In traditional Yoruba culture, Ifá refers to a system of divination and the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odú Ifá presented in the course of divination. Orunmila is the Orisa of Ifa divination. In some instances, the name Orunmila is used interchangeably with the word Ifa. However, Orunmila is the person who brought the system of Ifa divination to the world.
In Yoruba cosmology, Orunmila is known as Eleri Ipin, the Witness of Creation. Orunmila was the one who had witnessed our own destiny on earth and recorded it, just as He also recorded the destinies of all the other life forms on earth. In such that Orunmila having known all of life to the extent that he will even know us better then we know ourselves, because He will know where we come and where we ought to go in life to fulfill our rightful purpose here (destiny).
What most people don’t understand when they embark on the path of Ifa is what Ifa’s true purpose is. All too often, as with most religions, people turn to Ifa in their time of need seeking comfort and solace, or a solution to those problems which plague them. If a solution is found, the adherent is drawn deeper into the system of belief. However just as often, if they are unable to find what they seek, they wander and drift looking for some path to provide them with a solution. Those who remain often do so from a sense of relief that they have found something to provide them with the answers they seek. Certainly Ifa can provide this. But more often than not, the deeper meaning of Ifa is hidden, ignored or simply misunderstood.
I believe the true path of Ifa is one filled with reflection, self-analysis and contemplation of the difficult questions left when one tries to understand how we can live harmoniously as one community. Ifa can help you to see the world and yourself for what they truly are. It’s through this understanding that we are able to decipher the road map given to us by Olodumare and the true nature of our Ori/Head chosen at the house of Ajala. Ifa is a storehouse of knowledge that acts as a key, opening an understanding of the true nature of any given situation.
So why is it that we know that enlightenment through Ifa requires self-reflection? This excerpt from the Odu Iwori Meji tells us:
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
If you undergo Ifa initiation (Itelodu)
Endeavor to use your wisdom and intelligence
Awo, when you have been given Ifa initiation
Initiate yourself again by using your wisdom and intelligence
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Two critical sections of the Iwori meji text point to this interpretation. By reminding us over and over throughout the Ese to “look at what affects [us]”, we are reminded that it is our responsibility to constantly reassess the world around us to see how it is affecting us. Further, there is a reminder to those members of the priesthood who have been given special access to the wisdom of Ifa. It is our responsibility to use our wisdom and intelligence, i.e. don’t assume Ifa will provide the key simply through initiation.
Lastly, Iwori meji reminds of one of the most important yet one of the least stressed concepts for the Awo Ifa, “Initiate yourself again by using your wisdom and intelligence”, it is here where Ifa tells the Awo that initiation alone does not make you a true Awo. It’s only through reflection and contemplation of Ifa that one can achieve an understanding of the initiation one went through, and through analysis and study, self initiation (awareness of the truths of Ifa) can occur.
The Odu Okanran Oturupon reminds us of our need to study in saying:
It is through constantly studying Ifa that we come to understand Ifa
It is through missing the way that we come to know the way
It is the road we have not traveled before that causes us to wander here and there
Ifa ki ko nii mu ni mo Ifa
Ona sisi nii mu ni mo ona
Ona ti a ko rin ri
Nii se ni sibasibo
Further, this excerpt from the Odu Ogbe Ate supports this idea :
Orunmila was the person who initiated Akoda
He also initiated Asheda
He equally initiated Araba
Only Orunmila Abonniregun
Was the person we do not know who initiated
Now, after I have been initiated
I will complement it with self-initiation
All those things that are my taboos
I will surely avoid them
I had been initiated
I will re-initiate myself, by myself…
Besides the clear support given to our earlier analysis, Ogbe ate takes things one step further by stating, “I will re-initiate myself, by myself…”. It’s in this statement that Ifa reminds us of one of the most important truths of them all, understanding of truth, is a solitary act. While others can help guide us along the way, in the end we face truth on our own. The solitary act of insight into the true nature of life is why we must travel the final road to realization alone.
It’s this epiphany that leads me to my next important, but potentially controversial statement.
Ifa is the path for everyone and no one.
The seemingly zen contradiction in this statement is an understanding that Ifa can provide universal truths to all those who seek it, while simultaneously acknowledging the solitary and unique nature of the epiphanies of truth. Truth reveals itself to each person in the way that person will understand it, and Ifa is but one path to Truth.
In order for any follower of Ifa, Awo and adherent alike, to benefit from the wisdom of Ifa, they must each have smaller revelations of truth. During each session of Ifa divination (D’afa), Ifa reveals an Odu which is drawn on the Opon Ifa. This process is meant to provide a mirror through which the devotee can recognize themselves and the truth of their situation in a given moment in time. As noted in earlier writings, D’afa (with the exception of major initiations such as Itelodu) is meant to provide a momentary glimpse into the true nature of a person’s life situation. This includes their actions, the actions of others, and the nature of people.
Oworin Obara is a perfect example or our need to use Ifa as a mirror:
She sees me. I don’t see her.
This was the teaching of Ifa for Owa
They said that which we are looking for is near us
But we do not recognize it
Orunmila, Witness to Destiny, said:
The very thing we are looking for is near us
But our lack of knowledge prevents our seeing it
O ri mi. N ko rii
A difa fun Owa
Won ni: ohun ti a nwa nbe nitosi eni
Afi aimo eni
Orunmila, Eleri ipin, o ni:
Ohun ti a nwa nbe nitosi eni
Afi aimo eni ni kii je ka rii
Ifa is knowledge that provides us with the key to unlocking the door to that which we seek. If only we use it, we can recognize what we are looking for, and fulfill our destinies. Ifa will enlighten us, if we take the time to reflect on, and apply the wisdom which it gives to us…
Original article posted by Ifalola Sanchez
Tags: Ifa initiation, Itelodu, D’afa, Opon Ifa, Odú Ifá