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History of Ifa

Started by HexTiara, Mar 12, 2022, 11:48 AM

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Hi everyone! I am not sure if this is the right place to put it  ???  but I am working on a write up about Ifa history and I wanted to know what you all think of it  8) .

Ifa Religion and Practice

Ifa and its meaning
The Yorubas are located in southwestern Nigeria. They are the original worshipers of the Ifa. The divination call Ifa is faith and religion that first appeared on earth at Ife. He is the word of Olodumare (God). He tried to teach the people how to predict the future but they never listened to him. So, he left the town of Ife and settled at Ado. There he planted a palm nut that produced sixteen palm trees. This system makes use of mathematical symbols and corpus text. Ifa is the mystical Orunmila or the deity for intellectual development and involves a spirit medium interpreter, a diviner called the Babalawo that is the priest. They believe that the word Ifa is a guide for humans. As it is seen as a repository of knowledge, it is a word from the creator where all wisdom resides be it technological wisdom, science, etc. Ifa serves the world with supernatural power connecting the worshipers with their gods, ancestors, heavens, etc. This link is achieved through rivers, mountains stones, trees, and others. The Ifa priest is the intermediary between the known and the unknown.

Ifa Practice among the Yorubas
It is practiced by consultation with money. The people consult the Ifa when they need spiritual intervention in cases like building a house, engagement, marriage, going to wars, illnesses, etc. the language of communication is Yoruba. Then divination will be carried out with any of the above issues or more after which the result, that is seen, is read out by the interpreter. The Ifa will also give the remedy to anything revealed. One of the major reasons while worshipers consult Ifa is sickness. Among the Yorubas, the Ifa priest treats illnesses using a mixture of substances from herbs, animals, and minerals. All the odu (message) of the Ifa has information on herbs and their ritual approaches to illnesses. In treating illnesses, they operate in sessions such as is a practice in orthodox hospitals. The medicines are prepared with items such as shear butter, palm oil, etc., and are applied to patients. Apart from the prescription of sacrifices at the Ifa shrine treatments are done at home using the ointments collected from the shrine. The 256 odu are full of herbs and therapeutic messages. This implies that the Ifa priest is an herbalist. Thus, the saying "as one learns Ifa, he also learns medicine". As such Ifa serves a holistic purpose to worshipers. The Ifa priest or Babalawo takes care of the shrine which is contained with palm fronds. The Babalawo reveals to worshipers the mind of the creator which is to rule and protect the people. Unlike worshipers in America worshipers in Africa are not too bold to worship openly. These rules are preserved in myths and poems such as the sixteen rules of the Ifa stated below.

 The Ifa sixteen rules 
    1. There is only one deity in the universe.
    2. There is no such thing as a devil.
    3. However, except the day you were born and the day you will die any other single day in your life can be foretold, and if required changed.
    4. Being happy, successful, and fulfilled is a person's birthright.
    5. You should gain wisdom as you go through life
    6. Your blood relations reaffirm your vows.
    7. Heaven is our home and earth is our marketplace; we alternate between the two at all times. 
    8. You are a literal not figurative component of the world.
    9. You must not injure another individual.
    10. You must not harm the universe in which you find yourself.
    11. Your physical and spiritual stamina must be in sync.
    12. You were born for a reason. It is up to you to achieve your objective. A map is provided via divination
    13. Our forebears existed, and we must respect them.
    14. Sacrifices are necessary for triumph.
    15. We all have the Orisa within us.
    16. Do not be frightened.

Ifa spread to the Diaspora
The American slaves imported from Yoruba land during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade were the carries of the Ifa religion. Expanding the religion across borders. Their beliefs and rituals later influenced spiritual practices in Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, America, etc. With the abolition of the slave trade in 1842, the Ifa religion and culture became one of the most practiced African religions and cultures in the Diaspora. The worshipers carried it to New York in the 1950s.

Ifa practice in America
It is popular with African- Americans who see it as a way of finding their cultural and spiritual path. The Ifagbemi as some of the priests in America are called communicate to worshipers switching from Yoruba to English as he performs the rituals. Because the priest is passed through initiations he sees his serves as sacred and relates with worshipers as such. The consultation and worship are done in the Ifagbemi apartment. In such an apartment a chosen space in the apartment serves as the altar where the gods are linked up with. At this altar, libations are done with items such as banana, watermelon, and gin. 

On some occasions, worshipers are taken out to worship and near a river. On such occasions, it also serves as a spiritual picnic and the joy cannot be quantified. It has always been a colorful sight that most time attracts attention and admirers are also won over as worshipers. Even children are not excluded from these historical and spiritual events. For the children is an opportunity to experience history in the present. The ese is chanted by the priest in poetic form as the most important part of Ifa divination and general history. The worshipers in America are bold about their beliefs. They also try to inculcate the tenets of the religion in their everyday relationship showing it in respect to elders and general good character. They adapt their religion also in modern reality. The drumming and dance involved in the rituals is always a never-forgotten experience for the worshipers. It gives them a sense of purpose a feeling that cannot be gotten anywhere else. Some of these faithful have availed themselves of the opportunity to visit the Ifa shrine in Ado. At the end of every worship, the Ifagbemi will shake a rattle and everyone will respond "ase" meaning amen in Yoruba.

The Ifa religion and practice has become a global thing, linking the Africans in the diaspora to their root. This practice especially in Africa has given worshipers great hope. The constant consultation made to the Babalawo has given solutions to their pressing needs. The barren, the poor, and the sick have received help from the shrine. It has also provided a platform for spiritual fulfillment for worshipers all over the world. The Ifa religion and practice has served and is still serving as a unifying factor for the Africans both at home and in the diaspora. The sixteenth rule of Ifa is also proof that Africans have always been cultured and civilized. This rule is when an x-ray is an epitome of a culture that values its environment, life, and property of others and honors the creator.


Blessings HexTiara,

Sorry for the late response. Your essay is a very good summary introduction of IFA's history from an outside perspective. We connect ourselves with our ancestors and our deities to help manifest through us, our destinies. Destiny which is not an one endpoint. But multiple points in our lives that are ever changing. We may consult Ifa for smaller things, not just big events. Because many small events in our lives can influence big events. Rain drops can start a flood.

To add a little more history into Ifa/Orisha practice in the US. One of the most influential practitioner of IFA in the United States was Oba Efuntola  Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi. He was an African American born in Detroit, who was initiated in Nigeria. Throughout the mid 1900s he organized priests and priestesses to pass the Yoruba culture to black people in America. He is perhaps best known for the establishment of Oyotunji village in the 1970s located in South Carolina still do this day. It is an actual Yoruba village in the  USA! Adefunmi's goal was to create a spiritual and cultural bridge between the Traditionalists in Nigeria and African Americans. He has since joined the ancestral realm and today his son leads manages Oyotunji I believe.

here are some pictures:

Heres a video about Oyotunji

Oba Adefunmi II  with the Alaafin of Oyo

~Manifest destiny from within~