Orisa Oya

Pioneer WomanPioneer Woman of Ifa Theology, who are they? Are there any? Does Ifa allow such prominence to Woman? These are questions which I will answer in this article.

I’ve always posted that Ifa is a spiritual philosophy and as such does not get in the way of any religious dogma you may practice. But you will be surprise that in Ifa the concept of Pioneer Woman is dictated from the highest of the highest.

As Babalawo, I feel a great responsibility to empower the woman that come visit me for consultation. It is important to me that they know how significant their role is in our society. Yet too often is the case when the person I’m counseling feels the opposite.

Our society is a victim of religious dogma.

Our society has been fooled into thinking that woman must be governed by man. This has poisoned and distorted the original plan which was for both man and woman to govern. Each of them was delegated an equally important role in the creation of society.

The spirit of the Pioneer Woman is presented in the Odu Osa Meji:

This is the teaching of Ifa for Odu, Obarisa and Ogun,
When they were coming from heaven to earth.
Odu asked: “O Olodumare, this earth where we are going,
What will happen when we arrive there?”
Olodumare said that they were going to make the world
So that the world will be good.
He also said that everything that they were going to do there,
He would give them ase power and authority to accomplish it,
So that it would be done well.

Odu said “O Olodumare this earth where we are going,
Ogun has the power to wage war.
And Obarisa has the ase to do anything he wishes to do.
What is my power?

Olodumare said: “you will be their mother forever.
And you will also sustain the wold.”
Olodumare, then, gave her the power.
And when he gave her the power, he gave her
the spirit power of the bird.

It was then that he gave women the power
and authority so that anything men wished to do,
They could not dare to do it successfully
without women.

Odu said that everything that people would want to do,
If they do not include women, It will not be possible.

Obarisa  said that people should always respect
women greatly.
For if they always respect women greatly,
the world will be in the right order.

Pay homage; give respect to women.
Indeed, it is woman who brought us into being
Before we became recognized as human beings.
The wisdom of the world belongs to women.
Give respect to women then
Indeed, it was woman who brought
us into being.
Before we became recognized as human beings.

This is a teaching on the cooperative creation of the world. It like Odu Ose’Tura, provides a critical segment of the creation narrative, explaining the order of things at the beginning and the establishment of the principle of male/female equality in the creation, structuring and functioning of the world and in all things of importance.

The Odu opens with Olodumare, sending three divine beings to complete the work of creation. Up to this point, as other texts tell us, the world is only a watery and marshy possibility. Olodumare thus sends the divine ones to make the world good and gives them the ase so that they could do their work well. The word used here is “dara” which means good, not only in the sense of beneficial and suitable to a purpose, but also pleasant and enjoyable.

Here we have the affirmation of the inherent goodness of the world, an inherent goodness GOD ordains at the beginning of creation

Secondly, we are instructed that the divine beings represent male and female principles in and of the world, each with an equal yet different power and authority, i.e., ase, to be used to complete creation cooperatively.

Special attention, however, is given to defining the role of the female principle (Pioneer Woman) or woman in the world. Two major roles are assigned to woman — mother of the world and sustainer of the world.

To be mother of the world clearly speaks to a joint effort with the father of the world to reproduce and insure continuity and to nurture, care for and teach. But to be sustainer of the world is a wider role and one rich in possibilities and performance.

We know from other texts that this role is above all related to the role of creator and guardian of culture, learning, refinement and flourishing of humanity and the world which includes a vast field of social responsibility which ranges from rulership to education.

This is reaffirmed by the fact that in Odu Ose’Tura it is Oshun, our first Pioneer Woman, the embodiment of culture, learning and human flourishing, who accompanies the male divine powers to make the world good.

The Odu then turns to a teaching on the special respect we should have for women as partners. Here Ifa emphasizes that woman are indispensable to the success of anything that men attempt to do and to the right order in and of the world.

Finally, the Odu stresses the special respect we should all hold for women as women. In a sense, it is reaffirmation of the need for respect for women as both mother and sustainer, not only in the larger world sense, but particularly in the personal and deeply human sense of bringing us in the physical and social, i.e., cultural being.

Again in the best of Ifa tradition and African tradition in general, all humans, men and women, have equal inherent worthiness or dignity. But here the text asks us to give added respect to women, for their role in bringing us into being before we become recognized as human beings. The text literally says “before we become human beings.” But the extended sense suggests the reading as “before we become recognized as human beings.” This period of not being recognized as human being seems to refer to the period in Yoruba and other African societies before the baby has been incorporated into society. It is the time when the baby has no name and is only a potential person. After seven or eight days, when the child appears to be a permanent member of the family, s/he is given a name and status and thus, is “recognized as a human being,” not a spirit or ábíkú, i.e., one reluctant to live in the material world. This is done through a ceremony called Esentaye.

The Pioneer Woman Gets Us Recognized As Human Beings

In this period of transition and endless possibility, it is our mothers who not only bring us into being physically, but begin the process of cultural nurturing which lays the basis for our social incorporation. In a word, she molds us in the image and interest of human society. And it is for her giving us this physical and cultural birth that the text tells us we should respect her in a special and meaningful way.

In addition, the text tells us we should respect women as the possessors of wisdom in the world. This, in the Ifa theological narrative, refers to the special power of knowledge and spirit power symbolized by the bird given to women by Olodumare at the beginning of the creation.

In this Odu, Ifa reaffirms the need to respect women as rational and knowledgeable human beings as well as actual or potential mothers and sustainers of the world. Thus, the moral obligation here is to respect women in their wholeness and as indispensable in bringing into being, physically and culturally, the human person.

In summary Ifa teaches us that we must not ignore the equality and indispensability of the pioneer woman in the structure and functioning of the world and the ongoing requirement of male and female cooperation in any project of importance.

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