Ifa has been practiced for thousands of years and is likely one of West Africa’s most widespread religions. While the Yoruba people were the primary adherents of the religion, minor populations in other West African countries, Canary Islands, and parts of the Americas also practiced it.
Other cultures, traditions, and spiritual systems, such as Umbanda, Palo, Vodou, and Santeria, incorporate some characteristics of the religion. Ifa is a Yoruba word that alludes to the mystical figure Ifa, also known as Orunmila. He is the deity of wisdom and intellectual progress.
In contrast to other kinds of divination in the region that rely on spirit mediumship, Ifa divination relies on a set of indications. These indications might get interpreted by a diviner, the Ifa priest, or Babalawo. Babalawo is the father of the priest.
The Ifa divination system works when there is a need to make a significant individual or group decision. The Ifa literary corpus, known as odu, comprises 256 components separated into ese poems, the precise number of which is unclear because it is constantly growing.
The Babalawo uses sacred palm nuts and a divination chain to determine the divination signatures of each of the 256 odu. In lyrical language, the priests chant the ese, which is the essential portion of Ifa divination.
Yoruba history, beliefs, language, cosmovision, and modern social challenges are all reflected in the ese. Ifa knowledge is ancient and travels from generation to generation in Yoruba communities and among Ifa priests.
Nowadays, numerous people are practicing the Ifa spirituality system and believe that it is a way to find peace.
Origin of Ifa
The religion of Ifa has a long and illustrious history. Moreover, there are numerous ideas on Ifa’s origin. Ifa’s record, like that of other faiths and traditions, consists of various folktales, legends, and myths, all strongly anchored in Yoruba culture.
The first theory is that the grand priest, also known as the Orunmila, founded the Ifa oracle. According to Yoruba mythology, the supreme creator brought the great priest to earth to introduce laws into the world. The Orunmila then established the first Ifa center in Ile-Ife, Nigeria (widely believed to be the cradle of the Yoruba people). His first disciples, known as Akoda and Aseda, initiated at that time.
Structure of Ifa Religion
Ifa worship, a spiritual guidance system based on three separate components: Olodumare, Orisa/Orisha, and the ancestors, is one of the defining elements of the Yoruba people. The almighty creator of heaven and earth is Olodumare. Orisa/Orisha, on the other hand, are the spirits that make up the ingredients of all living things.
Eleda, Eledumare, and Olorun are some of the alternative names for Olodumare. Olodumare Ifa claims that there is only one supreme God, Olodumare.
Olodumare, according to the Yoruba people, has no gender and is only marginally involved in human activities. According to the faith, Olodumare created an entire cosmos that contains everything humans need to live happy and fulfilled lives. According to Ifa’s creation theory, Olodumare created the Universe as a whole, designed the seasons, night, and day, and predetermined human fates. When a person suffers misfortune, the Yorubas say that they are “under the lashes of the Olodumare.” Olodumare also created death after people pleaded with him to spare them the agony of getting old and frail.
Every element of Nature and every living thing, according to Ifa, has an underlying force that feeds its source. Rivers, wind, thunder, storms, clouds, flowers, rocks, humans, and animals are examples of this. The Orisa/Orisha are the natural energies that makeup and fuel the Universe.
Every Orisa has a role to play. Whether aware of it or not, the entire human species is supposed to connect with these natural forces constantly. Moreover, the Orisa serves as intermediates between humanity and the supreme being.
Orula is humanity’s future counselor and prophet. Moreover, Orula is honored by those who practice the Ifa faith by wearing green and yellow beads. Orula is a prophet who gives advice and even affects upcoming events.
Orula has such enormous power over men that he can persuade followers of other Orisas to desert their masters and join him. Moreover, his presence will feel through disciples and Babalawos on the planet.
Oshun is the goddess of the Oshun River, which flows south through central Yorubaland and into the Lagos Lagoon in southern Nigeria. In Ijesa, she lives in a cave.
Osain is the Orisa in charge of the herbs and medicinal plants essential in Ifa. He was born without a mother or father, from the union of water and earth.
He only has one arm, one leg and asymmetrical ears. The more excellent ear is so huge that it cannot hear anything. The smaller one is so good that Osain can listen to a leaf fall from kilometers away.
Legend says that Osain will spend his entire life alone, owing to his appearance.
Communication with ancestors is everyone’s birthright, according to the Ifa religion, and requires no specific ceremonies or permissions. For the most part, this communication takes the form of remembrances of ancestors or discussions in dreams.
Teachings of Ifa
Cosmology is the study of the structure of the Universe to discover the unifying principles that keep Creation alive. Ifa’s cosmology represents the idea that the microcosm reflects the macrocosm.
It implies that the same forces that formed the stars and galaxies also produced the earth and the plants and animals that evolved. Ifa says that every human dilemma has an analogous counterpart in every level of Being because of this continuity. If a text repeatedly addresses the problems that animals and plants problems, the underlying premise is that the human condition faces similar survival challenges.
Identifying how universal energies appear in ordinary life is one of the divination purposes. It is accomplished using myth. Because myth uses symbolic material, a diviner’s mastery of symbols connects the tale to a specific scenario.
The concept that manifestation in the Universe is the outcome of balancing polarities is the fundamental cosmological paradigm that Ifa uses to interpret symbols. Most metaphysical systems depend on the tension between expansion and contraction is the essential polarity that sustains the physical cosmos.
This polarity in Ifa is the link between darkness and light. This interaction isn’t a battle between “good” and “evil” forces. Nature’s essential property of dynamics and shape is the polarity between expansion and contraction.
Ifa Religion is Fading
Traditional beliefs and practices were discriminated against under colonial control and religious pressures. Most of the Ifa priests are elderly and have few resources to keep the tradition alive, convey their profound knowledge, and teach future practitioners.
As a result, young people and Yorubas are losing interest in performing and consulting Ifa divination, which coincides with a growing intolerance of traditional divination techniques in general.