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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

3 comments:

Obanyoko said...

ABuru ABoye ABosise
Modupe Baba for you commentary.

It is interesting because I had started a piece on the responsibility that is held by all aspirants regardless if they are IFa priest or not. The reason I say this is because the Osha system of divination is based upon Odu ifa as well and there are rituals and other informations which are to be held just as sacred as the ones used by Awo.

I would think that Iwori Meji would apply to all priest not just Awo. That is my opinion. Perhaps from your perspective as stated here you are saying that Osha Priest have less moral responsiblity and less integrity than Awo. This I do not agree with I believe all priest have these responsibilities, and therefore should be held accountable.

The rituals of Ifa as with the Rituals of Osha should be held as sacred and therefore maintained as such and in this manner, as all sacred wisdom, should remain "secret".

However there is the question of rituals done for particular Orisha. When doing Ritual to one's Orisha who is more appropriate to do such ritual a priest of that Orisha or a sercedote Ifa? If other Orisha are for Osha then I ask who does Orisha ritual?

In todays world of the internet super highway, mass production of Iyanifa and so forth I am not clear on where the deliniations come in. At one point I was taught that women were not supposed to work with Ifa. For this reason women when doing the first intiation Ifa only recevied few Ikin. I was taught that this was the reason Merindilogun was created.

Today this is not true today women can be Awo just the same as any man, depending on the Odu. Women are receiving the same amount of Ikin as men. As well there is even question of women doing divination with Opele. THerefore today the only people for the most part excluded in genral from working with IFA is gays.

So this said I say that I agree with you in theory but disagree in terms of selection and process. ALL PRIEST MUST UPHOLD IWORI MEJI. Just my opinion.

Ifalola said...

O gbo ato Obanyoko,

I do agree with you that all priests should abide by Iwori Meji, I was only pointing out that in our oath to Odu, Babalawo specifically are bound by Odu Ifa, whereas this doesn't happen specifically in other Orisa priesthoods that I know of.

We all have moral responsibilities, priests more so . . .

Thank you for your commentary!

Odabo
Ifalola

Anonymous said...

Aboru aboye abosise
Se Alafia ni,
Just my 1/2cent. I personally understand what you say, however I think any in the religion, should hold to the same concepts and principles about character etc. All are bound (only in my opinion) by the tenents of Ifa no matter what Orisa they may be serving as priest. Just my thought
Ire
Ifaleye