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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The essence of Odu

When the concept of Odu was first explained to me, I was lead to understand that within Odu lies all the knowledge of the world, past, present and future. Ifa shows us the way to unlock that knowledge and see how it affects our lives. This truth is clearly seen when we go to Ifa for divination. Ifa shows us our past, explains our present, and reveals our future and how we can affect a future outcome. This last portion is why we say Aboru, Aboye, Aboshishe. Translating roughly to, May our ebo arrive in heaven, may our ebo be accepted, may that which we asked for when making ebo come to pass.

As we seek the deeper meaning of Odu, we look to understand the who, why, when and how. We know for instance, that Odu is the female energy within Ifa. It is Odu which joins with the Ikin Ifa to birth its pattern creating one of the 256 combination of Odu. We see this each time a Babalawo invokes Ifa and marks the Odu on the Opon Ifa (or throws the Opele). At that moment, a particular Odu is being born to the Ori of the client that is being consulted. In that moment, that particular Odu has manifest its energy into the life of the client, and rules the client for a given period of time.

If we take this one step further, and examine what is encapsulated within Odu, we might see any given Odu is essentially a story, within which we find a problem and resolution (be it good or bad). Within that story, it is the responsibility of the Babalawo (and the client) to not only interpret the story, but do so in a way that is meaningful to the client. This is done through divine inspiration (during itefa, there are metaphysical changes within the Babalawo in order to allow him to see/interpret Odu and Ifa in ways beyond that of a normal person) and also through the knowledge and wisdom of the studious Awo.

This is truly important to understand because any given story can have multiple interpretations, and any given reading can emphasize different parts of a given story. It is the job of the true Awo Ifa to find the deeper meaning within the meaning. Odu is like an onion with layers of meanings and some on the surface and other deep within.

In this way Odu is timeless, an amorphous mass of knowledge that is interpreted and re-interpreted. On the one hand, it holds all the knowledge of the past present and future, on the other, we realize it does this because past, present and future are one. For Odu, all things exist at all time simultaneously, past, present and future collapse into a body of knowledge that is constantly birthing and constantly dying. Odu is in fact the singularity from which our universe is born.