Ori – The Concept of Self in Yoruba Cosmogony


by James C. Lewis

ORI – Ruler of the head. He is a metaphysical concept important to Yoruba spirituality and way of life. Ori, literally meaning “head,” refers to one’s spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence, and therefore is often personified as an orisha in its own right . In Yoruba tradition, it is believed that human beings are able to heal themselves both spiritually and physically by working with the orishas to achieve a balanced character, or iwa-pele. When one has a balanced character, one obtains an alignment with one’s Ori or divine self. Alignment with one’s Ori brings, to the person who obtains it, inner peace and satisfaction with life. To come to know the Ori is, essentially, to come to know oneself. The primacy of individual identity is best captured in a Yoruba proverb: “Ori la ba bo, a ba f’orisa sile”. When translated, this becomes It is the inner self we ought to venerate, and let divinity be. read more