Sunday, July 16, 2023


Categorically and assertively, the word or term ìyánífá is never a new one; it is as old as the word or term known as Babaláwo or Ifá, but certainly, it is not the opposite of or synonymous with Babaláwo.

But, sadly, the etymological meaning and the actual definition of ìyánífá is being badly altered and influenced, presently, by many pseudo Babaláwos (both in Yorùbáland and in the diaspora), objectively to promote Western values and ideas; and to also massage the ego and adress what they identified as "identity crisis" being faced by the so called "emerging" female Ifá Diviners and the ever rising number of female Ifá Devotees in Western world and Diaspora in general.

Traditionally, Ìyánífá refers to any woman (irrespective of age or spiritual background) married to any practising Babaláwo (Ifá Diviner /Priest) commonly called "Apẹ̀tẹ̀bí aya Awo" choosen by the Babaláwo for the singular purpose of serving as Ìyánífá (Godmother) during the "Ìtẹ̀fá / Ìtẹ̀lódù" (Ifá initiation) rituals and ceremonies of anybody that is performing his Ìtẹfá/ Ìtẹ̀lódù.

On this, Ifá says in Òtúrá Òdí:
Bí ẹ bá rí ọmọdé Ifẹ̀
Ẹ fi ìbò lọ̀ọ́
Bí ẹ bá rí àgbà Ifẹ̀
Ẹ fi ìbò lọ̀ọ́
Bí ẹ bá rí Olúwo
Ẹ fi ìbò lọ̀ọ́
Bí ẹ bá rí Ojùgbọ̀nà
Ẹ fi ìbò lọ̀ọ́
Bí ẹ bá rí Ìyánífá aya Awo
Ẹ fi ìbò lọ̀ọ́
Torí a ò mọ ẹni tí baba rẹ̀ kú
Tó fi èbù sílẹ̀
A dífá fún Aṣẹ́gità ilé Ọba

Èyí tí yóò ti oko he òkú agbe wá sínú ilé
Categorically factual, Ìyánífá is never an ordinary title or chieftaincy title until very recently (few decades ago) when our traditional narratives are being changed; and traditional concepts and practices being polluted, all in the name of promoting them and widening women participations; partly in response to the ever changing socio - cultural values in our society. 

Before now; "There is never anything like Ìyánífá of this town or that community. Never"!

According to a particular verse in Ogbè Atẹ̀ (Ogbè Ìrẹtẹ̀), Ifá says;

Ẹ̀ ní ó gbà
Kò wá gbà
Ẹ̀ ní ó tẹ̀
Kò wá tẹ̀
Mo gbà
Mo tẹ̀
Ìrègún Ifá tán
Ìrègún Ifá ò tán
Ìrègún Ifá kù lẹ́yìn jọjọ
A dífá fún Ọ̀rúnmìlà
Baba ń lọ rèé gbé Odù ní ìyàwó
Ǹjẹ́ ta ló bí wa bá wọ̀nyí wẹrẹ
Odù ló bí wa bá wọ̀nyí wẹrẹ

The first Ìyánífá in history is the powerful female Irúnmọlẹ̀ called Odù; the first and the most prominent wife of Ọ̀rúnmìlà Baraà mi Àgbọnnìrègún.

In ancient Yorùbá spiritual world, Ifá practice, specifically as a Babaláwo is exclusive to the men only. No woman can become a Babaláwo or practise as a female Ifá Diviner. 

It's against the sustained tradition of the land. Women are only required or expected to practise Divination, using ever popular ẹríndìnlóógún (special sixteen cowries called owó ẹ̀rọ̀) as Olókun Devotee (obìnrin ló ń dá Olókun) in Ilé Ifẹ̀ or as Ìyá Ọ̀ṣun, Ìyá Òòṣà, Ìyá Ṣàngó, and Ìyá Ẹgbẹ́ across lands (particularly in the Western axis, comprising Ọ̀yọ́, Ìjẹ̀bú, Ẹ̀gbá, Ìgbómìnà, Ìbọ̀lọ́, and Àwórì lands).

Until very recently in the history of the developments in Ifá community in Yorùbáland, its a well known interdiction or taboo, particularly in the Eastern Yorùbáland (comprising the Ifẹ̀, Ìjẹ̀sà, Èkìtì, Àkókò, Ọ̀wọ̀, Ìkálẹ̀, Oǹdó, and Ìlàjẹ lands) for a woman to become a "Babaláwo" (Ifá Diviner / Priest).

But, around early Sixties (1960s), a certain woman of courage, popularly known as Ìyánífá and reputed to be very brilliant, skillful; and of exemplary life "pioneered" the ever tedious and laborious learning of Ifá as a vocational discipline in Ọ̀gbààgbá, a relatively small community near Ìwó, in the present Ọ̀ṣun State.

Her successful practise as a first female Ifá Diviner / Priestess later inspired about four other women in her locality and around Ìwó entire axis; and they successfully proved their mettle as reputable cum professionally competent female Ifá Diviners / Priestesses - Ìyá Awos.

After the death of these first generation of the female Ifá Diviners; years later in the late Eighties, another woman of faith and destiny, very hard-working, resourceful, brilliant; and a woman blessed with native intelligence and retentive memory in the person of Chief (Mrs) Mofáwokẹ́ Awóníran (née Ọ̀ṣúnmákindé), born into Ifá household in Fèéṣú, also in Ìwó emerged again; and she was successfully trained as a female Ifá Diviner / Priestess - Ìyá Awo.

In Yorùbáland today, we have about three or four other young and vibrant female Ifa Diviners (Ìyá Awos) who after they have successfully undergone adequate training in Ifá studies and also eminently qualified to practise as independent Ìyá Awos (female Ifá Diviners / Priestesses) have been doing wonderfully well in Ifá community and also the larger Ìṣẹ̀ṣe Community as a whole.

One of them is Ọ̀yọ́ born and the last child /daughter of Chief Mofáwokẹ́ Awóníran; Ifákẹ́mi Ifáòleèpin (nee Awóníran), and another prominent one is Ìyálóde Akẹyọlà, Ifánínyọ̀ Fálétí (née Fágbénjó), a native of Ìlẹ́mòwu via Ìwó, Ọ̀ṣun State, and they were both trained by Àgbà Awo (Chief) Ifáníyì Ọmọ́yẹni Awóníran of Ẹjẹmú compound, Ìṣẹ̀kẹ̀, Ọ̀yọ́ and the Ajítẹnà Awo Aláàfin of Ọ̀yọ́.

And now, in conclusion, if the male Ifá Diviner and Priest is a Babaláwo (father of secrets or mysteries), one can safely conclude here, reasonably and sensibly that a female Ifá Diviner and Priestess is an Ìyá Awo (mother of secrets or mysteries) as well.

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