“Obatala! Obatala o!!!”
“Ooooooo!” the young god’s reply rang out the court yard. A mist spread and came together in the vague shape of a man. Then a wind blew and there was left a young man, dark skinned with wooly hair on bended knee.
“Obatala, I have pondered over a certain task for a long time. I have considered all the other gods and at the end, I have chosen you. Will you carry out my bidding?” boomed a voice from the brilliant white light seated on a throne.
“Olorun. Your wish is my command. You need only speak. Your humble servant will see it done.”
“Go down to the realm of Olokun. To the plenty waters, and create dry land for the living creatures to abide.”
Obatala bowed low, and left his presence.
A LITTLE WHILE LATER
“Orunmilla, eldest son of Olorun, god of prophesy. Please- great one. Our father has asked me to create dry land for living creatures. What shall I need?”
Orunmilla looked the young eager god up and down. He smiled, showing white clean teeth and responded
“A gold chain, a black cat, a white hen, a snail’s shell filled with sand, and a palm nut.”
Having acquired all that was required, on one fateful day, Obatala climbed down to the realm below with much trumpet blowing and fanfare. Having tied the gold chain to a corner of heaven, Obatala descended to the waters below.
As he reached the end of the chain, he saw that there was a little distance left to the waters below. He sprinkled some sand from the snail shell and the hen immediately jumped from his arms, scratching and scattering the sand which formed dry land wherever it landed. This continued and the hen was soon out of sight.
The big piles became hills and the scratches became valleys. He jumped down and planted the palm nut. It became a tree in a flash, bore fruit which ripened before his very eyes. He plucked some and re-planted them. Same happened. Obatala continued this, with only the cat for company.
Eventually he grew bored with this routine and decided to create beings like himself. He made figures out of clay and growing thirsty, tapped some wine from the palm trees to slake his thirst.
Soon drunk, he continued his act of molding but fashioned incomplete and deformed characters – then called on Olorun to breathe life upon them. The benevolent chief-god answered.
LATER THE NEXT MORNING
Obatala awoke and saw his handiwork. He was moved with remorse and swore never to drink again. He then took upon himself the duty of protecting the deformed people he created.
Thus Obatala became the protector of the deformed.
The gods were glad with what Obatala had done, as the humans built and prospered and the place Obatala landed on (Ile-Ife) became a big town. The gods visited often except for Olokun, who was angry with Obatala for having taken so much out of his kingdom and without his permission too.
Later on, Obatala returned to heaven for a visit, and Olokun summoned great waves from all over his great watery kingdom. With these, he flooded the lands and reclaimed a lot of his former kingdom.
The people ran up to the mountain tops and as one begged Eshu, the only god around for rescue.
“Eshu! Eshu!!” They cried. “Have mercy on us. Tell the gods of our predicament!”
“Hmmm. No. Give me a sacrifice. A big one. And something for Obatala too.” replied Eshu, trickster god and guardian of the cross-roads.
Desperate, the people sacrificed to Eshu and Obatala, even as the waters surged and came nearer, bringing doom and destruction.
Thus sated, Eshu spirited himself off to heaven, and informed the gods.
Orunmilla came down and with spells and pleadings, was able to placate Olokun and so the waters receeded.
The Yorubas were safe.
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