In a lecture on Creole Culture, at Yale, in 1989, Robert Farris Thompson argues that African or Afro-descendant cultures should be looked like this and that cultures. This was very important advice, which Salamone (2001) took seriously while analysing the case of a Nigerian healer, Babalawo (Ifa priest) and Anthropologist that declared himself a monotheist and polytheist. Salamone deals with several coincidentia oppositorum facts. This reminds us that our occidental framework of A or B is not operative in all kinds of contexts.
This is very clear when it comes to studying Yorùbá religion(s). Long-term discussions on ‘monotheist versus polytheist’ in this context can still be found in some literature, despite the win of monotheist ideology, due to some scholars’ work as Idowu (Olodumare: God in Yoruba belief) and Ifá theology, deeply embodied in monotheist perspective. In a previous paper, published in 2013, following the path of Hallgren’s The Good Things in Life, I argued that the Yorùbá religious context should be understood as an open fluid system. We must remember Peel’s words (1968) … “…the whole system looks different from the different social standpoint” (p.29). In fact, the whole system looks different because, in fact, it is.
Stating: religion in Yorùbá context is a this and that case. It is monotheist and polytheist. A good example of this and that pattern of thought can be found in the Orisha. When asked about Oshun, if She is the river, the deity of the river or the woman that died on the river, a Yoruba will answer “all”. She is the woman that died on the river, the deity of the river and the river itself.