Yesterday, I wrote a WhatsApp status that attracted many comments and questions. But I found one question in particular very important.
But first, here is what the status read:
The question later asked of me was this:
“Greetings Obara, this is a different definition to Ifa, I observe. I understand Ifa is not a religion, but what would you call the ritual aspects of Ifa… Isn’t that the religious aspect of Ifa?”
I was very happy to see this question because, as you all know, I love questions. And so, here is what I replied:
“The word religion comes out of the Latin word, Religio, which (in olden times) meant ritual, more specifically sacrifices. Present day organized religions are worships.
Ifa is not based on worship. Ifa is a literal way of life. What this means is that Ifa defines how a group of people perceive and interpret life, and therefore try to live in balance with it THROUGH propitiation and the guidance of Eternal Wisdom (Ifa). Propitiation is the act of creating balance. To put positive where there is negative. Or in some people’s cases (those who choose the bad road), to put negative where there is positive.
When the human is out of alignment with the natural forces of the Universe, the idea of “appeasement” is not a worship of deity, but the act of balancing what has become off-balanced. To appease is to pacify a particular energy which will result in a particular outcome when it manifests into the humans “physical” life.
Religion, in the modern sense, is NOT based on balance but the total and everlasting battle between so-called “good and evil” forces, rather than a balancing of the human with his environment. If the human is unaware of his imbalance with the ground, he may find opportunities difficult to achieve. Wisdom (Ifa) will guide the human to where he must appease (balance) so as to life as One with the Earth again.
Now, to translate this appeasement, a sacrifice in form of palm oil, for example, to Eshu (the deity associated with roads) might be proscribed. The palm oil is a spiritual message of calmness to a hot energy. When the Earth is cooled, so, too, is the life of the person for whom the appeasement was done for. Worship in religion is an undying devotion to an external force.
IFA is the appeasement forces for the spiritual growth of one’s self. When these forces are balanced, one’s road becomes clearer and one’s perception and understanding of life shifts to a new height. It is not a religion in the present day definition.”
People often misinterpret what Ifa really is.
“Ifa is a religion” “Ifa is “fetish” (i.e. a form of evil spellwork)” or for those who are followers of the tradition probably interpret Ifa this way:
“Ifa is the spirit of wisdom and oracle.” or “Ifa is an orisha (deity) that guides human beings in life.” These two interpretations are not wrong, but they might be missing some very important details.
Firstly, Ifa is the oracle and the energy associated with oracles is wisdom. Therefore, wisdom has become personified (i.e. given identity) called Orunmila. Babalawos (Ifa’s priests) are representatives of this entity. Since they are representatives, they must embody all that the entity is, and live a particular life in order to maintain the purity that is natural to the entity they represent.
In other words, they are literally human manifestations of wisdom, and must act therein. Why must they act this way? Because this is how they now become wisdom itself. Those who are “misrepresentatives” are those who have not released human desires and material attachments (for this keeps them further away from spiritual ascension). This is why Ifa priests must sit on the ground, remove their caps and shoes when divining. This act is a show of humility, a virtue that walks with wisdom.
But why is Ifa not a religion, if, it, too, has Holy Priests?
Before modern religions, every community had a priest. This way of life was what defined normal life in ancient times. It was not differentiated as “spiritual life”, a separate lifestyle from the physical. It was One Life. The tradition of Ifa maintains this mentality. When modern religions were born, their new lifestyles were built off of what was already familiar… tradition. This is what makes the similarities between ancient practices and modern religions.
However, divisions are created to maintain power in certain places, and maintain powerlessness in others.
Ifa Is A Tradition Of Alignment Between Man and Natural Forces
“Natural Forces” are forces that are inescapable. They exist all around us as much as we do, and we encounter them everyday. One of the main differences between Religion and traditional practices (all traditional practices, including Ifa) is that Religion is an everlasting battle of good vs. evil, a never-ending cycle of evil forces disturbing the peace of Holy Religious people.
In traditional practices, the concept of “good and evil” does not exist. Everything simply is. Man must learn his place among them to get from one phase to another phase on his journey to elevation. The more Man aligns with these Natural Forces, the more One he becomes with them, rather than a battle between he and these forces. So where he walks, the Forces of Earth protect him (obstruction = blocked roads, blocked opportunities, confusion | alignment = opened roads etc). Where there is iron, his roads are cleared for him not obstructed by this force (obstruction = police, guns, knives, prison, etc | alignment = smoother road to success/opportunities). Where there is water, his life is sweet, fulfilling, prosperous (as water naturally multiplies and spreads). But if the water becomes murky (this is the obstruction), it manifests as illness, floods, barrenness, lovelessness, etc.
All Forces has two sides to them and both opposition forces always walk together. The Negative is the elder of the Positive and will always walk before the Positive. This is where Ifa and sacrifice is imperative in creating balance.
Let me give you a quick example:
A woman, let’s call her Sally, offends another woman, let’s call her Maya, one day. It is an ordinary argument to the naked eye. But Maya, unbeknownst to herself and Sally, has a spirit that belongs to the energy of sweet water. When Sally offends Maya, driving the woman to tears, Sally skips off with victory.
But 6 months later… Sally finds she has a leaking roof. Nothing out of the ordinary, she fixes it as soon as possible. 5 years later, Sally finds she has a stomach infection.
What is happening here is not that Sally is cursed, or that she is being punished for her offense to a child of the water, but it can be explained this way for easier understanding. If Sally were to visit a Babalawo, the Ifa oracle might tell her make a sacrifice to Osun, the deity of sweet waters and she will be cured.
What happened to Sally is that the energy of sweet waters began working in the opposite way in her life, rather than positively. Swirling around in the Earth Realm is the energy of sweet water, something Sally can not avoid. So when she comes into contact with it, it will have a negative effect in her life. When sacrifice is prescribed to the energy, effects of the energy is changed to a positive one, aligning Sally, once again, with this energy.
If Sally visited a Babalawo before the offense occurred, she might have been told that an argument is on its way, and she must avoid it, and a sacrifice to Oshun may still be prescribed. The reason this sacrifice may still be prescribed is to let’s say appease the energy to prevent offending it. Now, spirit, or energy, does not have emotions but Maya is the embodiment of this energy, so when Sally offends Maya, it is the energy that has been offended because the energy is manifested in Maya.
One of the main differences between Ifa and Religion is this:
Religion in the modern definition of the word implies an organized cult-like group of followers of a particular figure.
Traditional practices uses codes to interpret the world around them. With this knowledge, the human will live his term on Earth in accordance to his understanding of the Earth. This means that Ifa also interprets religions.
In one coded interpretation (an Odu called “Ose Otura”), the Christian religion can be found. I spoke to a Babalawo who recounted Jesus’ birth in the strangest, yet most interesting story:
“Yes! Of course Ifa talks about the Christians in Ose Otura,” he said. “The Jesus is called Jewesu (Jesu – Je.We.Su), it means to “eat irosu leaf” in Yoruba. When Maria wanted to have a baby, she went to a Babalawo. The Babalawo gave her the irosu leaf to eat, and told her how and where she must do it to become pregnant.”
The Babalawo laughed merrily at the story.
Many people would have thought the Babalawo to be crazy for a widely unheard of recount of the Jesus tale.
But here is what is really happening here…
Ifa exists in the Bible, as much as the Christians (and Muslims) exist in Ifa. Remember, Ifa is literally the oracle, and Orunmila is the wisdom of the oracle. This means that anywhere on Earth where there exists an oracle, there exists Ifa. For where ever there exists an oracle, there must exist wisdom. And where there exists oracles, there exists diviners or interpreters, in other words, priests (or Babalawos). So in Ifa’s recount of the Biblical myth, the oracle tells us the same Truth through the perception of natural forces, i.e. the leaf that brought forth Jesus.
Since Jesus, or Jesu, was named after the leaf, the tale is meant to tell us that the life force of the leaf became an entity.
Here, you might be looking for a) historical accuracy or b) even if it is myth, it should be the correct myth, or c) even if neither historically accurate, or myth, it should at least make sense, and there is no leaf suggestion in the Bible.
But the Christian Bible tells of Jesus’ birth to be of immaculate conception, meaning that the Supreme God was the one who impregnated her, and this, too, is not wrong. Jesus is implied to be self-created, just as the Sun in Egyptian texts is self-created, being the only divinity without an assigned “parent” (“familial” relationships in divinities are explained by the “coming of” one thing into another, such as the sky “holding” the sun, and so the sky takes on a feminine, motherly role). Since Jesus is self-created, the Ifa tale explains that it was no human who impregnated Mary, but spirit.
In the interpretation of the energy called Otura Meji, this is known as the “Muslim Odu”. In fact, when the Odu “falls” (in other words, during divination, when this energy enters the space in non-physical form, its insignia is marked onto the divination tray) the Babalawos must salute this energy in Muslim salutations.
There are Truths in all doctrines and dogmas. This is how a cult-following is developed. Words bound together by leather making it a book tells stories of ancient times and mysterious things. However, Ifa is an oral tradition, too vast to be placed into any book.
Where Religion makes its mistake is in the idea of limiting and chaining all existence into a few pages of a book. This is impossible because life and all therein continues eternally. How can knowledge, that never ends, have a closing chapter?
This is why ancient traditions remain oral. Teachings are not for the purpose of remembering and reciting. They are meant to be lived. When you live it, it is real and this reality defines where you are and where, how and when you will elevate.
There should be no need to value one thing and de-value another, because everyone is consciously where they currently ought to be.
If a person can only view life from a lesser level, his perception is not a wrong one, it is merely how he sees right now, but he must learn that perceptions evolve and advance. The more he advances, the less “material” life appears to him, and the less affected by it he is. Unbeknownst to many people, life does not get harder, it is meant to get easier. Difficulties are only real to those who have not yet advanced their perception.
I, too, have evolved. When I first became awake, I was so staunchly against Christianity and its restrictions, historical inaccuracies, hypocrisy, politics, control, and repression. But one day I heard a voice tell me “Do not argue with them anymore. Everyone is where they ought to be.” It was one thing to know that, but it is now another to live it.
We exist so that we may evolve.
Evolution has no expiration. So there continues the story…
“Iron Sharpeneth Iron and the countenance of one brightens the other” Proverbs 27:17