Ifa divination lesson 11

April 27, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Ifa divination lessons 


Several levels of “Yes/No” answers

A fair part of every Ifa divination consists of the asking and answering of questions. In fact I strongly encourage my clients to ask concrete questions, because Ifa has the uncanny knack of coming up with equally (or even more!) concrete answers!

Ejife on trayThe core of my questions-and-answers system is of course formed by the familiar system that in the Diaspora is often cast with pieces of coconut called “Obi”, its African predecessor that is cast with kola nuts called “Obi Abata”, or with any set of four flat objects can can fall either side up… in Africa I have seen people successfully divine with coins, trouser buttons, and of course my own favorite four cowries – which are used in this whole series of divination lessons anyway. We’ll stick to them, and below you see the five basic patterns with their names that the four cowries can fall in, when we are only concerned with “yes” or “no”. This should already be familiar to you by now, but hey: nothing wrong with a little bit of overkill every now and then!
Five patterns

But there is much more to answering questions than just “yes” or “no”! In this lesson I will guide you through various levels of answers, from the very simple basic “yes” or “no” without any bells or whistles, via yes but…” and “no but…” replies, additionally via “yes” or “no” with one “underlying” leg of Odu Ifa, to the even more complicated “yes, but…” or “no, but…” answers that are clarified by two “underlying” legs of Odu Ifa AKA a full double Odu. For yes indeed: if necessary we can read underneath initially unstable and unclear answers a double Odu Ifa which offers us its full range of texts (Ese Odu Ifa) to help us understand what’s the matter!

The first level: basic “yes” and “no”

The most basic way of interpreting the five patterns is by considering Alafia, Ejife and Etawa simply a “yes”, and Okanran and Oyeku simply a “no”. Nothing more, nothing less. Often, in utterly uncomplicated questions like “Does this text want to be read for the client?” this basic interpretation is sufficient. Nothing complicated (Members: click to read on)

Ifa Divination Lesson 10

April 18, 2014 by · 11 Comments
Filed under: Ifa divination lessons 


Not sure? All you have to do is ASK!!!

One of the questions that reach me regularly is: “When I am divining, how exactly do I decide what texts from my Ifa Corpus are applicable to the client?” The answer is of a beautiful, almost devastating simplicity: since you are already in the process of working with (the paraphernalia of) Ifa, all you have to do is ask!

Deciding whether a text wants to be read

Cowries with bagFollowing my system you work with four cowries that can be read as either half a leg of Ifa, or as the answer to “Yes/no” questions, or both. In the case of deciding what texts to read, you go for the “Yes/no” answers and simply cast the cowries while asking: “Does this text want to be read?” The reply will be given as either Alafia, Ejife, Etawa, Okanran or Oyeku. I advise you to keep it simple, and consider Alafia, Ejife and Etawa a “Yes”, Okanran a “No”, and Oyeku an “Ask again, because this is very important!”.

Alafia, Ejife, Etawa and Okanran are very straightforward, providing the answer immediately. Oyeku instructs you to ask the same question again, and when either Alafia, Ejife, Etawa or Okanran appears you have your answer. Fairly often, however, the initial Oyeku will be followed by a second and even a third Oyeku before eventually a clear yes or no comes up.

Just as a reminder, here are (Members: click to read on)

Destiny. Not religion

April 13, 2014 by · Comments Off on Destiny. Not religion
Filed under: Rituals and practice 


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!

Destiny - not religion!

Odu of the Year – sense or nonsense?

April 10, 2014 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Apparently burning questions 


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.

GalaxyThe 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.

Ford Mustang (Wikipedia)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.

Universal Ifa

April 9, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


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 (or rather the other way around), runs the risk of being called a cultural appropriationist. I just made up this latter word, but I like it 😉 !

EarthI 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 any sort of 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.

bekvechten100Below 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 kind of Ilé-centered or, in other words, “that’s how it’s done ‘in my Rama’ and that the only good way”!

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.

Fir cone“(…) 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! (…)”

Mushroom myceliumActually, 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 being a born and raised Englishman 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.

Ifa Divination systemsDoes 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!