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.
(1) Ase means “power” or “authority”. However, the meaning of Ase is extraordinarily complex. Ase is used in a variety of contexts. One of the most important meanings is the “vital power, the energy, the great strength of all things.” Ase also refers to a divine energy manifest in the process of creation and procreation. Ase invests all things, exists everywhere, and is a source for all creative activity. Again, Ase often refers to the inner power or “life force.” Ase also refers to the “authority” by which one speaks or acts.
(2) Ori is the “inner spiritual head” in humans or “personal destiny,” not mind or soul as these terms are used in the West. But Ori can mean the enabling power that represents the potential that life contains.
(3) Iwa can mean “character” or “essential nature.” Two classifications of usage of Iwa are generally recognized: the ontological-descriptive and the ethical evaluative. The ontological-descriptive meaning enables one to identify the quantitative existence of a person as revealed by their behaviour, the “lifestyle” or manner in which they exist in the world. The ethical-evaluative meaning represents a qualitative judgment of how good or bad is their iwa.
(4) Ewa is an aesthetic term as well as an expression of iwa, a person’s essential nature. Ewa means “beauty”, referring in some contexts to physical beauty of a person or object, but mostly to the qualities of beauty of a person or object. The term can be used to describe how a work of art captures the essential quality of the subject.
(5) Ona means “art” or it can refer to an artist’s ability to create or design. In Yoruba “art” cannot be defined outside of the context of the processes of creation, the purpose of creation, and the skill of the artist in capturing the first two contextualities in order to produce a physical object that embodies meaning.
This is a curious article that appeared in a Nigerian Newspaper:
Have you taken a long, hard look at the typical masquerade? And an equally long hard look at the typical American astronaut or Russian cosmonaut?
Have you noticed the curious semblance between the two? The face piece, especially?
Can there possibly be a connection between, say, Yuri Gagarin, the 'first man in space' and a common Yoruba Tombolo (type of masque) cartwheeling to the cheers of a market crowd?
Curiously, the Yoruba call the masquerade ara orun (visitor from heaven. But, is the astronaut not an ara orun too? After all, he travels in deep space (the heavens ñ even farther than conventional planes).
Could it be that the cult of Egungun (masquerade) really is in remembrance of beings who in the ancient past travelled form the 'heavens' to the earth? Yoruba tradition interprets ara orun (masquerades) as spirits of long-dead fathers returned to visit their offsprings on earth.
But why call such spirits ara orun rather than oku orun (spirit of the dead). Oku orun is more descriptive of someone who is in heaven in consequence of having died here on earth.
Ara orun suspiciously sounds like a "living being" naturally resident in 'heaven' but who elects to visit the earth.
The 'Ara' part of the name, in Yoruba means a 'resident of' or a 'visitor from'.
Interestingly, from Yoruba folklore comes a song that sounds very relevant to this discourse. It evidently recounts an encounter between an earthman and an Ara Orun. The song goes:
Lead: Ara Orun, Ara Orun Chorus:Inomba ntere tere nte inomba Lead: Kilo wa se ni nile yi oo? Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba Lead: Emu ni mo wa da Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba Lead: Elelo lemuu re o Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba Lead: Okokan Egbewa Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba Lead: Gbemu sile ki o maa loo Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba.
Lead: Visitor from (the) heaven(s), visitor from (the) heaven(s) Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba Lead: What do you seek in this land? Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba. Lead: I've come to tap palmwine. Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba. Lead: How much do you sell your palmwine? Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba. Lead: Ten thousand cowries per keg. Chorus: Inomba ntere tere nte inomba. Lead: Put the palmwine down and go.
It is clear from the mood of this encounter that the ara orun or visitor from (the) heaven(s) being addressed is not a ghost. The Yoruba have a more appropriate name for ghost.
It is Oku.
Again, the average Yoruba man does not care to hold dialogue with an oku. He (or she) is more likely to flee in terror. However, our earthman here is clearly under the influence of plain curiosity ñ as opposed to dark terror: "What was the mission of the ara orun? He wanted to know.
Again, why did the earthman call the entity Ara Orun? Did he see the entity descend from the skies (Heaven)?
In fact, the use of ile yi (this land) while asking the being his mission shows that the Ara Orun was a total alien. That's how the Yoruba use the word.
Fortunately again, the Ara Orun discloses his mission: To tap palmwine. Hardly anything one will call spiritual. That dispels any notion that the alien was probably a spirit being or an 'angel'.
So, our alien was flesh enough to be capable of relishing the taste of palm wine or was from a land (or world) where palmwine is so appreciated.
Back to the question, how did the earthman recognise the alien as being from 'Heaven'. Did he see him float down from the 'skies'? It should be noted that the Yoruba have the same word ñ Orun ñ for both sky and heaven (supposed abode of good people and Olodumare). Some times though, they take extra pains to use oju orun to distinguish the skies; so did the Earthman see this being descend?
Again, a portion of his song suggests just "descent." We must, however, admit that at this stage, we are at the level of conjectureñ but reasoned conjecture.
This portion of the song is the part of the chorus: Ntere tere nte. What does tere nte connote in the Yoruba language.
For answer, we refer to yet another folklore. this one comes from the Ifa literary corpus.
According to the story, reports reached Orunmila, the Yoruba divinity of wisdom that one of his wives was having an affair with a male mammy water (Pappy Water?)
A naturally enraged Orunmila then trailed the unfaithful woman to the couple's rendezvous at a sea shore or river bank. He caught them in the act ñ and opened fire on (or macheted) the half-fish-half-man.
Wounded the casanova fell back into the deeps and moments later, the water surface hen blood went blood-red.
Now in great sorrow, the apparently unrepentant woman burst into a dirge for for her lover.
Lead: Oko omi, oko omi o. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: Oko mi Oko mi o. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: Ogbe mi lo terere. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: Ogbemi lo tarara. Chorus: Tere na. lead: O tarara Oju omi Chorus: Tere na. Lead: Oju omi a feroro. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: Eja nla hurungbon. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: Oju eye perere. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: My love, my dear love. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: He bore me far, far away (into the sea) Chorus: Tere na. Lead: He bore me far, far (back from the sea). Chorus: tere na Lead: Along the highways of the waters. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: The expansive, limitless waters. Chorus: Tere na. Lead: The mighty bearded fishman Chorus: Tere na.
Tere re in this song clearly indicates "great distance", the great distance the lovers covered as they traversed the waters during their illicit affair.
The other part of our original words: is easily clearer. In Yoruba, Nte connotes "floatation", "high" or "air-borne".Thus we have Lori Oke tente (on the very top of the hill), Ate (a hat worn on the very top of the head. And ole tente (it floats pretty).
Thus, a combination of tere and nte suggests something "floating down, air-borne form great distance, from far away."
Thus what the Tere nte chorus is probably telling us is that this visitors from the heavens, this aliens, floated down from a great distance.
We can now wonder. Did the Yoruba, indeed , Africans, make contact with space being or extra-terrestrials in the ancient past? And did they preserve these encounters in their folklore and folksongs?
I was still "brain-storming" over all these, digging into litreatures on Egungun and allied matters when a most fortunate clue literally fell on my laps.
There is this weekly Ifa programme on the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS). Anchored by Wale Rufai, it features stories from the Ifa corpus by an Ifa priest, Gbolagade Ogunleke Ifatokun.
Being one of my favourite programmes, I was listening on Wednesday November 20, last year when a brief digression in the discussion brought up the issue of the mutual respect between the Ifa priesthood and the Egungun cult. Ifatokun, declared flatly that an Egungun must never whip an Ifa priest. (Egungun o gbodo na Babalawo), especially by reason of an ancient alliance between Orunmila (founder of the Babalawo school) and the Egungun at a time in the ancient past when the Earth was threatened by a deluge of Ifatokun's story held me spellbound.
According to him, the real meaning of egungun is Mayegun that is, "keep the world in order" or "those who keep the world running smoothly."
In the distant past, Ifatokun related, there occurred a deluge, which threatened all life on earth.
Seeing the earth so imperilled, Orunmila, and other (Irunmales the divinities) who were resident on Earth then, sent an S.O.S. to Orun, (Heaven).
In response, the Ara orun, came to the Earth in special costumes.
These costumes, said Ifatokun, had the unique property of drying up any portion of the inundated earth over which they were swung.
The "Egungun" cult sprang from this incident of the invitation of these heavenly beings.
The special and elderly egungun who wear imitations of these today are called Babalago, Ifatokun said.
So, the Egungun (Mayegun) cam from orun (heaven, Space) to rescue aye (Earth) form the deluge.
The modern interpretation of the Ifatokun story is glaring:
When the deluge hit the Earth, extraterrestrial beings resident on Earth, among whom was Orunmila, himself, sent an S.O.S to their home planet. And in response, extraterrestial hydrologists landed on Earth in spacesuits (and, by inference, space craft) to rid the Earth of the excess water!.
Of course, the matter does not end here. Some sailent questions have been raised, especially by this last account.
For instance, was Orunmila truly an extraterrestial? Were the Irunmales or Orisas, extraterrestials? The answer is Yes.
However, that is another story...
Story originally published by The Guardian - Nigeria By Yemi Ogunsola
Emi o mo bi olori n yan ri o
M ba lo yan temi
N go mo bi Afuwape yan ri o
M ba lo yan temi
I do not know where people with good destiny picked theirs
I would have picked mine there too
I do not know where Afuwape picked his good destiny
I would have gone there
To which Afuwape replied:
Eyin o mo bi olori n yan ri o
E ba lo yan teyin
Ibikan na la gbe yan ri o
Kadara o papo ni.
You do not know where good destiny is picked
You would have gone there for yours
We picked our destinies from the same source
Only their contents are not identical.
Death (Iku) was gathering humans before there full time on earth had passed.
The Orishas worried about this, until Orumila said he would resolve this matter.
One day when Iku was busy, Orumila went and took his hammer
Iku became furious when he discovered the Hammer missing.
He rushed back to Orumila’s house, and demanded the hammers return.
Orumila said, Oludumare had assigned you the task of gathering humans when thier time had come,
but you are gathering them when you want, prior to thier predetermined death.
Iku answered, if humans do not die, the earth will die.
Orumila answered “you are not right to take humans before their time.
After a long discussion, Orumila began to see the logic of Iku’s task
Orumila aggred to return the Hammer, But Iku must swear not to take any of Orumila’s
children before there full time has passed.
Iku answred, When I see the Irde Ifa on a persons left wrist, I will pass over them, unless it is there predetermined time to die. Orumila and Iku aggreed, and from this day, Ifa devotees wear the Irde on the left wrist, as a sign of the pact between Iku and Orumila.
The Guerreros (warriors) are a set of orishas that an initiate receives usually after having received their Elekes and it is usually an indication that the person is on their way to Kariocha. The warriors consist of Elegba, Ogún, Ochosi and Osun. The warriors are received in a person’s life in order to protect them, strengthen their spiritual framework, teach them the importance of hard work and to open their spiritual road.
This is strictly a Lukumí initiation in that it evolved out of the environment that the Lukumí people were subjected to when they were brought to the new world as slaves. Originally, in the motherland, these orishas were worshipped and propitiated in communal outdoor shrines that belonged to the entire village or tribe. The exception would have been Elegba, which was received as an Eshu (a stone) by individuals when they were crowned, along with their crowning orisha. Elegba’s shrine was a large stone or collection of stones, Ogún’s shrine contained his iron implements, Ochosi’s included animal horns and the like, and Osun was a special staff that was much taller than today’s version and it was kept outside the home, staked into the ground – yet its function is still preserved in the modern version. All of the modern warriors are usually kept behind the front door, near the front door or facing the front door – indicating their importance in opening a person’s spiritual path, protecting the home from negativity and intruders, and still hinting at their closeness to the outdoors.
The modern Lukumí version evolved because the tribes of Lukumí people were split up and intermixed with other tribes and there was no possible was of having an outdoor public shrine at which offerings could be given without making it known to the slave masters. Thus each individual was to receive their own Elegba – which consisted of an otán (stone) and usually a cement head packed with magically charged substances that is essentially used like Elegba’s tools with which he can affect the physical and spiritual worlds. Here is a typical depiction of an Elegba to the right. But Elegbas vary from road to road, and each is unique and personal to the initiate in its own way. Usually Elegba that is received with the warriors is not a complete Elegba in that he does not have diloggún shells – usually these are added and empowered at the Kariocha. (But I have heard of ilés where they give diloggún with the warriors version of Elegba, but the diloggún are not yet fully empowered to speak.)
Ogún that is received in the warriors set is actually a smaller, less complete version of Ogún. This does not mean that Ogún is less effective, merely that he still has room to grow. He is received in an iron cauldron, with his otán, his tools that quite literally look like the tools that a blacksmith or a warrior would use and other iron implements. He does not usually come with diloggún either – these are usually received either in a separate ceremony, or at the time of Cuchillo. Inside of Ogún’s cauldron living with him, is Ochosi (his best friend or brother depending on which version of the legend you have heard.) Ochosi is also received in a very scaled down form, with the warriors. He is merely a metal crossbow that is empowered and lives within Ogún’s pot. Ochosi is received in complete form, in a separate ceremony. Often when Ogún is made full – by giving him diloggún and feeding him four legs, Ochosi is given full at the same time. Often this occurs at Cuchillo if it has not yet been done for an individual to that point.
Osun is a small staff that is packed with magical substances that acts as a person’s personal guard or watchdog. Many people say that he is your spiritual head, or the foundation for your higher self or Orí. He is lidded and sealed metal cup with a stem and is about 9 inches tall. on top of the lid is a metal rooster – the symbol for Osun. Hanging from the lip of the cup’s lid, are four jingle bells hanging from little chains. Osun is supposed to be placed in a high place in the house – preferably above the initiate’s head with the rooster facing the front door, so that he can watch for danger. He is supposed to remain upright at all times, and if he ever falls over, it is an indication that something very bad has either been thrown at the initiate or is on it’s way to harm the initiate. Osun should be immediately turned upright and the primary godparent should be notified of what happened. This is the scaled down modern version of the original that was found in Africa. There are human-sized Osuns but they are received for different purposes and in a separate initiation.
The warriors, when received into a home for the first time, or when the initiate moves into a new home, have to go through a special ebbó called the ebbó de entrada (the offering of entry.) This involves eyebale to Elegba, Ogún, Ochosi and Osun at the door to the house (Shilelekun.) This not only empowers and strengthens the door to the house for protection, but it also strengthens the presence of the warriors in that home and in effect lets them know that it is their new home and they are bound to protect it from any enemies or negativity. The initiate is then to tend to his new orishas in his home by cleaning them from time to time, coating them lightly with epó (palm oil), and a bit of honey, offering them rum, and occasionally cigar or a candle. Some ilés offer candies to Elegba, or fruits and toys. In my ilé we do not give candy to Elegba until he has completed something for us, as a reward.
Now that the initiate has received Elegba, the orisha can guide them spiritually, open their psychic senses and their doors to evolution and in general assist them through life. Many ilés call the initiate an Aborisha (follower of the Orishas) after having received the warriors.