Study the Teaching of Ifa and the Orisha's
This is a place you can study Ifa Divination, the Orisha's and Palo Mayombe. You will not be sold anything or asked to contribute any money. There are very few secrets not shared here, there are no charges for joining us, Ifa has helped me live a better life, and I hope to spread his words to as many as I can. Be careful of those who claim to be the keepers of the new Ifa traditions, first discover the ancient writings. Always ask your Padrino/Godfather if the ceremony your paying for is the same as what he received. Or if it is some new creation.
I received Ifa in 1984. In Miami Florida with the traditions brought to Cuba in the 1800's. An interpretation of Ifa that recognizes that the teachings of Ifa allow that only a man can be initiated as a Babalawo. A women or homosexual is excluded by the Ifa odu's.
I have no animosity towards any gender or sexual orientation. It's just that a women or a gay man can never fulfil all the requirements and obligations of Ifa Priesthood. This is been affirmed by the Cuban and African Council of Elder Priests of Ifa.
No matter where you received your Ifa, or if it's just a curiosity, feel free to read and comment.
Below are a couple of random articles : Or choose from the Menu to the right.
For those who haven't yet discovered the Cuban Yoruba Association website, I suggest you visit them directly.
The site is in Spanish, but it has extensive articles regarding Ifa and the Orishas. It is a site I visit regularly and in my opinion it is one of the most comprehensive and authoritative on the internet.
We are fortunate to be able to use the internet to visit a site such as this.
Give them a try and leave a message for the association, they might reply if it's not a foolish question.
Might I also suggest you use 'bing' to translate since I have found that 'bing' does a better job of translation of English to Spanish and vice-versa than the other alternatives available.
The association has also been kind enough to allow me to republish their articles on this website, and I am very grateful for that permission. Maferefun Ifa
Cuban Yoruba Cultural Association.
I invite you to visit their website directly at CubaYoruba
Adechina Remigio Herrera (Obara Meji)
Adechina (“Crown of Fire”) is credited as being one of the most important founding fathers of Ifa in Cuba. A Yoruba born in Africa and initiated as a babalawo there, he was enslaved and taken to Cuba as a young man in the late 1820s. Legend has it that he swallowed his sacred ikin ifa used in divination in order to take them with him across the ocean. An intelligent and gifted man, He worked at a sugar mill until his freedom was paid for in 1827. He later became a powerful property owner in the Havana suburb of Regla. In addition to his large African and Creole religious family he had many influential godchildren from Havana’s Spanish, white elite and had important high society connections. He set up a famous religious institution, the Cabildo of the Virgin of Regla (the Cabildo Yemaya) in around 1860, which became a powerful center of Ifa and Orisha worship. Along with his daughter, the famous Ocha priestess Echu Bi, he organized the annual street procession on the feast day of the Virgin of Regla, every September 7th. Each year seminal Afrocuban drummers like Pablo Roche Okilakpa would sound the mighty Ilú batá in honor of Yemaya as they processed around the town. Incredibly, Adechina is also reputed to have returned to Africa, the land of his birth, in order to acquire the sacred materials needed to initiate babalawos. He returned again to Cuba with these sacred items in order to build Ifa there.
All the mojubas (prayers and recitals of lineage to honor the ancestors) of babalawos in Cuba include Adechina.
A great man who helped carry African profound spiritual knowledge to the Americas.
And for this the ants were grateful.
In the same village there lived a miser who had by crafty and dishonest means collected a large store of gold, which he kept securely tied up in the corner of a small hut. He sat outside this hut all day and all night, so that nobody could steal his treasure.
When he saw any bird, he threw a stone at it, and he crushed any ant which he found walking on the ground, for he detested every living creature and loved nothing but his gold.
As might be expected, the ants had no love for this miser, and when he had killed a great many of their number, they began to think how they might punish him for his cruelty.
What a pity it is, said the King of the ants, that our friend is a poor man, while our enemy is so rich!
This gave the ants an idea. They decided to transfer the misers treasure to the poor manâs house. To do this they dug a great tunnel under the ground. One end of the tunnel was in the poor manâs house, and the other end was in the hut of the miser.
On the night that the tunnel was completed, a great swarm of ants began carrying the misers treasure into the poor mans house, and when morning came and the poor man saw the gold lying in heaps on the floor, he was overjoyed, thinking that the gods had sent him a reward for his years of humble toil.
He put all the gold in a corner of his hut and covered it up with native cloths.
Meanwhile the miser had discovered that his treasure was greatly decreased. He was alarmed and could not think how the gold could have disappeared, for he had kept watch all the time outside the hut.
The next night the ants again carried a great portion of the misers gold down the tunnel, and again the poor man rejoiced and the miser was furious to discover his loss.
On the third night the ants laboured long and succeeded in removing all the rest of the treasure.
The gods have indeed sent me much gold! cried the poor man, as he put away his treasure.
But the miser called together his neighbours and related that in three consecutive nights his hard-won treasure had vanished away. He declared that nobody had entered the hut but himself, and therefore the gold must have been removed by witchcraft.
However, when the hut was searched, a hole was found in the ground, and they saw that this hole was the opening of a tunnel. It seemed clear that the treasure had been carried down the tunnel, and everyone began hunting for the other end of the tunnel. At last it was discovered in the poor manâs hut! Under the native cloths in the corner they found the missing treasure.
The poor man protested in vain that he could not possibly have crept down such a small tunnel, and he declared that he had no notion how the gold had got into his but. But the rest said that be must have some charm by which he made himself very small and crept down the tunnel at night into the misers hut.
For this offence they shut him up in a hut and tightly closed the entrance. On the next day he was to be burnt alive.
When the ants saw what had come of their plan to help him, they were sorely perplexed and wondered how they could save their poor friend from such a painful death
There seemed nothing for them to do but to eat up the whole of the hut where the prisoner was confined. This they accomplished after some hours, and the poor man was astonished to find himself standing in an open space. He ran away into the forest and never came back.
In the morning the people saw that the ants had been at work, for a few stumps of the hut remained. They said: The gods have taken the punishment out of our hands! The ants have devoured both the hut and the prisoner!
And only the ants knew that this was not true.
Ifa first appeared on the earth at Ife, He tried to teach the inhabitants of Ife how to foretell future events, but they would not listen to him, so he left the town and wandered about the world teaching mankind. After roaming about for a long time, and indulging in a variety of amours, Ifa fixed his residence at Ado, where he planted on a rock a palm-nut, from which sixteen palm-trees grew up at once.
Ifa has an attendant or companion named Odu (? One who emulates), and a messenger called Opele (ope, puzzle, or ope, palm-tree). The bandicoot (okete) is sacred to him, because it lives chiefly upon palm-nuts. The first day of the Yoruba week is Ifa’s holy day, and is called ajo awo, “day of the secret.” On this day sacrifices of pigeons, fowls, and goats are made to him, and nobody can perform any business before accomplishing this duty.
A priest of Ifa is termed a babalawo (baba-ni-awo), “Father who has the secret,” as the natives never undertake anything of importance without consulting the god, and always act in accordance with the answer returned. Hence a proverb says, “The priest who is more shrewd than another adopts the worship of Ifa.” As Ifa knows all futurity, and reveals coming events to his faithful followers, he is considered the god of wisdom, and the benefactor of mankind. He also instructs man how to secure the goodwill of the other gods, and conveys to him their wishes, His priests pluck all the hair from their bodies and shave their heads, and always appear attired in white cloths.
The general belief is that Ifa possessed the faculty of divination from the beginning, but there is a myth which makes him acquire the art from the phallic god Elegba. In the early days of the world, says the myth, there were but few people on the earth, and the gods found themselves stinted in the matter of sacrifices to such an extent that, not obtaining enough to eat from the offerings made by their followers, they were obliged to have recourse to various pursuits in order to obtain food. Ifa, who was in the same straits as the other gods, took to fishing, with, however, he had small success; and one day, when he had failed to catch any fish at all, and was very hungry, he consulted the crafty Elegba, who was also in want, as to what they could do to improve their condition. Elegba replied that if he could only obtain the sixteen palm-nuts from the two palms -that Orungan the chief man, had in his plantation, he would show Ifa how to forecast the future; and that he could then use his knowledge in the service of mankind, and so receive an abundance of offerings. He stipulated that in return for instructing Ifa in the art of divination, he should always be allowed the first choice of all offerings made. Ifa agreed to the bargain, and going to Orungan, asked for the sixteen palm-nuts, explaining
to him what he proposed to do with them. Orungan, very eager to know what the future had in store for him, at once promised the nuts, and ran with his wife Orisha-bi, “Orisha-born,” to get them. The trees, however, were too lofty for them to be able to reach the palm-nuts, and the stems too smooth to be climbed; so they retired to a little distance and drove some monkeys that were in the vicinity into the palms. No sooner were the monkeys in the trees than they seized the nuts, and, after eating the red pulp that covered them, threw the bard kernels down on the ground, where Orungan and his wife picked them up. Having collected the whole sixteen, Orisha-bi tied them up in a piece of cloth, and put the bundle under her waist-cloth, on her back, as if she were carryino, a child. Then they carried the palm-nuts to Ifa. Elegba kept his promise and taught Ifa the art of divination, and Ifa in his turn taught Oruno-an, who thus became the first babalawo, It is in memory of these events that when a man wishes to consult Ifa, he takes his wife with him, if he be married, and his mother if he be single, who carries the sixteen palm-nuts, tied up in a bundle, on her back, like a child; and that the babalawo, before consulting the god, always says, “Orugan, ajuba oh. Orisha-bi ajuba oh.” (“Orungan, I hold you in grateful remembrance. Orisha-bi, I hold you in grateful remembrance.”
For the consultation of Ifa a whitened board is employed, exactly similar to those used by children in Moslem schools in lieu of slates, about two feet long and eight or nine inches broad, on which are marked sixteen figures. These figures are called “mothers.” The sixteen palm-nuts are held loosely in the right hand, and thrown through the half-closed fingers into the left hand. If one nut remain in the right hand, two marks are made, thus | |; and if two remain. one mark, |. In this way are formed the sixteen “mothers,” one of which is declared by the babalawo to represent the inquirer; and from the order in which the others are produced he deduces certain results. The interpretation appears to be in accordance with established rule, but what that rule is is only known to the initiated. The following are the “mothers”:
This process is repeated eight times, and the marks are made in succession in two columns of four each.
No. 6 is No. 5 inverted; 8 is 7 inverted; 10, 9 inverted; 13, 12 inverted; and 14, 11 inverted. Meji means “two,” or “a pair,” and the following appears to be the meaning of the names:–(1) The close pair (buru, closely). (2) The removed pair (Yekuro, to remove). (3) The street pair (Ode, a street). (4) The closed-up pair (Di, to close up, make dense). (5) The squatting-dog pair (losho, to squat like a dog). (6) The cross-bow pair (oron, cross-bow). (7) The striped pair (abila, striped). (8) ?Vulture-pair (akala, vulture). (9) The pointing pair (sha, to point). (10) The pair ending downward (Ku, to end, da, to upset on the ground). (11) ?The top-heavy pair (Dura, to make an effort to recover from a stumble; opin, end, point). (12) The tattoo-mark pair (ture, name of certain tattoo-marks). (13) The edge pair (leti, on the edge of). (14) The folded-up pair (Ka, to fold or coil). (15) The opened pair (shi, to open). (16) The alternate pair (fo, to pass over, pass by, jump over, skip).
From these sixteen “mothers” a great many combinations can be made by taking a column from two different “mothers,” and figures thus formed are called “children.” Thus (13) and (2) and (11) and (10) make respectively-
The initiation fee paid to a priest for teaching the art of divination is, it is said, is very heavy, and moreover does not cover the whole of the expense; for the Oracle is, like Oracles generally, ambiguous and obscure, and the neophyte finds that he constantly has to refer to the more experienced priests for explanations of its meaning.
When a man is initiated the priest usually informs him that he must
henceforward abstain from some particular article of food, which varies with the individual.
Ifa figures in connection with a legendary deluge, the story of which, now adapted to the Yoruba theology, Some time after settling at Ado, Ifa became tired of living in the world, and accordingly went to dwell in the firmament, with Obatala. After his departure, mankind, deprived of his assistance, was unable to properly interpret the desires of the gods, most of whom became in consequence annoyed. Olokun was the most angry, and in a fit of rage he destroyed nearly all the inhabitants of the world in a great flood, only a few being saved by Obatala, who drew them up into the sky by means of a long iron chain. After this ebullition of anger, Olokun retired once more to his own domains, but the world was nothing but mud, and quite unfit to live in, till Ifa came down from the sky, and, in conjunction with Odudua, once more made it habitable.