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Who and what is IFA ?

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  • Who and what is IFA ?

    The Divination of IFA

    The following study is the beginning of a analysis about the thoughts of religious-and philosophical aspects of the Yoruba's . For whom everything is found the profound foundation of the system of divination of IFA, for the Yoruba's it is the center core of the ideas from the beginning of time.

    All the information that is used in IFA is rich in myths. This mythology explains the community up to their least minimum expressions. The relations that are contained in ODU that are the fountain that overflows all the riches of Yoruban Mythology. Here are found the avatars and their stories are unfolded as their human forms upon the earth . Ifa utilizes and relates the the relations of Proverbs and stories that include the vegetation and animal world as it personifies life .

    In IFA is found the vision of the world , the destiny of mankind , the social relations, the morals of Life, from birth to death . We, are able to say that threw the system of IFA of the Yoruba's, one can find the knowledge of the community .

    Contained are the Odu or numbers that add up to the number 16 sixteen and these are called the principal Odu . From here and based on the number two , They accumulate to the amount of numerals to the Odu 256 and there multiples . Or to say a infinite number of combination's.

    With the multiple of two , the number that for the Yoruba's a significance which is symmetry , integrity. We can conclude is saying that IFA is the fountain of study and the system of Values traditional to the Yoruba's, That the myths that are related to where in the path to explain or justify the persons conduct to govern and can protect the individual from the adverse effects of bad situations, and in this form, the power to neutralize or give stability to the forces of the heavens and the earth .

    The principal of IFA and in the religion of the Yoruba's is sacrifice . Only with sacrifice or offering to the orisha's can a man live well on the earth. This last is the ultimate character for IFA is the universality , that the Yoruba say that Orunmila-IFA talks in all languages , lives within all religions , that none is distant , because Ifa , en it life for the earth , walked all over the earth , because he came to save everyone's life by order of Olodumare to save us. The kingdoms of the Yoruba have the same culture and traditions , as well as one form of speech. Under this domain of the Yoruba one can group the kingdoms of Egba, Egbado, Ekiti, Oyo, Ife, Iiesha , Ijebu , Ila and Ondo , this extends the geography in various regions of Nigeria , Republic of Benin and Togo. All say that the tradition of the Yoruba started in IFE where the traditions began by orders of Olodumare. They are one of the largest ethnic groups of the numerous tribes of the Sahara , around 15 .5 million habitants, And well represented in one of the cultures most advanced of Africa. There exists another analysis about the groups of the Yoruba's that speaks of establishing these kingdoms , A Ryder divided in three large groups .

    The Central group and understand the secrets of IFA of IFE, Ilesha y Ekiti.

    The south east group that understand the secrets of IFA Ondo, Owo, Ikole, Illoje and Ijebu. These are considered the kingdoms that are the oldest , their dialects are spoken by the habitants of OYO, OSUN, IBADAN , and are part of the sacred lands of Egba, this was the group of the north west , associated with the Kingdom of OYO (1.)

    The legends talk of the Yoruba's , group together the histories reveled by the long gone mystics . These histories are the base most rich in the system of IFA , where the deity Orunmila was in charge of the interpretation of the oracle of IFA .

    The Yoruba's created a religion that was extensive , their deities where called "Orisha's' or "Ebora" with character of that of the level of the culture. These deities are defined as ancestral gods and goddess's , that where part of the integrated of determined families. The "Orisha's"where according to legend where characters who once lived on the earth in human form , and had exceptional qualities and where given powers that where that made the difference between them and the rest of the population.
    The death of these deities , is said, was never of natural character. They occurred under according to legend the effects of extreme anger or get hardships. This made them disappear from the material world and convert into energy pure and free , that they contained and where transformed into ORISHA. (2).

    This is maybe a complicated definition of the Orisha , but very interesting after all trying to understand the particulars of these deities, that they allow of all things to live with their children and allow possession of some of the members of the family in which they occur to have the same qualities as they had when they where alive and by this means and form they can return to life and receive their tributes and offerings. For this the Orisha or deities Yoruba can not exist independent from mankind (3.) The Yoruban's look to their deities as Fountains of power that look for the perfection within themselves if not to live a life of Plenitude.

    To define the Orisha's , we must remember that these deities where the ancient Kings and Queens that form the history of the community Yoruba. These deities , upon death , where transformed into and hailed, remaining the natural powers given to them by Olodumare when they where on the earth. For example The Orisha Shango , was the fourth King of OYO , he had the power to control the thunder , Fire and the rain. Yemaya was given the salt waters and the ocean in its all. To Orisha Ogun was given the iron , war, and is the blacksmith of excellence. BY this means we can explain continue with each orisha and their representation in the natural order.

    IN the center of this religious pantheon of the Orishas , we find IFA, He who possess 's the faculty of governing the destiny of all men, and at the same time be the intermediate between men and the orisha. The difference between the orisha's and the cult of IFA in the character universal, because in all the parts that the Yoruba inhabit his cult is recognized. The system of divination of IFA , by this means is proven to be the center of the religion of the Yoruba's and this religion is the center of the lives of the humans., by this means the world , and in this world it is constantly threatened by the Cosmic forces of the heavens and earth, the mission of IFA is to restore the balance in the Cosmic forces (4) . With this reality in the thoughts of the Yoruba , the man that enters in the cult of IFA is to protect mankind and society. IFA is also known as the social force (5.)

    The system of Divination of IFA .

    The system of divination of IFA signifies , for the traditional Yorubas, the center of the consultation about their life and actions. The age of growth of the system of IFA , in these kingdoms is unknown . Some investigators point as the century XI . Others agree that IFA has its origins more ancient in the close Orient. And this method did not come till the medieval as Astral mathematics . That was excepted by the Arabs and this is founded they say in the divisions of IFA are extensions for African Occidental. The Arabs define this as Darb Arram ( divination by sand) and the Yoruba Muslims argue it is called Abigba and to the Traditional Yoruba's it is seen as distant from IFA (6)

    The interest fundamental of this adaptation is that , If IFA was a derivative of the Arab divination how did conception of the cosmology of the Yorubas integrate with the IFA system, and in which manner , did it become different from its original form?.

    The history tells us that Oduduwa , founder of the nationality Yoruba, came to Ile -Ife, and founded with Agbo-Niregun Or (Setilu) the founder of the cult of IFA. "Setilu", was a narrative from the land of Nupe, who was born blind. Setilu was exiled from his country , crossed the river Nile and tot he lands of Benin and made his home of a time in the land called OWO . Later he lived in Ado. Finally emerging in the land of Ile-Ife. (7)

    Another version talks of IFA as " the revealer of events" . And is called "Banga", The god of the seeds of the palm, that is situated in Ado, a village on top of a immense rock , close to Awoye (8)

    In other myths , it talks about IFA as a doctor and consultant, these myths are found in the city if Ipetu as a doctor and founder.. For this he was transformed into the KING of the village , and took on the name of "ALAKETU ". The disciples of Aleketu took their names from the sixteen signs known as OLODUS (9) To this God of IFA this is the domain of Orunmila. There exists differences weather Orunmila and Ifa are the same deity or if, Orunmila is the deity that which interprets the oracle of Ifa . Wande Abimbola explains and we accept that : "Orunmila is the name that refers to the deity exclusively. The name of IFA is referenced to the deity and his divination system. (10) Orunmila is considered the Deity of Knowledge and the First witness in the act of creation of man by Olofi . For this Orunmila is called "Eleriukpin."

    " Only, he knows the true nature and its orgin and all the objects animated and in-animated , created by Olofi " (11)

    And, least to say there exists many names with which the cult of IFA calls Orunmila such as "Oloogundudu", Olonimaro. Baraapetu, Ela , Agbonniregun. (12) And then there are the praise names as well by saying: "Akonilaran bi iyekan eni ( he that expresses the desires of mankind) Ogbon ile aye (the master divider on earth ) Opitan Ile Ife ( the historian of land of IFE ) A-je-ju-oogun ( keeper of medicines ) Amoi-motan ( He who makes the world understand) Agiri-ile-ilobon ( He who found the health to enter the house of knowledge and wisdom) Afe defejo ( he who speaks between both worlds in tongues ) Oluwa mi Ajibi ( My saviour IN the morning I praise) Oluwa mi A-to-ba-ja-je ( he who is sufficient to support my life.) (13)


    1 A.F.C. Ryder,1985. 355-357
    2 Verger,orixas.18.
    3 Berir,Ulli,actas del folklore.1961.
    4 Witte.hans,1984
    5 McClelland,1982.pp9
    6 Morton. Williams, 12966. pp.406-407
    7 Jonson, 1987. pp.4,32,34
    8 Owen.T.J.,1958
    9 Abimbola, Ifa.1976
    10 Abimbola, IFA 1976
    11 Osamaro, Ifisim.1986
    12.Abimbola, Ifa 1976
    13.Abimbola, Iwa Pele.1975 pp.423-424