Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ori – The Divine Calabash of Destiny, Character & Potential, Seed of the Creator

This is by no means a full comprehensive work, but merely a glimpse into the position of authority Ifa places on Ori, the divine spark of Olodumare within our lives.

If one wanted to define ones Ori, it could be said to mean ones destiny, morality or character, it may be the potential in ones life or the potential to change ones situation in life, Ori could also be said to be ones personal god and the spark of Olodumare that resides within each of us. Ori can be said to be the Divinity that makes us Divine, if we conduct ourselves in such a way that is befitting of such grandeur.
So Ori can be defined as all of the above and then more, Ori truly is multifarious in essence and by nature. Just as one cannot easily define or even comprehend Olodumare, it is equally difficult to understand the complex ideology of what is ones Ori.

Let us try to shed some light on this topic, I will use certain stanzas of Ifa for better understanding and clarity on the subject, as required.
Ori is the believed to be the most important Orisa of all, since Ori alone is responsible for changing / shaping the life of the person. Every person has a piece of the Divine Essence given to us by Olodumare, this piece is called Ori.
Obatala is said to form the human skeleton with his tools and the help of Ogun, Olodumare gives us his Divine daughter Emi (breath), then as said in Ifa-OgbeYonu the person goes to the home of Ajala (a certain place in heaven) to select their Ori. It is Ajala that forms the inner head (Ori-Inu), which can be formed very good or not, depends on the level of patience that will determine which head will be selected, to repair a badly damaged inner head this will require many sacrifices, ritual and appeasement.
The only Divinity that can repair a damaged Ori is Orunmila, namely during the process and messages of Esentaye, Isefa and Itefa. In Ifa-Ogunda Meji Ifa teaches us that the only Orisa that can follow its devotee all the days until death is ones Ori, no other can do this (we share all the other Orisa), it is Ori that can bless a person quickly. Ori is your dynamic force or potential, natural qualities and strength of your character which can impact public image and boost popularity plus many other important human endeavours. Ori is the Divinity of full possibilty and the other Orisa only help bring this potential into fruition.
This is where the Ifa concepts of Ayanmo, Akunleyan & Akunlegba come into play within ones life potential and what we regard as ones destiny. I will try to briefly explain all three:
Ayanmo: is aspects of self that are fixed, don’t change and remain so until death, they are gender, race, family and natural roles we must do as that person in physical manifestation etc
Akunleyan: is essentially virtues and values, chosen by person in heaven, they form likes and dislikes, taboos & similar
Akunlegba: is the additives to ones chosen virtues, which are given by various Irunmole in the inner realm of heaven called Onibode and happen during the mid-later stages of pregnancy. This is where ones complementing Orisa are assigned to assist one in completing ones task here on earth
Upon coming to earth (birthing) most if not all of this recorded information is forgotten or unlearned while growing infant is getting corrupted with “outside” ideas based on ignorance. This is were the position of Ifa comes into play, and states the importance of Awo performing esentaye (first rites for newborns, done very early in life), receiving Isefa (one hand of Ifa) and divination from time to time (using Ikin, Opele or Cowrie shells) to know the message of Ifa (word from Olodumare) redirecting the person towards pre-selected destiny, in order to stay on course or come out better by avoidance of pitfalls. This is where our system called Ifa prevails by giving both the compass and the map.

By performing the esentaye and Isefa rites, we are helping the parents to mould and shape the life of the child to attain, repair and in certain cases outperform potential in life by guiding using a pro-active approach of specific advice, clear directives, ideal environment and anticipated outcome.
In fact I suggest both young and mature to receive, worship & appease ones Ori container, called Ile Ori in Yoruba land and Igba Ori in Brazil. Where the important tradition of receiving ones Ori is still very prevalent for all, regardless of call to the Orisa Priest hood or not, all worshippers of this tradition must receive. In Cuba, which has shaped much of the religious basis worldwide, does not make the need to receive Ori for all followers as important as both Yoruba land and Brazil.
However many Cuban Babalawo have the icon of Ori which they appease at special times and many of the very old Babalawo in Cuba will tell you it is a must within the system of Ifa practiced in Cuba and will attest to the potency of its spiritual works (this is where a women can appease Oko-Orun their heavenly husband), within the circles of Orisa Priest/tess in Cuba it is not a divinity they receive and often for the few that know that such a Divinity can be received they will tell you it is an Orisa of a Babalawo only, and within the context of Ifa worship. However on occasion and namely during major rituals the Orisa Priest/tess and Ifa Priest alike will perform Ibori ceremony (rogations as called in Cuba) to both initiates and non-initiates.

Ori is for everyone, and a major Orisa we all ought to appease and venerate often, in fact it is our Ori we should be going to first, before any Orisa this is what Ifa teaches us. When we consult with Awo-Ifa it is Orunmila who advises us of the true intent of ones Ori, that is why Orunmila has a more in depth connection with the person coming for divination and will reveal all clearly. Ifa consults the Ipin-Ori or Iponri of the person (since only Orunmila is Elerii-Ipin witness of creation/destiny) who resides in heaven and known as the Enikeji (counterpart) of its double on earth which is our Ori-Inu which resides within us.

I will conclude by addressing the concern many who worship this tradition sometimes face, it is the matter of why they have done so many rituals, so many sacrifices and gone through many rites, yet their problem or concern may persist & reappear, this is once again due to the lack of dealing with the various aspects of ones Ori, I will site several examples below from Ifa stanzas that speak about this matter;


Gentle character it is which enables the rope of life
To remain undamaged in ones hand
These were the Babalawo that cast Ifa for Orunmila
Who by means of his gentle character
Was going to win the rope of life from the other 400+1 Orisa

Crazy gave birth to craziness, it is a maddening circle
Leave them alone, let them run round and round like craziness
Until they exhaust and reflect on their error
Don’t you see it is their bad character that chases them round crazy
These four Awo were the ones who cast this Ifa for Aniwonikun
Who is fearful of what is to come because of what has just happened, again
They said;
Will you please practice gentle character
Will you but practice sound character
Will you please practice good morality
And stop running about chasing yourself

Getting mad amounts to nothing good
Patience is the Father of good gentle character
The elder that has patience
has all the good life can offer
divined Ifa for Orunmila
when seeking opulence & abundant success in life
he was told the only way was to make ebo and marry Iwa (character) as wife
he did so and became very successful
then produced many children all taking a piece of Iwa and showing others to do the same (produced plenty of people to multiply doing good on earth)

in another from Ogbeyonu, the same diviners said:

Getting mad amounts to nothing good
Patience is the Father of good gentle character
The elder that has patience
has all the good life can offer
divined Ifa for Orunmila
when seeking after the very thing called a “good life”
the Awo told him;
Character is all that is required
Character is all that is required
There is no destiny to be called unhappy in ancient Ife
Character is all that is required

Ela moyin ‘Boru, Ela moyin ‘Boye Ela moyin ‘Bosise

Awoyinfa Ifaloju
Mar, 2007

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Recycling Programs – Is Green the New Religion?

As I prepare my goods to go to the recycling bin, I ponder what is becoming of all this. Here in Toronto we have a advanced recycling program (not as advanced as some cities namely in Europe but we are trying in the context of North America), we have a green bin for organics and non-organics alike, a blue bin for glass, plastics and metals, a grey bin for paper and cardboard, a black box (composter) for fruit and veggies, then the regular garbage pickup which is reduced to only twice monthly, since most if not all goes to the recycling programs. In theory only styrofoam goes to the garbage now a days, everything else can be recycled or turned into rich earth (the green and black bin programs), now it started to dawn on me, is this all a new discovery or is Nature just teaching us now that we are willing to listen. Again.
So then the big question is Green The New Religion or are we just reawakening the dead brain cells of the way we were before we got “smart”. This is a question to ask because had we not come to realize that we can not continue to steal from the earth without returning something, hmmm interesting idea will come back to,,,,,
And the earth can regenerate itself if we put some wisdom and make an effort, another interesting point.

I was recently in New York City this past weekend and was called by a dear friend and asked to possibly fill in at a lecture for another Babalawo who may not be able to attend his engagement, so as I was close and happen to be available she asked me to speak in his absence, I was delighted but unprepared, I asked what the topic to discuss and it had to do with indigenous African Religions – worldwide, I gave it some thought and started to formulate my ideas, before I got a call back saying the planned speaker my good friend would be able to attend and I need not concern myself, which I was fine considering I was not well prepared.
Had I spoken the idea I would of liked to convey was are we all on this earth only returning back to the way things were, are we realizing that the so called religions are not acting in accord with what Nature dictates, that they are only self serving and just take without seeing the need to return?
When looking at African Religions and other like, we are shown that coincidently all the ancient peoples of earth all revere the earth and appease the earth in one way of the other, the ancient people I am referring to here are the Africans, Asians (west Asia and the Orient), Pacific Islands and the North, Central, South American indigenous people with the Caribbean Islands (some ancient indigenous Europeans traditions also are similar). Then the only group outside of that is some certain Europeans (mostly northern Europeans), who have now finally seem to have “discovered” living Green, natural fuels, alternative power, regenerating resources and recycling goods.
So what I would have wanted to convey was quite simple, we give and we take, it is in measure, we appease and propitiate the earth and the Divinities within (Nature) so it can regenerate itself and produce more, then we take, and give again, the cycle or recycle continues, nothing new.
The farmer knows this that is why they plant seeds, why don’t they notice, even the very trees know this, that is why no matter how fruitful they will always drop some of its first fruits to the very ground beneath, that way it is giving back to the very earth it depends Ifa tells us this is 1/10th (Idamewa) of its harvest will go back or be spoilt, when will we humans or some humans take notice.

It fascinates me to examine the soil produced from my composter out back of my house and the soil around my Esu shrine (albeit during the summer months), it is very interesting to note they are very similar if not the same, the earth is very black, very rich, many small and large insects live within to keep regenerating the soil, has plenty of worms which signifies it can grow plants and other things and always attracts the most attention from other forms of nature, does this mean something or am I just getting ahead of myself. Truth is they create the same thing and it is all about giving Earth the tools to do what earth does, regenerate Herself. We give to Earth so Earth gives back to us.
My composter has saved me money in buying from the store, black earth and top soil, all I do is place my vegetable and fruit remains into the composter, then with the heat and restricted air, the water and then the growth of regenerative insects, few months later I have my own top soil, to start all over again. Maybe I am reading into this, but I don’t think so, this is no coincidence.

It is said in Suriname (where my lineage comes) ‘it is only the white man who goes hunting on a full stomach’ perhaps they have begun to learn that we, indigenous people take and enjoy what earth offers BECAUSE we give back to the very earth to replenish its sources, we don’t take more then needed.
Some take because it is there and sometimes for sport, time to wake up, the very ozone they destroy, their own skin can not take the excess heat generated and their hunting rifle will surely backfire.

Is Green The New Religion or have we just Awakened Dead Brains Cells ?
I will tell you, Green is the northern Europeans latest discovery, we have been practicing Green all the time.
This is just Nature telling us our time is fast approaching, we who worship Nature and help to sustain living things within Nature will be reaping its benefits, our time is upon us, we were once there before and have finally found out way back, Nature always has a way of winning and we are the ones leading the battle, we are the blessed ones of this Earth protecting the Divine Creation of the Olodumare, make offering on this Earth to reaffirm this our stance, our day has arrived.

Awoyinfa Ifaloju
Mar. 2007

Ancestral Links : The Hierarchy of Appeasement Within Ifa Worship

This topic I dedicate to my Father, who has recently passed over into the ancestral realm, may the emissaries of the ancestral realm guide and direct him to a rightful place, may he rest comfortably but not to ignore the pleas of his family left behind ASE

My dad was a true Father and a master of conceptualizing ideas, when I was 9-10 years old he and some of his “Lodge Brothers” founded the United Achievers Club in our basement while playing dominions and between sipping High Wine and Bush Rum (two Guyanese “HOT” drinks) while my brother and I looked on laughing as they joked and called each other pet names in jest, while trying to eat their jerk chicken wings and BBQ potato chips.
This organization United Achievers Club is for children of Afro-Caribbean decent living in southern Ontario and has taken off and flourished, it operates today with many programs to support these youth and the children living in the Caribbean small villages, they offer mentorship, scholarships, affordable housing, seniors programs and a host of other services. My Father has created many things and done other great things, he really left a mark and an impact on me, we became friends as I matured and the content of our discussions changed over the time, he was my best friend and I will miss him.
My dad passed young in comparison for my family standard, most lived into the mid 90’s including my dad’s mother who only passed two years ago at 96 yrs. So when my dad fell ill and was hospitalized (he was diabetic) it was a shock and I had some Babalawo "sound" Ifa for me and the message of Ifa revealed that I will lose my dad and it was his ancestors calling him home.
Over the months he was hospitalized I pondered what Ifa had said while seeing his stabilizing and making many strides to get better, it puzzled me. I was often wondering why Ifa had said this? and was I ready to lose my dad?
Then one day after almost tricking everyone to think he was pulling through, he was found very early in the morning not breathing, he was gone. As it turned out he passed on the very day his mother had passed and his mothers-mother, it was, sadly a fact, Ifa had spoken well and clearly my ancestors had called him home.
I was sitting between accepting the reality that Ifa teaches us death is a part of life and the physical loss of losing my dad, it was uncertain times, why now? I wondered, my dad still owes me 10-15 years like the rest of my family. Then one day I was speaking with one friend who is an Iyanifa and she assured me and said something to me very profound and thought provoking, she said “your dad had done something very well and completed a very important step in life”, she said “he created you a son who is well ingrained in traditionalism which included veneration of ancestors, so he has completed something very important”, she was right as I am also an Oje (Eegun Priest done Oyo town).

I used to tell my dad, when he would hint that my brother and I should join the Masonic Temple, I would quip, that, that was alright, the Masons had some interesting ideas, but they were only Europeans trying to recreate what little they learned from Africa, if one wants to know the root of the Masons look into the many Secret Societies we have in Africa (my dad was a long time member and past Grand Master of the Masonic Temple and Mechanics / Engineers Lodge from Suriname and British Guyana, he joined at age 16 and helped to bring that Mech/Eng Lodge to London GBR, in 1955 then to Toronto, he was never in the Orisa tradition per se. Heaven is home, Earth is only the market place, we come to do what we need (destiny), get what we need, then go back Home. Did my dad complete his mission ? what if anything else does he need on his return Home?

So when I reflect two important points have struck me worthy of highlighting, one is the importance of leaving a legacy behind, a mark of your life’s work for other to remember you for and continue to build upon and then it is the matter of making veneration of ones ancestors as a matter of routine, and especially a matter of routine for your children to witness.
I make it a matter of habit to appease and worship my ancestors on the weekly traditional worship cycle and will ensure my children as they grow will watch me while they learn to do the same.
The need to establish IleSanyin or Ojubode (place of ancestral worship within our homes) and systems to teach and pass on this wisdom to future generations.
Had our children not learned this process, who will be the one to do our own Isinku (burial or sending home ceremony) and etutu (appeasement rites) properly, and ensure we leave with the things we ought to have for our journey through the valley and to the entrance way to the ancestral realm. It is a very important task to become proficient and one we all must learn.

Ifa teaches us that human beings can become Orisa, the Orisa, Ifa is referring to here is not necessarily the same as Orisa we know (yet in future blog I will explain how this is attainable), but humans can become an Orisa of the family, if one makes it a matter of routine to appease their ancestors and regularly offer the items the ancestors accept and need, it is possible to place them in a position to make remarkable miracles in our lives and in most cases a much faster response then going towards an Orisa.
Why is this? because, the ancestors want us to live well, and they are much closer to us in every way then our Orisa, it is their blood that run in us. Ifa tells us that when we encounter a situation or we are looking for something, the first Divinity we should go to for support and appease is our ancestors after our own Ori, these two are the closest Divinities we have since they are very personal to us, we do not share with others, then we can go to the various Orisa for supplemental support if need be. If we make it a routine to perform proactive and continuous worship of our Personal Divinities, the need for "outside" help will be greatly reduced.

I hope that within the context of our tradition people do not forget the importance of feeding their ancestors, the Orisa of the family, and you will rejoice that your ancestors have made your issue the matter of quick resolution.

As we all journey through this perpetual market place, let us gather the things we need so we can have all the things in our Home, may we also know the rites to perform so our ancestors can enjoy the benefits of replenishing their goods from this here market place, they are sending us on a errand, will you fulfill your own.

Dad and all my ancestors I intend to complete my own errands in life to the fullest.

Awoyinfa Ifaloju
Feb 2007