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:
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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.
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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