At Ile Ifa we have adopted a way of bringing people who wish to practice Ifa back into the tradition. Members of the Egbe (Extended Family) wishing to grow within Ifa must go through several rites of passage. These passages are as follows:
- Setting up your Iku Joko/Egun shrine and learning basic divination using cowrie shells and/or obi abata.
- The receiving of your Ilekes/Necklaces. One receives Obatala, Osun, Sango, and Yemoja. The purpose of the Ilekes is to bring knowledge and understanding of what the Orisa Obatala, Osun, Sango, and Yemoja represent and how their examples of character can protect you and guide you during your life.
- The receiving of Esu, Ogun, Osoosi, and Osu/The warriors. Along with the warriors one receives the Ileke of Esu and Ogun. The purpose of the warriors is to once again bring you knowledge and understanding of what these Orisa represent and how they can protect you through implementing their positive attributes into your life. The Osun that is given is representative of your Ori.
Note: The Osun you receive with your warriors is not the same Osun that is received when becoming an Awo.
- The receiving of the Owofakan/One hand of Ifa (Isefa) an Ide, and an Ileke for Orunmila. The purpose of receiving the Owofakan is to be able to communicate with Orunmila every 5 days. This communication with Orunmila every 5 days is called Ifa Day or Ose Ifa.
- Initiation into Ifa (Itefa or Itelodu), Initiation into Orisa, Initiation into Egungun, etc… These steps are taken according to the person’s destiny and lineage. It is ones’ destiny and lineage which dictates what is necessary for the person to do in their life. Initiation into Orisa, Egungun, etc… may or may not be necessary. This information can only be revealed through a competent Awo who of course works with Orunmila who is the only Irunmole who knows the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things and of course the only Irunmole which knows everyone’s destiny.
*Important Note: The above-mentioned rites of passage are not the way things are done traditionally (In Nigeria) but in order for people who were not born into and raised in the tradition, it was felt the above rites would assist in the development of understanding Ifa and the lifestyle that goes with it.
Traditionally, one first goes through Ikosedaye or Esentaye which allows the mother and father to take a peek at the child’s destiny. This is done either 3 or 6 days after birth. It is best to do Ikosedaye or Esentaye early because “The Naming Ceremony” which is the second step, is usually done on either the 7th day after birth for girls or the 9th day after birth for boys. It is best to take a peek into the child’s destiny before the naming ceremony because it will give the parents a guide of what to do or not do before the ceremony and what possible names the child should be given.
Note: Some regions in Nigeria perform a ceremony called Kosetaye which is done while the woman is pregnant while other regions perform regular dafa throughout pregnancy until birth.
There is also a process known as Imori. This is where one finds out if the baby’s spirit comes from the mother or father’s side of the family and also determines the Orisa lineage of the child depending on the parent’s lineage from which the baby is from. As earlier mentioned there is no such thing in existence in Nigeria as an Orisa being the owner of one’s head. What it means is that the child comes from that lineage, is a child of that Orisa, but not that the Orisa is the owner of its head. It’s really about maintaining the worship of that Orisa within the family lineage and recognizing how that Orisa influences the person because its attributes are important to achieving destiny. During Imori, the Awo can also find out how the person died previously, was it a natural death, if they were a man, women, or other creature in their past life, how their character was before, if this is the person’s first time here in the world, etc..
After the above process comes Isefa, which is when the child receives their Owofakan and becomes an Ifa worshiper, as well as a worshiper of the deities, worshiped in their family lineage.
Note: Imori is a ceremony that has almost completely died out in Yorubaland, and the places who don’t perform it, usually find out Orisa lineage, where the babies spirit comes from, etc.. during Ikosedaye, Esentaye, or Isefa.
Sometime after Isefa, Initiation into Ifa is then performed which reveals the child’s complete destiny. The best age to initiate someone into Ifa is between the ages of 7 to 11.
Side Note: The only time a child would be initiated earlier is if Ifa predicts death or serious sickness for the child if they are not initiated early.
Once a person is initiated into Ifa, they have the choice to become a Babalawo or Iyanifa. (A practicing Priest). These are titles that must be earned and Ifa initiation itself does not make one a Babalawo or Iyanifa.
There are some instances however where Ifa will tell the person they must become a practicing priest or their life will not go well. A person who undergoes Itefa or Itelodu and who does not study practice, take on an apprenticeship with a knowledgeable Awo, and work with the community is not considered a Babalawo or Iyanifa. They are considered Ifa Worshipers only. One must do the work to earn the titles of Babalawo and Iyanifa. (Which is quite different as known in the Diaspora, where some believe that Ifa Initiation alone automatically makes you a Babalawo or Iyanifa). In Nigeria many people get initiated into Ifa to simply receive their full destinies and after initiation continues to work as Orisa priests, Egungun priests, etc… These folks are not considered Ifa priests, and Ifa initiation does not stop them in any way from continuing their practice as Orisa priests, Egungun priests, etc…