Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi (born Walter Eugene King, 5 October 1928 – 11 February 2005) was the first African-American to ever be initiated into the priesthood of the initiation cult of any African traditional religion. His initiation paved the way for other African-Americans to recover and begin to practice traditional African customs that had been lost as a result of the transplantation of Africans during the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.
Having grown up with a natural interest in African culture, the young Walter King seemed destined to find a way to express his African heritage fully. He left the Baptist faith that he had been born into and travelled the world, going to Haiti in 1954 to study Voodoo and, in 1955, to Europe and North Africa, often as a part of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. Finally, in 1959 just before the revolution, he travelled to the Matanzas region of Cuba to be initiated into the Yoruba Ifá priesthood of Obatala, returning to the United States as Efuntola Oseijeman Adefunmi. Efuntola means "the whiteness (of Obatala's whiteness rituals) is as good as wealth (or honor)." Adefunmi means "the crown has given me this (child)."
Upon his return to the U.S. he founded the Order of the Damballah Hwedo, then the Shango Temple, and later incorporated the African Theological Archministry. That organization would come to be called the Yoruba Temple. His spiritual message was accented by a Black Nationalist message, and although his words rang true in the hearts of many progressive African-Americans, his stance drew large criticism from within the ranks of the Cuban Santería priests because of his strident opposition to certain aspects of their religious system. A new lineage of Orisa worship that placed Nigeria at its core, but that was tailored for African-Americans, was formed: Orisa-Voodoo.
In 1970, the Oyotunji Village was created in Beaufort County, South Carolina. In 1972, HRH the Oba was initiated into the Ifá Priesthood in Nigeria, receiving the rank of Babalawo and later that year being proclaimed Oba of Oyotunji by its inhabitants. He reformed the priesthood along Nigerian lines, travelling to Nigeria in 1972 to be created a traditional chieftain. It is noteworthy that in 1981 his status as a king was recognized when HRH the Ooni of Ile-Ife, Nigeria, arranged for formal coronation rites to be performed for Oba Efuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi, thus ensuring that the Oba's goal of reclaiming his African identity was achieved and showing other African-Americans how to do so as well. Priestly initiation and kingship were some of the several firsts credited to Adefunmi and the Oyotunji Lineage. They were also the first Orisa worshippers in the West to reinstitute the Egungun Masquerade and Secret Society.
Over the years the number of residents at the Village has fluctuated, with it probably hovering around 5-9 families for the last ten years. Despite this small contingent of residents, the lineage itself is felt throughout the Western world and Africa via a growing number of devotees, chiefs and priests. Oyotunji forever changed the face of Orisa worship in the West.
His Royal Highness the Oba Adefunmi joined his ancestors on February the 11th, 2005. In Yoruba culture, the king is not announced as having died, but as having "gone up the ceiling" or Oba wo aja.
||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (July 2010)|
- Ancestors (Tribal origins) of the African-Americans, Yoruba Temple, (1962)
- Tribal origins of the African-Americans, Yoruba Temple, (1962)
- Olorisha: A guidebook into Yoruba religion, Orisha Academy (1982)
- The African state: An outline of the philosophy and organization of the ancient Yoruba kingdom of West Africa, pre-European period, Yoruba Temple, (1962)
- Lewis, James R. The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1998. ISBN 1-57392-222-6.
Additional Books and Articles
- Oyotunji village: The Yoruba movement in America, Carl M Hunt
- The Joseph E. Holloway Papers Cornell University Library
- African gods in South Carolina Essence Magazine
- An African kingdom in America American Visions Magazine
- Official Oyotunji Village Website
- Adefunmi Biography, Bibliography, Photos and Interviews, Roots and Rooted
- Ile Ifa Jalumi - Oyotunji Outpost
- When was Orisha worship, first practiced by African Americans in the United States?