|Randomly refreshing bits of Ifa wisdom:|
"If we neglect our duties towards others,
it doesn't improve our own lives either;
if we pay too much attention to ourselves,
it goes to the undeserved detriment of others.
If we refuse to do our part of a shared job,
people will eventually begin to avoid us;
if we walk away from all kinds of work
we do not deserve an honorable place in society."
“Questions & Answers” on the site
If nobody ever uses it, or if we don’t like it, or if it doesn’t work the way it is supposed to work I may soon remove it, but in the meantime we have a “Questions & Answers” option on the Ilé Dafa! It has come to my notice that a fair number of people approach Brenda with questions, mostly on account of she being the more likeable of us while I am the cantankerous old bahstud who would much rather live on a planet of his own ! Many of these questions Bren answers herself, while she passes others on to me. It works, in a way, but sometimes neither of us gets around to replying, which isn’t really helpful.
Our new Q&A page makes things much more efficient: not only can everybody ask questions there… also everybody can answer them! This will hopefully lead to replies from different backgrounds with different opinions, so that we all can learn from each other.
In fact I’m quite hopeful that this new addition will be helpful to y’all, contributing to the quality of this already so delightful site ! So don’t be a stranger, but ask. And answer!
By the way: the questions and answers are accessible for logged-in members only! Others can’t see them!
There’s a BIG difference!
Time to bring my “Omolet” Brenda Beeks’s brilliant statement to your attention once again! People need to be reminded of these things every now and then!
Unconfusing the confused… including myself
As you may have seen lately, I’m in the process of shoving things hither and thither on this site. That’s not because such labor is so much fun, but among other reasons because of the need to stay in sync with the various automatic updates that the main software this site woks with, to wit a very special version of WordPress. Every now and then an update takes place that brings the need for some rearrangement of pages and/or categories, that sort of thing.
So if you are kind of bewildered every now and then, don’t worry: not only is it impossible to be more bewildered than me, but I’m also the sorry guy who has to sort it out for y’all !
At the beginning of every year many “Odu’s for the world” are cast. Do they make any sense? Does the world need an Odu? Is it even possible to cast such an Odu?
Ninety percent of everything is bullshit, and I am quite prepared to raise this percentage to let’s say ninety nine for all those damn “Odus of the Year” that float around all over the internet… each and every year again.
It’s the remaining 10 (or 1…) percent that counts, and I am inclined to say that indeed not all is nonsense because the Earth, like everything, has its own Ori… and as such can perfectly well be read. You can with a certain amount of effectiveness divine for the damn Milky Way, if you’re good enough – which I probably ain’t.
The big mistake (at least it’s a big mistake in my eyes) with all those readings for “the World and its Neighboring Galaxies including Black Holes, Supernovae and God Herself” is that people forget that it’s for a large conglomerate, not for its individual members. When any group of Awos have read “The World” or, if they’re a bit more modest, Cuba or the United States, everything that is said in such a reading about individual behavior pertains to these individuals’ position in relation to the United States, Cuba or The World.
It does not, at least not directly, pertain to their own individual experiences, behavior or destiny in daily life. In other words: the reading is not about every individual Ori in the group, but about the Ori of the group itself.
A reading about your own Ilé, your own Tradition or your own World will give you some insight in how to function within and towards the optimum Destiny of that World, Tradition or Ilé, but it does not give detailed information on how to make your individual optimum Destiny manifest. In fact, it tells you next to fuck-all about yourself, apart from those situations that bear a more or less direct relationship to whatever the reading was held for. It depends on the closeness of that relationship how much or how little of the info in the Odu applies to the rest of your life: for most people that will be relatively little.
Let’s put it this way: if you have a reading for your car, your beloved Mustang 1964, the reading may indicate that the car as a whole will gloriously last through the whole of the year, provided you perform good maintenance.
Now that’s great news for the car, but not necessarily for all its parts and contents. I you are the oil, you will have to be discarded and replaced. If you are the air filter, you will need a thorough cleaning. If you are the gearbox, you may need major surgery in the local garage. If you are the left front tire, you might experience a blow-out and “die”. I guess you get the picture.
However, there is still some sort of connection between the greater Destiny and all its individual Destinies. The oil knows that its Destiny does not contain it lasting through all the decades the car lasts, and the gearbox knows that it needs regular maintenance to keep it meshing alright. That’s what it’s a fuggin’ gearbox for, or a can of oil. So the Destiny of the car is not the same as, yet interwoven with, the Destinies of all its parts.
To use another example: in the human body millions of cells die daily while millions of others are born, in order to enable the body to function well and long. For the first group their Destiny is to die, for the second group their Destiny is to live. And it’s all good.
So: do these readings for the World make sense or not? My answer would be: in a limited way they do.
Ifa is for everybody – just like the universe
Most of us, with the possible exception of native Yorubas, will have encountered the occasional criticism or even outright attack on account of alleged “cultural appropriation”. Such a verdict tends to be directed at you when you do not exactly follow the tenets and traditions of whatever House and branch of the Ifa/Orisha complex you are (or were) in, whether that’s Lucumi, Traditional Yoruba, Candomblé, or whatever.
Being an Independent practitioner who never hesitates to shout his independence from the rooftops, I may have been (and am still being) accused of cultural appropriation somewhat more often than most others, but basically everybody who succeeds in seamlessly integrating Ifa into the ways of life of their own country and culture, runs the risk of being called a cultural appropriationist. I just made up this latter word, but I like it !
I plainly and simply call these accusations bullshit, on account of the pleasing fact that, at least in my opinion and experience, cultural appropriation of the Forces and the Wisdoms of Nature can’t even exist! Compare it with oxygen: much of the world’s oxygen is produced in the Amazon rain forests of South America – yet I don’t think any Kawahiva or Yanomani ever accused Texans, Inuit, Arabs, Californians or myself, who breathe this oxygen, of cultural appropriation. It’s nature, ladies and gentlemen, it’s part of the Earth. And Earth is my home, whether you like it or not.
Ifa is universal, and hence EVERYWHERE
I really don’t think Ifa is culturally bound, on the contrary. I firmly believe that Ifa is universal, and as such quite able to exist and manifest under all possible cultural and geographical circumstances. I also believe that under all those different cultural circumstances the diviners (will) develop their own variations and additions to the Text Corpus, and also that the practitioners will eventually develop their own pantheon of Ancestors and, indeed, of Orishas themselves.
Below you’ll find a combined and condensed version of some statements I made in the past few years in various discussions and under various attacks. I think it’s a good idea to post this here, because as Independent Ifa practitioners you will undoubtedly find yourself in similar circumstances, every now and then.
A big change in Ifa practice
What I feel needs to be coming up, is a very big change in the way Ifa/Orisha is practiced, like people coming out of their boxes and brown paper bags, looking around them and hollering surprisedly: “Hey! Look at that! I never knew that was Ifa too!”… that sort of thing. One of the present problems is that, at least in my experience, too many people are stuck in traditions that have outlived themselves, and that often are not even religious, philosophical or theological, but… cultural!
It will take a lot of time to change that attitude – it’s already nigh impossible to get people to understand that Ifa isn’t limited to the Yorubas and the Orunmila system… if it’s already so incredibly difficult to get your average practitioner thinking about comparative religion “within the family”, how much more difficult will it then be to make them think in terms of theology and comparative religion with other world religions?! At present it’s completely out of the scope of most practitioners in the diaspora, and I am bold enough to blame, to a large extend, their own Elders and their own Traditions for this lack of view… Much will have to change, and indeed, we can only eat this particular head of the rat bit by bit…
No cultural “appropriation”
As stated, it was often suggested by participants in discussions that I am doing “cultural appropriation” which, by the way, is another thing that only our religion seems to consider bad… all other world religions are only too happy if people in other cultures do a bit of appropriation. Anyway, I don’t think cultural appropriation is the case, as you can read below in a quote from one of my reactions to such accusations.
“(…) Cultural appropriation is when you appropriate another person’s culture – that’s exactly what the term says. I see Ifa as universal, it can be practiced in every part of the world according to the own culture and mores of that part. When I was young I have seen an old maiden aunt of mine here in Holland cast segments of a pine or fir cone into patterns that I only much later came to recognize as Odus… she had never heard of Ifa, wouldn’t know an opele or a bunch of cowries even if she held them right in front of her nose… yet she was a damn good Ifa diviner who used paraphernalia available and appropriate in this part of the world and this climate. I wish I had paid a lot, a lot more attention to her then! She’s been dead for many decades now, all of her generation are dead. I missed out on a lot of instruction then! I remember enough though, to recognize it now as Ifa divination… which was practiced in my close surroundings before I had ever heard the word ‘Ifa’. No cultural appropriation there. Just in our own culture, our own way, our own Ifa… or rather the other way around: we were Ifa’s own (…)”
Do I practice another people’s religion? No!
Then again a very common misunderstanding cropped up, namely the idea that I am practicing another people’s/culture’s religion. As you can see from my reaction below, I don’t.
“(…) Actually that’s the whole point: I am not practicing another people’s religion. In fact I am not practicing any religion at all. I am a loner, an almost totally solitary (by choice!) practitioner of a spiritual discipline and lifestyle that I believe to be quite universal… to be found all over the world under many names and guises, locally surviving components of something much larger. I think of Ifa (Fa/Afa/Ebba/Evwa et cetera) on our earth as a worldwide organism, the underground parts of what once was a global culture still present everywhere like some sort of mycelium: underground, and in most places invisible (the parts above ground often having been deliberately destroyed), but still very much alive!!! And here and there, like beautiful and nutritious mushrooms out of their own mycelium, some visible parts either survive, or crop up and grow again! (…)”
Actually, I like that worldwide mycelium metaphor! It implies that in any given area you can destroy the mushrooms… but you can never destroy the organism itself! And once you stop destroying, the very much alive mycelium will grow new mushrooms in places where they haven’t been seen for a long time! Well now… think of what I’m doing here in Holland, the way I live and practice here, as a mushroom (grin)!
But bear in mind: I did not import that mushroom from anywhere else, whether Africa, Antarctica, or Southwest Belouchistan. I simply let it grow out of it’s own mycelium that has been here all the time… since far before there were ever any Yorubas, Dutchmen, or even Cro Magnons.
Maybe Ifa is the Universe!
You might ask: “But if Jaap doesn’t practice the Yoruba religion, why does he call whatever he is doing ‘Ifa’?” That’s easily answered: because among its very many names, this is the best known. Using that name is not “cultural appropriation”… if it were, you might as well call it cultural appropriation that I am writing here in English, and not in my native Dutch… because using the English language without paying homage to Queen Elizabeth II could be considered “cultural appropriation”. Only by idiots, of course… but still!
Ifa is much, much more than just the Yoruba Orunmila system. The Yoruba Orunmila system got the best press and has the best spin doctors – that’s all. To which I add that in the diaspora the Cuban-American (Lucumi) branch of the Yoruba Orunmila system also has the biggest and loudest mouth.
Does anything I have ever written mean that, as I have been accused, I “falsely believe we are saying culture started in Europe”? Not at all – what I have written implies that I believe that Ifa (which I sometimes call “All That Is” or “The book with the Million Pages”) was present on Earth and in the Universe long before any culture developed anywhere, long before any humans developed anywhere. In fact I sometimes believe Ifa in fact is the Universe.
So: I am not practicing a Yoruba religion. I have no religion, I am following a spiritual discipline and lifestyle, based on Ifa divination. You know, that stuff with the single and double lines. It’s working well for me, and I’m working well for it. And if that might inadvertently change, I’m pretty sure Ifa will let me know!
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.