Yoruba: Inspiration and Energy
Advent 2 – 2014
Sixteen Sons’ Stew
Religions are not mere institutions, corporations, hospitals for the emotionally seeking or sinfully depressed. Neither do they serve as palaces of political power. They are living organisms, communities of believers who practice what they believe by their living, their speaking, their caring, and even their dying. We begin our Advent study of various religions, spiritualities, and faiths around the world with one of the oldest from Africa. Like most belief systems, it has a story of its beginning.
He had been faithful and a good leader but now he was getting old and was already blind. Odua gathered around him his sixteen sons and told them to go to the ocean and collect salt water for him. He instructed them to bring the salt water back for, if he bathed his eyes in it, he would then be healed. Only the youngest of the sixteen, Obokun, did as his father requested. Odua immediately washed his eyes and he was indeed healed. Having regained his sight, Odua was now able to see that his other sons had stolen his lands and all his crowns except the one on his head. Odua gave his faithful and loving son a sword and with it, Obokun went to the land of Ilesa and became king of a large kingdom. His fifteen brothers also built large kingdoms. Followers of Yoruba believe that all kings are descended from Odua and his sixteen sons in the land of Nigeria and Benin and today rule the Yoruba regions of the world by following the ancient teachings of Odua.
Yoruba is an indigenous religious tradition which originated in Africa. Due to the migration of its believers, it is now found in other parts of the world. Elements of Yoruba can be found in the Santeria religion of the Caribbean. Its followers have also incorporated their ancient beliefs with modern technology and borrowed from other faiths.
Basically believers and followers of Yoruba seek to fulfill their lives by drawing strength from their ancestors and deities. Many in Yoruba believe in Olodumare, the “high God”. Olodumare is a Creator who created the world but does not govern it. Those responsibilities fall to the orishas such as Shango, the lesser deity connected to electricity and lightning.
Social media may be the trend of the twenty-first century but a similar social connection of relationships existed in Yoruba. Rather than the Internet, Yoruba’s creative connection was an energy flow known as “ashe”. Yoruba followers have many celebratory practices, rituals, and gatherings. They believe these energize their faith and give them strength to live it. The “ashe” connects them, energizes them, and inspires their beliefs. By the sharing of ancient stories, traditional practices, and the dramatic representation of their beliefs which often includes both drums and the wearing of masks, the Yoruba faithful honor their past, live their present through the practice of their faith, and evangelize for the future.
In 1852, the British colonized Yorubaland and in 1893 it became part of a larger colony known as Nigeria. Over one hundred years later, the area gained its independence. Known as master craftsmen in woodcarving, weaving, leather workings, and blacksmiths, Yoruba art is highly respected and valued today.
Yams are the main food staple and most important food in the region once known as Yorubaland. They are also a very misunderstood vegetable in the United States. The USA has the common sweet potato which is often mislabeled, misidentified, and misnamed a yam. The sweet potato originated in the tropics of the Americas, places like Peru and Ecuador. The yam is native to West Africa and some varieties even originated in Asia. The sweet potato is a member of the Morning glory plant family while the yam is from the…wait for it …yam family! The sweet potato is a monoecious plant, meaning that it has both male and female parts. The yam is a dioecious plant, meaning there are separate male and female plants. The yam has only twenty chromosomes compared to the ninety that the sweet potato has, The smooth skinned sweet potato dates back to prehistoric times but the rough, scaly yam goes back fifty thousand years BCE. Most different is the part of the plant we eat. The edible sweet potato is the storage root of the plant while the yam is a tuber. Sweet to the taste, a sweet potato is moist while the yam’s starchiness often leaves one’s mouth dry.
The nutritional values of the two plants are where there real individual identities become evident. The two vegetables are quite similar in the following nutritional items: magnesium, vitamin B6, iron, protein, and dietary fiber. However, the yam has 28% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C while the sweet potato has only 4%. In an interesting turn-around, the yam has only 2% of the RDA for vitamin A while the sweet potato has 283%! The yam has 23% of the RDA for potassium compared to the sweet potato’s 9%.
Sixteen Sons’ Stew: (16 ingredients but easy to make!)
• 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) margarine or butter
• 6 cups 1/4-inch-thick rounds peeled carrots (about 7 large)
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 1 cup chopped celery
• 1/2 diced mushrooms
• 3/4 cup diced peeled tan-skinned yams or sweet potatoes
• 3/4 cup white potatoes
• 3 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 2 pinches of ground cinnamon
• 1 pinch nutmeg
• 1 pinch tumeric
• 9 cups (about) vegetable or chicken broth
• 1/4 teaspoon parsley
• Salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot or soup pot, melt the butter or margarine over a medium heat. Add the first seven ingredients, raising the heat to medium high, and sauté for about ten minutes, until the onions are translucent or clear. Then add the spice ingredients 9-13. Add all but ½ teaspoon of the cumi and stir. Once everything is combined, add 8 cups of broth, reserving one cup for later. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for about thirty to forty-five minutes. Once the vegetables are tender, remove from the heat. Carefully puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to your soup or cooking pot, add the rest of the cumin and thin to desired consistency with the remaining cup of broth. This soup can be refrigerated for up to three days and reheated as needed. You can also add bits of chicken if not a vegetarian or even dumplings. It is really great to make on a weekend and then reheat during the busy week.