Search Ifa articles

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The ever expanding corpus of wisdom we call Ifa

The ever expanding corpus of wisdom we call Ifa.

We should start this conversation with a well known mantra I've repeated many times: Within Ifa is housed all the wisdom and knowledge of the world past, present, and future. Acknowledging this statement as a truth, we eventually have to ask the question, does the corpus of Ifa Ese/Iyere/Oriki/Ofo expand, and how does that happen?

As a conversation starter I'd like to remind us of the old adage, "there's nothing new under the sun", which I believe holds true for peoples interactions with each other. While certainly there are new inventions, and we find out new things everyday, if we look at the interactions between people; love, hate, war, jealousy, passion, peace, these all seem to have been themes amongst all people from time immemorial as we see in the painting of the pyramids, the bible, the writings of Plato, and most importantly for those reading this, Odu Ifa.

If we can, but for a moment, raise ourselves above our given situation, we are apt to see one of these themes projecting itself on us. So in that way, Odu Ifa, when interpreted by ourselves or a priest, can show us the outcome, warn us of the pitfalls and provide us with a solution to our quandary. And so this leads in to our first question, does the Ifa as a corpus expand?

I believe that like all things in life, yes. it does. Though the larger themes remain, once we get into the details of interpretation of these issues, there is fluidity as can most aptly be seen in the examples of infanticide of twins, slavery and human sacrifice. We have clear evidence that infanticide was practiced based on the idea that twins were considered to be an abomination of nature. Not until the reign of Sango (Shango) was the practiced banned, and the view on twins reversed. Human sacrifice was documented (as with every culture at some point in time) and not halted until some say as late as the late 1800s in some remote areas. Slavery was also a very common practice among the Yoruba until the late 19th, early 20th century's. Ifa has to grow and morph in order to stay consistent and relevant to its followers. Clearly, morality can change, and that change is reflected in Odu Ifa.

Ifa, as all religions, is not an immutable force. There are larger issues which goes beyond the growth and development of Odu Ifa, such as the meaning and interpretation of ese Ifa, how that affects ritual and liturgy, and when has something gone "too far" or is no longer culturally relevant. These are critical issues when thinking about not only the advancement, but propagation and long term survival prospects for the Orisa traditions. Without any central authority and an increasing gap in practices from "ile to ile" one has to wonder how long the bonds of cohesion can continue without a significant break. I would argue that already, whether acknowledged or not, there are changes that have occurred, marking distinction between the cuban lucumi and US lucumi worship and between US traditional Yoruba and Nigerian traditional Yoruba worship. That assessment is based on my conversations with several elders of Cuban decent (ie, having lived in cuba for a large part of their lives before moving here), conversations with my Oluwo in Ibadan, and my observations of US practices (people like Philip Niemark of American Ifa).

William Bascom touches on the idea of cultural relativism when says "Each listing (of Odu Ifa) reflects deities of importance locally, suggesting considerable regional cariation in the Ifa verses because of their adaptation to local belief systems" (p.45 Ifa divination). After which he goes on to cite verses that are similar, but with different deities based on where they come from.

So if we agree that while the themes of Ifa (love, hate, etc) may be finite, the ways in which they manifest in our lives are unlimited and with great variation. It now becomes important to ask the question, how do Patakin/Ese Ifa develop? Again we note William Bascom in "Ifa Divination" where he says:

"A Meko (area in Nigeria) diviner explained that new verses are learned when one dreams the he is divining; when on awakes in the morning, he repeats what he did in his dreams. This is confirmed by Epega, who says that new verses may be derived from dreams, and also that some individuals are born with Ifa verses "inside them," so that as soon as they are taught the figures and a few verses of Ifa, they introduce new verses. Thus while no new figures can ever be added, there is no end to the knowledge of Ifa (Epega, n.d.: XVI, 6). If new verses can be introduced from dreams or through individual creativity, it is clear that all cerses need not be derived fromt he corpus of African Folklore." --Ifa divination, William Bascom P.137

While I believe this practice to be true of traditional Yoruba Babalawo, I don't believe lucumi Awo Ifa would agree, though, arguably something happened as evidenced by certain lucumi verses that either do not conform to traditional verse or use items/people/situations that would be completely foreign to Yoruba culture (espiritismo, palo, homosexuality, modern inventions). This idea of dream teaching is supported In Chief Elebuibon's (a well known Babalawo) book "Iyere Ifa: Tonal poerty, the voice of Ifa" in which he mentions this under the section talking about memorizing Ifa:

"It is a belief that the acolyte or priest memorizes these verses, his capacity to memorize is increased every day. Ajagunmole (he-who-teaches-the priest-through-dreams) is the great Ifa priest in heaven. He holds the responsibility for guiding the righteous and the upright by giving them retentive memory. It is believed that those who lose their memory or are unable to recite the Odu very well might have offended Ajagunmole." (Chapter 8, p101)

In supporting the idea of dream learning, and possible creation of new Ese Ifa, he takes it one step further in creating a divine link between heaven and earth though which Ifa verse is transmitted from Orun to Aiye.

Further, Bascom in the end of his work "Ifa Divination" recites several "Ese Ifa" that specifically talk about whites (europeans) and modern inventions such as trains and flashlights. These are classic examples of new additions. What is interesting though, is that he added it under a section labeled "parodies" (clearly not giving it the same weight) and not under the corresponding Odu, perhaps his own particular judgment on the merit of these particular verses. If, however, one were to conform to the style of other Odu more strictly, and not use "modern" terms/objects, it would be difficult to detect and thus enter the Odu Corpus without objection.

From a philosophical perspective, if we combine the fact that humans can only memorize so much, and Odu encompasses all knowledge past, present and future, it should be no surprise that the Corpus gets updated (as evidenced by many lucumi patakin) and added to. It seems to me that being an oral tradition alone makes the process highly susceptible to purposeful or inadvertent change, whether people want to acknowledge it or not (play a game of telephone to illustrate this). Clearly, if you've sat in a lucumi Ita (and I've sat in at least 20 or so, with 5 different Oriates including esteemed Cuban elders with 55+ years of Osha and relative newcomers with only 18 years as a priest) you can see that things have been added to the Odu corpus (not Ifa in this case). You will hear about jesus, doing "misas", getting rayado in palo, the Abakua, etc, and in Traditional Yoruba Ifa you may hear about Muslims or Christians. This is clearly interpretation or the addition of cultural relevance to the process.

Whether we like it or not, we are subjects of doublespeak when talking about the purity of our practice on the one hand, then complaining about invented Orisa, or accepting certain things which are clearly european/judeo christian influences on the other. Further, we see that this is an evolutionary and changing practice simply by looking at the process of becoming Orisa. I say this because at least as I was taught in the lucumi tradition, Orisa were not an expanding rank. However, when I read some Yoruba theology and eventually had a conversation with my Oluwo, I came to understand that actually, Orisa are not so stagnant, and in theory at least, there can be additions to the Orisa we worship. A person dies, eventually they might be worshiped as Egun, after many many years that egun might eventually become Orisa. This of course is perfectly supported by all Orisa practitioners (lucumi and traditional Yourba) acceptance of the Orisa Sango, who we all know and acknowledge was a deified King.


Both the traditional Yoruba and lucumi practices are equally prone to these issues. The real question is how will the clergy control this evolution and what practices are accepted, and which are not, in such a way that doesn't jeopardize the integrity of the Ifa.

Aboru aboye aboshishe,
Ifalola

Monday, December 3, 2007

Sacred Odu Ifa texts and rituals, what is our responsibility?

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

In a recent dialog, I was confronted with non-Ifa priests (though priests of other Orisa) who condoned the reading of sacred Ifa Awo (secrets). I realized that perhaps there needs to be a clarification, at least of my interpretation on Odu Ifa and ritual. The issue here is not the public knowledge of the stories/religious texts of Odu Ifa (ie the ese Ifa / patakin / Iyere etc.), on that I am clear. As texts, stand alone, they are important works that in their own way should be preserved by all, for all. In fact, as was correctly pointed out by another Orisa priest, when one goes to an Ita, or has an Ifa divination performed, even the uninitiated will hear the Ese/patakin. This is part of the basis comes for people being able to learn ese Ifa before initiation in the traditional Yoruba context (the other is training as the start of religious life, instead of initiation). Additionally, whether this priest realized it or not, he pointed out there is a tacit acceptance of this policy by lucumi Awo Ifa, since an aleyo, can in fact, potentially memorize or at least paraphrase an Ese ifa chanted/spoken in a divination session.

These religious texts, or as i think of them, the word of Ifa, are divinely inspired texts that explain human nature to humankind. These are in fact the domain of all people. In that we agree. They should be shared and analyzed and studied for their meaning both physical and spiritual. From this point on though my opinion on public availability stops.

Beyond the word of Ifa lies the inner realm, a realm whose study is the sole purpose of the Ifa priesthood. Within this realm lies both the inner esoteric meanings of the word of Ifa and the rituals which have been created by the priesthood in order to amplify, contain or diminish the energies which the Odu summon. These divine and sacred rituals have been created through divine inspiration, interpretation of Odu Ifa and observation of heavenly and earthly signs. This art and science contains powerful rituals and observations that are not meant for the uninitiated because they have not been trained in their use, and in how to counter their potentially damaging effects. In theory, Ifa priests should be ethical practitioners, and are bound to heed the word of Ifa and Ifa's code of ethics as prescribed in many Odu, which is another safe guard in their use. We see this oath in the holy Odu Iwori Meji:

Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Bi o ba te Ita tan
Ki o tun iye e re te
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma fi eja igba gun ope
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma fi aimowe wo odo
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma fi ibinu yo obe
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma ji kanjukanju jaye
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma fi warawara mkun ola
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, maseke, sodale
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma puro jaye
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma se igberaga si agba
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma so ireti nu
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, ma san bante Awo
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
Awo, bi o ba tefa tan
Ki o tun iye e re te o
Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni

English
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
If you undergo Ifa initiation (Itelodu)
Endeavor to use your wisdom and intelligence
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not use a broken rope to climb a palm-tree
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do no enter into the river without knowing how to swim
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not draw a knife in anger
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not be in haste to enjoy your life
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not be in a hurry to acquire wealth
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not lie, do not be treacherous
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not deceive in order to enjoy your life
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not be arrogant to elders
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not lose hope
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
Awo, do not make love to your colleague's spouse
Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
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

Here, my view is clear, Non-awo Ifa are not bound in the same way to these code of ethics (we take an oath to Odu and Ifa, which has horrible consequences when broken), they are also not trained to deal with these rituals and their consequences, and most important, may make grave errors for lack of training and initiation, resulting in horrible problems for them, and their clients should they be acting on their behalf. For these reasons, these rituals and inner meanings are not meant for Ifa laypeople (ie., any person who is not an Ifa priest, including priests of other Orisa). These same arguments could also be made for the secret rituals, inner meanings of other Orisa priests, but for this moment I only speak of Ifa.

Respect for this sacred and holy knowledge should be upheld for without respect, we have nothing and will surely end up worse then when we started. I would call upon people to lead by example, if not, your example will only end up creating confusion and shows little respect for those whose shoulder you yourself are standing on.

Respectfully,
Ifalola

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Discourse on meaning and symbology in the Ifa Divination System

I would like to start this discourse with a few simple questions:

If one practices Ifa, does one have to believe in the creation stories and stories of Odu Ifa?

My answers is quite simply, yes . . . but more often as metaphor then as literal. In order to clarify that statement, I'll include here the Merriam-Webster definition of a metaphor:

met·a·phor
Pronunciation: \ˈme-tə-ˌfor also -fər\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English methaphor, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French metaphore, from Latin metaphora, from Greek, from metapherein to transfer, from meta- + pherein to bear — more at bear
Date: 15th century

1: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly : figurative language — compare simile2: an object, activity, or idea treated as a metaphor : symbol 2
http://m-w.com/dictionary/metaphor

Assuming this definition, I propose that priest and layperson alike must learn to decipher each and every story and determine their literal and metaphorical meanings. As priests we are burdened with the job of helping to guide this process through our knowledge and connection to Ifa and the Divine. Once those meanings are determined, the most important job is left, sorting out what is meant literally and what metaphorically. This is where the real difficulty begins, and where rifts and divergence occur, especially without the central authority as seen in many other organized religions. Though, arguably, the Araba of Ile Ife is meant to play this role, he has not attained what I see as a critical mass in recognition, that would allow him to make decisions.

This all said, I personally believe these stories were created, and subsequently modified, as contextually and culturally relevant modes of explaining complex ideas and understandings of creation, and human existence. Like the bible and other Divinely inspired human treatises, Odu Ifa are the codification of an accumulated wisdom gathered through the ages. These Itan, Ese, Iyere are then interpreted based on accepted cultural norms (cultural relativism), and presented to the adherent during divination based on the Odu revealed by Ifa. Do I believe that a rooster was lowered to the watery planet we call earth, and by scratching at the patch of dirt that was placed with him he created the mountains and land? Well, in a metaphorical sense, yes. Literally, I don't see it, but isn't it strange that before any scientific evidence (which now exists) the Yoruba first understood that the earth was a watery place? They understood that water was a requirement for existence. I also find it interesting that the chicken scratching at the earth and spreading land as a metaphor is not so dissimilar from our understanding of volcanoes spewing molten lava in violent eruptions, which became the landmasses we know today. Interesting metaphor within which lies a complex scientific comparison.

Extracted from each ese Ifa, Itan, Iyere is a kernel of knowledge, a truth, a problem laid bare and the solution to overcoming that barrier or understand that problem. Sometimes it’s done literally, sometimes in metaphor.

If we further examine the ideas of "creating and modifying" and "contextual and cultural modes" of Odu Ifa, we see Ifa, as with all religions, is not an immutable force. We are presented with a larger issue beyond development of Odu Ifa (ese, iyere, itan), which is, what does it mean to interpret ese, ritual and liturgy, and when has something gone "too far"? These are critical issues when thinking about not only the advancement, but propagation and long-term survival prospects for the Orisa traditions. Without central authority (though I alluded to one earlier) and with an increasing gap in practices from "ile to ile" one has to wonder how long the bonds of cohesion can continue without some break. It does appear that whether acknowledged or not, there are already changes that have occurred, marking a distinction between the cuban style and US style of orisa worship and perhaps even the US and Nigerian style of Orisa worship. That assessment is based on my conversations with elders of Cuban decent (ie, having lived in cuba for a large part of their lives before moving here), Oluwos in Nigeria, and my observations of US-based practitioners.

I think bascom touches on the idea of cultural relativism in his statement on ese Ifa saying "Each listing reflects deities of importance locally, suggesting considerable regional variation in the Ifa verses because of their adaptation to local belief systems" (p.45 Ifa divination). After which he goes on to cite verses that are similar, but with different deities based on where they come from . . .

As to the creation and modification of Odu Ifa, there are two noted authors that speak to it. William Bascom in "Ifa Divination" says it does happen periodically and while I believe this to be true of traditional practice, I'm not sure whether lucumi Awo Ifa would agree. Though, arguably something must have happened to allow additions of certain lucumi verse that either do not conform to traditional verse or use items/people/situations that would be completely foreign to Yoruba culture. Bascome says:

"A Meko (area in Nigeria) diviner explained that new verses are learned when one dreams he is divining; when one awakes in the morning, he repeats what he did in his dreams. This is confirmed by Epega, who says that new verses may be derived from dreams, and also that some individuals are born with Ifa verses "inside them," so that as soon as they are taught the figures and a few verses of Ifa, they introduce new verses. Thus while no new figures can ever be added, there is no end to the knowledge of Ifa (Epega, n.d.: XVI, 6). If new verses can be introduced from dreams or through individual creativity, it is clear that all verses need not be derived from the corpus of African Folklore."
--Ifa divination, William Bascom P.137

In Chief Elebuibon's (a well known Nigerian Babalawo) book "Iyere Ifa: Tonal poerty, the voice of Ifa" he mentions this in the section talking about memorizing Ifa:

"It is a belief that the acolyte or priest memorizes these verses, his capacity to memorize is increased every day. Ajagunmole (he-who-teaches-the priest-through-dreams) is the great Ifa priest in heaven. He holds the responsibility for guiding the righteous and the upright by giving them retentive memory. It is believed that those who lose their memory or are unable to recite the Odu very well might have offended Ajagunmole." (Chapter 8, p101)

This confirms the idea of dream teaching that was told to both Bascom and Epega. And falls into the idea that there is a link between heaven and earth though which Ifa verse is transmitted. It also confirms that, whether actively talked about or not, the corpus of Odu Ifa is an ever expanding one, which may in fact house ese/iyere/etc that represent cultural norms of a time long ago, and are meant to be re-interpreted.

Before I go further, I would like to reiterate that history is precisely that, His Story, and as such, reflects the attitudes and opinions of those who have transmitted it. As we advance as a society it is necessary at times to reconstruct the logic and reasoning behind some of our most sacred acts. This can prove difficult since we have no books to guide us, and direct access through divination, to the Divine and the Awos who have gone before us can be tedious and insufficient. It is also necessary to update our views and understanding as technology and science reveals more to us. Just as we might send someone to a medical doctor now instead of an herbalist, we will also re-evaluate our system to reflect new knowledge or insights. It is in this vain that I move to my next topic in this discussion.

With the basis for the corpus of knowledge laid, we can turn to the question of the technicalities of Ifa and its markings. Ifa is in its essence a binary system. In fact one of the oldest and original binary systems, which happens to also be the basis for how modern day computers work. In a binary system, Two digits, 0 and 1 for computers, or in Ifa I and II, can be used to stand for the two states of ON and OFF, or in Ifa's case existence and non-existence. While Ifa itself is quite complex, and able to handle all the intricacies involved in shades of grey, its basis lies in the simple fact of two possible states of being. I exist or I do not exist, yes or no, positive or negative, known or unknown, these are the most basic states of existence, and are reflected in the markings of Ifa.

So we ask, why 8 markings? To first understand this, we should look at one of the most basic symbols in Orisa worship, the circle and crossed lines



This figure appears in a variety of places, from the Opon Ifa (traditionally circular, though there are modern square and rectangular versions) with the crossed lines marked in Iyerosun, to the “firmas” used within a variety of religious ceremonies. The symbology of this is a critical part of Yoruba cosmogony. We begin with the shape of the circle, which represents a variety of important concepts. First and foremost, by drawing a circle you perform the act of acknowledging and drawing, a representation of the eternal and infinite. Once drawn, a circle has no discernable beginning, middle or end, it simply appears to go on and on without stop. Not only does this represent the concept of never ending flow of time, it is crucial to the Yoruba concept of reincarnation. This is clearly evidenced when talking about the theology of Orun and the way in which we come to earth. It’s also evident in Yoruba names such as Yetunde or Babatunde (mother returns or father returns respectively), which are given to children born shortly after the death of a grandparent, viewed to be their reincarnation as marked by the ceremony of Esentaye done on the third day after a child’s birth.

The circle is also important in that it is a representation of the calabash (igba), and extremely important part of Yoruba culture. In the picture below, we see one beautiful example of a calabash carved with Yoruba motifs throughout. In Yoruba culture, the calabash is consider a container for items, both sacred and profane, but importantly is a symbol used when explaining the universe, which is considered to be a calabash (again, science concurs that the universe as we understand it is in essence an expanding sphere). In that role, the universe is cut in half with the upper half representing Orun (heaven) and the lower half representing earth or the “known” universe (aiye). This plays directly into our diagram of circle with two intersecting lines, the horizontal representing the differentiation between heaven and earth and subsequently life and death. While as a whole, our personal trajectories are on the outer circle, the intersecting vertical line, in Ifa, is a representation of our breaking of the boundary between heaven and earth in order to commune/communicate with heaven and seek counsel of the Divine. The center point of two intersecting lines representing the present moment in which the divination occurs where the two worlds are for an instant brought together.

To add another level of complexity to the discussion, the intersecting lines are also a representation of the crossroads and a manifestation of the Orisa Esu (owner of the crossroads) who traditionally is depicted at the top of an Opon Ifa as seen below.

The intersecting lines are a representation of the crossroads at which the devotee stands, and is the reason they are consulting Ifa for guidance. They stand at the center of the intersection, looking out onto each of their options in four directions seeking counsel on the correct path. Esu oversees this process and is given his due (ebo) to ensure he does not block and removes any obstacles from our way. In that way, the intersection represents the devotee’s present, each line a possible path to the present (their past), originating from the infinite circle, and each line also a potential future path extending out to the infinite circle. And so, as the Babalawo casts Ikin, he draws the ikin 8 times, 4 representing each potential path that lead to the present, and 4 more times representing each potential path that leads to the future. In the circle, as in Odu Ifa, all possibilities of past, present and future are contained.

This notion is further acknowledged by the role the calabash plays as the container of all knowledge, otherwise known as igba Odu, or calabash of Odu. We know that within Odu, is housed, all the knowledge of the world, past, present and future, and that based on our dynamic understanding of the Opon Ifa as crossroads, as Babalawo, we manipulate the symbols through ritual, prayer and the use of sacred objects to access that knowledge and present the devotee with a clear path to success and the overcoming of obstacles.

I believe that for now, this is a first attempt at creating an understanding of the symbology of Ifa which I hope will lead to more conversations, and a deeper understanding of the rites and rituals which we use to communicate and commune with the Divine Ifa.

Ase oo
Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Odu Ifa and cultural relativism

I decided to write on the topic of Odu and cultural relativism because I think it is an interesting and important concept and because it leads to the idea that 1. If Odu is in fact the codification of all things past, present and future, there certainly can be reference to anything within the realm of possibility within Odu and 2. Odu must be a living and breathing thing, and as such, will continue to evolve.

In both Lucumi and Traditional Ifa practice, we see references to other religions like Christianity and Islam. I can only imagine that 300 years ago, there was likely no reference to catholicism or going to church as you see in the Lucumi Odu Ifa, and perhaps 500 years ago, there were no references to Muslims, as you sometimes see in Traditional Yoruba Odu Ifa. This is clearly an addition, and likely post trans-atlantic passage. What I can imagine is that there may have been Ese Ifa that referred to perhaps someone giving veneration to their ancestors, or someone specifically going to an Orisa's particular shrine to give praise. At some point this was contextualized to the surroundings of an day Awo Ifa or Olorisa, and they interpreted it to mean, go venerate your ancestors, however the client, or the area they were in had multiple religions such as Catholicism or Islam, or you in the cuban diaspora, you couldn't just go to a shrine because you might get caught and be persecuted, so you went to the church to venerate Shango in front of "Saint Barbara", etc. In this way, outside religions interjected their presence.

In my mind, what makes Odu Ifa, Odu Ifa is the transcendence of the themes of humanity, evoking interpretations that are appropriate to the cultural norms of the time. We see that time and time again, no matter how we evolve, history repeats itself, and the same issues that plagued us 500 years ago, plague us today but with variations. Shakespeare's plays highlighted common themes which resonate even in todays world, as does Ifa. Love, hate, jealousy, need to shelter, need for food, revenge, power struggles, etc. all remain in our vocabulary. What is important for us as Awo Ifa is to be able to extract the keys of knowledge that are locked within Ese Ifa for our clients.

There are truths which remain with us, Odu Ifa provides the wisdom and insight in order to unlock the doors so that we can avoid the problems which can come from the misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. In the famous words,

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" -George Santayana (The Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense. Scribner’s, 1905: 284)

odabo
Ifalola

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Who receives Ebo? What happens?

In response to the question once posed, Who receives Ebo? What happens? I pose this interpretation.

To whom does one offer ebo? When consulting Ifa, there are two parts to the process. The first being divination, for which the Babalawo acts as interpreter of the Ifa Oracle. Ifa merges with the female energy of Odu, causing the metaphysical birth of a specific Odu which reveals your present and potential future. In the second part the Babalawo, interpreting Ifa, suggests an Ebo, whereby you offer items/actions in hopes that a given divinity will intercede on your behalf to either ensure your favorable future, or resolve your problems/remove your obstacles. Who are these divinities? Ebo can be offered to your Ori, a specific Orisa, Egun, Isheshe (the inhabitants of heaven), Ajogun, Iyaami, nature spirits, or all those heavenly beings including Olodumare. So what is Ifa's role?

Ifa's role is threefold. To play the male counterpart to Odu's female energy, whereby the Odu specific to a certain person at a certain time is "birthed". Also, to act as a guide, along with Esu, in ensuring that the offering made by the adherent reaches it's intended location/recipient. Of special note in this process, regardless of whether Esu is the intended recipient of Ebo, he receives part of the ebo as payment for guiding (and not interfering with) the Ebo (as mandated in Ose 'Tura). Like a casino, Esu always takes a cut. And lastly in certain situations, where Ifa is the intended recipient of Ebo, Ifa may act as advocate for the client, interceding on his behalf with other Orisa/Divinities in order to ensure a positive future.

So, is Ifa neutral?

Orunmila, the Orisa/prophet ( as opposed to Ifa) like all Orisa, is not exactly neutral. There are many Ese Ifa where Orunmila is talked about, and in some he takes sides, or has a preference, or decrees what he thinks is best. That said, like any judge, when manipulating Ikin and performing 'dafa, he is said to interpret Ifa in a manner that will best help the person (which isn't exactly what I'd call neutral, but more along the philosophy of king solomon, doing what is "right"). So Orunmila is not perfectly neutral. Ifa, however, is meant to reveal one's chosen path, and help one to align themselves with it. Though Ifa is meant to have a net positive effect, it's neutral in the sense that it only "reveals" and you are required to take actions in order to achieve the positive effect.

What makes Ifa neutral then?

Odu

Although Orunmila, the Orisa/prophet may intercede on behalf of any given person/divinity, Ifa through Odu will always reveal the truth, ensuring that there is always a check and balance in the system. That's not to say that Orunmila would act negatively against a person, but no matter what any Orisa may/may not do, Ifa through Odu will always reveal the truth of a matter.

On revelation I'll leave you with an Ese Ifa from Irosun Meji
Ita ruku, l'awo ita ruku
Ita ruku, l'awo ita ruku
Ita ruku, l'awo ita tataata
a d'ifa fun 'gba, igba nsh'awo lo s'ode oyo
Igba a rula
Igba a rukan
A ii w'aye eni ai nigba

Dusty road, diviner for dusty road
Dusty space, diviner for dusty space *
Open dusty place diviner for open space
Divined for time, time was on a spiritual journey to Oyo town
The time to harvest Okra
Is different from the time to harvest Ikan (okra family)
As individuals, we all have our destined times (no matter what happens, we all have remarkable times in life)

*(note, the words are different because of accents not shown)

I will note that one of the most important phrases for a Babalawo is:
Aboru
Aboye
Aboshishe

Which translates in Yoruba roughly to:
May ebo reach heaven
May ebo be accepted
May ebo allow that which I ask for to come to pass

Once Ebo is accepted, we can only supplicate ourselves to the Orisa and humble pray: Aboru Aboye Aboshishe.

Ase o
Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

Thursday, August 9, 2007

who's on first, what's on second . . . Which Orisa is most important?

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

Someone had posted a piece citing how they believed that Orunmila was above other Orisa, and so I thought I would clarify what I believe the relationship is. Many times, we want to "rank" the Orisa, however I think this is a human construct, and not something that necessarily achieves anything constructive. We very often as humans resort to wanting to place something "first" or "last" or one above another, but I don't believe in the case of Orisa (with the exception of Olodumare) that it accomplishes anything, nor fully understands the symbiotic relationship that occurs even within the realm of Orisa.

For instance, how can we say Orunmila is "first" or "above" the irunmole when without Esu playing his role in the process, none of what Orunmila/Ifa says/does can come to pass? Does that not then make Esu "above" Orunmila in a sense? To me no, they both have their role to play. Also, how can one place Orunmila say above Oduduwa or Obatala? If those Orisa didn't exist, who would have moulded man's head? Without the human race, the role of Ifa in this context is meaningless as what role can any religion play without worshippers to follow it? We of course also have stories in Ose Otura about Oshun and her role in mankind, if she were to get mad and make women infertile, we would die as a race, and what use would religion be then? Certainly I know consulting Ifa would help us avoid this, but what if our Ori didn't make appropriate ebo, Oshun could cause the death of us, and so is that not a power stronger then simply knowledge of how to stop that when not used and indeed more powerful then even Ori?

I'm not saying these things will happen, but am trying to illustrate a point. That point is, it's not about who's first or second when we look beyond Olodumare and Ori, it's about the symbiotic relationship that exists amongst all Orisa that allow us to find our "path" and lead a long and healthy life. Orumila without Esu, Oshun, Obatala, Yemoja etc etc, is an unbalanced world, just as Esu, Obatala, Oshun etc etc without Orunmila is also a world without balance. Ranking the Orisa, as comforting as it may make us feel to be worshiping the "highest", is simply divisive and does not reflect the complex interconnectedness of Yoruba Theology and Cosmogony.

All our Orisa are important, and all have a vital and important role to play. Perhaps at times, one may be more important to us, but there will always be that one time when the key to survival is held, even by the smallest, seemingly most insignificant of Orisa, and at that precise moment, that Orisa means more to us and our survival then any other.

Odabo
Ifalola

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Power and the priesthood

Power and the priesthood:

Ogbe sa:

Ogbe sa re le
Ogbe sa r'oko
Dia fun Eni0Aye kan
Dia fun Eni Aye Nfe
A bu fun S(h)eere
S(h)eere o, S(h)eere o
Eni Aye kan
E s(h)'aye ire
Bo je emi laye kan
Ko s(h)aye iro o
bo je emi laye kan
Ma s(h)aye ire
S(h)eere o, S(h)eere o
Eni Aye Kan
E s(h)aye ire

Ogbe ran home
Osa ran to the farm
They were the ones who cast Ifa for "He whose turn it is to rule the world"
They also cast Ifa for "He who the masses love and want"
Do it well, pray, do it well
Those whose turn it is to rule the world
Please rule the world well
If it is my turn to rule the world
I will rule the world well
Do it well, pray, do it well
If it is your turn to rule the world
Please rule well ...

I've often considered the process of becoming a priest, and the training (or sometimes lack thereof) that comes as a result of initiation, however we often overlook one of the most important and difficult topics, Power. Whether we acknowledge it or not, on some levels, great or small, we are drawn to the priesthood because of the power that it can afford us. For some, it is the draw to the esoteric knowledge that will allow us to affect our lives in ways beyond the known (admittedly, I fall into this category). For others, it is the draw to the power one has over another, and yet for others, it is simply the power they gain over the self. Whatever the reason, joining the priesthood does give us access to a power that is beyond the normal. For the purpose of this article though, i want to look at the most mundane, but also the most dangerous, the power over others.

I've seen the glint in someone's eye as another person lies foribale in front of them, or they ask what your "age" is, full well knowing you are younger relishing the moment you will dobale to them. Or the joking talk about the "multa" (fine) that they might impose on you if you do something wrong. Seemingly benign acts, these often belie a deeper and sometimes more sinister emotion. Of all the things that occur before someone joins the priesthood, the least spoken about is how one should act when wielding their new position (and the power that comes with it). It is very likely that one of the most important pieces of training one should have is how to act responsibly when asserting the power you have over another.

Some people have a natural ability to lead, and in such often have a great understanding (whether conscious or not) of how, and when, to use their power. This is something which they learned over the years through their own experiences, or observing how others use and wield their power. Rarely is this completely innate, and a mentor or role model often provides the lessons needed to formulate the vocabulary necessary to speak the language of power responsibly. The lessons learned are invaluable, however, more often then not, in this world where training/teutalage in the priesthood is virtually non-existent and there has been an explosive growth in the priesthood, with "babies having babies", we are creating what is the beginning of a crisis of ineptitude.

While certainly one of the problems with the priesthood today is too few spend the necessary hours of training and study to learn the theology, we are failing our children and future generations by not creating the leaders of tomorrow. No denomination is exempt from this crisis. While there are often the obvious stories of inept priests, who hold on with a death grip to their "godchildren"/adherents through what is tantamount to terror tactics. There is also a more subtle and insidious politic of power whereby priests are demanding unyielding loyalty, outrageous time requests and guilting godchildren into doing ceremonies (to name a few things), but giving very little in return. Then, the "eldership" or "duty" response is immediately invoked, nullifying any possible response a godchild might have.

I could go on with examples, but this is sufficient enough for most to see the point. What's more important is that we look at ways in which we can, as priests, more responsibly train the priesthood in the correct/moral use of power. To be honest, one of the biggest deterrents to responsible use of power in the diaspora is the move from Eldership which in traditional Yoruba culture was based on years of life, to Eldership based only on years of priesthood (thereby allowing young people with little life experience to achieve "elder" status before they have the wisdom of what it means to achieve that). That said, that is how some traditions choose to treat eldership, so it becomes even more important to train priests in what it means to "be an elder" and wield power when time is unable to teach them those lessons.

My personal opinion is that all priests from all denomination should be required to train as a priest for a minimum number of years (7 at least) before they are allowed to initiation other priests. This isn't unreasonable, and doesn't go against any "rules" of any of the denominations (except perhaps the American "my rights" attitude). Additionally, priests should be required to have many conversations with their new initiates about the roles/responsibilities they now have, and about what it means to have power over someone. This is of course a difficult thing to enforce, and unfortunately there are already a fair number of priests who have their own cadre of priests, all of whom do not understand the dynamic or responsibilities of power. In my eyes, it's in the hands of the true Elders to begin enforcing these rules and leading by example instead of being caught up in the petty politics of power and greed.

I will never forget the look in the eyes of an older woman when she learned I was a Babalawo and training as such. There was a reverence and respect that I'm not sure I deserved or was worthy of, simply because I had a title and had undergone an initiation. I hope to live up to her expectation. That is a look that can humble you, or can ignite a dangerous pride which results in abuse and greed. I am only thankful that I have been put in enough positions of leadership in my work and personal life to know the responsibility it entails, and the consequences if you fail to live up to that responsibility.

May there be further conversations ...

Odabo
Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Recommended reading for adherents and Awos

Aboru aboye aboshishe,
on being asked by a fellow Awo, I compiled this list of recommended books. I've read all of these (some better then others). This is by no means comprehensive, and I suspect I've overlooked some. Enjoy!
Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief - E. Bolaji Idowu
Fundamentals of the Yoruba Religion (Orisa Worship) - Chief Fama
Yoruba Beliefs and Sacrificial Rites- J. Omósadé Awólàlú
Practitioner's Handbook for the IFA Professional - Chief FAMA (Àìná Adéwálé-Somadhi) (Awos only)
Odun Ifa. Ifa Festival - Emanuel Abosede (mainly for Awos)
IFA: The Key to it's Understanding - Fasina Falade (mainly for Awos)
Ifa: An Exposition of Ifa Literary Corpus - Wande Abimbola (mainly for Awos)
IFA Divination Poetry - Wande Abimbola (mainly for Awos)
Yoruba Oral Tradition - Wande Abimbola
Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa - William Bascom
Ifa: A Complete Divination - Ayo Salami (mainly for Awos)
Iyere Ifa (Tonal Poetry, the Voice of Ifa) An Exposition of Yoruba Divinational Chants - Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon
The Healing Power of Sacrifice - Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon (mainly for Awos)
• Ifism: The Complete Work of Orunmila - C. OsamaroIbie (mainly for Awos)
Iwe Odu Ifa - Chief Ifayemi Awopeju Bogunmbe (for Awos)
A recitation of Ifa, oracle of the Yoruba - Judith Illsley Gleason, Awotunde Aworinde (mainly for Awos)
• I HATE recommending anything that makes Niemark money, but this book had good translations: The Sacred IFA Oracle - Afolabi A. Epega, Philip John Neimark (mainly for Awos)
Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings - Maulana Karenga
Ewe: O uso das plantas na sociedade ioruba - Pierre Verger
Orin Orisa: Songs for Selected Heads - John Mason
Beads, Body, and Soul: Art and Light in the Yoruba Universe - Henry Drewal and John Mason
Idana fun orisa: Cooking for selected heads - John Mason and Gary Edwards
Voodoo: Mounted by the Gods - Alberto Venzago (a view of "Fa" in benin)
1000+(African) Òrìsà Yorùbá Names - Chief Fama
Fama's Ede Awo (Orisa Yoruba Dictionary) - Chief Fama
Yoruba-English/English-Yoruba Modern Practical Dictionary - Kayode J. Fakinlede
Je K`A So Yoruba (Yale Language Series) - Antonia Yetunde Folarin Schleicher
Yoruba Proverbs - Oyekan Owomoyela

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ifa and homosexuality

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

Homosexuality is a difficult issue that seems to enflame and anger those on both sides. It tends to be one in which peoples minds are made up, and nothing will sway them to a different viewpoint. Each side will quote texts and cite instances in support of their case and make what they feel is a compelling argument. I will state for the record, I am heterosexual, married and a Babalawo. I support gay rights, I support gay marriage, I support treating people like people and not second class citizens. I don't support homosexual Babalawos, not because of Odu per se, but because of things that happened in the ceremony of Itefa and my wife's Apetebii ceremonies. Things that were explained during that process, and the need for the balance of male and female in the care of Ifa and in the role of priest of Ifa interpreting the oracle. That doesn't mean homosexuals can't praise Ifa, that doesn't mean they can't seek the wisdom of Ifa, that doesn't mean they can't follow Ifa, that doesn't mean Ifa won't accept Ebo and intervene on their behalf when they are following Ifa's recommendations. Ifa would never want me to turn anyone away who truly seeks Ifa's wisdom.

Many will try and say it's an abomination of nature, and to you I respond, nature and science have shown us instances in which same sex copulation occurs, welcome to the 21st century. Many will say it is a sin. How can one person loving and respecting another be committing a sin? We are taught to love each other, and often, we don't choose who we fall in love with. If we respect each other, and respect ourselves, then how can we pass judgment on two people who have done us no harm, and simply choose to live with each other in a committed relationship? It's hard enough to find someone, why should we stop those that have found that person from enjoying life and each other.

Many will say the only true nature of sex is to procreate, and to you I respond, I think we're a bit more evolved than that. Certainly, if you've never used any type of contraception except abstinence, never had pre-marital sex, and plan on having every child your spouse gets pregnant with, you have at least the moral high ground. That said, I use contraception, had pre-marital sex and see nothing wrong with either. I'm also not interested in having tons of babies. We are no longer in an agricultural society with high infant mortality rates where the need to have many children arose as a matter of survival. We have too many children in the world who have poor healthcare, are malnourished, are not wanted, are mistreated/abused or are ill.

My dad was the 13th in a family of 13, he was raised in the countryside. I am not him, nor can I afford to take care of that many kids, and most importantly I have no interest in overpopulating and already overpopulated world. If you want to have kids, adopt. This viewpoint is horribly irresponsible because it promotes having children, without respect to whether everyone can even afford to have them! There are plenty of poor folks who if they follow this attitude would simply continue giving birth because they are married and in love, but can't feed, cloth or provide healthcare. We have a brain, contraception is a reality, Orisa didn't want us to live in the dark ages.

Additionally, there are plenty of straight couples who chose not to have kids, are they too going against the word of Ifa? For certainly if you use this argument against gays, than you must also use it against anyone who does not have kids as they too are abomination. Children are not a reason.

Many will say it is against family values. Well, I have met/known plenty of gay parents who have raised healthy, smart, caring children who were straight. I also know and read daily about plenty of "straight" parents who couldn't care less about theirs kids. These kids are mistreated, abused, sexually assaulted, and hit. In fact, I would venture to say there's probably a dramatically higher rate of abuse amongst "straight" parents than gay parents. This is likely due in large part to having children by choice, not simply becuase two people copulated mindlessly then dealt with the mess afterwards. In addition to that, I would always rather see a child in a loving environment, without regard to the sexual preference of their parents. Aren't family values about love, compassion, caring, helping your community, and respect? All things that have nothing to do with a person's sexual preference.

As to Odu, I am young in Ifa and will not pretend to be an expert . . . however, as I understand it, not all Odu apply to everyone at all times. If they did, we would have no way of discerning the messages of Ifa in a way that would be at all meaningful to us. Different odu apply to different people at different times as dictated by consultation with Ifa. Odu may certainly have stories that talk of the problems that arise from male to male or female to female relationships, and that may be Ifa's dictate for that Odu. However it would seem to me that unless that Odu appeared either in a reading with Ifa, or in a reading when receiving
an Orisa or an Initiation. The point is the messages of Odu are not Universally applicable to everyone.

This is important because it implies that being homosexual is not a "bad" thing in general, but only in certain circumstances. Ifa may try and tell someone in a reading through Odu that it will cause them in particular, problems. Certainly I believe in the science, and homosexuality is NOT always a "choice", the science is irrefutable, you can no more change that than change your eye color, skin color or brain size. There are some occasions where it is a choice and some of those choices may be fine, but Ifa may decide to tell the person that that choice is not for them (just as Ifa might reject any potential mate). If that odu appears for you, you can choose to accept it, or ignore it, that's also your choice. Ifa is there to reveal the path that your Ori choose for you while kunle to Olodumare and to help understand life. In that case, it would be my obligation to tell that client what Ifa says, and yes in certain cases, Ifa can reveal that a certain choice is not the right one for that particular person.

You ask, how can this be? Homosexuality is unacceptable, Ifa doesn't condone it ever and it will never change!!

Well, i would ask you to recall a few historical points. At one point human sacrifice was an accepted part of Yoruba culture. People were chosen (willing or not) to give their life for the community. Well, things changed, and human sacrifice is no longer acceptable, and somewhere was added to the Odu corpus a story which dictates that change (see Chief Yemi Eleribuibon's "healing power of sacrifice" p101).

Another point, infanticide was also an accepted part of Yoruba culture, twins, before the reign of Shango were considered an abomination and were killed (so much for pro-creation being a reason for heterosexuality as the only accepted norm). That was changed, and now Ibeji are revered as sacred and again, odu had to have been added to the Ifa corpus to reflect this change.

At one point slavery and the slave trade was accepted part of Yoruba culture, Yoruba Kings and chiefs had them, and became wealthy from trading them amongst themselves and to the european traders (the rise and fall of the Oyo empire is directly attached to this), it no longer is acceptable. When was the last time you saw a slave? (sadly, there are still those who are in basically indentured servitude, Ifa Odu talks of slavery, at some point, it was deemed unacceptable).

How can you argue that things don't change?

At one point inter-racial marriage was illegal in the USA. The same arguments people use against gay marriage or acceptance of Gays in Ifa were invoked. Sad but true.

This practice can only be labeled as ignorance and hatred. The same type of hatred that allowed interracial marriage to be illegal in the US, that allowed people to be traded like animals, that says one race, one creed, one religion, one sex is superior to another, and that "other" is an abomination. Calling homosexuality an abomination or looking down on them for who they are is no different from being a bigot or racist.

These are my opinions, reflective of my thoughts as a person and a Babalawo on this matter. I don't pretend to be the "authority", only someone who is trying to understand how I can facilitate and intermediate between humans and Ifa.

I've included the Odu people quote against homosexuality in general. Again I reiterate that for me, these are not universal laws, but Odu Ifa that, if they show up in divination, are my responsibility to talk to that particular person about and interpret for them what Ifa says.

Odu Ofun-Alaaye (Ofun-
Irete) where Ifa says

epo se e je'su
isu se e j'epo
akaso dun-un g'aka
obinrin se e ba sun j'okunrin lo
okunrin se e sun ti j'obinrin lo
b'okunrin ba n b'okunrin sun
bii koko, bii oowo
bi iku bi agbaaarin
b'obunrin ba n obinrin sun
bi epete bi oorun
bi erofo bi eeri
b'okunrin ba n b'obinrin sun
b'obinrin ba nsun t'okunrin
bi enf'ola yun'pun
bi enf'ola yun'ra
igi Ofun-O-Rete lo ro gangan-olele
dia fun Apon-Ako
ti nlo ree fi Olele omo Olofa saya
Apon p'Olele o je o
ko ju ohun ti'fa n se lo o
Apon p'Olele o je o
ko ju ohun t'Ebora n se lo o

Palm oil os good to complement yam for consumption
and yam is good as complement for eating palm-oil
the ladder is good for climbing the rafter
a woman is better for a man to make love to than his fellow man
a man is better for a woman to sleep with than her fellow woman
if a man sleeps with a man
it will result into lumps, boils, and yaws
if a woman makes love to a fellow woman
it will result into murk, stinking odour, dirt and irritation
if a man makes love to a woman
and a woman sleeps with a man
the result is feeling like being on top of the world
the feeling is like having unlimited and unqualified enjoyment
Ofun-Rete's organ is strong and turgid
This was the Ifa cast for a Chronic Bachelor
When going to marry Olele the offspring of Olofa
The Chronic Bachelor called upon Olele but she responded not
The problem is not more than what Ifa can solve


Iwori-Wodin (Iwori Odi) Ifa has this to
say,,,
Iwori wodi o se bi nnkan ire loun nse
Awo rere niwori to nwodi na?
Dia fun Panla Apo
To ko roko fe
To yoo maa febinrin egbe e re
Ebo ni won ni ko wa se
Obinrin ti nfebinrin egbe e re
Eyin o mo pe o nloo woku idi ni?

Iwori took a fanciful look at the genital and
Considered it a proper practice
Do you consider Iwori who looks at the genitals
As a good Awo ?
This was Ifa's declarations to Panla-Apo
Who failed to secure a husband to marry
But choose to be in love with a fellow woman
She was advised to offer ebo
A woman who makes love to a fellow woman
Don't you know that she is just looking at a
Non-productive lifeless genital ?

In another stanza of Iwori Wodin, Ifa says:
Bayii laa selu
Ilu i ba dun
Dia fun won niluu Iwori-Wodin
Nibi won ni ki won le Omo-Osu ilee won jade
Eyi to loko tan
To loun o lokoo fe mo
To yoo maa ledi mo obinrin egbe e re
Ebo ni won ni ko waa senje to ba se bayii laa selu
Ilu i ba dun na?

If this is the way we administer the community
The community would have been very desirous (to live in)
This was Ifa message to the citizens of Iwori-Wodi
Who were advised by Ifa to send all Omo-Osu * away
Those, who after getting married once,
Chose to perform ejaculation with fellow women
They were advised to offer ebo
If this is the way we administer the community
Would the community have been this desirous to live in ?

In each particular Odu, these are the pieces of advice for the person being read. In each case, this is what Ifa recommends for them in particular. If you believe that Ifa can not accept homosexuality, you are just preaching a message of hate no different from the message of racial superiority. It's a fine line before preaching this message leads to the kind of behavior that we've seen humanity can stoop to in the atrocities of the holy crusades, the spanish inquisition, world war two, vietnam, darfur and countless others moments of darkness.

respectfully,
Odabo
Ifalola

*** SORRY because of the difficult and divisive nature of this debate, I am not posting anyone's comments, and have deleted old comments. This is my blog, not a general open forum, take it or leave it.

On Titles ...

Aboru Aboye Aboshishe,

Recently, the conversation of titles came up since many have gone back to Nigeria and return with a title. It made me think and I came to this conclusion about all titles, regardless of in Nigeria or in the Diaspora, priest, king or otherwise.

A title without ethics, a title undeserved, a title purchased, a title inherited but not earned is simply an unfulfilled promise of grandeur. It is as empty as a pocket with a hole in it and means nothing except in the mind of the title holder. Give me a poor awo Ifa with faith, heart and knowldge over a priest, Oba/Chief or King who sees me only as their minion or paycheck.

Ase o
Ifalola

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Further thoughts on prayers

When the subject of prayer came up, I was asked specifically about those moments when you want to simply "think" your prayers to yourself. We talked about it in the context of a group setting where one may not feel comfortable sharing in a public setting their private and inner-most thoughts. I agreed that in that environment you could privately think your prayers and Orisa would most certainly hear them.

However, I feel there is an important point to make. At some point, it is still important to physically speak your prayers, whether it be in a whisper inaudible to your neighbor, or in full voice in the privacy of your home or a secluded shrine. I believed this inherently, but wasn't able to fully crystallize my reason why. Then a week later it struck me in a clear way.

In all Orisa traditions, we work to make sure that our dreams and destiny manifest physically. We say Aboru Aboye Aboshishe specifically to request that that occurs. Speaking our prayers aloud (or in a whisper) are simply an extension of that idea. We take our thoughts and physically manifest them through speech in the same way we hope those thoughts will physically manifest in our lives. Ase!

Iwori n'soro lowo
Aweda n'soro kelekele
D'Ifa fun Enu lotalota bi ase
Wo ni o rubo
Won ba rubo
Orumila ko Enu lotalota bi ase n'ifa
Won wa n jo n yo
E je a pe e o
E je a pefa
Ki'fa o le baa je
Ni n hin awon Babalawo
Awon Babalawo n yin Ifa
Iwori n'soro lowo
Aweda n'soro kelekele

Iwori I am speaking
Aweda I am whispering
performed ifa divination for Mouth, the pepper grinder, gives birth to ashe
He was told to perform sacrifice
He performed sacrifice
Orunmila taught Enu lotalota bi ase Ifa
He began to dance and rejoice
Let us call him
Let us call Ifa
So that Ifa may answer
He praised his Babalawos
His Babalawos praised Ifa
Iwori I am speaking
Aweda I am whispering

Monday, June 4, 2007

Ceremonies costs, updated with more numbers

Aboru Aboye Aboshishe, May Olodumare, Esu, Orunmila, Orisha and all Isheshe bless and protect us!

I would first like to thank all the people who took the time to trust me and tell me the costs of their ceremonies in the spirit of sharing and helping others navigate these difficult waters. I would second like to thank my apetebii for always supporting me. Lastly, thanks to all those who have sent email with words of support for my writing. SPECIAL NOTE: please also don't try and compare lucumi rituals to Traditional Yoruba rituals, they are two different denominations and have different rites.

I'll keep this post short, again, if you are interested in offering me your costs, they will be kept confidential and will provide (I hope) help in the decision making process for people. Plus I hope that it will help to make the financial transaction part of the process more transparent so people can understand what they are paying for and why. Feel free to email me through the page here. Or through my yahoo site http://360.yahoo.com/babaifalola

I came across a Yoruba proverb I think would be appropriate:

Ohun ti a ba fi eso mu, ki i baje
Ohn ti a ba fi agbara mu ni nni 'ni l'ara

An honest acquisition last longer, an honest approach yields positive results
A dishonest acquisition or a dishonest approach paves the way to difficulty

** SPECIAL NOTE: I've decided since some will get this for the first time I will repost the original article that accompanied this study, it's important to read so you can understand the basis and logic behind this study . . . If you've already read it, scroll to the bottom.

Posted May 8th, 2007
When I first proposed this idea, I had no illusions. Money is a delicate subject. People are apt to get irritated if there is a perceived threat to their livelihood. Likewise, people are apt to get upset if they appear to have been taken for a ride. These factors contributed to a pretty low turnout (less then 15 people responded). That said, I decided to publish the raw numbers with no analysis other then creating a column adjusting the numbers for inflation to 2007 dollars. My hopes are that this initial data will spur people to send me emails with their costs, which I will gladly keep anonymous (as you see these are). Should you be interested, please answer the questions listed at the bottom of this posting.

Now, I want to again preface this by saying:

1. This is only meant as a comparison, it is not meant to dictate what should or shouldn't be charged.

2. There are good, decent priests who earn their living through Orisa/spiritual works, please support them and don't use this as a means to "negotiate" a better price.

3. Like anything else, quality costs. There are many hard costs involved in these ceremonies, goats can run upwards of $80 each, and I've paid as much as $900 for one Jutia (African bush rat). This doesn't include the many people that need to be fed and given some compensation for their work. There are also hidden costs, remember if your Oluwo/Godparent is doing your initiation, it may mean as many as 7 days without the ability to work, and that's part of what you're paying for. There are also often several ceremonies or days of preparations that are not a part of the ceremonies that you see. Often you don't know about these, and while you should be told about the time used doing them, you can't ask what exactly they are doing.

4. As we say in the computer industry, "garbage in, garbage out" or "you get what you pay for". Remember, you shouldn't skimp, this is not the time to cut corners, and neither should your Oluwo/godparent (if they do, confront them). Finding a priest who will charge less, but has no experience, does not care, will not teach, or worse, won't do the ceremony correctly just hurts you in the end. The flipside is just because it's expensive, doesn't mean you got "more" then someone who paid half what you paid. If the ceremonies were done correctly, then you are equals. Fancy titles or someone who wears shiny bling and charges a bundle doesn't make them better then a modest priest who has no titles and dresses conservatively, but loves, lives and breathes Orisa. In the end, you should be paying for knowledgeable priest, and hopefully one that will pass on some of that knowledge to you.

5. Be wary of mass initiations. For some initiations/ceremonies, it is understandable to perhaps have a few people do them at once, this is often done to lower the price. If you have 10 people receiving a ceremony at once, this isn't right. This is not about production line ethics, and it has not place here. My Awofakan was done this way and it was simply wrong. As far as I could gather, 12 people at between 1500 and 2000 a person added up to alot of money to split 3 ways. My Ita was less then 10 minutes and other less then that. Don't do it. Even if there are a few people doing it at once, ask why, ask how it will affect things.

6. Don't forget to put in your overall costs (plane, presents, etc). this can add to your costs and make what was $4K in a third world country end up being really close to $7K with plane tickets, Visas, changing money, paying for things for others etc.

7. Respect. Respect Orisa, respect the Ori you have that no one can take from you and respect your priest.

I'll preface this with a verse from the Odu Obara Oworin
Oro banta a wuwo bi owu
a difa fun aye,
Nijo ti gbogbo omo araye npon owo pe
Kosi ohun miran mo ninu aye ti o tun ni iyi mo rara
won ni awon o ko ohungbogbo sile,
Awon o maa sare mo owo
Orunmila ni eyiti e nro niti owo beeni
Ati eyiti e nro niti owo beeko si
Ifa l'a ba maa ye
Ogbon l'a ba ma ye
Awon l'a ba bu iyin fun
Agbeniga laa pe owo; abiwaje l'aa pe owo
Eniti ba feran owo l'afeju, iwa re a baje
Iwa rere ni oso eniyan
Bi e ni owo l'owo ko wipe ki e ma di afoju
Ko wipe ki e ma di ashiwere
Ko wipe ki e ma di aro
Ko wipe ki e ma di olokunrin ati beebee
Abuku ara gbogbo le de ba yin
Ki e tun ero gba
Ki e mu iwa rere
Ki e mu ogbon
Ki e wa rubo
Ki ara le ro nyin tinutode

Translated:
Heavy words have the weight of an anvil
This was the teaching of Ifa to the world
At a time when all the people of the world were overpraising money saying:
There is nothing else in the world that is more respected then money
They said they would give up everything
And they would continuously run after money
Orunmila said: what you think about money is so
And what you think about money is also not so
It is the teachings of Ifa we should honor
It is these we should regard highly
It is said money is a raiser of status and a corruptor of character
A person who loves money excessively, his character will be ruined
Good character is the finest beauty of a person
Even if you have money, it does not mean you will not become blind
It does not mean you will not go mad
It does not mean you will not become lane
It does not mean you will not become ill and the like
You still can become disabled in any part of your body
Therefore you should go and get more wisdom so that you may think deeply about things
You should cultivate good character
You should acquire wisdom
And you should come and sacrifice so that you may be at ease inside and out.

And with that:


Friday, May 25, 2007

Prayer and the Orisha faith . . .

Prayer and the Orisha faith:

My Apetebii and I were talking and the subject of prayer came up. It seems like an obvious thing, almost self explanatory, but there is an underlying fundamental ideology that isn't so obvious.

Prayer can take many forms, whether it is the act of supplicating to the Orisha, petitioning that they act on our behalf to positively affect our life or the lives of those around us. There is also the act of praising the Orisha as an act of thanks for the good in our lives or from saving us from some bad. Lastly is the act of simply praising the Orisha without any expectation (sometimes the most important and the most forgotten of acts).

A very important but often overlooked part of prayer in Yoruba culture is that it is almost always physically spoken. While in many other cultures, especially western culture, prayer can be an inward act in which verbalization is not necessary, it is quite the opposite in Yoruba culture. Any act of praise or prayer is by definition verbal and most often performed in a communal setting. We see this in traditional African practice, but in some ways, what is most striking is that in the diaspora this concept has not changed or diminished in any way. This is not to diminish one's personal reflection, meditations or internal prayers which are certainly part of how we can worship.

On a literal level, our vocalization produces sounds, which can travel, whether only a few inches or several meters or more. Through initiation, and sometimes powders and medicinal preparations, it is believed we can give power to those sounds/vibrations allowing them to reach Orun (heaven). As Olorisha and Babalawo, we are considered to not only be mediators between man and Orisha, it is believed that our voices are able to reach Orun and catch the attention of Orisha. That is why before every Ebo, before every divination session, before every religious act, we pray. Through that prayer, we hope that our vocalization may reach heaven.

This explains why as Babalawo we pray before casting Ikin or Opele, and it is why before we chant or interpret Odu we say:

Aboru, Aboye, Aboshishe

Which roughly translates to:
May our ebo reach Orun (heaven) - Aboru
May our ebo be accepted - Aboye
May our ebo allow what we desire to come to pass - Aboshishe

It is also why we must say "Ase (Ashe)" to affix and affirm things. By saying Ase (Ashe) we not only legitimize the prayer, we also send out the vibration of the holy phrase so that the prayers may reach Orun.

In the Orisa faith prayer can occur in many different ways:

Adura - Very simply meaning prayer, the most common of which is the Iba or Mo Juba meaning I/we give praise. In both traditional African and the Diaspora practices, the Iba/MoJuba is quintessential, and is often the very first thing an Olorisa or Babalawo learns. There are Adura for every Orisha, and Adura can be done in any language, for in the end, Orisha are all knowing so there is no language they don't understand. Those of us who are not Yoruba natives learn prayers in Yoruba as a way of respecting the past. The Yoruba have a saying, We stand on the backs of those that came before us. Without our african ancestors, without the slaves of the diaspora, we would not be here.

Oriki Orisha - Oriki are praise names which we have for all the Orisha, they reference acts of the Orisha in Ese Ifa, Iyere and all the other forms of stories in which they take part. They extol the deeds of the past, reminding us of the wonderous actions they performed. There can also be Oriki for kings, ancestors, etc.

Iyere - Iyere is the poetry of Ifa and Iyere is said to be have been a son of Orunmila who transmitted the word of Orunmila through a type of poetry. Upon his death began the Iyere style of Poetry. Chief Eleribuibon mentions that there are two types of Iyere: Iyere Sisun (Iyere singing) and Iyere Pipa (Iyere chanting). There are Ifa priests who specialize in this style and in Nigeria there are even competitions. Also worth mention are other Orisha's praise/poetry: Ijala - chanting for Ogun, Iwi chanting for Egun, and Sango and Oya Pipe.

Of interesting note, Chief Eleribuibon talks of Iyere poetry being used as a means of telecommunications. Noting several Odu Ifa where the chanting is used to communicate thanks or grief across distance. (see Iyere Ifa, Yemi Elebuibon chapter p. 41), which gives credence to the idea that vocalization is an important part of prayer.

Orin - Song, like prayer and poetry, is an important part of the process of invocation, supplication and praise. This is probably one of the most recognizable to the non-initiate, and in the diaspora is in large part, the outward face of the Orisha traditions (as outsiders are often able to participate/attend these ceremonies). It should be of important note that singing is not only a way to beckon the Orisha to come to earth, but a way to communally give praise in an environment that eventually leads to an actual two way communication as Orisha's mount their priests/omo. Unlike any other form of prayer, this is the only one where the Orisha physically manifests to speak with us one on one. It's both visceral and profoundly humbling when you are in the presence of an initiated who is truly mounted by Orisha.

I might add at this point an oft overlooked part of the practice of prayer, which is the role of Ayan (Anya/Aña) bata drums. In the diaspora the repertoire of the drums is quite deep, and includes (as do traditional african Ayan) the notion that the drums mimic the speech patterns of the Yoruba language (which is tonal). In this way, you can even recognize certain prayers and songs that match a rhythmic pattern. So in this way, the drums too are a vocalization of our prayers to Orisha.

It's also important to note that sacred (consecrated) drums are additionally imbued with the power of speech. It is these consecrated drums whose vibrations are able to reach Orun, and in doing such lure the Orisha to Aiye (earth) to mount their omo (children) and physically manifest amongst humans. This is essentially the same role played by the Yoruba talking drum, dundun or gangan, which was used to talk across vast expanses from four to some say as much as 15 miles (during the night). This is where it becomes critical to understand that unlike western languages, Yoruba and other dialects of the area are tonal and each word can have several meanings depending on tone, a fact often lost or forgotten in the diaspora (which get into some of the famous Yoruba Puns or double meanings). This allows the drums to mimic phrases in an uncanny way.

Ofo - This is an area of study that is somewhat obscure with few that are truly masters, and is virtually non-existent in the Diaspora. This chanting is the basis for Yoruba "magic" and through the use of magical and secret names, the enchanter can control inanimate objects, spirits, people, animals, etc to use to their own ends. Ofo can be used for good, and likewise for evil. There are Ofo for money, Ofo for health, Ofo for summoning the Aje, Ofo to cause death, the list is long and numerous.

This is not an exhaustive list, as I believe many different Orisa have their own types of prayer, but should be at least a beginning point for those who don't have significant contact with traditional Yoruba practices.

It is important for us as followers to always pray and be proud. It affirms our existence, it affirms our beliefs, it affirms the Orisha, it affirms the positive desires for the world and it affirms Egun, Egbe and Isheshe. I'll end this with a short Song sung by the group after an Iba:

E e e e, Baba mi iba ni n'o f'ojo oni she e o o
Baba a ni, iba n'o f'ojo oni she e.

E e e e, father I will spend the entire day paying homage,
Father, I will spend the entire day paying homage.

Ase o!!

Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The raw data on initiation/ceremony costs

Aboru Aboye Aboshishe . . .

When I first proposed this idea, I had no illusions. Money is a delicate subject. People are apt to get irritated if there is a perceived threat to their livelihood. Likewise, people are apt to get upset if they appear to have been taken for a ride. These factors contributed to a pretty low turnout (less then 15 people responded). That said, I decided to publish the raw numbers with no analysis other then creating a column adjusting the numbers for inflation to 2007 dollars. My hopes are that this initial data will spur people to send me emails with their costs, which I will gladly keep anonymous (as you see these are). Should you be interested, please answer the questions listed at the bottom of this posting.

Now, I want to again preface this by saying:

1. This is only meant as a comparison, it is not meant to dictate what should or shouldn't be charged.

2. There are good, decent priests who earn their living through Orisa/spiritual works, please support them and don't use this as a means to "negotiate" a better price.

3. Like anything else, quality costs. There are many hard costs involved in these ceremonies, goats can run upwards of $80 each, and I've paid as much as $900 for one Jutia (African bush rat). This doesn't include the many people that need to be fed and given some compensation for their work. There are also hidden costs, remember if your Oluwo/Godparent is doing your initiation, it may mean as many as 7 days without the ability to work, and that's part of what you're paying for. There are also often several ceremonies or days of preparations that are not a part of the ceremonies that you see. Often you don't know about these, and while you should be told about the time used doing them, you can't ask what exactly they are doing.

4. As we say in the computer industry, "garbage in, garbage out" or "you get what you pay for". Remember, you shouldn't skimp, this is not the time to cut corners, and neither should your Oluwo/godparent (if they do, confront them). Finding a priest who will charge less, but has no experience, does not care, will not teach, or worse, won't do the ceremony correctly just hurts you in the end. The flipside is just because it's expensive, doesn't mean you got "more" then someone who paid half what you paid. If the ceremonies were done correctly, then you are equals. Fancy titles or someone who wears shiny bling and charges a bundle doesn't make them better then a modest priest who has no titles and dresses conservatively, but loves, lives and breathes Orisa. In the end, you should be paying for knowledgeable priest, and hopefully one that will pass on some of that knowledge to you.

5. Be wary of mass initiations. For some initiations/ceremonies, it is understandable to perhaps have a few people do them at once, this is often done to lower the price. If you have 10 people receiving a ceremony at once, this isn't right. This is not about production line ethics, and it has not place here. My Awofakan was done this way and it was simply wrong. As far as I could gather, 12 people at between 1500 and 2000 a person added up to alot of money to split 3 ways. My Ita was less then 10 minutes and other less then that. Don't do it. Even if there are a few people doing it at once, ask why, ask how it will affect things.

6. Respect. Respect Orisa, respect the Ori you have that no one can take from you and respect your priest.

I'll preface this with a verse from the Odu Obara Oworin
Oro banta a wuwo bi owu
a difa fun aye,
Nijo ti gbogbo omo araye npon owo pe
Kosi ohun miran mo ninu aye ti o tun ni iyi mo rara
won ni awon o ko ohungbogbo sile,
Awon o maa sare mo owo
Orunmila ni eyiti e nro niti owo beeni
Ati eyiti e nro niti owo beeko si
Ifa l'a ba maa ye
Ogbon l'a ba ma ye
Awon l'a ba bu iyin fun
Agbeniga laa pe owo; abiwaje l'aa pe owo
Eniti ba feran owo l'afeju, iwa re a baje
Iwa rere ni oso eniyan
Bi e ni owo l'owo ko wipe ki e ma di afoju
Ko wipe ki e ma di ashiwere
Ko wipe ki e ma di aro
Ko wipe ki e ma di olokunrin ati beebee
Abuku ara gbogbo le de ba yin
Ki e tun ero gba
Ki e mu iwa rere
Ki e mu ogbon
Ki e wa rubo
Ki ara le ro nyin tinutode

Translated:
Heavy words have the weight of an anvil
This was the teaching of Ifa to the world
At a time when all the people of the world were overpraising money saying:
There is nothing else in the world that is more respected then money
They said they would give up everything
And they would continuously run after money
Orunmila said: what you think about money is so
And what you think about money is also not so
It is the teachings of Ifa we should honor
It is these we should regard highly
It is said money is a raiser of status and a corruptor of character
A person who loves money excessively, his character will be ruined
Good character is the finest beauty of a person
Even if you have money, it does not mean you will not become blind
It does not mean you will not go mad
It does not mean you will not become lane
It does not mean you will not become ill and the like
You still can become disabled in any part of your body
Therefore you should go and get more wisdom so that you may think deeply about things
You should cultivate good character
You should acquire wisdom
And you should come and sacrifice so that you may be at ease inside and out.


The data:


QUESTIONNAIRE
a. Orisha made
b. year made
c. geographic location of ceremony (city, state, country)
d. cost of ceremony (ie, what your godparent/oluwo/etc charged)
e. What this cost included
f. related costs (clothes/other misc. items not included in the original cost)
g. special circumstances
h. Orisha sect (ie lucumi, candomble, palo, Ifa/lucumi, Ifa/traditional, Orisha traditional, Egbe, Ogboni)
i. Were there other ceremonies that you can recall the cost of? If so, what was that cost/what was the ceremony/what was the year and location?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Politics and religion, my view

I recently had a conversation with someone about politics and religion and the following statement I made covers it quite well:

Politics and religion are identical twins separated at birth . . . in growing up apart their belief systems may be different but they have the same DNA. - Obara Meji

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Money and spiritual services, what's right?

I recently posted on several yahoo groups and to colleagues and friends asking the question: how much did you pay for your initiation? The goal was not to be nosy, not to figure out how to set my rates. I wasn't trying to get into peoples personal business, and it wasn't even an attempt to push prices up or down. It was meant to gather data so that people can see what services cost, in order to have a barometer or bell weather of sorts. The response was depressingly low. I'm not sure why though I can speculate on all sorts of reasons, but that's not the point of this article.

I hope to publish the few numbers I do have, but in the meantime I want to be crystal clear about a few things:

**Every circumstance is different, and I'm not suggesting standardized pricing.

**I'm not suggesting that priests are only allowed to earn a specific amount of money.

**This should not be taken as license for people to begin "window shopping" for prices. Make a good decision about a godparent/mentor/Oluwo, and this article will likely not be important to you other then as a reference on ethics.

**Priests have varying knowledge, and a highly trained, highly skilled, learned, ethical priest is truly priceless and rare. As with anything, demand can drive prices up and while a priest must perform works of charity, he/she should also earn a living.

Eji-Obge tells us:

A o t'okun dokun
ka too ri winni-winni agbe
A o tosa dosa
Ka too ri doodo orun Aluko
A baa t'okun dokun
Ki a tosa dosa
Ka too ri oloooto Awo
Odi Ile-Ifa Akelubeke
Dia fun Igbin
O n'sawo lo sode Ileyo
O wa mekun sekun igbe
O mohun seyere aro
O ni: Eniyan an won o
Eniyan an soro
Ka too ri olooto Awo
Ona a jin

Translation:
We shall travel from ocean to ocean
Before we can see the tiny specie of the Blue Touraco
We shall wind from river to river
Before we can see the specie of Maroon Touraco with goiter on their necks
Whether we travel from ocean to ocean
and from there wend river to river
Before we can find a truthful Babalawo
We shall reach Ile-Ife Akelubebe
That is the declaration of the oracle of Igbin (snail)
When going to Ileyo town to practice Ifa
He made his weeping a shouting lamentation
He made his song a dirge of lamentation
He said: Human beings (truthful ones) are scarce
Human beings are difficult
Before we can find a truthful Babalawo
We shall travel far

**Geography changes the costs of things. You must always remember, it's your responsibility to pay a fair wage, and help support priests in third world countries. Low-balling or negotiating low rates simply because you can or because they live in poverty-stricken areas is not excusable. This means You are not acting ethically.

That all said, this discussion can't go anywhere without talking about my favorite line, "my Ashe is priceless" or "how can you put a price on my Ashe". The implication is that they are the owner of Ashe and the only one who could dole it out (which actually lies in the realm of Esu Odara and the Odu Ose Tura). This kind of pride and arrogance is what gives the religion a bad name. Certainly, the ceremony offers us priceless rewards and guidance, but that does not mean that only that priest could have performed it, or helped you in your quest, that's simply arrogance. As a side note, Ashe (or Ase) is the unseen force/power that makes things come to life, it is also the exclamation "May it be so".

We are all born with Ori, and Orisha, we are also all born with Ashe, no one can take it away, and no one can simply "give" it to us. Through the process of initiation, we can awaken the Ashe in our Ori/Eleda and make the connection between our Ori and the Divine (Olodumare). This is no doubt accomplished with the help of priests using their Ashe and knowledge to perform ritual, sacrifice and prayer. And, they should no doubt be compensated for that service. But, Iwori Wowo (Iwori Ose) reminds us that money should not be our end goal, but only a "thing" we use to fulfill our needs.

Iwori Wowo-wowo
Iwori wokun-wokun
Iwori wokun tan o too wo'de o
Dia fun Eni Ileele
Nje eni i leele
Ti won o nii teni fun lailai
Ni oruko ti aa pe ow

Translated

Iwori looks at money
Iwori looks at okun beads
Iwori look at okun beads first, before you look at brass ornaments
These were the declarations of Ifa to a person on the bare floor
Who does not deserve being honored with a mat
The person on the floor who must never be given a mat
Is the name given to money

In this odu, ifa tells us to first look at Okun beads (beads worn by Obas (kings) and Ijoye (chiefs) symbolizing royalty/authority, in this case the authority of Ifa, before we focus on the brass ornaments (a bauble that can be bought with money). Ifa says that a person (money) is not to be honored as equal to a human by being given a mat to sit on. Money, is not of the same worth as people.

So what is the solution?

The process of payment for spiritual services needs to be transparent.

If a client says that they want to know why this costs XXX, then it is the ethical responsibility of the priest to give them a breakdown. The reason the process needs to be transparent is that Ifa teaches us that as priests and as people we need to be truthful. Not telling people costs, not telling people what they are paying for, not being clear is the same as not being truthful (we need to tell the whole truth). In Oruta rera (Otura Ogunda) Ifa says:

Eke o kun ni
Ika o kun mo eniyan
Bi eke ba n yolee da
Ohun werewere abenu a mas yo wo ni sise
dia fun sagbagiriyan
Tii se baale asotito
Nje sotito sododo
Eni to sotito
Ni mole n gbe

Translation:
Dishonesty does not pay anyone
Wickedness is beneficial to none
When a dishonest person lots his treachery
His conscience pricks him persistently
These were the declarations of Ifa to Sagbagiriyan
Who was the head of the honest people
Pray, be honest, be truthful
Those who are honest
The deity supports

Once you have told someone what you will charge and why, then they can openly and fully make an informed decision. If you have nothing to hide and believe that your compensation is fair, then you should have no shame or hesitation in letting someone know how much something will cost. Will it shock people? Perhaps sometimes . . . But the flipside is the client needs to understand many variables. As priests we spend years training. A good knowledgeable priests will spend as many years as a doctor training and learning, and it never ends. If we truly believe that our spirit is important, then we would not want to trust a laymen with our spiritual needs. I'm not saying a priest necessarily needs to make as much as a doctor, but why not if that priest has dedicated their life to service, and helps not only those with money, but those in need too.

Ogbo Ate says:

Omo boo kofa, o kofa
Omo boo teru, o teru
Odomode to kofa
To lohun o nii fi sin agbalagba
Ko nii ri Ifa ibule ko
Dia fun akiri-tojule
Eyi tii se aremo Okanjuwa
Emi o pe ng o pin wo o
Ifa ni e ko mi o
Bi ng o ba tete ku
Ma la se maa lowo

Translation
Child, if you want to study Ifa, do so
Child, if you want to fight over Ifa proceeds, do so
A child who studies Ifa
Who declares that he will not serve elders with his knowledge
He will not learn the Ifa which distinguishes a Babalawo among the crowd
These were the declarations of Ifa to Akiri-tojule (he who moves from one house to the other)
Who is the first child of avarice
I am not after the proceeds from Ifa
Please teach me useful Ifa
If I do not die young
I will be successful, surely I will be wealthy

This not only tells us the Awo who is truly after knowledge of Ifa will be taken care of. It also, very importantly, warns us against moving from house to house (assuming we made a good choice in our house to begin with). By working with our elders, either as priest or as lay-person, we can learn Ifa and become wealthy (not just monetarily).

I would like to close this with an Ese from the Odu Eji-Ogbe:

K'a má fi kánjú j'aiyé.
K'a má fi wàrà-wàrà n'okùn orò.
Ohun à bâ if s'àgbà,
K'a má if se'binu.
Bi a bá de'bi t'o tútù,
K'a simi-simi,
K'a wò'wajú ojo lo titi;
K'a tun bò wá r'èhìn oràn wo;
Nitori àti sùn ara eni ni.

Let us not engage the world hurriedly
Let us not grasp at the rope of wealth impatiently
That which should be treated with mature judgment
Let us not deal with in a state of anger
When we arrive at a cool place
Let us rest fully
Let us give continuous attention to the future
and let us give deep consideration to the consequences of things
And this because of our (eventual) passing

Ase ooo
Ifalola