Ifa-Orisha, the traditional practice of the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria and now in the diaspora, is a tradition of sacrifice. Often times people who have an obscure belief of any traditional practice, will immediately shrink away from hearing the word “sacrifice” and liken it to something evil.
But do we actually know what it is?
According to Oxford Dictionary, Sacrifice is defined as:
An act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity.
Sounds terrible when put like that. However… there is another definition. It is for the same word, but more everyday language rather than something spiritual:
An act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy
Now, let’s start with ‘everyday sacrifice’, meaning having nothing to do with religion or spiritual practice. For all carnivores (meat lovers), animals are sacrificed daily for your sustenance. Of course, if it says Halal it just means it has been prayed over instead of slaughtered horribly.
For vegetarians or vegans, the plants you eat also had a life force within.
All of this is sacrifice for the sustenance of mankind. Something must be given in order for something to be gained.
That is the natural laws of the land. If we must take the bus, we must sacrifice the money we have in order to do so. If a woman wants to have a child, she must sacrifice her body, her health, and even her life in order to bring forth another life.
Sacrifice is basically our entire existence, as well as rituals. Ritualistically we wake up and bathe and brush our teeth (at least some of us), go about our day and go back to bed at night. We all collectively do this.
We must know that everything that is done physically, is also done spiritually. The spiritual world is like a mirror.
Now, let me explain sacrifice in spirituality…
When an oracle speaks on the behalf of the seeker and tells what lies ahead of the person or what his destiny book has revealed about his journey, the solution should be offered. Sometimes, and always in Ifa-Orisha tradition, sacrifice is the solution.
There are times when sacrifice is accompanied by spiritual medicines (but we’ll get into this another time). Before the human decides to take his journey to Earth, he or she must write his own life from the beginning to his end when he returns “home”. In his book will be good things and also bad things, and each phase of his life that has either good or bad, there must be written a sacrifice to bring the positive and to remove the negative.
Sacrifice gives him the ability to rewrite his destiny.
It is now for the oracle or the person performing the divination to source the problem and to prescribe a solution for it.
Some years ago my father became ill with his stomach. An evil sister who I had never met (his first born child from another woman) had come visiting us from Jamaica. But she had come loaded with grievance against my dad. She had brought with her obeah in the form of what Jamaicans call Bush Tea. Unfortunately my dad drank the tea.
After this, my dad became gravely ill. Excruciating pain rocked his whole body. He was seriously poisoned by what this woman gave him spiritually. A week earlier I had chased her from my house, so when my mom called, I immediately knew what happened. That same night we rushed to my Padrino’s house.
(By the way, my dad is a huge doubtful Thomas and not at all a believer in “these things”. So you should know how sick he was if he actually agreed to see a spiritualist).
When we got to Padrino’s apartment, he divined for my father. He told him that he had been spiritually poisoned, and that he could die from this. Sacrifice had to be immediately performed to save his life. The prescribed sacrifice was to a deity called O̩balúayé to the Yorubas, (or Babalú-Ayé to the Cubans), the God of Sickeness and Diseases. (I have a very special love for this deity. He saved the life of my newborn baby when I was under spiritual attack during my pregnancy).
And of course Eshu had to get his own sacrifice as he is always fed first. That day we watched Padrino perform a ceremonial sacrifice to Esu and Obaluaye. The details, I can not explain, but when he finished, the animal that was used to remove the death from my dad was wrapped in a particular cloth. It was then given to my father to take to a hospital and dump it outside in their garbage bin. My father, who could have barely stood on his own, was now strong enough to walk without assistance after we left.
He went to the hospital and did what he was told. Since then, my father, a strict non-believer in spirituality, became an admirer of my Padrino and still speaks of him to this day for saving his life.
Now I want to explain to you exactly how sacrifice works. But first I must tell you: Because that particular sacrifice was to remove death, the animal could not be eaten. But most often when sacrifices are done with an animal, it is shared and consumed by the community afterwards.
Sacrifice works this way…
During the divination when the problem is revealed, it will be indicated of the deity who will assist the person in removing a problem or bringing forth positivity. So what happens is this:
- Something is prescribed to the deity
- The deity will accept what is given and will now face the problem for the person.
- While the deity faces the problem, the problem has been now removed, erased, scrubbed away, from the person’s life spiritually and therefore physically.
If the sacrifice is given to bring something positive (maybe someone wants a child, a job, marriage, or whatever else), then whatever is prescribed is given to the specific deity and that deity (which is energy itself) will now go forth to source what the seeker wants and bring it forth.
Always remember things must manifest itself in the spiritual realm before the physical can have access to it! What does this mean? Since this Earth Plane is only an illusion, things as we know it do not actually exist. So if you want a job or a house or money, it must be created first in “reality” or the Spiritual Realms, before it can manifest in our illusion.
What happens with sacrifice and why it is important…
First, Sacrifice is not always blood. It can be anything, i.e. water, gin or rum, fruits, food, flowers, jewelry, cloth, or even you staying home for a few days etc. It is just an act that saves.
When the oracle calls for a sacrifice as the solution, often a sacrifice is symbolic of what we want to achieve.
For example: If the deity wants to conquer an enemy, a sacrifice might call for a cane, a bottle, a knife, etc. Those tools are used for what? War. In order for the deity to fight, it needs weapons. Of course, the deity is not human like us, but since we use those tools for war, it is the symbology that allows the deity to perform the task. As said before, the spiritual world mirrors the physical world.
If you’re wondering, no, deities do not actually “eat” sacrifices. However, if a person cooks in a kitchen what is perceived first is the smell. So a person becomes energized by the sweet scent, that essence creates a feeling within the perceiver.
So where the deities are concerned, there are many factors into how they receive the sacrifice:
- The fact that you agreed to do the sacrifice is a sacrifice unto itself. – This shows faith which assists in your work. To bring forth whatever it is we are trying to achieve with this sacrifice, both you and the deity work together to make it happen, all of this is through energy. It is balance between the physical and the spiritual. You contribute your energy through faith and through physical sacrifice (i.e. payment). They contribute by using your contributed energy to assist in assisting you. Your energy is like fuel to allow them to work.
Why do we do Blood Sacrifices?
Blood = Life. As I mentioned above, before anything can manifest in the physical, it must first be created in the spiritual. However, in order to move something from one place to another, it needs “fuel”. Fuel, in the spiritual sense, is energy. When something takes blood sacrifice, then whatever needs to be brought into the physical world will need a fair amount of “fuel” to do so. Since blood = life, blood is extremely powerful in it’s energy, can achieve a result faster, and has the power to give life to anything.
In short, the blood energizes the deity to perform the task quickly. The blood is the moving force of everything.
When the animal is eaten after sacrifice, the deity receives more light in the spiritual realms for allowing a community to eat.
When a deity asks for a 4 legged animal as the solution, you know the situation is very big. Because the 4 legged animal represents the human being himself (symbology). The two front legs, represent human arms, and the two back legs represent human legs. 4 legged animals are often taken in removing death from a person, because when the death comes in search of the person, it will find the person’s representative: the 4 legged animal.
Also (at least in the Ifa-Orisha tradition), sacrifices are most often performed by more than one persons. Each person involved also lend their Ase to what is being done. However, where something is given, something gained. So while they lend their Ase to assist a sacrifice, they, too, gain more power from the invisible world for their participation in the upliftment of another through sacrifice.
Ultimately, what it all boils down to is a domino effect. Everyone involved, including the deities, receive some amount of Light. The person the sacrifice is for, the person performing the sacrifice, and those who choose to help. The deities are intermediaries, and it is their duty to assist Man in his evolution, as assisting us, also assists them.
I hope this post has enlightened you and has helped you release your fears or reservations.
He who flees at the right time can fight again.
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.