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- Ifa Divination in Yorubaland – A Select Bibliography - S. S. A. Odularu,
Learn the basics of the Yoruba religion Ifa in this exciting article.
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Ifa is a system of divination and religion of the Yoruba people. It also refers to the verses of the literary corpus that is known as Odu Ifa. The Grand Priest of Ifa is known as Orunmila. The belief is that Orunmila was sent to the earth by Olodumare the creator of the universe to bring the Laws of Olodumare into this world. She initiated the Alado of Ato and gave the rites to initiate others to him. The Alado then initiated priests in Oyo Empire. The Ifa religion is not, in fact, a religion.
It is more of a spiritual system which is based on the belief in these three components: Olodumare the Creator of heaven and earth , Orisa Nature Spirits , and the ancestors. According to Ife beliefs, Olodumare the Supreme Being has no gender and is not actively involved in the affairs of human beings. Olodumare created a universe that has everything that humans need to live a fulfilled and happy life.
The natural forces that make up the universe are referred to as Orisa, and each one of them has its specific functions. The human race is in constant communication with these natural forces, whether we are aware of it on not. These Orisas serve as the intermediary between the Olodumare and humans. There are many Orisas believed to be operating in the universe, but the basic and popular ones are:. Username Password Forgot password? Shibboleth OpenAthens. Restore content access Restore content access for purchases made as guest.
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Russell H. Published online: 28 Apr Published online: 26 Jul Published online: 18 Nov From this space, they could summon from some deep inner source the material for a reconstructed memory or perhaps not a memory at all, but an imaginative construction of a way of being in the world, a way that felt safe and secure and meaningful. Now, more than thirty years later, I had come to this very spot to listen, to watch, and to learn.
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A fifty-something-year-old African American man, dressed in a light-colored dashiki with matching drawstring pants, greeted me at the gate. I introduced myself as a graduate student conducting research on African American engagements with sacred texts. Ajamu, an African American man who appeared to be in his sixties, was one of the senior priests and founders of the Village. His head was shaved clean, and he wore traditional African attire, a light tan robe with matching pants and sandals.
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I later learned that the book contained commentary on the Odu. The word orisha a singular and plural term refers to gods, divinities, and forces of nature. When African Americans embraced the Orisha tradition as part of the black nationalist movement in the s, some of the newly initiated priests decided that they no longer needed to conceal their beliefs. But the ancestors tricked us. They got us down here, and we had to learn a lot in order to survive.
What African past? Did the founders have Yoruba ancestors? Did it matter? With an estimated population of forty million people in West Africa, the Yoruba are one of the largest ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. The largest concentration of the population is in the southwestern region of Nigeria, though other parts of West Africa, including the Republic of Benin, Togo, and Ghana, also have large Yoruba populations. Citing census data from Cuba and Brazil, professor of religion and bestselling author Stephen Prothero notes that the often-quoted figure of million Yoruba worldwide may not be a realistic estimate, but he argues that the number certainly runs into the tens of millions, with at least 25 million in West Africa, 10 to 25 million in Brazil, 2 to 3 million in Cuba, and a few hundred thousand in the United States.
He names the Yoruba religion as number six in what he considers to be the eight rival religions of the world. Historian Albert J. Raboteau reminds us that the enslaved Africans in North America were from many different parts of Africa and embraced various cultures and traditions, including, among others, those of the Mandinka, the Yoruba, the Ibo, the Akan, and the Bakingo.
He notes that the Senegambia region also supplied a large number of Muslim Africans to the Atlantic slave trade. In spite of this diversity, though, as Raboteau points out, a thread of continuity was located in the style of ritual performance, including singing, drumming, and dancing, along with a general perspective on the world. The Yoruba religion thus appears with different faces throughout the Diaspora—indeed, its fluidity is one of its defining characteristics. In the Yoruba worldview, the invisible world of spirit energies, consisting of ancestors, deities, and the unborn, is as real as the visible world.
How the Ifa Oracle is worshipped
Through a life-force energy known as ashe that permeates and infuses all things, members of the human, animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms are connected. Each odu accessed through divination is said to provide an awareness of how these invisible energies affect an individual or communal situation. The divination narrative also provides a prescription for restoring balance when an imbalance has been detected.
Divining the Self focuses on African American engagements with the Odu, the storied environment, the divination narratives, and the related rituals, ceremonies, and outcomes. I quickly learned that there was no road map for the work I wanted to do—no clearly stated methodology for the study of unwritten scriptures. Text-centered biblical criticism, even in its most radical form, did not work for the study of the Odu, a living body of knowledge that encompassed an alternative way of knowing. While anthropologists had used performance theory in the general study of religion, scholars of religion had not themselves engaged such models in the study of scriptures.
Although no structural guidelines for this model existed, it provided a conceptual compass for me, and I used it to find my way as I began to traverse the unfamiliar terrain of the Holy Odu. In this study I take up the challenge of determining what it means for the scholar of religion to study scripture as both text and performance.
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What does it bring forth, make manifest, transmit? How and in what ways does it reinvent? These modes of communication are important aspects of scriptural interpretation by religious practitioners. In his study of New Orleans Mardi Gras street performances, Roach recognizes the interdependence of orature and literature, suggesting that some things may be recorded in the literature, but the literary record is only part of the story; behaviors are remembered, too, and put into practice through orature, or performance.
Ifa Divination in Yorubaland – A Select Bibliography - S. S. A. Odularu,
He suggests that through the Mardi Gras Zulu Parade, an African cultural pattern in the form of the trickster archetype Esu is reinvented in the social context of New Orleans. In this study of African American engagements with the Odu, I argue that the scripturalizing practices serve to construct and reconstruct self and world.
Representation is an important aspect of this analysis, and the sign theory developed by Charles Sanders Peirce is helpful as a theoretical framework for this discussion. The odu Ogunda is associated with the orisha Ogun, which indicates, as Peirce points out, how one sign is connected to another sign. The symbol, as defined by Peirce, obtains its character from the ideas associated with it through convention.
The orisha Ogun, for instance, symbolizes a warrior energy that cuts through obstacles. The oriki praise songs , prayers, dances, gestures, rituals, and ceremonies for Ogun, as representational actions, add to the association of ideas or conventions that determine the meanings assigned to Ogun. In this schema, sacred symbols in the broadest sense, as objects of reverence, are summarizing symbols.
Elaborating symbols, on the other hand, help order experience and provide vehicles for sorting out complex feelings and ideas. This symbol represents the Yoruba worldview, one in which the theme of parallel worlds plays a major role. Much of what goes on in the ritual practice has to do with the connection between the invisible world of spirit and the inhabited world.
On a nearby wall in Oyotunji Village another key symbol, the opon Ifa divination board , is drawn see fig. It, too, represents the universe.