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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
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.


*** 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

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

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

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: