Yoruba Religion — IFA Basics

The Western Africa is the source of an ancient religious traditions such as Ifa and  Vodun. Many anthropologists consider that the approximate age of these religions is 10 ‘ 000 years. They also agree that they have common practices in basis. For thousand years cosmology, complicated ceremonies and initiations have been developed to the very high level and even now there is no need to append or to make any improvements in it. There are two major religions in western Africa – Ifa and Vodun. These religions have the same basic principles in practices and ceremonies.

Nowadays there are hundred temples all across Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, devoted to Ifa and Orisha. There, the followers perform the ancient rituals with drumbeats, chanting, dances, sacrifices and communicating with the Spirit through possession, as it was thousands years ago At present times, Ifa is well known all over the world. Many people find in it the source of strength, confidence in a coming day,
they began to understand themselves and reveal secrets of the Universe. Many people became interested in this powerful religion not only because of its efficiency, but also because all religious-mystical components have been developed in details.One of the highest and most respected titles in hierarchy of Ifa religion is Babalawo what means — «Father of Mystery», the similar title in Vodun is known as Bokono.

Ancient religion Ifa is a coded message of Olodumare (Creator), revealed to people by a prophet Orunmila (Ela). Witness of Destiny or Orunmila is the father of wisdom, knowledge’s and understanding. He brought the Law of Olodumare into this world. Ifa is a science where a follower performing certain actions, reaches specific results. These knowledge’s will also help to maintain harmony and balance with Olodumare. Ifa preserves and keeps balance in various societies what makes a basis of spiritual tradition
of Yoruba.Doctrine of Ifa, contains knowledge that the World is a system which is perfectly balanced and it functions according to internal rules. It supports development and balance of all living. The religion of Yoruba people — Ifa had been arisen in a cradle of a civilization in a sacred city Ile Ife. It became a source and a basis of all Afro-Caribbean traditions, which appeared during slavery in Western countries, such as: .Candomble (Ketu), Santeria Lukumi etc. Verbal stories of Yoruba people informs us, that Ile Ife (city in the Western Africa) is a place where the Highest God created people of all races: black, yellow and white. After that, they dispersed across the Earth. All Yoruba tribes as well as inhabitants of Benin and Dahomey trace their origin from Ile Ife (1).

The central creative force in Yoruba religion (Ifa) is Olodumare. His force is in all things and displays. Olodumare is a creator of all Irunmole(2) (Orisha) – spiritual forces. Irunmole maintain secrets of evolution of the Universe. According to Yoruba theology, Irunmole (spiritual forces which are messengers of Olodumare) rule over all existing phenomena in Ikole Orun (Kingdom of Spirit) as well as in Ikole Aye (Kingdom of Earth). The whole world had been created by Irunmole and all living things in it and human being by itself.

The ancient Yoruba Ifa doctrine considers the Universe as a perfect creation of Olodumare. Thousands years ago, on the basis of the accumulated knowledge’s and experience, ancient Yoruba identified primary forces of the Universe, learned how to interact with them and named them all. They understood, that the existing Universe consists from 801 Irunmole, 400 of them constantly stay in Orun (the World of Spirit). The rest part of Irunmole (401), from which 200 are positive forces and 200 negative ones, they
are also known as Ajoogun (these forces bring death, wars and diseases). These forces constantly move from Orun (Kingdom of Spirit) to Aye (Kingdom of Earth) and back. Irunmole know all secrets of this world and are messenger of the Creator, therefore they control all existing phenomena, both in Ikole Orun and in Ikole Aye. All Irunmole — have their personality, their own individuality and consciousness. Their force influence natural world and everyday life of every person. Irunmole affect various aspects of life, they express complexity and many-sided nature of Olodumare. People have an opportunity for interaction with self-realizing emanations (Irunmole) of Olodumare. In interaction with them the person can achieve amazing results in private life. Ifa gave us knowledges that Olodumare did not create people for sufferings on Earth and, possessing secret knowledge which Ifa gives us, we have possibility to live the way every human being should — in happiness and creation.

Understanding of secrets of invisible spiritual forces is possible, only through direct interaction with them. That is why in religious-magic Yoruba tradition, one of the major roles has a discipline named Ifaiyа – that is intended to establish connection with the spiritual forces that have their own self-consciousnesses.Discipline Ifaiyа contains ogbon inu — the aggravated intuition, мsotele — forseeing of the future, alala — communication with Orisha through dreams, egungun — obsession by the Spirit of Ancestors and Orisa’gun — obsession by Orisha (Irunmole). Yoruba names obsession by the word “ini”, what means “I”. That refers that it is a unification with the transcendental spiritual forces which are outside of human consciousness.

The Yoruba religion (Ifa), learns the followers first of all they should pay attention to igoke or to spiritual growth and if the follower will succeed in it, money, health, success will come as necessary component for a proper life. For Ifa followers it is important to be able to make the decision according to “ eri-okan “ (clear understanding, the ability to distinguish a correct act from wrong. The literal translation of a word «eri-okan» is feeling of your heart).

For the better understanding of the River of Life and of the will of spiritual forces Irunmole, followers of Yoruba religion — Ifa and Orisha, use a tremendous range of different systems of prediction such as: Obi Abata (cola nuts), Opele (chain of Ifa), Ikin (sacred nuts of a palm tree) and Merindinlogun (sixteen cowrie shells). Studying the prediction systems is a key part of knowledges of all African traditions. The whole religious-magic practices are very efficient because Yoruba oracles are based on instructions sent
from the Spiritual world. The highest oracle of predictive system of Ifa is based on 256 Odu (3). 16 of them are superior ones. These 16 Odu create 240 Omo Odu (Children of Odu). Total numder is 256 Odu Ifa. Ifa is a very powerful force, capable to cope with any problem: to reflect ibi (misfortunes), arun (illnesses), ofo (losses) and even iku (death), ejo (judicial precedent), also it is capable to draw into a humans life ire aje (riches), ire alaafia (success), ogbo, ato (physical health and a long life), and also igoke — spiritual growth.

1-by Afolabi Epega “Ancient Wisdom of Ifa”
2-Irunmole (yor.) — Pure, primary spirit/energy.
3- A highly respected Baba Osundia explained quite eloquent what is Odu: “Odu are sacred symbols that contain ase (life force) of all living. Odu — schemes of dynamic movement of energies which identify the basic Forces of the natural world. Odu are unusual mandalas representing active and passive energies of a present situation with tremendous exactness. Various displays of Heavens and the Earth are born in the Odu and through the same sacred tracks they will return to primary emptiness. Odu operate cycles of the Nature and sands of time. Odu is a space energy of creation, a fabric of a life. The symbols representing the Odu, symbolize keys of the Primary Universe, the Uterus in which all Life was born. Through this gate prays enter into heart of the Universe, and through them we receive the answer from Orisha. Odu operates a birth of a baby and death of the Teacher. These are the streams rushing into a bed of a dried river, the easy rain bringing freshness, the hurricane brining destruction, a flame which grants light and burns, — all this within the limits of abilities the Odu. The face of Odu carries a smile of pleasure and expresses shout of a torture «.