See G. J. A. Ojo, Yoruba Culture (1967); E. Krapf-Askari, Yoruba Towns and Cities (1969); R. S. Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba (1969); H. Courlander, Tales of Yoruba Gods and Heroes (1973).
One of Nigeria's three largest ethnic groups, numbering more than 22 million. The many dialects comprising the Yoruba language belong to the Benue-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo family. The Yoruba states, including the Oyo empire, were built in the 11th–16th centuries. Yorubaland remains divided into politically autonomous kingdoms, each centred on a capital city or town and headed by a hereditary king (oba), traditionally considered sacred. Most Yoruba men are farmers, growing yams, corn, and millet as staples; cocoa is a cash crop. Yoruba women control much of the complex market system. Craftsmen work in blacksmithing, weaving, leatherworking, glassmaking, bronze casting, and ivory- and wood-carving. Though some Yoruba are now Christians or Muslims, belief in their traditional religion continues, and it remains alive, too, in the New World countries to which may Yoruba were transported to work as slaves (see Candomblé; Macumba; Santería; vodun). The Yoruba language has an extensive literature of poetry, short stories, myths, and proverbs.
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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. 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 obtain an alignment with one's Ori.
Alignment with one's Ori brings, to the person who obtains it, inner peace and satistaction with life. To come to know the Ori is, essentially, to come to know oneself, a concept far from foreign to Western philosophy.