Book: Myths of Ife
Author: John Wyndham

Myths of Ife By John Wyndham

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 51
Publication Date: 1910

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This short book is a translation of some of the myths of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It is a history of the creation of the world, the gods, and humanity, and the early days of the sacred city of Ífè, the traditional center of Yoruba culture. The text was recited to the author/translator by the high priests of Ífè, and the book is still cited in some books on traditional Yoruba religion and thought today.

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A white man visits Ífè, the sacred city of the Yórubas, and asks to hear the history of the place. The Órní, the religious head of Yórubaland, begins, and directs the Babaláwo Arába, the chief-priest of Ífa to continue.

The Órní of Ífè speaks:

Oíbo, you have asked to hear our lore,
The legends of the World's young hours—and where
Could truth in greater surety have its home
Than in the precincts of the shrines of Those
Who made the World, and in the mouths of priests
To whom their doings have been handed down
From sire to son?
Arámfè reigns in Heaven;
Before this World was made
There reigned Arámfè in the realm of Heaven
Amidst his sons. Old were the hills around him;
The Sun had shone upon his vines and cornfields
Since time past reckoning. Old was Arámfè,
The father of the Gods: his youth had been
The youth of Heaven. . . Once when the King reclined
Upon the dais, and his sons lay prostrate
In veneration at his feet, he spoke
tells his sons of the creation of Heaven;
Of the great things he purposed:

"My sons, you know
But fair things which I made for you, before
I called your spirits from the Dusk: for always
Your eyes have watched the shadows and the wind
On waving corn, and I have given you
The dances and the chorus of the night—
An age of mirth and sunrise (the wine of Heaven)
Is your existence. You have not even heard
Of the grey hour when my young eyes first opened
To gaze upon a herbless Mass, unshaped
And unadorned. But I knew well the heart
Of Him-Who-Speaks-Not, the far-felt Purpose that gave
Me birth; I laboured and the grim years passed:
Streams flowed along their sunny beds; I set
The stars above me, and the hills about;
I fostered budding trees, and taught the birds
Their song—the unshapely I had formed to beauty,
And as the ages came I loved to make
The beautiful more fair. . . All went not well:
A noble animal my mind conceived
Emerged in loathsome form to prey upon
My gentle creatures; a river, born to bask
In sunlit channels and mirror the steep hills,
Tore down its banks and ravaged field and plain;
While cataract and jagged precipice,
Now grand with years, remind me of dread days