An Opele (Irere) is a divination chain used in traditional West-African Religions, notably in Ifá and West-African traditions. A Babalawo = Bokono (Diviner) uses the Opele in order to communicate with the spirits who are able to identify the causes and solutions to personal and collective problems and restore harmony with the spirits.
The Opele (Irere) consists of eight half-nuts of the Opele tree with convex/concave sides linked at regular intervals by short strands of chain at the ends of which the priest may attach small beads, coins, and cowries. More recent Opele (Irere) have substituted small, oval brass plates for the half-nuts. The Diviner holds the Chain at the center and then swings the Chain gently, lying it on the cloth or mat on which he is seated. In a single motion he creates a pattern, which refers to an Odu of Ifa, the verses of which he then chants. The pattern, consisting of the concave and convex sides of the brass plates or nuts, is equivalent to the pattern of parallel marks made by the Ifa priest in the Iyerosun dust on an opon ifa when using Ikin Ifa (Sixteen Sacred Kola Nuts).
The Divining Chain is said to “talk more” than the Palm Nuts, but it is regarded as in inferior instrument, less reliable than Palm Nuts for deciding important questions. It is also spoken of as Ifa’s servant. Nevertheless it is more commonly used in Divination, and a number of Diviners employ only the Chain, because they dislike using the Palm Nuts. The reason for this is that the Divining Chain arrives at the same interpretation through the same set of figures and verses more rapidly, and answers more questions than are usually asked when the slower method with Palm Nuts is employed.
The Divining Chains are made by the Diviners for themselves and for their students. The Divining Chain, which is about one foot to two feet long, usually consist of eight halves of Seed shells or Pods joined together by sections of Chain. The middle section of the Chain, by which it is held, is somewhat shorter. The Seed sections are of equal length, so that when the Chain is held in the middle, the four Shells on the right and the four on the left hang down side by side.
The Divining Chain is thrown with the Right Hand only, which is said to be used consistently in Ifa Divination, even by left-handed Diviners. It is tossed away from the Diviner in such a way that the two open ends fall nearest to the Diviner and the two sides fall parallel. Each half Seed shell can fall with either the Concave inner surface (I) or the Convex outer surface (O) facing up. It is essential that the two surfaces of the Shells, or of other materials used in place of them, can be distinguished.
Various objects – including beads, cowries, shells, coins, buttons, rings, small bells, and bits of metal – are attached to the bottom of the pods at either end of the Chain. Their purpose is to enable the Diviner to distinguish the Right half (even) and the Left half (odd) of the Chain, so that the same half is always cast on the same side, and so that the figure will not be misread. Often an even number of cowries (two or four) marks the Right half and an odd number (one or three) mark the Left.
The Type of Divination Chain most highly prized consist of circular brass links set (Swivels) at right angles to each other, permitting the Seeds to fall freely in either the concave or the convex position. With a good Divination Chain the probability of each of the figures appearing is equal (1 in 256). The fall of the Seeds is not left to chance but is controlled by Ifa, the Deity of Divination, and any interference with the free fall of the Seeds, by the instrument or by the Diviner, garbles the message which Ifa wishes the client to receive.
The Shells of a dark-colored Seed (Egbere), said to come from a large tree (Igi-Epu), is most commonly used and most highly regarded. These Seeds resemble almond shells in their general shape and markings but are darker, smaller, and much harder. They are sold in the markets, but they have become increasingly rare and expensive since the early trade in ivory. When Split open, they show a smooth, slight convex, outer surface. A small hole is burned through each end of a half of a Seed Shell with a hot iron, so that the section Chain may be attached.
Most common is the Seed pod known as “Opele – Irere” from which the Divining Chain takes its name. It comes from the Opele tree, this pod is referred to as Ewe’s foot (Ese Agutan) these are the only Seeds found in elephant dung, and that they are obtained either from hunters or directly from the tree. This Seed pod has a distinctive pear shape and naturally split open at the base, with the two halves splaying out from the top where they are joined until broken apart.
” According to Ife Diviners, when Ogunda Meji died at the town of Oko, a tree called Opele Oga Oko sprang up on his grave, and from it fell a fruit that split open, revealing the figure Ogbe Meji written inside.”
As Orunmila told us in Ejiogbe: The basis for understanding the beginning and end of all things. Through Ifa is revealed the Great Mysteries of life. Only Ifa explains the reasons for the existence of life, living, death, sickness, success, failure, poverty, wealth, life before birth and life after death.
Head (Ori) = Inu “Inner Head – Destiny” *** Head (Ori) = Akoko “First Head – Designator”
Distinction between Heaven (Orun) & World (Aiye) * Heaven contains: Owner – Deities – Ancestors… * World contains: Human – Animals – Sorcerers…
The Heaven/World distinction is important in understanding Yoruba concepts of Life, Death, Destiny, Reincarnation & Soul. Firstly, Yoruba thought makes a distinction between the physical body & the spiritual elements which inhabit it and give it life & individuality. The characteristics of these two spiritual elements appear as the most important are Breath (Emi) & Head (Ori)
Breath (Emi) is generally thought of as the vital force, without which the body dies. In some accounts it is also thought of as the conscious self. It not only provides locomotion for the body, but can think independently of it, and can travel abroad on its own in dreams. Head (Ori) is more complex it rather than Breath is the seat of the intellect. It is also related to a person’s destiny, as the element which predetermines his success or failure in the world.
Head (Ori) is given to, or chosen by, an individual before his/her birth, creating limits within which success in the world can be expected and within which the Breath is able to act. In contrast to this rather fatalistic model, Head is also to be the Ancestral Guardian Soul – A spiritual entity which can be influenced by humans in efforts to improve life on earth. Each individual has two Ancestral guardians, one on the Head, and one in Heaven which is doing exactly the same things as the individual is doing on Earth. With the support of the Ancestral guardian in Heaven, an individual will live the allotted span of life.
Head (Ori) is believed to be the first and the most important Deity in Heaven. The spiritual and personal Head (Ori) or Divinity possessed by each and every individual. Each person and deity before coming to earth, must visit Ajala – maker of Heads in heaven. If one has the bad luck to choose a less than perfect Head, his/her life on earth will be severely affected. Head (Ori) refers to one’s spiritual intuition and destiny. It is the reflective spark of human consciousness embedded into the human essence, and therefore is often personified as an Orisha in its own right. It is believed that human beings are able to heal themselves both Spiritually and Physically by working with the Orishas to achieve a balanced character, Oriwa-Pele. When one has a balanced character, one obtains an alignment with one’s Head (Ori) or divine self. It is also believed that Head (Ori) be worshiped like Orisha. This is because whatever one becomes or whatever happens in one’s life is as destined by Head (Ori)
A person’s Head (Ori) is so crucial to a successful life that it is propitiated frequently, and its support and guidance is sought before undertaking any new task. Personal Head (Ori) shrines are indispensable and are present in most homes, irrespective of sex, religious belief, or cult affiliation. And in the performance of virtually all sacrifices, Ancestral worship, since it determines their favorable outcome.
As above, so below. Ifa offers the term Head (Ori) to explain the exact path from our “Origin” to us and between us and others. It is our portion of the divine spark that is encoded with our destiny. Its components are seated in certain chakra points within and above us. Above -Below or better yet, simply Without – Within” to describe the path by which the two are connected: Our original form of pure energy or true spirit body that manifested first, from our original energy source. Our Head (Ori) also resides in one of the first realms created by that source.
Physical Head:This may even refer to our brain. It houses the next three Ori portals. It is located at the crown of our head. This is the point where our silver cord or chain connects us to our original and true spirit self in Heaven (Orun). The Head (Ori) is vested with great importance in Yoruba art and thought. When portrayed in sculpture, the size of the head if often represented as four or five times its normal size in relation to the body in order to convey that it is the site of a person’s Power (Ashe) as well as his or her essential nature, or Character (Iwa). The Yoruba distinguish between the Exterior Head (Ori-Akoko) and Inner Head (Ori-Inu). Exterior Head (Ori-Akoko) is the physical appearance of a person, which may either mask or reveal one’s Inner Head (Ori-Inu) aspects. Inner qualities, such as patience and self-control, should dominate outer ones.
The head also links the person with the other-world. The Imori ceremony – Head (Ori) is the first rite that is performed after a Yoruba child is born. During Imori, a diviner determines whether the child comes from his or her mother’s or father’s lineages or from a particular Deity (Orisha). If the latter is the case, then the child will undergo Deity (Orisha) initiation during adulthood, during which the person’s Head (Ori) becomes the spiritual vessel for that Deity (Orisha). To prepare for these ceremonies, the person’s head is shaved, bathed and anointed.
Yoruba do not consider the Head (Ori) symbol really complete without an accompanying container to house, honour and beauty it. This is the most costly acts of honour an individual can do to any Deity. It is hard to imagine a more fitting residence for Head, the cause and essence of one’s being. During consultation or Propitiation, the devotee will place Ibori – House Of Head (Ori) on a well-swept & polished floor which has been covered with a white cloth. Devotee offers standard items of sacrifice to Head like water, kolanut, and is free to add other items of choice. Depending on the nature of the request, a corresponding symbolic sacrifice is made.
Coconut Water – Omi Agbon as Head softener (Ero), makes it work more in favour of the owner where that Head is found to be hard. Snails (Igbin)are offered to ask Head (Ori)to avert an impending disaster. Sugarcane – Ground Roasted Corn & Honey are offered to attract good fortune – happiness or joy…
Consequently the Yoruba Concept of Head (Ori), is always conscious of the duality of his being, namely the material mortal self, and the spiritual one. In actual life experience, the spiritual Head’s qualities such as immortality, ever-presence and insuperable power are employed where human efforts fail or appear inadequate. Thus, in extreme conditions of bad or good health, fortune or misfortune, the Yoruba resort to Head (Ori) for rectification or gratification.
***Because of the circumstances of their creation, all Deities have to pay homage to Head (Ori). Similarly, all cult heads & devotees have to touch the Earth with their forehead as an act of symbolic respect for the first Ori-Akoko in heaven who in turn will roll side to side in reverence to Owner of Heaven on behalf of the appellant on Earth. (Ofun-Irete)
Ori is the essence of a human being, Ori is the guide and guardian of our life with one specialty – Ori has been with us since before we were even born, he follows us through our whole lives until death and beyond. Consequently, all our accidents, mishaps we encounter, are all reflections of our Ori. We can consider Ori as the source of everything, the foundation of everything we experience in life. It is the energy that motivates us at everything; it is responsible for our dynamic energy, for our achievements, our mistakes, our consistency.
There are two types of Ori, namely – Ori Ire – good fate, good Ori Ori Buruku – bad fate, bad Ori. This is all very visible in our life. We can recognize the people who have good luck and certain people with a bad luck or negative fate.
Ori is an individual choice of a human life. Everybody has the right to own choice, be it bad or good, from experience or without, with risk or without it. Sadly, that same Ori can turn against us. In fact, our most vital energy is what can let us down when we need it the most. When we work for ourselves, it is actually our intelligence that can fail us. Our life resources are also our experiences, our personal security and self-confidence – all the resources we need in order to survive. All this can collapse. That leads us to destruction, to negative experiences. Accidents happen because of this; we make wrong decisions, we get angry for no reason or we fall into a deep depression. We can regard this as failure of our Ori in a certain cycle of life.
This is beyond the concept of any religion. This is the concept of a human being. Ori is the nature of a human being, the power of fate. Ori is the personal guardian responsible for all our noble deeds, our vitality, our achievements and for our failures. It is our essence. Ori is the principle that serves the basic human needs in order to have a worthy life. The basic needs are: common sense, knowing our own restrictions, responsibility and fear. Fear is also needed because if we did not have it, we would go beyond our restrictions. Every time we go beyond our limitations, we expose ourselves to greater risks.
When people with this kind of energy expose themselves to extreme risks, it often leaves them with irreversible damage. That is when we tend to say: “This was his destiny“. However, fate is actually only an aftermath of irresponsibility towards oneself. Experiences that follow usually are not satisfying. Our Ori is responsible for all the energies that are needed in order for us to protect our lives, to ensure our survival and the possibility of another life. But our Ori is also responsible for all the energies that lead us to our deaths. If we do not use all our natural resources with adding positive things into our lives, we can encounter a large number of negative experiences. The paradox of life is that a lot of people actually do not even care whether they take risks, they do not care if they are protected or not, and that they are actually digging their own graves.
All requests must be sanctioned by Head (Ori) before any other Power, Force, or Divinity can act on them, favourably or otherwise. Head (Ori) is the channel of communication between individuals on Earth and the Deities.
“There is not childbearing woman who cannot give birth to an Ifa priest. There is no childbearing woman who cannot give birth to Orunmila. Our father, if he gives birth to us in full, inevitably we shall in time give birth to him in turn. Our mother, if she gives birth to us in full, inevitably we shall in time give birth to her in turn. Ifa oracle was consulted for Orunmila, who said he would bring the heaven down to earth, he would take the earth back to heaven. In order to accomplish his mission, he was asked to offer everything in twos, one male and one female – one ram and one ewe, one he-goat and one she-goat, one cock and one hen, and so on. Orunmila heeded the advice and performed the sacrifice. Thus the earth became fruitful and multiplied greatly.”
” Ifa is not merely a collection of verses, proverbs, parables and anecdotes. Ifa is God’s sacred message to mankind. It is the embodiment of the totality of human existence.”
Ifa is the Divine Message of Olodumare to mankind and for all those who seek to receive it. Ifa’s universal relevance lies in the fact that, when an individual from any race, color or creed approaches an Ifa Priest for a personal message, Ifa may reveal a message national, continental or even global importance. For instance, the message may be a warning of an approaching war, famine, or pestilence…
THE EIGHT ESSENCES OF IFA– The Spiritual Essence: This relates to the place of man (as a spirit) in the cosmos, the powers of matter and all aspects of ontological evolution and development. The Religious Essence: This relates to faith, catechism and preaching. The Divine Essence: This relates to the methods of Divination and accessing of esoteric information; the mechanics of Divination and the systems of Divine Message collection, processing and interpretation.The Worship and Sacrificial Essence: This relates to the basis and meaning of worship and sacrifice. The Medicinal Essence: This deals with both magical and materialist medicine. The Historical Essence: This deals with the history of all creation, including the creation of materialist, non-materialist and spirit worlds. The Scientific Essence: This deals with the power of observation, axiomatic, astronomy, cosmology, cognitive experience, astral science, physical and biological sciences, logic, philosophy mathematics, statistics and computer science. The Cultural Essence: This relates to rites, rituals, politics, socio-economics, language dress and normative value systems. As it is obvious, these eight essences of Ifa are also in the main, coincident with the human essences, of planet earth and the non-human essences in the entire universe.
As a divinatory system centered on the intersection between aspects of the self, free will and destiny, it can inspire explorations of the nature of the self, and of relationships between human will and the factors that shape the course of human life. As a mathematical system, it can be adapted to the use of mathematics as a means of mapping ideas and phenomena, even up to scales as broad and as elaborate as the cosmos, one view represented for me by Babalawo-Adept of the esoteric knowledge of Ifa. As a literary system, it can motivate literary study, and inspire the reworking of its literature to create new, hybrid forms or the development of entirely new forms. As a system making unusual claims about the nature of phenomena, it can act as an inspiration for examining the question of the mode of existence of non- material forms, such as mathematical structures and other ideas.
On account of these adaptive possibilities, Ifa as a cognitive matrix in which several discipline constellate and from which they may derive inspiration. Along those lines, demonstrates an effort of mine to proceed with such an adaptation using an Opon Ifa around which orbit images of the Odu Ifa, the organizational categories and active agents of Ifa. In the lines the Odu Ifa are correlated with various aspects of existence. This style of adapting Ifa derives from its character as a divinatory system but one which may be adapted for uses beyond that older orientation.
The Odu Ifa are spirits who represent all possibilities of existence, from the concrete to the abstract, from the temporal to the situational. One way of adapting this idea is that of correlating the Odu with forms one understands as the primary categories of existence. These derivations operate at various levels based on the expansion of one unit into two units in which the second unit is a variation of the first one. The original two units then constitute the template in terms of which another two units are generated as variations of the first two. These four primal units are then used as templates for the creation of another twelve units which are variations of the first four units. The set of sixteen units thus generated is them employed as a framework for creating another two hundred and forty units, which are variations of the structure of the first sixteen units.
This sequence of derivations may be adapted to the development of an increasing number of ideas or principles from a few constituent ideas or principles. The underlying ideas could demonstrate what are understood to be the most broadly summative of principles in that system while the other ideas could be derivations from these underlying forms. Using such a process of derivation, one could adapt the description of the Odu as demonstrating all possibilities of existence. One could describe the primary Odu in terms of the most fundamental principles of existence and the other Odu that derive from the primary Odu as the subdivisions of these primary principles.
Using that strategy, the collage above depicts the first Odu, Eji Ogbe, as correlative with mind, because consciousness may be seen as the fundamental quality necessary for perceiving existence. Without consciousness, the cosmos would exist but no entity would register that existence. The fact of the existence of the cosmos or of any phenomena would be unknown. The second Odu, Oyeku Meji, is linked with matter, because existence, as currently accessible in an uncontroversial sense by human beings, is dependent on matter, be it matter known to be living, this being humans, animals and plants, or matter not conventionally understood as living, such as rocks and air. The third Odu, Iwori Meji, is identified with space because matter necessarily implies space since matter occupies space. Space is also central to cognition because the human being, composed of mind operating in terms of matter, uses space in orienting itself. The human form is structured in terms of spatial orientation towards the front, two sides- left and right, and the back, this being primary templates for the description of space in terms of east, west, north and south. The fourth Odu, Odi Meji, is depicted in terms of time, since movement in space implies motion in time.
The ultimate markers of time, the revolutions of the celestial bodies, demonstrate spatial motion at the largest scales. Other primary markers of time, such as the developmental cycles of terrestrial forms, of which the human body and mind are central but which also includes animals, plants and geological forms, are not dependent on motion in space, but may be described metaphorically in terms of motion purely in time. The remaining twelve of the foundation-set of sixteen Odu ifa are then described as derivatives of mind, matter, space and time, demonstrating specificities of these four primal units.. Perhaps the model would be more comprehensive if forms of matter are also explicitly included in the subdivisions, but I am reflecting on that for a possible future development of the model.
Including the subdivisions of matter would be vital because Ifa operates in terms of a cosmology grounded in an understanding of Ashe, a cosmic force that enables existence and change, being and becoming, as pervading all forms of existence, and enabling mutuality of existence between various forms of being, this mutuality being meditated through, or understood in terms of, the Orisha Eshu, whose face is an invariable feature of every Opon Ifa, craved into its border, overlooking the empty space where the dialogue between forms of being takes place within a divinatory session, a symbolic construct that may be adapted to an understanding of Ifa divination as analogous to the emergence of possibilities through the intersection of forms of being from within the interactive space symbolized by the empty centre of the Opon Ifa. After all, divination is meant to address practical issues that come up in people’s daily lives, issues for which they think their own intelligence or human intelligence as they understand it is too limited to address adequately, so they go to a diviner, a person understood to demonstrate access to supernatural knowledge and power. So, if one is adapting a divinatory system, should one not also try to see how far one can go with developing that adaptation into a cognitive force which may be applied in daily life.
The structuring of the Opon Ifa into unified segments created through the inscribing of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines into its surface in order to commence divination. In terms of the saying that Ori is the ultimate deity with respect to the self and that without Ori’s consent, no other deity may grant any blessings to the individual and the superb Ese Ifa poem presents in Sixteen Great Poems of Ifa indicating that Ori is the only Orisha or Deity who can follow its devotee through the journey of life and into the ultimate journey represented by death. This adaptation may be developed in terms of an understanding of the center of the Opon not only represents the place where the individual is standing in time and space, but also represents the consciousness of the person in question, as well as the totality of all there is.
As Orunmila told us in Ejiogbe: The basis for understanding the beginning and end of all things. Through Ifa is revealed the Great Mysteries of life. Only Ifa explains the reasons for the existence of life, living, death, sickness, success, failure, poverty, wealth, life before birth and life after death. Only Ifa reveals the spiritual basis for reincarnation experience; why no living thing, having sucked from the, breasts of mother Nature, will fail to taste the bitter truth of death. Only Ifa tells it exactly as it is. In short, only Ifa guides the life of man from cradle to grave! Although, as a result of close association through the several millennia, Orunmila has been regarded as being synonymous with Ifa (the two names are actually frequently interchanged in the Sacred Verses). Ifa as the embodiment of Olodumare is the ultimate level of esoteric consciousness, a level attained only by Orunmila. Presumably anyone can reach that level, but so far, it is not achievable by mere mortals.
The real key to life lies in Ifa: It forms the foundation of the all-governing principle of life for them. Before a betrothal, before a marriage, before a child is born, at the birth of the child, at successive stages in one’s life, before a King is enthroned, before a chief is installed, before anyone is appointed to civic office, before a war is prosecuted, before a journey is made, in times of crises, in times of sickness, at any and all times, Ifa is consulted for guidance and assurance. Because Orunmila is the Great Interpreter of Ifa and witness to destiny. Orunmila himself seeks guidance from Olodumare through Ifa.
It is also clear that Religion, Worship and Sacrifice are but few aspects of what constitutes the Divine Message known as Ifa. It constitutes what is also known as the Great Mystery System. Thus, while Ifa Religion represents the transcendental and Evangelical dimension of Ifa worldview, Worship and Sacrifice epitomize the corrective and restorative facets of that worldview.
For proper use in divination, the Obi Abata must be of four segments, consisting of Two Males (Ako Meji), and Two Females (Abo Meji). These segments represent an equal balance in the forces of “light” corresponding to the masculine force and “darkness” corresponding to the feminine force. To get an accurate oracle in consultation, the four segments should be cast on a clean ground, flat bowl, plate, or tray. Water should be sprinkled on the ground as a means of offering libation to the various Orishas before casting the Obi Abata.
**One thousand and one questions can be asked in a day, but the same question must NEVER be asked twice, or else the questioner will be deceived. The subject of inquiry must be always stated before the Obi Abata kola nuts are cast.
The Obi Abata Oracle can be performed by either a Man or a Woman. Yoruba traditional customs indicate that the Obi Abata is favored among Women as a means of consulting, and assisting in the Ifa system of divination.
The Language of the Obi: When the Obi is to be used for divination either as a medium in her own right, or for asking procedural directives during the process of or after the completion of a sacrifice, or for asking questions in the presence of another Orisha. It is important that the Obi to be used must be very clean and a complete whole seed. The Obi that is meant for use should be selected from a pack and should be properly washed and placed in a clean container or piece of clean white cloth.
Casting The Obi Abata: The Obi for divination or asking questions should first be put into water, and the person to cast her must take a sip of the water in which the Obi is in three times before he/she picks out the Obi from inside the water. Before taking out the Obi from inside the water, the water should be sprinkled upon the Orisha or ebo three times or if it is meant for divination purpose the water should be sprinkled on the ground where the divination will be casted three times. The Obi should thereafter be carefully broken up into its constituent Lobes, allowing for no scratch or bodily damage.
***A knife or any metallic instrument should never be used to break the Obi open, so as not to interfere with her degree of accuracy, which could be altered say for example when she comes in contact with Ogun’s iron.
Reading the Obi: In Obi Abata Divination, about Nine (9) positions of the Obi’s Lobes formation after a throw are each a coded Signature loaded with meaning such as will answer or give explanations to questions asked in response to various and specific enquiries. When the Obi is cast for asking questions in the presence of a Female Orisha, Oshun, Yemoja, Olokun etc, the reading of the Male/ Female meaning is reversed. Then the Female Lobes are read as mostly positive, while the Male Lobes are read as may-be or less positive.
I. Idiwo/Oyeku: All Four Lobes Facing Downwards
Orisha says that this cast could either mean that you are about to come into an abundance of Good Luck or that a fight or quarrel is imminent. It is always presumed that the abundance of Good Luck is what the Orisha is talking about. Because of the double language of the Odu, a recast is always necessary for clarification. So make a second casting. The casting of the four Lobes facing down is also making reference to the possible birth of twins of the taking of special care for the twin children. It also talks about a pregnant woman who needs Orisha’s attention. She should give ebo to Obatala.
***Darkness, death and many obstacles. From it you derive unhappiness, sickness, and great fear. It may also sometimes offer protection, avert sudden death, and dangers.
II. Aje/Ija (Fight): One Female Lobe Facing Up
Orisha says that this is a may-be negative indicator calling you to give the Orisha what you are owing them, and that is why negative forces are present or surrounding the inquiries. Watch out for sickness or trouble that might be ahead. A second casting is necessary to clarify if the first throw signifies sickness, accidents or bad luck.
***Good fortune, financial prosperity and comfort. It is said that this formation brings good news.
III. Ilera = Ifa Wa: One Male Lobe Facing Up
Orisha speaks of a reinforcement of the positive influences that are abound now. Orisha says one should make Sacrifice so that the favorable trend can continue. Orisha says that no charm nor medicine have been affected by negative vibrations. Orisha says that you should not put a curse or make negative wish for anyone so that it might not come to pass.
*** Good health, singleness of purpose, and good prospects. Those Lobes which are down may also add more emphasis depending on their positions.
IV. Ejiko = Ejire: One Male & One Female Lobe Facing Up
Orisha says that this is a may-be “Yes” indicator, a marriage of convenience. Ejiko is also called the “Twins” and regarded as an indicator of continuity. Whenever this figure appears, it is greeted with thus “Good Luck, & Continuity” Appease the ground with cold water before proceeding…
*** A good omen for all undertakings, also speak of friendship when one Male and one Female Lobe lay open together.
V. Akoran = Ire: Two Male Lobes Facing Up
Orisha speaks of a reinforcement of the positive influences that are abound now. Orisha says one should make Sacrifice so that the favorable trend can continue. Orisha says that no charm nor medication have been affected by negative vibrations. Orisha says that one should not put a curse or make negative wish for anyone so that it might not come to pass.
*** A quarrel or trouble, possibly relating to a court case. It is often described as a difficult problem.
VI. Ero = Odi: Two Female Lobes Facing Up
Orisha says that this is a negative indicator, Iya-Mogun (Witches) are showing displeasure with you. They disapprove of habit/food or interest in the question asked. A Sacrifice should be made for the Orisha on behalf of a sick person. Orisha says “No” to this question is final. Make Sacrifice to appease Iya-Mogun.
*** Everlasting and Peaceful rest…
VII. Akita = Ishegun: Two Male & One Female lobes Facing Up
Orisha says that this is a very positive indicator. if your inquiry is about love relation or marriage proposal..This position of the Obi is a sign of victory. the enquirer should neither fight nor put a curse upon anyone. He has overcome all his enemies.
*** Good health, controversy among enemies, joy. May predict the birth of a Male child.
VIII. Obita = Ota Iwa: Two Female & One Male Lobes Facing Up
Uncertainties and a very slow trend is abound. Sacrifice and propitiation for Ogun is the key to getting back on a smoother path. Avoid getting into a fight or unnecessary annoyance. Treat loved ones with care and be patient with work mates.
*** Brings peace, happiness, comfort, sometimes this can predict victory over enemies or court case.
IX. Alafia = Ogbe: All four Lobes Facing Up
The indicators are that good health and happiness will continue in abundance. Orisha says that traveling is in the air with possible rewarding and gainful outcome. For those who are connected with overseas trading, expected shipments are just arriving at the port. Orisha Ibeji (Twins) is about to look upon the enquirer.
*** Pure light, happiness, confidence, long-life and prosperity…
When examining the various patterns of formation in the Obi Abata (Kola-Nut), the reader must keep in mind that the direction of the Lobes plays an essential role in understanding hidden messages which are relevant to the ways in which the Masculine and Feminine forces are moving within the Signature cast.
Obi Abata Divination =Serves as a useful guide for decision making in day-to-day activities. Questions and matters affecting one’s destiny, health, love, marriage and wealth can accurately be answered…
The person who desires to have his/her fortune told must first invoke the Obi. Ask The Question and cast The Obi Abata on a clean ground, a flat plate or a tray. This system of Obi Abata Divination can be used by either sex. The individual using the Obi Abata must therefore specify whether the question is personal or for His/Her mate or client. The answers may be altered to fit from husband to wife, children, society, a whole community or country etc…
Reactivating The Obi Abata (Kola-Nut): The Obi Abata like any Orisha sometimes refuses to function according to expectations. Various reasons may be insinuated for this primary of which could be perhaps unclean body of the caster or sometimes highly charged atmosphere. If after a few casting of the Obi Abata, particularly during the process or conclusion of a Sacrifice or in the presence of an Orisha, there is no positive response from the Obi Abata. Obi Abata might have to be pampered to reactivate…
*** When two Lobes of the Obi Abata stand over each other, it could signify the interest of the Iya-Mogun (Witches) in the matter. If the Female Lobe climbed over the Male Lobe, the reverse is the case, it could signify prosperity and Wealth.
Orin/Song: Ojodu Ode O…. Omo Arera (2x) Ifa Mo Dupe L’Owo…Obi To Yan O
Orishas are fond of the Obi Abata as a tool of communication within the Ifa system of Divination.The word “obi”, as it is used within this module, refers to the fresh kola nut native to Africa, specifically the Obi Abata. Obi Abata, also known as the kola nut, falls under the scientific classification cola acuminata. It ranges from white to dark red in color.
Obi Abata, the type of Obi used in divination, is made up of four and five lobes that are split open and used as both an Oracle and as offerings to the Ancestors and Orisha. It is the Obi Abata that is a staple ingredient in most sacred Ifa-Orisha rituals and celebrations. Though other configurations of the Obi may be used in various ways, it is the four lobed Obi, also known as Iya Obi (The Mother Obi). Two Males (Ako-Meji) Bottom Right *** Two Females (Abo-Meji) Upper Left.
Olufuwa / Five Lobes Obi – Said to belong to Oshun, the Deity for puberty, whiteness and cool serene water. It has the female lobe or the “Ofa” which have a double Female characteristic making her bottom ending look like a delta of a river. For divination purposes, the “Ofa” is always taken aside and given to Eshu from the lot and only two Males and two Females are used.
This is a 5 Lobes Olufua Obi-Abata top left are 2 females (delta) – center is a double female (belongs to Orisha Oshun)- far right are 2 males (straight lines).
“In Yoruba mythology, Egungun-Oya is a Goddess of divination. Egungun refers to the collective spirits of the ancestral dead; the Orisha Oya is seen as the mother of the Egun.”
Oya is one of the most powerful African Goddess – Deity = Orisha = Vodun.A Warrior-Queen, She is the wife of the God Shango, to whom She gave the power to create storms. Much of Oya’s power is rooted in the natural world; She is the Goddess of thunder, lightning, tornadoes, winds, rainstorms and hurricanes. A Fire Goddess, it is Oya who brings rapid change and aids us in both inner and outer transformation.
Oya is the guardian of the realm between life and death; as such, She is not only the Goddess of spirit communication, funerals and cemeteries but also the Goddess of clairvoyance, psychic abilities, intuition and rebirth. She can call forth the spirit of death, or hold it back — such is the extent of Her power. Because of Her affiliation to the dead, and Her intense knowledge of the magic arts.
Oya is both loved and feared, and for good reason: Unleashed, Oya is the Savage Warrior, the Protective Mother. She whose power sweeps all injustice, deceit and dishonesty from Her path. She will destroy villages if the need is true enough, for while She understands everything, She will only accept, act upon, and speak the truth. Oya Enin-Heyi…
Oya is the protector of women and patron of feminine leadership. Fiercely loving, She is wildly unpredictable and can change from benevolent, caring Mother to destructive Warrior in the blink of an eye. Passionate, fearless, sensual and independent, Oya is not a Goddess to be invoked lightly and must be treated with respect and care. Oya is known as a fierce warrior and strong protector of women, who call on Her to settle disputes in their favor.
As the Orisha of change, She brings down the dead wood to make room for the new, and She uses Her machete or sword to clear a path for new growth. She is believed to watch over the newly dead and assist them as they make the transition from life.She can manifest as winds ranging from the gentlest breeze to the raging hurricane or cyclone. She goes forth with Her husband during His thunderstorms. Oya is the Orisha of the Niger River, and Her violent rainstorms are said to be its source. She is worshiped not only in Africa but in Brazil, Cuba, where the Amazon is said to be Her river. Oya attributes are the sword or machete and the fly whisk, and Her animal is the water buffalo, in Whom She sometimes manifests.
Oya-Yansa is the Queen of the Winds of change. She is feared by many people because She brings about sudden structural change in people and things. Oya does not just rearrange the furniture in the house — She knocks the building to the ground and blows away the floor tiles. She is the Orisha of rebirth and new life. Goddesses such as She are referred to as Dark goddesses because. They not only pull you into the darkness guide you through the dark and turmoil, but they point you to the light of hope.
Oya is the sentinel between the realm life and death. She gives assistance and guidance to those when they make their final transition into the veils. She can either hold back the spirit of death or call it forth. Hence, She is the last breath taken. Oya also governs over the cemetery and the realm of the dead, and it is said that She entered into the lower world of Ira upon hearing that Shango died. She is known for using charms and magic…
As a Crone Goddess She is a teacher of truth and a bringer of justice. Do meditate and take in Oya’s power during the wind, rain, snow and thunderstorms, for She speak to those who listen. She cleanses that which is sullied with Her mighty broom . Oya has nine children and Her favorite number is 9.
Oya’s Symbols: Oya has a few symbols associated with her. Among them are the lightning bolt with crossed arrows, the vector or hurricane symbol, nine violet feathers carried by a spiraling wind, nine veils each of a different color, a necklace or skirt with nine colors, and a spiral wind chime made of nine ornamental spearheads. Oya’s colors vary from place to place, but the main one is purple or dark burgundy or maroon. She is also symbolized by the nine colors, purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, black, white, and brown. Depending on her function at a given time, she may wear purple and orange to work a storm, dark red to motivate a group of warriors or sportsmen to work as a team, all colors to make a tornado, etc.
Offerings to Oya: Traditions vary, Oya loves eggplants, beets, red wines, and purple grapes. She also enjoys popcorn and sesame seeds, especially caramel corn or sesame candy. She likes locust beans, amala, and chickpeas too.
“To fight and stir up dust like Buffalo” was the one who cast Ifa for Hunter. They said he should make a sacrifice so that he would find a wife to marry during that year. Hunter sacrificed = Whenever her children should want to perform their annual festival, Ogun should sacrifice with them to the horn that she had pulled off and left at home as a remembrance of her when they might want to sacrifice to their heads. From that time on, her children have continued to sacrifice to the horn when they perform their annual festival. Those who sacrifice to horns in this way are the ones that we call and greet as “Children of Buffalo” until this very day.
In Egba and Egbado area, as well as many parts of Yoruba land, Odun Egungun festivals are held in communities to commemorate the ancestors. Egungun masquerade are performed during these annual or biennial ceremonies as well as during specific funeral rites throughout the year. The masquerade is a multifaceted ceremony which includes the making of offerings as well as the honoring of Ancestors for past and future aid.
Oya is the Orisha of sudden change. Drastic transformation is Oya’s rightful territory, and for this reason the Orisha is linked greatly with death. Associated with the whirlwind, tornado and lightning, Oya is the energy that can reverse luck at any moment, bringing with it either wealth and blessings, or destruction and chaos. Oya is the energy of the marketplace, where fortunes are lost and won. On the converse of loss, even from chaos all things grow – and so this Orisha is always sought out for support and blessings whenever change or something beyond our control is imminent or already occurring.
Oya is the Orisha of the warrior. An energy both fearless and knowing, Oya fights against any perceived injustice. Orisha Oya’s children have often developed stronger survival skills than most, due to having endured much suffering in life. This allows them to be familiar with the shadow side, and those aligned with Oya are often perceived to be magical. However, past trials and tribulations also enable those associated with this Orisha to express its more empathetic aspects, for Oya is the energy that will provide for an individual what will most serve them, though it may not always be what is easiest.
Shango (Alaafin Tella-Oko) in one of his journeys wanted to hunt a buffalo that turned into a beautiful woman, who he felled in love. He carried her home and his wives gave her the name of Oya, because they were not expecting their husband to return so suddenly. Oya was the beloved wife of Shango. She alone of all his wives accompanied him in his fight towards Tapa (Nupe) country his maternal home. When her husband entered the ground and disappeared, she summed up the courage to follow his example and hid among a sheep flock, helping her not to be found and to disappear. Due to the support is given to her by the Sheep, her followers are forbidden to eat Mutton (Sheep).
Nobody could see her”órá” (no see), which gave the origin name for Ira (no see). She entered into the ground at a place called Igbo-Oya in Ira. This place was founded by an Oyo hunter called Laage. It was the need to move closer to Oya’s grove that made him found the present site of Ira. Oya became a river called Odo Oya or River Niger, which is named after her. As thunder and lightning are the tribute to Shango so tornado and violent thunderstorms are attributed to Oya.
Oya is known as well as Iya Sán (Mèsán) the mother of 9 children. She was known for being always surrounded by children, but she had never born. Two swords and the horns of Buffalo (Efòn) are the representative images of Oya. The followers are distinguished by a particular kind of reddish beads which are always tied around their necks. Oya disappeared in the town of Ira Shango disappeared at Koso.
Ase – Ashe = (Ah Shay) … A Yoruba Word Meaning ** Power – Command & Authority. The Ability To Make Whatever One Says Happen. Often Summarized As “So Be It” = “So It Is” = “It Definitely Shall Be”
Ashe-Poweris a component of the life force breathed into each human being by God; it is spiritual power; it is the power to create everything – Gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers and voiced words such as songs, prayers, praises, curses, or even everyday conversation. Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon it; it is the power to make things happen and change. The power of the word is an important part of harnessing Ashe.
Ashe-Power:is an African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. Existence, according to Yoruba thought, is dependent upon it. In addition to its sacred characteristics, Ashe-Power also has important social ramifications, reflected in its translation as “power, authority, command.” A person who, through training, experience, and initiation, learns how to use the essential life force of things to willfully effect change is called an Alaashe.
Rituals to invoke divine forces reflect this same concern for the autonomous Ashe -Power of particular entities. The recognition of the uniqueness and autonomy of the Ashe-Power of persons and gods is what structures society and its relationship with the other-world.
The concept of Ashe-Power influences how many of the Yoruba arts are composed. In the visual arts, a design may be segmented. Such elements can be seen in Ifa trays and bowls, veranda posts, carved doors, and Ancestral masks.
The language of Ashe-Powers is profound because the Yoruba conceive of their religious discourse as such ritual language is “Deep” and stylized, and it possesses Ashe-the capacity to invoke Powers, appropriate fundamental essences, and influence the future. Rich in metaphor and poetic devices, it expresses fundamental ideas of ritual power which are highly valued and closely guarded. Because of restrictions imposed by Deity-Orisha cults, ritual-language texts are difficult to record. Many are performed only once a year, and some only once in a lifetime. To sing or perform them at other times is infelicitous. One must bring offerings and undergo many Initiations to gain access and trust. In addition to these practical problems of restricted access, the texts themselves are difficult to understand.
Ritual language texts are of course verbal, oral-talking. They are spoken, sung, chanted, even danced in dialogue with drums. Formal categories based on stylistic criteria are always mixed in practice-praises can include proverbs and incantations extensively from Ifa. But the language itself remained a closed book. Textual fragments which possess Ashe-Power are clearly rich in metaphor and allusion-as in most poetry are sensed and intimate rather than formally explicated. Like the deeper meaning of ritual symbols, the language of Ashe-Power undermines the fundamental differences-linguistic which it outwardly reproduces. Best way to discuss ritual language is by letting it speak for itself, as it were, through transcriptions, translations…
These mystical, preternatural and esoteric powers are virtually inexplicable, but they cannot escape notice when they are manipulated by those who have access to them. Outsiders tend to dismiss such powers as superstitions; others class them as Mumbo-Jumbo and the like. But we should realize that one person’s superstition is another person’s belief. Traditional society understand the belief in mysterious and mystical powers which manifest themselves in different ways-in the form of incantations, medicine, magic, sorcery and witchcraft. Belief in these powers which can alter the course of nature is very real and prevalent among the Africans.
Incantations involve the chanting or uttering of words purporting to have magical power. Sometimes the incantations go with some medicinal preparation which is carried in the form of a ring, amulet, girdle, small gourd or needle. Words coupled with charms have mysterious powers which are frequently used by “those who know how”, to escape death, to vanish in the approach of an imminent danger, to escape a ghastly accident, to destroy an enemy or wild animal, to shorten distance, and such like.
Eshu receives Ashé when all the gods journey to the supreme god to find out who is the next most powerful. Each brings a huge sacrifice, carrying it on his or her head. But Eshu consults the Ifa oracle before he goes, and finds that all he needs to bring is a bright red feather set upright on his forehead. When the supreme being sees this he grants Eshu the power of Ashé, because Eshu had shown his unwillingness to carry burdens, as well as his sensitivity to the power of information. To this day, Eshu figurines often have a large phallic plume or nail on the head. Eshu shows us that one must “cultivate the art of recognizing significant communications…or else the lessons of the crossroads–the point where doors open or close, where persons have to make decisions that may forever effect their lives–will be lost.”
Ashe is an African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change. Àshe = a coming to pass; law; command; authority; commandment; imposition; power; precept; discipline; instruction; effect; consequence; is derived from the meanings: law, command, authority and power.
Ashe as the vital power, the energy, the great strength of all things. It is also the divine energy manifest in the process of procreation of life, to begin. Ashe does not signify anything particular, yet it invests all things, exists everywhere and as the warrant for all creative activity, opposes chaos and the loss of meaning in human experience. The underlying spirit of this root is “the power to cause to happen, the authority to make changes.
Ashe is power and this power is manifested in two primary forms: biological power which shapes one’s physical existence for good or ill, and political power which shapes people as moral and social beings. It is in its latter branch of meaning by which “kingship” becomes a euphemism for Ashe.
Ashe among the Yorùbá is associated with the very force which is life and brings things into being in the universe. As we will see later on, it is also associated with the power of speech as can be seen in its meanings of command, ordain, and law. We will see that there are two primary themes for Ashe – power and speech and these are derived from two different linguistic roots that were pronounced the same in ancient times. These terms have merged over time because of the similarities in associations.
Èshú : keeper of the word which is also the life-force and is master of language. In Yorùbá, one of the paths of Èshu is known as Elegbara.
The Redemption process might be said to begin with the final episode in the saga of Witches. Odu the female principle imagined as a container, the fourth elemental being to issue forth from the Python’s egg, having grown “Too Old”, expresses her desire to go underground.
*** Seated on her mysterious cylinder box, she calls her four advisers: Obatala – Obaluaye – Ogun – Oduduwa gets them to agree on her departure by promising revelations to those of her children ( Awo Orunmila ) who come to solicit her properly in her house in the forest.
*** This house has become Sphere-Box containing a Calabash (Her Body) which contains in turn the four Calabashes given to her on that occasion by the four advisers.
*** Obatala gives a Calabash of chalk (Efun) – Obaluaye offers his favorite substance Cam-wood (Osun) – Ogun Offers charcoal (Eedu) – Oduduwa offers Mud (Eere).
*** These gifts imply four roads, four corners of the universe. They are the original four major signs. From one of them will be “born” another first principle, as once Odu from the Python’s egg.
Ofun, the Calabash of Chalk (Efun) who gives himself, produces Obatala the white divinity as: Orisha-nla, greater than, the beginning and the end, first and last, the container of them all. The egg within becomes the womb, passivity becomes creativity personified. Surely this is part of the meaning of the Orisha Obatala as Ofun. Igba Iwa-Odu becomes an Orisha, the divinity worshiped by Diviners (Olodu) who have attained the highest degree of self-knowledge ( Awo Orunmila ). Only such diviners may install the terribly powerful Calabash of existence.
“Symbol of the sky and earth in their fecund union, container of the supreme wisdom of Ifa. The Installation of which validates an esoteric principle of universe symbiosis”
= Egg Symbol of the Soul & Life =Holy Odu “Ofun Meji” teaches that in the Spiritual Egg, Divine Spirit stands before primordial matter and from their union springs the great Soul of the World. Often connected with the Spiritual Egg is the idea of a sacred bird that drops the Egg into the waters of space or chaos.
Universal Symbol = The Egg was incorporated as a sacred sign in the cosmogony of every people on the Earth, and was revered both on account of its form and its inner mystery. From the earliest mental conceptions of man, it was known as that which represented most successfully the origin and secret of being. The human egg is the female reproductive element. The egg contains within itself all the essentials for development, leaving the sperm the role of activating an already prepared system.
IGBA IWA-ODU (Calabash Of Existence) The Diviners of the house of Orunmila consulted Ifa in order to know the day that he would take Odu as his wife. The Awos of Orunmila said “Hee.” Odu that you wish to take for your wife. A power is in her hands.They said, because of this power Orunmila must make an offering to the earth. In the interest of all of his people. They said, so that with this power, she will not kill and eat him. Orunmila carried the offering outside. At the arrival of Odu, she found the offering in the street. She said, but she did not wish that they should fight with him. She said, she did not want to fight with Orunmila.
== She wish to tell him her taboo: She said, she did not want his other wives (Apetebi ) to see her face.
!!! From this day no Diviner is complete without possessing this Odu. One who does not have Odu will not be able to consult Ifa. The day that one comes into possession of Odu, On that day will he become a person that Odu will not allow to suffer.!!!
** The struggle for dominance between Male and Female that is a central component of life on earth is repeated over and over in the world. Central to this struggle is Man’s acknowledgement of Women’s superior spiritual power that cannot be taken from them, that is based in Women’s ability to create life.**
The VAGINA is the 3rd dimensional portal to Mother Earth. In order for all souls to have a physical experience here on this planet, they must come through her divine portal. It’s no wonder that she is considered the – Gate of Heaven.The Intention Is To Offer Practical Guidance To Connect And Work With The Divine Mother Ancestral Wisdom, And To Use It To Empower Lives Today. The Calabash As Symbol For The Womb… Because Of Her Shape, Calabash also Symbolizes The “Womb”. In Both The Sense Of The Female Reproductive Organ As Well As In A Broader Creative Sense.
*** Magical Calabash – Gourd Anthology Of Sacred Wisdom From The Ancestral Mothers And Magic Inside It We Add Ingredients To Direct Our Intentions To That Which We Want To Birth To Life.
The calabash shape is taken to represent heaven and earth with an extended meaning representing the entire universe. Within the Calabash there is a mystical zone in the form of an alternate universe or the entrance to another world, and Orisha – Vodun – Spirit immortals and practitioners can travel between these two worlds. The “marriage” of these two substances was a sexual metaphor for the union of semen and menstrual blood to create life.
The top half signifies Maleness as well as the sky/heaven–the realm of invisible spirits. The bottom half represents Femaleness and the primeval waters out of which the physical world was later created. A mysterious Power called Ashe is thought to hold the gourd in space, enabling the sun and moon to shine, wind to blow, fire to burn, rain to fall, rivers to flow, and both living and nonliving things to exist.
This power emanates from a Supreme Deity known as Alashe – Owner of Power Olorun- Lord of the Sky and Olodumare – Eternal One and Source of All That Exists. Assisting Olodumare in administering the universe is a host of deities or nature forces called Orisha-Vodun-Spirit. Said to number four hundred or more, each Deity (Orisha) personifies a Power (Ashe) associated with a natural or cultural phenomenon.
*** If an Egg is broken by an Outside force, life Ends. If an Egg is broken by an Inside force, then life Begins. Great things happens from the Inside.
Elephant Tusks Evolved From Teeth = Giving The Species An Evolutionary Advantage.
Ivory is an Elephant hard, white material from the Tusks – Elephant & Teeth of animals, that can be used in art or manufacturing. The chemical structure of the Teeth & Tusks of mammals is the same, regardless of the species of origin. The trade in certain Teeth & Tusks other than Elephant is well established and widespread; therefore, “Ivory” can correctly be used to describe any mammalian Teeth or Tusks of commercial interest which are large enough to be carved. Elephant Ivory is the most important source, but Ivory from hippopotamus, sperm whale, killer whale & warthog are used as well. Elk also have two Ivory Teeth, which are believed to be the remnants of Tusks from their Ancestors.
Both the Greek and Roman civilizations practiced Ivory carving to make large quantities of high value works of art, precious religious objects, and decorative boxes for costly objects. Ivory was often used to form the white of the eyes of statues. Elephant populations were reduced to extinction, probably due to the demand for Ivory in the Classical world.
The Chinese have long valued Ivory for both art and utilitarian objects. Chinese craftsmen carved Ivory to make everything from images of deities to the pipe stems and end pieces of opium pipes.
Prior to the introduction of plastics, Ivory had many ornamental and practical uses, mainly because of the white color it presents when processed. It was formerly used to make cutlery handles, billiard balls, piano keys, buttons and a wide range of ornamental items…
Ivory can be taken from dead animals – however, most Ivory came from Elephants that were killed for their tusks. Kenyan Elephant herds were devastated because of demand for Ivory, to be used for piano keys. Owing to the rapid decline in the populations of the animals that produce it, the importation and sale of Ivory in many countries is banned or severely restricted. Since the Ivory ban, some African countries have claimed their Elephant populations are stable or increasing, and argued that Ivory sales would support their conservation efforts. The use and trade of Elephant Ivory have become controversial because they have contributed to seriously declining Elephant populations in many countries.
A species of hard nut is gaining popularity as a replacement for Ivory, although its size limits its usability. It is sometimes called vegetable Ivory, and is the seed endosperm of the Ivory nut palm commonly found in coastal rainforests of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.
Why do Elephants have Ivory Tusks = Elephant Tusks evolved from Teeth, giving the species an evolutionary advantage. They serve a variety of purposes: digging, lifting objects, gathering food, stripping bark from trees to eat, and defense. The Tusks also protect the trunk—another valuable tool for drinking, breathing, and eating, among other uses. Just as humans are left or right handed, Elephants, too, are left tusked or right tusked. The dominant Tusk is usually more worn down from frequent use. Both Male and Female African Elephants have tusks, while only Male Asian Elephants, and only a certain percentage of Males today, have Tusks.
** Falsehood Of Elephant **At one time Orunmila – Ifa befriended Elephant and went to the forest with him. They did any kind of work to get money, but Orunmila – Ifa was not as powerful as Elephant and could not endure the hardships as well. They worked in the forest for three years; but when they returned, Orunmila – Ifa had earned only enough money to buy one white cloth.
On their way home, Orunmila – Ifa asked Elephant to hold the cloth while he went into the bush to relieve himself. Elephant did; but when Orunmila returned, Elephant had swallowed it. When Orunmila – Ifa asked for it, Elephant denied he had ever been given it! A great dispute arose between them and continued as they walked along the road. Finally they came to the crossroad, where they parted, Orunmila – Ifa going on the road Ado without his cloth, and Elephant going to Alo.
On the road to Ado, Orunmila – Ifa met Hunter (Ogun), who said he was going to hunt Elephants. Orunmila – Ifa told him that he knew where he could find Elephant, and directed him along the road to Alo. He said he would meet an Elephant and kill it, and that when he cut it open, he would find a white cloth, which he should bring back to him. Hunter (Ogun) went along the road, met Elephant and killed him. When he cut Elephant open, he found the white cloth inside. He returned the cloth, with an elephant’s tusk as a gift, to Orunmila – Ifa.
Because of the falsehood of Elephant, Orunmila – Ifa and the Diviners use the tusk of an Elephant as Iroke. And since that time, any hunter (Ogun) who kills an Elephant must take the Tusk to a Diviner. (Ogbe-Okanran)
IVORY DIVINATION TAPPER AND RATTLE “IROKE – IFA”
The little Ivory clappers set in the end of these tappers are rattled to invoke the spirits, then the diviner takes the heavy end and gently strikes the divining board with the pointed end murmuring prayers and chants inviting the spirits and the god Eshu to be present and hear the prayers.
Ifa was a spirit often identified with a deity called Orunmila (heaven knows salvation) and it is he who directed creation under orders from God. He was believed to be a great linguist knowing all the tongues of earth and heaven and was able to advise men of every nation mediating and interceding with the gods on their behalf. The divination is performed by casting sacred palm nuts in a combination of four and sixteen and marking a pattern on the divining board, which is then read by the priest.
“As part of a ritual carried out to predict the future, Diviners beat tappers such as this against special Trays – Opon Ifá and while praying, singing sacred music and incantations. The sound is meant to attract the attention of the deities and Orunmila – Ifa, the deity associated with divination.”
At the beginning of a divination session and at other moments in the rhythmic movement of the ritual a priest of Ifa will gently tap the point of his tapper ‘Iroke’ against the edge of his divination board. He does this to invoke the attention of Orisha Orunmila – Ifa the deity who was present at creation and who knows the personal destiny of all Men and Women. Among the Yoruba the use of Ivory was the privilege of persons of high rank, especially those whose spiritual powers affected the lives of others. Ivory was the privilege of Kings, of the elders of the secret Ogboni society and of Ifa priests.
Light as a feather! This is how softly your Ancestors might speak to you. And this is why you must listen intently – not just with your ears, but with every fiber in your being. They spoke to you yesterday, they speak to you today, they will speak to you tomorrow and they are speaking to you right now. But you’ll never hear them unless you are willing to sit in silence, to hear the powerful messages that are landing as gently as feathers.
Egungun is regarded as the collective spirits of the Ancestors who occupy a space in heaven, hence they are called dwellers of heaven. These Ancestral spirits are believed to be in constant watch of their survivors on Earth.
Egun (Ancestor) = To die Of Natural Causes At An Advanced Age, Leaving Behind Numerous Progeny, Like A Tree Bent From The Weight Of Its Fruits & In Harmony With the Divinities & The Ancestors – To Be Buried With The Performance Of All The Rites That Mark The Tradition Which Permit One To Enter Orun. Where One Is Reunited With The Ancestors Of One’s Lineage (Isheshe) to be Later Reincarnated Constitute For Yoruba The Good death.
Egungun = Ancestor Masquerade – We are born with death = Without the death of the flesh, there is no resurrection, no immortality. Every birth is the rebirth of an ancestor. The spirits could be invoked collectively and individually in time of need. The place of call is usually on the grave of the Ancestors, the family shrine, or the community grove. The Ancestral spirits have collective functions that cut across lineage and family loyalty. They collectively protect the community against evil spirits, epidemics, famine, ensuring the well being, prosperity, and productivity of the general community.
Although it is regarded dangerous for the Ancestral spirits to dominate day to day activities of the people on Earth, occasional physical appearances of Egungun/masquerades visibly demonstrate the closeness of the Ancestor to their survivors. The lineage or family ties become strengthened as each member displays his or her loyalty. The coming out of the lineage Egungun is a source of blessing and pride to the family. Egungun appearance is a time of festivity and entertainment, a time of apprehension of forces of evil and of engendering deep belief in divine guidance and protection. Above all, having an Egungun is a way of immortalizing one’s name because anytime the Egungun comes out, the drummers and women of the family sing in praise of one, recounting the heroic deeds of the family.
To understand Egungun mysteries one needs to understand the historical development of the cults. Every member of a community seems to be involved in the worship of Egungun, since everybody has at least one Ancestor to call upon.
In African culture it is common for the uninitiated to make direct contract with Ancestor spirits. The most prevalent process of communication is through dreams. Communication also occurs during participation in annual Ancestor festivals. Because such festivals are not common in this country. Worshipers in the West have created several viable alternatives. Using these alternative methods, the first step in the process of honoring the Ancestors is the construction of an Ancestor shrine used as a focal point for prayer and meditation. There are a number of traditional African methods for building an Ancestor shrine, some of which are very complex and require personal training. For example it is common in traditional African culture to bury revered Ancestors under the floors of the family home. The tomb of the Ancestor is the foundation of the Ancestral shrine.
ANCESTRAL SHRINES…The power to effectively invoke Spirits comes as a result of initiation and the training that is sanctioned by initiation. The exception to this rule is Egun (Ancestor spirits). Ancestor initiations (Egungun, Isegun, Ato), but everyone is believed to have the power and the ability to communicate with the spirit of those blood relatives who have passed beyond this life.
Communication with your own Ancestors is a birthright. At times this communication can simply involve remembering a revered Ancestor and making use of the memory as a basis for making life decisions. In many ways Ancestor communication is an extension of the training and wisdom we receive from our parents. You cannot know who you are if you cannot call the names of your Ancestors going back seven generations. Remembering names is more than reciting a genealogy, it is preserving the history of a family lineage and the memory of those good deeds that allowed to the family to survive and create a home for the continued cycle of reincarnation.
Before a shrine to the Ancestors can be assembled, several preliminary steps need to occur. First the room should be clean and neat. After the altar is built it should stay as clean as possible. Dirt and disorder can attract unwanted spiritual forces. This may seem simplistic, but in my experience it is a very important consideration. Our external environment reflects our internal state of being and either supports resistance to change or growth. The idea that if you are confused about anything, remove the clutter and disorder from your home and clarity will surface from the newly transformed physical environment. The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowed and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins.
The Yoruba afterlife consists of Reincarnation. However, Africans explain that you reincarnate from your Ancestors and into your descendants. The truth is that you can only reincarnate thru your clan or extended-family descendants. It doesn’t have to be your direct great grandchild. It just has to have enough of your DNA code for you to transfer your spirit into it. In theory, you can transfer to anyone who shares your ethnic group DNA code. However, most genetic DNA theories are racist manipulation of science. DNA is not just a physical code but like a keyhole lows you to open doors in the next reincarnation.This is why many Yoruba names point to the reincarnation of people, but always thru the extended-family. Names like Babatunde – father has returned reflect the Yoruba notion that reincarnation is a family affair.
This is why Ancestral veneration is important in Yoruba. You are not just talking to dead people; you are remembering and learning from your past. If you do not learn from your past, in this life and in former ones you will repeat mistakes. That is the purpose of Ancestral veneration – Egungun) in Ifa. The Odu Ifa tells us that we will all reincarnate until every single human has reached enlightenment. We are a communal species.
When you don’t understand this truth about reincarnation, you will not take efforts to improve the conditions of your clan or ethnic group because you think you will escape it in death’s heaven or join another ethnic group in reincarnation. Then when you return to Earth in the same oppressed ethnic group, you complain even though in your former life you did not fight to liberate your ethnic group. This is why their clans establish strong dynasties and they accumulate wealth not just for them, but for the next three generations after them. They know they are coming back and they want to be wealthy while they sell you the lie that you can die and go to heaven to escape this cycle. A true devotee of the Egungun plans for the next 16 generations of prosperity.
It Is Only After Separation With The Flesh Can Man/Woman The Creation Of God, See God Face To Face. It Is Forbidden To Unmask Any Egungun Masquerade. The Face Of The Spirit Is for the Spirit To See, Not The Human Eyes…
Egungun also we all know is the deity of the departed Ancestors. The belief of Yoruba people and Ifa is that even departed ancestors are still part and parcel to the larger family. Below are ten facts you should know about Egungun. They are present in the family and they guide the living member of the family. – Egungun (maternal and paternal) are fed so that will continue to guarantee protection, safety, prosperity, good health and all ire for the living.
Egugun should be fed at least twice in a year – Egungun comes out in the form of Masquerades which are called “Ara-Orun-Kinkin” that is, “The inhabitants of heaven”. – Egungun symbols are: Decorated switches and whips, a hand woven coarse cloth used as Egungun, socks and foot wear. This cloth is known as “Aso Iyamoje”.
There are various types of Egungun among are; Egungun Eleru, Egungun Olopon (Masqurade with big load on thier head), Egungun Janduku (switch carrying Masquarade), Egungun Alate also known as Tombolo etc. other categories of Masquarades are Gelede and Aabe. The hunters Egungun are known as “Egungun ode”. Egungun feeding materials are: Kolanuts, bitter-kola, gin, Ram, Pounded yam, Amala to mention a few.
Zangbetoare the traditional Vodun guardians of the night in the Yoruba religion of Benin and Togo which are known as the “Night- Watchmen”. As a nominal, it represents a group of men who are involved in policing the community and who also double as members of Zangbeto as a cultural masquerade group during public performances. Zangbeto is also used to convey the notion of a socio-cultural phenomenon made up of a series of beliefs and practices. As an institution, it is backed by an oral history that accentuates its origin as an Egun concept, not an alien or imported one. Sources consulted on the origin and history of Zangbeto asserts that it has existed before we were born and was handed down to us by our forefathers .
In centuries past, The Zangbeto masquerade provided security for the community and ensured discipline among the Egun society (the people of Badagry), and although it is no longer relied on to play these roles, it is still a cherished cultural icon in Badagry, particularly in Ajido-Zangbeto festival is celebrated every three or four years, during which the Zangbeto appease the gods, pray for the immediate community and generally offer good wishes for all households, after which the people expect to reap a plentiful harvest, farmers and fishermen alike. The Zangbeto masquerade is clothed in Asho-Gbeto, made from locally sourced palm fronds and is dedicated to breathtaking showmanship, dazzling its audiences with spirited and ‘magical’ displays. During a Zangbeto performance, you are likely to see fire burn in dry sand or white cloth sprout from underground!. Watching the Zangbeto wade through the water, spinning and shuffling is a rare thrill in itself. Zangbeto never walk alone and are always accompanied by minders know as Kregbeto, whose role it is to guide the masquerade’s every step.
Zangbeto is believed to have supernatural powers, and is communal, rather than the initiative of private individuals or a self-defined group. Its origins lie in the pre-colonial history of the Egun people of Badagry and the coastal region of PortoNovo in neighbouring Benin.
*** One of the responses given by the head of the group in Yeketome, Badagry, is that Zangbeto dates back several centuries to when an Egun man was said to have been pursued by his enemies and needed to flee from his hometown unnoticed in the night. Using supernatural powers, he disguised himself by covering his body with dried leaves and raffia and by making scary sounds with the horn of an animal. Thus he was eventually able to leave the town unharmed and undetected by his enemies. He later founded a settlement, which he named Hugbonu (Porto Novo, Benin) and subsequently had the men with him dress in a similar manner and keep watch over the new settlement by night to ensure that his enemies did not attack him in his new home. Since then, Zangbeto has been used to keep watch over settlements and towns of the Egun community.***
As regards traditional precolonial ‘night watch’ institutions, the Oro and Egun cults of the Yoruba are the closest masquerade groups to Zangbeto. Earlier studies of both institutions have shown that in precolonial times, in addition to other cultural and religious functions, they were also security outfits mandated to guard the community against foreign or enemy invasion. They are also both regarded in their respective communities as personified representations of ancestral spirits, and their presence is an assurance of the ever-protective and supportive help of the ancestors for their descendants. The Ancestral spirits have collective functions that cut across lineage and family loyalty. They collectively protect the community against evil spirits, epidemics, famine, witchcraft and evildoers, ensuring the well-being, prosperity, and productivity of the whole community generally.
Form and Content of Zangbeto In contemporary Badagry, including the Egun villages surrounding the coastal town, the Zangbeto society is headed by the Zanga, a highly respected elderly man who is well tested and reliable. The Zanga occupies a position of responsibility in dealing with sensitive issues affecting individuals, families and the larger community. Zanga is not just the head of the Zangbeto group, but is also a representative of the people. The Zanga is in effect a traditional chief who functions within the Zangbeto group and in the larger community.
Traditionally, the Zangbeto were the policemen of Benin and were the main guardians of law in the country before the official law establishment. They are said to form a secret society which can only be strictly attended by Zangbeto, and when in a trance are said to have magical abilities such as swallowing splinters of glass without coming to any harm and scaring away even witches.
Zangbeto as spirit and messenger; Zangbeto as peacemaker, moral spokesperson and custodian of Egun culture; Zangbeto as an indivisible whole; Zangbeto as a non-religious group; and Zanga as the honorable one. It is important to note that Zangbeto songs are contributed at different times by members of the group. As with most songs in African oral literature, no single person can claim sole authorship: songs are considered as creations of the group. Moreover, these songs do not possess a singular theme, but themes that underline the circumstances of the creation of such songs and their performance.
The appearance of Zangbeto masquerades during cultural festivals or public performances is usually announced by short but pungent praise. This is a kind of formulaic verse that is not so flexible, in the sense that the words and phrases used retain their structure and content in most performances. The chanter, usually a woman, stays at a distance neither too close nor too far from the masquerade.
The opening chant is translated thus: He wishes to be heard, But the horn would not let him, The horn that makes sounds, the horn that breathes. This introduces Zangbeto as a being with a ‘horn’ and a desire. The horn, located at the tip of the mask and is used to symbolise the position of Zangbeto as a leading group in the community. The masquerade is only a constitutive part of a whole. Zangbeto is a group, an institution, and even a way of life that is represented in physical form by the mask. ‘He’ is then used to represent the form under this mask.
*** Zangbeto may be chiefly about social order within traditional Egun society, using oral forms of art, rituals and cultural practices, some of which have been adapted to the security needs of the town’s inhabitants in the face of the state security agencies’ inability to satisfy the demands of law enforcement and order.