Study the Teaching of Ifa and the Orisha's
As man worships that from which he has most to fear, or from which he hopes to receive the greatest benefits, the inland tribes pay little or no attention to Olokun, who is, however, the chief god of fishermen and of all others whose avocations take them upon the sea. When Olokun is angry he causes the sea to be rough and stirs up a raging surf upon the shore; and it is he who drowns men, upsets boats or canoes, and causes shipwrecks.
Olokun is not the personally divine sea but an anthropomorphic conception. He is of human shape and black in colour, but with long flowing hair, and resides in a vast palace under the sea, where he is served by a number of sea-spirits, some of whom are human in shape, while others partake more or less of the nature of fish. On ordinary occasions animals are sacrificed to Olokun, but when the condition of the surf prevents canoes from putting to sea for many days at a time, In ancient times a human victim was offered to appease him. It is said that such sacrifices have been made in recent times, even at Lagos, by the people of the Isaleko quarter, who are chiefly worshippers of Olokun. The sacrifice was of course secret, and according to native report the canoemen used to watch by night till they caught some solitary wayfarer, whom they gagged and conveyed across the lagoon to the sea-shore, where they struck off his head and threw the body into the surf.
A myth says that Olokun, becoming enraged with mankind on account of their neglect of him, endeavoured to destroy them by overflowing the land; and had drowned large numbers when Obatala interfered to save the remainder, and forced Olokun back to his palace, where he bound him with seven iron chains till he promised to abandon his design. This, perhaps, has reference to some former encroachment of the sea upon the low-lying sandy shores, which are even now liable to be submerged at spring-tides.
Olokun has a wife named Olokun-su, or Elusu, who lives in the harbour bar at Lagos. She is white in colour and human in shape, but is covered with fish-scales from below the breasts to the hips. The fish in the waters of the bar are sacred to her, and should anyone catch them, she takes vengeance by upsetting canoes and drowning the occupants. A man who should be so ill-advised as to attempt to fish on the bar would run a great risk of being thrown overboard by the other canoemen. Olokunsu is an example of a local sea-goddess, originally, as on the Gold Coast at the present day, considered quite independent, being attached to the general god of the sea, and accounted for as belonging to him.
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 parrot was the pet of an untruthful woman, and she found the birds habit so inconvenient, that she at length decided to get rid of it.
One day a neighbour was passing her house, and the woman called out to him from the threshold to come and see the beautiful tame parrot which she intended to give him as a present.
The man asked her why she desired to part with so beautiful a bird, and to this the woman replied: Because it eats a great deal, and I am poor.
The parrot cried out. She lies!
The neighbour took no notice, thanked the woman, and returned home with the bird on his shoulder. When he reached his house, his wife asked him where he had found the bird.
As I came through the forest, it flew down and perched on my shoulder,â€ replied the man, but the parrot quickly cried out: He lies!
The man soon discovered how awkward it was to have such a truthful pet, and he was often tempted to wring the birds neck.
It happened that this man was dishonest, and stole a great many articles which he buried in a deep hole, unknown to anybody. He would have been quite secure but for the wonderful parrot.
When the thefts were discovered, a search was made in the manâs house, but nothing was found there. The searchers were therefore forced to consider that he was innocent. As they went out, they said to him: Are you sure you have not stolen these things?
I am sure! said the man indignantly; but the parrot cried out: He lies!
The man was so enraged that he seized the bird and twisted its neck, but the suspicion of the searchers was aroused, and eventually they discovered the hole, which was marked with a little stake, and all the stolen articles were found. Had it not been for the truthful parrot, the secret would never have been revealed.
The King was displeased with his son, and sent for a large bundle of sticks, which he converted into human beings.
“Here are some more subjects for you!” he said to the astonished Prince.
From that time the tribe was famous for its strength and stupidity, and went by the nickname of “Sons of Sticks,” or “Ọmọ igi”!
There was an Awo called Biague who had a son named Adiatoto, Biague had taught this son his only
secret. A method to cast Obi (coconut)
In the house of Biague, there lived several other children, They obeyed Biague, he feed and clothed
them. But only Adiatoto the smallest was his son. All lived as brothers. One day Biague died, and the
adoptive children conspired against Adiatoto, and robbed him of all his belongings. Adiatoto
experienced much difficulty.
After a time, the king of the town, Oba-Rey, wanted to find out who owned the lands that had belonged to Biague.
He ordered his men to find this out. Many came forward and made a claim on the lands, including the
adoptive brothers but no one could pass the test, and prove ownership.
Adiatoto heard the news that the king’s men had been asking about him.
When they appeared before him, they asked him to show the secret that proved the lands had been
passed on to him. he said: “The lands belong to me, I will go to the plaza in front of the wall and from
there I will throw coconuts in the method my Father showed me.The coconuts will fall facing up
which is the proof that is needed. Thus is was, and the King gave Adiatoto all the lands and
belongings that had been taken from him
The coconuts (obi), have a limited role in divination
This role is limited to questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no
It should not be used to ask other more complex subjects.
The message given by consulting the Obi depends on which pieces fall facing up, and which face down.
Alafia, the four pieces with the white mass upwards. Definitely an affirmative
Eyeife, two pieces with white mass upwards and two with the crust, this is the most firm response
Otagua, Three pieces with white mass upwards and one with the crust. Some consider this to be an affirmative response. Some others view it as questionable, requiring another throw to rectify.
Ocana, Three pieces with crust upwards and one with the white mass,
Ocanasorde, Four crusts, a definite negative, and requires more question to isolate and problems that need immediate attention.
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.