|Randomly refreshing bits of Ifa wisdom:|
If you have been initiated into Ifa, your own mind should initiate you.
Awo! Do not climb a tree on a broken rope.
Awo! Do not jump into the water if you can't swim.
Awo! Don't draw a knife in anger!
Awo! Do not wear the apron of Awo.
Buy “Ika” cheap!
Today and tomorrow (March 9 and 10), 20% off when using coupon code:
The first in a series of Odu books from the Ifa Corpus as used and translated by Jaap Verduijn, with illustrations by Brenda Beek!
The next volume in the series of sixteen, the book “Irete”, is in the proof reading stage now. Just adding a couple of final drawings and making some last corrections, and soon it will be available too!
The need for a new platform
As an ancient geezer, I only use my faithful desktop computer to go on the internet. Yes, I do have a cell phone, but it’s only for phone calls and the odd text message… it doesn’t have an internet option, nor would I want it to have anything of the kind. Let alone that I’d be in for iPods or Smartphones or iPhones or tablets or stuff like that… I don’t even know what they are… to me they’re simply cell phones with a superiority complex ;-)!
Yet I am increasingly aware that a growing number of people tend to access the internet, including this good old website, with their cell phones. In order to have sufficient access and to see/read everything clearly, there is a need for software, set-up, apps and the good lord knows what more, that I neither have nor understand.
In other words: in order to keep the Ilé Dafa (especially the long neglected divination lessons!) going in a decent way, I will need to either look for another template for this WordPress site and transfer it all (a bloody motherfucker of a job), or switch the whole thing to another platform (another motherfucker of a job), or look for a totally different solution and start it all over again (the mother of all motherfuckers of a job)!
I’ve not yet decided what to do, which of these options to take. Maybe there’s even another one that I am overlooking. But I promise y’all: I’ll keep digging into it, and in the end I’ll come up with a solution that’s kinda “future proof” (wide grin)! I’ll keep you posted!
Seems an interesting idea, being an Independent Ifa Practitioner. But… what does it really MEAN? Is it about learning directly from Ifa, or learning with the correct Babalawo? And what about Orunmila? Do you honor him as Independent practitioners?
A babalawo is by definition an initiate into the Orunmila system. Being part of a “system” inevitably limits what you are allowed to do, and often even what you are allowed to learn.
The limits on what you are allowed to do, are not necessarily bad. After all, each club, group, society or association has its rules, and one is free to decide to accept these and join, or not accept them and don’t join. For those who accept its rules, the Orunmila system with its particular limitations is perfectly alright. For those who don’t, the same Orunmila system with the same limitations feels like a prison cell, and it’s this kind of personality that “Independent practice” might be very good for, and might help them fulfill their Destiny.
Fairly often within the Orunmila system (in fact within any established religious system) one is not only limited in what one can do, but also in what one is allowed to learn. One thing I feel “Orunmila inmates” are not allowed to learn, is that there are more NON-Orunmila diviners in the worldwide Ifa complex than there are Orunmila diviners. Another thing the Ifa system doesn’t want its adherents to know, is that initiation into Orunmila is not at all necessary to become a highly effective Ifa diviner. A third thing the Orunmila system doesn’t want its practitioners to know is that Ifa is not exclusively (or even basically) a Yoruba “thing”, but an Africa-wide, indeed world wide complex of binary divination systems of which “Ifa Orunmila” (so called in contrast with the non-Orunmila systems) is just one single branch.
Sooner or later Ifa begins to explain itself!
An Independent practitioner does his own studies, finds his own way(s) into Ifa, figures out how his individual personality (Ori) makes him function best within world wide Ifa, and last not but least experiences to his/her great joy and considerable amazement that, once he begins to learn how to divine, sooner or later (usually sooner) the “system” begins to explain itself!
In short: the Independent practitioner learns with Ifa itself, and is not easily tempted to let a priest come between himself and his god. Learning with the “correct babalawo” might be theoretically possible, but in practice not many babalawos are willing to teach students forms of Ifa divination that are outside their own system. There will hardly be an Ifa priest (Babalawo) who will tell his omo’s: “Look guys, of course it would be nice if you were initiated, but it really isn’t necessary. I’ll teach you how to become a damn good Ifa diviner without ever having the need to become initiated”
But how important is Orunmila in Independent Ifa?
Since Independent Ifa practitioners are by definition kind of… eh… independent, I can’t speak or even pretend to speak for all of them, so I’ll produce my personal point of view.
Considering that Orunmila only surfaces in the Yoruba version of Ifa, his importance seems to be limited to that version. Even within Yoruba Ifa, Orunmila seems to be a fairly recent praise name for the Orisha Ifa. With “fairly recent” I mean that, going back in time, we see the mention of the name Orunmila slowly dwindle in favor of the name Ifa, until we arrive around 1850 before which ALL mention of Orunmila seems to stop, and ALL documentation speaks of only Ifa instead.
I found some stuff from the 19th century, pertaining to the position of Ifa vs Orunmila, from Awori-Egbado, Lagos-Ondo, Egba and Ibadan. The general tendency seems to be that Ifa is seen as both the system AND the driving Orisha behind it.
|In Ibadan, 1853, a worshipper got quite exited, waving a sword and declaring: “Ifa is God, no other word shall be heard”.|
|In 1858 at Otta an olorisha states that Ifa is an Orisha, and in 1868 a babalawo says that there is no enmity between Ifa and Olorun, which implies that he too considered Ifa a deity because, if it were only a “system”, the above statement wouldn’t make sense.|
|In 1878 in Adeagba (Egbado) an olorisha verbally kicks the butt of a missionary stating that “we olorisha worship Olorun through Ifa”… without any mention of Orunmila.|
|Around the same time, in Lagos a babalawo states that Ifa is the god of his fathers and therefor he worships him.|
|In Leke in 1878 there’s finally a reference to Orunmila… but not as a separate Orisha but as a praise name for Ifa. An Ifa priest by the name of Agogo states that Ifa is the mediator between God and men because of the name Orunmila… implying that it’s a praise name or complementary title of Ifa.|
|Beju, 1879: some olorisha state that their town has been built by Ifa and the people will be directed by Ifa. The second mention of Ifa could certainly refer to the system, but the first one clearly indicates a deity.|
|Ondo, 1877: the king and his chiefs confirm their adherence to the worship of Ifa and their other Imole.|
|In Lagos, somewhere during the second half of the 19th century, a babalawo was recorded saying that the sixteen palm nuts were not the object of worship, but “mere representatives” – the true Ifa was a Spirit.|
So… to me “Orunmila” is a praise name for the Orisha/Spirit of Ifa, a praise name which may have derived from a possibly mythological, possibly historical, possible both, character or individual that we see surface in many Ifa texts as a CLIENT of Ifa.
In the vast collection of Ifa texts I have, there are many incidences of a person named Orunmila who goes for divination to Ifa, which seems to indicate that Ifa and Orunmila have separate existences of their own. In other words: in the texts that probably are very old, they are thought of as DIFFERENT characters.
Again, only in the second half of the 19th century does one encounter the first mention of Orunmila being a praise name of Ifa, indicating that the two are beginning to be thought of as “the same”.
For me, not being in the Yoruba system, Orunmila does not have the same importance as he has for those who are in that system. In fact I think there’s good reason to believe that “Orunmila” is simply the Yoruba pronunciation of the Arabic “Ar Raml” (sand cutting) which, although a different system, is as much Ifa as is the Yoruba system.
So… what’s the final verdict on being Independent?
The Independent Ifa practitioner studies wherever he can, practices whenever he can, and lets Ifa talk and teach to him through the increasingly sophisticated way the student learns to handle the paraphernalia. He/she is not opposed to the Orunmila system as practiced by the Yorubas and their spiritual descendants in the Diaslopara but… he is most certainly not a part of it. It’s a different branch, with it’s own different rules.
Available now: free (limited) membership
Well now, with a lot of work (these things are unexpectedly complicated!) I have finally managed to create an additional, new method of access to this site: a Free Membership which gives access to most, though not all, “members only” stuff.
This free membership will not replace the normal “full” membership. It’s mainly meant for those who are for any reason unable or unwilling to have a Paypal account, and although most of the “members only” stuff will be available to free members, some of it will not: our online library of Ifa texts (Ese Odu Ifa) remains only available for Full (paying) members, and of the Divination Lessons the Free members will, just like non-members, only see the first paragraphs.
If you browse through the pages of our Tour Ilé Dafa you’ll find more details, like how it works and how the two memberships (paid and free) compare to each other. If aspiring members follow the instructions there, there should be no problem. However, due to the fact that the forms have changed a bit in order to accommodate the choice of two memberships, some details in the instructions are presently not exactly correct. That’s not too important though: even an autistic axolotl or a demented dromedary can figure it out, and eventually I’ll make it all up to date.
I have closed the “Palaver House” Facebook Group. I will maintain this main site Ilé Dafa though. I am still on the fence whether I will open up this site for the public (in which case I will remove comments you may have posted here, because they were made in the confidence that they would remain visible for members only), or keep it as a members site. I am leaning towards the former, in which case y’all are invited to go into your Paypal accounts and cancel your subscriptions. Be well!
Ika Meji and its fifteen sub-odus
Brenda and I are embarrassingly behind schedule in publishing our sixteen books containing all 256 Odu Ifa. As it turned out we needed some sort of frame or format for the whole series, enabling us to kind of churn out the other fifteen at hopefully much greater speed than all those months the Ika thingy took. So the format is in place (you’d be amazed how much time, creativity and work these things take…), and now it’s all set and go! We hope to be able to produce four books a year… yes, I know that sounds slow, but believe me: in the end the whole collection will count over 3000 pages with several drawings per page, which is a damn terrific job for an old Blabla and his Omolet to do ;-)!
We start off with republishing our existing Odu Ifa Ika book in the new and final format. So what you see here is the second edition of the book “Ika”: the new Ika book is an updated, expanded and improved version of the first one. The new edition has more texts, and more enlightening drawings. It’s also more compact, and the new format is easier to read and work with. Below you see the basics.
Ika – The main odu and its fifteen sub-odus:
• The book contains 70 Ifa verses
• Metaphysical Observations
• The book is fully illustrated
• Arranged in alphabetical order
Number of verses:
Ika Meji (14)
You can order the book by clicking on either the illustration or the blue link higher up in the text, or simply here. The price is US$ 21.95 or the equivalent in your own currency.
Click example page for enlarged view:
It is Ori, Ori alone…
In my article Ori coming out (1) I spoke about the unavoidable need for the various expressions of Ifa/Orisha in the West to change from imitated alien to genuine indigenous. That article, which was also published on various groups, created some sort of an uproar among Babalariwos and Oloonywos. As you may know, I’ve fully had it with that lot, so here comes the second installment which will annoy them even more (evil grin)!
I perceive quite a lot of Orisha worship especially in the West as melodramatically overdone. Dangerously overdone. I feel Orisha worship far too often inhibits spiritual development, instead concentrating on ceremonies and rituals which make the troubled practitioner snuff a bunch of chickens or a goat, and then sit on his ass to wait for the Orisha to solve the problem. The sad thing is that you can’t even blame them, because it’s what they’re told to do within “the system”.
The Orishas have become magic puppets, and the “Elders” have become the puppet masters. There’s less dealing with the infinite forces of Nature than with their mentally disturbed human projections… like Oshun who has deteriorated into a vain and horny bitch, a parody called Shango who fucks everything that moves and who is just about the rudest being you can imagine, the distorted image of Ogun who is dumb enough to make the perfect bouncer in a shady bar, and let’s throw in my own Oshoosi whose puppet turns out to be so irresponsible with bow and arrow that he shoots his own grandmother – he’s probably a Life Member of the NRA. Not a bunch one would want to associate with, would one?
The Elders are the puppet masters
Not fully, but yet to a considerable extend, this situation has developed out of the strict, rigid, hierarchical structure of Orisha worship in the West. The Elders are the puppet masters who know and control how the Orishas can be prompted to “do” something for their followers, and who insist that everybody knows their place in the pecking order of Ilé, Egbe or House. This is a recipe for abuse, which automatically develops when people obediently play their assigned roles within a system and strictly follow its prescribed rules… while remaining blind to, or at least ignoring and/or whitewashing, the nefarious moral consequences of what that system and those inside it are doing. The “religion” stinks; I believe that only when the present generation of Elders in the West has died, some true spirituality might find its way back into the circus.
Some of the rules in organized Orisha worship are:
- You never go around, or over the head of, your Elder.
- You tell your Elder what he wants to hear, even when he claims to want dissident views.
- If your Elder wants an issue dropped, you drop it.
- You are sufficiently sensitive to your Elder’s wishes to anticipate what he wants, and act accordingly.
- Your do not report anything that your Elder does not want reported, but cover it up instead.
- You do as you are told by your Elder, and you keep your mouth shut even when you have burning questions.
Now that’s pure guruism and cultism. What you see happen is that the Elders totally regulate your access to, and interaction with, what you have learned to see as “the Orishas”… which wouldn’t matter at all if you paid a bit more attention to your own Ori and a lot less to the puppets that the Elders are manipulating for you – including yourself.
It is Ori alone who accompanies his follower on every journey, without turning back
Am I saying then that the Spiritual Forces don’t exist? Nope… I am not saying that at all, on the contrary… they do exist, and we (can) work with them every day! However, these Spiritual Forces (I like calling them the Forces of Nature) are far less “human” and far more “cosmic” than is even remotely expressed in your run-off-the-mill Orisha worship with all its ritual, ceremonies, hopscotch and hootenanny. In essence they are Irunmole… the Forces that came and existed before some of their emanations were called Orishas. And don’t forget the concept of Ori… which is the essential Orisha, even to the extent of existing without the “sha”! Ori-sha, after all, means something like “select(ed) head”, but the ultimate selected head is your own Ori which you chose (selected) already before coming to Earth!
The Odu Ogunda Meji says about Ori: Ifa, the question is: “Who among the deities accompanies their followers on every journey, without ever turning back?” Ifa said: “It is Ori, Ori alone, who accompanies his follower on every journey, without ever turning back.” When I have money it is my Ori whom I praise. My Ori, it is you. When I have children it is my Ori whom I praise. My Ori, it is you. All the good things I have on earth, it is my Ori whom I praise. My Ori, it is you. My Ori, I salute you, you, who does not forget his follower, you who blesses his follower quicker than any other deity. No deity blesses a human being without the consent of his Ori. Ori, I salute you. You who allows children to be born alive. One whose offers are accepted by his Ori has reason to dance and rejoice.
I’d say that this is a damn good reason to take your Ori very serious! In fact, Ifa repeatedly states that without the consent and cooperation of your Ori, none of the Orishas/Irunmole can do anything for you.
Don’t let your Ori allow abuse!
Neither can any human being do anything for, or against, you without the consent of your Ori… which is an essentially important fact in a religion that is saturated with abuse. Unfortunately, in more than fifteen years online I have noticed that it is almost impossible to break down the barriers of suspicion and paranoia, even to the extend that people don’t want to talk about their experiences, among other reasons on account of being scared shitless. Nobody trusts anybody. “Who is he?” “I don’t want to be in a group with her!” “I don’t trust him!” “She is a spy from another Ilé!” “He will tell my Elders everything I write!” “She only wants to hex me!” I guess you get the picture. Diasporian branches of Ifa and Orisha remind me very little of a religion or a philosophy, and very much of a mental disease. The fear is deeply rooted… and with some reason. You lot would be shocked out of your socks if I told you the horror stories that people bring to me. Or maybe you wouldn’t be shocked… a significant percentage of my readers has been raped, robbed or otherwise abused themselves… by so-called “Elders”. I really believe that only when the present generation of Elders in the West has died, some true spirituality might find its way back into the circus, and fear might make place for self-confidence.
Orishas are man-made, Irunmole aren’t
There’s far too much hopscotch, hootenanny, fancy dress and “shut the fuck up” in Ifa/Orisha. Rituals and ceremonies rule so strongly that for asking one or two quick questions from cowries or obi, lengthy ritualistic introductions and invocations must be performed: the bullshit takes much longer than the questions and answers themselves. And I don’t even mention what comes afterwards… when the puppets must be satisfied or they will “make your life a misery”.
So much, so very much of all this is completely unnecessary! What does the metaphysical spirit of iron care whether you snuff a rooster or not? What does the metaphyscial spirit of the river care if you throw in a pigeon? With only a few exceptions the answer is: “Nothing”! To an astonishing extend our “religion” has turned the Orishas into the Punch and Judy’s of the Spiritual realm: man-made puppets that represent somewhat recognizable archetypes… but the archetypes themselves they are not! It took me a bit of time to recognize this simple fact, but eventually I started veering away from Orishas towards Irunmole, meaning that the little “puppets” (Orishas) are beginning to mean less and less to me, while the forces they represent (Irunmole) are becoming increasingly important… at least to me.
In Orisha(-worship) there is too much “humanization” for me to effectively work with. Although in 1982 (geez… 31 years ago already… I must be getting old – grin!) I started out on my Ifa path by studying the Orishas as they are usually seen, that is in some sort of a humanized way, during the years I began to find out that they aren’t.
Orishas are man-made, while Irunmole aren’t. The names of the Orishas, and their attributes, are sort of “convenient conventions” to help us kind of imagine what it’s all about, and to a certain extend that works. But… but… BUT…: it has taken over so much of what the forces of nature and the related spirits really are!
Just a single example. One of the many shifts in my attitude arose from a range of videos showing possession. I vividly remember Shango (or at least something that was supposed to be Shango) tarted up like an 18th century Spanish poofter, prancing about as if doing ballet lessons with a cactus up his ass. What I saw was neither a powerful virile king nor a spirit of fire, thunder and lightning, but just some idiot going through the motions he thought he was supposed to go through: an actor, a man-made puppet acting out some symptoms from DSM-IV.
Another revealing situation arose when OLU (Organization for Lukumi Unity) disappeared from the face of this earth after a conference they had (finally) managed to organize. It’s a bit simplified, but essentially this was what happened: crowd A went into “possession” of which the validity was denied by crowd B, while the validity of the “possessions” of crowd B was emphatically denied by crowd A. Result: after the whole hullabaloo everybody went home and various Babalariwos began to cast Ifa in order to retrospectively decide which “possessions” had been genuine and which not. Ifa must have laughed his spiritual ass off… and within only a few weeks OLU, once the largest Lukumi organization and forum, was no more.
The risk of puppeteering the Orishas
I’m not the only one who sees the risk of humanizing the Orishas too much. Years ago, my late internet-friend Afolabi (Clay Keck) wrote: “Too often Orisha worshipers begin to confuse themselves with their patron Orisha. Priests will explain away the flaws in their character as archetypal behaviour. Yemoja eats too much, Shango sleeps around, Ogun is rude and abrupt, and Oshun is a bitch. It is true that because character flaws exist, they must indeed fall under the auspices of a specific Orisha. The point, however, is to be aware of these flaws as pitfalls within the realm of one’s Orisha and move beyond them, rather than rationalize that, because they are part of the domain of one’s guardian divinity, they should be embraced.”
All that humanizing and anthropomorphizing of the forces Ifa works with (even of Ifa itself!) is not my piece of cake… and it’s certainly not what I have experienced the Ifa way of life to be about. At least not my Ifa way of life.
I experience Ifa as an independent entity, although closely connected with my own Ori. Sometimes I wonder whether “my” Ifa is literally my Ori, and when divining for clients also the client’s Ori. I don’t wonder very hard though… it’s important neither to myself, nor to “my” Ifa.
Now mind: I have not totally veered away from the “puppets”, like I enjoy giving some food to my “stone” which seems to be pleased and amused when I call him “Eshu”. And there are a few other things: as an Oshoosi priest it suits me to think of whatever it is I was initiated into as “Oshoosi”… but you can be sure that, whether we realize it or not, “my” Oshoosi is quite different from his, or hers, or yours, or theirs… and all these Oshoosi’s amongst themselves are also different from each other, for they are the puppets that we make in our own heads. Or let’s write that as Heads with a capital H… for in the end it is our Ori who arrived with us, lives with us, and remains with us till the end.
In short: I enjoy working with the forces of nature, of the cosmos, of reality… not (anymore) with the little mannikins we made out of them. And when all is said and done… I think there’s nothing truly real but our own Ori.
Here we present to you the new covers of Jaap’s Odu Ifa Collection. Next month – September 2013 – the reprint of the Ika Book will be available.