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Ifá Divination

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Agere Ifá, early twentieth century. Mead Artwork Museum, Amherst Faculty © Bridgeman Photographs.

Ifá divination has been central to the tradition of the Yoruba folks in south-western Nigeria for about 2,500 years. It’s based mostly on the teachings of a Yoruba sage named Ọrunmila, often known as Ifá.

Some see Ọrunmila as a primordial divinity (ara orun), despatched on to earth by Olodumare (‘the all-powerful supply of all creation’) in order that he may impart knowledge. Nevertheless, many contemplate Ọrunmila to be a historic determine, born in c.500 BC in Ilé-Ifè, considered one of Nigeria’s earliest and best cities. As such, Ọrunmila is just not thought of a god, however an orisa, an extended lifeless particular person, commemorated due to their vital contribution to the lifetime of the Yoruba folks. There are a number of orisas, every with their very own attributes. Ọrunmila is the orisa of knowledge and divination.

The late Nigerian thinker Sophie Olúwọlé (1935-2018) sought to attract parallels between Ọrunmila and Socrates. Simply as Socrates left no writings of his personal (his concepts are identified to us solely by means of Plato and Xenophon), so the philosophy of Ọrunmila was handed down as Yoruba oral custom. Olúwọlé highlights the truth that each Socrates and Ọrunmila worth advantage over materials wealth, every in search of to say the significance of data and logic and to encourage the controversy of concepts. 

Ọrunmila’s ideas, beliefs and even mathematical formulae type a corpus often called the Odu Ifá, which is employed when vital selections should be made. The Odu Ifá consists of 256 elements, every subdivided into a number of verses (ese). Every ese has an equal and reverse which means. 

The carved agere Ifá proven right here is the receptacle on which the Ifá monks preserve their consecrated palm nuts (ikin). It serves a objective just like a tabernacle in Christian church buildings, the place the sacred host is stored, or an aron kodesh (holy ark), the place the Torah scrolls are stored in a synagogue. Within the Ifá divination course of, the ikin are held by the priest of their left hand and repeatedly scooped up or forged by the correct. That is an important a part of Ifá divination. If a number of ikin stays within the left hand, the priest will make one or two vertical traces on a divination board (opon), the floor of which is roofed in wooden mud created by termites. This course of is repeated a number of occasions and the ensuing sample of marks within the mud will correspond to particular ese signatures inside the Odu Ifá. These ese are then relayed by the priest in poetic chant to the supplicants current.

This agere Ifá exhibits an Ifá priest alongside representations of typical requests manufactured from Ifá divination: riches, proven by prisoners of struggle; longevity, characterised by a cockerel pecking a snake, which is swallowing a tortoise; and household, represented by a mom and a baby.

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