APPRENTICESHIP MINDSET: THE STUDENT LOVES THE TEACHER
I will never forget the day I met my first teacher, Babalade Olamina. I had just finished running scales on my cornet at Pasadena City College. At that time of my life, I had been avidly reading anything I could about Yoruba civilization. Even more importantly, however, I was expecting my first child.
The ancestors knew I would need someone very special to escort me into the realities of becoming a BABA, and so they sent Babalade, the best teacher in the world. He had travelled the country as a jazz musician, hung out with Fela Kuti in Nigeria, learned to carve in Oyotunji and was well-versed in Eastern philosophy.
Babalade was the only person I had ever met who fully understood the scope of my thoughts and ideas. He would answer my relentless torrent of questions and listen to my far fetched ideas about Yoruba identity. When I would get too far out there, he would say something like, "That and a plane ticket will get you to Paris" or "Oh, you're being creative again..."
Not surprisingly, the name Babalade means, "Father confers a crown." Babalade conferred upon me the highest crown any man could ever bear; fatherhood! To do so, he taught me so many important lessons, the most memorable of which was a simple statement he made in passing one day: "The first person I ever saw wear an agbada was my daddy!"
On the day of my own naming ceremony, Babalade and my father sat on the couch talking, while I scrambled around, looking for the ingredients that Babalade had told me to gather for the occasion. Somehow, their conversation descended upon Viet Nam, where Babalade's elder brother had given his life in the armed services. As fate would have it, they discovered that my father had prepared his corpse.
And so, on the day that my teacher was preparing me to guide my first born son, I learned that my father had supported my teacher's elder brother on his way into the realm of the ancestors.
The admiration, love and respect that I have for Babalade extends to my feelings about Orisa Lifestyle overall. As my first teacher, he is synonymous with the tradition in my mind.
The teachings of Holy Odu OwonrinMeji inform us this way:
Iba Araba l'ale Ife
Mo juba Ogubona
Afeyiti mo dase
- Odu Mimo OwonrinMeji
I pay homage to my father
Homage to my mother
Homage to my Oluwo
Homage to Arábá of Ife
Homage to Akoda
Homage to Aseda
I pay homage to Ojugbona
Unless I act without recognition and homage to elders and spiritual forces
May I succeed in all I do
- Holy Odu OwonrinMeji
AKODA & ASEDA: Chieftaincy Tiles
In the kingdom of Ile Ife, there are sixteen preeminent babalawo, called the Awoni, priests of the Oni. Every Yoruba kingdom has its own cadre of babalawo, who rank above all others. In Ife, an Awoni must be an indigene of that kingdom. Each Awoni bears a title and carries out specific spiritual duties in service to the palace. Among them are the Akoda and Aseda.
AKODA & ASEDA: Praises of Olodumare
By some accounts, Akoda and Aseda are oriki Olodumare. This is further reinforced with the opening lines of Ijuba, which say:
Mo júbà Akoda Ayé
I pay homage to He who created earth
Mo júbà Aseda Orun
I pay homage to the controller of heaven
AKODA & ASEDA: Orunmila's Sons and His First Students
According to other accounts, Akoda and Aseda are Orunmila's first students. The Holy Odu OgbeAte says:
Ogbe waa te k'ara o ro wa
Ogbe, come be initiated in order to be comfortable
Mo gba, mo te ni iregun Ifa
To take the hand of Ifa and then be fully initiated is the pride one has in Ifa
Dia fun Orunmila
Cast ifa for orunmila
Baba yoo te omo re ni ifa...
baba planned to initiate his child into ifa
The verse goes on to say:
Orunmila lo te Akoda
Orunmila initiated Akoda
Orunmila lote Aseda
Orunmila initiated Aseda...
The Holy Odu OgundaBede goes on to reinforce the idea that Akoda and Aseda are, in fact, the sons of Orunmila:
Oju ririri, oju oku irikuri
Enu fofofo, enu oku ifokufo
Adifa fun Orunmila,
Nigba ti baba foju sogbere omo,
ebo won ni ki baba kowase
baba gbebo, orubo
Nigba ti o maa bi
obi AGBONGBON ofi se ekerin won.
Nje ari AKODA ari awo
Ari ASEDA ari awo
Ari ARIWONIYANGI ari awo
Nigba ti ari AGBONGBON lawo pe.
The eyes have witnessed many bad things
The mouth has mentioned many rubbish words
Cast ifa for ORUNMILA
When he had no children
He was advised to make a sacrifice and he did
When he was going to give birth,
He first gave birth to Akoda
Next he gave birth to Aseda
Later he gave birth to Ariwoniyangi
And lastly he gave birth to Agbongbon
Therefore whenever you see Akoda and his other brothers,
then you have seen it all
Where ever you see the four combination
Ifa is complete
Wisdom is complete
If we accept the assertion that Akoda and Aseda praises of Olodumare, chieftaincy titles or sons of Orunmila, it is clear that they are essential to the structure and practice of Ifa. This is underscored by the way that Akoda and Aseda are mentioned in an oriki Ifa, which tells us:
Akoda ti nko gbogbo aiye ni Ifa
Akoda, who taught Ifa to the world
Aseda, ti nko gbogbo agba ni imoran
Aseda, who taught understanding to the ancients
In the spirit of teaching, please join Obafemi Origunwa and Chief Lanre Olaifa Okemuyiwa in an exclusive conversation:
The True Identity of Akoda and Aseda: Rediscovering the Apprenticeship Mindset