Randomly refreshing bits of Ifa wisdom:

When one leg goes forth the other must follow.
If the father leads, the child follows behind.
If, however, the child walks in front,
then it will be honored as greater
than once was its father.

(Ofun Meji)


Destiny. Not religion

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

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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 

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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 

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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!


What is an Independent Ifa Practitioner?

January 25, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Apparently burning questions 

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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.

Ifa, the spirit of wisdomThe 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 Diaspora but… he is most certainly not a part of it. It’s a different branch, with it’s own different rules.


Ori coming out (2)

September 17, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Ifalution: the larger picture 

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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”.

PuppetsThe 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

Head or OriAm 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… butBUT…: it has taken over so much of what the forces of nature and the related spirits really are!

Shango prancingJust 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.

Back to Ori coming out (1)!


New covers of Jaap Verduijn’s Odu Ifa Collection

August 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment
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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.

Odu-Ifa-Covers small


Small Gods…

August 23, 2013 by · 1 Comment
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Orisha worship simply explained 😉

Small GodsAs most of you know, I am fully aware that Orishas don’t make man, but that man makes Orishas… in Yoruba culture an Orisha can be compared to a “Big Man”, who is only big as long as he has a range of followers. I’m not the only one who thinks this way: Karen Barber in “Oríkì, women and the proliferation and merging of òrìṣà” explains it better than I can.

Especially in the Diaspora, where many Ilés and Elders insist more on maintaining a re-enactment society with an extremely rigid (and mercilessly enforced) hierarchy than on helping their practitioners develop spiritually, some of the beliefs and worship seems to have shifted away from the Orishas towards the largely imagined “sacredness” of rituals and ceremonies. No ritual is sacred by itself… it is a means to a purpose, and the less bullshit the better. I notice much of this bullshit in the simplest of things, like opening a divination for one or two quick questions: I’ve seen “established” practitioners preparing, mojuba’ing and invoking for close to an hour(!!!) before they finally got around to the divination itself. “Form” has become more important than “function”

But thank (any) God that we have Sir Terry Pratchett! His Discworld novels allow us a mirror view into our own lives, and since our Good Knight isn’t a stranger to spirituality there’s always, in every Discworld book, the odd piece of wisdom that we as Ifa-Orisha practitioners can apply to our own lives.

In Small Gods Pratchett confronts us with many practices that are also wide-spread in Ifa-Orisha, and he does it in such a way that we manage not only to laugh about ourselves, but also promise to do better in future!

This Discworld novel is set in the previously unheard of locale of Omnia, where the Quisition, led by Deacon Vorbis, tortures into its heretical citizenry a belief in the Great God Om. But the central question in the book is: what happens when belief dissipates, and is replaced by simple routine? Following the rituals of a religion is not really the same as believing in the power and glory of a God.

And on the Discworld, like in Orisha worship, there’s not exactly a lack of Gods to choose from. There are billions of them, and they’re all likely to strike you down where you stand if you insult them in any way. Great God Om used to be the greatest of all Gods, but he’s fallen on tough times. The brand of belief favoured by Vorbis is not the kind of belief Om needs. He’s losing true believers in the process, and has become quite ineffectual. Om and his one true believer Brutha follow a Pratchett tradition of teaming a wide-eyed innocent with a cynical curmudgeon, and watching as the two personalities eventually meet in the middle. Brutha is a true believer in the face of pure evil, and it’s this innocence/ignorance that allows him to survive. Om is a perpetually pissed-off little dude, angry at his new lot in life, and unsure how to get his powers back. All he knows is that Brutha is his only hope, for Brutha is the only one that can truly hear him. Their joint quest is a joy to follow. Small Gods is great fun, but it is also a great book in its seriousness. The book takes a witty look at the perils of making religion too organized – in paying more attention to the priests rather than to the Gods. This book really is “Orisha worship simply explained”  ;-)!

Note for the easily bored: The book takes off a little slowly, but hang on for a few pages and you’ll be gripped!


Africans, Europeans, Native Americans…

August 22, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Recommended books and such 

public-article-balk

Causes of worldwide inequality explained

Guns, Germs and SteelWhy did Pizarro capture Atahualpa and conquer the Inca Empire, instead of Atahualpa capturing Charles I and conquering Spain? Why didn’t the Ashantis conquer the British and capture Queen Victoria, instead of the British conquering the Ashantis and capturing king Prempeh? Rabid racists will be sorely disappointed with the answers to these and many related questions, but since I’m pretty sure there ain’t no rabid racists visiting this site, I guess y’all will delightedly read the book that explains it all!

In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion – as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war – and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California’s Gold Medal.

A few years ago I read this book for the first time, and presently I’m reading it again. I like it, and I believe it’s mandatory reading for everybody who deals with different cultures, peoples, histories and traditions (don’t we all?)! Is Jared Diamond correct in everything he states? I dunno. But I do know that he makes sense. And that’s much, much more than what racists do!


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