Ifa ni, ka fini koni ka le baa lola
Ka fiwa kowa ka le baa niyi
A difa fawon Odu merindinlogun
Won jo n rin won o rinu ara won...
Ifa said we should reason together
So that we may be wealthy
That we behave well to earn honor
Cast Ifa for the sixteen Odu
Who were moving together but could not understand one another...
Whenever EjiOgbe would divine, OyekuMeji would despise him. Likewise, whenever OyekuMeji would divine, IworiMeji would despise him. In turn, whenever IworiMeji would divine, OdiMeji would despise him. On and on, each of the Olodu would insult one another.
Why was it that all of them had come into the world without a leader? Why was it that whenever one of them would divine, the other would belittle him? If was for that reason that the Olodu took their case to Olodumare for direction. The Olodu asked Olodumare to choose a leader from among them. They asked him to determine who would be the highest, who would be the lowest and who would be in between?
However, when they went to see Olodumare, OyekuMeji did not call on IworiMeji. IworiMeji did not call on OdiMeji. It was only Orangun who went to the house of EjiOgbe to ask why he had not departed with the others. EjiOgbe replied that he did not know that they had already embarked upon the journey. It was then that they decided to travel together. EjiOgbe explained the mission to his wife and then he bid her farewell.
As EjiOgbe left home, he went into the backyard, where he discovered a very large, black snake. He killed it and put the snake in his abeti aja cap. Then, EjiOgbe put the cap on backwards. Finally, EjiOgbe and OrangunMeji travelled together to see Olodumare.
When they arrived, they found the other forteen Olodu seated in a circle. Olodumare greeted them in the name of IworiWofun:
He who prostrates will grow old
He who prostrates will live long
He who prostrates will have all blessings
Olodumare commanded the Olodu to follow him. He pleaded with them, "Don't be vexed because I do not have much to offer you." He then gave each of the Olodu a mound of eko. He then prepared egusi stew with worowo vegetable in it. He apologized for not having any meat to offer the Olodu. A bowl of water was brought out for them to wash their hands. They all struggled to wash their hands at once, because none of them recognized one as their leader. The water spilled onto the ground. Each of the Olodu then touched the water on the ground and then they began to eat. This was the beginning of pouring libation.
Later, Olodumare greeted the Olodu. He greeted them for their trouble in making the journey. He pleaded with them not to be upset that he had no meat to offer them. It was then that EjiOgbe rose up, praising Olodumare:
King who reigns supreme, forever
King who covers all spheres of life
Why do you say you have no meat?I killed a creature on the way here. Olodumare asked to see it. EjiOgbe produced the snake he had killed. Olodumare asked EjiOgbe to hold it by the head. He asked OrangunMeji to hold it by the tail. He stretched the snake and then cut the head. Then, he asked OyekuMeji to hold the snake and cut another portion. One by one, Olodumare had the Olodu hold the snake, while he cut a portion. They all ate to satisfaction. But EjiOgbe did not eat the head and OrangunMeji did not eat the tail.
Olodumare then asked the purpose of their visit. The Olodu explained that they had gone into the world without a leader. They explained how one would insult the other any time he was divining. The Olodu explained how they all insulted one another. Olodumare then asked who was holding the head of the snake. EjiOgbe showed him the head. Olodumare then proclaimed EjiOgbe the leader of the Olodu.
"You are the head. You are the father. When they cast you, they must say 'Kabiesi'. They must not cast a second time." Olodumare then asked, who had the tail. OrangunMeji brought out the tail. "You are their chief whip, OrangunMeji. Whenever they see you, they must hail you, 'Hepa!' They must not cast a second time." Olodumare declared that the remaining Olodu must be cast twice.
Olodumare declared that the Olodu must be kind and good to one another. The Olodu than accepted EjiOgbe as their leader. They said, "We have a father today!" The Olodu accepted OrangunMeji as their chief whip. They said, "We have a chief whip today!"
Olodumare then proclaimed that the stomach of the snake is straight and the babalawo share one stomach. Therefore, they should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Sango devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Obatala devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Osun devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Ogun devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Esu devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Yemoja devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Olokun devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Oya devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Sanponna devotees should not betray one another.
The stomach of the snake is singular. Therefore, Osanyin devotees should not betray one another.
ABORU BOYE BOSISE
ASURE IWORI WOFUN
THE PROBLEM WITH MANHOOD
Being a man is a troubling and thankless endeavor for most. We are responsible for everything that is wrong in the world, but we are also expected to take responsibility for making everything alright... But alright for who? That is, are men supposed to be responsible to one another, as colleagues in a fraternal bond? Are we supposed to be responsible to our wives and girlfriends, as we create a family unit? Or are we supposed to be responsible to our children, to whom we will one day bequeath our estates? Sometimes, our roles as men complement one another quite well; other times, however, they are at war with one another.
SEE LIFE AS A KING WOULD
One thing I have always enjoyed about Yoruba civilization is the fact that it is organized around the institution of divine kingship. The Oba [king] is the apex of all activity between heaven and earth. He is the organizer, the leader, the creator and bestower of blessings. His authority is unparalleled. As such, the Oba is the ultimate symbol of Yoruba masculinity. As an archetypal figure, the Oba reveals men's capacity to direct, to organize and to create a platform upon which to build his own world of ideas, emotions and talents. What I mean is that every man can look to the king as a template for self governance and actualization. To better understand, let us glimpse what the sacred text of Ifa says about kingship:
Odi, the venerable master of the groves
Was the diviner who consulted Ifa for Oduduwa,
the gray-haired immensity who rolls infinitely
within his own existence
Glory and renown
Are your inheritance
Forever and ever
- Holy Odu OdiMeji
My life begins anew!
When a dying fire is fed fresh oil
Its life begins anew
Oduduwa is the original Yoruba king. It was he who institutionalized the elaborate palace governance system for which the Yoruba are known today.  In the verse above, we see that Ifa predicted that Oduduwa would enjoy the eternal wisdom of his own existence. That is, he would draw from his own, internal resources to create a sustainable framework for his own greatness. In addition, his greatness would be characterized as regal and glorious. Later on, in the song that follows the verse, the perpetuity of Oduduwa's primacy is transformed into a personal invocation that every man can recite: My life begins anew! When a dying fire is fed fresh oil, its life begins anew!
RITUAL APPROACH TO MASCULINE EMPOWERMENT
Ritually speaking, when I perform rituals to activate and invigorate a man's destiny, I will anoint his head with palm oil and recite an incantation very similar to the lyrics of the song mentioned above. In those moments, I am invoking the life principles that govern Oduduwa, the archetypal king, whose power, glory and royalty are forever renewed.
Among all Yoruba people, the crown is the principal symbol of the king's authority. Not only that, the crown actually becomes an Orisa when it is placed upon the king;s head. His ori inu (inner head) then becomes one with those who have reigned before him and are now Orisa themselves. There is an ancient story of how Oduduwa gave a beaded crown to each of his sons and sent them out to establish their own, respective kingdoms.  In this way, you can see how Oduduwa passed down his authority to his sons, thus avoiding the risk of becoming a tyrant, who refuses to share power.
And so it is that the appeasement of a man's head has a similar function and purpose. As a ritual specialist, it is my duty to empower other men to increase their authority and ascend the throne of their destinies, as sons, brothers, husbands and fathers. In each of these capacities, men must learn to seize their regal impulse to lead, organize and govern themselves and the resources within their control.
BECOMING THE KING OF YOUR OWN DESTINY
Here, it's important for you to start to explore healthy ways to dialogue with that part of yourself that truly wants to lead. In this process, you must reconcile those aspects of yourself that have kept you in non-productive cycles of conflict, emotional turmoil and inadequacy. This exploration with reveal the self destructive patterns that have drawn you into unhealthy relationships and caused you to squander golden opportunities. Failure to voluntarily engage in such an exploration will mean a life of mediocrity for you and potentially your future generations.
Behind every great man is a long and foreboding shadow. Your ability to cast a bright light onto that shadow and place it squarely under the spiritual authority of your destiny will determine your ability to ascend the throne and become the master of your own identity.
 Origunwa, Obafemi. Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle pg 62
 Origunwa, Obafemi. Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle pg 62
Omimi is Pandemonium; She was the wife of Aiye, the world. Anytime Aiye attempted something worthwhile that was when Omimi would going to action. Everything would scatter! It was obvious that Aiye did not need Omimi, but nobody could separate the two. Several noble projects were destroyed by Omimi while looked on, helplessly. All great men and women who try to contain the wife of Aiye were washed away by pandemonium. Those who attempted to make Aiye see that he must do away with pandemonium were overwhelmed and destroyed by the same woman that they were trying to contain. Nobody seemed to have any solution on how to handle Omimi.
One day however, Orunmila made it his responsibility to contain pandemonium by any means. The destruction happening in the world must come to an end, he vowed. Orunmila summoned some of his former students to consult the Ifa. He wanted to know how best to handle the problem posed by Omimi. The awo cast IFA for him and the Holy Odu OgbeAlara was revealed. The awo told Orunmila that the best way to tame pandemonium and stop her from creating further havoc was to take her from the world. By making Omimi his wife, Orunmila would easily be able to monitor her both day and night. The awo explained to Orunmila that if he took over pandemonium, however, Aiye himself would give Orunmila the fight of his life. In the end, however, Orunmila was told that he would triumph and save many people from experiencing pandemonium in their lives. They advised Orunmila to make a sacrifice. After a lengthy deliberation, Orunmila complied with the advice of his awo. He made the sacrifice.
Soon afterward, Orunmila met Omimi and he began to woo her. At first, she refused to listen to him because she knew for sure that Orunmila would try to stop her from creating havoc in the lives of people. Orunmila however was persistent and Omimi finally gave in. The two of them then went into hiding. Then, as the awo had predicted, the world began to look for pandemonium. Unknown to many, Aiye had actually been using pandemonium to destabilize people's lives. He enjoyed seeing people suffer and die. This was because of the fact that anyone who died would be consumed by the world. And so, pandemonium helped to intensify the world's power.
As soon as pandemonium moved into the house of Orunmila, Aiye became very angry. Before long, he became depressed. His depression then gave way to desperation. Aiye decided to find out where his wife had been taken and he would teach everyone involved a lesson they would never forget. And so, the world plan his strategy for war. It took him 1 year to perfect his plan. The day Aiye decided to strike, Orunmila was totally unprepared. The confrontation was extremely fierce. Heaven and earth shook violently. Before long, the world had gained the upper hand. He was pushing Orunmila further and further back. It was clear that Aiye would soon overwhelm Orunmila.
That is when ESU advised Orunmila to hide from the world in order to regain his strength and plan his own war strategy. Upon hearing this, Orunmila realized that it was the most sensible thing to do under the current conditions. Orunmila took to his heels! He ran and hid himself in the midst of 60 Iyere seeds. When the seeds saw him, they asked him what was the matter? They demanded to know why Orunmila was running the way he was. Orunmila explained to the 60 Iyere seeds what was happening. They told Orunmila that they did not want any trouble from the world. They chased him out of his hiding place. The world then saw Orunmila and started to pursue him again.
Orunmila was on the Run once more. He ran inside the hiding place of 60 Kola nuts. As soon as he got there, the 60 Kola nuts demanded to know why he was running. Orunmila explained the situation. When the Kola nuts heard his explanation, they told him to go away! They said they did not want any trouble from any place at all! When Orunmila hesitated, they kicked him out forcefully. Another round of intense fighting occurred. They fought for seven days without stopping. Orunmila became weaker and weaker. Again, ESU advised him to go back into hiding. This time, Orunmila went and hid himself inside 60 Ataare. The Ataare asked him what was the matter? Again, Orunmila explained why he had been fighting and hiding. The Ataare told Orunmila to leave there abode immediately! All of his pleading fell on deaf ears. The 60 Ataare pushed Orunmila out with force once again.
The fight was more fierce than before. Orunmila fought bravely but he was no match for the power of the world. For 17 days the fighting continued. It was just a matter of time before the world would defeat Orunmila totally. Once more, ESU appeared. He told Orunmila to go back into hiding. Orunmila ran again. This time, he met the Aparo, the Partridge on the way. He begged the Partridge to allow him to hide under his feathers. The Partridge demanded to know why Orunmila chose to hide. He then explained everything to the Partridge. Aparo told Orunmia to hide under its beak. Both Orunmila and the Partridge then disappeared. When the world got to the spot where they once stood, he could not find Orunmila and the Partridge. He searched to no avail.
In frustration he went home and eventually forgot about pandemonium. When Orunmila got to his home, he told pandemonium that from that day forward, she must never go out to cause havoc anymore. Omimi complied. From that day onward, only those who went looking for pandemonium and disaster would bring pandemonium into their lives. That was how Orunmila managed to frustrate the world an tame pandemonium at the same time.*
* Popoola, Solagbade. Ifa Dida.
Opele Ifa, the Divining Chain
The most common divining chain is made from the seed pod known as opele from which the chain takes its name. It comes from the tree, Schrebera golungensis. This seed pod has a distinctive pear shape and naturally splits open at the base, with the two halves splaying out from the top, where they are joined. On the concave inner surface of each half is a marked ridge.
Other items which have at one time or another been used to make divining chains include:
The opele Ifa is about three to four feet long and usually consists of eight halves of seed shells or pods joined by sections of chain three to four inches long. The chain is held in the middle so that there are four shells or seeds hanging on the right and four hanging on the left.
ORIGIN & USES OF OPELE
Opele is a symbol of over indulgence - i.e., it talks too much, is prone to dishonesty and it is greedy). As such, opele is used to remind us to always practice restraint and to be respectful of our elders. Refusal to heed this warning may result in a life of difficulty and futile efforts. The Holy Odu OturaIwori is illustrative:
The sturdy man as strong as the Ogun of the main road
Ifa’s message for Oga, the Opele
When going on Ifa’s message to Onko land
He was advised to offer ebo
He refused to comply
The inhabitants of Onko land
He who stays at home and knows about the slaughtering of all Ifa animals
- Holy Odu OturaIwori
It is Opele's greed that prevented her from receiving offerings given to Ifa. All the animals slaughtered for Ifa are given to Ikin instead of Opele, who was used in casting Ifa and who recommended that the animals must be used to feed Ifa but received none of the offerings in question.
Similarly, opele is synonymous with being unsettled and agitated, which are unfavorable traits, according to Yoruba traditional values. See what Ifa teaches on this subject:
He cast Ifa for Opele
When going to the live the life of being carried about
He was advised to offer ebo
He failed to comply
Travelers to Ipo and Ofa towns
Can’t you see the prediction of Ifa as it has come to pass
- Holy Odu OkanranOwonrin
Here, opele was advised to sacrifice to present being carried around, without enjoying the benefits of a stable lifestyle. Opele refused to sacrifice and was consequently forced to being the travel companion of the babalawo, who is an itinerant priest.
The chain is thrown with the right hand, and tossed in such a way that the two lines of shells fall parallel with each other. Each of the eight seeds or shells can then fall with either the concave inner surface or the convex outer surface facing upwards. The ends of the chain have various items attached to them so that the diviner can establish which is the left and which is the right figure (it being essential to know which is the first and which is the second column, to prevent the reverse figure being read by erroneous juxtaposition of the columns).
Half a seed shell falling with the concave surface facing upward is equivalent to a single line on the tray, while a fall in the 'closed' position with the convex outer surface up, is the equivalent of a double mark. Divination with the chain of seeds, though regarded as inferior to ikin Ifa (palm nuts) is more rapid, but otherwise the two systems are identical. They employ the same set of figures with the same names and rank order, and the same verses.
Bascom explains: the divining chain is said to 'talk more' than the palm nuts, but it is regarded as an inferior instrument, less reliable than palm nuts for deciding important questions. It is also spoken of as Ifa's servant... a number of Ifa diviners employ only the chain, because they dislike using the palm nuts . . . the divining chain arrives at the same interpretation through the same set of figures and verses more rapidly, and answers more questions than are usually asked when the slower method with palm nuts is employed. In addition to convenience, there are instances wherein an individual can only receive divination using opele. Let's consider what Ifa teaches in the Holy Odu ObaraOse:
The madmen took off
But he recognizes fire
This was the Ifa cast for Opon, the divination tray
When going to cast Ifa for Onitagi Olele
He arrived in the home of Onitagi Olele
He advised him to offer sacrifice in order to ward off war
After offering the sacrifice
War erupted again in greater force
When Opon offered the sacrificed for Onitagi Olele
He sprinkled the Iyerosun into the sacrifice
The sacrifice was totally rejected
They went to call on Opele, who no Iyerosun
Opele the Awo of Onitagi Olele
He was the awo who cast Ifa for Onitagi Olele
When weeping in constant fear of war
He as advised to offer all what was obtained by inheritance as sacrifice in
order to ward off war
Now, you Opele, who has no Iyerosun, enter into the water
And shake your body into my sacrifice
Before long, not to far
Come and join me in the midst of all the good things of life.
- Holy Odu ObaraOse
Among the Fon of Dahomey the chain is called the agummago, but is used in much the same way as the opele. The diviners see the fall of the seeds not as a matter of chance but as by an act controlled by Ifa, the deity of divination. Any interference with the free fall of the chain by the diviner garbles the message which Ifa wishes the client to receive: hence the ritual of throwing the chain is governed by very precise rules. That is, the babalawo uses the opele to discern the nature of the client's problem, then determine the appropriate sacrifice, medicines and observances. Together, these elements make up the distinct method by which babalawos diagnose and treat clients.
Learn more: ObafemiO.com
Bascom, Williams. Ifa Divination
Origunwa, Obafemi. Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle
Ajayi, Bade. Ifa Divination Process
Orisa Lifestyle is NOT About Initiations. It's About Spiritual Discipline: How to Master the Art of Daily Devotion
PAIN IS OBLIGATORY; SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL
I have been a human services professional for over twenty years. And after working with thousands of people, I have discovered the root cause of the most common forms of pain and suffering:
To make matters worse, most people are wasting precious time, energy and money, chasing magic bullet solutions. They believe that the problems they have accumulated over years - sometimes decades - can be erased just be getting initiated. This is false.
Right now, I want you to let go of the idea that something or somebody "out there" is going to appear and magically alleviate all of your problems. As a matter of fact, I want you to take a few minutes to challenge the notion of what you are interpreting as problems. Instead, I want you consider these troubling circumstances as feedback from your very own destiny. Your destiny is GOOD. Your destiny is the blueprint for total success.
If you accept the invitation to look at your life in this way, you will come to realize that you have something within you that is totally biased in favor of your success, happiness and fulfillment.
Instead of trying to solve your problems by constantly ADDING materials, you can start to focus on learning to bring out the internal resources that you already have and use them to your advantage.
THE ANSWER IS WITHIN YOU
What if you knew the secret practices of the greatest spiritual adepts? What if you had access to the mysterious power that has enabled the Orisa to thrive, even under the most adverse conditions?
Tap into the power of your inner divinity through daily devotion.
Thinking small and poor performance are symptoms of a much greater problem that cannot be resolved by participating in a weekend ceremony. Inside the discipline of daily devotion, however, you will discover a timeless playbook that was created by the ancients based upon what has actually worked for thousands of years. Through daily devotion, you can gain access to spiritual technology that will show you how to build a morning routine, how to create and breakdown your life goals into bite size chunks, and organize your life according to the universal laws that govern the universe.
THE COURSE ON DAILY DEVOTION
The PÀTÀKÌ Master Class on the Art and Practice of Orisa Devotion is just what you've been looking for. This 8 week course will help you to remain ever-focused on the way of your Personal Priesthood, which will amplify your spiritual insights. It's ideal for devotees within ALL Orisa traditions.
Special attention is given to the Seven Day Worship calendar, whose patterns and cycles of creation are recognized by every sect of Òrìsà Lifestyle. From Haitian vodoun to Trinidadian Sango to West African Isese, you will quickly notice the ways in which Òrìsà Lifestyle reinforces awareness of moon cycles, annual seasons and natural phenomena in an effort to facilitate stages of spiritual maturation.
The PÀTÀKÌ Master Class on the Art and Practice of Orisa Devotion will help you to align yourself with the patterns of Creation, as defined by our Yoruba ancestors in West Africa.
“Kin ni a bo ru lebo? What is to be offered for the sacrifice? That is the pivotal question the babalawo asks during Ifa Divination. It represents the movement from theory to practice, from ideas to action. That is, once you have defined your problem, it is logical to define what must be done to solve it. Naturally then, your sacrifice must match your circumstances and desired outcomes. Are you willing to sacrifice your anger in order to experience true happiness? Are you willing to sacrifice your fear in order to enjoy true love? Are you willing to sacrifice conformity in order to experience true freedom?
The only true sacrifice is personal sacrifice. It is only through personal sacrifice that you will ever change, develop and grow in your spiritual practice. Of course, the materials you offer are necessary to activate your environment and set the stage for healing, in much the same ways that pharmaceuticals set the stage for physical health. But internal activation is what enables transformation.
Internal activation is what Orunmila teaches us in the Holy Odu IworiMeji. In this instance his disciple went to Olodumare and accused Orunmila of failing to make sacrifice for him. When Olodumare summoned Orunmila and confronted him on his transgression, Orunmila explained how he had always made sacrifices for his disciple, but the latter’s ORI never arrived to accept the offerings. And so, his blessings went unclaimed.
So, whereas prayer is asking for guidance, meditation is listening for instructions. Obedience is making the mental, emotional and spiritual changes necessary to follow the instructions you asked for in the first place. But it’s not as easy as following instructions, is it? Sometimes, the instructions seem unclear. Maybe you know where to go, but you’re not sure about how to behave once you arrive. Other times, you don’t even know where to start! And then, there are those times when you have face yourself, your character flaws, inconsistencies and inabilities.
In all of those instances, you need spiritual support that extends far beyond mere technique. That is, when you’re serious about giving up the emotional, intellectual and spiritual traumas that may have enslaved your family lineage for generations, you need a trusted advisor who is adept at helping you define the problem and create an appropriate plan for addressing it, from the inside out. That is what I call living the medicine.
"Ẹni tó ńlé nǹkan níwájú, ńfi àwọn nǹkan míràn sẹ́yìn." Whoever is pursuing something ahead, is actually leaving some other things behind. The nature of change requires natural sacrifice. If you're a parent who wants to go back to school, you must sacrifice time at home with your family. If you want to start a garden or practice your art, you have to give up some leisure activity, like watching TV or shopping. If you want to heal, you have to sacrifice the attachment to the events or people that harmed you. It means letting go. You can't have it both ways. Decide you want it more than you're inconvenienced by it.
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Orisa initiation is NOT a rite of passage. Among the Yoruba, one is born into orisa devotion by way of his or her lineage, which is why we say, isese l'agba. It means that orisa tradition is senior; that is, it predates the Abrahamic religions. The problem we face in diaspora is a lack of exposure to Yoruba culture. Within the culture, there are three primary rites of passage: They are the naming, marriage and burial. Today, I want to share a bit about marriage, which is of particular interest to Yoruba men. This is why they say, “Àíníyàwó kò sé dáké, bí a bá dáké lásán ẹnu níí yọni − A man cannot just keep quiet without a wife, keeping quiet about it only results in a problem.”
Marriage is arguably the MOST important initiation you will ever undergo. It is NOT an individual endeavor. Marriage is, in fact, a ritual that equally involves two entire families. Traditionally, a man will only seek marriage after he has mastered his craft, established a solid stream of income and built a house. This means men usually do not consider marriage until about age 30. At that point, he seeks a young lady he wishes to marry. In the traditional society, there are about five stages involved in the marriage:
1. Ifa consultation
2. Releasing the voice (isihun)
5. Wedding proper
In the most traditional settings, he does not approach the lady at first. The young man informs his father, who will then inform the Bale (head of the family). When they are sure that there is no blood relationship between the two, they then meet with the family of the bride-to-be. The two families then select a go-between (Alarena).
It is the duty of the Alarena to perform a background check on the family of the bride-to-be. This is to avoid marrying someone with some serious physical or mental disorder such as lunacy, epilepsy, leprosy, or extreme albinism. The Alarena will also watch the conduct of the girl over time. When she is satisfied with the conduct of the girl, the family of the young now consults the Ifa oracle .The aim is to know what the future portends for the two people involved. If the consultation yields a positive result, then they move to the next stage, if not then they discontinue with the proposal. This background check includes knowing the health conditions of the family, if there is the potential mother-in-law is respectful to her husband and vice versa; also to find out if they are destined to be together (i.e., Ifa will be consulted and sacrifices performed).
Once all the background checks are done and both families are cleared, the parents of the groom-to-be send “emissaries” to the bride’s parents. This process is called Idana. This step simply means that they are interested in marrying the young lady and would like to become in-laws.
The releasing of the voice (Isihun) is when the girl gives her consent to marriage. The date is now set for the Itoro (engagement). On the appointed day, a few elders from the young man's family gets to the lady's house as early as five am in the morning unannounced. This is to formally solicit for the parent of the girl’s consent in marriage. The girl’s parents will then tell the delegates that they are not the only one's involved in giving out the girl. This is because marriage involves every member of the extended family and no one must be left uninformed. Before the delegation leaves, a date is set for Idana.
On the appointed day, the two families meet in bride-to-be’s residence. This is when the dowry (owo ori), and other items that have significance in the life of the family to be are presented to the girl’s family. Some of the items include choice kola-nuts, some alligator pepper, bitter-kola certain number of yam tubers, palm oil, salt, fine wrapper of good quality, and other things. In most cases, the dowry is returned to the parents of the young man with the assertion that they do not sell their daughter. After much eating and drinking, the two families set a date for the actual wedding.
On the wedding day, there are so many festivities in both the parents’ houses. The two families separately bring together and friends and well-wishers. There is so much to eat and drink on this day. The two families display the various outfits (aso-ebi) which they have sown. Both the bride and the groom’s families flaunt their affluence with the type of people in attendance, the type of musician(s) invited, and duration of the parties. In the night, the bride goes before the male elders of the family to obtain blessing. The eldest of them starts the prayer asking the ancestors to protect her. He also admonishes her to be of good conduct in her new abode. All other male and later female members take their turn to pray for her and advise her. After these prayers, she then turns to her mother for prayer and blessing in form of bride’s song of departure (ekun iyawo).The bride is then taken to the groom’s house by some men, accompany by some of the wife’s friends and a younger cousin, niece or nephew who is known as omo iyawo.
After all formalities, at the entrance of the house, the bride is admitted into the groom's household and finally handed over to the eldest wife in the family for mentoring. This underscores the importance of marriage as a rite of passage.
“A chief puts on his insignia before exiting his home.” Traditionally, this is the way palace elders might have advised potential chiefs, cautioning them to be deliberate about presenting a good image to the discriminating eyes of society. After all, as a chief - from a political, professional or priestly lineage - you would represent the embodiment of your constituents' highest values. In other words, leadership is not casual. So, as the representative, your people have to recognize you. This just as true for contemporary African Americans in the leadership spotlight as it as for Yoruba princes or chiefs.
Interestingly, as African Americans have started to ascend to executive spaces since the 1970s, there does not appear to have been a deliberate attempt to clearly define a distinct - culturally consistent - dress code for the upwardly mobile. It seems that high powered Blacks are wearing whatever is hip at the time. But when I look back on what was fashionable in the 80's I laugh. When I go back to the 70s' I get confused. And by the time I get to the 60's and beyond, I might as well be looking at hieroglyphs! Rigor mortis fashion is not good for your legendary status.
In all fairness, however, there were so few role models back then, when very few African Americans had taken one top leadership roles. Fortunately, you only need one, classic example to light the way! Let's consider the epic shot of Ali in Kinsasha. He stands out as a larger than life figure in a sea of African supporters. And while the image is loaded with a lot of heroic symbolism, I just want to draw attention to the fact that his dashiki is what actually makes the picture timeless. Even though the picture was taken in 1974, you could wear that dashiki today or ten years from now and still look regal.
Senator As Style Icon
In Nigeria, the suit in the picture above is known as “senator,” on account of the fact that it was a favorite of high ranking government officials (i.e., senators). Lately it has been cropped for a slimmer fit, which gives it a Western look. The slimmer fit also gives the senator more social flexibility and range. That is, you can select fabrics, colors and patterns that will allow you to move more comfortably from a corporate to social environment without ever looking out of place. Likewise, for cultural or religious environments, you might also prefer a looser, more relaxed fit. Either way, variations of this suit can be embellished further with a another garment (i.e., gbariye, agbada or ibora).
[RELATED: Discounts and Sales on Senator Suits]
Do you remember Obama's tan suit scandal? According to one New York lawmaker, the president's tan suit put our national security at risk. I think that's a stretch, personally. But the point is that when you're out in front, what you wear is very important. Your wardrobe definitely matters; it creates the theme for your entire personal brand. Part of being legendary is being memorable, like that epic shot of Ali in Kinsasha.
Dressing Your Age
Another key element to consider is “age appropriateness.” This is a major issue at every stage of your life's journey. In your 20s and 30s, as you're still learning the territory, your wardrobe should reflect the pioneering spirit with which you are approaching every aspect of your life. If you're a 40-50-something professional, it's more likely that you have ascended to senior leadership positions. Again, your wardrobe should bespeak your experience.
Looking ‘age appropriate’ doesn’t mean necessarily looking generic or frumpy. The problem often is the opposite: Up and coming African Americans who are trying to not look square and think they are being trendy, but they end up looking a bit tacky at worse or a little too casual, at best. There are very real limits to the "mix and match" style that has become so popular as of late. You need a suit!
You definitely want to wear a suit that fits your developmental stage and at the same time takes advantage of the fashion trends of the day. Nowadays, African American professionals have the opportunity to be more original and adapt their wardrobes to their lifestyles, which absolutely includes wearing traditional African apparel in the office and at social events other than Kwanzaa and the Black History Month shindig.
Six Style Tips For African American Leaders
For the African American whose leadership role is not quite presidential, but still in the spotlight, here is a short list of style tips that will help ensure your audience discusses your ideas and not your style:
1. Exude confidence and creativity. This has a lot to do with the totality of your clothes, grooming and attitude. Your hair has to be neat and well-kempt. Hands and nails clean and your clothes should be well pressed and fit perfectly. Power is magnetic – remember President Obama, whose brand set an all new standard of excellence for the world to emulate.
2. Be “fresh,” but not “trendy.” African Americans in a leadership role should be classic and impeccably put together. Deep, rich colors, flattering designs and quality fabric transcend time and trends. In short, it’s worth spending a little money on traditional African clothes.
3. Think color. Red and black convey leadership and power. Use them strategically and consistently. White and Pastels convey coolness and vitality. Earth tones, like tan, brown and olive, convey being grounded. It's best practice to pick your colors according to the seasons.
4. Absorb the local flavor. In the Bay Area, outdoor apparel is part of "the look." In Los Angeles, you can definitely see the effects of Hollywood glimmer. Wherever you are, pick up on the local style and let it accentuate your African attire.
5. Develop a day-to-night style. Sometimes, your days are long but you can't do a wardrobe change. You can still go from the work space to dinner if you set it up properly. Your black or navy blue senator suit should include a full sized agbada, which would be cumbersome at work but you could put on for dinner and be very dashing.
6. Let it shine. Your style is based upon what fits best and projects an image that makes you look good and feel relaxed. If you have to fake it, then it cannot be called success.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Quality cannot be added. No amount of polishing will turn brass into gold. Likewise, the babalawo cannot grant you anything that your ori did not choose as part of your destiny. Your prenatal choice is the basis of your success. Therefore, you must use self discovery in order to ascend the throne of your own destiny. Failure to do so will only end in falsehood and pretense.
I have met so many people who went to consult Ifa or Orisa and were told "You are destined to be a king... You are destined to be a queen... You are destined to have a big following and many God children." Unfortunately, along with these lofty claims, they were never taught to discover their natural gifts and talents. They were never taught that the job is not done when you get tired or frustrated or afraid; the job is done when you have completed the task. They were never taught to organize or to communicate. All they got was the regal fantasy.
I consider myself blessed that my experience was quite different. When I was initiated to Ifa, I had already corrected my name. I had already earned a Master's Degree. I had already travelled extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Latin America and Africa. I had already started a professional career, taken a wife, bought a home and fathered children. That is, I was already successful by the time I was formally introduced to Ifa. Most importantly, I was grateful for the blessings that had been bestowed upon me, thanks to my ori.
In fact, the very first prayer I learned was my name; ORIGUNWA, which means, "My destiny is enthroned." It is a constant reminder that ori is supreme and orisa is just one of many supporters. Consider what Ifa teaches on the subject:
Iwonran Olokun ko ko ara lile
Iku Ijebu ko ko oorun
Ifa’s message for Ori Apere
He who sells Akara, Beancake to prosper
When coming from heaven to earth
He was advised to offer ebo
Where people were blessed with the Ire of wealth
My Ori please let be counted among them
Where people were blessed with the Ire of good spouse
My Ori please let be counted among them
Where people were blessed with the Ire of great children
My Ori please let be counted among them
Where people were blessed with the Ire of property
My Ori please let be counted among them
Where people were blessed with all Ire of life
My Ori please let be counted among them
- Holy Odu OturaIrete
The position of maximum spiritual elevation and perfection is called Ori Apere. It is the pinnacle of human existence and rep-
resents the total optimization of human character, ability and purpose. As such, it is safe to say that Ori Apere is the ultimate
stage of spiritual maturity. For this reason, it – more than any other theological principle – is synonymous with destiny itself. And while you have been conditioned to think of destiny in terms of a destination outside of yourself, it is more appropriate to recognize destiny as the realization of your true identity. From this perspective, we can see Ori Apere for what it really is, the highest expression of your life’s purpose. In other words, Ori Apere is total and complete fulfillment. So, when you are aligned with Ori Apere you actually transcend the mysteries of Òrìsà. 
Until you fully grasp the significance of the title you selected at birth, you will be constantly enticed to seek out external sources of power and authenticity. Not only that, once you have externalized your power, you will find it very difficult to reorientate yourself and reclaim your natural authority. Let's look once more at the teachings of Ifa for better understanding:
It is Olodumare that showers rainfall in sweet torrents
The sky bound eagle is the one that jumps up and down on ridges
If a source of wealth is coming to look for one
There is no need to be apprehensive in work any longer
The rock pebble in the riverbed cares not about cold
Cast divination for Ajojigodogbo
On the day he was going to ascend the throne of the Benin monarch
He was asked to perform sacrifice
He heard about the sacrifice
And performed it
The throne I ascend in Benin
The throne is enough
It is Ajojigodogbo that has rejected the title of Agbanri
I have ascended the throne of the king of Benin
I am not coming back
He said they should keep Agbanri
- Holy Odu OturaIrete
Ajojigodogbo was born to a royal lineage. When Ifa was consulted for him, Ajigodogbo was told that he was destined to become kind in two places. He was advised to take the throne of his forefathers before taking the second crown. But before he ascended the throne, he travelled abroad to the kingdom of Benin. Once there, the king makers recognized his talents and abilities. They offered him the throne, which he accepted. Later on, his father died and the king makers of his birth place sent for him. But Ajigodogbo rejected the crown of his birth in favor of the throne of Benin.
Here is a precious lesson. Ifa teaches us that, No matter how beautiful she may be, one will never tie waist beads [a sign of beauty and wealth] on another person's child before their own. In like manner, one should not use his natural gifts and talents to enrich and empower another kingdom when he has his own to look after.
What you have created with your own hands cannot be taken from you. That means, it is also yours to pass down to future generations. This is as true of a throne as it is a business. When you become the president of your own company, it is yours to bequeath to your children. This is true, no matter how small the company may be. But even if you are hired to be the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation, you cannot pass down your title to your children.
 Origunwa, Obafemi. Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle. P 125
Few will admit to it, but most people who are attracted to Orisa Lifestyle are really just seeking power. Unfortunately, because they also refuse to work, the overwhelming majority usually settle for beads, pots and titles.
Contrary to popular belief, Orisa is not a pathway to power. If you take just a cursory glance at the global hubs of Orisa Lifestyle you can see that our people are not powerful. In the mainstream societies of Nigeria, Brazil, Cuba and elsewhere, Orisa devotees are an after thought, at best. At worst, our position is not even considered at all.
It is time for us to outgrow this childish pursuit of magical powers that would somehow make us exempt from the imperatives of reality. In the adult world, people appreciate the fact that indispensability is greater than power.
Becoming indispensable boils down to your ability to take charge of three areas of your life:
As you master these three areas of activity, you will become more and more indispensable. Gradually, your influence will increase.
According to the philosophy and world view of Orisa Lifestyle, water is the epitome of indispensability. The elders say, “omi la bu we, omi labu mu, eni kan ki b’omi s’ota” meaning “it is water we wash with, it is water we drink, none could afford enmity with water.”
Even if water claims a life or floods an entire community, nobody will dare attempt to destroy water. Anybody foolish enough to do so will immediately regret his lack of judgement. Furthermore, each Orisa has a unique relationship to water. They ALL make generous use of it.
Here are some ways to position yourself as an indispensable member of any group, team or institution:
Remember, the people who go around saying they're indispensable probably aren't. If you're truly indispensable, you won't need to remind people. They will remind YOU!
What you cannot find by day might be tracked by night. What you expect to happen in a matter of days may actually happen in a matter of months. Destiny and fate are governed by time. Consequently, spiritual work is always synonymous with the religious calendar. In Orisa Lifestyle, time is reckoned by the phases of Òṣùpá, the moon. Each New Moon signals the beginning of a distinct ritual sequence, which reaches optimal manifestation with the Full Moon, followed by gradual decline. Consider what Ifa teaches in this regard:
The New Moon appears
Turning its narrow edge to the universe
Exposing its other large side to the heavens
Ifa divination was performed for the New Moon,
Offspring of Ajalorun
- Holy Odu OwonrinSindin
The Moon was once much closer to the Earth. The Moon wanted to be known throughout the universe and so the Moon went to consult Ifa with the diviner named Ela Poroke. The Moon was told to sacrifice, not only for honor, but also for peace of mind. However, the Moon only sacrificed for honor, disregarding the offerings for peace. Consequently, Olodumare commanded that the Moon would be eternally restless; enjoying 15 days of growth and honor, and another 15 days of reduction.*
The new moon is an optimal time to quiet the mind and focus the emotions. It is considered naturally beneficial to dedicate additional time to meditation and chanting on the day of the new moon, as well as one before and one day after. Priests of Orisa Oko - the divinity of agriculture - will make offerings for abundance on this day.
NEW MOON ON A MONDAY
According to Yoruba thought, Monday belongs to Orisa Aje, the daughter of Olokun. Aje is prosperity. She is regarded as the indispensable one, the key to physical as well as spiritual progress. The importance of understanding the divine essence of money cannot be overstated. At the same time, however, money must be prioritized according to its ability to support your life's work.
In this light, you learn that, instead of praying FOR money - or even worse, praying TO money - it is best to invoke the spirit of Aje to activate prosperity for the sake of facilitating your destiny. In this way, you develop a relationship with money that is in alignment with the spiritual laws that govern the universe.
When the new moon falls on a Monday, let your prosperity rituals be organized around six core values:
THE RITUAL 
If you do not have a consecrated shrine for Orisa Aje, you can perform this ritual seated in a cool, relaxed place. It is best done first thing Monday morning, after your morning shower.
Phase One: Invocation
Scarcity of money, awo of k’oro town
Situation saver, awo of Ijero kingdom
If money is scarce for the babalawo
Situation saver will save the day
This was Ifa’s message to Òrunmìlà
He was advised to offer sacrifice
- Holy Odù EjiOgbe
Phase Two: Gratitude
I give thanks to Olódùmarè for Aje, the spirit of prosperity. I give thanks for the wealth I have experienced, the wealth I have to- day and the wealth that has yet to come. Ase.
Phase Three: Offering
I bring you this offering of prayer and to ask you to activate the spirit of prosperity in my life today. Ase.
Phase Four: Agreement
Olódùmarè, as long as you do not allow me to suffer poverty, I promise to use money to heal my life and the lives of the people I am destined to serve. Ase!!!
As the fullness of the moon increases, you can repeat the ritual every Monday and take advantage of the emotional and spiritual forces that promote growth and prosperity.
 Pataki, A Practical Guide to Òrìsà Devotion. Available at: ObafemiO.com/publications
*(Ifa, the Custodian of Destiny. Fayemi Elebuibon. Page 146)
1) Orisa Lifestyle is over 5000 years old
Orisa Lifestyle is one of a few ancient religions to survive and even expand into modern times. The collection of traditions that compose modern-day Orisa Lifestyle have developed over at least the past 5000 years, beginning among the KWA language groups, in what is the most widely researched civilization of the African world. There is no ‘founder’ of Orisa Lifestyle, nor single prophet or initial teacher. Orisa devotees believe their religion has no identifiable beginning or end and, as such, often refer to it as Isese L'agba (the progenitors are senior). As for the name itself, ‘Orisa’ is a name first given to the Arch Divinity, Obatala.
2) Ifa is premier among the many primary religious texts
Orisa Lifestyle does not have a single holy book that guides religious practice. Instead, Orisa has a large body of spiritual texts that guide devotees. First among these are the verses of Ifa, a collection of aphorisms on the divine forces of nature presenting key Orisa teachings. The verses, considered to be eternal truths, were passed down via an oral tradition for thousands of years. In recent years, a few verses have been written down. Orisa philosophy was further developed in the verses of Erindinlogun (16 Cowries). This philosophy has been condensed in the Oriki, praise poetry for each Orisa.
3. Sacrifice is beneficial to all
Sacrifice in general meaning is willingly giving, surrendering or letting go of something of value for the sake of something or someone. Sacrifice is further defined as dedication to our duties and beyond. Orisa devotees understand that worship without sacrifice defies the laws of Creation. In this concept, to stabilize the society, and balance heaven and earth, worship must require sacrifice. So, we would say that worship with sacrifice is being willing to give or give up something of value to live our highest religious principles. It realizes our good intentions, walks our talk, and changes we seek in the world. In religion, we worship, but if we are not ready to sacrifice for the good of the ancestors and humanity, the worship has no value. This is why the elders say, "Sacrifice benefits everyone; refusal to sacrifice benefits nobody."
4) Orisa Lifestyle sees the Divine present in all existence
The deepest single spiritual truth presented through the sacred texts is that Olodumare (the Supreme Being) pervades the entire universe. This divine reality, or its essential nature, is present in all living beings, eternal, and full of wisdom. Olodumare is understood as the cause of creation, as well as its preservation, and dissolution and transformation, all done in a constant, repeating cycle.
5) The nature of the Divine is understood in different ways in different lineages
Within Orisa Lifestyle there is a broad spectrum of understandings about the nature of the divinities. Some traditions place more emphasis on recitation of verses. Other traditions are more focused upon spirit possession. Still others look to herbal medicines for insights into the wisdom of Creation.
6) Orisa Lifestyle worships the Divine in both male and female, natural form
Because Orisa devotees believe that Olodumare animate the universe, they accept that there are a variety of ways in which all human beings can connect with the Divine. This universal Divinity is worshipped in both male and female divinities. The female divinities include Oya, Yemoja and Osun, each of which is represented by a different river. Male divinities include Sango, Ogun and Esu, who are represented by rain, fire and stone respectively. Each of these Orisa has a deeper symbolic meaning. Orisa devotees have long told stories about these various forms of the Divine to inspire devotion and instill ethical values.
7) Orisa devotees pray to different aspects of the Divine
Orisa devotees pray to different manifestations of Olodumare as manifestations of particular divine qualities or powers. For example: Esu is honored as the remover of obstacles and honored for his great wisdom, and is invoked before beginning any important task or project; Osun is the associated with high standards and quality; Olokun is worshipped as the Orisa of Prosperity. Wisdom is believed to have the taken human form of Orunmila to show people how to live the path of fate. Sango is called upon to eradicate evil and protect good. Ogun is worshipped as the lord of justice and progress. Furthermore, the prominence of each of the aspects of the Divine varies depending on the lineage of the individual devotee.
8) Orisa devotees use images in worship to make the infinite comprehensible to the human mind
Orisa devotees represent the various forms of Olodumare in consecrated images. An image can be made of wood, stone, or metals (and sometimes can be naturally occurring, rather than fashioned by human hands). Images offer a way to visualize and meditate upon Olodumare, which due to its infinite nature is believed to be beyond the grasp of the human mind. Orisa families conduct their daily worship at home altars and also at temples on special occasions. Many devotees consult babalawo and olorisa (recognized spiritual teachers and guides) for advice or answers to spiritual questions.
9) Orisa devotees believe the soul is eternal and is reborn within a single lineage
Orisa devotees believe that the soul, ori, is eternal. When the physical body dies the soul is reborn in the same family lineage. This continuous cycle of life, death, and rebirth is called atunwaiye. What an individual experiences in this life is the result of their past actions, either actions they have already taken in this life or actions from a past life. How an individual acts today impacts the future, both in terms of effects felt later on in this life or in a future birth. Though the effects of atunwaiye make certain actions easier or more difficult to take, just as our personal habits influence our lives, this is not a deterministic or fatalistic system. Rather, we all have the ability to freely choose how to act in any situation.
10) Orisa devotees believe we each have five goals in life
Orisa devotees believe we have five goals in life: aiku long life, owo the pursuit of material prosperity, oko/aya spouse, omo at least two children and isegun ota victory over enemies.
BLACK MEDICINE is called ETU. In the USA, it is commonly known as activated charcoal, which is the powder form of a potent natural remedy. Activated charcoal is used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them. It’s made from a variety of sources, but when used for natural healing, it’s important to select activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources.
Orisa Lifestyle makes regular use of etu [activated charcoal]. There are many verses of Ifa, wherein etu is prescribed. One of my favorite examples comes from the Holy Odu OgbeOyeku. Here, the Lion was not fierce. Nor was he the king of the jungle! Instead, the animals showed him nothing but disrespect. If the Lion fell asleep, they would walk right over him. Lion went to consult Ifa. He was told to sacrifice for glory and honor. The sacrifice included a calabash of water, activated charcoal, three clubs and herbs. They said he should crush the herbs in the water, add the charcoal and drink it. They instructed Lion to make a circle of urine around the spot where he planned to sleep. Any animal who entered that circle would surely fall dead. From that time one, the animals would not dare approach the Lion.
HOW DOES ACTIVATED CHARCOAL WORK?
When charcoal is activated, it is processed in a way to increase the porosity. Because of this, activated carbon will have a large surface area, which can adsorb substances effectively. This primarily increases its effectiveness as a filter. Activated charcoal is "activated" when it's processed at extremely high temperatures, which changes its internal structure, reduces its pore size and expands its surface area  It's not absorbed by your body, so it's free to carry surface-bound toxins from your body and dispose of them through bowel movements. It’s important to note that activated charcoal is not charcoal used in your barbecue grill! Barbecue charcoal is loaded with toxins and chemicals, and should never be consumed. 
Difference between Activated Carbon and Charcoal:
TOP USES OF ACTIVATED CHARCOAL
Whenever you take activated charcoal, it’s imperative to drink 12-16 glasses of water per day. Activated charcoal can cause dehydration if adequate amounts of water aren’t consumed in tandem. In addition, this helps to flush out the toxins quickly and prevents constipation experienced by some individuals.
Here are some uses of activated charcoal:
HOW TO USE ACTIVATED CHARCOAL
 Juurlink DN 2016 published in the Br J Clin Pharmacol titled Activated charcoal for acute overdose: a reappraisal.
The sweet potato with its splendid leaves
Excessive charms make one to act irrationally
If one possesses several potent charms
And one has no honesty, it will not be effective
One’s Ori is more effective than 200 different charms
Ifa’s message for Adibo-Ope,
he who holds the Ifa determinants during consultation
When they declared that he had only 110 more days to live
He was advised to offer ebo
Ifa sees you with longevity
- Holy Odu IrosunOgunda
Power intoxicates. It makes people lose sight of reality. When people think you are powerful, they will suffer with an irrational fear that you are determined to harm them. Any time you make a decision that adversely affects them they will swear that you have deliberately set out to destroy their lives. And when you create some opportunity that does not explicitly revolve around them, these people will be outraged by your apparent attempts to disadvantage them. People who have internalized a victim's mentality cannot have a healthy relationship to power.
Let me say here, that Ifa teaches that true power is never outside of yourself. Ifa says that, even when we have the Instruments of power and the trappings of authority, if we refuse to act, we shall become useless. And so it is, that your greatest power is not in beads, pots, titles or charms. Instead, your greatest power is embedded into your prenatal choice, which we call ORI.
The more closely you are aligned with your destiny, the greater you will become. Reject all movements and campaigns that constantly urge you to put Orisa, charms and other materials before your ori. Ori is supreme. It is what makes you greater than any circumstances or conditions.
Obafemi Origunwa, MA | ObafemiO.com
With the recent pilgrimage to Ghana, I shared with friends a new title given to me by the King of Akwamu, there have been some interesting negative responses from the black community.
Though the positives far outweigh the negatives, I choose today to focus on those negative ones because I believe there is great power in studying this mindset to provide teachable moments.
We American born blacks were bred to hate our own people and ourselves. Self-deprivation is buried deep within our subconscious. We’ve found comfort in calling ourselves derogatory names and sabotage our own progress because we’ve been convinced we are unworthy of the same things whites or other nations enjoy. When Jews visit the Holocaust Museum or Israel, or Irish and Italian Americans travel to their homelands, there’s ZERO backlash from their communities and communities outside. Ask yourselves:
WHY IS THERE ALWAYS BACKLASH FROM OUR OWN BLACK COMMUNITY WHENEVER WE HAVE PILGRAMIGES OUR HOMELAND?
This is not only from other blacks; it brings commentary from other communities who mysteriously seem entitled to chime in as well!
“Negative comments like; “Who do these Ni**ers think they are? They’re celebrating slavery! Africans were complicit in slavery as well! This is just a publicity stunt! They just want attention! etc.” Why all the hate? Why do folks care so much? It’s like we threatened them…AND WE HAVE! We have threatened them and other black folks to think better of us, therefore- better of themselves!
We American blacks are SUPPOSED to think negatively about being connected to our homeland because that's how we were conditioned to think! We’re SUPPOSED to think; all Africa was, was slavery when only an extremely small portion of the continent was even involved in the slave trade. We’re SUPPOSED to see Africa as mainly "starving people and jungles."
We may call ourselves African Americans but we are truly disconnected from Africa. I say WE because I’m not excluded! I thought “my people” came from South Carolina which I now see, is as stupid as a Chinese man saying his people came from Ohio! I tracked my heritage South Carolina was only a small part of my people's journey that began in Ghana, a place that had kings well before Europe had theirs. For me to be enstooled by the King Odeneho Kwafo Akoto III of Akwamu is far more relevant than if I were knighted by Queen Elizabeth who’s royal bloodline doesn’t go back as far. Ghana has been the 8th African country I’ve visited. They’ve all been astoundingly beautiful, with classy and very educated people who speak more languages than we do.
Those of us that felt “some kind of way” maybe you can begin to direct that anger toward those orchestrators that made you hate who you are- those who’d find comfort in you hating your own people, and those who’d find it threatening for you to unite with your people in solidarity. I believe the original culprits are long dead but their policies are alive and well. Please ask yourself; if Mark Wahlberg or Ben Affleck went back to their place of heritage would you care? They have a country that loves and embraces them. WE HAVE A WHOLE CONTINENT THAT LOVES AND EMBRACES US!
In Africa, a voice commands him to look around. The Voice: "Do you see any niggers?" He answers meekly “No.” The voice: "Do you know why? Because there aren't any." - Richard Pryor.
The Orisa and Vodun traditions belong to a single spiritual and cultural heritage, whose exact origins are embedded into the ancestral memory of the Yoruba and Fon peoples of West Africa. Learning to serve the ancestors and the deities properly - with precision and sincerity - is a particularly important aspect of West African identity. In this regard, the Orisa and Vodun School of Life aims to gradually lead the individual from anonymity to divinity. More precisely, as you learn and develop as a student of the ancient ways, you undergo a series of separations, each of which is a death to the previous profane life.
If there is one principle that defines the educational process, from beginning to end, it is discretion. This is revealed in the terminology we use to identify all Orisa devotees: Alawo, keepers of the mystery. Before anything else, then, the neophyte must make a solemn vow of absolute discretion regarding what they have seen, heard and experienced in the sacred spaces. Any devotee who cannot keep quiet about what is to remain secret and act with the veneration that is due to the sacred insignia he carries on his head will be considered a traitor. And so the Yoruba say, It is not everything the eyes see that the mouth must say:
It is not everything that the eyes see
That the mouth must say
This was the babalawo who cast Ifa for Iwori
On the day he was going to take a peep at the genitals
- Holy Odu IworiMeji
Many years ago, I was introduced to the writings of Bernard Maupoil, Paul Mercier, Pierre Verger and Remy Hounwanou, each of whom has written pioneering books on Vodun. And while those authors have done exceptional research on Vodun, some of my most enlightening insights have come from a sixteen page essay written by Barthélemy Zinzindohoue . I have especially enjoyed his detailed descriptions of the educational process of Vodun.
Firstly, unlike the Yoruba, who typically train the Orisa devotees in the personal homes of the priests, the Fon have a place called the Hun-kpamè or Vodun-Kpamê (Vodun enclosure). It can be compared to an ashram, where priests reside and neophytes come to live and get trained in the various aspects of Vodun tradition. For the first three months, the neophyte is considered Kajèkaji (a gourd who increases the number of gourds). This category reinforces the fact that the training process will enable each initiate to bring forth the mystic potential that resides within themselves.
The neophytes are supervised by the xwégan (head of house), the Kangan (master of the rope) in charge of discipline, the Hunso and the Nagbo, who are the heads of male and female instruction, respectively. Very much like the Yoruba training one would receive on the compound of his Oluwo and Apetebii, the Hunkpamê - Vodun Enclosure - is a harsh school that requires strict renunciation and relentless endurance. The educational process explicitly trains and conditions the neophyte in the life long art of serving the Vodun.
In the pedagogy of initiation, the neophyte is required to prove his capacity for endurance. A carefully choreographed series of challenges is administered by the priests and priestesses in order to prepare the neophytes for the trials of life. Training through trials, which is already a characteristic of the Yoruba and Fon educational systems in general, are even further concentrated in the Orisa and Vodun School of Life. For this reason the elders will remark, "It is preferable to suffer in the beginning and enjoy in the end." Discipline and tenacity are essential, and corporal punishment is used to develop these. Each devotee internalizes the educational experience and stores it in the body. Through gestures, attitudes, rhythms and, if need be, flagellation, the teacher’s words and postures must be memorized and reproduced exactly by the students. As Booker T. Washington instructed us, the mind, heart and body work together to build the complete man.
Apart from learning the sacred language, chants and dances, the neophytes also perform to chores around the temple and engage in fundraising activities. Ultimately, laziness is intolerable, which prompts the Fon to say, “Kajêkaji mo no do hwemê mlon”, which means “the neophyte does not take siestas”.
The neophyte learns to show maturity and be serious in matters of religion. In this way they are being trained to contribute to the balance and order of their community. All devotees are urged to cultivate a sense of brotherhood with all the other practitioners, to respect the deities and to feel a sincere sense of responsibility for the land of their Ancestors.
The Fon have a particular ritual which reinforces this virtue. It is called Kajêkaji (giving of the sand):
“About fifteen years after I was Kajêkaji, the Vodunun gathered all the Vodunsi of my year and told us that he was going to lock us up in a retreat (“xwe mi do xo”). We had been told to utter a strident shout (“gbo”) all the way from our houses to the Vodunon. He put a little earth in our left hand. With this gesture of offering earth, he said: “Danxome ko tonye die emi so do alomê nu hwi ma nu e jê ayi gbede o” (Here is the earth of the Danxomê which I place in your hands, let it never fall!)”
 The Vodou Phenomenon in Benin. Barthélemy ZINZINDOHOUE
Traditional African fabric and fashion promotes culture, style and status. The Yoruba people attach considerable importance to their appearance in the public. To them, it is socially necessary for both men and women to be well groomed at social events and one's dress must fit the occasion. This is perhaps the reason why the Yoruba say aso la nki, ki a to ki eniyan, meaning “it is the cloth we should greet before greeting the wearer” and eniyan lasoo mi, that is “people are my cloth.” The Yoruba also say, ‘Ibere osi, bi oloro ni ri; ti wo aso ile r’oko’ (It is poverty that forces a poor man to wear his best cloths to the farm); ‘Eni ti ko se bi alaaru l’Oyingbo, ko le se bi Adegboro l’Oja Oba’ (He that would not labour at Oyingbo market, would not purchase anything at King’s Market). These proverbs indicate the need to dress according to one’s station in life and according to societal bounds of decorum.
ASO EBI: FAMILY CLOTH
Festivals and dress are inseparable. Each festival has special fabrics associated with it. The most important and universal use of fabric is Aso ebi. Aso ebi is when a group wears a chosen cloth as a uniform dress to commemorate or celebrate an event or occasion. It is seen as strong expression of communal, solidarity and love.
In that regard, men and women of various age groups will choose their cloths according to their rank and status. Style of dress shows that one is wealthy, cultured and belong to a special class. In the kingdom of Ijebu, for example, religious or cultural groups might appear at a major festival in traditional aso oke fabrics like etu, alaari, sanyan. These categories of aso oke fabrics are prestigious and functions as ceremonial cloths. The fabric is woven in strips which are woven using local wild silk fiber. They carry social significance among the Yoruba which makes them suitable for events such as chieftaincy and festivals.
Yoruba women use aso-oke as oja (girdle), iro (wrapper), gele, (head-tie), buba (blouse) and ipele (shawl) or iborun which is usually hung on the shoulder of the user. Yoruba men wear a complete suits consisting of sokoto (trousers), buba (top), agbada (large embroidered flowing gown) and fila (cap).
Aso-oke is highly valued as special gift for dignified people. We cannot overlook the importance of aso-oke as a wedding gift for the bride’s family. It can also be used to placate the witches. Aso-Oke is also used for religious purposes as egungun costume. Aso-oke is also used as a sacred cloth by the ogboni society among the Ijebu-Yoruba. it is referred to as itagbe, an insignia of the Ogboni. It is used to cover some religious objects and used as shrine decoration. 
[RELATED: Buy quality African fabric online]
ANKARA: AFRICAN WAX PRINTS
While the aso oke is considered the king of cloths and is reserved for special occasions, there are also basic cloths that play an important role in the life and culture of Yoruba people. Basic cloths are those produced for everyday use. They can be made with traditional hand spun thread or with industrial threads to produce lighter cloth that can be used as cover cloths, casual wrappers to be worn to markets, baby ties, work and play clothes among others. Cloth under this category include; Kijipa or Ikale, Oja and Ala.
African wax prints - ANKARA- are the newest addition to the spectrum of traditional fabric and fashion. They are industrially produced, colorful cotton cloths with batik-inspired printing. One feature of these materials is the lack of difference in the color intensity of front and back side. Ankara can be sorted into categories of quality due to the processes of manufacturing. 
In Sub-Sahara Africa ankara is the most popular textiles. The process to make wax print is originally influenced by batik, an Indonesian (Javanese) method of dyeing cloth by using wax-resist techniques. During the Dutch colonization of Indonesia, Dutch merchants and administrators became familiar with the batik technique. The Dutch wax prints quickly integrated themselves into African apparel. Women used the fabrics as a method of communication and expression, with certain patterns being used as a shared language, with widely understood meanings. Many patterns began receiving catchy names. Over time, the prints became more African-inspired, and African-owned by the mid-twentieth century. They also began to be used as formal wear by leaders, diplomats, and the wealthy population.
[RELATED: Buy quality African fabric online]
Before the 1960s most of the African wax fabric sold in West and Central Africa was manufactured in Europe. Today, Africa is home to the production of high quality wax prints. Manufacturers across Africa include ABC Wax, Woodin, Uniwax, Akosombo Textiles Limited (ATL), and GTP (Ghana Textiles Printing Company); the latter three being part a part of the Vlisco Group. These companies have helped reduce the prices of African wax prints in the continent when compared to European imports. 
Since festivals and religious ceremonies draw crowds and help create community, they can serve as grounds for reinforcing our cultural values. Most important among the values of Yoruba people- especially orisa devotees- is cottage industries, like weaving, tailoring and entrepreneurship. Yoruba traditional dress should be promoted in traditional festivals in order to preserve our dressing norms and prevent acculturation of western garments.
1. Aso-Oke Production and Use Among the Yoruba of Southwestern Nigeria. Makinde D.Olajide Ajiboye, Olusegun Jide & Ajayi Babatunde Joseph
2. Role of Dress in Socio-cultural Events Among the IjebuYoruba, Ogun State , Nigeria. Diyaolu I.J
"Planting" flags is a practice that is particular to OrisaLifestyle in Trinidad. It is reminiscent of a ritual sequence described in the Holy Odu OfunAjitena, which calls for the ritual raising of different colored flags at specific times of the year in order to be blessed by Olodumare.
The yam seed germinates after planting
It turns a big tuber
The frog in a balanced grip of the soil
It calls for it to rain
The little children would continue the rites for the elderly
Such that the Elders would find something to eat late in life
Cast divination for Òfún
The one that was going to put an ‘Ena’on Òyèkú
The act of bettering one’s life
Is what is referred to as Ena - inscription
This is the rite observed when a blinder of white curtain is hanged by Babaláwos
It is the same thing that is done in Mecca
When they hang the white cloth
At another time it would be the turn of a red cloth
And also when it is the turn to hang the yellow
That is how they perform their own rites step by step
It would total two hundred and one
Anyone that is able to perform all these rites without a mix up
Ifá would be proud of that person
Because it is an important step of life
It is Òfún that is however very good at it
He then was doing it for Òyèkú
Life pleased them both
It is this same rites and rituals that we all are doing
He that is a Christian
Would go to the river
He would be baptized
They would give him or her a white piece of cloth
He that is a Moslem
He would go to Mecca
The rites would be performed for him there
It is the same thing for the Oya devotees
All arms of traditional cults
But whoever that records a lapse in his own
Would receive the blame from the Deities in heaven
He then started to dance and rejoice
He was praising their Babaláwos
The Babaláwos were praising Ifá
He said it was as their Babaláwo had said
The yam seed germinates after planting
It turns a big tuber
The frog in a balanced grip of the soil
It calls for it to rain
The little children would continue the rites for the elderly
Such that the Elders would find something to eat late in life
Cast divination for Òfún
The one that was going to put an ‘Ena’ on Òyèkú
Ajítenà is a good priest
It was Òfún that put an Ena on Òyèkú
Ajítenà is a good priest
- Holy Odu OfunAjitena
In Trinidad, planting flags can begin with an all night ceremony, called ebo. For those familiar with the ebo performed by babalawo, imagine the entire shrine becomes the opon Ifa. The natural floor is the iyerosun. The people rotate and sing various praises for hours, while circling the center pole, which we know as aarin opon, the center of heaven.
At the head of the opon, where Èsù watches the awo, you will find the drummers. Once the opening prayers have concluded, shrine assistant will place calabashes of water, oil, grains, a carafe of liquor and candles.
The first Orisa venerated in song is Èsù. The mongba or iya - male and female priest, respectively - may invoke Èsù with as many songs as the spirit moves them to sing. The participants ask him to guard the palais and open the doors to prosperity.
This will continue all night, one Orisa after another, until dawn. at which point, the sacrificial animals will be cleansed, purified and taken out to be offered. Each animal has a sponsor, who either purchased it or is tending to it for someone else.
The ebo usually process will be repeated from Tuesday to Saturday morning, and ends with praise for Sango and Ogun. Ogun removes his sword, which was planted in the ground of the palais at the opening ceremony.
Isolation is the enemy. That is, Africans of the diaspora are weakened by division. More exactly, when we come into contact with one another, we tend to focus more on our differences than our similarities. At the same time, however, it is pretty amazing when we discover the cultural unity of Africans in the diaspora. Recently, I travelled to Trinidad & Tobago, which shares a little-known spiritual legacy with African Americans.
AFRICAN AMERICANS IN TRINIDAD
THE 2ND GREAT AWAKENING. African American and Trinidadian spiritual traditions are joined at the hip. Of course, we share common African roots. More recently, however, there was a wave of African American spiritualists who came to Trinidad & Tobago as part of the Second Great Awakening, which was a Protestant religious revival that took place during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. The Second Great Awakening was characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the super-natural, which enabled the movement to absorb greater numbers of African Americans, the vast majority of whom remained loyal to African spiritual practices like Hoodoo, Conjure and Root Work.
Revivals were the main feature of the Second Great Awakening. Through the revivals, Pastors enrolled hundreds of thousands of new members in existing evangelical denominations, which led to the formation of new denominations. Among the new denominations were numerous syncretic African American religious movements, including the Zion Revivalists of Jamaica. Of particular interest to practitioners of Orisa Lifestyle is the Spiritual Baptist faith which combines elements of Yoruba spirituality and Christianity.
THE MERIKINS. The Second Great Awakening coincided with another wave of African Americans who resettled in Trinidad & Tobago. The Baptist faith was intensified in Trinidad by the Merikins, former American slaves who were recruited by the British to fight, as the Corps of Colonial Marines, against the Americans during the War of 1812. After the end of the war, these ex-slaves were settled in Trinidad, to the east of the Mission of Savannah Grande (now known as Princes Town) in six villages, since then called the Company Villages.
Many of the soldiers had been among four thousand runaway slaves from plantations in Virginia, Georgia, Maryland, and South Carolina. They were encouraged to abscond en masse, providing valuable information to the British and disrupting the local economy when their disappearance caused a shortage of plantation labor. They were recruited into a British battalion of Colonial Marines, and after the war, when they were given land in Trinidad, each village was made up of men from one of the six companies, and some of their families.
Official accounts put the number of settlers between four hundred and eight hundred. (No one knows what happened to Second Company: rumor has it they were lost at sea.) Some of the villages have since been renamed: Indian Walk, after the First Peoples who passed through it regularly, because it was on the route to one of their sacred sites; Hardbargain, because the discharged soldiers weren’t satisfied with the first settlements they received; New Grant, after a better agreement was reached. 
Six companies of Freedmen were recruited into a Corps of Colonial Marines along the Atlantic coast, from Chesapeake Bay to Georgia. Each of the villages was settled under the command of a corporal or sergeant, who maintained a military style of discipline. Some of the villages were named after the companies and the Fifth and Sixth Company villages still retain those names. Each of the Veteran Marines were granted 16 acres of land and some of these plots are still farmed today by descendants of original settlers. They were settled in an area populated by French-speaking Catholics and retained cohesion as an English-speaking, Baptist community. 
The Spiritual Baptists, or “Shouters” as they came to be referred to because of their spirited and evangelical hollering, became a public nuisance to colonial authorities in the early 1900s, resulting in the passage of the 1917 Shouter Prohibition Ordinance, a repressive attempt to legislate them out of existence. The law effectively outlawed Spiritual Baptist worship, but was later repealed by the Parliament in 1951.
(Related: Listen to my interview with Senator Barbara Burke, who led the campaign to win a Spiritual Baptist national holiday.)
African traditions were influential in the Merikin settlements and these included the gayap system of communal help, herbal medicine and Obeah – African tribal science. A prominent elder in the 20th century was "Papa Neezer" – Samuel Ebenezer Elliot (1901–1969) – who was a descendant of an original settler, George Elliot, and renowned for his ability to heal and cast out evil spirits. His syncretic form of religion included veneration of Sango, prophecies from the "Obi" and revelation from the Psalms. The Spiritual Baptist faith is a legacy of the Merikin community. One of Papa Neezer's protégés, American anthropologist Dr Frances Henry, called him, in a memoir, “one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever encountered.” Her book, He Had the Power, is subtitled Pa Neezer, the Orisha King of Trinidad.
During his early years, he was a member of the Spiritual Baptist Church. However, he became involved in the Orisa movement after he was told in a dream that he had healing powers and was able to cast out demons. It is said that he received the powers while sleeping in his garden, when a snake passed over him without causing any harm. He interpreted the event as spiritual powers bestowed on him and soon became the undisputed leader of the affairs of the Orisas in Moruga.
In a recent interview with Pa Neezer's great-neice, Jaramogi, she recalled, “We didn’t come here as slaves.” She has helped forge an alliance between the Merikins and the Maroons of Jamaica, Suriname, and elsewhere in the region, peoples who escaped from slavery and lived more or less independently of colonial rule. That independence is still clear in the Merikins’ traditional way of life, much of which continues unchanged. People move away or migrate, but some return. Up in the company villages, everyone knows each other, and who’s related to whom. While the T&T government faces a recession and urges everyone to grow food, the Merikins already do. When they first came to Trinidad, they were given rations for a few months until the land they had planted started bearing. Now, where you might expect a lawn, the sloping garden behind a house will be covered with the wide heart shapes of dasheen leaves, or plants used as seasoning or herbal remedies. Merikin families also have land scattered throughout their villages, parcels of the original sixteen acres that have been divided and passed down through generations.  It is precisely this revolutionary spirit of freedom and independence that permeates Orisa Lifestyle in Trinidad & Tobago.
EXPERIENCE THE ANCESTRAL LEGACY OF TRINIDAD
This is the Ile Orunmila, an Orisa Yard (ie, temple) in Sangre Grande, Trinidad. Awaiting commencement of the ceremonies, I had ample time to absorb the overall energy of the palais, which is where all the ceremonies take place. While the palais is a modern structure, with immaculate decoration and neatly-designed furniture, the ground remains natural. That is, instead of tile, wood or cement flooring, it is packed soil that has been leveled and smoothed out.
On this particular night, we arrived at about 1100 pm. The ceremonies commenced at about 100 am and people continued to arrive until 330 or so. Every time another wave of devotees came in, dressed in sparkling African attire, I was first impressed by their regal presence. Immediately, however, I wondered, "Where did THEY come from dressed like that, at this hour?" Clearly, the feast is an important occasion that is given the utmost reverence and respect.
Inside the palais, the orisa are praised with the vigor and enthusiasm befitting of their stature as ubiquitous protectors, guides and teachers. And while the overall style of worship is similar to those of places like Brazil, Cuba and Nigeria, there are some practices that are unique to Trinidad & Tobago. For example, before the drumming starts, an altar is created before the drummers. It consists of a gourd, a carafe of water, olive oil, liquor and candles. All these items are placed directly onto the ground and then they are ritually circled with olive oil. At one point in the ceremony, the devotees take the various sacred ingredients from the altar and each ingredient is then taken to a specific place in the palais, where it is used to consecrate the space and make way for blessings.
This process occurs numerous times. Ultimately, the drums, songs and offerings help to calibrate the entire affair with the highest spiritual vibrations. By end of night, we experienced manifestations of Sango and Yemoja, who are the presiding Orisa of the Yard. The palais was filled with the commingling of incense, camphor and rain. My heart brims with the ancestral spirit! This is what it means to live the medicine!
The bembe, omele and bo make up the Trinidadian bata drums. Devotional songs are delivered in Yoruba with a call and response format. Those familiar with litanies from Cuban and Brazilian traditions will quickly recognize the text of these songs, as well as some unique distinctions only to be found in places like Guyana, Antigua and Grenada.
TAKE CARE OF THE CULTURE AND THE CULTURE WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU
In Trinidad, the people have taken great care of the culture. Consequently, the culture takes great care of the people. Like Haitian Vodun, the Center Pole is the axis mundi of the palais. The devotees channel energy by singing and stepping to the rhythm. As the songs change, the devotees reverse their direction. As devotees circle the Center Pole with songs and dances that open their minds and hearts to the ancestral spirits, everyone takes part in sharing the beauty and the power of Orisa, as it has been experienced since the beginning of time.
The ceremonies begin with an extensive litany of oriki for numerous Orisa, most of which are familiar to all Orisa devotees. There were a few, however, who are indigenous to the Trinidadian system, like Mama Leta [Mama LaTerre, Onile] and Gurum. The opening litany was followed by an ijuba, which was sung in chorus. More impactful than the format, however, is the reverence with which the ceremonies are carried out. Never have I experienced more sincerity and wholehearted praise of the Orisa. As I was caught up in the intensity of it all, I thought out loud, "THIS is the African church!"
The Trinidadian tradition is the ultimate intersection of African spirituality. Here, Black Power and OrisaLifestyle converge. Here, African liberation and identity are not after thoughts. Nobody has to be reminded of our determination to maintain our freedom. There is a mutual understanding that we serve the deities so that they might enable our total liberation.
The spirit is something you must feel in order to really understand. It is a presence that defies space and time. But when it flows freely, between one person and another, the moment becomes charged with meaning and great power.
In the palais, EVERYTHING is about spirit! When you feel it, you know it. You sense it moving from one person to the next, creating one, irresistible frequency. The spirit rocks you. It pulls you one way, then another. You receive it and emanate it through your dance, your song and clapping your hands.
Last night, under the full moon of Sangre Grande Trinidad, I was introduced to the spirit again. Today, I give thanks for the twinkling eyes and soulful voices who transmit so much love and light in the name of Orisa.