Oyeku Ofun Temple

Ifa and Orisha Temple in Arcata, Humboldt County, Northern California // A Peaceful Place for Divine Worship

Leave a comment


IFA divination will be performed every Itadogun (every 17 days) and information will be posted detailing what offerings should be made following each Itadogun.

ITADOGUN 1/14/2016

This Itadogun, IFA says that all those seeking marital bliss and children should make an offering to see such blessings in their lives. IFA says that anyone who is wanting children in their life must all be making a simple offering with a bowl of palm oil (epo pupa), to be taken and left at the crossroads where 3 roads meet (orita meta). IFA will make our wishes and desires come to pass (Ase O). On this IFA says:
“Ònà gbooro
Ònà ko
Cast divination for Apon Ako
Who was crying because he has no wife
He was asked to offer sacrifice to get a wife
Apon Ako heard about the sacrifice
And offered it
Ònà gbooro
Ònà ko
Cast divination for Agan Ife
She was advised to offer sacrifice for her to meet with a good husband
She too heard about the sacrifice
And performed it
The first person took his sacrifice to the crossroads
The second person also took her own to the crossroads
Apon Ako placed his sacrifice at the intersection
He started to pray
‘My creator’
‘Let me find a good wife to marry’
‘Let a good wife meet me on the way’
‘Let me have a restful mind’
As he was praying Agan Ife also arrived
She too placed her sacrifice
And started praying
‘I beg you my creator’
‘Let me find a compassionate husband’
‘A charitable and considerate husband’
‘Such that my life would be better’
‘Let me find a charitable husband’
‘Such that my life would be better’
‘The person for whom I would bear good children’
That was how the two of them met
They both started praising the priest Ònà gbooro
And the priest Ònà ko
Their Babaláwos were praising Ifá
They said it was exactly as their Babaláwos had predicted
Ònà gbooro
Ònà ko
Cast divination for Apon Ako
He was crying because he has no wife
Ònà gbooro
Ònà ko
Cast divination for Agan Ife
On the day she was crying because she has no husband
They both got to the junction of three roads
And coincidentally met with each other
Ònà gbooro
Ònà ko
No other Ifá would prove true as does Ìrosùn Elerin again
Ònà gbooro
Ònà ko”

May Olodumare guide and guard us. Ase

Fagbemijo Amosun Fakayode
Otun Amufawuni of Ibadan Land
Director of Oyeku Ofun Temple



You Are the Awo of a Marvelous Dawn

The palm frond broke and dove straight down toward the ground
Ifa’s message for Orunmila
When he woke up early in the morning
But was weeping for inability to see any blessings in life
He was advised to offer ebo
He complied
I want wealth
I prostrate myself before Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suuru kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn
I want a good spouse
I prostrate myself before Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suuru kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn
I want good children
I prostrate myself before Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suuru kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn
I pray for all ire of life
I lie flat and greet my Ifa
Mariwo Ope ja suuru kanle
You are the Awo of a marvelous dawn




Eriwo ya!

We greet you all in the name of Olodumare, Orunmila and all other Orisa. We also extend the greetings of Araba Agbaye to you all in this season of the World Ifa Festival. We, the members of Ethics and Scripture Committee of the International Council for Ifa Religion, are hereby presenting verses of the Ifa of the year recited with inspiration by the priests on the mat in the early hour os Sunday, 7th June, 2015, which stands as the first day of the year in Ifa calendar system. The odu Ifa that came out for this year is OFUNOSA. The odu came with Ire Aiku, long life and ebo is recommended to acquire it. Ifa Priests from Nigeria, Republic of Benin, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany, United States of America, Brazil, Venezuela and Cuba were all there and made their contributions. The verses of OFUNOSA recited with their narratives are as follows:

Ifa says there should be mutual assistance. Ifa wants us to be complimentarily working together. The people must be seeing doing the right thing to redeem, repair or rescue systems that are in despicable condition. Ebo should be made to have the right people that are sent to do this assignment. The items to sacrifice for this purpose include 8 pigeons, honey, gin, pap and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun saara
Ofun seesee
Babalawo eyin
Lo dia fun Eyin
Eyin n sunkun alailalatunse
Ebo ni won ni o se
O gbebo nibe o rubo
Ero ipo tofa
E ba parapo
Ke wa tun Eyin wa se
O fun saara
O ti fun sesesee

Ofun saara
Ofun seesee
The Ifa priest of Eyin, the Tooth,
Cast Ifa for Eyin, the Tooth
When the Tooth was longing for redeemer
He was advised to make ebo
He complied
All and sundry
Let us join hands together
To repair our Tooth
It is very white
It has become purely white

In Ofunsa, Ifa says there is somebody who people have conspired against to the extent that they have snatched his power and voice. They stole an inherited property of this person and want the king of his land to punish him for losing what belongs to the whole land. Ifa has recommended that ebo should be made and the person should take the ebo to the farm of his father or the place where the father was buried. The story is about the elephant who was the trumpeter of the king. The other animals conspired and stole the trumpet. They went and buried at the bank of the river. The king noticed that the elephant has not been blowing the trumpet. He then sent for him to come on a festival day to blow the trumpet as usual. The other animals were happy for they knew the king would kill him should he fail to blow trumpet that day. He made ebo which Babalawo told him to take to his father’s farm. After performing ebo as prescribed, as he was going back to his house, his leg hit a stone and he fell down. He looked back to see the cause of his falling down. He saw a stone. To prevent other people from being victim, he was digging the ground to remove the stone. He then realized that there is something under the big the big stone. He dug it out and it was the trumpet he was looking for. Elephant was able to blow the trumpet and other animals felt ashamed. The ebo to make for this to come to pass include, a he-goat, a big rat, pap, palm oil and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun saa
Ofun soo
Ofun perengede bi aja n lami
Sakiti aro o ju bu jesu
Ojo pa elulu labe iti warawara
A difa fun Erin ti se afunpe Orisa
A lukin fun Okanlerinwo omo eranko
Bomode ba subu a wo iwaju
Bi agba ba subu a wo eyin
Awo Erin lo difa fun Erin
Lojo to subu, to weyin wo
Lojo to n lo ri ipe baba re
Oro Olofin tototo
Oro Olofin toto fun-un

Ofun saa
Ofun soo
Its whiteness is as perfect as the dog licking water
The dye is not used to wash the face
The rain falls on lark-heeled cuckoo bird under the running plant
Ifa revelation to Erin, the Elephant, who was the trumpeter of Orisa
Ifa revelation also to about two hundred animals
When a kid falls down, he looks forward
When an elderly man falls down, he looks backward
Ifa revelation to Erin
The day he fell down, and he looked back
The day he found his father’s trumpet
The issue of Olofin, the king, is massively great
The issue of Olofin, the king, is always treated with prestige

We need to make ebo so that we are successful in our endeavours. Aje, the Orisa of wealth should be appease. Also, anybody that is looking for wife needs to do the ebo to get a successful wife. The items of ebo are 4 pigeons, honey, gin, money, banana, egg and pap. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun saa
Ofun soo
Ofun perengede bi aja n lami
Ayanuayanu ni o je koyun omotuntun tete duro
Saa-soo awo Aje
Lo difa ko Aje
Aje omo Adelefun

Ofun saa
Ofun soo
Its whiteness is as perfect as the dog licking water
Incessant miscarriage hinders pregnancy
Saa-soo the Ifa priest of Aje, the wealth
Cast Ifa for Aje, the wealth
Aje, the wealth, a child of Adelefun, He-who-put-on-whiteness

Ebo should be made against sickness. A life gorilla (gorilla head, meat, skin or hide can be used in lieu of life gorilla), beans, 3 cocks, palm oil and brass plate are the items to be used for the ebo. After the ebo, Osun will be appeased. On this Ifa says:
O fun sai
O ya haa
Orun ya sile o doke
Eja nla ya somi
A difa fun Eleju
Ti n sogboogba arun
Ti n nara kaka alailedide
Ti n yi gbiiri loju ina
Pele o!
Eleju to ru inaki
Olodo ide

It is white
It torn with sound “haa!”
The heaven fell down and became mountain
Big fish fell into the river
Cast Ifa for Eleju
When he was sick
Struggling in vain to stand up
Rolling around beside the fire to warm his body
You Eleju who sacrificed gorilla
One with brass mortar

People will wage war against real owners of property. Such owner(s) should sacrifice a he-goat, 7 cobs of corn/maize, palm oil and money. There is need to be initiated to Ifa and or any other chosen Orisa in order to overcome the usurpers. Ifa says people should always beware of enemies who will always lay ambush or set trap because of inheritance. The story is about Alagemo, the Chameleon. His father’s servants sent him abroad after the death of the father. They planned with the sailor and the crocodile of the ocean to push him into the river and kill him. The Chameleon had a dream, he went for divination. He was told to get initiated into Ifa and he complied. Ifa told him to decorate his body with palm fronds when he was ready to go home. He did as advised to disguise and he escaped the trap. As the people were rejoicing at home and sharing the property among themselves, Alagemo, the chameleon escaped the trap and arrived home. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa a lefun
Ofun sa a losun
Ofun sa a ni moriwo ope yee yee yee
A difa fun Alagemo teere kange
Ti somo Orisa Igbowuji
Nitori ajeku baba Alagemo
Nitori amuku baba Alagemo
Won ni ko wa lo si apa okun ilaji osa
Ki oni okun oni osa o mu Alagemo sohun un
Arai le e maa jo
Ara ile e maa yo
Oni okun oni osa mu Alagemo lonii o tan more
Alagemo ni
Lealae lomo ti je ajeku baba re
Laelae lomo ti mu amuku baba re
Nitori ajeku baba emi alagemo
Nitori amuku baba emi alagemo
E ni ki n lo apa okun ilaji osa
Ki oni okun oni osa o mu mi si ohun
Ara ile e ma jo mo
Ara ile e ma yo mo
Oni okun oni osa o le malagemo lonii o tan mo lo
Alagemo ki o gbo o
Moriwo yee yee yee
Alagemo ki o to o
Moriwo yee yee yee

Ofun dressed him with white local chalk
Ofun dressed him with camwood
Ofun dressed him with palm frond
Ifa revelation to the Chameleon
A child of Orisa Igbowuji
Because of the property of the father of the Chameleon
Because of the belongings of the father of the Chameleon
He was sent abroad
So the he would be captured by the crocodile in the sea and ocean
Let people at home dance
Let all at home rejoice
The crocodile of the sea and ocean has captured the Chameleon today
The Chameleon said
It has been the tradition for the child to inherit his father’s property
It has been the tradition for the child to inherit his father’s belonging
Because of my father’s property
Because of my father’s belongings
You sent me abroad
For the crocodile of the sea and ocean to capture me
Let no one dance at home again
Let none rejoice at home
The crocodile of the sea and ocean could not capture me today, I escaped
Alagemo you shall live long
Plenty of palm fronds
Alagemo you shall be strong
Plenty of palm fronds

Argument should be avoided this year. Everybody should make ebo for his or her children. One needs to know the kind of person the father of one’s child’s friend is. The items to sacrifice to rescue our children from death include white cloth, ashes, 3 cocks, palm oil and money. The story is about Ale, a child of the death and Ojiyan, a child of Orunmila. The child of Iku said the moon would appear today as told by his father while the child of Orunmila argued with him that it would be out in nine days’ time. Each of them claimed that was what his father told him and they abused the father of each other. The child of Orunmila said if the moon appeared that day, the child of Iku should tell his father to come and kill him and vice versa. On getting home, the child of Orunmila gave report of what transpired to his father and Orunmila told him he was wrong. The father immediately called upon Babalawo to make divination. The priests recommended a sacrifice to prevent or delay the appearance of the moon. When Iku heard the story from his child, he was happy because, his child was right. He was out in the night to see the moon so that he could go and kill the child of Orunmila. The ebo made by Orunmila was acceptable and the appearance of the moon was delayed for some days and when it wanted to appear, it did not appear once as usual but bit by bit. Therefore, the death could not kill the child of Orunmila. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa lefun
Ofun sa losun
Ofun sa ni moriwo ope yeeyeeyee
A difa fun Ale omo Iku
A bu fun Ojiyan omo Orunmila
Nijo ti won n jiyan
Ebo ni won ni won o se
Ojiyan nikan lo n be leyin to n sebo
Ebo re mo ti da adaju
Ojiyan lo ti mosu o sorun
Oni losu o ba le
Ojiyan lo ti mosu o sorun

Ofun marks it with chalk
Ofun marks it with camwood
Ofun adorns it with palm frond gorgeously
Cast Ifa for Ale, the child of Iku
Cast Ifa for Ojiyan, the child of Orunmila
When they were arguing
They were advised to make ebo
It was only Ojiyan who made the recommended ebo
And his ebo was acceptable
It was Ojiyan who delayed the appearance of the moon
It is today that the moon was supposed to appear
It was Ojiyan who delayed the appearance of the moon

Ifa says people should show true love towards one another. There are enemies among friends. Many people though friends do not pray for greatness for one another. Items to sacrifice here include a big rat, a cock, pap, palm oil and money. On this Ifa says:
Ofun saarasa
Babalawo Eera lo difa fun Eera
A bu fun poporo
Lojo ti won n se ore atilewa
Ebo ni won ni won o se
Gbogbo ira mi
Isoro ope
Eyin o mo peera o fe poporo denu
Ibi suesue lomo araye feni mo
Omo araye o fe a runbe ninu awo tan-anganran

Ofun saarasa
The Babalawo of Eera, the Ant made divination for Eera
Also made divination for Poporo, the corn stick
When they were friends
They were advised to make ebo
All my people
All priests of Ifa
Don’t you know that the Ant does not fully love the corn stick
People only have no genuine love for one
People does not pray for one to eat with an expensive plate

There will be competition over position or chieftaincy this year. We have to be careful about given out chieftaincy titles to people who do not deserve them. Ebo should be made so that the right person will always get to the throne or receive the title. Ifa says one should be gentle and humble, not harsh so that one will have support of the people whenever one is recommended for any title. There is need to make ebo to make people happy at one and support one. The items to sacrifice are pigeons, banana, honey, pap, cold water and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa lefun
Ofun sa losun
Ofun sa ni moriwo ope yeeyeeyee
A difa fun Oorun
Oorun loun o joye amororo
Ofun sa lefun
Ofun sa losun
Ofun sa ni moriwo ope yeeyeeyee
A difa fun Osupa
Osupa naa loun o joye amororo
Won ni won o kara nle ebo ni won o se
Osupa nikan lo n be leyin to n tubo
Osupa lo se wo
Eni ba woju ojo oju re a lami
Osupa lo se wo

Ofun marked him with white local chalk
Ofun marked him with camwood
Ofun dressed him with palm frond gorgeously
Ifa revelation to Oorun, the Sun
The Sun wanted to be enthroned as king Amororo
Ofun marked him with white local chalk
Ofun marked him with camwood
Ofun dressed him with palm frond gorgeously
Ifa revelation to Osupa, the Moon
The Moon wanted to be enthroned as king Amororo
They were advised to make ebo
Only Osupa, the Moon made the ebo
It is only Osupa, the Moon that can be glanced at
Whoever glanced at the Sun will have his eyes suffered
It is only Osupa, the Moon that can be looked at

People should always not be overconfident. There should always be acceptance of the fact that no one is perfect and everybody should seek advice from people who know more. This will give long life to people and it will make all the rituals done this year acceptable. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa a lefun
Ofun sa a losun
Ofun sa a ni moriwo yeeyeeyee
A difa fun Alagemo, ti se wolewode Orisa
Alagemo kii ku
Alagemo kii run
Moriwo yeeyeeyee
Boro tun ku leyin ta o mo
Moriwo wa bani toro yii se

Ofun dressed him with white lacal chalk
Ofun dressed him with chalk
Ofun dressed him with palm frond
Ifa revelation to the Chameleon, a close partner of Orisa
The Chameleon does not die
The Chameleon does not fall sick
Plenty of palm frond
If there are some rituals we do not understand
Let the palm frond rectify the mistake for us

Ifa has promised to bless all the devotees this year. We should all be grateful to Ifa and we should profess his greatness to the whole world. Ifa should be appeased with 2 rats, 2 fish, 2 hens, a goat, kola nuts, gin and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ope se nahinnahin dagba
A difa fun Ara Eresa
O n tile orun bo waye
Won ni o kara nle ebo ni ko se
Ifa se rere fun mi abi o se rere fun mi?
Ope se rere fun mi
Orunmila se rere fun mi
Ire kari aye

Ope se nahinnahin dagba
Cast Ifa for Ara Eresa
When coming to the Earth
He was advised to make ebo
Has Ifa blessed me or not?
Ope has blessed me
Orunmila has blessed me
The blessing is worldwide

Ifa warns us against conspiracy and being mischievous. This is because, the plans of the conspirators and mischievous people will be fruitless. Those who are conspired against need to make ebo with a he-goat, 3 big rats, palm oil, pap and money. After the ebo, an akose will be done in form of soap or powder to lick. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sarai o yo tooro
A difa fun Eeru
Omo won nile kuo
Nijo aye dite ti won lawon o feeru mole
O fun sarai o yo tooro
A difa fun yanrin
Omo won lale odo
Nito aye dite ti won lawon o fi gbaaro
Ofun fun sarai o yo tooro
A difa fun Omi
Ti somo won ode Otunmoba
Ipa oun o le pare lo n dafa si
Won ni won o kara nle ebo ni o se
Won gbebo nibe won rubo
A kii feeru mole
E rora pero
E rora pete
Akii fi yanrin gbaaro
E rora pero
E rora pete
Ekun la bomi
Omi o bu ku
Eropo tofa
Airogbe ale ana lara omi

Ofun sarai o yo tooro
Cast Ifa for Eeru, the ashes
A native of Kuo
When enemies planned to use it to build a house
Ofun sarai o yo tooro
Cast Ifa for yanrin, the sand
A inhabitant of the river
When enemies planned to use it as clay
Ofun sarai o yo tooro
Cast Ifa for Omi, the water
A native of Otunmoba
He was praying for unforgettable legacy
They were all advised to make ebo
They complied
Nobody uses the ash to build house
Stop conspiring
Stop clandestine plan
Nobody uses the sand as clay
Stop conspiring
Stop clandestine plan
It is with full honour we meet water
The water is not despised
All and sundary
Nobody finds water with the scar of yesterday’s wound

Evil forces will be too many this year. People need to make ebo to repel them. The story here is about Orunmila. When evil forces were ready to go to his house, he made divination and made ebo. The ebo was done with yam porridge and put inside a clay lamp with 16 faces. He put 16 cotton treads in it and lit the fire. He was taking it to Esu with the fire burning. As he was going, he was eating the porridge from the lamp. The evil forces saw him and they thought he was eating/swallowing live coal from the fire because the yam porridge looked like live coal as he is putting it into the mouth. Therefore, they were all afraid of going to the house of Orunmila. The ebo to make here are yam, pepper, palm oil, clay lamp, cotton wool, 3 cocks and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa lefun
Ofun sa losun
Ofun sa ni moriwo ope yeeyeeyee
A difa fun Orunmila
Lojo ti iku oun arun n kanle re re
Ajogun gbogbo n kanle baba ni lilo
Ebo ni won ni o se
O gbebo nibe o rubo
Orunmila n yona mi
Omo Omila n yona mi

Ofun dressed him with white lacal chalk
Ofun dressed him with chalk
Ofun dressed him with palm frond
Cast Ifa for Orunmila
The day death and disease were planning to go to his house
All evil forces were ready to enter his house
He was advised to make ebo
He complied
Alade, the king was swallowing live coals
Orunmila was swallowing live coals

The leader of the city, state, nation or any society should make ebo to overcome those who are planning to reduce him to nothing. There will be many conspirators against the leader this year. However, with ebo, Ifa has promised to make the leader victorious. There should be ebo with one he-goat, 3 big rats, elephant, buffalo and deer meats, palm oil and money. After the ebo, an akose will be made to make the leader recognized and popular. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa sa sa
A difa fun Akoko Eluju
To n be nirogun ota
Ebo ni won ni o maa se
O gbebo nibe o rubo
Nse tawa o saiyo ju tota lo o
Ninu igbo lerin gbe sola
Ninu igbo lefon gbe ti fi sola
Ninu igbo ni Agbonrin gbe gbosin gbora
Tawa o saiyo ju tota lo o

Ofun sa sa sa
Cast Ifa for Akoko tree in the forest
When he was amidst the enemies
He was advised to make ebo
He complied
Behold, we shall be more conspicuous than the enemies
Clearly conspicuous!
It is inside the forest that the elephant stays and become successful
It is inside the forest that the buffalo lives and become successful
It is inside the forest that the deer stays and become successful and popular
Clearly conspicuous
We shall be more successful than the enemies

Ifa says many rituals and prayers were not acceptable last year. This year, we must always appease Ogun and Osanying to make our sacrifices and prayers acceptable. Ogun should be appeased with a dog and there should be palm frond there when we want to do the appeasement. Osanyin should be appeased with a cock and palm frond must be there as well. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa lefun
Ofun sa losun
Ofun sa ni mariwo
Bo je bi o je
Omo awo lo loogun
A difa fun Baba Oroponjipo
Eyi to ti n rubo tebo re o fin
Eyi to ti n setutu ti ogba
O n se wure laise
Ebo ni won ni o se
Won ni ko lo bo Ogun
Won ni ko bo Osanyin ile baba re

Ofun dressed him with white lacal chalk
Ofun dressed him with chalk
Ofun dressed him with palm frond
Whether it is effective or not
The charm is a favourite of the Ifa trainee
Ifa revelation to Baba Oroponjipo
Who has been making unacceptable ebo
Who has been making unsuccessful rituals
Who has been making ineffective prayers
He was advised to make ebo
He was advised to appease Ogun
He was advised to appease the Osanyin in the household of his father

The sick must appease the Iyami for there will be many sickness this year that will not be ordinary but spiritual attack from the Iyami Aje. Anybody that is sick, besides using the recommended medication should make ebo with a big rat, 3 cocks, palm oil, pap and money. Also, an akose to pacify the Iyami should be used by people throughout this year. On this, Ifa says:
Orunmila lo fun sa
Ifa mo lo fun sa
O lo fun sa bi eku ti aje je ku
O lo fun sa bi eja ti aje je ku
O lo fun sa bi eye ti aje je ku
O lo fun sa bi eran ti aje je ku
Won ni Orunmila o se nfo bi egun
Won ni Orunmila o se nfo bi eyo
Orunmila loun o fegun
Orunmila loun o feyo
O ni eni to n funfun lara loun n bawi
O ni Iyami Osoronga lo n ba ja
E ba gba okete
E ma gba eniyan
Iyami osoronga!
Aje kii roro ko jerun
Owo bewe oribale oko
Eye buburu ko ma rori awo ba le

Orunmila said it is fading out
I said it is fading out
He said it is fading out like a rat half-eaten by Aje
He said it is fading out like a fish half-eaten by Aje
He said it is fading out like a bird half-eaten by Aje
He said it is fading out like an animal half-eaten by Aje
People asked Orunmila whether he was speaking in Egun language
People asked Orunmila whether he ws speaking in Eyo language
Orunmila said he was not speaking Egun
Orunmila said he was not speaking Eyo
He said he was talking about somebody whose complexion is fading away
He said the person is being victimized by Iyami Osoronga
Please, take the big rat
Do not take human being
You, Iyami Osorong!
No Iyami would be strong to eat erun tree
I have made use of ajeobale leaves
No evil bird dares perch on the head of priest

There will be many marriages and marital issues this year. People should make ebo to have comfortable marital settlement. Men should make ebo to have fortunate wives while women should also be ready to support their husbands. This will make couples happy. The items of the ebo to make are 4 pigeons, honey, gin and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ikere tee lori igi
Ejiworo lorun ope
A difa fun Orunmila
Ifa n lo ree fe Olafopo niyawo
Won lebo ni ko se
Orunmila lo n be leyin to n sebo
Ebo re lo da adaju

Ikere tee lori igi
Ejiworo lorun ope
Cast Ifa for Orunmila
When he was going to marry Olafopo
He was advised to make ebo
He complied
And his ebo was acceptable

The pregnant women or those who need pregnancy should make ebo with 2 rats, 2 fish, 2 hens, a big rat, palm oil, pap and money. After making the ebo, they should not buy, kep or eat water yam this year to prevent miscarriage. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa lefun
Ofun sa losun
Ofun sa ni moriwo ope yeeyeeyee
A difa fun Omosike
Omo ewura n dagba laja
Won lebo ni ko se
Eropo ipo tofa
Igba ewura n dagba laja
Loyun Omosike n ya

Ofun dressed him with white lacal chalk
Ofun dressed him with chalk
Ofun dressed him with palm frond
Cast Ifa for Omosike
Under whose roof a water yam was developing
She was advised to make ebo
All and sundry
It was when the water yam was developing under the roof
That Omosike was experiencing miscarriage

To overcome enemies, Ifa has recommended ebo with a ram, palm oil and money. After the ebo, an akose will be made in form of soap. On this, Ifa says:
Ikeke tee lori igi
Ejiworo lorun ope
A difa fun Orunmila
To n je nirogun ota
To n fojoojumo kominu ajogun
Won ni ebo ni ko se
O gbebo o rubo
E rora pete mi
A ki i feeru mole
E rora pete mi
A kii fi yanrin maaro
E rora pete mi
Aja o lori abagbo kan
E rora pete mi
Eni kan kii fepo alakan sebe je
E rora pete mi

Ikeke tee lori igi
Ejiworo lorun ope
Cast Ifa for Orunmila
When he was amidst the enemies
When he always had fear of attack from evil forces
He was advised to make ebo
He complied
Stop your clandestine conspiracy
Nobody uses the ash to build house
Stop your clandestine conspiracy
Nobody uses the sand as clay
Stop your clandestine conspiracy
The dog cannot withstand the ram in butting
Stop your clandestine conspiracy
Nobody uses the oil produces by the crab to cook soup
Stop your clandestine conspiracy

Ifa says we should not be ungrateful to any Orisa. Oya should be appeased with a he-goat, 3 cocks, palm oil and money so that Oya will avenge on behalf of the Orisa that is not appreciated. The story is about the city of Erin where they were ungrateful to Obalufon. It was Oya who went to the city to avenge. Furthermore, anybody longing for children has to appease Oya and Obalufon. And she should never be ungrateful to the Orisa. Also, here, siblings should be ready to assist one another. On this, Ifa says:
O fun sai
O ya haa
A difa fun Oya to n sunkun omo rele Ira
Adifa fun Aaye to n sunkun omo rode Erin
A woya dele Ira
A a boya
Ija Olufon loya lo ree gbe lerin
Kawi kawi kawi
Oya sele Elerin sawo

It is white
It torn down with sound “haa!”
Ifa revelation to Oya when longing for child to the city of Ira
Ifa revelation to Aaye when longing for child to the city of Erin
We went to the city of Ira in search of Oya
We did not meet Oya
Oya had gone to Erin to avenge for Olufon
Before we were conscious
Oya had totally destroyed the city of Erin

Ifa says people should refrain from stealing this year because, the thieves will be caught and disgraced. Also, anybody whose property is stolen is advised to make ebo and appease Osanyin. The items to sacrifice are 3 cocks, a big rat, palm frond, rope, pap and money. the story is about the tortoise who dressed himself with palm frond to scare people at the market of Ejigbomekun. After the people might have run away with fear, the Tortoise would steal their commodities. The market people then went for divination and they were told to employ Osanyin. It was Osanyin who caught the tortoise and he was disgraced. On this, Ifa says:
Ka sa lefun
Ka sa losun
Ka sa ni moriwo ope yebeyebe
A difa fun Abalahun
To n lo fi moriwo ko won lejigbomekun

Let us mark it with white local chalk
Let us mark it with camwood
Let us dress it with palm frond
Ifa revelation to Alabahun, the tortoise
Who was using palm frond to steal their commodities at Ejigbomekun

Ifa says adultery should be refrained from. If not, the secret will be revealed and the husband of the woman will get to know. This is important because, Ifa says the husband has been suspicious. It is advisable for a man not to go to the house of his friend to look after the family when his friend is not around. For one to catch the concubine of one’s wife, one needs to make sacrifice with white chalk, camwood, 3 cocks, palm oil, pap and money. Also, Ifa warns that we refrain from any taboo or forbidden item. On this, Ifa says:
Ka sa lefun
Ka sa losun
Ka sa ni moriwo ope yebeyebe
A difa fun Orisanla
Nijo ti Agbonrin n ba obirin Orisa sun

Ka sa lefun
Ka sa losun
Ka sa ni moriwo ope yebeyebe
Ifa revelation to Orisanla
When Agbonrin, the deer was having secret love with his wife

People should be prayerful this year over the children. Those who travel with children need to make ebo so that the children will not be harmed along the road. The items to sacrifice include a knife, a big rat, 3 cocks, palm oil, pap and money. On this, Ifa says:
Ofun sa
O ya haa
A difa fun Agbado
To n roko alerelodun
Ebo ni won ni o se
O gbebo lairubo
Agbado loun o mo
Oun o ba sebo “O fun sa”
Oun o ba sebo “O ya haa”

It is entirely white
It tears suddenly
Ifa revelation to Agbado, the corn
When going to the farm
He was advised to make ebo
He refused to make the ebo
Agbado, the corn later said with regret
He would have made the ebo of “O fun Sa”
He would have made the ebo of “O ya haa”

Egbe Orun
Oku orun (Ancestors/Departed souls)

Not to eat the corn that was roasted with the sheath
Argument should be avoided
We must not spread our cloth in an unsafe place
Pregnant woman or any woman that has not stop child bearing must not buy, keep or eat water yam to prevent having miscarriage.

Verses recorded, transcribed and translated by:
Fayemi Fatunde Fakayode (Chairman, Ethics and Scripture Committee)
Araba Olusoji Oyekale (Kwara State Rep)
Ojesola Windare (Osun State Rep)
Awo Fawale Adebayo (Ondo State Rep)
Otunba Kehinde idowu Fagbohun (Oyo State Rep)
Fayemi Abidemi (Oyo State Rep)
Chief Fatunmbi Adeniji (Ogun State Rep)
Fasola Faniyi Babatunde (Ogun State Rep)
Awo Tosin Olomowewe (Lagos State Rep)
For more information, question, clarification or assistance on the odu of this year, send your mail to ifacouncilinter@yahoo.com or ifacouncilinter@gmail.com
Aboru Aboye Abosise!

Note: We are aware that some people have published some verses of the odu on the internet. While we are not saying the verses they published are incorrect, we strongly believe that the ones we presented here are the ones recited with inspiration from Olodumare. What we mean is that there can be one thousand verses of Ofunosa, but inspiration is what is needed to recite the useful ones at the time of divination; it is inspiration that directs a priest towards the verse(s) he recites on the mat.

Leave a comment

ODU, The Mythical Wife of ORUNMILA

By Araba Yemi Elebuibon
From the book “Apetebii: Wife of Orunmila”…

Kalanchoe has strong leaf
Prickly spinach has a strong foot to walk
Look at an ear of a leper
They are both the same
Ifa divination was performed for Orunmila

The day he is going to take Oro modi modi as a wife Oro modi modi
is otherwise known as Odu, or Olofin. This is a sacred name for
every Ifa Priest. She was regarded as mother of all Ifa Priest’s
wives. Odu or Oro modi modi became Orisa after she got married
to Orunmila.
One day during the week day of Ifa Ose, Orunmila and some of his
devotees were at the temple, and in the process of the Kolanutceremony.
It came out that Orunmila would receive a guest and that this guest was
an important spiritual woman. It was revealed that Orunmila must be
careful in entertaining her; also he must obey her instructions.
As soon as they finished the week day celebration,the visitor entered
the house of Ifa. Orunmila welcomed her, giving her a warm reception.
The woman was impressed by the way Orunmila received her and promised
to help Orunmila in all his big tasks. She also wanted to marry him and
gave Orunmila several conditions that if Orunmila married her she must
have her own private room. Nobody must take light to see her face.
Nobody must eat with her. She must not see Orunmila’s other wives’ faces.
Also, they must not see her face.
This woman was not beautiful. She had spots all over her face and body.
Orunmila did not like the idea of marrying her at first,but when he
remembered what Ifa had said he agreed to marry this woman, because she
would be helpful to him in the future.
This was what made Orunmila call all his wives and give them warning
that they should not open the door where Oro modi modi was living,that
nobody should bring light in there. When they prepared her food, they were
to put the food on the floor in front of her room. She would take the food
inside herself.
One day, one of the Orunmila wives decided to open the door to see the
woman because she wondered how come she was forbidden from putting her
eyes on the one whom she gave food every day. It was at night when
Orunmila was not at home she brought a lamp(Fitila) to look into eyes
of Oro modi modi. The guest was more than angry when she saw the light.
She was furious, and she put a spell on the wife of Orunmila so that she
died instantly. Orunmila was restless and realized through signs that
something was happening at home; he found his wife’s corpse on the ground,
and Oro modi modi disappeared. Orunmila chanted Iyere poetry to call her,
he said:

Kalanchoe has strong leaf
Chorus Hin-in (yes)
Prickly spinach has a strong foot to walk
Look at the ear of the leper
And look at Kalanchoe’s leaf
They are both equal.
Ifa divination was performed for Orunmila
The day he is going to take Oro modi modi as wife
Oro modi modi
I did not vow with you to kill my wife
And Oro modi modi replies, she says:
Kalanchoe has strong leaf
Prickly spinach has strong a foot to walk
Look at the ear of lepers
And look at Kalanchoe’s leaf
They are equal
Ifa divination was performed for you
The day you would like to marry me
Oro modi modi as your wife
I did not vow with you to put light on my face
Orunmila Oooo
Eeee Orunmila I did not vow with you to put light on my face

Now it was clear to Orunmila that one of his wives had broken
the taboo and that was the reason she died.
Odu, Oro modi modi,refused to come back to live with Orunmila.
She preferred to remain in spirit and guide and protect Orunmila
showing light to the darkness of Orunmila’s life. She promised
to bless him and she gave warning that whenever and Ifa Priest
is receiving Odu or Olofin, there must not be any woman around,
and that food for him must not be prepared by women and that all
Ifa Priests who receive Olofin or Odu are supreme and powerful
Ifa Priest. Until today that is why a woman must not see Odu,or

Reference: Ofunmeji

1 Comment

Who is OGUN?

Who is OGUN?.

Who is OGUN?


 “I shall come after Ogun must have left
Come, I shall, after Ogun must have cleared
the road for my propitious legs
to tread upon: god of steel and iron.
Planted feet in rituals of natural childbirth
and theocracy.
I shall come having seen the rays
caressing my windowless abode.
Do not douse my longing by temporizing,
for as you know procrastination is the
thief of time,
As for Ogun, he’ll do all within his
indispensable being to prepare the road
for his earthbound homer.
Ogun is not supposed to fail, for if he
fails; the whole world will stumble:
the scion of Ile-Ife must have failed.
Ogun, clear the road
for me
in my journeys, day and night.
On my way to fetch water,
clear the road
for me.
On my way to fetch firewood,
clear the road
for me.
On my way to fish
clear the road
for me.
On my way to farm,
clear the road
for me.
On my way to gather fruits/snails,
clear the road
for me.
On the way to hunt the wild,
clear the road
for me.
On the way to the groves or shrines,
clear the road
for me.
On the way to the thresholds of my
kith and kin,
clear the road
for me.
On the way to the virgin dream
clear the road
for me.
Ogun, fend for me
whenever my mouth longs for a munch
and the stomach cries for a fill.
Blenching like a beanstalk
befor a fire
Fortified with bravado like a lion
clear the road
for me.
Eyes; radiant, beaming,
Flushed with joy coursing
to the apogee, blissful!
Sorrowful; eyes suffused with tears
clear the road
for me.
On my way to the market,
Buy or sell or both,
clear the road
for me.
Ogun, clear the road for me
during the hot harmattan Dry Season
perspiring like a lidded pepper-soup
pot on fire
During the rainy season
drenched to the skin like a chick
in a downpour
clear the road
for me.
Machete, sheathed for peace
unsheathed for danger.
Ogun, clear the road for me whenever
the road is blind or spiky;
whenever the road is treacherous
and famished for blood.
Ogun, give me your dexterity
in all instruments pertaining to
steel and iron.”
-Yemi Ogunyemi, from his poem “Covenant of the Earth”

1 Comment

“When ESU saved our UNIVERSE from Demise” by Apetebi Oyaseye Fakayode

When ESU saved our UNIVERSE from Demise by Apetebi Oyaseye Fakayode

There was a time when Olodumare, creator of the universe, was feeling ill and depressed because of situations that were spreading among the universe. After doing so much and giving so much Ase to the world, She became weak and frail. A message was sent out and all the Orisha, summoning them to bring whatever tools they needed and do what they can to help cure Olodumare and Her dilemma. The Orisha all gathered together in a great hall where Olodumare sat slumped in Her thrown, as they brainstormed methods that could help cure Her.
Obatala was the first to attempt. He took out his whitests cloth and used it to wipe around the face of Olodumare…..there was no effect. Next to try was Orunmila, the Orisha of wisdom and divination. He prepared a special medicine for Oloduamare to drink, but still there was no effect. Next Osanyin, the Orisha who cared for the plants of the earth, took out an herbal rub and covered Olodumare, that lead to no effect either. Every orisha tried one by one, and still nothing seemed to help.
Esu, who was just a child, was watching from the balcony above when he felt his confidence rise. He quickly rushed down and approached the Elder Orisha. Esu being still very young, had a difficult time being heard beacuse Orisha gave him little attention. He first pulled on Yemonja’s flowing skirt to get her attention. “Iya, Iya! May I try?” She told him to be quiet and behave, this was not a job for a child.
Esu then made his way through the crowd where he ran into the strong legs of Oya. She gave him one look and Esu went running till he was hiding between the legs of Obatala. Obatala looked down and Esu gazed at him with eyes full of determination. “Please Baba, let me try to help Olodumare.” Obatala told him, “You are just a child, the other Orisha are doing their best. Just be good and watch.” Esu quickly responded, “ I am Orisha too, I deserve a chance.” Obatala smiled at Esu and raised his staff above the crowd, ordering silence.
“Everyone move aside, Esu is going to take his turn.” The crowd of Orisha’s began to whisper among themselves as Esu approached the throne.
As Esu looked over Olodumare from head to toe, he pulled out his knapsack and climbed up onto the lap of Olodumare. Olodumare, weak and tired did not move at all as Esu settled into Her lap. The crowd began to whisper louder in their complaints and look over at Obatala for allowing such a mockery.
Esu opened his sack and pulled out three different herbs. He had often followed other Orisha into the forest and observed the different plants they picked and used for different uses. He took a leaf from each branch and placed them in the mouth of Olodumare. He then used his little childish hands to manually open and close Olodumare’s jaw, to chew and break down the herbs. The crowd dropped silent and looked at Obatala, seeing how long he would allow such a thing to happen. After Olodumare swallowed the herbs, Esu took out the feather from his hat and swept it all over Olodumare’s body. And when he was finally finished, he jumped off the throne and walked back to Obatala, whose face was covered in grief. Everyone watched Olodumare’s unchanged posture and immediately began to yell about Esu’s tactics, saying it was unforgivable and that he should be reprimanded for them.
All of a sudden Olodumare began to rise. She stood so tall no one could see Her face, and She began to glow with such powerful light that everyone fell to the ground covering their face.
Olodumare called to Esu to come forward. She thanked him for what he had done. She asked him how he had healed Her. Esu responded that he would follow the Orisha and study what they do. He now knew all the different parts of the forest and it’s secrets. Olodumare smiled and told Esu that from this day forward he would be the gatekeeper of all doors and pathways. She gave Esu a special key that would unlock every door in the universe. She blessed his feather and told him that now he would be able to walk forward and backwards through time, light and dark. She then announced that Esu would be Her personal messenger and everyone should count on him in all they do. If Esu was not pleased, then their messages would not reach the heavens. After all of this, Olodumare placed her hand on Esu’s head and and he began to glow. Olodumare then sent him off to maintain order in the crossroads of humanity. The kid that Esu was, he faced the crowd and stuck out his tongue and jumped down from the throne, giggling and laughing as he rejoined the crowd.

Leave a comment

The Life of the Moon is More Pleasant than that of the Sun…

Sacred holy mysterious ODU IFA OYEKU OFUN teaches us that IFA leads us to peace and contentment in life. The ODU says that IFA will never hurt us, but IFA is gentle and healing, like the light of the moon.
On this IFA says:
Yam develops big tuber when the festival is close
A frog sounds happily hearing the sound of the rain
It is coco yam that spreads its roots and claims large space
Ifa revelation to Tookiola, a beloved child of Ajalorun
He consulted Ifa on how to have pleasant life
He was advised to make ebo
He complied
Ifa, do not you deserve praise?
Ifa, you really deserve praise
The life of the Moon is more pleasant than that of the Sun
It does not smart the body
It does not bite the body
Also, it is not painful to the body

May IFA continue to shine its healing light on us all. Ase O

Apena Fagbemijo Amosun Fakayode
Director of Oyeku Ofun Temple

Leave a comment

Ejiwapo: The Dialectics of Twoness in Yoruba Art and Culture by Babatunde Lawal

Ejiwapo: The Dialectics of Twoness in Yoruba Art and Culture

by Babatunde Lawal


The notion that reality has two aspects (i.e., spirit/matter, visible/invisible, male/female, good/evil, essence/ existence) is a universal and ancient phenomenon. However, its implications vary from one culture to another. In some, the two aspects are thought to be interdependent, as in the duality of twins or the primordial couple whose union gave birth to humankind. In others, the two may be viewed as complementary, as in Hinduism; mutually independent and sometimes antagonistic, as in the eschatological dualism of the Zoroastrian, Manichaean, and Christian Gnostic doctrines of good and evil, in which one is expected to overcome the other in the end; or eternally coexistent as in the Cartesian epistemological distinction between mind and body (see Eliade 1969, Bianchi 1978, Lovejoy 1996). This paper examines how the Yoruba of Nigeria and the Republic of Benin perceive and visualize this phenomenon.

The Yoruba regard the number two as sacred apparently because of the duality or “twoness” (ejiwapo) apparent in nature, such as day/night, sun/moon, life/death, hot/cold, wet/dry, right/left, and male/female. Apart from associating the number with balance, they expect it (especially in a ritual context) to influence the supernatural and bring about a desired result:

Eji koko Iwori, Oluwo Isulorun! …

Ki o ko reree temi wa a fn mi

Eji koko Iwori

Ki o gbe orun gba a wa sile Aye

Bale ba le, a foju foorun

Eji koko Iwori

Sure tete wa koo wa fire temi fun mi

Eji-koo-koo-koo, Iwori! (Adeniji 1982:96) (1)

Iwori-The-Formidable-Two, Master Diviner of Heaven! …

Bring me my blessings

Iwori-The-Formidable- Two

Bring them [my blessings] from heaven to earth

When the night falls, Sleep takes over our eyes


Move swiftly and bring me my blessings

Iwori-The-Formidable-Formidable-Formidable-Two! (my trans.)

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Yoruba are world famous for their adoration of twins (ibeji), regarding them as wielding spiritual powers with which they protect as well as attract good fortune to their parents. This adoration easily explains why much of the previous scholarship on the significance of twoness in Yoruba art focused primarily on the rituals and images of twins. In what follows, I broach the subject within the dialectics of Yoruba cosmology, which explains the universe as an interface of opposing yet interrelated elements. IGBA iwa: THE COSMIC GOURD WITH TWO HALVES The popular Yoruba saying “Tako, tabo, ejiwapo” (“The male and female in togetherness”; Lawal 1995:45) is loaded with meaning. In addition to hinting at the life-producing potential of the couple–the source of the family–it recalls the Yoruba conceptualization of the cosmos as a “big gourd with two halves” (Igba nla meiji sbju de’ra won). (2) The top half signifies maleness as well as the sky/heaven–the realm of invisible spirits (Fig. 1). The bottom half represents femaleness and the primeval waters out of which the physical world was later created. A mysterious power called ase is thought to hold the gourd in space, enabling the sun and moon to shine, wind to blow, fire to burn, rain to fall, rivers to flow, and both living and nonliving things to exist. This power emanates from a Supreme Deity known (among other names) as Alase (‘Owner of ase’), Olorun (‘Lord of the Sky’) and Olodumare (the ‘Eternal One and Source of All That Exists’). Assisting Olodumare in administering the universe is a host of lesser deities or nature forces called orisa. Said to number four hundred or more, each orisa personifies an ase associated with a natural or cultural phenomenon. For example, Obatala represents artistic creativity; Orunmila, intelligence; Oduduwa, divine kingship; Yemoja/Olokun, water and motherhood; Osun, fertility and beauty; and so on. The deity Esu-Elegba occupies a special position among the orisa because of his role as the divine messenger and the link between them and Olodumare, on the one hand, and between the orisa and humanity, on the other. He is regarded as the custodian of ase. Unlike the Supreme Divinity in other African cultures, Olodumare seldom creates directly but does so through the orisa. For example, on deciding to create land out of the primeval waters, Olodumare commissioned Oduduwa to do so. After that, Olodumare instructed the artist deity Obatala to mold anthropomorphic images from clay, animated each image with a life force (emi) and then asked the newly created humans to go and inhabit the land below the sky. In short, these events, among others, transformed the bottom half of the cosmic gourd, also called Igba Iwa (‘Gourd/Calabash of Existence’), into the material realm and domain of female Earth, Ile, one of whose other names is Iya Aye (‘Mother of the World’).


According to one creation story, the two halves of the cosmic gourd fitted closely in the beginning, with Olodumare (male Heaven, alias Ajalorun) ruling the top half and Ile (female Earth, alias Ajalaye), the bottom half. But one day, they quarreled over the only bush rat they caught while hunting together in the forest. Ile insisted on keeping the rat because it came from her domain and she was the “senior.” Olodumare gave up the catch, caused the top half of Igba Iwa to separate from the bottom, and prevented rain from falling from the sky, thus disrupting the reproductive cycle in the terrestrial world. This obliged Ile to give in and acknowledge the apical position of Olodumare as the head of the cosmos, and life subsequently returned to normal in the physical world (Idowu 1995:46-7, Abimbola 1975:261-91).

It may be asked: Since Olodumare allegedly created Ile (through Oduduwa), why should she claim to be the senior? The answer probably lies in another version of the Yoruba creation myth (collected by Samuel Ajayi Crowther, 1852:207) to the effect that the Yoruba once regarded Oduduwa as the Supreme Goddess, an embodiment of Heaven and Earth. According to J. Olumide Lucas, one of the pioneer scholars of Yoruba religion and himself a Yoruba elder:

In the early myths she [Oduduwa] is credited with the priority of

existence … She is regarded as having independent existence, and

as co-eval with Olorun [aka Olodumare], the Supreme Deity with

whom she is associated in the work of creation … Oduduwa is known

as Iya Agbe–‘Mother of the Gourd’ or ‘Mother of the closed

calabash; She is [sometimes] represented in a sitting posture,

nursing a child. Hence prayers are often addressed to her by

would-be mothers (Lucas 1948:45).

D. Olarimiwa Epega, another Yoruba elder, makes a similar point: “Odudua is the Self-Existent Being who created existence. He is both male and female … The word Olodumare is a praise title of Odudua” (1971:13-14). (3) [FIGURE 3 OMITTED] [FIGURE 4 OMITTED]

Other scholars have drawn attention to the appearance of the word odu (chief) in the names of Ol-odu-mare and Oduduwa, suggesting that both apparently refer to one and the same deity (Idowu 1994:22-7, 31-2; Bamgbose 1972/73:28-9). (4) Indeed, Olodumare is also known as Eleduwa, which recalls the duwa in Odu-duwa. Thus the narrative attributing the creation of the terrestrial world to Oduduwa may very well reflect a divine act of self-extension, identifying Olodumare as a sexually biune Supreme Deity. In other words, is Ile an alter ego of Olodumare?

The reference to the bottom half of the cosmic calabash/gourd as the “mother” (Iya Agbe) is in consonance with the Yoruba identification of a container’s lid as ideri (‘cover’) or omori (lit. omo, ‘child’ + ori, ‘on top’). This is because a container, usually the bigger, supports its smaller cover in the same way a mother carries her child. Two questions then arise: Does Olodumare have a mother? Can the two halves of Igba Iwa also double as a Mother-and-(male) Child? This is not unlikely, given the fact that (as Olumide Lucas noted) Oduduwa is sometimes portrayed as a mother breast-feeding a child (Idowu 1962:Fig. 3b). It is interesting to note that a popular Yoruba folk etymology derives Olodumare’s name from Olodu-omo-ere, that is, ‘Olodu, the child of a female python’ (Idowu 1994:32-3, Bamgbose 1971/72:28-9). The following divination verse identifies him as such:

Ahere oko sisun nii mu opolo to lu ni oru

A dafun ere

Ti o nfi ekun se irahun omo

Nwon ni ki o rubo ki o le bi omo: ewure kan, aso kijipa ara re,


O gbo, o ru

Ere si loyun, o si bi omo

Awon enia si beresii wipe ‘lodu ni omo ti ere bi yi”

Nigba ti omo naa si dagba, o si joba ni oju iya re

Oun ni gbogbo enia si npe ni Olodumare titi di oni.

When we sleep in the farm hut, frogs jump on us in the night.

Was the one who cast Ifa [performed divination] for Python

When she was weeping and moaning for a child

They say she should sacrifice one she-goat, the homespun cloth

she was

wearing and eleven shillings so that she might be able to

have a child

She heard and made the sacrifice

And Python became pregnant, and she gave birth to a child

And people began to say: ‘One who has Odu” was this child that

Python bore

And when the child grew up, she lived to see him become a king

He is the one whom all people are calling ‘One who has Odu, child of

Python’ (Olodumare) until this very day (Bascom 1969:322-3, also

cited in Bamgbose 1971/72:27).

The Yoruba deity that immediately comes to mind is Osumare, who appears as the rainbow and whose symbol is the python (ere). Frequently represented as a pair of serpents or a single serpent with two heads (Fig. 2), Osumare is associated with wealth and prosperity. Curiously, the word mare (‘the immense, infinite, or eternal’) appears in both Osu-mare and Olodu-mare (Idowu 1994:30, Bamgbose 1971/72:27, 32; see also Babalola 1972/73:104-105). One folk explanation of the rainbow is that it encodes a message from Olodumare to his mother (the python?) in the underworld (Idowu 1994:30). That a snake deity might have played a much more prominent role in Yoruba religion in ancient rimes than it does today is apparent in the frequent representation of python motifs in Yoruba art. For example, a fourteenth-century terracotta vessel from Ile-Ife (Fig. 3) features a big snake looming above what seems to be an abstraction of an altar displaying three human heads, one naturalistic and the other two highly stylized. There is another snake at the back of the vessel (Garlake 1974:Fig. 6, pl. XLVI; see also Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989). Note the emphasis on the creature also in the carved ritual bowl in Fig. 4. With its head on top of the female figure and its tail resting on the head of the male figure–as if uniting both sexes–this python seems to be watching over the cosmos, paying special attention to humanity. As noted earlier, the divine messenger Esu-Elegba is the keeper of ase, mediating its positive and negative powers. Hence, as will be seen below, he is perceived as an orisa with good and bad tendencies. The carved female in Fig. 5 conveys his generous disposition by touching her left breast. However, note the snake on her head that proclaims his other side! Besides, the snake reminds us of Esumare (another name for the rainbow deity Osumare) and Edumare (another name for the Supreme Being Olodumare; ibid., p. 31). As we shall see, the latter is the wellspring of existence in all its positive and negative aspects. In any event, the view held by some Yoruba informants that (a) Olodumare has a mother, (b) s/he embodies the male and the female principles of the cosmos, and (c) s/he may have something to do with a celestial python, has parallels among the Fon of the Republic of Benin, whose cosmology, many scholars believe, has been heavily influenced by that of their Yoruba neighbors (Maupoil 1943, Verger 1957). For example, the Fon conceptualize their Supreme Deity, Mawu-Lisa, as both male and female in essence. Its most sacred symbol is a closed calabash, like that of the Yoruba. The top half of the calabash symbolizes Lisa, the male Heaven, associated with day, heat, fire, fatherhood, and virility. The bottom half signifies Mawu, the female Earth, associated with night, coolness, water, fertility, motherhood, generosity, and nurture. Notwithstanding, the Fon often call the two aspects Mawu (Argyle 1966:179). As Melville and Frances Herskovits put it,

Any discussion of the Great Gods with [the Fon] will make apparent

at once the importance of the Sky-God. When the ultimate control of

the Universe is referred to, Mawu is the god usually named. Yet when

one speaks to persons immediately connected with the Sky-God cult

…. the name given to this deity will be the

hyphenated one of the two

principal members of the Sky pantheon, Mawu-Lisa … It is generally

held that Mawu whose domain is in the moon, is female, and that

Lisa, who rules the sun is male. Bur mythological accounts vary. One

version we collected tells that Mawu is androgynous and that Lisa

is the son of Mawu … Another relates that Mawu and Lisa are two

beings in one, one-half a female whose eyes are the moon, the

other a

male whose eyes are the sun. This version, it is claimed, explains

the meaning of the word Mawu (body-divided; 1933:11).

Furthermore, certain Fon oral traditions identify Mawu-Lisa as the offspring of a Mother Goddess called Nana Buluku (Nana Buruku or Nana Bukuu in Yoruba) who derives much of her powers from a primordial python Dan or Dambala, who is associated with the rainbow, wealth, and dynamism. Usually signified by a coiled snake with its tail in its mouth to connote eternity, Dambala itself is believed to have two aspects: Dambala-Wedo (male) and AidoWedo (female). These parallels seem to increase the possibility that, before the impact of Islam and Christianity on Yoruba religion, Olodumare might have once had attributes similar in some respects to those of the Fon’s Mawu, Mawu-Lisa, or Nana Buluku. (5) Another equally popular Yoruba creation narrative identifies the top (male) half of the cosmic calabash/gourd (Igba Iwa) with Obatala, the creativity deity, and the bottom half with Oduduwa in her role as female Earth (Lucas 1948:95). Apart from casting the two orisa in roles comparable to those of Olodumare and the Fon’s Mawu-Lisa, this tradition makes Obatala the Supreme Deity, as implied in nicknames such as Orisa Nla (‘Great Deity’) and Alabalase (‘The Wielder of Great ase’). Indeed, as Idowu points out, “he is called by some of Olodumare’s significant appellations. For instance, he is called Atererekaye–‘He who stretches over the whole extent of the earth'” (1994:70). Some stories even identify Obatala as the husband of the primordial python, mentioned earlier, that allegedly gave birth to Olodumare (Bascom 1980:212-15). And a number of scholars of Fon culture suspect that Mawu might derive from the Yoruba goddess Yeye Mowo, one of the wives of Obatala (Verger 1957:449, 552, Morton-Wil liams 1964:250 n.2, Bay 1998:95) whom some scholars identify as Oduduwa (Lucas 1948:96). [FIGURE 5 OMITTED]


It may then be asked: How did Olodumare displace Obatala in many of the creation narratives, assuming that he was, as some suspect, the equivalent of Lisa (Argyle 1966:175-6, Bay 1998:95), the top half of the (Fon’s) cosmic calabash? Did the names Olodumare, Oduduwa, and Obatala once refer to different attributes of the same Supreme Deity before they became dissociated and then identified with different beings? Admittedly, the answers to these questions must await the collection and close analysis of more oral traditions. Nonetheless, what is abundantly clear so far is that certain events in the Yoruba past would seem to have resulted in the modification of some aspects of their cosmology in order to accommodate new political developments. As mentioned earlier, Oduduwa reportedly created the earth out of the primeval waters. But one version of the creation narrative claims that Olodumare first asked Obatala to do it, giving him a hen and a bag of sacred sand. Unfortunately, Obatala got drunk after receiving the sacred instruments of his commission and fell asleep by the roadside. It was an opportune moment for Oduduwa: He picked up the sacred instruments, descended from the sky and created the first land at Ile-Ife, the cultural capital of the Yoruba. When Obatala woke up and discovered what had happened, he challenged Oduduwa and a fierce fight ensued. Olodumare later settled the rift and gave Obatala another task-to mold the image of the first human. Strangely enough, some legends identify the same Oduduwa as a powerful warrior and the leader of an immigrant group that invaded Ile-Ife in the first millennium of the Christian era. After conquering the aboriginal population headed by Obatala, Oduduwa established himself as a divine king in Ile-Ife, from where his descendants spread to other parts of Yorubaland, founding new kingdoms, sometimes peacefully and sometimes by force of arms. The resolution of the Oduduwa-Obatala conflict in Ile-Ife led to the formation of a government based on the rotation of the kingship between the two warring parties. Initially, the descendants of Obatala took charge of spiritual affairs, while those of Oduduwa controlled the political realm (Johnson 1913-14, Beier n.d.:25-32, Stevens 1966:184-99, Adedeji 1972:321-29, Law 1973:207-22, Eluyemi 1985:20, Smith 1988:3-12, 14-27, Adediran 1992:77-95, Adediran and Arifalo 1992:305-17).




As Oduduwa, the male warrior, gained the upper hand in the dynastic conflict, why is he associated with the bottom/female half of the calabash and not the top? Or does the bottom half represent the temporal powers of Oduduwa, the first divine king of Ile-Ife? (6) I have been unable yet to elicit a categorical answer to these questions from field informants. Suffice it to say that the alleged conflict between the two orisa may very well explain why Oduduwa now has a double identity, being worshipped as a male deity in much of eastern Yorubaland, but as another aspect of Ile, female Earth, in the western part. Oddly enough, those who regard Oduduwa as a male orisa still occasionally address him as Iya Imole (‘Mother of the Divinities’; Idowu 1994:22-5). This confusion has given rise to two speculations: one, that Oduduwa’s male (warrior) aspect might be a later development imposed by a new dynasty to legitimize its hegemony (ibid., p. 26); and the other, that there might have been more than one Oduduwa in the past (Euba 1985:11). Both speculations might suggest that the original Oduduwa–alias the ‘Mother of the Gourd’–is not necessarily the same as the warrior now venerated as a male orisa and the progenitor of the Yoruba. (7) In sum, the metaphor of a cosmic gourd with male and female halves would seem to suggest that the Yoruba notion of a bipartite Supreme Being is much older than the current one that identifies Olodumare as a self-created Sky Father also called Olorun (‘Lord of Heaven’).


The metaphor of a bipartite omnipotent and omnipresent cosmic power surfaces again in the edan Ogboni, a pair of male and female brass figures usually joined at the top by an iron chain (Fig. 6). It is an insignia of membership of the Ogboni society, which wielded considerable religious, political, and judicial powers among the Yoruba in the past and, to some extent, still does today. (8) Also known as Osugbo, the society derives much of its authority from its role as the vital link between a given community and Ile, who sustains it (Biobaku 1952, Morton-Williams 1960, Williams 1964, Lawal 1995). The term edan has two principal meanings, referring at one level to the brass emblem of membership of the Ogboni society and at another level to the goddess Edan, the daughter and alter ego of Ile and the link between the latter and the Ogboni society (Lawal 1995:41-3). As a result, both names, Ile and Edan, may be used interchangeably to allude to the same female Earth. Yet the altars dedicated to her inside most Ogboni lodges usually feature two large male and female figures (Fig. 7) called Onile (‘Owner of the House’) or Onile (‘Owner of the Earth’).

In view of the Yoruba conception of the cosmos as a gourd with male/female halves, some scholars have suggested that the Onile pair may represent the union of the male Heaven and female Earth or the couple as the founders of human society (Williams 1964:142, Witte 1988, Drewal 1989:161). These interpretations cannot be ruled out altogether, given the recent attempts by some Yoruba to modernize the Ogboni. In 1914 the society split into two factions, the Aboriginal Ogboni Fraternity (AOF) and the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity (ROF). While the AOF continues with many of the old rituals and symbolism, the ROF has been modifying them to attract new members, especially Christians and Muslims. This has complicated the interpretation of Ogboni art because certain ROF members now identify the Onile pair as the Yoruba equivalent of the biblical Adam and Eve (Lawal 1995:37-49). Yet that the pair does not represent two different characters is evident in the fact that both the AOF and ROF factions refer to the two figures as Iya (‘mother’), treating them as one unit (Daramola and Jeje 1975:1323, Ojo 1973:51). Besides, all members of the society metaphorically regard themselves as Omo Iya (‘Children of Mother Earth’), not as children of two parents, a father and a mother (Lawal 1995:43-9). Some Onile figures are joined back to back to emphasize the oneness of the pair. Certain altars have only a fe/male figure with two heads, one representing the male and the other the female; one example of this type is in the museum collection of the Obafemi Awolowo University Museum, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. A fe/male altar figure in the collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal, Holland, wears a hunter’s hat to symbolize the maleness within her femaleness (Witte 2004:Fig. 73). Other fe/male figures are hermaphroditic, sporting beards, hornlike coiffures (Fig. 8), or other unusual features, in allusion to the transcendence that enables Ile to sustain different manifestations of life in the physical world (Lawal 1995). These features reverberate in the edan Ogboni as well (Fig. 91).

Though this emphasis on androgyny in Ogboni iconography may reflect parity or male-female interdependence and the pre-eminence of motherhood in the physical world, it also explains why Ile (fe/male Earth) is sometimes addressed as Obinrin b’Okunrin (‘a manlike woman’; Adeoye 1989:336). Of special importance here is how androgyny has been used by the Ogboni to communicate the ambivalent character of female Earth. Her kindness to humanity through agriculture is acknowledged in the praise Ile Ogere, a f’oko yeri (“Earth, the mother goddess who adorns/combs her hair with a hoe”). At the same time, she is known to be cantankerous, taking life at will through different environmental hazards: Alapo ika. Ari ikun gbe eniyan mi (“Owner of a bagful of evil, with a stomach big enough to engulf human beings”; ibid., p. 359-60). She deals ruthlessly with liars and traitors but rewards the righteous. And since the Yoruba often associate femaleness with sofiness and coolness and maleness with hardness or harshness, the female figures of the Onile/ edan pair evidently refers to the motherly disposition of the goddess, and the male figures to her punitive or potentially dangerous tendencies. That is why the chained edan Ogboni brass figures may be detached for sending coded messages. A male figure connotes bad news and may be used to summon those who have committed serious offences to appear before a special court. The female figure, on the other hand, hints at good news, such as being cleared by the court of a crime or selected to receive a chieftaincy title. However, the significance of each figure varies from one context to another. Some edan Ogboni are specially made for healing purposes. When worn like a pendant, the male figure is expected to energize the body, facilitating speedy recovery from illness. The female figure, on the other hand, may be prescribed for relieving muscular pain and high blood pressure. Above all, the juxtaposition of the male and female figures sends clear signals about the interconnectedness of the opposite sex in the perpetuation of life and preservation of the social order. Needless to say, when worn in public, the edan Ogboni denotes the male/female membership of the society (Lawal 1995:37-49).





In the Zoroastrian, Manichaean, and Christian Gnostic traditions, there is an attempt to trace the origin of Good and Evil to two separate and antagonistic cosmic principles. This is not the case with the Yoruba. That they regard both phenomena as two sides of the same coin is evident in popular sayings such as “Tibi t’ire la da’le aye” (“The physical world evolved out of Good and Evil”; Lawal 1996:22, Akiwowo 1983:23) and “Buburu ati fere ni o nrin po (“Bad and good things work together”; Lawal 1974:239-49, Allen 2003:57). In other words, the same Olodumare created both Sopona, the dreaded smallpox Orisa, and his opposite Osanyin, the orisa that cures diseases. He also created creatures that prey on each other, making life a struggle for survival (Abimbola 1997:3).

A dose examination of Yoruba cosmology reveals two opposing forces (Fig. 10). On the right side are the benevolent forces, consisting mainly of the orisa and deified ancestors who watch over the interest of humankind by virtue of their human essence. On the left are the malevolent forces, known as ajogun (‘warriors’). They include Iku (death), Arun (disease), Ofo (loss), Egba (paralysis), Oran (trouble), Epe (curse), and all the environmental hazards militating against human existence and well-being. As Wande Abimbola has observed, “there is no peaceful coexistence between the two powers. They are always in conflict” (1997:3, see also Abimbola 1976:151-94). Notwithstanding, they partake of one another’s characteristics, given the Yoruba belief that nothing is good without something bad in it, and vice versa. Hence the following aphorisms: “Aigba ire, ka ma gba ibi” (“Anything Good has some Evil in it”) and “Ninu ikoko dudu ni eko funfun ti njade” (“The white porridge comes from a black pot/A good thing may come from a bad one”; Lawal 1974:243). Similarly, the right and left sides of the cosmos are not mutually exclusive in terms of the benevolent and malevolent. For instance, the left side (despite its association with the malevolent ajogun) has positive aspects as well, being associated with femaleness and comfort. Note the following prayer for a good festival:

Kodun nyi yabo …

Abo lala bo mo

Abo nii tura …

Ki odun wa ma ya’ko.

Ako lo ni lile.

May this festival turn out to be female in nature,

It is in femaleness that peace is buried

It is the female that comforts …

May our festival not turn out to be male,

For it is in the male that toughness lies (Apter 1992:111).

This prayer clearly shows that maleness can potentially be negative, notwithstanding its association with the benevolent Right side of the cosmos, to which many of the orisa belong. So, there are elements of the right side on the left, and vice versa (Lawal 1995:43-4). In fact, the panegyrics of some of the orisa portray them as unpredictable. The creativity deity Obatala is a good example. Although well known for his gentility, his nickname A da ni bo ti ri (‘He who creates us as he wishes’; Idowu 1994:72) speaks volumes about his fickleness. Aside from commending him as a great artist who enjoys a lot of creative freedom, it reminds us of the drinking bouts that led him to create people with deformities. In short, the Yoruba cosmos is a binary fusion of opposites. There is no absolute good or absolute bad. To enable humanity to cope with the dialectics of the existential process, Olodumare reportedly gave special powers to two orisa, Esu-Elegba and Orunmila. In his role as the divine messenger, Esu-Elegba acts as an agent between the powers of the Right (orisa) and those of the Left (ajogun). He frequently succeeds in keeping them under control, even if he has been unable to stop their perennial conflict. Yet that role has turned him into a double agent, earning him the appellation Asotun-sosi lai n’itiju (‘The one who befriends the Right and the Left without feeling ashamed’; Daramola and Jeje 1975:299). Several panegyrics portray him as a deity who delights in mischief by making enemies of close friends and even causing misunderstanding among fellow orisa, if only to create an opportunity for himself to serve as a mediator (Wescott 1962:337-54, dos Santos and dos Santos 1971, Pemberton 1975). In one story, Esu-Elegba decided to test Orunmila’s generosity. In disguise, he accompanied the ajogun to Orunmilas house. But seeing through Esu-Elegba’s intrigue because of his intuitive power, Orunmila lavishly entertained his guests and won their praises and blessings (Abimbola 1976: 187-9). On another occasion, the very same Esu-Elegba sided with Orunmila to ward off Death (ibid., 189-91). (9) He plays a similar role in his dealings with mortals in order to teach them how to negotiate the complexities of earthly existence. It is enough to say that many symbols of Esu-Elegba embody these betwixtand-between roles. [FIGURE 13 OMITTED]


The staff in Fig. 11 has two faces, looking in opposite directions, to underscore the deity’s association with the threshold from where he monitors development from the inside and outside, the front and the back, and so on. Other staffs may represent him with a flute to stress his role as a monitor, instigator, coordinator, and mediator. Some emblems of the deity feature paired male/female figures (Fig. 12), like the edan Ogboni, in reference to his ambivalent and transcendental powers. Certain dance vestments for the deity (Fig. 13) consist of four alternately male and female figures (2 x 2 = 4), emblematizing his association with the crossroads–a junction of forces from the north, south, east, and west. A number of vestments have three, five, or seven figures, so that the one in the middle divides them into two groups, underlining the intercessional role of this orisa. His function as a lodestone is implied in the lump of laterite (yangi) that usually represents him in front of a house or at the crossroads. According to some Yoruba elders, the word ‘Esu” derives from the root verb su, (‘to cluster, form into a ball, or gather into a mass’). The same root verb is implicated in Osumare and Esumare, recalling the ball-like coil of a python. This verb is also present in asuwada, the Yoruba creation narrative, which declares that, even though all things were created individually, their survival depends on how well they are able to cluster and coexist with one another (see Akiwowo 1986:113-23).

In spite of his close association with Esu-Elegba, the double agent, the divination deity Orunmila has a significantly different character. The exact meaning of the deity’s name is obscure. However, many Yoruba informants believe that it is a contraction of either Orun l’o-mo-atila (‘Only-Heavenknows-the-means-of-salvation’; Idowu 1994:74) or Orun-li-omo-ilaja (‘The-one-sent-from-heaven-to-settle-conflicts’; Lijadu 1908:2). Nonetheless, the deity is widely revered as Ogege A-gbaiye-gun (‘The-stabilizer-of-the-World’; ibid., p. 67), Oloore Ajiki (‘The predictably generous one, worthy of worship every morning’), Apijo’ku da (‘The averter of death’), Eleri Ipin (“The witness of creation and human destiny’), and Amoimotan (‘The One not known in full’; Epega 1971:14-15, Simpson 1980:13-14, Adeoye 1985:181-2).

In one word, Orunmila uses his divine intelligence to help humanity and fellow orisa to diagnose and find solutions to problems, offering advice and providing remedies to avert trouble and dissolve tension. He is consulted through the divination system called If a whose most popular symbol is the opon Ifa (divination tray; Fig. 14). By throwing sixteen sacred palm nuts four times from one hand to the other and recording each throw with one or two finger prints on the dust in the tray, a diviner creates a set of signs or figures (ode) associated with one of the 256 verses in the literary corpus called Odu-Ifa. The diviner then recites the relevant verse in which a problem similar to that of the client would be mentioned. In the end, the diviner advises the client to follow the solution recommended in the verse.

It is significant that each of the sixteen principal ode, from which the others derive, is said to be both male and female and therefore paired (Fig. 15), being identified as such: Ofun Meji (the Ofun pair), Ose Meji (the Ose pair), and so on. According to Daniel Epega and William Bascom, the marks on the right half signify the male and those on the left, the female (Epega 1971:16, Bascom 1969:40). The tight bond between the two halves is often invoked to bless marriages or settle disputes between lovers:

Aji koni ro

Ajipani po

Ese kan Ogbe ko ki i se orogun.

One who brings us together on awakening

One who unites us on awakening

One half of Ogbe (odu-Ifa) does not quarrel

[with the other] (Simpson


[FIGURE 14 OMITTED] Yet, as Wande Abimbola points out,

Each of the 256 Odu has its own character. Broadly speaking, one Odu

may denote evil while another one denotes good. The same Odu may

also stand for both good and evil … If a good Odu appears … it

means that the client can expect a good omen on the subject of

inquiry … and if an evil Odu appears, it means that the client

should expect evil (1976:30).

And whatever the outcome of a given consultation, Orunmila is expected to advise the client on what to do in order to pave the way for the predicted blessing or ward off the evil lurking in the dark. The divining tray on which the diviner fingerprints the odu has three basic forms: circular, semicircular, and square/rectangular. The most common, the circular tray, evokes Igba Iwa, the cosmic gourd. Human, animal, and mythological motifs carved in high relief frequently adorn the tray’s border, leaving a recessed open space in the middle (Fig. 14) called aarin opon, the space for finger-printing the odu signs. That this recessed space is the intersection of heaven and earth and a stage for metaphysical theater is evident in the popular saying “Aarin opon niita Orun” (“The middle of the tray connects with heaven”; Abimbola 2000:177). A typical tray has a human face called oju opon (‘face of the tray’) carved on the border, said to represent Esu-Elegba, the divine messenger who acts as a kind of “secret agent” for Orunmila. The face is oriented to look at the priest during the divination exercise. Some trays may have two or more faces; in that case, the one on top, looking directly at the diviner, becomes Esu-Elegba’s. Since he represents the unpredictable factor in life, in addition to his role as the divine messenger, Esu-Elegba must receive a portion of all the sacrifices offered by a client toward the solution of a particular problem. Thus, through If a divination, there is an attempt to enlist the services of this unpredictable orisa to make life more predictable. Paired animal and human figures as well as patterns adorn many trays, hinting at the continuous interaction of opposing forces in the cosmos.


This oppositional complementarity in the Yoruba cosmos finds one of its most eloquent expressions in the ose Sango, the double-ax ritual staff of the thunder deity Sango (Fig. 16). The staff stands for the polished stone ax or the thunderbolt (edun ara) that this orisa allegedly hurls down from the sky during thunderstorms. A collection of these stones represents Sango on an altar, alluding to the deity’s virility and firepower. A typical ose Sango usually takes the form of a human figure–frequently female–surmounted by a pair of carved stone axes, signifying the interaction of heaven/earth, male/female, creation/destruction, etc., in the Yoruba cosmos. It is also a visual metaphor for spirit possession, through which Sango manifests in the body of a devotee (Fig. 17). As Evan Zuesse rightly observes in his study of African religions, “the spatial universe of the body is absolutely crucial for ritual. Religious meaning is mediated through the spaces that ritual establishes for the body” (1979:142). While both male and female priests use their bodies to reveal Sango, the female body is considered the most ideal. Hence the initiation of a male devotee involves a ritual that virtually feminizes his body, which explains why most male priests wear female hairdos. In effect, the female body relates Sango–an epitome of virility–to the feminine principle in the cosmos personified as Yemoja/Olokun, Ile, Oya, and Osun, among others. That is why Sango is known as A f’edun ko’le b’ebe isu (‘The one who uses the thunderbolt to till the earth into heaps like those used for planting yams’), Akata yeriyeri oko Oya (‘Flashes of lightning, the husband of the tornado deity called Oya’), and Baba wa ojo omo olomi ti ije Yemoja (‘Bringer of rain, the son of Yemoja, the mother of the waters who gave birth to Osun’). Sango’s most sacred color is red, symbolizing blood and fire–a color often combined with blue and white, both sacred to the water goddess Yemoja/Olokun. (10)




In essence, the thunderstorm dramatizes the interrelatedness of Heaven and Earth as well as male and female. The resulting synergy is expected to regenerate the cosmos, making life more abundant in the physical world. This imagery is apparent in the Agbena, a priest carrying a pot of fire during the annual festival in honor of the deity (Fig. 18). He is male, but often wears a female hairdo to signify his twoness. The fire connotes the maleness of the lightning from the sky and the pot the femaleness of the “Mother of the Gourd” containing the primordial waters out of which habitable land emerged at creation. The same phenomenon is evident in the arugba, the female caryatid figure (Fig. 19) holding a bowl of thunderbolts on some Sango altars. The two halves of the bowl recalls Igba Iwa, the cosmic calabash, while the kneeling female figure reinforces the sustaining power of the bottom half–the “Mother of the Gourd.”

The twoness of Sango as a conflation of humanity and divinity also resonates in the ose’s double-ax motif. Legend has it that Sango once ruled as the fourth king of the ancient Yoruba kingdom of Oyo some time in the fifteenth century. Because he had a special charm for invoking the thunderstorm, he was deified and identified with that phenomenon after his death. He is said to have fathered many twins; hence his nickname Baba Ibeji (‘Father of twins’; Thompson 1971a). Therefore, the double-ax motif may reflect his association with twins as well. At the same time, the motif epitomizes the paradoxical nature of the thunderstorm: The rainfall that fecundates the earth to benefit humanity is frequently accompanied by violent gales and destructive lightning strikes that may result in loss of life and property.


The fact that the Yoruba trace the origin of the human body to a piece of sculpture created by the artist deity Obatala and then animated with a life force clearly shows that an individual has two aspects as well. The body represents the material self, and the life-force, the spiritual self. Its bilateral symmetry is sometimes said to reflect the contributions of one’s parents to the self, the right being identified with the father and the left with the mother (Idowu 1994:183, Epega 1971:16). Different parts of the body manifest this twoness as well bone is identified as male and flesh female; semen male and breast milk female. Even the head is divided into an outer layer (ori ode) comprising the hair, forehead, eyes, nose, cheek, mouth, chin, and ears; that is, those features that physically identify a person. A naturalistic portrait (Fig. 20) focuses on these details of the visible self, which may also include the whole body. The inner head (ori inu), on the other hand, refers to an inner, spiritual core which, to the Yoruba, enshrines the ase on which depends one’s success or failure in life. The symbol of this inner core is called ibori (‘altar to the head’). Its abstract form hints at the mystical nature of the spiritual self, though a stylized sculpture with an emphasis on the head may also allude to the preeminence of the inner head. (Fig. 21; see Lawal 2000:93-109). The belief that the latter controls the outer head is evident in the popular prayer: “Ki ori inu mi ma ba t’ode je” (“May my spiritual head not spoil the physical one”; Drewal, Pemberton, and Abiodun 1989:26, Olajubu 2003:33).:: Also, the eye is thought to have two layers, the outer eye (oju ode), which has to do with normal quotidian vision and the inner eye or mind’s eye (oju inu), associated with insight, intuition, meditation, critical analysis, etc. (Lawal 2001:516-17).



The Yoruba idea of beauty has two components as well: physical beauty (ewa ode), referring to visual appeal, and inner beauty (ewa inu), character or moral worthiness (iwa). That they place a premium on the latter can be discerned from the popular saying: “Iwa l’ewa” (“Character determines beauty”). The reason for this is obvious: Physical beauty is a natural endowment. Since, as noted earlier, Obatala is “He who creates us as he wishes” (A da ni b’o ti ri), to make external beauty the sole criterion for the beautiful is tantamount to penalizing the physically unattractive for a biological fact they could not have personally prevented. The stress on character, on the other hand, affords everyone an equal chance of living up to a moral ideal in order to be fully admired. Self-discipline thus becomes the key to social mobility, enabling an individual to make up for a physical deficiency or maximize the potentials of a natural endowment (Lawal 2005).

In sum, since the inner head localizes the life force, it influences not only one’s character, but also one’s self-consciousness, mind, thought, conscience, wisdom, behavior, and physical power–all manifested in the body (Abimbola 1971:73-89; Morakinyo and Akiwowo 1981:19-38, Allen 2003:37-64). The latter then becomes a kind of mask, through which the life force exerts one’s presence in the visible world. This interaction between the material self and its spiritual Other differentiates the Yoruba notion of twoness from the Cartesian identification of body and mind as two irreconcilable absolutes (Morakinyo and Akiwowo 1981:28). As a popular Yoruba proverb puts it: “T’oju, t’iye l’aparo fi nri iran” (“The bush fowl surveys the land with both eyes and wings”). (12)


In addition to their notion of the two selves, the Yoruba also believe that every living person has a spirit-double in heaven called enikeji (Idowu 1994:182-3, Prince 1964:93, Abimbola 1987). Before being born, an individual enters into an accord with his or her spirit double, promising to achieve certain goals on earth, observe certain taboos, refrain from certain actions, and so on. As Marilyn Houlberg has observed:

In the case of twins, the spirit double has been born

on earth. Since there is no way of telling which is the heavenly

being and which is the mortal, both are treated as sacred from

birth. As one 45-year-old man from Ibadan commented: “We do not

think of each twin as having its own counterpart in heaven; they are

the counterparts of each other.” Thus, everything that is done for

one must be done for the other (1973:23; see also Thompson 1971,

Lawal 1989, Chemeche 2003).

In other words, the prenatal bond between an individual and his/her spirit double was such that one could not leave the other behind. As a result, both were born together; hence their name ibeji (‘double-birth’) or ejire (‘the intimate, inseparable two’). And because of their association of the number two with good luck, twins are expected to attract spiritual and material blessings to their parents:

Ejire Okin Ara Isokun

Ile Alakisa l’oti ki won

Ejire so alakisa di alaso

O so alagbe di olounje

o so otosi di oloro … (Daramola and Jeje 1975:282).

Twins, beautiful egrets, native of isokun town

You entered the house of the poor

Twins turned the poor into the rich

You turned the beggar into somebody with food to eat

You turned the wretched into the wealthy … (my trans.)

Legend has it that the Yoruba once abhorred twins partly because multiple birth was associated with animals and partly because of the fear that one of the pair was an enikeji and therefore a bad omen for a given community. This resulted in the killing of newborn twins and their mother. The practice reportedly stopped when, some time in the fifteenth century, a powerful king’s wife gave birth to twins. Instead of having them killed, the king ordered that the woman and her children be banished to a remote part of the kingdom and regarded as dead. But, miraculously, the twins survived in the wilderness and eventually founded new settlements where they became kings (Johnson 1921:25). (13) This encouraged ordinary citizens to retain their twins, keeping their birth a secret from the general public. Some simply went into exile and settled in areas where their twins survived to become culture heroes (Chappel 1977, Abimbola 1988). In one case, which is said to have occurred during the eighteenth century, a couple that had twins consulted a diviner about what to do with them. The diviner advised them not to abandon or kill the twins, provided certain rituals were performed. The couple fulfilled all the instructions. The twins not only survived, their parents became very rich. The news soon spread to other parts of Yorubaland that the preserved twins had attracted good fortune to their parents (Chappel 1977; see also Thompson 1971b: Ch 13/2). Another legend locates the original Isokun at OyoIle. There, one of the king’s wives gave birth to twins six times (Abimbola 1988). [FIGURE 21 OMITTED] To some Yoruba, the dose bond between twins is due to the fact that they share the same life force; others disagree, contending that they have separate souls and that the two are preordained to stay together. Nonetheless, there is consensus that though they are physically two, twins are spiritually one. Thus if one of them should die, a memorial, ere ibeji, would be commissioned (Fig. 21) to localize the soul of the deceased and maintain the spiritual bond between the living and the dead. If both twins should die, another memorial would be commissioned and the two statuettes treated like living children in the hope that they be born again to the same mother. Tradition requires that the carver give both memoriais the same facial features to emphasizing the oneness in their twoness, even if the deceased twins were not identical (Fig. 22). The memorial is normally carved from the wood of the West African rubber tree (Funtumia elastica). Apparently because its sticky latex binds two surfaces together, the wood of the rubber tree is believed to possess a high spiritual sensitivity. In fact, the local name of the tree, ire, derives from the root verb re, which means ‘to unite, befriend, or reconcile” Note that the same verb occurs in ejire, the synonym for twins-the inseparable two–which explains why different parts of the ire tree–leaves, bark, roots, etc.–are used in making charms or articles aimed at bonding friends, lovers, and social organizations. This notion is illustrated by the popular saying “Ire oko, loni ki o wa ba mi re” (“The ire of the forest has asked you to bond with me”; Lawal 1989). The same root verb re is implicated in words such as ore (‘friend’) and irepo (‘social harmony’). Thus, to the Yoruba, twinship connotes a mutually beneficial relationship that infinitely doubles the dynamic that bonding generates in time and space, stabilizing families, societies and nations.



This dynamic is the focus of the Gelede mask (Fig. 23). Found mainly in southwestern Nigeria, especially among the Ketu, Egbado, Ohori, Anago, and Awori Yoruba, the Gelede masking society performs in a variety of social and religious contexts (i.e., to mark important events in the life cycle or to enlist the aid of deities in times of crisis). Its ultimate goal is to promote peace and happiness on earth. To this end, the society directs much of its ritual and artistic activity toward the pacification of the maternal principle in nature personified as Iya Nla. In some areas, she is identified with Yemoja-Olokun or with Odua/Oduduwa/Ile. In other areas, she combines the attributes of all the female deities.

The frequent reference to Iya Nla as “My mother [the dreadful bird] Osoronga … with the beautiful eyes …” (Lawal 1996:74) bespeaks the mixed feelings of the public towards her. For, as mentioned earlier, the same “mother” who sustains humanity through nature’s abundance also destroys life through environmental hazards such as flood, drought, crop failure, infertility, forest fires, epidemics, and snake bites. Simply put, she is benevolent and malevolent at the same time. According to popular belief, certain Yoruba women called aje have direct links with Iya Nla and so are capable of harnessing her powers for positive or negative purposes. These women are euphemistically addressed as awon iya wa (“Our Mothers”), receiving special homage at the beginning of most Gelede performances in order to encourage them and females in general to let humanity benefit from their special endowments, most especially their procreative powers. In addition, the Gelede focus on the pacification of Iya Nla provides a forum for appealing to all members of a given community, regardless of age, sex, rank, and status, to live in harmony (irepo) with one another, like siblings.





A typical Gelede performance has two phases, a night concert and an afternoon dance session. During the night concert, a mask called Efe (the poet or humorist), prays for the blessings of Iya Nla, the orisa, deceased ancestors, and all the powerful women of Yoruba society. In the afternoon sessions, colorfully attired masks entertain the public with intricate dances. The masks usually dance in identical pairs, synchronizing their body movements and the jingling of their metal anklets, evoking the virtues of collaboration and teamwork (Fig. 24). Costume iconography also reflects this twoness, for while all the maskers are men, their attire usually includes female motifs, most especially the baby sashes/head ties normally used by a mother to secure her child on the back. A typical mask thus combines male/female as well as child/adult elements.

Although there are many legends on the origin of Gelede, the most relevant here is the one that traces its beginnings to a succession dispute between twin brothers (Lawal 1996:40-48, Drewal and Drewal 1983:226-31). According to the story, when Alaketu Akebiowu, the king of Ketu, died sometime in the fifteenth century, his twin sons Akan and Edun competed for the throne. Realizing that his brother planned to kill him, Edun fled from Ketu, taking with him certain sacred royal symbols, without which his twin brother Akan could not be crowned king. Edun sought refuge in the town of Ilobi to the southeast of Ketu. Shortly after, Akan and his group invaded Ilobi at night, but Edun frightened off the invaders with a device that they mistook for divine intervention. According to some informants, the device was in the form of masked figures, which later became known as Gelede. The two warring twins eventually reconciled and Edun returned from exile to become the king of Ketu. The peaceful resolution of the crisis is said to have ushered in an era ofprosperity that lasted until the nineteenth century, when the French colonized that part of southwestern Yorubaland and incorporated it into what is now known as the People’s Republic of Benin



This conflict seems to be partly responsible not only for the emphasis on identical pairs in the Gelede dance (Figs. 25-26), but also for the frequent references to twins on the carved headdresses (Fig. 27). When asked about the emphasis on twoness in Gelede, one informant declared, “It is because women give birth to twins. That is why there are two masks” (Drewal and Drewal 1983:134). The headdress in Fig. 28, from the Baltimore Museum of Art, (14) is in the Ketu style–probably carved by Lagbite–so the wrestling motif on it reminds us of the historic succession dispute between Akan and Edun. A dose examination of the two figures, however, reveals deeper levels of meaning. For instance, they both sport the osu hairstyle worn by priests and royal messengers, who sometimes participate in ritualized wrestling contests held during annual festivals in different parts of Yorubaland. Some of the contests commemorate the aforementioned conflict between Obatala and Oduduwa after the creation of the earth as well as the dynastic struggle in Ile-Ife in which Oduduwa prevailed but later reconciled with Obatala. Other contests reenact historical feuds between neighbors or between aboriginal and immigrant groups. These festivals are intended to recall the past, in addition to drawing moral lessons from the conflicts, especially how they were resolved amicably (Lawal 2004:114-17.). As a result, most Yoruba festivals begin with a major sacrifice to Esu-Elegba, the agent provocateur who, as mentioned earlier, often instigates quarrels, if only to provide himself with an opportunity to settle them and thereby teach humanity.


The figure on the left returns the viewer’s gaze with what appears to be an uneasy calm on his face, recalling the Yoruba proverb “Adie ba lokun; ara ko r’okun; ara ko r’adie” (“A hen perches on a rope; the rope feels uneasy, the hen feels uneasy, as well”; Lawal 1996:248). This proverb is often quoted by Yoruba elders when advising individuals or communities against the use of force in resolving disputes that may ultimately result in injuries to both parties. The proverb is sometimes visualized in the form of two creatures–usually a bird and a serpent–interlocked in a mutually destructive combat (Fig. 29).

Thus the wrestling motif on this headdress (Fig. 28) seems to warn the viewer of the negative consequences of violence, for much more can be achieved through peaceful resolution of conflicts and from being one another’s keeper. That the pair is not really fighting but miming the concept of togetherness becomes evident when the mask begins to dance. As the mask moves or swirls to the rhythm of music, the wrestling figures suddenly cease looking like antagonists. Rather, they appear to be balancing and holding on to one another in a precarious situation in which their survival depends on ejiwapo (‘twoness, togetherness, comradeship’) and ejire (‘bonding’; Lawal 2004:117).

By and large, the emphasis on “twoness” in Yoruba culture reflects at the secular level, an attempt to educate the public about the virtues of social living and the need for individuals to work together for the good of all. As a popular Yoruba folksong puts it:

Oju meji riran joju kan lo

Ese kan soso ko se e rin

Ajeje owo kan o gberu d’ori

Otun we osi, osi we otun

Ni owo mejefi fi i nmo.

Two eyes see better than one

It is difficult to walk with one leg (15)

One hand cannot easily lift a heavy road to the head

It is only when the right hand washes the left

and the left washes the right

That both hands become clean (my trans.).

At the religious level, however, this notion, also articulated in popular sayings such as “Tibi t’ire la da’le aye” (“The physical world evolved out of Good and Evil”) and “Buburu ati rere ni o nrin po (“Bad and good things work together”), reflects a pragmatic worldview that life is not always a bed of roses. It is full of inherent contradictions or oppositional complementarities that must be taken in their stride, as there is little humanity can do (despite its technological advancements) to prevent certain unfavorable events in nature. This “fatalistic resignation,’ often expressed in the aphorism “Ise Olodumare, Awamaridi” (“Olodumare’s action is unfathomable”), has enabled the Yoruba to carry on with the struggle of living in the hope that the orisa, who administer the universe on behalf of Olodumare, will always be on their side. Hence the emphasis on divination in the past with a view to knowing the wishes of the orisa and so minimize the risks of offending them. The consciousness that anything that lives will eventually die has led the Yoruba to accept death as the price to be paid for living:

Gbese n’ iku; gbogbo wa ni yo san.

Awaye, aiku o si

Ohun a ntoro ni ire owo, ire omo, ire alafia ati emi gigun. (16)

Death is a debt; all of us must pay.

There is nothing like living in this world without dying.

What we pray for are the blessings of wealth, children, good health,

and long life (my trans.).

Nonetheless, a belief in the self as an interface of spirit and matter has encouraged them not to accept death as the end of life. Instead, they view it as a separation of the inner (spiritual) from the outer (material) self, resulting in a translocation from physical to metaphysical existence–a kind of afterlife (Ehin-Iwa), where a dematerialized soul may choose to stay forever or reincarnate as children in the same family (Lawal 1977). To the Yoruba, this ability of the soul to reincarnate in a new body–a work of art by the creativity deity Obatala–reveals the divinity that abides in humanity. References cited Abimbola, Wande. 1971. “The Yoruba Concept of Human Personality.” Colloques Internationaux du CNRS no. 55, pp. 73-89. Paris: CNRS.

–. 1975. Sixteen Great Poetas of Ifa. Zaria, Nigeria: UNESCO.

—. 1976. If a: An Exposition of Ifa Literary Corpus. Ibadan, Nigeria: Oxford University Press.

–. 1977. Awon Oju Odu Mereerindinlogun. Ibadan, Nigeria: Oxford University Press.

–. 1988. “From Monster to King and Divinity: Stories of Ibeji in the Ifa Literary Corpus.” Paper presented at the Symposium Yoruba Carving Styles: Ere Ibeii, Department of Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.

–. 1997. Ifa Will Mend Our Broken World: Thoughts on Yoruba Religion and Culture in Africa and the Diaspora (Interviews with an introduction by Ivor Miller). Roxbury MA: Aim Books.

—. 2000. “Continuity and Change in the Verbal, Artistic, Ritualistic, and Performance Traditions of Ira Divination” In Insight and Artistry in African Divination, ed. John Pemberton, pp. 175-81. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Adedeji, Joel A. 1972. “Folklore and Yoruba Drama: Obatala as a Case Study.” In African Folklore, ed. R.M. Dorson, pp. 321-9. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Adediran, Biodun. 1992. “The Early Beginnings of the Ife State:’ In The Cradle of a Race: IJe from the Beginning to 1980, ed. Isaac A. Akinjogbin, pp. 77-95. Portharcourt, Nigeria: Sunray.

Adediran, Biodun, and Samuel A. Arifalo, 1992. “The Religious Festivals of Ife.” In The Cradle ora Race: Ife from the Beginning to 1980, ed. Isaac A. Akinjogbin, pp. 305-317. Portharcourt, Nigeria: Sunray.

Adeniji, David A.A. 1982. Ofe Rere (Agba Oogum). Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press.

Adeoye, C. Laogun. 1989. Igbagbo Ati Esin Yoruba. Nigeria: Evans Brothers.

Akiwowo, Akinsola A. 1983. Ajobi and Ajogbe: Variations on the Theme of Sociation. Inaugural Lecture, series 46. Ile-IFe, Nigeria: University of IFe Press.

–.1986. ‘Asuwada-Eniyan.” Ife: Annals of the Institute of Cultural Studies (University of Ife, Nigeria) 1:113-23. Allen, Barry. 2003. The Good, the Bad and the Beautifuh Discourse about Values in Yoruba Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Apter, Andrew. 1992, Black Critics and Kings: Hermeneutics of Power in Yoruba Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Atgyle, W.J. 1966. The Fon of Dahomey: A History and Ethnography of the Old Kingdom. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Babalola, Adeboye. 1972/73. “Further Discussion on Ayo Bamgbose’s Article: ‘The Meaning of Olodumare, An Etymology of the Name of the Yoruba High God.” African Notes: Bulletin of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria 7 (2):104-105.

Bamgbose, Ayo. 1972/73. “The Meaning of Olodumare: An Etymology of the Name of the Yoruba High God.” African Notes: Bulletin of the Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria 7 (1):28-9.

Bascom, William. 1969. If a Divination: Communication between Gods and Men in West Africa. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

–.1980. Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Bay, Edna G. 1998. Wives of the Leopard: Gender, Politics, and Culture in the Kingdom of Dahomey. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press.

Beier, Ulli. N.d. “Before Oduduwa.” Odu: A Journal of Yoruba and Related Studies 3:25-32.

Bianchi, Ugoc 1978. Selected Essays on Gnosticism, Dualism, and Mysteriology. Leiden: Brill.

Biobaku, Saburi O. 1952. “An Historical Sketch of Egba Traditional Authorities.” Africa 22 (1):35-49.

Chappel, T.I.H. 1977. “The Yoruba Cult of Twins in Historical Perspective” Africa 44 (3):250-65.

Chemeche, George, 2003. Ibeji: The Cult of Yoruba Twins. Milan: 5 Continents Editions.

Crowther, Samuel Ajayi. 1852. A Vocabulary of the Yoruba Language. London: Seeleys.

Daramola, Olu, and Adebayo Jeje. 1975. Awon Asa Ati Orisa Ile Yoruba. Ibadan, Nigeria: Onibonoje Press.

dos Santos, Juanita E., and Didi M. dos Santos. 1971. Esu Bara Laaroye: A Comparative Study. Ibadan, Nigeria: Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan.

Drewal, Henry J. 1989. “The Meaning of Osugbo Art: A Reappraisal.” In Man Does Not God Naked: Textilien und Handwerk aus Afrikanischen und Anderen Landern, ed. B. Engelbrecht and B. Gardi, pp. 151-74. Basti: Basler Beitrage zur Ethnologie.

Drewal, Henry J., and Margaret T. Drewal. 1983. Gelede: Art and Female Power among the Yoruba. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Drewal, Henry J., John Pemberton, and Rowland O.

Abiodun. 1989. Yoruba: Nine Centuries of African Art and Thought. New York: Center for African Art.

Eliade, Mircea. 1969. The Quest: History and Meaning in Religion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Eluyemi, Omotoso. 1985. “Selecting an Ooni of Ife.” Nigerian Magazine 53 (4):17-23.

Epega, D. Olarimiwa. 1971. The Basis of Yoruba Religion. Rev. ed. Lagos, Nigeria: Ijamido Printers. Work originally published 1932.

Euba, Titi 1985. “The Oni of Ife’s Are Crown and the Concept of Divine Crown.” Nigeria Magazine 53 (1):1-18.

Garlake, Peter S. 1974. “Excavations at Obalara’s Land, Ife: An Interim Report” West African ]ournal of Archaeology 4:111-48.

Herskovits, Melville J., and Frances S. Herskovits. 1933. An Outline of Dahomean Religious Belief. Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 41. New York: Kraus.

Houlberg, Marilyn H. 1973. “Ibeji Images of the Yoruba.” African Arts 7 (1):20-27, 91. Idown, E. Bolaji. 1994. Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief. Rev. and expanded ed. New York: Original Publications. Work originany published 1962.

Johnson, Samuel. 1913-14. The History of the Yorubas. Lagos: CMS Bookshops.

Lamp, Frederick J. 1996. Art of the Baga: A Drama of Cultural Invention. New York: The Museum for African Art and Munich: Prestel.

Law, Robin C. 1973. “The Heritage of Oduduwa Traditions: History and Political Propaganda: Journal of African History 14 (2):207-222.

Lawal, Babatunde. 1974. “Some Aspects of Yoruba Aesthetics.” The British Journal of Aesthetics 15 (3):239-49.

–. 1977. “The Living Dead: Art and Immortality among the Yoruba of Nigeria.” Africa 47 (1):50-61.

–. 1989. “A Pair of Ere Ibeji (Twin Statuettes) in the Kresge Art Museum.” Kresge Art Museum Bulletin 6 (12):10-15.

–. 1995- “A Ya Gbo, A Ya To: New Perspectives on Edan Ogboni” African Arts 28 (1):37-49, 98-100.

–.1996. The Gelede Spectade: Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in an African Culture. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

–. 2000. “Orflonise: “The Hermeneutics of the Head and Hairstyles among the Yoruba” In Hair in African Art and Culture, eds. Roy Sieber and Frank Herremann, pp. 93-109. New York: The Museum for African Art and Munich: Prestel.

–. 2001. “Aworan: Representing the Self and Its Metaphysical Other in Yoruba Art.” The Art Bulletin 83 (3):516-17.

–. 2005. “Divinity, Creativity and Humanity in Yoruba Aesthetics.” In Before Pangea: New Essays in Transcultural Aesthetics, ed. Eugenio Benitez pp. 161-74. Sydney: Sydney Society of Literature and Aesthetics.

–.2004. “The World is Fragile … Headdress with Wrestlers (Igi Gelede Onijakadi).” In See the Music, Hear the Dance: Rethinking African Art at The Baltimore Museum of Art, ed. Frederick J. Lamp, pp. 114-17. Munich: Prestel.

Lijadu, E.M. 1908. Orunmila Nipa. Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria: Omolayo Standard Press.

Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1996: The Revolt Against Dualism: An Inquiry Concerning the Existence of Ideas. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Lucas, J. Olumide. 1948. The Religion of the Yorubas. Lagos: CMS Bookshop.

Manpoil, Bernard. 1943. La Geomancie a l’Ancienne Cote des Esclaves. Tavaux et Memoires de l’Institut d’Ethnologie. 42. Paris: Institut d’Ethnologie.

Morakinyo, Olufemi, and Akinsola Akiwowo. 1981. “The Yoruba Ontology of Personality and Motivation: A Multidisciplinary Approach.” Journal of Social and Biological Structures 4 (1):19-79.

Morton-Williams, Peter. 1960. “The Ogboni Cult in Oyo.” Africa 30 (4):362-74.

–. 1964. “An Outline of the Cosmology and Cult Organization of the Oyo Yoruba.” Africa 34 (3):243-61.

Ojo, G. Afolabi. 1967. Yoruba Culture: A Geographical Analysis. London: University of London Press.

Ojo, I.R.O. 1973. “Ogboni Drums.” African Arts 6 (3):48-51, 92.

Olajubu, Oyeronke. 2003. Women in the Yoruba Religious Sphere. Mbany NY: State University of New York Press.

Olatunji, Olamnde O. 1984. Features of Yoruba Poetry. Ibadan, Nigeria: University Press Limited.

Olupona, Jacob K. 1991. Kingship, Religion, and Rituals in a Nigerian Community. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International.

Omoregie, Osaren S.B. 2004. “The Emergence of Ile-Ife: Twelve Points to Note.” ISPU: Newsletter, lnternational Society for the Promotion of Ubinology 2 (2):1-9.

Pemberton, John. 1975. “Eshu-Elegba,: The Yoruba Trickster God” African Arts 9 (1):20-27, 66-70, 90-91.

Prince, Raymond. 1964. “Indigenous Yoruba Psychiatry” In Magic, Faith, and Healing, ed. A. Kiev, pp. 84-120. New York: Free Press.

Simpson, George E. 1980. Yoruba Religion and Medicine in Ibadan. Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press.

Smith, Robert S. 1988. The Kingdoms of the Yoruba, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Stvens, P. 1966. “Orisa-Nla Festival.” Nigeria Magazine 90:184-99.

Thompson, Robert E 19712. “Sons of Thunder: Twin Images among the Oyo and Other Yoruba Groups.” African Arts 4 (3):8-13.

–. 1971b. Black Gods and Kings: Yoruba Art at UCLA. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Verger, Pierre. 1957. Notes sur le Culte des Orisa et Vodun a Bahia, la Baie de tous les Saints, au Bresil et a l’Ancienne Cote des Esclaves en Afrique: Dakar: IFAN.

–.1966. “The Yoruba High God–A Review of the Sources” Odu: University of Ife Journal of African Studies 2 (2):19-40.

Wescott, Joan. 1962. “The Sculpture and Myths of Eshu-Elegba, the Yoruba Trickster” Africa 32 (4):337-54.

Williams, Dennis. 1964. “The Iconology of the Yoruba Edan Ogboni” Africa 34 (2):139-65.

Witte, Hans. 1988. Earth and Ancestors: Ogboni Iconography. Amsterdam: Gallery Balolu,

–. 2004. Local Styles in the Yoruba Art Collection of the Afrika Museum, Berg en Dal: A Closer Look. Berg en Dal: Afrika Museum.

Zuesse, Evan. 1979. Ritual Cosmos: The Sanctification of Life in African Religion. Athens: Ohio University Press.


This article is a revised version of a paper first presented at the 13th Triennial Symposium of the Arts Council of the African Studies Association (ACASA) held at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 31-April 3, 2004. I am grateful to Professors Akinsola Akiwowo and Mark Wood for reading an early draft of this article and making useful suggestions.

(1) One text described The-Sacred-Two as “The one who left home as a wretched person, but later returned with good fortune” (Olatunji 1984:44).

(2) Another saying describes the cosmos as “Igba nla meji, a de isi: aiye ati sanma” (“Two mighty calabashes, one on top of the other, representing earth and sky”; Ojo 1967:196).

(3) Oduduwa is sometimes pronounced “Odudua” or “Oodua.”

(4) It is worth mentioning that another creation narrative identifies “Odu” as one of the senior female orisa who later married Orunmila, the orisa of divination (Adeoye 1989:360-61).

(5) Pierre Verger has drawn attention to an ancient Fon Supreme Deity known as Se/Segbo that he suspects may have something to do with the Yoruba concept of ase (‘enabling power’); see Verger 1966:19-40. Among the Baga of Guinea, the Supreme Being is associated with a celestial serpent; see Lamp 1996.

(6) Some Yoruba and Benin oral traditions suggest that the present-day city of Ife might not be the same as the one mentioned in the creation narratives. As a result, archaeologists have been looking for the “original” Ife, hoping to find it someday, if these traditions do in fact contain some elements of truth. But the antiquity of the archaeological finds in present-day Ife, coupled with its numerous shrines and annual festivals, strongly indicates that the city played a major role in the historical development of what we now call Yoruba culture.

(7) The identity of that warrior is further complicated by a recent story from the Edo of Benin City whose current ruling dynasty was reportedly founded about the fourteenth century by one of Oduduwa’s sons. According to the story, the name Oduduwa was the title of a powerful ancient ruler whose extinct kingdom, known as Uduwa, was once located near the River Niger to the north of present-day Ile-Ife and Benin City (Omoregie 2004:1-9).

(8) The Ogboni society is known as Osugbo among the Ijebu and Egba Yoruba. But since the terra Ogboni is more popular, I will use it throughout this essay to refer to the Osugbo as well.

(9) This shows that the ajogun are not engaged in evil activities all the time.

(10) While some Yoruba identify Yemoja as the mother of Olokun, others claim that one is an alter ego of another or that they are two distinct deities.

(11) Thus, a person who fails to succeed in spite of hard work is said to be troubled by his inner head (see Idowu 1994:181-2).

(12) I am grateful to Professor Akinsola Akiwowo for bringing this proverb to my attention.

(13) Another version of this legend identifies Pupupu as the wife of Oduduwa, the first king of Ife, not Alaafin Ajaka of Oyo-Ile; see Smith 1988:52, Olupona 1991:23-4, Abimbola 1988.

(14) There is an identical headdress in the collection of the Everhart Museum (Scranton, Pennsylvania) that might have been carved by the same artist to pair up with the BMA’s piece during the performance.

(15) Osanyin, the one-legged orisa of herbal medicine is said to be an exception because he has a special power that enables him to spin like the whirlwind and move faster than those with two legs.

(16) Another version of this prayer is in Adeoye 1985:9.

[Article info:

Title: Ejiwapo: The Dialectics of Twoness in Yoruba Art and Culture.

Contributors: Babatunde Lawal – author. Journal

Title: African Arts.

Volume: 41.

Issue: 1.

Publication Year: 2008.

Page Number: 24+]

About the author: BABAYUNDE LAWAL is Professor of African and African Diaspora Art, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA and, in Spring 2008, the Robert Sterling Clark Visiting Professor of Art History at Williams College, Williamstown, MA.


How Oshun Saves the World Through the Birth of Osetura by Apetebi Oyaseye Fakayode

How Oshun Saves the World Through the Birth of Osetura
By Apetebi Oyaseye Fakayode
Long ago, when the Earth was still very young, Olodumare sent 17 chosen Irunmole to Earth. Before they started their journey from the Heavens to Earth, they met with Olodumare to hear their task.

Olodumare, with Her powerful voice, said to them, “You have all been chosen especially for this mission. Earth is now very young and new. I am sending you all to go and make it flourish with good things. For this to happen, you must all work together. When everything is good, report back to me.”
Among the seventeen Irunmole, the only female was Oshun. The other sixteen male Irunmole thought little of Oshun. Because she was very beautiful they thought that she was much too delicate for such a task. When the seventeen Orisha arrived on Earth they quickly started to get to work. They had brought their machetes, axes, hammers, and other gear. Oshun saw this and pulled out her comb, her mirror, her fan, and her sweet jar of honey. They laughed at the sight of her tools and said to her “Oshun, do not worry yourself. Go home to do your womanly things. We can handle this task without you.” Rejected and hurt, Oshun ran away. But she did not go back home, she hid in the forest. Nature flourished around her and she made a beautiful home for herself, away from those who did not appreciate her or her sacred, divine attributes.

Many months later, the other sixteen Orisha were struggling. Everything they did was going wrong. Whatever was built up, would fall down. Rain had not fallen to nourish the Earth in a very long time. Sickness was spreading around rampantly. The entire world was a great mess. Soon Olodumare called for them to return to Her. When they arrived they hung their heads down in shame. Olodumare counted them — there were only sixteen of them. “Where is Oshun?” Olodumare asked the Irunmole.

“We have failed you! We sent Oshun off and everything we did after that, it was unsuccessful.”
Olodumare nodded as She understood the true root of the problem. “You must find Oshun and beg Her for forgiveness. Only Oshun can change the misfortune that has come upon Earth”
The sixteen Orisha immediately headed back to Earth and searched for Oshun. They searched day and night. When they finally found her, deep in the forest, their jaws dropped at Her beauty and the beautiful home She had made for herself there. They saw Oshun coming back from bathing in a nearby river and they dropped to the ground, bowing in Her majestic presence. “Please Great Oshun, Ore Yeye O, we bow to you and beg you for your forgiveness. Please come with us, help us to make the world as healthy and happy as you have made the home for yourself here in the forest. “

Oshun let them beg for a while while she thought to herself before she gave her response. She said that she was now pregnant and they must beg to their own Ori and The Creator, Olodumare, that the child she delivers will be a male. She said that if the child is a male, all matters in the world will be well. But if the child is a female, there will be war and destruction. They used their powers to peer into her womb, and they saw that the child was to be born a female. ‘
They were distraught. They began to pray. Orunmila, the Father, then pointed to Oshun’s womb with his Ado Asure (Calabash with the power of blessings) and declared that the child would be a male. Just as Orunmila declared it, immediately the fetus changed and became a male.
When the child was born, Orunmila held the child close. At Esentaye on the 3rd day after birth, Orunmila divined for him and Ifa named him Osetura. He took Osetura with him everywhere he went, including him on all spiritual missions and endeavors. It became so that whenever Ifa rituals were performed, Osetura would need to be invoked. If any person was suffering from illness, as soon as Osetura came and touched the person, that person would be well instantaneously. Everything then that they built stood very strong. The rivers filled, the trees grew, and everyone was healthy and happy. They were all dancing and rejoicing, giving eternal praise to Oshun, Orunmila, and Osetura.
Olodumare looked and saw this and She was very happy. Not just because the world was good, but because the Orisha had learned to respect and honor each other, for all of them were special and only together could everything be good. And most importantly that the male Orisha had learned to respect and honor the female Orisha, and had learned that without honor to women, nothing will ever be prosperous or even possible. Oshun was proud and very happy that her son was deeply involved in the good work of Ifa. It was then proclaimed:
“From today on, all women without any exception,

They must not know Oro
And they must not enter the shrine of Eegun (Egungun)
Eegun must not come out in their presence
This must be observed as a taboo

But all other things
 you are doing

You must involve Oshun in them (women)
Their lives then became smooth
They said that if someone is pounding yams
Without the knowledge of Oshun

His or her pounded yam will not be smooth

If someone is preparing okra
Without involving Oshun in it
His/her food will not come out fine
We will involve Oshun in whatever we do

We will involve Oshun in all our deliberations.

Our Great Mother
Who must be present at every important deliberation
We will involve Oshun in all our deliberations
Agberegede ajuba

Ajuba agberegede

Divined for Oshun Sengesi
Owner of a hair comb decorated with iyun
When she was in a secret place
She spoiled the sacrifice of other divinities

Who is performing a sacrifice

Without involving the owner of sacrifice
Oshun whose other name is Ewujı
We are all on our knees.
We are all begging you

Let us all kneel and prostrate before women

We are all born by women
Before we become recognized as human beings

[Reference: The Bag of Wisdom: Osun and the Origins of the Ifa Divination by Wande Abimbola]
About the Author: Apetebi Oyaseye Fakayode was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA. She is a very devout worshiper of the Orisa, especially Orisa Oya. She and her husband together founded and run Oyeku Ofun Temple, a traditional Ifa and Orisa temple. She is a talented artist, bead-maker, seamstress, and craftswoman. Also, she is a loving wife and mother. She currently resides on the beach in Northern California with her family. 
Photo of Author:
Iyalorisa Oyaseye Fakayode

Iyalorisa Oyaseye Fakayode

1 Comment

Newspaper article: “They are Americans, and They are Ifa faithfuls” by Adewale Oshodi

Newspaper article: “They are Americans, and They are Ifa faithfuls” by Adewale Oshodi
(from the Nigerian Tribune, originally published here: http://tribune.com.ng/quicklinkss/features/item/18635-they-are-americans-and-they-are-ifa-faithfuls)

"They are Americans, and they are Ifa faithfuls"

“They are Americans, and they are Ifa faithfuls”

At a time when Yorubas have distanced themselves from their traditional faith, a number of Americans are embracing it. ADEWALE OSHODI tells the story of four American Ifa faithful who have found peace in the religion, while urging the real custodians of the tradition not to abandon the faith.

The saying that we don’t value what we have until we lose it is applicable to the Yoruba people of South West Nigeria and Benin Republic, who are fast losing their traditional religion, and more surprising is the fact that Americans are now accepting what these descendants of Oduduwa view as a fetish culture. Today in Yorubaland, a large number of people profess Christianity and Islam, while a tiny minority can only identify with the Ifa religion.

However, for this loss, the Ifa religion has gained new adherents. A number of them can be found in the United States. One of such is Chief Akinkugbe Karade, an African-American, who has been professing the Ifa religion for the past 16 years.

Chief Karade did not just decide that he was going to become an Ifa adherent; rather, he said in the course of finding spiritual satisfaction, he found the Ifa religion.

“I found my way to Ifa after a 16-year search for my religious truth that took me through Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and finally to Ifa.

“I came in contact with a book, The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts, written by Chief Ifa Karade, and it brought answers to the questions I had. Chief Karade later divined for me and became my first teacher and initiator

“I was initiated in East Orange, New Jersey by Chief Ifa Karade in 1997. I was initiated again in Nigeria by Chief Fayemi Fakayode in 2010,” Chief Karade said.

Today, Chief Akinkugbe Karade is the chief priest and founder of Ile Imole Ifa, Inc. in East Orange, New Jersey, “and we have served the community since 2002 and continue to do so till this day,” Karade, who has also authored the book, Path to Priesthood: The Making of an African Priest in an American World, said.

One funny thing about Karade is that very early in life, he was told that he would become a priest, “and in my teenage years, I almost became a Baptist preacher like my great-grandfather, Ed Roberts, but things work in different ways, and today, I am an Ifa priest.”

It is not often easy getting the support of one’s family when one wants to make certain decisions in life, especially one that is as sensitive as religion, but Karade explained that his family has been supportive of his choice in life.

“My family was very supportive of me and my journey, although they didn’t really understand it. My mother was always encouraging all of her children to follow their dreams and make them come true.

“My experience in Ifa has been one of great self discovery. In my journey in Ifa, I have learned so much about myself and my lineage that I can almost make a book of it. I can truly say that Ifa has changed my life. I am definitely fulfilled because Ifa has given me the opportunity to actualise the path of my ancestors.

“As far as what I feel, I feel a very real connection to Orunmila, the egunguns (masquerades) and orisas (gods). A connection that allows my life to be better guided and help others to do the same. I will definitely spend the rest of my life doing just that,” the African-American priest said.

Iyanifa Ekundayo Adele Ifamuregun’s story resonates with Karade’s. She said she had been drawn to the issue of religion right from her tender years.

“I was drawn at a very young age to religion, philosophy and the question of why we are here on this earth; so by the time I was 12 years old, I had read the Holy Bible several times, the Koran, and also the works of Gautama Buddha.

“At that age, I made a commitment to live this life on a spiritual quest to work for God, and my ultimate desire was to be able to heal people, allowing God’s power to move through me and use me; so when I was 15 years old, my first spirit guide came to visit me, and that was how I developed interest in the Yoruba religious tradition, and I started developing until I became an Iyalorisa (priestess).

“However, it wasn’t as easy as said; I had lived a long life already at an early age, travelled, had businesses, working in my shrine, but at the same time, my orisa and guides were telling me that what I had learned and practised in terms of my religion, was not quite accurate.

“I began to look for answers and found that this was true. Then came a period of six months that I began to take stock of my life, and for some reason, I felt I was going to die. I did not know why, but I was making peace with that. I just felt it in my bones, my ori (god) was telling me so.

“So there was a time I asked myself what I have not done yet in my life? And knew I wanted to go to Nigeria and be initiated into Ifa before I die. That was my wish.

“So I travelled to Ogun State where I had full initiation, and during the traditional rites, the priests, who knew nothing about me beforehand, quietly told me the story of my life up until that moment, and they told me I had come to Nigeria because I was going to die, and that I knew I was going to die.

“I just sat there stunned on that sacred red earth under the trees with the sun shining above and cried. It was the day of my rebirth. They knew everything about me, my hardships, my struggles, everything. I must confess that that initiation was the happiest day of my life, because I cheated death. My ori, Ifa and the good babalawos gave me my victory over death, and it still makes me cry tears of joy thinking back on that day, so it is fitting my name, Ekundayo,” the Iyanifa said.

“Today, I am very happy with my life. Of course, there are trials and tribulations, but if God handed everything to us on a silver platter, would we still need to strive and grow as a spiritual being in a human body?

“However, it is painful that the Yoruba people are distancing themselves from Ifa; people in the diaspora are very interested in Ifa; there are many Ifa priests here in the US, in Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, among others,” the priestess said, while charging the Yoruba people not to lose their faith.

Mama Fayomi Falade Aworeni Obafemi, an African-American woman, born 62 years ago in Chicago, Illinois, USA, found the Ifa religion in a different manner entirely; she found it through the sound of drums in 1965.

“The sound of drums beating on the Southside of Chicago was not an unusual sound in the context of hearing people playing konga for entertainment in the parks by the lake front of Lake Michigan.

“I began in the tradition of Ifa and Orisa as a 14-year-old child in Chicago in 1965 when there was a great upheaval in world politics.

“African-Americans, in the 1940s through the tumultuous 1960s, were fighting for their freedom from oppression from Caucasian-Americans and were leading the charge by civil disobedience. With this in mind, many African-Americans were disregarding and moving away from Christianity of all sects and denominations due to the idea that they did not want to serve a god that did not look like them in appearance.

“Many of our people were looking towards Africa as a means of expressing their spiritual and religious philosophies and belief systems. So, I too, found dissatisfaction, not just because of the Christian church protocols and beliefs, but because I had certain spiritual gifts and was ostracised because of those gifts.

“Thus, I was seeking the needed information that could incorporate my belief in African spirituality and link this with my understanding. That was when I found the temple in Chicago by happenstance, ironically called ‘Ile Ife Temple.’

“Walking down the street, I heard the sound of African bata beats; it was compelling during the turbulent years in the 1960s, and it brought me into the world of Ifa, the Yoruba traditional religion, and I have been a faithful for 48 years now.

Mama Fayomi, who has lived in Ghana, as well as in Nigeria, is also an author, a teacher, a religious activist, among others; she practises as a priestess in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nathan Aikulola Fawehinmi was born as Nathan Lugo and raised in New York. He is of the Puerto Rican descent, and he started developing interest in traditional religion at a very young age.

“As a young person of Puerto Rican descent, I started becoming aware of the alternative spiritual traditions of my heritage, and that included African-based spirituality. Among the most common spiritual traditions outside of Catholicism is Spiritism in Puerto Rico, which is itself a diasporic creation with roots in European Christianity, some aboriginal, and African beliefs and practices. So it was not that difficult for me to settle for the Yoruba traditional religion.

“So I can say I simply followed my passion. It was in 1998 that I first travelled to Yoruba land for my traditional rites. In later years, I was also initiated to Oosaala, Ogboni, and Egungun, and the art and healing principle of this culture is making me to practise full-time as a priest.

“Today, my entire life has been shaped in a positive way through Orisa and the Ifa literature and divination system. I live modestly yet comfortably. I can be in several countries in the Americas, Africa, and Europe, and I have extended family and a home in each of those places. I live in the tropical climate of Miami Beach, and I continue to grow as a human being in terms of knowledge, character, and unforgettable positive experiences with the other wonderful people on this path,” Fawehinmi, who abandoned university studies to follow Ifa full time, said.

“I was an Anthropology and African Studies major, but I didn’t finish my university studies; my study and practice of Ifa was what opened the way for me to learn the Yoruba language and to travel to West Africa.

“Of course, my decision lended me the freedom to do exactly what I wanted to do, instead of having to follow the strict guidelines of academia,” Fawehinmi said.