How many chickens must be sacrificed as an ebo in order for somebody to get back on their path? My godmother used to ask everyone in the ile this question as she perpetually killed chickens, pigeons, goats, and whatever else the Orisas allegedly demanded as part of somebody’s reading. Her point was that people shouldn’t expect an opportunity to have an ebo performed every time they’re experiencing a crisis in their life. So this begs the question when should we anticipate having an ebo performed? Way too often people who practice the Ifa tradition look for quick fixes for problems that require some deep, fundamental changes in our lives.
Today I read an article on the net from a babalawo who wanted to share one particular story about how he was able to use his skill with the opele, his knowledge of odus, and his experience with Ifa to help one of his clients who was having legal problems stemming from a history of poor decisions early in his life. The babalawo was able to use the opele to determine that the client needed to perform an ebo to repair his relationship with an estranged child who was experiencing their own problem in life. One of the Orisas needed an ebo from the client. The ebo was performed, the relationship was repaired, the legal problems were corrected, and the babalawo took credit for saving the day.
I guess I’m just not feeling it. As children of Ifa we should have confidence in our elder’s ability to offer spiritual guidance. People who go to their elders for help only in times of dilemma probably aren’t learning the best spiritual practices. In most cases, people are taught to think that Ifa is a Swiss army knife that can fix any problem that comes along as long as we make the proper ebo. But, Ifa and the Orisas aren’t just waiting around to respond to our beck and call with the proper ebo for payment. Babalawos, iyanifas, and anyone else who encourages such thinking are teaching people to take their opportunities for spiritual guidance for granted. Our spiritual teachers aren’t here to solve our personal problems.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that part of the diviner’s job is to help ordinary people to solve their personal problems. How does an Orisa benefit from having an ebo done on their behalf? How does a person buying an animal and then paying to have to have it sacrificed influences an Orisa to help us out of our predicament?
For example, I get a reading that says Olokun isn’t happy with me at the moment and I have to sacrifice an animal. The life of the animal will appease Olokun and persuade him to move on my behalf. How does this happen? I don’t mean to disrespect anyone’s interpretation of Ifa spirituality. But this behavior sounds more like superstition than spiritual certainty. It’s just a step up from the stereotype of pacific islanders throwing the virgin into the volcano to appease the lava god and save the village. Students of Ifa know Olokun as the manifestation of nature in the deep of the ocean. How in the world can I, one of billions of higher classification primates, piss Olokun off to the point he no longer wants to assist me in my spiritual development. Stranger still, are the spiritual mechanics of an animal sacrifice that helps us obtain Orisa favor. It’s no different than a baby offering the mother a bottle in order to assure that she continues the nurturing.
People who own an opele or some other tool for divination and charge people for readings have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. These people would have a lot of explaining to do if more people asked more questions to understand the principles of what has been taught through the tradition as fact. If people ask questions and the answers are similar to something like “that’s just the way it is” then people need to ask other questions like “am I being taken for granted?” or “why am I here?”
Although they may appreciate our gifts, Orisas don’t require anything from us. Like a mother receiving a flower from her baby it is appreciated, but not demanded. Our ebos and sacrifices are not for the Orisa’s benefit but for our own. Orisas don’t need another drop of any animal’s blood. These are the things people do in order to feel as if we have earned their help. But in all honesty we couldn’t kill enough chickens to actually earn their intervention. Just like the baby that could never give the mother enough flowers to earn the nurturing they will receive throughout their lives.