Study the Teaching of Ifa and the Orisha's
Tortoise was curious to know how he obtained so much money, and after watching him for some days he discovered that Mr. Fly flew away every morning early with a large empty sack on his back, and returned in the evening with the sack full, and after that his wife would prepare a feast.
One morning Tortoise hid in the sack and waited to see what would happen. Soon Mr. Fly came out of his house, lifted up the sack, and flew away.
He descended at last in the market-place of a large town, where drummers were beating the tones of the dance, and maidens were dancing before a crowd of people.
Mr. Fly laid his sack on the ground, and Tortoise saw him standing beside one of the drummers. When the people threw money, Mr. Fly picked the coins up and hid them in his sack, and by evening he had collected a great quantity. Then he took up the sack again and flew home. Tortoise quickly got out and took most of the money with him, so that poor Mr. Fly was surprised to find the sack almost empty.
This happened several times, until one day as he put money in the sack Mr. Fly caught sight of Tortoise hiding inside it. He was very angry at the trick, and going to the drummer asked him if he had missed any money.
said the drummer. For some days I have been losing coins.
Look inside this sack, replied Mr. Fly, and you will see the thief sitting among the money he has stolen.
The drummer peeped inside the sack and saw Tortoise.
How shall the thief be punished? he cried angrily.
Just tie up the sack, said Mr. Fly, and then beat upon it as if it were a drum.
So the drummer tied up the sack and beat upon it until Tortoise was black and blue, and this is why his back is covered with bruises.
Then Mr. Fly picked up the sack, and flew high up in the air and dropped it. By chance the sack fell down just outside Tortoises house, and neighbours came to tell Nyanribo, his wife, that someone had left a present outside the door. But when she opened the sack in the presence of a crowd of people, she found only Tortoise inside, more dead than alive. Then Mr. Fly made a song and narrated the whole story, and the drummers also played it, and Tortoise and Nyanribo were so ashamed that they left the place and went to live in another country.
In due course they returned, and he found that one slave had achieved successfully what he had been sent to do, while the other had accomplished nothing. The King therefore rewarded the first with high honours, and commanded the second to receive a hundred and twenty-two razor cuts all over his body.
This was a severe punishment, but when the scars healed, they gave to the slave a very remarkable appearance, which greatly took the fancy of the Kings wives.
Shango therefore decided that cuts should in future be given, not as punishment, but as a sign of royalty, and he placed himself at once in the hands of the markers. However, he could only bear two cuts, and so from that day two cuts on the arm have been the sign of royalty, and various other cuts came to be the marks of different tribes.
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.
The Counsel of Elder Priests of Ifa of the Republic of Cuba, has expressed,
determined and required:
1- That we do not accept nor will we ever accept the Initiation of women inside
the worship of Ifa, that not be the ceremony of the Ikofa of Orunmila.
2- That we will not accept in any of our houses and calling extensively to all
in the worship of the Rule Of Ocha/Ifa, the presence of these women that say to
be Iyanifa or Oluwos and even less those Babalawos that have lent themselves for
3- That consequently we will publish in our media the names of the people that
participated in this fault.
This document was prepared and carried out in the City of Havana, on the 11 day
of the month of September of 2004 and show faith the signatories.
1- Tomas Rodri guez Contreras ( Ocheleso )
2- Ruben Pineda Mariategui ( Babaegiobe)
3- Jose Manuel Pulido (Ireteunfa )
4- Angel C. Padron Cardenas (Babaegiobe)
5- Jose Cruz Diaz (Osa meji )
6- Norberto Diaz Ugarte ( Babaegiobe )
7- Julian Diaz Ugarte ( Okanarete )
8- Rogelio Diaz Ugarte ( Ojuanishobe )
9- Sergio Clerigo Mederos Soto ( Oturabara )
10-Antonio Sevilla ( Ofun meji )
11-Lucas L. Aberasturir Cabrera ( Obeyono )
12-Ignacio Gabriel Tartabur ( Obetua )
13-Mario Marino Angarica Diaz ( Ochelobe )
14-Lazaro Aldama Alfonso ( Ofunsa )
15-Francisco Escorcia Bringas ( Ogunda Bede )
16- Guido Felipe CortÃ©s Tondique ( Obeidi )
PRIESTS ADVISORS OF THE GREATER COUNCIL
1- Adriano Omar Quevedo Zambrana ( Osaloforbeyo )
2- Carlos M. GÃ³mez ArgudÃ n ( Ocheleso)
3- JosÃ© Fernando Campos FernÃ¡ndez ( Osaloforbeyo )
4- Luis CÃ©spedes Madrazo ( Okanasa )
5- NicolÃ¡s SÃ¡nchez Cartaza ( Osaloforbeyo )
6- Aurelio Pablo ChacÃ³n ( Ikarete )
7- RaÃºl Miguel Boffill Quintero (Iretejuany)
8- JosÃ© Angel Villalonga Vianez ( Osaguory )
9- JosÃ© Antonio Leal Bernal ( Ofungando)
10- Ricardo Betancourt Ponce ( Iguoryobara)
11- Enrique Malpica Torriente ( Ogbetua)
12- Frank Cabrera ( Obeche )
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.
Document of the International Council of Ifa in Nigeria
For: The Ifa World Order
This counsel has been up to date with the growing worries generated by the
current controversy that surrounds the report that is found circulating and that
alleges that a Mrs. D' Haifia who is also Yeye Araba, affirms to be in
possession of Orisa Odu (Igba Iwa) which was given to her OLo-Irese, The Araba
of Ife, and Chief Makonranwale Adisa Aworeni.
This fact has generated an anxiety and unprecedented uneasiness inside and out
of the community of Ifa World. The counsel, with a view to clarify the facts, by
this manner gives the following explanations;
1- It prohibits that any woman of any religion or spiritual extraction be in the
possession of, management or vision of Orisa Odu. This is not by any means
discriminatory against the woman, but is in pure and strict harmony with the
dogmas of Ifa according to itself expressly train in Ofun Meji 16:4, in Irete
Bear 221:8, in Irete Ofun 226:18 and in Otrupon Irete.
2- Any woman that affirms to be in possession of or manipulate or see Orisa Odu
has consequently broken a fundamental dogma of Ifa and she will be responsible
for physical as spiritual consequences of her actions.
3- The council likewise reports that neither Mrs. D' Haifa nor her associates
are registered or recognized as members of the International Counsel of the
Religion of Ifa, the governing body and uniting power of all the followers of
The Council makes the following statements.
1- It warns all women in interest of their spiritual and physical welfare to
never acquire, touch or to see Odu (igba iwa). This will do them no well, since
to not possess it does not deprive them of its spiritual essence in any form.
2- If some woman affirms to possess Odu (Igba Iwa), said woman does it against
the commandments of the dogmas of Ifa. In this manner those women in possession
of Odu (Igaba Iwa) in any manner or aspect should consider it as something that
is lacking of spiritual value, since those people which affirm to have received
it, are aware of the inexorable fact that is an abomination for a woman to
possess or to see Odu (Igba Iwa)..
3- For having stained the name of Ifa and of the women and by dragging in the
mud the venerated name of Ifa, and by generating a controversy that could have
been avoided, the International council of the Religion of Ifa, (of which the
Arabaof Ife is President, board of directors) in this manner withdraws the title
of Yeye Araba from Mrs. DÂ¡Haifia effective immediately.
4- The Counsel in this manner warns all charlatans, impostors, false and
practioners of Ifa to desist since we will no doubt be invoking all the
measures on anyone regardless of their position in the community of Ifa.
5- To all the temples and associations dedicated to the worship of Ifa all over
the world, in this manner it is advised to be registered officially and as quick
as be possible with the Council and so avoid having rights and privileges of
said membership are denied to them.
Nigeria, March 25 of the 2003 Signed by:
Profesor Idowu B. Odeyemi Balogun Awo Agbaye & Presidente.
Chief Solagbade Popoola, secretario General
Chief Fasina Falade Olobikin Of Ile â€"Ifa
Member (board of directors, depository:
Chief Prof.. Wande Abimbola
Chief Oyewole Obenmalcinda
Chief Prof. Odutola Odeyeni
Chief Iquyikwa Odutola
Chief Adeboye Oyesanya
Chief Awodirian Agboola.