Awonifa

Study the Teaching of Ifa and the Orisha's

Olarosa (?Alarense, helper) is the tutelary deity of Houses. He is represented as armed with a stick or sword, and his image is found in almost every household guarding the entrance. His office is to drive away sorcerers and evil spirits, and to keep elegua from entering the house.

Yoruba Fokelore

Tortoise and the Fly

Once Tortoise and his family fell on hard times and had nothing to eat, but they noticed that their neighbour, Mr. Fly, seemed to be very prosperous and feasted every night.

Tortoise was curious to know how he obtained so much money, and after watching him for some days he discovered that Mr. Fly flew away every morning early with a large empty sack on his back, and returned in the evening with the sack full, and after that his wife would prepare a feast.

One morning Tortoise hid in the sack and waited to see what would happen. Soon Mr. Fly came out of his house, lifted up the sack, and flew away.

He descended at last in the market-place of a large town, where drummers were beating the tones of the dance, and maidens were dancing before a crowd of people.

Mr. Fly laid his sack on the ground, and Tortoise saw him standing beside one of the drummers. When the people threw money, Mr. Fly picked the coins up and hid them in his sack, and by evening he had collected a great quantity. Then he took up the sack again and flew home. Tortoise quickly got out and took most of the money with him, so that poor Mr. Fly was surprised to find the sack almost empty.

This happened several times, until one day as he put money in the sack Mr. Fly caught sight of Tortoise hiding inside it. He was very angry at the trick, and going to the drummer asked him if he had missed any money.

said the drummer. For some days I have been losing coins.

Look inside this sack, replied Mr. Fly, and you will see the thief sitting among the money he has stolen.

The drummer peeped inside the sack and saw Tortoise.

How shall the thief be punished? he cried angrily.

Just tie up the sack, said Mr. Fly, and then beat upon it as if it were a drum.

So the drummer tied up the sack and beat upon it until Tortoise was black and blue, and this is why his back is covered with bruises.

Then Mr. Fly picked up the sack, and flew high up in the air and dropped it. By chance the sack fell down just outside Tortoises house, and neighbours came to tell Nyanribo, his wife, that someone had left a present outside the door. But when she opened the sack in the presence of a crowd of people, she found only Tortoise inside, more dead than alive. Then Mr. Fly made a song and narrated the whole story, and the drummers also played it, and Tortoise and Nyanribo were so ashamed that they left the place and went to live in another country.

Tortoise and the Rain

TORTOISE and a Cloud once made the following agreement: Whenever Tortoise very much desired fine weather, he was to stand outside his house and call: Pass! Pass! and then the Cloud would roll away and allow the sun to shine. And when Tortoise desired rain, he was to cry: Fall! Fall! and the rain would pour down. In payment for this service, Tortoise was to place on the ground each time a certain number of cowries.

Tortoise was delighted with this arrangement, and at first he duly placed the sum of money on the ground every time he asked the Cloud for fine or wet weather.

One day, the occasion of a Chief’s wedding, the sky was very cloudy, and it seemed likely to rain. Tortoise heard the Chief complaining: “We have promised the drummers a great deal of money, but if it rains nobody will come to see the maidens dance at my wedding!

Tortoise went to the Chief and said: If you will give me a certain sum, I will hold up the clouds on my hard back and there will be no rain.

The Chief readily agreed to pay the cowries Tortoise demanded, and Tortoise stood at the back of his hut and cried to the Cloud: Pass! Pass! The Cloud rolled back, the sun shone brightly, and the wedding took place with much rejoicing.

But Tortoise did not lay any money on the ground, and instead, he kept the whole amount for himself.

The next day a man came to Tortoises house and offered him much money if he would cause the rain to fall. For, he said, my fishing-stakes are too high, but if it rains the river will swell and the fish will come into my baskets.

Very well, replied Tortoise. I will throw a spear into the clouds, and the rain will fall.

Then he stood at the back of his house, where he could not be seen, and cried to the Cloud: Fall! Fall! It began to pour with rain.

But again he neglected to lay money on the ground and kept it all for himself. Soon, in this way, he grew rich and famous, and almost every day someone asked for fine or rainy weather. He stored many bags of cowries in his house and gave nothing to the Cloud.

When two people asked him for rain and sunshine on the same day, Tortoise pretended that he had grown tired with holding up the clouds on his back, and so the rain fell.

But after some time, seeing how rich Tortoise became, the hard-working Cloud was angry and decided to punish him.

One day Tortoise wished to set out on a journey with his family, so he stood outside his house and cried: Pass! Pass! Let the sun shine on my journey!

But as soon as he had set out, the Cloud rolled back again and rain poured down in torrents, causing a great flood in which Tortoise and all his famiIy were drowned.

The Warriors

The Guerreros (warriors) are a set of orishas that an initiate receives usually after having received their Elekes and it is usually an indication that the person is on their way to Kariocha. The warriors consist of Elegba, Ogún, Ochosi and Osun. The warriors are received in a person’s life in order to protect them, strengthen their spiritual framework, teach them the importance of hard work and to open their spiritual road.

This is strictly a Lukumí initiation in that it evolved out of the environment that the Lukumí people were subjected to when they were brought to the new world as slaves. Originally, in the motherland, these orishas were worshipped and propitiated in communal outdoor shrines that belonged to the entire village or tribe. The exception would have been Elegba, which was received as an Eshu (a stone) by individuals when they were crowned, along with their crowning orisha. Elegba’s shrine was a large stone or collection of stones, Ogún’s shrine contained his iron implements, Ochosi’s included animal horns and the like, and Osun was a special staff that was much taller than today’s version and it was kept outside the home, staked into the ground – yet its function is still preserved in the modern version. All of the modern warriors are usually kept behind the front door, near the front door or facing the front door – indicating their importance in opening a person’s spiritual path, protecting the home from negativity and intruders, and still hinting at their closeness to the outdoors.

The modern Lukumí version evolved because the tribes of Lukumí people were split up and intermixed with other tribes and there was no possible was of having an outdoor public shrine at which offerings could be given without making it known to the slave masters. Thus each individual was to receive their own Elegba – which consisted of an otán (stone) and usually a cement head packed with magically charged substances that is essentially used like Elegba’s tools with which he can affect the physical and spiritual worlds. Here is a typical depiction of an Elegba to the right. But Elegbas vary from road to road, and each is unique and personal to the initiate in its own way. Usually Elegba that is received with the warriors is not a complete Elegba in that he does not have diloggún shells – usually these are added and empowered at the Kariocha. (But I have heard of ilés where they give diloggún with the warriors version of Elegba, but the diloggún are not yet fully empowered to speak.)

Ogún that is received in the warriors set is actually a smaller, less complete version of Ogún. This does not mean that Ogún is less effective, merely that he still has room to grow. He is received in an iron cauldron, with his otán, his tools that quite literally look like the tools that a blacksmith or a warrior would use and other iron implements. He does not usually come with diloggún either – these are usually received either in a separate ceremony, or at the time of Cuchillo. Inside of Ogún’s cauldron living with him, is Ochosi (his best friend or brother depending on which version of the legend you have heard.) Ochosi is also received in a very scaled down form, with the warriors. He is merely a metal crossbow that is empowered and lives within Ogún’s pot. Ochosi is received in complete form, in a separate ceremony. Often when Ogún is made full – by giving him diloggún and feeding him four legs, Ochosi is given full at the same time. Often this occurs at Cuchillo if it has not yet been done for an individual to that point.

Osun is a small staff that is packed with magical substances that acts as a person’s personal guard or watchdog. Many people say that he is your spiritual head, or the foundation for your higher self or Orí. He is lidded and sealed metal cup with a stem and is about 9 inches tall. on top of the lid is a metal rooster – the symbol for Osun. Hanging from the lip of the cup’s lid, are four jingle bells hanging from little chains. Osun is supposed to be placed in a high place in the house – preferably above the initiate’s head with the rooster facing the front door, so that he can watch for danger. He is supposed to remain upright at all times, and if he ever falls over, it is an indication that something very bad has either been thrown at the initiate or is on it’s way to harm the initiate. Osun should be immediately turned upright and the primary godparent should be notified of what happened. This is the scaled down modern version of the original that was found in Africa. There are human-sized Osuns but they are received for different purposes and in a separate initiation.

The warriors, when received into a home for the first time, or when the initiate moves into a new home, have to go through a special ebbó called the ebbó de entrada (the offering of entry.) This involves eyebale to Elegba, Ogún, Ochosi and Osun at the door to the house (Shilelekun.) This not only empowers and strengthens the door to the house for protection, but it also strengthens the presence of the warriors in that home and in effect lets them know that it is their new home and they are bound to protect it from any enemies or negativity. The initiate is then to tend to his new orishas in his home by cleaning them from time to time, coating them lightly with epó (palm oil), and a bit of honey, offering them rum, and occasionally cigar or a candle. Some ilés offer candies to Elegba, or fruits and toys. In my ilé we do not give candy to Elegba until he has completed something for us, as a reward.

Now that the initiate has received Elegba, the orisha can guide them spiritually, open their psychic senses and their doors to evolution and in general assist them through life. Many ilés call the initiate an Aborisha (follower of the Orishas) after having received the warriors.

Ifa Related

The Story of Biague

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.

Opinions to Our Asociated Practitioners

Directive issued by Cuban Ifa/Ocha Cuncil's

Opinions to our associated practitioners of the rule of Ocha and the Cuban IFA cult.
1. Do not allow anyone to change what was achieved with so much sacrifice in any ceremony performed, Whether in Cuba or our brothers anywhere in the world.
2. Make sure the people who you share knowledge of the secrets of Ifa have actually been initiated under the Cuban religions traditions which are of African origin, or if they have been initiated in some other method which is not what was bequeathed to us by our ancestors.

3. Do not perform or participate in initiations whether IFA or Ocha that are less than 7 days of rituals.

4 When Oba (Oriate) says during an Ocha ita, acting as the intermediary of the odu, "acquitted for lack of evidence" you have to immediately dismantle the throne and the person who is being initiated should stay all 7 days normally required for ceremony.
5 Please do not enter into discussions or raise questions that will cause disagreement with people who wish to follow other methods of initiation.
6. Do not allow in our homes in the days of rituals, opinions or people who do not agree with our faith inherited from our ancestors.
7. Respect all the ceremonial which we have been doing for our higher education.
8 Only be guided by your elders and in the lack of them by those people you designate for this purpose.
9. this section and those following pertained to Cuba and are not worth translating, if you wish to read it. It appears fully in the Spainsh Version.

Signed:

(a) Council of priests of IFA of the Republic of Cuba.
(b) Council of priests Obateros (Oriate) of the Republic of Cuba.
(c) Council of priestesses Iyalochas elders of the Republic of Cuba.
(d) Council of priests Babalochas elders of the Republic of Cuba.
(e) Council of priests heads of Councils of the Republic of Cuba
(f) Council of Arara older priests of the Republic of Cuba.
 
This article is reprinted with the permission of the Cuban Yoruba Cultura Association. I invite you to visit their website directly at CubaYoruba

Ifa

Ifa, god of divination, who is usually termed the God of Palm Nuts, because sixteen palm-nuts are used in the process of divination, The name Ifa apparently means something scraped or wiped off: he has the title of Gbangba (explanation, demonstration, proof). Ifa’s secondary attribute is to cause fecundity: he presides at births, and women pray to him to be made fruitful; while on this account offerings are always made to him before marriage, it being considered a disgrace not to bear children. To the native mind there is no conflict of function between Ifa and Obatala, for the former causes the woman to become pregnant, while the latter forms the child in the womb, which is supposed to be a different thing altogether.

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.