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!

Falokun welcomed in Egbe Ifa Ifanikaki, Ota

August 5, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


Awo FalokunAlthough the hopeless haters and hapless harpies probably won’t let go of the matter (it means so much to them), it seems that they will be screaming into hollow space, exposing themselves even more as trouble making empty-mouths as they already did before. The hullabaloo around Awo Falokun Fatunmbi has ended: Falokun has left the “Ode Remo Babalawos” to their own devices, resigned from their club, and was subsequently welcomed with open arms as an Awo Ifa in the Egbe Ifa Ifanikaki in the city of Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria. Here comes his statement on the matter.

On July 25th 2013 I traveled to Ode Remo, Ogun State, Nigeria to meet with the elders of Egbe Ifa Ogunti Ode Remo. Due to a disagreement over the issue of initiating women into Ifa, I requested a resignation from Egbe Ifa Ogunti Ode Remo. My request was granted without prejudice or opposition. This request does not affect my status as an Awo and does not impact initiations I have already done.

On July 26th 2013 I traveled to Ota and requested entry into Egbe Ifa Ifanikaki in the City of Ota Nigeria. My request was granted by Chief Fasola Fagbemi Opayemi, the Oluwo Ifa Ado – ooo/Ota Awoni Land, Olofin Awo of Ibandan Land, Olotagiri Agba Egungun of Ilogbo land. Yo Orunmila Adulawo Ota Baba Egbe Ifanikaki.

From this point on the work I will be doing training Awo, and the initiations into Ifa, Orisa and Egun will be rooted in the training and spiritual Discipline of Egbe Ifanikaki. I am grateful for their acceptance of my participation in their extended family, I am looking forward to working with an Ifa Egbe that shares my views on the full participation of women in Ifa ritual and spiritual practice. I believe together we are building a strong bridge between our faith as it is practiced in its place of origin and our faith as it is practiced in the Diaspora.

I thank the Irunmole, Orunmila, the Orisa and the Egun for opening the door to this new chapter in my life and this gracious support of the members of our extended family.

Ire, ase, to

Awo Falokun Fatunmbi
omo Egbe Ifanikaki

I congratulate Awo Falokun on this new stage in his life as an Awo Ifa, a friend, and a human being. May the Immortals help us all to use the past as a foundation for the present and the future. Ire oooo!

Awo Falokun in Ota

Awo Falokun Fatunmbi in Ota, Ogun State, Nigeria, as a member of the Egbe Ifa Ifanikaki. No discrimination against women there: you see Babalawos and Iyanifas!


Is Falokun a fake?

June 25, 2013 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


If people who call themselves babalawos aren’t acting like babalawos, I stop calling them that. Instead I call them… well… I prefer not to call them at all. By now I am getting sick and tired of the diseased, obsessed, indeed insane behavior of the sorry lot that constitute the “Charles Spencer King Witch Hunt Pack”. This has nothing to do anymore with keeping Ifa-Orisha clean or decent… this has become a pathetic, sick, hypocritical mania, presently headed by a gleeful gloater.

I am not a man of particularly good character, a sad fact that, however, I never tried to hide. But even I can see that what’s going on here has become the self-righteous obsession of an apparently disturbed person.


The “Charles Spencer King Witch Hunt Pack”

Witches HatIn various places, for example in his Facebook article and subsequent thread at Three Authors: Ayo Salami; Awo Falokun Fatunmbi (David Wilson); Philip Neimark and Why they are in Hot Water the venerable Don Quichotte, in his present reincarnation as Charles Spencer King, attacks the three priests mentioned in the title of his diatribe. The first, Ayo Salami, I know kinda zilch about, and that suits me fine. The third, Philip Neimark, I exchange the odd bit of pleasantries and/or bickering with, and that also suits me fine. Neither of them is sufficiently familiar to me in order to have any educated opinion about them being crooks or not.

Now the second in the little row, Awo Falokun Fatunmbi, is another matter. He was the Awo who initiated me as priest of Oshoosi and omolawo of Ifa in October 1994. I’ve known him for a long time, and quite closely. That happens, you know, when you both are present in Igbodu. I haven’t seen him for quite some time now, but when he was in Amsterdam back in 1994 he carried a lot of Ashé, made a very positive difference in the lives of me, my family and various other people around us, and he was very effective as a priest. In fact during my initiation procedure something happened to me about the aftermath of which he said with a healthy bit of self-mockery: “Jaap, I must have done a better job than I thought I did” (wide grin)! About Falokun I do have an opinion, and I believe a sufficiently informed one. I am strongly convinced that he’s the “real deal” who, after the simulataneously despicable and hilarious behavior of his so-called “elders” in Ode Remo, probably is a lot better off without them.

The witch hunter…

As for the “Witch Hunter General” Charles Spencer King… although every now and then I feel a wave of nausea and anger coming up when I read his never ending diatribes (some initial liking and respect I had for the man has by now gone), I have come to mainly think of him as “Oh, it’s only Charles”.

What else to think of a man, according to his own words a Senior Lucumi Babalawo with the Fourth Odu and the Knife, who in a reply to one of Falokun’s friends refers to Falokun who is several decades his senior as: “your boy the old omo awo”?

And also writes: “the white man you claim to be the paragon of virtue”? Nobody claims Falokun to be the paragon of virtue, and whaddafugg has his skin color to do with any of this???

And what about Charles’s tasteful statement to the aforementioned friend: “the old omo awo Falokun whose urine you sniff? Tell us lap dog….”

Oh dear… If this is what you lot in America and/or Lucumi expect from a Babalawo, I am increasingly glad that I ain’t one, don’t claim to be one, and don’t want to become one. Every day, in every way, I am gladder and gladder to be Independent.

Charles Spencer King, in my opinion, disqualifies himself as a decent babalawo by the way he uses words and terms to describe the subject of his witch hunt.

…and his pack

And then we get to the illustrious crowd that presents itself in Charles’s thread as the “Ode Remo Babalawos”. These are the people who claim that it took them twenty years to find out that their initiate Awo Falokun Fatunmbi acted as (wouldya believe it?!) an Awo, something that the whole world knew… including their own chief AKA the Araba Adesanya Awoyade, who already in 1995 had stated to a Nigerian friend of mine that he knew and approved of my initiation by Awo Falokun.

Let’s examine some stuff written about Falokun by the “Ode Remo Babalawos” in Charles Spencer King’s crusade thread. For the benefit of y’all I have given some small comment on each statement. By the way: the first “white man” referred to is myself, the later reference being more general.

“(…) the foolish white man (…)”

Having any problem with my skin color, Black men of the “Ode Remo Babalawos”?

“(…) How can you be an Ifa diviner and not be an Ifa priest (…)”

By, f’rinstance, not being a Yoruba in the Orunmila system. Ifa in Africa is quite a bit larger than just your village, state or even country.

“(…) not to listen to these white men cry (…)”

Again: having any problem with my skin color, Black men of the “Ode Remo Babalawos”?

“(…) we have no idea about any initiations he was making on people (…)”

Oh c’mon, grow up. In 1995 Lekan Babalola spoke with your Araba Adesanya Awoyade about me having been initiated by Awo Falokun. The Araba was fully aware and sent me his blessings.

“(…) he was doing that for money and fame (…)”

I don’t know about fame, but he certainly didn’t do it for money. Unless you call 1500 dollars including roundtrip ticket Oakland-Amsterdam-Oakland “doing it for money”.

“(…) The people that he initiated should collect their money back from him and contact us to redo their initiation (…)”

Which, undoubtedly, you will do not for money and fame, but in modest silence and for free (sarcasm off). Geez guys, GROW UP! This is the classic trick! It’s an oldie! We’ve all seen it dozens of times! Anyway, the REAL cat seems to be out of the bag.

Oh dear… Again: if this is how Ode Remo babalawos speak and behave, I’m damn glad I ain’t one of them.


Indeed, it’s the oldest trick in the Ifa-Orisha world: telling the unsuspecting punters that the initiations they had done by others are “invalid”, and offering to do them over. In the Diaspora, where nowadays these things are increasingly talked about, hundreds of thousands of dollars must already have changed owners this way, and Nigeria apparently isn’t far behind. Take the advice of a cynical old man: if, in whatever branch of Ifa-Orisha, people tell you that your initiation wasn’t genuine and that they will redo it for you… run. Run like hell. You’re being taken for a ride.

Asking for what he already has?

On December 19, 2011, the “Ode Remo Babalawos” wrote to Charles Spencer King about Awo Falokun: “(…) Seven years ago (note: that would have been in 2004 then. JV.) he sent $100.00 to Awo Sina Kuti and requested all the 256 Odus written down and translated sent to them (…)”
Now there’s something very interesting going on there because… Falokun already had that material that he allegedly was asking for in 2004, in his possession for over a decade… so I’m pretty sure he did not “ask for it” in 2004!



Seems pretty clear to me. If Awo Falokun Fatunmbi was able to let his students have copies of this stuff as study material in 1994 he must, quite reasonably, have had it in 1994… at the very latest. Otherwise he couldn’t have given it to me and my co-student Ellen AKA Iyawo Taiwo. I never asked when it was supplied to him, but I sure know when he supplied it to me: October 1994. Why would Falokun in 2004 ask for study material that had already been supplied to him at least a decade earlier? Beats me. I think the story is bull.

The text on the front page of the collection in the video also puts an end to the accusation that Falokun plagiarizes without giving credit to the “Ode Remo Babalawos”. It’s really printed there: “By Awo Sina Kuti. Egbe Ifa Ogun Ti Ode Remo”

The Araba knew, and he approved

As for the “Ode Remo Babalawos” and their claims that Falokun Fatunmbi is a fake without permission to work as an Awo: my friend and spiritual brother Lekan Babalola is a blood relative (some sort of nephew) of the Araba Adesanya Awoyade of Ode Remo, in fact Lekan’s mother comes from Ipero Remo, only a few kilometers from Ode Remo. He travels often between Europe and Nigeria, and a year after my initition, in 1995, he visited his uncle in Ode Remo and spoke with him about many things, among which my initiation the previous year by Awo Falokun… which turned out to be perfectly alright with the Araba. Lekan told me afterwards: (I paraphrase, not remembering the exact wording): “Jaap, I spoke with the Araba about you. He knows about you and your initiation by Awo Falokun as a priest of Oshoosi and an Omolawo of Ifa. The Araba sends you his blessings”.

There’s yet more to it. When I was about to get initiated, Awo Falokun invited Lekan Babalola (remember: a nephew of the Araba!) to assist in the initiation. Lekan couldn’t attend on account of business elsewhere, but that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is: if Falokun was doing things that he shouldn’t, couldn’t, and had no training and permission for… in short, if he was doing something sneaky that the Ode Remo crowd shouldn’t know about… why on earth would he, of all people in the world, ask the Araba’s very own nephew to assist him??? Think about it. Does any of you still reckon the accusation makes sense?

It’s a mess

I have the advantage of not (anymore) belonging to a lineage, egbe or ilé… I only belong to Ifa and myself. It’s possible that this makes it easier for me to see the mess the religion is in, than it is for others who are constantly surrounded by the elders, youngers and peers in their branch. I dunno. All I know is that every day, in every way, I am gladder and gladder to be Independent.

What is this thing called “Ifa”…

April 2, 2013 by · Comments Off on What is this thing called “Ifa”…
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


… and whaddafugg is it for?

This little article is specifically geared towards newbies in Ifa-Orisha. For others it may contain nothing new. But read it anyway… you never know… 😉

Called Ifa Ifa in its in the West best-known form is an ancient, levelheaded religion and a way of life, grounded in the West-African Yoruba culture. Ifa recognizes complex combinations of spiritual and metaphysical forces called Orisha’s, more or less (probably less…) comparable with the archetypes of Jung’s psychology.

In this Ifa tradition, Orunmila is the spiritual force that was present when Olodumare (God) decided to create the earth and populate it with human beings. Orunmila knows all the secrets of creation, the forces of good and evil, and the possibilities to deal with those; he represents the moral and ethical order in the universe, in contiuous interaction with Eshu who represents the creative disorder behind all sorts of evolution.

Initiated persons, when using metaphysical techniques, are able to communicate with the Orisha’s. This is called Ifa divination, a spiritual experience that helps lead a balanced life in a world that is full of conflicts and contradictory interests.

Ifa Divination, whaddayaknow?!

Ifa divination knows 16 metaphysial principles that may be combined in 256 ways. Each principle or Odu is a window on reality; through divination the Awo (Ifa priest) determines the window behind which the client stands, in order to help him or her see their situation in the right perspective. The Odu that is applicable to the client’s situation of the moment comes out through the casting of an oracle chain (Opele), sixteen palm nuts (Ikin) or sixteen cowrie shells (Owo Merindinlogun); a second, sometimes a third cast supplies additional information on how to interpret the first Odu.

Each of the 256 combined Odu’s contains several texts; those Odu’s that are important during the consultation are clarified by one or more of these ancient myths and historical tales. The texts give, among other information, “prescriptions” for daily life, tailored to the client’s specific situation. During Ifa divination all kinds of questions may be asked, preferably formulated in such a way that they can be answered with “yes” or “no”. As it happens every question, even those containing multiple choices, may be divided into subquestions that can be answered with a clear yes or no.

Besides diagnosing problems, in most cases Ifa divination also offers their solution. Often this is pointed out by the texts, while in other instances the Awo’s knowledge and experience give the first impulse to solution. The ultimate purpose of divination is to help the client live in harmony with his/her destiny, which is not a fixed and narrow path, but an extensive navigation map from which one may choose the very best road!

What the Awo thinks he’s doing

Ifa divinerSpecialists in Yoruba-based Ifa divination are called, depending on their initiation(s), Babalawo, Omolawo and/or Awolorisha. The translations would be something like “Father of the Mystery”, “Child of the Mystery”, and “Mystery of the Orisha”. The position of diviner is not gender-specific; many Owo Merindinlogun (Dilogun) diviners both in Africa and in the diaspora are female, while mainly but not exclusively in Africa also female Opele and Ikin diviners are not unheard of.

The Awo is consulted on important issues in daily life, like spiritual development, material prosperity, marriage, health. Their advice is also asked for decisions or choices on making a journey, change of jobs, buying a house, or choosing a partner. It is not necessary to be a follower of Ifa to consult an Awo. Actually almost nothing is required by Ifa, except the development of good character. As an initiate in the mysteries of his/her Orisha the Awo speaks a universal language, communicating with the client’s conscious and unconscious self, and with external spiritual forces.

The Awo never stops learning; their study is a lifelong process. The more the Awo learns, the better he/she is able to counsel, diagnose problems, prescribe traditional or non-traditional remedies, and perform rituals on behalf of those who consult them. Depending on where one lives, the rituals may get either less or more emphasis than in Africa. This should not be regarded as a deviation, but as an example of the remarkable adaptability of this ancient tradition, that for the Awo is a way of life as well.

(Note: for old-timers and others who know me and this site, it should be clear that the above is a description of what’s traditionally accepted in the Yoruba system of Ifa. I posted it this way because for most newcomers that’s the only system they may have heard of. However, I do not limit myself to the Yoruba system, nor do I subscribe to the idea that for performing Ifa divination any initiation into f’rinstance Orunmila would be required.)

Letter to a Lukumi

March 23, 2013 by · Comments Off on Letter to a Lukumi
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


By Brenda Beek, November 4, 2012

This article is a summary of a long answer I wrote to a woman who is connected to Lukumi. Jaap and I regularly get private messages of people who have their doubts and issues with Lukumi ways. They ask for advise, or simply want things to get of their chest and simply don’t have the guts to turn to anybody else. Sometimes we are even considered a last resort, because they can’t find themselves in Lukumi any longer. This lady had turned to us about the refusal of several Babalawos in following Ifa’s instructions as they came up in divinations for her. How they make it impossible for her to follow her best destiny and how she feels she is stuck in her life now. Another issue was the insistence of her needing to make ebo after ebo to make things work in her life. She has trouble paying for them, since she has to chose wether to pay for rent, or ebo… Not really a nice choice there. Later on in our conversation it appeared that she was very happy to find out that the blood shedding for every major or minor issue in her life wasn’t actually necessary.

“You speak about initiations, without realizing that these can be harmful. They are not always innocent at all. Also I’m not sure whether your label ‘African’ Religion is right… Lukumi in my eyes is much more a Catholic Spanish religion with African elements, it breaths a very Southern European air. (Members: click to read on)

Differences between traditions

December 19, 2012 by · Comments Off on Differences between traditions
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


There are so many differences between what one Tradition or Ilé allows and what the other Ilé or Tradition allows… how can I know which of them all is right? That’s often asked… and the answer is simple: All of them are right, and none of them is. And in the end… it doesn’t matter. These often minor, sometimes major differences between various traditions in the Religion like Traditional Yoruba and Lucumi, and subsequently between the different Ilés, Houses, Families or Egbe’s within the branches, don’t matter at all.

There’s always a much older, time-honored tradition somewhere, somewhen, someway, somehow that proves exactly that you are right – whoever that “you” may be. For example: Ifa himself doesn’t give a fugg whether women are initiated into Ifa or not… it seems that he has left it up to ourselves, left the decision to “do or not to do” to each and every individual Aborisha in each and every individual Ilé.

The problem is not with Ifa or with Odu Ifa… in fact the problem is never with Ifa or with Odu Ifa… the “problem” (if we should even call it that) lies within the human brain that cannot grasp non-linear thinking, like the interesting fact that the answer to a question can be “yes” and “no” AT THE SAME TIME!

Lucumi has changed lots of things wide away from YTR… yet every changed thing in or outside Cuba works, and every non-changed thing in or outside Africa works too… so who the hell cares? Apparently it does not make any difference at all if you crown “Yemoja oro Olokun”, or Olokun directly: the Religion allows both. It does not make any difference at all if you can not crown an Oshun because you’re Shango, or if you can crown an Oshun while you’re Shango yourself: the Religion allows both. There are dozens, probably hundreds, possibly thousand of these things… and each time the opposites cancel each other!

So what’s the problem? Whatever your Baba, Oluwo, Godfather, Iya or Godmother says, within a matter of minutes you can find a Godmother, Iya, Godfather, Oluwo or Baba who says the exact opposite and you know what? They all are right!

There are so many “differences” that simply cancel each other, that you can make a checklist of things you DO and things you do NOT want to believe or go along with, before you pick an Ilé or a Godpop/mom. Our Religion shows very much an “à la Carte” menu, and it’s up to yourself NOT to order veal if you hate veal, and to order trout if you LIKE trout.

The options/differences in the Religion are enormous, and the ways you can combine them are truly dazzling in number. You can literally make your own denomination within Ifa-Orisha by combining things the way they work for you… and whatever that denomination is, it will still be Ifa-Orisha! I am serious: just like generations of ancestors have done in the past, you can literally make your own denomination of Ifa-Orisha. In fact that’s exactly what I have done (wide and wicked grin)! And I’m in damn good company!

It’s all bullshit

November 16, 2012 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


Way outReligions, spiritualities and related life philosophies tend to have one thing in common: their adherents are looking for something, they are searching. People want their lives to get better, in other words: they want to escape from the “here and now”. If only this or that…, if I only could…, if only this would not… that kind of thing. In fact each and every religion or spirituality seems to revolve around the concept “if”.

This may be (at least partly) caused by our quite unconscious habit of thinking of reality in a linear way… I mean: only within the boundaries of cause and effect do the words “if only…” have any meaning.

I can (or rather will) only speak about/for myself, and from my own inside out. To a very large extend my mind works totally non-linear… although on a small level I am aware of stuff like cause and effect and time sequences, on a larger level I seem to live “outside time” (and space, for that matter).

To many questions in and about Ifa-Orisha I don’t have the answers, because… I don’t understand/grasp/grok that there’s a question! I operate almost fully outside the structure of Ifa-Orisha, because I don’t understand/grasp/grok that there’s a need for structure.

I have much more difficulty with thinking of the religion/philosophy in a linear way than in a non-linear way. Going to the supermarket is a linear activity for me… I need coffee, creamer, food… and I fully understand that in order to get that, I need to go get it. That’s a linear thing: go to the supermarket with an empty bag, buy things, go home with a full bag.

Spiritually though, there is no empty bag! That’s why I don’t visit our religious supermarket, staying away from the bullshit of people who want to buy what they already have, and others who want to sell what people don’t need. The religion (with Lucumi as the saddest example) has become a fugging market place.

BullshitThere are many so-called “secrets” in the Ifa-Orisha complex, and the number grows daily… on account of one “secret” being unveiled, the former owner of that “secret” immediately creates at least two new ones, otherwise he will lose his linear advantage over the Hoi Polloi AKA the Great Unwashed. These are so-called “secrets”, but of real secrets I know only one: there is no secret. There’s only blind people.

Not too long ago I rephrased that one and only secret in a very provocative way (I like to be provocative – wide grin!): “Our whole ‘religion’ is bullshit. Period”.

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Main choice: African or Cuban?

October 15, 2012 by · Comments Off on Main choice: African or Cuban?
Filed under: Finding your way in Ifa-Orisha 


Although the African system of Ifa-Orisha (Yoruba Traditional Religion or YTR) and the Cuban system of Ifa-Orisha (Lucumi) were once one and the same, they have separated to a considerable degree… so much that I tend to consider them different religions by now. This poses a dilemma for newcomers, especially in the diaspora: “In which of the two religions will I be at home?”

Oshun/Caridad del CobreFor me, the choice what system to follow was pretty easy, as I believe it could be for everybody else. I have uncountable African ancestors, and not a single Cuban one – making it quite logical for me NOT to “take a spiritual detour” via Cuba, but go straight for the African system instead. The same, I think, would apply to the vast majority of Black and White U.S. Americans: generally speaking they have no ancestral ties whatsoever with Cuba, but LOTS of them with Africa.

If, on the other hand, one has ancestral ties with Cuba, it would be logical to go for the Cuban system, AKA Lucumi, which developed from Africa to Cuba just like your ancestors did… like half of Florida ;-)!

Maybe I can put it even clearer. If your most recent ancestors who practiced an African religion lived in Africa, go for African Ifa-Orisha. If your last ancestors who practiced an African religion lived in Cuba, go for Cuban Ifa-Orisha AKA Lucumi.

Then there’s yet another factor. Most (Black and White) U.S. Americans are not brought up in or around Catholicism, in contrast with Cubans/Hispanics who generally are. As is time upon time shown in this and other groups, Lucumi has close connections with Roman Catholicism, like the threads about Iyawos being taken to Church show, not to mention things like use of Holy Water, and even here and there the requirement of baptism.

Ibeji, the Yoruba twinsSo: if you don’t have some Catholic background yourself, choose Nigerian Ifa-Orisha which is far less influenced by Catholicism than Lucumi. If your background is Catholic though, Lucumi might give you more things that you can identify with.

There are many other factors that might/should play a role – I leave most of them out and just mention one very important factor: personal preference! For me that simply ruled out Lucumi because… I don’t like Lucumi. I respect it, and I certainly don’t say there’s anything wrong with it but… I don’t like it. So: ask yourself several questions before choosing your religion or way of life… including the question “Do I like it, and can I live with it for the rest of my days on earth?”