Sunday, July 2, 2023

IFA's role in the society

Over time in Ifa/Orisa tradition, Ifa divination has played significant role, which had helped to shape the lives of the people for the better.

 There is nothing on earth that people do not divine on as long as it is beyond the ordinary comprehension.

The role ranges from even ephemeral matters like an illness, a worrisome omen or bad dream, a misplaced object to more encompassing and important issues of the state. 

For example, in a stanza of Iwori Meji, Ifa was divined for Olufe (King of Ife) in the ages of antiquity when his life was in bad shape. Ifa was divined for Olufe and all the hidden problems affecting his life adversely were revealed and solutions proffered thereafter. 

He complied. Soon afterwards, his life was transformed and peace restored.
The fact that Ifa has become a body of knowledge with empirical statements and facts have made people in Ifa/Orisa tradition to frequently resort to whenever then are faced with trouble or problem that needs to be discovered and at the end of which ebo (sacrifice) is made in order to correct or remove it. 

A stanza of Oturupon Obalufon (Oturupon-Owonrin), Ifa says:

Ifa ni ti a ba ji

Ogbon ni ka ma ko ara eni

Ka maa jii ni kutukutu pile were

Oro ti a ba ro ti ko ba gun

Ikin eni ni ka maa bi

Dia fun Paraka alago winni-winni

Ti nlo ree jijo alara-nbara labe odan…


  Ifa says when we wake up
We should teach each other wisdom
Let us not wake up and plan stupid things
For whatever we do not find solution to
Let us ask Ikin (Ifa)
These were Ifa’s declarations to Paraka
The one with shinning costume
When going to dance astonishingly under a banyan tree…

One distinctive thing about Ifa is that the past in used to solve the present and possibly the future. 

It is believed that history repeats itself; there is nothing new today that has not happened before in the past. 

Some of the reasons why people seek out a babalawo vary from one person to other. 

It may be as a result of illness, certain symptoms or bad dreams, famine/drought, birth of a new born baby, marriage /mate selection, fear of death, death, rites of passage at every phase of one’s life, setting up a business ventures, etc. 

For further understanding on the roles of Ifa divination, I shall try as much as possible to list out these roles.

1. Source of problem: Ifa divination is employed in order to find out the source of problem and or any worrisome portent. There are times when one’s sources of worry may not be physical, mental or spiritual but social. It is through Ifa divination that one is told the source of trouble /problem through a systematic diagnosis of the client.

Money for an example, in Ofun-Ose connotes social well being that is capable enough to perturb other factors of well being.

 Ifa divination also helps to find solution to a worrisome portent or any premonition. 

In a stanza of Eji Ogbe, Ifa describes how the inhabitants of Otu-Ife were attacked by forces of negativity. 

Several attempts were made by the inhabitants including Orunmila in order to chase them away but all to no avail.

 It wasn’t until Orunmila divined that he was advised by Ifa to offer a sacrifice and to do certain rituals, for them to conquer the negativities. 

Orunmila complied and soon after wards the negative forces were overcome and chased out the town.

2. Health Matters: Ifa divination also plays a significant role in the diagnosis and treatment of illness in Ifa/Orisa tradition. 

In Ifa tradition, no treatment can be administered without first finding out the cause of the illness through Ifa divination and the appropriate solution is proffered. Similar symptoms may not necessarily mean the same treatment. 

Ifa divination is made in order to direct the diviner as to which appropriate solution will be administered or applied to a particular situation. In a stanza of Ogbe Tomopon (Ogbe Oturupon), Ifa narrates how the illness of Sango got worsened despite series of medications used. 

It wasn’t until Ifa divination was made that he was advised to offer ebo (sacrifice) and to immediately undergo itenifa (Ifa initiation) in order to restore this sound health. 

Sango complied and soon after, he became healthy and strong again. He was so happy about this and this prompted him to make a vow that he would always spare the homes of any babalawo in times of fury and thunder strike.

Also, in a stanza of Ogbe ‘Di, Orunmila was having series of problems that have become his major source of worry. 

The problems included illness, fear of death, anxiety to have a settled home with offspring’s, etc. He then approached a babalawo to divine for him. 

After divination, he was told of the type and cause of his problems and specifically the type of solution and rituals for each of the problems. 

In this case, Ifa can specifically direct the diviner as to what type of sacrifice, treatment or approach to apply depending on the circumstances and the nature of illness or problems.

3. Whenever important steps are to be taken in Ifa and Orisa tradition, divination plays a vital role especially in the following aspects:

During pregnancy

Ikosedaye (peep into the baby destiny usually done on the third day of its birth

Mate selection and marriage

Rites and passage

Setting up a business

Building a house, etc.

The essence of Ifa divination in this case is to ask for divine guidance in making any of the decisions above. 

Ifa is believed to know the beginning and end of any matter. Ifa sees beyond the limit of our conscious faculty. 

For example, during pregnancy, Ifa divination is made in order to know the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy and the likely events that may lead to the emergence of the new born baby, sometimes, Ifa divination may reveal the nature or the type of baby that is coming.

In Iwori meji any pregnant woman that this divination is made for, necessary sacrifice will be offered in order to modify or correct the circumstance that may prompt the child to develop into a bandit. 

In another stanza of Eji-Ogbe, there was a case of Osunfunleyo, the wife of Agbonniregun (Orunmila) who after she became pregnant was experiencing problems and nightmares as a result of the handwork of the witches. 

The witches on the earth and in heaven vowed that Osufunleyo would never deliver the baby. Orunmila divined and was advised to offer ebo and to prepare a safe delivery medication for the wife. 

In the end, Osufunleyo had a safe delivery and was happy there after.
In Ifa and Orisa tradition, the process of choosing a mate for marriage is carried out with Ifa divination in spite of the fact that other social and psychological investigation has been made. 

This is necessitated by the fact that marriage is a life-long union between couples. 

Therefore careful steps must be taken in order not to regret the marriage for the rest of one’s life. 

Marriage is supposed to be fruitful, peaceful, and long lasting.

There are situations whereby the family of the bride or groom may have passed the examinations of alarena, the go between families and which eventually may be disapproved of by Ifa at divination. 

Alanena is a private investigator employed by any family to investigate the situation of the other family from where they intend to marry. 

The Alanena is highly respected in the society because of their objectivity. 

It is after his finding have been known that Ifa divination will be carried out in order to find out the compatibility of the would-be couple, the success and the fruitfulness of their union.

For Example in a stanza of Oturupon-Obara, Ifa advises the client not to embark on the marriage he intends embark upon because such union is saddled with sadness and eventually ends up in tragedy.

There are also some other occasions where Ifa may declare the union to be fruitful and successful but that there are certain conditions to be met in order to ensure successful wedding ceremony. 

For example, in a stanza of Ogbe weyin (Ogbe-Iwori), Ifa advised the bride to move into the house of the groom at least five days before the wedding day, if she wanted the relationship to be successful and memorable.

In a stanza of Owonrin Meji, there was a particular princess of the king of Eyo Ajori (Oyo) who was called Eyiowon’. 

She was planning to embark upon trading ventures, so she went to a babalawo to inquire if such trading venture was profitable or not.

Ifa was divined and she was told that the business would be profitable and in fact, she would prosper most in time of scarcity. 

She was advised to offer ebo and she complied. She began the trading business and did not have cause to regret her action. 

The stanza goes thus:
Ifa may also advise a client as to where to locate one’s business ventures. 

In a stanza of Osa-Alawo (Osa-Otura) Ifa advises one to locate one’s business in a place that is accessible not only to people but to the source of material. Business transactions are engaged by people and not plants or animals. 

Therefore it will be suicidal for some one to locate a business in an environment that is difficult for people to access it.

4. Diaster preventation: Ifa divination is used to avoid the disaster at the suspicion of malevolence, or to put an end when disaster happens. 

Whenever there is a premonition or feeling of an impending sad or terrible occurrence, Ifa is divined in order to find solution or to prevent such an occurrence.

Also, in a situation of epidemic, Ifa is also divined. In this situation, Ifa will proffer the appropriate sacrifice as solution to overcome such epidemic.

Ifa divination also plays a significant role when an elderly person dies or even at the fear of death. 

In a stanza of Eji Ogbe, Orunmila had a bad dream about the spirit of death visiting him in a dream. 

When he woke-up, this brought about fear in him about death and as a result he had to approach a particular babalawo to divine for him about his dream and how not to fall victim of death. 

After divination, he was advised to offer ebo and to do certain akose (special preparations) to be hung in the four corners of his house. 

This will render death incapacitate even if it enters his house. 

When death enters the house, he was rendered incapacitated and couldn’t have power to kill Orunmila, eventually, he left and went back to his domain.

There was another situation of one Omosunloye in a stanza of Owonrin Sogbe, who also had a premonition of death; she approached a group of babalawo, who divined for her. 

Ifa divination was made and was advised to offer ebo and to offer a butcher some monetary gifts. 

She complied. When it was time for death to go and kill Omosunloye, on the way to Omosunloye’s house, death met a butcher on the way and asked about the way to Omosunloye’s house. 

The butcher in his response misdirected death to another direction. After fruitless search for Omosunloye, death decided to go back home. 

That was how Omosunloye escaped from the hand of death.

5. Decision/policy maker: Finally, Ifa divination in the Ifa/Orisa tradition has played significantly in the administration of a town or state and has also been used as the final authority on policy/decision making. 

The Oba (King) and the council of Chiefs always resort to Ifa divination in a situation where there is a deadlock or conflict of opinion/interest. 

Ifa is divined as the final authority in order to decide which opinion or way to be endorsed. In a stanza of Obara Ofun, there was a particular Oba who had been thinking of how to solve the supremacy tussle between the babalawo and the wise deliberators. 

This tussle had been going on for quite a long time without anyway of resolving the tussle. 

One day, the while the Oba was taking his bath, he suddenly saw two birds fighting in the air right inside his bathroom. He captured them and put them in a covered calabash. 

Similarly, on that same day, his prince was entering the palace and suddenly he saw a snake climbing the wall of the palace. 

He immediately killed the snake and also put it in a covered calabash. When he got into the palace, he explained the scenario to the Oba. 

The Oba too narrated what he experienced while he was taking his bath. 

There and then, the Oba decided that he would use this incident as a riddle for the babalawos and the wise deliberators to solve. Whoever is able to solve the riddle will be endorsed as superior.

Later in the day, he sent for these two groups and presented the two covered calabashes before them to tell them and the audience what were in the calabashes. 

At the end, the wise deliberators were able to tell the audience what actually were in the calabashes. 

The Babalawo, in their own case divined Ifa and told the Oba that this was a bad omen, which concerns the life of the crown prince. 

They advised the Oba to offer a sacrifice for him not to close his crown prince on the seventh day.

At the end of the day, the wise deliberators were applauded and declared superior. However, on the sixth day after that day, the crown prince took ill and unfortunately on the seventh day, he died. 

The Oba felt so sad and blamed himself for not heeding the advice of the Babalawo to offer a sacrifice for his crown prince. 

Later, on that day, he summoned every body to his palace and told them what happened, and that if he had known, he would have heeded the advice of the babalawo. 

From then henceforth, he then declared that the babalawos are superior. That Ifa had said through divination the meaning of the incident that happened to him in the bathroom and what happened to his crown prince when he was about to enter the palace.

 He further declared that Ifa divination should be used to endorse or ratify any deliberations.

In conclusion, Ifa divination has remained a medium of which its unambiguous predictions and empirical statements have made it sacrosanct in the minds of not only the practitioners but also the whole Ifa /Orisa traditional society. 

The people, especially the Yoruba race have used Ifa divination extensively to shape their lives for the better. 

Without Ifa, it is believed that the world would have been difficult to administer, because it moves beyond the religious aspect into the social, mental and ephemeral.

This Article is written by AJE NLA (whatsapp +2347031178647).For the following:::

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