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Yoruba Fokelore

Yoruba Medicine

The Yoruba are one of the largest tribes in Africa, with 30 million individuals throughout the region of West Africa. Yorubic medicine is Orisha-based medicine practiced by many other groups in Africa, the Caribbean and others, mostly due to the slave Diaspora. “African herbal medicine is commonly called Yorubic or Orisha medicine on the African continent. It started from a religious text, called Ifa Corpus. According to tradition, the Ifa Corpus was revealed by the mystic prophet, Orunmilla, around 4,000 years ago in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, now known as Yorubaland. The last 400 years saw individuals in the Caribbean and South America practice the Yorubic healing system as a token of their past when the first wave of African slaves arrived in the Americas.”. Orunmilla taught the people about the customs of divination, prayer, dance, symbolic gestures, personal, and communal elevation. He also advised them on spiritual baths, meditation, and herbal medicine in particular. The Ifa Corpus is considered to be the foundation of divine herbology.
Contents

Basic Philosophies

According to A D Buckley, Yoruba medicine is similar to European medicine in that its main thrust is to kill or expel from the body tiny, invisible “germs” or insects (kokoro) and also worms (aron) which inhabit small bags within the body. For the Yoruba, however, these germs and worms perform useful functions in the healthy body, aiding digestion, fertility etc. However, if they become too powerful in te body, they must be controlled, killed or driven out with bitter-tasting plants contained in medicines.Yoruba medicine is quite different from homeopathic medicine, which uses medicinal ingredients that imitates pathological symptoms. Rather, in a similar manner to mainstream European medicine, it strives to destroy the agencies that cause disease.

Buckley claims that traditional Yoruba ideas of the human body are derived from the image of a cooking pot, susceptible to overflowing. The female body overflows dangerously but necessarily once a month; germs and worms in the body can overflow their “bags” in the body if they are given too much “sweet” (tasty) food. The household is understood in a similar way. As germs overflow their bag, menstrual blood the female body, and palm oil the cooking pot, so women in the marital household tend to overflow and return to their natal homes.

As well as using bitter plants to kill germs and worms, Yoruba herbalists also use incantation (ofo) in medicines to bring good luck (awure), for example, to bring money or love and for other purposes too. Medicinal incantations are in some ways like the praise songs addressed to human beings or gods: their purpose is to awaken the power of the ingredients hidden in the medicine. Most medicinal incantations use a form of word-play, similar to punning, to evoke the properties of the plants implied by the name of the plant.

Some early writers believed that the Yoruba people are actually an East African tribe who moved from the Nile River to the Niger area. For example, Olumide J. Lucas claims that “the Yoruba, during antiquity, lived in ancient Egypt before migrating to the Atlantic coast.”

“With Egypt at its roots, it is therefore inevitable that African herbal medicine became associated with magic. Amulets and charms were more common than pills as preventions or curatives of diseases. Priests, who were from the earliest days the forefathers of science and medicine, considered diseases as possession by evil demons and could be treated using incantations along with extracts from the roots of certain plants. The psychosomatic method of healing disorders used primarily by psychiatrists today is based loosely on this ancient custom.

This being said, to modern westerners the medicine practices of the Yoruba may seem to be too magical/mystical, in fact the word medicine and magic are the same. But it must be recognized that to the Yorubas it is a system; Yorubic medicine is not merely medicine, such as it is in modern times, it is a medicine, the magic of a religion and a science.

Orishas in Yoruba Medicine

The Yoruba religion has a multitude of Deities, the major of which are called Orisha. Osain is one of the most important Orisha’s. Osain rules over all wild herbs, and he is considered the greatest herbalist who knows the powers of all plants. In the Yoruba tribe a sort of staff is given to the herb gatherer of the community, to make clear their position. In Africa there are so many herbs and plants that are used in healing, that only someone trained for life can competently perform the function. The plants and herbs of Osain have their purely medicinal value as well as their magical value. The Osainista knows how to correctly gather the herbs and plants. Some plants have to be gathered at certain times of the day or night. Certain plants have to have certain prayers said to them and certain offerings made in order to correctly work. As said before there are a multitude of Orisha’s. In diagnosing illness each one of the orisha’s has physical qualities and herbal attributes, each affecting one another. See the diagrams below:

Orishas Attributes Physical Correspondences Herbs (Ewe)

Obatala Deity of Creation and custodian of the Ifa Oracle, source of knowledge. Creator of Human Form, Purity, Cures illness and deformities. His priests are the Babalawo Brain, Bones, White fluids of the body Skullcap, Sage, Kola Nut, Basil, Hyssop, Blue Vervain, White Willow, Valerian

Èshù or Elegua Gateman of the Heavens. Messenger of the Orisha, he is prime negotiator between negative and positive forces in body, enforces the “law of being”. Helps to enhance the power of herbs sympathetic nervous system All Herbs

Ogun Orisha of Iron, he is divinity of clearing paths, specifically in respect to blockages or interruption of the flow vital energy at various points in the body, and he is the liberator. heart, kidney (adrenal glands), tendons, and sinews Eucalyptus, Alfalfa, Hawthorn, Bloodroot, Parsley, Motherwort, Garlic

Yemaya Mother of Waters, Primal Waters, Nurturer. She is the amniotic fluid in the womb of the pregnant woman, as well as, the breasts which nurture. She is the protective energies of the feminine force. womb, liver, breasts, buttocks Kelp, Squawvine, Cohosh, Dandelion, Yarrow, Aloe, Spirulina, Mints, Passion Plower, Wild Yam Root

Ochun Sensuality, Beauty, Gracefulness, she symbolizes clarity and flowing motion, she has power to heal with cool water, she is also the divinity of fertility and feminine essence, Women appeal to her for child-bearing and for the alleviation of female disorders, she is fond of babies and is sought if a baby becomes ill, she is known for her love of honey. circulatory system, digestive organs, elimination system, pubic area (female) Yellow Dock, Burdock, Cinnamon, Damiana, Anis, Raspberry, Yarrow, Chamomile, Lotus, Uva-Ursi, Buchu, Myrrh, Echinacea

Chango Kingly, Virility, Masculinity, Fire, Lightning, Stones, Protector/Warrior, Magnetism, he possesses the ability to transform base substance into that which is pure and valuable reproductive system (male), bone marrow, life force or chi Plantain, Saw Palmetto, Hibiscus, Fo-ti, Sarsaparilla, Nettles, Cayenne

Oya Tempest, Guardian of the Cemetery, Winds of Change, Storms, Progression, she is usually in the company of her counterpart Shango, she is the deity of rebirth as things must die so that new beginnings arise lungs, bronchial passages, mucous membranes Mullein, Comfrey, Cherrybark, Pleurisy Root, Elecampane, Horehound, Chickweed

Titles and Processes

An Onisegun is an herbalist, Oloogun is one of several terms for a medical practitioner, and a Babalawo is a ceremony priest/priestess. An Oloogun practitioner in Yoruba, in addition to analyzing symptoms of the patient, look for the emotional and spiritual causes of the disease to placate the negative forces (ajogun) and only then will propose treatment that he/she deems appropriate. This may include herbs in the form of an infusion, enema, etc. In Yoruban medicine they also use dances, spiritual baths, symbolic sacrifice, song/prayer, and a change of diet to help cure the sick. They also believe that the only true and complete cure can be a change of “consciousness” where the individual can recognize the root of the problem themselves and seek to eliminate it. Disease to the Yoruba is seen as a disruption of our connection with the Earth. “Physicians are often priests, priestesses, or high priests, or belong to a guild-like society hidden within tribal boundaries, completely secret to the outside world. In their communities, even obtaining an education in medicine may require becoming an initiate of one of these societies. The world view of a priest involves training and discipline to interpret events that are indicative of the nature of the patient’s alignment internally with their own conscious and unrecognized issues, as well as with a variety of external forces and beings which inhabit our realm and require the inner vision and wisdom of the priest to interpret.” The Yoruba tribe are large believers is preventative medicine. They are obvious criticizers of modern western medicine where we try to mask problems with drugs, rather than cure the whole of the person. According to the medicine men of Yoruba, if we listen to our bodies they will provide us with the preparation and appropriate knowledge we need to regain our balance with the Earth.

Ifa Related

Ebo en el Ate

How to do an Ebo on the Opon Ifa
According to way Miguel Febles Padron performed the ritual
Translated by Ogbeate

this page is not yet completed,
I intend to add images or drawings soon to correct misaligned Odu


Table of Contents

1 Preparation of the required material for Ebo on the Opon
2 The 4 different tablets used on the Opon during the Ebo
3 Instructions pertaining to the first tablet on the Opon
4 Instructions pertaining to the second tablet on the Opon
5 Instructions pertaining to the third tablet on the Opon
6 Instructions pertaining to the fourth tablet on the Opon
7 Conclusion of the Ebo

Part One: The preparation of the Ebo

1 Find a square piece of strong brown, shopping bag paper. about a foot square, and place inside a smaller square of paper. This now become the Ebo any reference to ebo means that the items are added to the paper square

2 Take the leaf of the Malanga remove the central stem on the leaf, and the three points. place it in the ebo at the center of the 2 sheets of paper.

3 Take an eko remove the paper wrapping. and place some on the leaf

4 Take some Epo and spread liberally over the Eko then add three pieces of Ekute and three pieces of Fish

5 add also toasted corn, and some dirt from the doorway of the home. If the home has more than one entrance, add dirt from every doorway. bring the dirt in both your hands, first adding to the paper ebo with your right hand and saying the words INLE LALHELU and
then with your left hand and say INLE LALHELA

6 After the dirt is added , combine with all the items specified for the particular ebo. If an item is to large, keep it outside of the ebo so that you can better perform the ritual.

7 Lastly add Oti and honey, then you are ready to begin the ritual at the Opon Ifa.

8 At the place where the ritual will be performed, you should already have the mat with the Opon Ifa in the center, the Irofa and the okuele to the left and to the right the brush, container of water and a sheet with the odu for the particular ebo. any animals that might be required and those items that might be too large to include inside the ebo

9 The ebo, now having been prepared, should remain to the right of the mat, in front of the Opon Ifa

Different Arrangements of Odu on the Opon Ifa to perform an ebo

To perform the Ebo in such a way that it meets all the required rituals and ceremonies the babalawo needs to place on the opon Ifa certain odu of Ifa at different times during the procedure. These different parts of the entire ritual have been called Tablets of Ifa. Since they are placed upon the Opon Ifa . A through understanding will make it easier to explain the ebo completely.

Tablet number 1
This is the most important of all, although not diminishing the other tablets used during the process. Without which the ebo would be incomplete. This tablet is begun by placing the odu. Baba Eyiogbe in the center. Starting from the bottom upwards. dividing the opon ifa into two equal parts. to the right of the lines, place the combination signs of Ifa. to the left place the melli sign of Ifa. after adding the melli signs to the left side, also place the odu’s of Iwori Ojuani and Iroso Umbemi
An example of the first tablet of the Opon Ifa follows below.

Tablet number 2
This tablets is used so the person that is receiving the ebo can symbolically wash the hands with the feathers of the ebo. The hands are washed with the feathers and then they are deposited in the ebo itself. place in the center of the Opon Ifa the sign that brought about the ebo, and also Ogbe Iroso and Otura Oche

Tablet number 3
This tablet is used to seal the ebo, after all the required rituals are performed and the final destination for the ebo is determined by the ebo. just as you did in tablet number 1, place the odu Baba Eyiogbe so that it divides the opon ifa into sections, but this time also draw a line across to divide the opon into four parts. DO NOT CROSS THE SIGN IN THE CENTER

Tablet number 4
This tablet is used to dismiss the ebo,

remember that every time that the odu Ika Melli is invoked, the opon ifa should be encircled with the two middle fingers to build a house around ifa and the iroso that remains in the finger tips should be added to the ebo.

First tablet

II II OO OO II II XX IO
II OO II OO II OO XX IO
OO OO II OO II II XX IO
OO II OO OO II IO XX IO

OO II OO II OO II II II II OI OO
II II OO OO OO II II OI IO IO II
II II OO OO II II II OI IO II OI
II OO II OO II IO OI OI IO OO IO

II II II OO OO II OO II II IO OI
OO II OO OO II OI IO IO OI II II
II OO II II OO II OI II II II II
OO II II OO OO IO OI II II II II

OO II OI OI OI II
II OO IO IO II OI
OO II II OO OI OI
II OI II OI IO II

II OO OO II II OO OO II
II OI OO OI IO II II IO
IO II OO IO OI IO OI OI
IO IO OI II IO II II II

these odu should be written left to right

Second Tablet

II XX II
OO XX II
II XX OI
OI XX OI

Feathers and Ache de Ifa are used to break the odus that have been placed on the opon by using a circular motion with the Irofa. Then and place them in the person hands.

The person rubs them with his hands and adds all to the ebo
The odu labeled with an X represents the odu that was cast originally for the person prior to the this ebo.

Third Tablet
 
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