The Yoruba say, "Concede to each person his or her own character." It speaks to our value for acceptance. One person may be extrovert, while another is introvert. One prefers spicy food, but the other cannot stand it. One is quick of mind and outspoken, while the other expresses herself through movement and does not speak much. As a professional teacher and priest, it is my responsibility to recognize these traits as learning styles and use my expertise to help every student to fulfill his or her potential.
When I met Dr. Afivi, she was interested in my course, the Fundamentals of Orisa Lifestyle. She called me with her questions - some of which were quite pointed - all of which I gladly answered. In the five years since then, she has successfully completed the Personal Priesthood Certification, which is a one year course of study. In addition, Dr. Afivi has also enrolled in the School of Orisa Studies and demonstrated proficiency in all five areas of spiritual specialization.
In the year 2020, Ifa advised me that there were several candidates for initiation who were ready to be taken to the Sacred Grove and be introduced to the mysteries of Orisa. Dr. Afivi was among them. So, in June of 2021, she and I made the fateful journey to the compound of Chief Lanre Okemuyiwa, the Apesin Awo of Gbagura land in Abeokuta. There, Dr. Afivi and I met a host of priests, priestesses and drummers from several kingdoms, including Abeokuta, Ijebu and Awori.
There are many kinds of Yoruba ritual that focus on individual spiritual development. In every instance, the ritual specialists set out to determine the exact nature of one's ori inu, inner head. Here, the goal is to discover the optimal pathway to fulfilling one's earthly purpose. While some must serve a particular Orisa, others must focus upon their ancestors. In either case, the iyawo orisa (new initiate) will learn those things to do and those things to avoid in order to optimize the journey of life.
As a babalawo, who is not initiated into the mysteries of Orisa, I was forbidden entry into the Sacred Grove with her. However, at specified times, the Iyalorisa (Chief Priestess) would send for me to come and observe, pray and bring things to the iyawo. It was during those times that I could see the admiration and care the priestess were giving to the iyawo. As a professional educator myself, I saw the playful, yet stern way they guided her. Likewise, I saw the serious and sincere way that the iyawo received instruction and participated in the initiatory process.
During a brief conversation between the iyawo and I, she remarked how helpful her training had been. More exactly, she told me how confident she felt because she was able to follow the ritual flow, even though she did not speak enough Yoruba to understand what was being said. Later on, when I had left the iyawo's secluded chambers, Chief Lanre also remarked that he was very impressed with the way in which the iyawo was able to be an active participant in the ceremonies. At one point, he noted her training in the Orisa Lifestyle Academy and said that he was in total support of our insistence upon getting trained BEFORE getting initiated.
Orisa initiation is conceptualized as a journey, in and of itself. The iyawo and priestess travel from one place to another, reenacting the sacred text and exploits of the divinities. Along the way, the travelers endure hardships, as well as triumph. No journey is complete with a return. But the experiences give the travelers keys to reflection and deeper understanding. Paramount among those keys is the divination text that gives birth to the iyawo's spiritual path.
Once the ceremonies had concluded, the iyawo emerged, reborn and renewed. Ifa confirmed that her offerings had been accepted and that, henceforth, she would be called Osundoyin Akanke. And so, it is my extreme honor to rejoice with Osun's daughter. I pray that her ori will enable her to make a meaningful contribution to the tradition and to the global African community at large. Ase!