olorun, he serves as the sky god and father of all Orishas.

Symbolism and Iconography

Here are some key symbols and icons associated with Olorun:

  • Sky: As the sky god, Olorun is often symbolized by the vast expanse of the heavens above.
  • Sun: Olorun is closely connected with the sun, as it represents his presence and watchful eye over the universe.
  • Light: Light is a common symbol in representing Olorun, as it signifies his wisdom and omnipresence.
  • Orishas: Being the father of all Orishas, Olorun has connections with all the lesser gods who faithfully serve him. They embody his various attributes and powers.

While Olorun does not have a specific iconography, the attributes, symbols, and connections with lesser deities widely represent his influence and significance within the Yoruba religion.

Worship of Olorun

Rituals and Ceremonies

In Yoruba religion, Olorun is the supreme god of the pantheon. Historically, Olorun is worshiped indirectly through orishas – intermediary deities. While there are no specific images, shrines, or sacrifices made directly to Olorun, they are venerated through the worship of these orishas.

Influence on Society and Culture

The belief in Olorun has a significant impact on Yoruba society and culture. As the god of heaven and the creator of the universe, Olorun represents justice, wisdom, and fairness. This belief system influences how Yoruba people interact with each other, their moral values, and their societal structure.

Contemporary Worship Practices

Today, worship of Olorun has evolved and spread, encompassing both traditional and contemporary practices. While some still adhere to the indirect worship approach, others choose to venerate Olorun directly. This shift in reverence highlights the enduring influence of Olorun in the spiritual lives of believers in the modern era.

Mythology and Stories

Cosmogony and Creation Myths

In Yoruba mythology, Olorun is considered the most powerful and wisest god. As the “Great Everlasting Majesty,” Olorun is worshipped as the creator of the universe1. The supreme god decided that Earth should be created, and assigned this task to the god Obatala1.

Olorun, also known as Olodumare, bestows the knowledge of things upon all persons when they are born2. This omnipotent god transcends all aspects of life and plays an integral role in the guidance and protection of humanity throughout its journey.

Tales and Legends

The Yoruba Creation Myth: According to Yoruba mythology, in the beginning there was only the sky above, water, and marshland below3. The chief god Olorun ruled the sky, while the goddess Olokun ruled what was below. The god Obatala pondered how to create dry land for all, and then sought permission from Olorun3.

Yoruba religion describes orishas, supernatural beings that represent human activity and natural forces4. These beings can be both good (egungun) and bad (ajogun)4. Olorun, as the father of all orishas, serves as the cornerstone of this complex belief system.

Comparative Mythology

Similarities with Other African Gods

Ọlọrun, the supreme god in the Yoruba religion, shares attributes with other African gods. Similar to Amma from the Dogon people and Nyame from the Akan people, Ọlọrun is highly revered as a creator deity. They are all widely known for their wisdom, compassion, and power.

These gods play a significant role in their respective cosmologies. They are commonly credited with creating the universe, earth, and all living beings. In addition, they are seen as protectors and guides for their followers.

Olorun in Global Context

When comparing Ọlọrun to deities from other global pantheons, parallels can be observed. For example, Zeus from Greek mythology, Odin from Norse mythology, and Brahma from Hinduism, are also associated with the heavens and components of creation.

Here’s a table to help highlight the similarities:

Deity Culture Domain Role in Creation
Ọlọrun Yoruba Heaven Creator of the universe and living beings
Zeus Greek Sky Ruler of gods, involved in creating mankind
Odin Norse Sky/Wisdom Allfather, participated in shaping the world
Brahma Hindu Creation Creator of the universe and living beings

These cross-cultural comparisons offer a unique insight into the human need for connection with a higher power and the way different societies have formed intricate belief systems to understand their place in the world.

Art and Media Representation

Depictions in Art and Statuary

Olorun, the supreme god in Yoruba religion, is unique in that he has no physical image or representation in art. This is because Olorun is considered an omnipotent force rather than a physical being. Instead, his presence is felt through other, more tangible manifestations such as nature.

Olorun in Literature and Film

Although not directly represented in art, Olorun’s influence can be found in various forms of literature and film. Many stories, both traditional and modern, explore the Yoruba pantheon and its deities, allowing Olorun to play a major role in the narratives.

One example of this is the novel The Famished Road by Ben Okri, which delves into the world of Yoruba mythology. In films like Sango and Oya: Rise of the Orisha, Olorun’s wisdom and guidance steer the protagonist while showcasing the complex and intricate relationships within the Yoruba pantheon.

Academic Perspectives

Theological Studies

In the study of African religions, theologians explore the role of Olorun (Ọlọrun) in the Yoruba pantheon. Known as the Supreme God or Supreme Being, Olorun is also called Olodumare (Olódùmarè). This deity is credited with creating the universe and all living things, playing a crucial role in Yoruba cosmology.

Olorun, as an omnipotent god, is considered to be compassionate and protective. Believers of Santería view Olodumare as the almighty Creator without a specific cult or priesthood and too powerful to possess any human head during festivals.

Anthropological Views

From an anthropological perspective, scholars study the cultural significance of Olorun in Yoruba society. They examine the importance of the Yoruba religion in daily life and the complex pantheon containing over 1,700 divinities. In this spiritual landscape, Olorun, also known as Olofin-Orun or “lord of heaven”, is seen as the head of the pantheon.

African philosophers of religion have explored diverse views on the nature of this supreme deity. However, both opposing perspectives concur that Olorun is a real being, with African theistic conceptions of God rooted in traditional beliefs and assumptions about the deity’s existence.

To better understand Olorun’s role, here’s a brief summary:

  • Name: Olorun (Ọlọrun) or Olodumare (Olódùmarè), Olofin-Orun
  • Religion: Yoruba, Santería
  • Attributes: Supreme God, Creator of the universe, Omnipotent, Compassionate, Protective
  • Cultural Significance: Head of the Yoruba pantheon with over 1,700 divinities

By studying these academic perspectives, one can appreciate the cultural, religious, and philosophical aspects of Olorun, a key deity in African and Yoruba spirituality.


  1. Olorun – Mythopedia, snippet 2

  2. Ọlọrun – Wikipedia, snippet

  3. Yoruba Creation Myth | African Stories and Myths – Gateway Africa, snippet 2

  4. Ọlọrun – Wikipedia, snippet 2