It appears that a lot of people are under the impression that an Ifa initiation ritual magically bestows the devotee with a sudden dose of wisdom from the Orisa. It doesn’t. No one would ever think that a conventional wedding ceremony between a man and woman or domestic partners would suddenly bestow the couple with the wisdom of their partners. That just doesn’t happen. So why would an Ifa initiation be any different?
Like the conventional wedding ceremony an initiation process is a life altering event. When two people make the decision to get married it should be understood that the couple have made a commitment to each other. Newlyweds have accepted certain social, physical, and mental benefits as well as responsibilities to their spouses that, depending on their prenuptial agreement, may not have existed before. Now that the two are married they must learn the likes, dislikes, hygiene behaviors, eating patterns, and a host of other behaviors that will only reveal themselves over time.
The marriage between a devotee and their Orisa goes through a similar process. The devotee doesn’t come away from the initiation ritual suddenly imbued with all the knowledge of their Orisa. But what the initiate has done is made the commitment to devote a larger portion of their life in the service of the Orisa. Through this devotion, practiced over a time period lasting no less than the remainder of our lives, we hope to gain knowledge and wisdom to help us in our journey through life. By the way, there is no divorce option in the Ifa wedding.
Once the experience of the initiation ceremony is performed we should start to grow and mature spiritually. When confronted with opportunities to make a choice that could have the potential for life altering repercussions, a pattern of thinking should start to develop that goes along the line of, “once the choice is made how will my decision affect my relationship with my Orisa?” The answer to this question will reveal itself through candid prayer and honest meditation. Rash decisions that have questionable motivations can have negative impacts to our relationship with our Orisa. Case in point: A new job may initially sound very attractive. The increase in pay and exposure to company management would lead to better career opportunities. But the potential for longer work hours and higher stress levels may have negative consequences to our spiritual development. How much money will it take to compensate for the potential damage to the Orisa relationship?
In many respects, the Ifa initiation is very similar to many other milestones in our lives such as birthdays, graduating from high school or college, getting the first driver’s license, having damn good sex for the first time, getting the first professional job, etc. When these goals are met it’s a given that changes in the life of the individual will occur. A driver’s license will lead to driving which means the new driver may travel to more places more often than when they walked or took the public bus. A birthday could mean legal alcohol consumption. A graduation could open up more opportunities for further education and/or employment. A new job will lead to more spending power. All of these examples are life altering. But only the Ifa initiation is seen as an instant wisdom building event.
Contrary to popular belief and stereotypical superstition there is no more magic in an Ifa initiation than there may be for a Christian baptism. Yet, no one would expect the newly baptized to suddenly know the wisdom of Jesus Christ off the top of their head. But somehow the expectations of a newly initiated devotee are high and unreal by people within and people outside of the Ifa belief system. Brand new iyawos are suddenly expected to know how to conjure their Orisa and tap into spiritual resources that they may or may not have been made aware of. Many initiates are more than happy to indulge and reinforce these expectations by spouting what they claim to be the wisdom of their ori when they are doing little more than pulling crap out their ass. All too often the opportunity for honest spiritual development takes a back seat to ego trips and self promotions.
The development of wisdom takes serious devotion. It doesn’t come from an Orisa pot or a golden cross or a single book. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and study. It takes a great amount of humility and patience and observation. The path to wisdom isn’t about the promotion of a personal image. It’s about quiet contemplation of the issues and careful reflection of the components. And above all else take the personal desire for benefit out of the equation. Nothing good can ever come of the focus on personal benefit or the gratification of the few at the expense of the welfare of the community at large.