HomeLUMINAvol. 20 no. 1 (2009)

The Unalterability of the Yoruba Concept of Destiny

Helen Adekunbi Labeodan

Discipline: Philosophy, Social Science, Anthropology



The concept of destiny is popularly discussed, not only in African societies, but also in the Western and Eastern societies as well. This concept is both a philosophical and religious belief with no monopoly in any of the societies. Among the Yoruba the belief in destiny revolves around the concept of ori which is believed to be the spiritual component of the human personality and the human physical head is its symbol. The concept of ori is an important part of the original thought system of the Yoruba people; which is as a result of the relationship between man and the higher powers that brought him into existence and also responsible for everything that happens to him. Man’s existence is therefore seen as something an individual has no control over but rather a fulfillment of what has been ordained for him by powers greater than his. A logical corollary of the foregoing is that man cannot change or alter that which he has to fulfill. The Yoruba concept of ori is of great interest because it raises some crucial philosophical problems that require examination.

The focus of this paper is to see how coherent is the belief in ori with other beliefs and practices of the people, how the choice of ori is made and if the choice is freely done. The paper examined the position of the Yoruba that, given certain conditions, destiny can be altered in spite of the fact that the Yoruba strongly believe that once a choice is made it cannot be altered.