One day Eshu heard that king Metolofi had come into possession of a goat with four eyes; two situated on top of it’s head and two others at the back. Presenting this beast to his people, the king proclaimed that this amazing goat would be able to watch all of the people all of the time. The goat would watch what everyone was doing, and if anyone disobeyed the king or broke the kings laws – the goat would immediately report the event back to the king. Thus, king Metolofi would become revered as the bringer of perfect justice to his realm.
Now Eshu became very indignant at this. He found it unacceptable that anyone should know all of his actions, all of the time – even the king! So, Eshu declared loudly that he would be able to act freely, without any fear of the goat reporting his actions. Eshu had a plan.
Eshu found the spirit Ifa, and made a sacrafice of a hat and four different colored pieces of cloth. Ifa proceeded to remodel the hat and make it into a head covering with four faces; each one a different color. Ifa then equipped Eshu with this head covering and sent him on his way.
Now, wearing the head covering, Eshu found the kings number one wife traveling on the road between the temple and the palace and assaulted her with rude and ribald comments; even throwing horse dung onto her dress. Many people had seen this exchange and were shocked that anyone would be so bold and foolish to assault the kings number one wife, and in public!
The goat saw the exchange and immediately reported it to the king, but could only say that the assailant was wearing a red head covering. The king then called together all of the people who had seen the deed and asked them to report on who had done this – but they each described a different colored head covering. Some said it was blue, others yellow, others white, and still others agreed with the goat that it had been red. No consensus could be reached.
The crowd began to argue heatedly with one another. Those that saw one color called the others liars and traitors. Some claimed the others were mad or had been in on the deed and were now trying to cover it up. The arguing became fighting and chaos erupted in the courtyard of the king.
The king then sent his minister to the people to calm them down, and to find out who was behind all of this trouble. While the minister was in the midst of the crowd, Eshu (again disguised in his four colored head covering) took the opportunity to strike down the minister in front of everyone – then slip out before he could be seized.
Again, the goat saw the deed and reported to the king that the minister had been slain, but this time by someone wearing a blue head covering. When the king ordered that the man wearing a blue head covering be brought forward – again the crowds began arguing and fighting bitterly with one another.
“The murderer was not wearing blue! It was red!” cried one observer.
“No you imbecile, it was neither blue nor read; it was yellow!” cried another. And so it went round and round with each believing his own eyes and disbelieving the report of his neighbor.
Finally, Eshu arrived without his disguise on, and called for the king to settle the matter. Surely with such a remarkable goat the solution would be trivial. But, the king could not and was humbled before his people. So he offered the goat up as a sacrifice to Eshu and hid his face away his angry people and regretted his previous boasting.
In the beginning was only the sky above, water and marshland below. The chief god Olorun ruled the sky, and the goddess Olokun ruled what was below. Obatala, another god, reflected upon this situation, then went to Olorun for permission to create dry land for all kinds of living creatures to inhabit. He was given permission, so he sought advice from Orunmila, oldest son of Olorun and the god of prophecy. He was told he would need a gold chain long enough to reach below, a snail’s shell filled with sand, a white hen, a black cat, and a palm nut, all of which he was to carry in a bag. All the gods contributed what gold they had, and Orunmila supplied the articles for the bag. When all was ready, Obatala hung the chain from a corner of the sky, placed the bag over his shoulder, and started the downward climb. When he reached the end of the chain he saw he still had some distance to go. From above he heard Orunmila instruct him to pour the sand from the snail’s shell, and to immediately release the white hen. He did as he was told, whereupon the hen landing on the sand began scratching and scattering it about. Wherever the sand landed it formed dry land, the bigger piles becoming hills and the smaller piles valleys. Obatala jumped to a hill and named the place Ife. The dry land now extended as far as he could see. He dug a hole, planted the palm nut, and saw it grow to maturity in a flash. The mature palm tree dropped more palm nuts on the ground, each of which grew immediately to maturity and repeated the process. Obatala settled down with the cat for company. Many months passed, and he grew bored with his routine. He decided to create beings like himself to keep him company. He dug into the sand and soon found clay with which to mold figures like himself and started on his task, but he soon grew tired and decided to take a break. He made wine from a nearby palm tree, and drank bowl after bowl. Not realizing he was drunk, Obatala returned to his task of fashioning the new beings; because of his condition he fashioned many imperfect figures. Without realizing this, he called out to Olorun to breathe life into his creatures. The next day he realized what he had done and swore never to drink again, and to take care of those who were deformed, thus becoming Protector of the Deformed. The new people built huts as Obatala had done and soon Ife prospered and became a city. All the other gods were happy with what Obatala had done, and visited the land often, except for Olokun, the ruler of all below the sky.
of Ile-Ife had a beautiful and virtuous wife named More
mi, and a handsome young son, Ela.
The country of the Ifes was at that time subject to fierce raids by a tribe called the Igbos, who were of such an uncanny appearance in battle that the Ifes thought them not human, but a visitation sent by the gods in punishment for some evil. In vain did they offer sacrifices to the gods; the raids of these strange beings continued, and the land was thrown into a state of pamc.
Now the heroic More
mi, desiring to bring an end to this condition of affairs, resolved to let herself be captured during one of the raids, so that she might be p. 15
carried as a prisoner to the land of the Igbos and learn all their secrets.
Bidding farewell to her husband and her little son, she went to a certain stream and promised the god of the stream that, if her attempt was successful, she would offer to him the richest sacrifice she could afford.
As she had planned, she was captured by the Igbos and carried away to their capital as a prisoner. On account of her beauty she was given to the King of the Igbos as a slave; and on account of her intelligence and noble heart she soon gained the respect of all and rose to a position of importance.
Before she had been in the country very long, she had learnt all the secrets of her enemies. She found that they were not gods but ordinary men. On going into battle they wore strange mantles of grass and bamboo fibre, and this accounted for their unnatural appearance. She also learned that because of these mantles of dry grass, they were much afraid of fire, and that if the Ifes were to rush among p. 16
them with lighted torches, they would quickly be defeated. As soon as it was possible, she escaped from the palace and from the territory of the Igbos and returned to her own people. Her tidings were joyfully received at Ile-Ife, and shortly afterwards the Igbos were utterly defeated by the trick More
mi had suggested.
mi now went to the stream and made a great sacrifice of sheep, fowls, and bullocks; but the god of the stream was not satisfied and demanded the life of her son.
mi was forced to consent, and sacrificed the handsome boy Ela. The Ifes wept to see this sad spectacle, and they promised to be her sons and daughters for ever, to make up for her loss.
But lo! Ela as he lay upon the ground was only half dead, and when the people had departed, he recovered consciousness and sprang up. Making a rope of grass, he climbed up to heaven, and it is certain that he will some day return to reap the benefits of his mother’s noble sacrifice.