Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Professional Aspects of Ifa

While on my regular trips to Yoruba land moving through the various locales and sub-ethnic Yoruba groups of Ijebu, Oyo, Egba, Anago, Ekiti & Ijesa areas etc.
One matter comes up as an issue of discussion and differing points of view among these groups, this is the matter of the professional aspects of Ifa and the difference of Ifa as a religious belief system OR a mechanism for solving “clients” problems.
Also where does one draw the line distinguishing the two?

Professional Ritualism:
Many of the professional Ifa practitioners who focus purely on the ritual elements only, they bring people into their temple/office doing enquiries, creating potent concoctions (Atese), performing sacrifices and offerings and giving the client “temporary & immediate” relief from life’s many problems.
In many ese Ifa, Ifa states this is a normal practice that many BabaAwo have Ifa as their main profession and only source of income. Traditionally these Awo have dedicated the majority of their time and investment, in mastering the professional elements; meaning mastery of the arts of performing divination, sacrifice and initiations, also esoteric mastery of herbs etc. Not much different then a Masters, PhD student or any professional, spending a great many years mastering their craft then working in their field of study as a profession. These Awo are highly sought for their proficiency and ability.

I must note here that many of the Awo in US and other places, functioning in this category are not experts in their craft before performing as such. Reason being, lack of dedication to study and mastery of their craft, before they begin functioning for the community, the easy remedy is to mentor under your elder, find your own specialty and master it, then place your flag of professional competence. I will address that issue in another future blog / podcast regarding training.

Ifa Medicine Man (Traditional Botanist)
These Awo are specialist in herbals and medicinal preparations, and have spent a very large investment in learning and mastering the science of healing through natural remedies. These applications may mandate the use of some esoteric knowledge or incantations in-order to activity the healing properties of the natural items. These Awo are referred to as Awo Alatese, some are Babalawo proper and some are Oniseegun who have also performed Itefa ceremony, but remain specialist in healing aspect of Ifa, and are rarely found performing Ifa divination expect in the course of preparing a medicine.

Philosophical Worshipper:
These are the philosophers and in all cases it is these BabaAwo that can articulate and analyze each individual Ifa stanza with stunning accuracy, maintaining keen sensibilities to the linguistic nuances and subtleties of Yoruba cultural, historical, practical, economical and social ramifications etc. of each Ifa stanza and they can interpret the deeper meaning, delivering the message to the seeker with accurate precision.
These group of Awo are also highly sought after by Ifa followers and curious parties alike, because of the clarity they can bring to situations and the depth of their scope with regards to application to ones life. Also they are very useful with matters of history of towns and community taboo, as with cultural ideology and applied ethical norms.
These traditional scholars are priceless within the Yoruba oral tradition.

Ifa Intellectual:
Which is the traditional Yoruba intellectual and these practitioners are cultural, philosophical, historical and practical in terms of worshipping and application of their knowledge, both in ritual elements and the philosophy behind the art, in many ways they are well balanced

My good friend Professor Felix Ayoh Omidire stated “Ifa Priest are the true ‘Organic Priest’ of the Yoruba people, because of the complete inclusion of the worship & divinatory practices of Ifa Priest, coupled with the function Ifa Priest perform for all priest of the Orisa during divination and in certain terms the followers and priest of other foreign religions now in Yoruba land. All these groups will attend the temple of Ifa Priest to consult Ifa from time to time. “

Organic def.

or·gan·ic adj
1.relating to, derived from, or characteristic of all living things
2.occurring or developing gradually and naturally, without being forced or contrived
3.forming a basic and inherent part of something and largely responsible for its identity or makeup
4.consisting of elements that exist together in a seemingly natural relationship that makes for organized efficiency

In Yoruba land, we have many great professional practitioners who can do a great many feats and solve many if not all of life’s problems, like a miracle. When you combine the areas of specialty of the priest mentioned (by the way there are others experts in other fields of Ifa Profession not mentioned here), you will find a high science that will leave you feeling lightheaded to say the least.
The amount of data these professionals recall orally and deliver on demand it truly a sight, my hope is that the ability to teach and learn this art continues for many many years to come, so this knowledge does not disappear.

Babalawo Awoyinfa Ifaloju

1 comment:

Aloko Adewale Peter said...

Please i wish to know where i can get good ifa book in Nigeria. thanks