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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On having the right Odu for the priesthood

Aboru Aboye Aboshishe,

I’ve often heard people speak about initiation as a right that is mandated by the Odu they received in an Ita Orisa or reading. One of the typical statements goes something like:

“I received XYZ Odu that says I have to initiate to XYZ Orisa or initiate to Ifa, therefore it’s my right, regardless of my lifestyle/sex/gender. If I have the Odu, how can the Orisa be wrong?”

The problem with this argument is it predicates itself on a few assumptions. First is that the Odu/Orisa saying you should initiate is the same as saying you and your Ori are ready to initiate and take on the responsibilities, ewoo (taboos) and commitments that come with being initiated to that priesthood. Certainly, you can go into it thinking you will be able to take these on, only to later change your mind. But it seems a whole different matter to walk into the initiation, knowing that you will not/can not fulfill your obligations to the Orisa and the priesthood. If one’s Ori is not ready to take on the requisite responsibilities, it means that Ori is not yet ready for that step. Ifa tells us this very clearly in the Odu Ogbe ‘Ka

I stood for a long time
But I was unable to reach the ishin fruit
I bent down for a long time
But I still could not reach the ishin fruit
But thanks to some special elders
Who advised me to prostrate myself in respect and without reservation
I prostrated myself in respect and without reservation
Then, the ishin fruit dropped into my hands
And the ishin fruit dopped into my mouth
This was the teaching of Ifa for Ejika-gogoogo
Who was going to carry Osu to the sacred grove of Ifa
They were advised to sacrifice
They heard and complied
May Osu stand up straight
May he not lie down
Standing firm and upright is how we must always find Osu

Mo duro –duro
Owo mi o to ishin
Mo bere-bere
Owo mi o to ishin
Opelope awon agba kan
Ti won niki ndobale yeke
Mo dobale yeke
Ishin nbo si mi l’owo
Ishin nbo si mi l’enu
Difa fun Ejika gogoogo
Ti yio gbe Osu de’gbodu
Won ni ki won rubo
Won gbo; won ru
Nje Odu m’ori ro o
Ki o ma dubule
Iduro gangan l’aa ba Osu

This entire verse is clearly a metaphor for the person seeking initiation into Ifa, “Ejika gogoogo who was going to carry Osu to the sacred grove of Ifa”. Though trying to reach the fruit, Ejika was unable to reach it until through the advice of elders, he learned he must prostrate himself in respect and without reservation. It’s only then he is able to hold and ingest the ishin fruit. It’s of special note that the ishin fruit (Blighia Sapida) is eaten, however with much care. If not prepared in just the right way (skin and seeds removed and boiled to leech toxins), it can cause death. This is an important, but easily lost, cultural reference in the ese Ifa, the implication being if one does not respect Ifa, it’s ewoo (like not eating the seeds or skin), and proper worship, Ifa can cause death.

Understanding that the ishin represents Ifa and its secrets. Ejika is also advised that once he gains the knowledge of Ifa, it is also important to know that Osu atop the staff is always to be kept upright (ifa is always kept upright), so that Osu (representative of the Asa – hawk) may always see out and around in order to protect the initiate.

Ifa tells us in the Odu Irete Meji:

Iwo ote
Emi ote
D'ifa fun baba a lese ire
Ma a l'ori ire
Won ni ko ru'bo si laiku ara re
O ru'bo
Ko i pe
Ko i jina
E wa ba wa laiku kangere

You are a presser (an initiate)
I am a presser
Divined for the Baba with good feet
but not with a good Ori (destiny)
he was advised to make ebo for long life/goodness
He made the ebo
Not too long
Soon after
Join us in everlasting lives

Here, Ifa makes note that initiation alone does not give one’s Ori good destiny, even though one’s feet may have lead them to that point. Through sacrifice (not simply initiation), we change our destiny to enjoy everlasting life. In other words, we have to sacrifice in order to be worthy of the initiation.

It’s also very important to note that the actions of one’s Ori have bearing on whether one is ready/allowed to initiate. It’s a matter of character and responsibility as Ifa tells us in the Odu Okanran Oturupon:

Falsehood is not good for anyone
Commitment breaking is not good for anyone
If young people act secretly to break commitments
Secret things will happen to them
This was the teaching of Ifa for an assistant priest
Who was going to proposition the wife of the Oluwo (high priest of Ifa)

Eke ko suwon ara eni
Odale ko suwom ara eni
B’omode ba nyole da
Ohun abe- nu a maa yo won se
O difa fun ajugbona
Ti o lo nfe obinrin Oluwo

Certainly we can fixate on this verse as being about the ramifications of trying to lure an elder/priest’s wife. But the true meaning of this verse is that if you are breaking ewoo (taboo) in secret, you will be dealt with. So hiding who you are, or acting against the ewoo of a priesthood and not telling your Oluwo provides you no protection in the long run.

Second, it assumes that Odu are set in stone and will always come to pass. Odu are not, they can tell you what you are likely to encounter, but as with everything in life, it is mutable. It may say, you’ll be wealthy, but because you make poor choices in life, you may never see that wealth. It may even say, you will lead a long life, but again, your poor choices can lead to a premature death. We see for instance, that character and sacrifice (of actions, not just “things”) allows one to avoid a premature death in the Odu Irete Oyekun:

Orifusi, father of Elu, was searching for a way to avoid death
So that death would not kill him, his children and his wives
They said: If you want to avoid death
You must sacrifice and follow the teachings of Ifa
Ifa will teach you the conduct and character
Which will enable you to avoid death
They said when you sacrifice, you should begin doing good from this day on more then ever before
For your sacrifice is in vain, if your character is deficient
Therefore, you should take the sacrificial pigeons and chickens home
You should release them
You should not kill them
You should give them food if they come to eat at your house
And you must not kill anything whatsoever from this day on
For one who does not want death to kill him
Should not kill anything whatsoever

Orifusi baba Elu nwa ibi a ba ye iku
Si ki o ma le pa oun omo re ti aya re
A niki bi e ba wipe ki iku ma le pa eyin
Ki e rubo ki e si wa te Ifa
Ifa yoo ma ko eyin, ni ise ati iwa
Ti kii jeki a ku
Won ni bi e rubo
E beresi rere-ise lati oni lo ju ti atehin wa.
Lasan ni e rubo, bi e ba din iwarere
Ki e ko awon eyele ati adiye lo si ile eyin
Ki e ko won dasile
Ki e ma se pa won
Ki e maa fun won ni ounje bi won ba je wa ile
E ko gbodo pa ohunkohun lati oni lo
Nitori eniti ko fe ki iku pa oun
Ki o ma se iku pa ohunkohun si.

Lastly, it assumes that initiation is not earned in any way. This is unfortunately not true, though it seems no matter where we are in today’s world, looking at someone’s character prior to initiation is a dying practice. Societies like the Ogboni, just like Palo and Abakua in the diaspora, required that one was an upstanding person and known in the community. Babalawos in Yorubaland would not take on an apprentice, let alone initiate someone, if they didn’t know their character, who they were, and where they came from.

This appears to no longer be true, in part because societies have changed, migration patterns are more fluid from the past, having ties to the community is less important and establishing one’s reputation is of no value(re-invention is as simple as hoping a plane). Money also plays a more important role, creating flexibility where it once didn’t exist and causing people to turn a blind eye.

I’ll end this with an Odu about the affects money (and their willingness to turn a blind eye) can have on people’s character:

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.

Aboru Aboye Aboshishe
Ase ooo
Marcos Ifalola Sanchez

3 comments:

The Tosh Mahal said...

Thank you for taking the time to write and posting this.

Anonymous said...

Aboru Aboye BaBa;
thank-you for your teachings and I am working on making right from my mistakes with my Awo, and each day that I have breath, I have another day to make things right. Much Ase'
Odabo Iya Esubi Olorisa

Shubert Mendez said...

I appreciate all you have shared. You have reinforced what I hold dear. This time next week I will be on a couple of days away from completing my 7 days.

I hope to not only reinforce but learn from those with wisdom and knowledge.

Thank you,