Study the Teaching of Ifa and the Orisha's
Skullcap, Sage, Kola Nut, Basil, Hyssop, Blue Vervain, White Willow, Valerian
Yellow Dock, Burdock, Cinnamon, Damiana, Anis, Raspberry, Yarrow, Chamomile, Lotus, Uva-Ursi, Buchu, Myrrh, Echinacea
Kelp, Squawvine, Cohosh, Dandelion, Yarrow, Aloe, Spirulina, Mints, Passion Flower, Wild Yam Root
Eucalyptus, Alfalfa, Hawthorn, Bloodroot, Parsley, Motherwort, Garlic
Mullein, Comfrey, Cherrybark, Pleurisy Root, Elecampane, Horehound, Chickweed
Plantain, Saw Palmetto, Hibiscus, Fo-ti, Sarsaparilla, Nettles, Cayenne
Now Eshu became very indignant at this. He found it unacceptable that anyone should know all of his actions, all of the time – even the king! So, Eshu declared loudly that he would be able to act freely, without any fear of the goat reporting his actions. Eshu had a plan.
Eshu found the spirit Ifa, and made a sacrafice of a hat and four different colored pieces of cloth. Ifa proceeded to remodel the hat and make it into a head covering with four faces; each one a different color. Ifa then equipped Eshu with this head covering and sent him on his way.
Now, wearing the head covering, Eshu found the kings number one wife traveling on the road between the temple and the palace and assaulted her with rude and ribald comments; even throwing horse dung onto her dress. Many people had seen this exchange and were shocked that anyone would be so bold and foolish to assault the kings number one wife, and in public!
The goat saw the exchange and immediately reported it to the king, but could only say that the assailant was wearing a red head covering. The king then called together all of the people who had seen the deed and asked them to report on who had done this – but they each described a different colored head covering. Some said it was blue, others yellow, others white, and still others agreed with the goat that it had been red. No consensus could be reached.
The crowd began to argue heatedly with one another. Those that saw one color called the others liars and traitors. Some claimed the others were mad or had been in on the deed and were now trying to cover it up. The arguing became fighting and chaos erupted in the courtyard of the king.
The king then sent his minister to the people to calm them down, and to find out who was behind all of this trouble. While the minister was in the midst of the crowd, Eshu (again disguised in his four colored head covering) took the opportunity to strike down the minister in front of everyone – then slip out before he could be seized.
Again, the goat saw the deed and reported to the king that the minister had been slain, but this time by someone wearing a blue head covering. When the king ordered that the man wearing a blue head covering be brought forward – again the crowds began arguing and fighting bitterly with one another.
“The murderer was not wearing blue! It was red!” cried one observer.
“No you imbecile, it was neither blue nor read; it was yellow!” cried another. And so it went round and round with each believing his own eyes and disbelieving the report of his neighbor.
Finally, Eshu arrived without his disguise on, and called for the king to settle the matter. Surely with such a remarkable goat the solution would be trivial. But, the king could not and was humbled before his people. So he offered the goat up as a sacrifice to Eshu and hid his face away his angry people and regretted his previous boasting.
On the first day, Orunmila met Eshu, the orisha of chance, whom he greeted as a friend. On the second day, and again on the third, Orunmila met Eshu, coming from the opposite direction. “I am coming from Owo,” Eshu said simply. Orunmila thought it very odd to have met Eshu three times. But Eshu was rather odd in any case, and Orunmila was in a hurry to reach Owo, so he ignored the matter.
On the fourth day, Eshu took some fresh kola fruits and left them in the middle of the trail just outside of the city, where Orunmila would be certain to find them. Once more, Orunmila and Eshu passed one another. This close to his journey’s end, Orunmila did not feel the need to consult his divining nuts.
Orunmila found the kola fruits, and picked them up and began to eat. As he did so, a farmer came out onto the path. “Those kola fruits are from my tree.”
“That is not possible,” Orunmila said. “I found these fruits here, in the middle of the trail, and there are no trees nearby.”
But the angry farmer did not believe Orunmila, and tried to take back his fruit. In their struggle, the farmer cut Orunmila’s palm with his bush knife. Orunmila turned away from Owo, and slept by the side of the road that night. He despaired that he would always be known in Owo as a thief, though he had never in his life taken another man’s property.
During the night, Eshu entered the house of all the people of Owo–including the Oba and the farmer–and cut everyone’s palms. The next day, Orunmila decided that he would complete his journey. Once again, he met Eshu.
“Eshu, I always considered you a friend, but I think you have made my trip to Owo difficult.”
“Quite the contrary,” Eshu replied. “Enter the city without fear. If there is any trouble, I will speak for you.”
The kola farmer saw Orunmila when he entered Owo with Eshu, and he went to complain to the Oba, who ordered the stranger brought before him. Again, the farmer accused Orunmila of the theft.
Eshu then spoke for Orunmila, as he had promised. “This stranger has come to Owo only today: how can he already have enemies? What evidence do you have that this man stole your fruit?”
“We struggled outside the city,” the farmer said, “and I cut the palm of his hand. If he opens his hand, we will see the evidence of his crime.”
“And why should he be the only one examined?” Eshu demanded. “I am sure that many of the people in Owo had the opportunity to steal your kola fruit. Let them be examined as well.”
The Oba consented, and had all the people of Owo come forth and display the palms of their hands. And across each one, there was a fresh red cut.
“If a cut is a sign of guilt, then all of Owo is guilty,” Eshu said, and the Oba agreed, and proclaimed Orunmila’s innocence. The people of Owo brought the mistreated stranger gifts of goats and wine and kola fruits.
And so it was that, both despite and because of Eshu’s actions, Orunmila was welcomed in Owo.
Emi o mo bi olori n yan ri o
M ba lo yan temi
N go mo bi Afuwape yan ri o
M ba lo yan temi
I do not know where people with good destiny picked theirs
I would have picked mine there too
I do not know where Afuwape picked his good destiny
I would have gone there
To which Afuwape replied:
Eyin o mo bi olori n yan ri o
E ba lo yan teyin
Ibikan na la gbe yan ri o
Kadara o papo ni.
You do not know where good destiny is picked
You would have gone there for yours
We picked our destinies from the same source
Only their contents are not identical.
Ifa first appeared on the earth at Ife, He tried to teach the inhabitants of Ife how to foretell future events, but they would not listen to him, so he left the town and wandered about the world teaching mankind. After roaming about for a long time, and indulging in a variety of amours, Ifa fixed his residence at Ado, where he planted on a rock a palm-nut, from which sixteen palm-trees grew up at once.
Ifa has an attendant or companion named Odu (? One who emulates), and a messenger called Opele (ope, puzzle, or ope, palm-tree). The bandicoot (okete) is sacred to him, because it lives chiefly upon palm-nuts. The first day of the Yoruba week is Ifa’s holy day, and is called ajo awo, “day of the secret.” On this day sacrifices of pigeons, fowls, and goats are made to him, and nobody can perform any business before accomplishing this duty.
A priest of Ifa is termed a babalawo (baba-ni-awo), “Father who has the secret,” as the natives never undertake anything of importance without consulting the god, and always act in accordance with the answer returned. Hence a proverb says, “The priest who is more shrewd than another adopts the worship of Ifa.” As Ifa knows all futurity, and reveals coming events to his faithful followers, he is considered the god of wisdom, and the benefactor of mankind. He also instructs man how to secure the goodwill of the other gods, and conveys to him their wishes, His priests pluck all the hair from their bodies and shave their heads, and always appear attired in white cloths.
The general belief is that Ifa possessed the faculty of divination from the beginning, but there is a myth which makes him acquire the art from the phallic god Elegba. In the early days of the world, says the myth, there were but few people on the earth, and the gods found themselves stinted in the matter of sacrifices to such an extent that, not obtaining enough to eat from the offerings made by their followers, they were obliged to have recourse to various pursuits in order to obtain food. Ifa, who was in the same straits as the other gods, took to fishing, with, however, he had small success; and one day, when he had failed to catch any fish at all, and was very hungry, he consulted the crafty Elegba, who was also in want, as to what they could do to improve their condition. Elegba replied that if he could only obtain the sixteen palm-nuts from the two palms -that Orungan the chief man, had in his plantation, he would show Ifa how to forecast the future; and that he could then use his knowledge in the service of mankind, and so receive an abundance of offerings. He stipulated that in return for instructing Ifa in the art of divination, he should always be allowed the first choice of all offerings made. Ifa agreed to the bargain, and going to Orungan, asked for the sixteen palm-nuts, explaining
to him what he proposed to do with them. Orungan, very eager to know what the future had in store for him, at once promised the nuts, and ran with his wife Orisha-bi, “Orisha-born,” to get them. The trees, however, were too lofty for them to be able to reach the palm-nuts, and the stems too smooth to be climbed; so they retired to a little distance and drove some monkeys that were in the vicinity into the palms. No sooner were the monkeys in the trees than they seized the nuts, and, after eating the red pulp that covered them, threw the bard kernels down on the ground, where Orungan and his wife picked them up. Having collected the whole sixteen, Orisha-bi tied them up in a piece of cloth, and put the bundle under her waist-cloth, on her back, as if she were carryino, a child. Then they carried the palm-nuts to Ifa. Elegba kept his promise and taught Ifa the art of divination, and Ifa in his turn taught Oruno-an, who thus became the first babalawo, It is in memory of these events that when a man wishes to consult Ifa, he takes his wife with him, if he be married, and his mother if he be single, who carries the sixteen palm-nuts, tied up in a bundle, on her back, like a child; and that the babalawo, before consulting the god, always says, “Orugan, ajuba oh. Orisha-bi ajuba oh.” (“Orungan, I hold you in grateful remembrance. Orisha-bi, I hold you in grateful remembrance.”
For the consultation of Ifa a whitened board is employed, exactly similar to those used by children in Moslem schools in lieu of slates, about two feet long and eight or nine inches broad, on which are marked sixteen figures. These figures are called “mothers.” The sixteen palm-nuts are held loosely in the right hand, and thrown through the half-closed fingers into the left hand. If one nut remain in the right hand, two marks are made, thus | |; and if two remain. one mark, |. In this way are formed the sixteen “mothers,” one of which is declared by the babalawo to represent the inquirer; and from the order in which the others are produced he deduces certain results. The interpretation appears to be in accordance with established rule, but what that rule is is only known to the initiated. The following are the “mothers”:
This process is repeated eight times, and the marks are made in succession in two columns of four each.
No. 6 is No. 5 inverted; 8 is 7 inverted; 10, 9 inverted; 13, 12 inverted; and 14, 11 inverted. Meji means “two,” or “a pair,” and the following appears to be the meaning of the names:–(1) The close pair (buru, closely). (2) The removed pair (Yekuro, to remove). (3) The street pair (Ode, a street). (4) The closed-up pair (Di, to close up, make dense). (5) The squatting-dog pair (losho, to squat like a dog). (6) The cross-bow pair (oron, cross-bow). (7) The striped pair (abila, striped). (8) ?Vulture-pair (akala, vulture). (9) The pointing pair (sha, to point). (10) The pair ending downward (Ku, to end, da, to upset on the ground). (11) ?The top-heavy pair (Dura, to make an effort to recover from a stumble; opin, end, point). (12) The tattoo-mark pair (ture, name of certain tattoo-marks). (13) The edge pair (leti, on the edge of). (14) The folded-up pair (Ka, to fold or coil). (15) The opened pair (shi, to open). (16) The alternate pair (fo, to pass over, pass by, jump over, skip).
From these sixteen “mothers” a great many combinations can be made by taking a column from two different “mothers,” and figures thus formed are called “children.” Thus (13) and (2) and (11) and (10) make respectively-
The initiation fee paid to a priest for teaching the art of divination is, it is said, is very heavy, and moreover does not cover the whole of the expense; for the Oracle is, like Oracles generally, ambiguous and obscure, and the neophyte finds that he constantly has to refer to the more experienced priests for explanations of its meaning.
When a man is initiated the priest usually informs him that he must
henceforward abstain from some particular article of food, which varies with the individual.
Ifa figures in connection with a legendary deluge, the story of which, now adapted to the Yoruba theology, Some time after settling at Ado, Ifa became tired of living in the world, and accordingly went to dwell in the firmament, with Obatala. After his departure, mankind, deprived of his assistance, was unable to properly interpret the desires of the gods, most of whom became in consequence annoyed. Olokun was the most angry, and in a fit of rage he destroyed nearly all the inhabitants of the world in a great flood, only a few being saved by Obatala, who drew them up into the sky by means of a long iron chain. After this ebullition of anger, Olokun retired once more to his own domains, but the world was nothing but mud, and quite unfit to live in, till Ifa came down from the sky, and, in conjunction with Odudua, once more made it habitable.
There was an Awo called Biague who had a son named Adiatoto, Biague had taught this son his only
secret. A method to cast Obi (coconut)
In the house of Biague, there lived several other children, They obeyed Biague, he feed and clothed
them. But only Adiatoto the smallest was his son. All lived as brothers. One day Biague died, and the
adoptive children conspired against Adiatoto, and robbed him of all his belongings. Adiatoto
experienced much difficulty.
After a time, the king of the town, Oba-Rey, wanted to find out who owned the lands that had belonged to Biague.
He ordered his men to find this out. Many came forward and made a claim on the lands, including the
adoptive brothers but no one could pass the test, and prove ownership.
Adiatoto heard the news that the king’s men had been asking about him.
When they appeared before him, they asked him to show the secret that proved the lands had been
passed on to him. he said: “The lands belong to me, I will go to the plaza in front of the wall and from
there I will throw coconuts in the method my Father showed me.The coconuts will fall facing up
which is the proof that is needed. Thus is was, and the King gave Adiatoto all the lands and
belongings that had been taken from him
The coconuts (obi), have a limited role in divination
This role is limited to questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no
It should not be used to ask other more complex subjects.
The message given by consulting the Obi depends on which pieces fall facing up, and which face down.
Alafia, the four pieces with the white mass upwards. Definitely an affirmative
Eyeife, two pieces with white mass upwards and two with the crust, this is the most firm response
Otagua, Three pieces with white mass upwards and one with the crust. Some consider this to be an affirmative response. Some others view it as questionable, requiring another throw to rectify.
Ocana, Three pieces with crust upwards and one with the white mass,
Ocanasorde, Four crusts, a definite negative, and requires more question to isolate and problems that need immediate attention.