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…
Author: Ifalola Sanchez
What Kind Of Good Fortune Will An Ifá Initiation Bring To My Life?
I’m very grateful for Ifalola’s contribution to this blog. Albeit as insightful as this article has been, I still get ask “What does an Ifá initiation endow you with? However after further query I discover that what they are really asking is what kind of good fortune will the initiation bring to their life.
One does not go to Ifa with hands extended; folded like a bowl, in supplication of good fortune. To the contrary, one goes to Ifa offering one-self as an offering. It is in this spirit of giving that we receive. However, the biggest misunderstanding is in what Ifa is all about. To this, I want to share a few thoughts.
I will start with the fact that you cannot solve a persons problem which you have not learned how to solve in your own life….
Thus the only focus or objective you should have in your pursuit of “good fortune” is self development. And you will have plenty of opportunities to do just that upon completion of your Ifa Initiation.
It has been my experience, that during the first year after your Ifa Initiation, you are going to be challenged with many opportunities for personal development. To some, this year will be full of wonderful insights, yet to others the experiences will be like challenges whose intent is to bury you under a pile of misfortune, and confrontation.
You see, you are to face yourself during this first year, and learn to overcome your short comings. In doing this successfully are you able to receive the most “good fortune” available to you.
Do not accused your Oluwo of bringing misfortune to your life. The misfortune is nothing else but the repercussions of your choices which have all been accelerated to manifest now, and not ripple over a span of years.
These repercussions will manifest in many different ways….
At times you will come across people who will be instant enemies. I submit to you that they are nothing else but messengers which personify an aspect of your persona which you need to deal with – overcome if you will. Other times you will find yourself disliking your immediate surrounding or even your social life. Please pay attention to these changes, and do not face them alone. Talk to your teacher, he/she will be able to assist you with these challenges.
Having said this much, I must share a solution to these potential challenges….
You must precede your Ifa Initiation year with a year of Ancestral work. We truly stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And some of those Ancestors are in a position to help you deal with your personal issues. Think about it; you have several Ancestors who love you and are in a position where they can help you solve your personal problems. For the most part, these are the type of problems which are the main distractors blocking your spiritual progress.
Communication with your ancestors is your birth right. There is no initiation ritual required in order to speak with them. All you have to learn is the Obi Oracle, and all your questions will be answered along with guidance you can follow.
Another area of work you must submit to is the study of the Orisas which are represented by the Elekes you should received prior to your Ifa Initiation.
These Orisas will provide you with focus energy which will help you understand yourself, and your challenges. They will speak directly to your consciousness and inspired you with transcendental knowledge you will be able to use to help you grow.
Therefore; spend time with each Orisa. Get to understand their energy and message. Learn how to invoke their life changing energy, and start making positive changes within yourself.
These are all the prerequisites to a successful experience during your Ifa Initiation. All the good fortune that is to manifest in your life depends on how solid a foundation you have built prior to the initiation.
TIME FOR A DO-OVER
Call To Discuss Your Initiation
Ifá 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…