Protocols in Ifa religious practice

Oyeku Meji
Oyeku Meji

By Fayomi Falade Aworeni Obafemi

Over the last few years much of the writings that have been on protocols has been focused on religious rules rather than religious culture from which the protocols derive. There are many issues that are coming into the forefront in terms of the Ifa and Orisa religion. One of the major points or references in terms of protocols is the issue of respect of Deities. By seniority, whether it is deity or human participant, it is important to note that it is crucial to our religion to show respect and honor and thus filtering to the human beings and their specific relationships its real empowerment.

Ogbe Yeku speaks to us as thus:

Ifa says that, “There is someone who has a title
Who will be replaced in his position?
And a person who stays in the background
Will be chosen to succeed him.

Everyone will rub their hands together
In honor of him
And they will recognize and respect him.

There is also a divinity that was once revered
By all the people of a house
But they do not revere him anymore
And the forest has overgrown his shrine.

We should renovate the shrine
And we should tie young palms fronds at the entrance to it
The person in the background that young and old people are sneering at
Will indeed become a public figure.”

In the above ese Ifa, it speaks specifically of different scenarios that tell of different issues of respect and types of protocols. The scenarios look at one who has titles and must relinquish it and one who will be honored with the position who is not expected to get the position.

This also explores what happens when a family or people forget the Deity that they swore to serve. The family has forgotten to clean its shrine, say their prayers, dobale or prostrating in honor of the care that the Deity has given to them. It says that they should renovate the shrine, put new palm fronds around denoting the area of sacred space.

Ogbe Yeku tells us that those who dishonor and sneer at this person who honors the gods, will see the
person of honor rise to become a public figure. The issue of this post is also concerning what we senior priest have stopped doing and that is demanding respect not only for our deities; in terms of the proper salutes, prayers, posture before the deities.

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One of the things that have been duly noted over the years is the type of laxity has been occurring within our tradition. But we should look at this carefully and closely from temple to temple, ile to ile in order to see where we have been complacent and compromising our value. A clear example comes when we do not have our godchildren, potential devotees, regardless of their ase or initiation only key
the earth but do not prostrate in a full dobale. Or when we do not have people address us as either Iya or Baba.

In Nigeria as an example of a story that was relayed to me. An elder priest of Ifa was returning to Nigeria after a long stay abroad. As he emerged down the hallway past security his adult son who was also a priest of Ifa saw his father. From his vantage point, the junior priest and son fell upon his face and began to sing an oriki to his father.

The junior did not get up until his father gave him rise with a blessing to stand. This is part of the Yoruba
culture and on the most part a celebration of seniority and respect given first to the deities then to the eniyans-chosen human beings.

We owe our deference first to Olodumare, Ori, Ifa, Irunmole, Orisa, Egungun, and Eniyans. This is not done out of some medieval notion but through love and devotion but first and foremost respect. The following example shows us that by not doing the “show of respect”, is tantamount to spiritual ingratitude.

Ogbe Alara:

“A kindness done endures, but the foolish person forgets it.
This was the teaching of Ifa for Igun
Who was going to give advice at the palace of Olofin, the ungrateful king?
They said he should sacrifice
He heard and complied.

Igun, priest of the world, interpreted the
Teachings of Ifa for the Olofin at Ife,
The cradle of the world
When his life was broken like a calabash
When it was torn completely apart like a piece of cloth
They said that he should sacrifice
For he did not recognize Igun, the priest as a priest
And respect him accordingly.

Olofin said he did not recognize Igun any longer
And he failed to recognize and respect the priest as a priest
It is a kindness done which endures
It is a foolish person who forgets it.”

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Ofun Ose:

“Ifa says there is someone whom people say
Will never be important
But the Lord of Heaven will open the way to wealth and peace for her/him
And they will bow down to her/him
And even ifs/he does not acquire a title,
S/he will be honored more than those who do have titles.”

This year with the Odu Ifa cast at Oke Itase for the year 2009-2010, we received word specific from Olodumare, Ifa, Obatala and all those deities within the Odu Otura Elefun Undere. We were mandated by Ifa to prostrate, not one of us but all of us before Ifa when we celebrate Ifa in prayer. When we hold on to Ifa in such a way our prayers are answered with quickness and thoroughly.

It has come time for us to speak out about not giving the protocols of our culture and religious tradition its proper place. Whether this is in Nigerian, Benin, Togo, Cuba, US, England, Mexico, south America or even China. We must define our protocols and laws. Part of our responsibility is to teach. We must not be afraid to teach. And we must teach correct information based upon the facts of our elders but most importantly the facts derived from the authority of Ifa Odu.

We must teach in fear for this is counterproductive and harmful to the religion as well as our people. We must teach and when we do not know, we must find out the truth. We should not create fear in people because we do not have the information on ritual, or Odu Ifa. It is important that we continue in integrity and honor.

Otura Elefun Undere (Ofun):
“Ifa enjoins all its devotees to ensure that every morning, they prostrate and lie flat for Ifa. While they are in the prostrate positions, they will demand for everything they need from Ifa and their request shall be granted.

The palm-frond broke and dived straight to the ground
This was Ifa’s message for Orunmila
When he woke up early in the morning
And was weeping about his inability to be blessed with any ire of life.

He was advised to offer ebo
He complied.

I want wealth and I prostrate myself for Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suura kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn.

I need a good spouse and I prostrate myself for Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suura kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn.

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I crave for good children and I prostrate myself for Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suura kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn.

I pray for all ire of life and I lie flat for Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suura kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn.”

With all of these ese Ifa’s I am enjoining the worldwide membership of Ifa and Orisa devotees to take a critical look at our world and how we are practicing not only in the Diaspora but throughout the
world. Our elders are not honored as they should be meaning if you are so lucky to have your mother or father still living then you should be saluting or dobale to your parents and elders for their contribution to your being in the world.

Whether the relationship is good or problematic they are worthy to be praised. Even when someone is an elder ase or awo, the office of the gods should be honored, respected and made to feel sacred. People of this tradition should reexamine our laws and above all our culture both on the continent and in the Diaspora in order to bring the sacredness back. All priests should endeavor to learn the culture and adopt the principle of our heavenly elders.

The key note here also is that those priests in position of power should not use the opportunity to bring harm or inflict any devious or insidious psychological power game on those who believe in Olodumare, Ifa and Orisa. This is wrong and would be dealt with as prescribed in Odi Meji. It is time to place the right emphasis on bringing the sacredness of Ifa back into the religion of Ifa by understanding the culture of the Yoruba.

Bibliography: Odu Ifa, Karenga, M,copyright 1999 University Sankore Press.
Ifa Odu of the year 2009-2010 Oke Itase, Popoola, S.S.

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My Ori said to me during a dream: For I would rather be the progenitor of Truth; Than be carried by the riches of a thousand lies; For the Truth that I see allows me to know; the sound of a rose opening at the morning’s dawn..,Fayomi Falade Aworeni Obafemi ,Iyanifa
Culled from: Yorubaworld

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