Today I want to share with you a story from the scriptures of Ifa, from the Odu Ifa nicknamed Owonrin/sogbe otherwise called Owonrin/Ogbe. There are 256 major Odu’s of Ifa, which involves 16 major Odu’s which are the Mejis or the sixteen Kings (although they are feminine principles and 240 permutations )born from the 16 elders.
16 x 16 equals 256, then see it this way 16 major and 240 minor all adds up to 256 unimaginable possibilities of the human being and his journey. You can look at it as them marrying into each other and becoming a family.
An Odu references all situations, circumstances, actions and consequences in life, based on the innumerable ese (poetic tutorials/recitations) relative to the 256 Odu coding. In other words an Odu is your life path. Each Odu has over 4000 interpretations/verses/stories which pertains to the human being for whom it appears when consulted by a competent Babalawo. No individual Babalawo knows all the verses to each Odu, but the more a Babalawo learns of each Odu, the more competent he is. This is why an Awo will study Ifa for at least twenty years before he becomes independent of his Oluwo, and also a Babalawo if he is wise will continue to learn Ifa until the day he makes his transition.
Below are some examples of Odu. They are marked and read from right to left.
The scriptures/chapters and verses from our Odu Ifa are too vast to be contained into any book so it is handed down orally. I believe it is preserved best and more sacred this way.
Where are it’s doctrine, it’s theology, it’s pages and letters written out to lead the way of the lost and searching, such as the Upstanding and highly recognized books like the Holy Bible or the Koran or the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, The Vedic texts. or even the Tao Te ching? Where is the book contained with Orunmila’s travels? His Journey, his famous mysticism, his virtue and trade? Let me tell you where, it is in the brain and the mind, the store house of knowledge of the Babalawo, who learned it from his teacher and who now passes it along to his Awos (student).
It is fascinating to hear Babalawo say, “Oh Yes, I know what you are talking about. Orunmila told us about it, or taught us that. He traveled the world and would come back and teach us all things he learned there”.
The truth is, all stories that are found in each Odu is apart of each individual’s life and his mission here. The stories (when the Babalawo first chants it in Yoruba) is told of a particular person or thing who goes for divination, and then it tells what comes out in the divination and the sacrifice prescribed. The story then tells if the person did the sacrifice and what happened to his life or if the person did not do it, the outcome.
The training into becoming a Babalawo or even learning Ifa to be qualified as competent is extensive. Here in Nigeria, some parents choose whether a child will go to regular school or will go on the Babalawo’s compound and train as an Awo.
Each student will spend over twenty years learning, from an early age, often times leaving their families to go and live with the Babalawo (His teacher/his Oluwo) and his family, in order for him to learn. He will do chores, he will clean the compound, wash the toilets, run errands, go and pick the bush to make medicines and more. He will sleep when he is told he can, and wake up very early to begin everything all over again. He will work as he trains, and while he is by himself, he will be repeating a new verse of an Odu he picked up that day or most recently, or even an old one, to keep to his memory. During a consultation his teacher had with some one, or one his teacher decided to teach him when they are alone, with other students or before Ifa (keep in mind that Ifa is the oracle, Orunmila is the deity).
Orunmila is the owner of the sacred Ifa Oracle, he is also called Ifa. He is the witness of fate and second to the supreme being, Olodumare (God) in the order of importance of the pantheon of deities. On the first day of the Yoruba week we give honor and worship to him as he is our guide on this earth plane.
According to the late Afolobi Epega in his book The Sacred Ifa Oracle’:
It is through the vision and direction of Orunmila’s words, known as the sacred Odu, that his wisdom and guidance are expressed on earth. Ifa devotees accept that, with the exception of the day we were born and the day we are supposed to die (as opposed to the day many people do die), there is no single event that cannot be forecast and when necessary modified. This forecast takes place through the intricate and mathematically precise process of divination.
The student will learn from his master/teacher. Whenever his teacher has a client, he will sit in on the divination and he will listen attentively, assist with all of the clients needs while he is being fed extraordinary knowledge which will bring him far someday, where he will now have his own students or his children and the cycle continues.
Ifa, is too vast to be contained in any book. It is handed down orally. It is sacred to all who know and appreciate it. Ifa is wisdom. Even Africans, who have embraced foreign religions scoff at it, wanting to embrace anything but them selves, their legacy, have been taught and brain washed to hate themselves and have cast away Ifa. Yet they come meet us on our compound secretly in the nights. The pastors will bring their olive oil to be placed on Osun’s shrine, and bring it to church on Sunday for healing. But I, a foreigner (not by choice, but by way of the African holocaust) who has now returned, thank them, because one man’s trash is a next man’s treasure, and Orunmila’s doctrine is certainly my treasure. Here today I will tell one of my favourite storys from the holy scriptures of the Odu Ifa. The story is one of many which Owonrin/Sogbe (look at it as a chapter like Genesis or Exodus, if it takes that for you to get it) carries.
Here now is How Dog Lost his voice.
Iya Agon was the female head of the Masquerade (Her name indicated a Chief of the Masquerade society). There came a time when Iya Agon realized that some people were after her power, wanting to know her secret. She in her wisdom went to consult with a Babalwo. During the divination, the Babalawo saw that enemies were astonished by Iya Agbon’s might and power. They wondered where did she get this power from? and so they sought to defeat her. She was advised by Orunmila to do sacrifice so that she would have victory over her enemies. She did as she was told.
Meanwhile over the enemies camp, they had employed a dog to go and spy on Iya Agbon. During these times the dog had voice like human beings. He could speak and communicate. The enemies instructed the dog to go and watch Iya Agbon, see her secret and come back and reveal it to them. In doing this, they were sure that they would be able to defeat this woman who was too powerful. Dog took on the work with pride and assured them that he was the best spy who could do this job, and so he set out to Iya Agbon’s place to spy on her. On his way there he met Esu (Eshu) who asked him where he was going. Dog (Aja in Yoruba) told him he was going to spy on Iya Agbon so that he could know her secret. Esu said, “Ok, that’s good, but eat this before you go.” Dog (craven from mawnin) ate what Esu gave to him. After eating, he then went to Iya Agbon’s place where he saw her in her secret place doing what she did to make her very powerful. He was happy at what he saw and quickly went back to the enemies camp to report on all the happenings (Jamaicans, imagine now as yuh ah read and as Dog traveled on his way, Lady Ann’s song “Certain bwoy pon de cawna informa!” lol)
When he got to the enemy’s place, they were all happy to see him. Finally they could defeat this woman. They took Dog inside and began to question him.
“Dog, welcome,” said one of them. “So tell us, what did you see?” (“Dog wha yuh si de gal ah do?”)
Dog replied. “Woof woof woof!”
The enemies looked at each other. “Come now! What did you see? Did you see her power?”
Again, Dog said. “Woof woof woof!”
This was odd. Dog could not speak. He had lost his voice.
The enemies continued to question him, beginning to get angry. Yet still, Dog only continued to bark.
When Orunmila had told Iya Agbon to do her sacrifice, she did not hesitate, she did it right away. In our tradition Esu is always served first, then the other deities who are prescribed to be served will be. They now go and face the problem on Iya Agbon’s (or the human being) behalf, hence Esu intercepting dog on his CIA mission (lol). The food he ate was to his detriment, unbeknownst to him at that time (Esu is so powerful, just do not get on his wrong side) Dog ate the food provided by Esu on his way to spy. To this day, as wise as Dog is, he can never speak again. He is the only one to know Iya Agbon’s secret… but he can never tell.
Obara Meji is a spiritualist, Ifa-Orisa practitioner, and teacher of metaphysics. Since 2011 she has used her online platform to share her personal experiences to those seeking answers about spirituality. Her teachings will expand into short stories, novels, and public speaking to continue her mission of bringing enlightenment to the world.