Good day to you all. I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend. I woke up this morning not feeling to write a post, as I am still exhausted from all the festivities of the initiation I just did along with my children. It had its intense moments and it also had its fun moments. Intense, because when the oloorishas are divining to the Egbes to ask about each step that is taken, you never know what will come out, what they will say, or what sacrifices will be asked for and why. Each step takes you closer to the memory of who you really are and from which realm out within time and space you came from. What were you when you lived there and your importance to your society there. The first night my oldest child came to Africa for the Egbe initiation, in the evening while someone was sleeping in my house, and the children and I watched chopped on the food network in the parlour, my daughters egbe husband went into the room to the person and tapped him slightly on his leg and introduced himself while pointing out toward the parlour where we were and told him that HE was my childs husband. Can we say brazen? Not Amen, ei nuh, Brazen! He was to make an appearance some more times.
My children worried a little of what to expect of the initiations and although I was receiving Egbe also for the first time, I knew what it entailed but I could not tell them. Initiation is never something to fear, there is nothing spooky or weird going on there, nothing to be frightened of. However it is active, as it is in fact celebratory and requires a lot of dancing and singing, mostly by the attendees when it comes to Itefa/receiving Ifa, but with Osun, the dancing tun up, as she is a happy orisha and loves to see people have fun and enjoy themselves. Then there is the music and the singing, and no where in the world can people party and celebrate like Africa and most particularly the Yorubas. The energy which is invoked, (because not all who are in attendance can be seen with the naked eyes) is high and intense. The drummers seemed to be zoned out somewhere, naturally high on the vibrations from the music. The old men and women dance and sing like the young people there, there is no difference in age when it comes to the activities of all. Simply remarkable. Who said we (Africans) were Barbarians? Who said we were a set of wild cannibals? Who, who?? If only the moment could last, Jamaican people oonuh listen to me, Stone Love (which I love, and for who do not know what it is it is one of the greatest dancehall sound systems in Jamaica) would shut down if it came to play close to our festivities. The initiation was well done, as Africans love to say.
I am used to initiations, I have gotten a few in my lifetime, (and still have some more to go) and have always felt as if it is the first time I am going through it. What I love about it however or rather I should say what I love about initiations done in Yorubaland by these competent and extremely awesome people is that they know “something”, knowledgable beyond words, wiser than Solomon who is a baby compared to these people. When they move energy, you can almost see it with your physical eyes, you feel it.
The Babalawo did a sacrifice for my oldest child, which her Ifa prescribed, and when he was finished the sky darkened like midnight for exactly fifteen minutes, and it was high noon. We stood at Oguns shrine serving him and rained drizzled in the exact spot where we all were. The rest of the compound, the environment and town was extremely dry. Osun passed through and blessed us. When my sacrifice was done, it seemed like a tornado whirled itself in, dry winds kicked up its heel and swept through the community and the compound, people were running for cover, the roof of one man’s house blew away, it lasted for a moment then all was normal again, the sacrifice was accepted.
The first day when some sacrifices were being done as a prelude to the egbe initiations, the Babalawo along with his awo’s (students), performed some lengthy sacrifices to our (my children and my own) Ifas and more. While the sacrifices were being performed the whole compound was filled with babalalwos, Oloorishas and Iyanifas and other people. The atmosphere was light but intense, if you can imagine that, and the air filled with masculine voices as the Babalawo chanted Ifa in a call and response way, he called the students responded. As I listened, I became fascinated (this happens every time, it has been years since I have been involved with this tradition and an active practitioner, but I am awed every time I witness such greatness even if I am performing myself,the wealth of knowledge these people have cannot be matched). The call and response is ode to the Babalawo who cast his oracle the opele, see figure 1 below. The oracle brings down a particular Odu, or life path, which appears in a coded language which is marked by a series of strokes from right to left, see figure 2. The Odu appears such as in figure 1, which reads as Eji Obe, loosely translated as two (Eji) Light (Ogbe), NEVER to be called (Ogbe Meji).
Figure 1 Figure 2
As the Babalawo chants Yoruba words, verses, poetry if you will, the Odu, who has graced our presence (it is live energy, invoked and there among us, unseen to the natural eyes however) and it has brought with it the orientation of Ire (E-reh or positive) or Ibi (E-be, negative) which the babalawo has to ascertain when it falls upon the mat, by casting the opele again twice, after the first time which brought down the Odu. I close my eyes to the babalawo’s voice which sounds as if he is almost singing, and the other Babalawos and awos responding, and in my head it all sounds like a beautiful symphony with heightened vibrations which seems to echo in my mind and lift me up, almost like an out of body experience, of which I am used to.
He is performing a sacrifice here, they sing or chant the praise which is the eulogy of this particular Odu Ifa. Each Odu has its own verses, chants, stories. When they appear the Babalawo must know how to chant to it, appease it, they must know the story which gave birth to the Odu and recite it appropriately. If you look at the Babalawo while he chants and performs, he does a series of expressions which are all coded languages to the Odu presented for appeasement, and even when he knocks the tray with the Iroke, he is invoking as he performs. He is not only praising the Odu which is present, he is honoring other Odu’s and thanking them for their support, and also Orumila the owner/deity of the Ifa divination system, the keeper of the records (0du’s) of life. The whole system of praise and worship within this remarkable tradition is like no other in its respect, veneration and reverence. Everything he does here has a meaning and has to be done for this particular Odu to be fully appeased and therefore accepted. It takes years of training and practice, repetitively to be able to learn this in the correct way it is to be performed.
The room is hot and is getting hotter by the minute, Africa is hot, but most especially when these performances/sacrifices are happening, because the unseen forces which are there with us are not of this world so their vibrations are a force to handle. My small daughter, whispers to me and tells me that all her teeth hurt, so does her head, and her eyes, I smile, and pat her hands reassuringly. She has no cavities and no problem with her mouth, but she is feeling the effects of the forces that are there and to whom the Babalawos are appeasing and sacrificing to, she is an initiate and she is awake. She trusts me, and so she relaxes as I pat her hands, knowing that all is well and I will soon explain to her what she is feeling.
There are animals to be sacrificed, a goat to be exact, and a couple of chickens (these are cooked afterwards and the whole community is fed, and all who is supposed to be there and could not make it, theirs will be taken to their homes), but the chanting and prayers must be done first before the animals can be brought in and presented. It takes almost an hour for the chanting to be completed, perhaps more. The Babalawos and others seemed unbothered by the stifling heat and even though we feel the intensity of it, we are grateful to be present for this amazing ritual/ this initiation. The feeling of just being there is like no other, it is as if we are in another world, witnessing something that is so sacred and true. There on the compound, time stands still. There is no bills, no crime, no hatred, no discrimination, no racism, no war, no problems, no wicked baby father, or evil family, no enemies, for if there are, today is the day they will lose their fight against us………. Perhaps I am overly dramatic or just very attuned, because for me, I can feel and see what others cannot, I am comforted by all the happenings and I fear nothing! This is the feeling I have every time, it marvels me, that I can never get tired of it (initiations/sacrifices and then some), Jamaican’s would say “never see, come see”, which is not me at all, but perhaps it is, and maybe because of the deep respect that I have for the tradition, the people and the culture.
There is so many layers to the Yoruba tradition, so many layers to their marvelous culture. I can see why so many are fighting (non Africans and outside of Africa) to make the tradition of Ifa Orisha their own, practicing their own form of Ifa, and I am weary of those who are searching or looking in the wrong direction, I feel sorry for them, but people have to make their own mistakes in life, I cannot save everyone. I was speaking to my good friend blogger Caroline British, (whom I have never met, but she is a darling I just love her) the other day and she mentioned that some people say that Ifa does not belong to the Yoruba people. On the other end of the phone line where I was, I held a sigh, and thought to myself, “here we go again”, (meaning I was so tired of this from foolish people seeking power) and it seemed that my friend Caroline believed her own words, or perhaps she only wanted to hear my opinion or hear mi cuss, she is cheeky like this I must say lol. So many people are so disrespectful of Africans and of what belongs to us. Is it because we pay no mind to all who are falsely claiming what Orunmila has given us? Why should we, they can never “steal” what Orunmila gave us, it is our legacy and we hold it sacred. We have no need to brag and boast of our way of life, and Ifa is our way of life, not a religion. I had a conversation with the Babalawo about it and he laughed and said to me;
“Ask them, what language do they use when they speak to Ifa or when they say their prayers (orikis) to Ifa or Orisha or when they do their ebos?”
He also said this;
“ok, ask them to call at least four verses of Otura/amosun, which language will you call it in, if you can?
Call Eji/Ogbe and tell the meaning of Eji/Ogbe
Oyeku/meji-what is the meaning of all the rest below? Call their verses!
Where did Orunmila build his house, is is not in Oke Itase, Ile Ife, Yoruba Land, Africa?
What is the meaning of Meji? Is it Spanish/Lucumi language or English or another language of whomever is claiming that Ifas does not belong to the Yorubas? What is the meaning of Meji in Spanish or Lucimi, or in the English language, is there a word in Spanish such as Meji?
Give Spanish, English or whatever names to all the Odu’s, since Spanish or whatever is your language, Leave Yoruba language for the Yoruba’s, because Orunmila is Yoruba.
If Orunmila is your own then call the Ifa in your language so that all people will know that Orunmila is now Spanish and have migrated to Cuba or wherever you all claim it belongs to!”
He is so correct, if Ifa/Orisha does not belong to the Yorubas then they should refrain from worshipping or calling the names of the deities in Yoruba names. But we do not want to be like Christians or like Muslims, fighting about who should be what, Ifa will not be pleased of this.
When others, who seek power try to demonize the Africans, as the whole world tries to do to us, we stay silent and humble, because no one can ever remove the King from his throne, if the throne rightfully belongs to him. He can never be unseated!
I will write a post soon on the Yoruba people of south western Nigeria and this beautiful legacy of which they have, Ifa, Orisha. It is very sacred to them, in the villages of Africa, and even in some cities, there sits some very wise almost God like, mysterious people, some who have never seen a computer, much less to press one, some who have never even heard of facebook or have no interest in advertising themselves or their knowledge. They sit all day every day chanting Ifa, foraging the bushes for medicines to make to heal people, and doing their work, not looking for fame or popularity or praise, not grabbing for power or hungry for it or recognition. There was a time when I asked the Babalawo if he ever practiced Christianity or Islam, he paused (we were on the phone) and said, “I am a confirmed Babalawo, that is all I know, that is all I want to know”. I was ever so slightly ticked by this.
There is nothing wrong with the internet, I use it everyday to reach out to you all, but there are vile people who take advantage of the sacredness of this tradition, some who spits hate and creates discord, who are sinister and have no real feelings for others, who hunger for power and who are lost, perhaps even mad. I am an initiate of Ifa and of Orisha, all done in Africa. I practice the way of my ancestors who have gone on before me and my head/ori is what led me back home to Africa, I was born in beautiful Jamaica. I shared a little of what I feel about my tradition today, because I had the mind to, but it is the most important thing to me and I thank God that I and my children have found it.
The narrator says in the video below that there are around 800 ese (verses/chants), per Odu, this is not so, there are over 3000, verses or ese to each Odu, perhaps more.
Oò ṣá’gi lọ́gbẹ́, oò ta ògùrọ̀ lọ́fà, o dé ìdí ọ̀pẹ o ńgbẹnu s’ókè, ṣé ọfẹ ló máa ńro ni?
You neither cut an oil palm, nor punctured a raffia, yet you opened up your mouth under a palm for wine. Does it drip freely?
[Nothing ventured, nothing gained]
Everything comes when it must, and everything happens for a reason, do not hurry your life, what is destined for you, cannot escape you, just keep the faith, be patient and be prayerful, filled with compassion, kindness and respect for all, let these qualities be among your name, God will fill in the rest…..Obara Meji!
All religions are valid as long as it teaches peace and love….Obara Meji
There are no disappointments in life, only lessons learned!….Obara Meji