Pouring libation is a standard practice in Orisa Lifestyle. I'll never forget the first time I witnessed a babalawo pour libation. It was around 1996 in Los Angeles, at the US Organization. I had accompanied my teacher, Babalade Olamina, to a lecture by Pa Wande Abimbola. He chanted a beautiful verse of Ifa and then poured a few drops of water onto the floor and invited the participants to come and receive blessings by touching the water on the floor, then touching our foreheads. Since then, I have been in ritual space with priests from Ghana, Nigeria, Cuba, the United States and Trinidad. All of them poured libation.
We pour libation for a variety of reasons. For example, when we pour libation the way Pa Wande did, we are cooling the earth and seeking a peaceful environment for all in attendance. There are other times when we invoke the primordial powers, one by one. It is customary to sprinkle a few drops of water following each deity we call forth. We do this based on the understanding that, when we call the deities, they will come. And, because it is polite to offer refreshment to a traveller who visits your home, we sprinkle the water as a gesture of hospitality and respect. Still, there are other times when we pour libation - either with water, gin or other liquids - as an offering associated with devotion.
ETUTU, APESE & ADIMU
Etutu, apese and adimu all refer to the ritual of pouring water or other consecrated substances onto the icon of a deity. While the offering is being made, the ritual specialist also chants oriki or Ifa verses corresponding either to the deity, the substance or the ritual itself.
In the process of Ifa divination, I could be directed to offer gin as an etutu (appeasement) to Orisa Esu.
I might start by reciting a verse of Ifa that explains the purpose of my devotion:
Pounded yam without soup can be difficult to consume
This was the Ifa cast for Etutu, appeasement
The child of Agbonniregun
He whose attitude was not acceptable
He who was full of bad character
He whose bad attitude had prevented him from coming to Ifa's domain
Now, we have come to solicit on behalf of Etutu
We have come to beg on behalf of Etutu
Father, please be patient
And overlook this provocation
We have come to beg on behalf of Etutu
Orunmila responded that, those of you who come to solicit on behalf of Etutu
Those who are begging on behalf of Etutu
How many children did Ifa have?
That he would cast out one?
Those who beg on behalf of Etutu.
- Holy Odu IrosunOturupon
Here, you can see that etutu was a son of Orunmila who had behaved poorly. As a consequence, somebody had to beg forgiveness on his behalf. This verse of Ifa demonstrates how etutu is meant to mitigate hostility or to redress some kind of offense.
Following the verse explaining the purpose of my offering, I could follow up with an Ifa verse that consecrates the substance to be offered, in this case, gin. Once I have consecrated the gin, I could then recite oriki Esu and finally pour the gin onto the icon.
Etutu is a form of sacrifice meant to put an end to unfavorable conditions. Here, it's important to note that there are strict and detailed rules for what must be done before, during and after the ritual. For example, people must NOT consume etutu offerings. Thus, etutu should only be performed under the watch of a qualified ritual specialist.
Another form of offering is called apese or ipese [ah-pwe-seh]. Whereas etutu is meant to appease the deities, apese is typically meant for the mouths of people, which can easily be used as agents of evil. More precisely, we recognize the presence of the ajogun, which are malevolent forces. When Ifa reveals that the ajogun are responsible for your hardship, apese may be prescribed in order to reconcile the situation and restore harmony between parties.
In a verse of the Holy Odu EjiOgbe, Ifa teaches us of the time when Ori was besieged by Awon Iyaami Osoronga.
A mature deer is the one with stripes on its back
This was Ifa's message for Ori
Whose destiny was being ruined by the Iyami
He was advised to offer ebo
Ori went to Ifa for consultation to prevent Awon Iyaami from disturbing him. He was advised to sacrifice. In addition, Ori was advised to prepare akara with esuru beads, cover it with palm oil and place it onto an earthen plate. Then, red cloth and a mirror should be added and it should be placed at Ikorita Meta, the three way intersection, which is the usual meeting place of the Iyami (the elders of the night). Esu then told Ori to hide in a place very close to the Ikorita Meta.
Before the Iyaami set out on their mission, Esu Odara appeared to them and told them, “I know you are on a very serious mission, but please have something to eat before you go.” They obliged and took the ipese that had been prepared on behalf of Ori. After taking it, Esu asked them where they were headed. They told Esu that they were on their way to Ori's place. "To do what?" Esu asked. They answered, "To destroy all of his achievements." They said that it was their usual way of destroying Ori and ensuring that he amounted to nothing in life.
Esu then asked them to pick up the mirror that was in the plate and use it to look at their faces. They did. Esu then said, 'Don't you see, after having taken the meal, you now all look even more beautiful’. They then said yes. It was then that Esu then told them that the meal was prepared for them by Ori, the one they had set out to destroy. Esu called Ori to come out. He came out and was embraced by the Elders of the Night. They then said to him: "Well done Ori! The one who uses Ileke esuru to prepare bean cake. Ori then replied, "Elders of the Night, You are welcome. You have done well. The ones whose beaks are made of esuru beads. The ones with beautiful delicate eyeballs." There, in the presence of Esu, they swore never destroy or disturb Ori again.
Adimu, the One We Cling to
Like etutu, adimu is intended for the deities. However, once the deity has accepted the adimu, people are free to partake of it. The purpose of adimu is to supplement the ebo riru (sacrifice) which has been performed by the ritual specialist.
One verse of the Holy Odu IreteOkanran illustrates the purpose and function of adimu:
To crouch in the forest in a way that looks like we are out of sight
To beat Igbin drum twice for Orisa in a way to make it sound pleasantly
And to give us satisfaction
To conceal two gongs under the garment
If they touch each other
They will make a rhythmic sound
These were Ifa’s declarations to Adimu
The one that would kindle a light for Obatala in order to actualize his destiny
He was advised to offer sacrifice
Adimu has kindled light inside
And has kindled light on the road
It is the light of success that Adimu has kindled.
- Holy Odu IreteOkanran
In this instance, you can see that Obatala is the orisa who bestows blessings. Thus, if this Odu appeared, you would be directed to gather materials for the babalawo to perform sacrifice for you. Following the sacrifice, you would be directed to light a candle for Obatala for seven days as part of the adimu.
Etutu, apese and adimu are rituals that enable the devotee to surrender to, honor and connect with the Orisa and the energy and power they exude. It is through proper devotion that we attain their blessings.
According to the directives of Ifa divination, you can perform these rituals for numerous purposes, such as empowerment, balancing spiritual energies, prosperity, removal of inner negativity and victory over enemies.
The ritual of pouring water, gin or palm oil on Orisa icons is potentially a form of cleansing and purification of your own mind. Each offering represents different spiritual properties; while some have a cooling effect, others are intended to have an animating effect. By offering the substances that represent different elements, the true adept will also request that the deity also activate these elements internally. As you propitiate the icons, you are invited to purge yourself of malevolent spirits, limitations, and emotional hindrances.
Falade, Fasina. Ifa, the Key to its Understanding
IITI Module 14
The wisdom of the Holy Odù Idinleke teaches us many important lessons. When the orisa resided in Osogbo, the great bastion of Yoruba spirituality, they found themselves in need of leadership and guidance. It was Orunmila who they selected for the duties; not because of his wealth, strength or cunning. Orunmila's gentle character made him the obvious choice.
Iwa pele - gentle character - is not, however a projection of puritanical rigidity. Iwa pele, as practiced by Orunmila in Idinleke, is a dynamic form of service leadership. Here, Orunmila came into the habit of tending to the orisa every 4 days, feeding them, energizing them, praising them, instructing them. This is what we call Ose Ifa. In other words, Orunmila was facilitating their individual and collective successes. He was helping them realize their plans and minimize their problems. They saw their success was coming from Orunmilas support and saw in him a natural fit for formal leadership. So they handed over the reigns of power to Orunmila. This is how Ifa guides us towards excellence.
Much like Booker T. Washingtons philosophy which teaches us to be indispensable elements of our communities - as construction workers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc - Idinleke demonstrates how disciplined spiritual practice will position you for the highest degree of leadership. If you want to discover personal leadership and spiritual purpose today, Tap into your natural gifts and talents and find a spiritual community to serve.
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.
Leadership is more than telling other people how to do things right... To the contrary, leadership is doing the right things. To be clear, doing things right means following the recipe. Doing the right thing is knowing when to depart from the recipe, and WHY. This ability to meet the moment for what it is and then define it, transform it and make a way for others to PARTICIPATE in that moment is the hallmark of leadership excellence. It requires that you be relaxed and centered - not scattered, distracted or caught up in emotionalism. To lead your family, your community and yourself, it is essential that you're not running around feeling overwhelmed by feeling that you have too much to do. NO! The truth is that there is only ONE THING TO DO... And that is the ONE THING YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO DO
RIGHT NOW. Ifa helps you identify what REALLY needs to be done so that you can focus all of your energy and attention on what matters most.
Spiritual leadership has a great deal in common with any other form of leadership; it basically requires virtue and commitment to principles above convenience. But how about GREAT spiritual leadership? That is, what will it take to actually redefine the standards of orisa lifestyle locally and globally as well? Some priests and devotees are making it happen, while others are not even aware of the concept. By definition, it is not possible for everyone to be above average. This is why the elders will sometimes say that "Not all men are created equal. Let the fingers on your hand be your guide."
Similarly, the Holy Odu EjiOgbe teaches us that "If all men were destined to be buried in caskets all the iroko of the forest would be decimated." Yet and still, while we cannot all be great spiritual leaders, we can work together to create great spiritual experiences for more and more people. How? Be kind. Be patient. Be earnest. Be your very best with what you have EVERY-SINGLE-TIME. This is what it means to live the medicine.
When I was a student at Howard University, the School of Business was the place to be. It seemed like everybody who had beauty, style and grace was in the School of B! So, I made it my goal to be there, too. But there was one problem; Quantitative Business Analysis, better known as QBA. That was a gatekeeper course. If you could not pass it, there was no way you could get into the School of Business. I don't think I made it two weeks before it become crystal clear that I was in over my head. But I stayed with it for another two weeks, before I knew I had to drop the course or fail miserably.
The School of Business was an incompatible goal for me. That did not mean I could not graduate from college. It did not mean I could not complete graduate school. And, given the fact that I have been doing so for over a decade, the fact that I could not get into the School of Business doesn't mean I cannot run a business of my own. It just means that getting into the School of Business was an incompatible goal for me. Have you ever pursued something - or someone - that was incompatible with your wellbeing?
Ifá warns against pursuing incompatible goals. Incompatible goals beget equally incompatible results. As they say, "play stupid games, win stupid prizes." Òrúnmìlà has offered numerous teachings that introduce us to this inescapable fact. In one verse of the Holy Odu Ìrẹtè Òbàrà, there was a man called Àlàó. He was told to sacrifice a goat. In an effort to deceive the babaláwo, Àlàó tied a rope round his own neck and pretended to be a goat. Imagine Àlàó's surprise when Esu condemned him to forever speak in the voice of a goat!!! Stupid game. Stupid prize.
Àgbá-ìnàmù ṣuku wéle
Òràn ò tán ní'lè yí bòròbòrò
They cast Ifá for Àlàó
Who tied a rope round his neck
And was bleating like a goat
He was advised to offer ẹbọ
He refused to comply
You have indeed deceived yourself
And not Ifá
Àlàó, who tied a rope round his neck
And was bleating like a goat
You have indeed deceived yourself and not Ifá
- Holy Odu Ìrẹtè Òbàrà
In another instance, there is a verse of the Holy Odu Òyèkú Òbàrà that teaches the lesson of Láṣílọ, who had a sore on his left leg, but chose to treat the right leg. His goal was to deceive other people. Unfortunately, this led to the leg being amputated.
A mouse cannot lick fermented locust bean liquid and survive
This was Ifa's declaration to Láṣílọ
The one who had a sore on his left leg
But chose to put medication on his right leg
He who has a sore on his left leg
But choses to put medication on his right leg
Is only deceiving himself
- Holy Odu Òyèkú Òbàrà
Anyone who thinks he is deceiving destiny is only deceiving himself. Many of us are interested in Orisa Lifestyle, not to become wise, but so that we can merely APPEAR to be wise. Since people are social animals and get real validation from others, we can easily lose sight of reality and end up obsessing over appearances. Òrúnmìlà realized that this pattern of behavior is counter-productive if one wishes to acquire true wisdom.
Here are three basic practices you can adopt if you want to make progress as an Orisa Lifestyle practitioner who aspires to personal excellence:
I am looking for leaders who are devoted to improving the world through positive influence. Is that you? If so, find out how Obafemi Origunwa and the Orisa Lifestyle Academy can take your life and your practice to the next level.
The Yorùbás understand that the òrìsà are agents of the Supreme God, which creates mutual respect among the different devotees of the various òrìsà. Also, the single most important unifying substructure of the different òrìsà is Ifá, the divination deity, and its corpus of divination chants, which embody the summation of Yorùbá beliefs, history, medicine and culture. Ifá informs everything from selecting a king to naming a child.
As the definitive source of Yorùbá indigenous knowledge, Ifá is the chosen spokesman of the òrìsàs. It is Ifá that allows one òrìsà – and its respective community of devotees – to communicate with another. Ifá is the oracle through which all of the divinities work in consonance with one another and never in discord. The Ifá oracle is their court, their judge, and their arbiter and its declarations and judgments are binding since disobedience carries sanctions from Olódùmarè.
Olódùmarè is worshiped through the various òrìsà, who control natural phenomena and social institutions, like spiritual offices and titles. Consequently, there are said to be 401 òrìsà, many of which are local avatars of universal spiritual phenomena. So, for example, in most Yorùbá kingdoms and villages, there are divinities associated with trees, hills, small bodies of water, such as Mokura at Ifè, the river Ofiki at Igana, òrìsà Alabaun at Ifon Alaiye and the great stone of Olumo at Abeokuta. Similarly, the same divinities manifest in various forms according to the local tradition. In Ifè, for example, Sango, the òrìsà of thunder and fire, is traditionally represented by Jakuta or Oramfe, the latter of whom also throws thunder axes, but does not make use of the symbolic paraphernalia characteristic of Sango.
The worship of the different deities does not, however, constitute denominations nor sects, and there are no complex organizations nor centrally planned liturgies. Similar to other aspects of Yorùbá folk tradition, like cooking, dancing or quilt making, each individual, family and state has a high degree of freedom to define its own recipe for religious activities. In every case, however, the primary objective of òrìsà worship is to venerate Olódùmarè by pacifying the deities to ward off evil and achieve peace and sustainable development. The sacred is regarded as part of the make-up of the entire society and, each man worships the various deities as is necessary in the general duty of serving the community. In so doing, he demonstrates his service of the one true God.
The worshipers do not, therefore, see themselves as belonging to different religions, sects or denominations. There is no justification for crusade, evangelizing and winning converts to the temple of another deity. Peaceful coexistence between the worshippers is, therefore, the direct sum of many, uncoordinated individual actions, where everyone works for common goals. In this way, it is possible for a husband to worship òrìsà Oko (deity of Agriculture), while his wife worships Oya. No need arises for the wife to seek the soul of the husband to worship her òrìsà. In fact, as we shall see more completely later on, the worshipers recognize the fact that spiritual
diversity is essential to the collective well-being.
In much the same way that a free market economy is strengthened by its diversity, so too, is Yorùbá tradition made stronger by worshippers of many different òrìsà. That is, it is through the òrìsà that each lineage defines its role in the society, spiritually, economically, politically and so on. Let us consider, for example, the mighty òrìsà, Ogún, who brought justice, metallurgy and warfare to earth. His descendants and devotees are the blacksmiths, hunters, carvers, pilots, drivers, barbers, policemen and the like. Ogun was a full-time warrior. He founded the town called Irè, which is today the most populous town in Oye Local Government Area in Ekiti State,Nigeria. As a warrior and a hunter, Ogun’s life was characterized by perpetual motion.
Consequently, he left his son as Oba (King) to govern the town when he went on his war expeditions. As a result of pestilence, the people of Irè had to relocate. On his return from war, Ogun could not find his people where he had originally settled them so he went in search of them. In the course of his search, he met a group of people practicing ritual silence. The meeting is up till today called Ijo Oríkì, (the silent gathering). Ogun greeted the gathering but there was no response in keeping with tradition.
Since he was very thirsty, he ignored their apparent lack of respect and made for one of the nearby kegs of palm wine. All the kegs, though standing, were empty. In a flash of rage, Ogun drew his sword and slaughtered the men at the ceremony. Those who managed to escape went to the palace to narrate their ordeal to the king. Immediately, the king was able to recognize the deed as the handiwork of his father who must have just returned from the war-front. The king quickly took some kegs of palm wine and roasted yam and palm oil (his father’s favorite dish and drink) and went with his people to welcome the great warrior, Ogun.
After eating and drinking, Ogun learned that the people he had just killed were indeed the very people that he had been looking for from the start. He was consumed with sadness and, to punish himself, refused to return to the palace in spite of all requests. He told his son that whenever his people needed his help they should come to that spot and call on him. He then drew his sword, drove it into the ground and vanished with it. A hut was then built on the spot and a Chief was appointed to take care of the site. The Chief is called the elepe (the Appeaser). The site is called Umeru. The Elepe is the mouth-piece of Ogun. He is forbidden from seeing the Kabiyesi Onire (king of Irè) face to face in keeping with the refusal of Ogun to return to his
The Chief Priest who is entitled to offer sacrifice to Ogun is called the aworo Ogun. He acts as the go-between for Ogun and the Onire (king). Ogun was one of the sons of Oduduwa and as such one of the compounds in Ilè-Ifè is, until today named Irè compound. As a Prince he was also given a crown by his father when he decided to go and fend for himself as a warrior. That is why the Kabiyesi Onire is till today one of the Oba Alade Merindinlogun (the 16 crowned Obas) in Yorubaland. In fact he is their Alaagbaakin, i.e. the Director of Socials, who shares gifts, food, etc. with each of the Obas at their meetings called Pelupelu.
Finally, this represents both an historical account of Ogún and a motif of Yorùbá migration and settlement patterns. Similar stories explain the lives of the 401 òrìsà, their Ifè origins, migration into new settlements, as well as their roles in those respective settlements.
 AJAYI, Ade J.F. “Promoting Religious Tolerance And Co-
operation In The West African Region: The Example Of Religious
Pluralism And Tolerance Among The Yorùbás”
 Bascom, William. The Sociological Role of the Yorùbá Cult
Group. Page 38
 Adekanmi, Adewale. Written communication.August 7, 2007.
The house did not crack internally
And the walls did not split outside
After our discussion, who went outside to leak our
deliberations and strategies?
These were the Ifa cast for Orunmila
When he, Obatala, Ogun and Esu Odara
Were mandated to create the human species
In the dawn of time
They were advised to offer ebo
And they complied
- Holy Odu OgbeOfun
As Ogun was present at the dawn of time, assisting Esu and Obatala in the creation of humanity, I pray that he will be present at the dawn of a new month. Ase.
Let Baba Jegi Jegi open the way to fulfillment in this season. Ase.
Whatever it is that we set out to accomplish, I pray that Ogun will enthusiastically support. Ase.
In the verse above, Ifa tells how the orisa gathered in secret to complete the task that Olodumare had assigned to them. No one was to know what they were doing.
Awon Iyaami sent Okete the giant rat, to dig a tunnel into their hiding place and spy on the divinities. It was then that Okete discovered that the orisa were creating ENIYAN, human beings.
And so, Awon Iyaami sent Okete back to sabotage the creation of Eniyan. Fortunately, the orisa discovered the interruption in time and they went to consult Ifa in order to know how to address the problem.
They were told to acquire a pointed, iron rod. When they resumed their work, they should drive the rod into the ground at the four corners of their studio. The orisa complied.
When they drove the rod into the ground, it empaled Okete, thus ending the treacherous deeds of the detractors.
May all spies be rewarded with the same consequences suffered by Okete. Ase! May Ogun's rod pierce the throats of those who would obstruct our mission to bring about the Good Condition. Ase!