brotherpeacemaker

It's about our community and our spirituality!

Five Years After My Ifa Initiation

I just had my fifth anniversary as an initiate of the ancient African tradition known as Ifa.  It was five years ago I paid the fee to be just a little closer to god on what I believed at the time was the true path to enlightenment.  It was five years ago that I paid good hard earned money for someone who had access to the Orisa’s inner sanctum to put in a good word for me and let me join the club.  One night five years ago, there was a ceremony and a ritual and a party ensued on my behalf.  It was five years ago that I woke up one morning changed for the world.

When I was initiated, the priestess who I selected to lead and guide me in my spiritual endeavors assured me that my relationship with the world had changed.  I felt like Neo in The Matrix when Morpheus offered him the red pill for true enlightenment, or the blue pill.  The blue pill was never an option.  With my heart pounding and without any experience on what was expected of me or what I could expect of an initiation ceremony, I swallowed the red pill and jumped into the unknown with both feet.

Now that I look back to that time with the hindsight of five years of personal development, I have to confess that I anticipated things that the people in the ile couldn’t really deliver.  When I was ready to discuss issues pertaining to spirituality, they wanted to discuss issues of the hierarchal order of the initiates, strict adherence to protocol, and unwavering conformity to the traditional ways that Ifa is practiced.  My first year as an initiate was full of disappointment.

But with each disappointment came true enlightenment.  In the first few months of my new initiate life, when I felt like my spiritual elders were neglecting my spiritual development, my spiritual understanding was allowed to take a divergent path.  While a typical initiate would spend their year learning rote prayers and ceremonies and how to conform to the traditional way of thinking under the careful tutelage of an elder quick to correct an unorthodox  thought, my conscious was free to develop without the interference of the traditional way of thinking.

The more time I spent with my spiritual elders and the rest of the family the more I realized that we were growing apart.  It seemed like I was always breaking protocol.  The house had rules that during any official activity, initiates had to sit in a specific order in a separate line away from non-initiates.  And despite my attempts to sit where I wanted away from people’s focused attention, people would pull me back into the thick of things.  It got to the point I really hated going there and putting up with such trifling issues like whether or not somebody wore an authentic African outfit to one of the official ile sanctioned events.

Eventually, one day I realized I was wasting my time.  While the initiation itself was all that some devotees were after, I realized I needed something else.  There were some initiates who were more than happy to simply gain the inherited enhanced hierarchal status that comes with initiation.  Such focus on personal social gain couldn’t be very good for the development of spirituality.  And it was my personal understanding that elders of any belief system who placed such emphasis on using a promise of enhanced spirituality for their own personal gain are no different than the average con man using snake oil to make a fast buck.

In the past five years I learned that there should be no such thing as paying someone to perform a ritual or ceremony to enhance somebody’s sense of spiritual strength.  There’s no such thing.  A flesh and blood human being cannot improve another’s spirituality.  At our current plane of existence the human brain is incapable of understanding the true depth of nature’s spirituality.  No dollar amount can change that fact.

But something else I learned in the past five years is that there are a lot of people who are looking for a quick fix to their real problems and are willing to pay good money for a spiritual solution.  A lot of people are willing to pay a lot of good money for spiritual enlightenment from someone else.  We will be willing to give our money to somebody in an authentic looking African outfit to tell us what we want most to hear.  But that’s not spirituality.  That’s more like making a wish and expecting magic to happen.

If I have learned one thing in the past five years it is that spirituality isn’t magic.  It isn’t something that comes from someone else.  Spirituality is something that comes from its own personal journey.  People can’t buy spirituality.  It is something that must be developed and nurtured on our own.  We can pay others to help us on our journey.  That’s totally logical.  We should be willing to show gratitude to our teachers.  But make no mistake, the journey is ours to make and it never ends.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 - Posted by | Ancestors, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Thoughts

26 Comments »

  1. While I really don’t know anything about Ifa, I felt this was a great article that applies across the board when it comes to spiritual/religious activities and the me factor we all have.

    I identify myself as a christian, but not necessarily tied to any one denomination. Sometimes I feel that whatever the message is for that day or week might have relevant aplication to me. I often find myself with questions about this or that, to which I am often rebuffed with some quick non-answer and redirected toward whatever it is they feel like talking to me about. Almost as if going off script is a sin of the most deviant variety. And of course, maybe because I am naturally always placing myself at a cautious distance from people, I have always felt less like a member and more like a tithing unit that is counted on to bring forth my weekly monetary sacrifice, which is always not enough, no matter the amount. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem throwing money in the pot, even if I can’t necessarioy afford to give up one penny, nevermind the $20 bill I throw out there or whatever. But it sometimes feels like I’m welcomed merely for the financial benefit I might bring.

    I think your right that ultimately our spiritual journey is entirely up to each person for themselves. Any nuances may be of interest, and guidance is always nice, but in the end, you stil have to figure out what’s real for you.

    Again, great article.

    Comment by Mike Lovell | Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Mike Lovell,

      But if the last five things have taught me anything it’s that there is really no difference between belief system based communities. Sometimes we’ll feel part of the whole, other times we’ll feel a little left out. A group that will allow real dialogue and doesn’t discourage questions is always ideal. But all too often, we’re given that “shut the hell up and conform” response.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. Alafia Brotherpeacemaker,
    “People can’t buy spirituality. It is something that must be developed and nurtured on our own.” This statement should be the theme of every ile in the diasporia. It is a statement that can not be made too much. It seems to me that Ifa is being hijacked and placed on the auction block and the price of services are steadily climbing. Well so much for that.
    I had been searching for a Black Theological path of spirituality that was not weighed down with egnorance,superstition and stupidity for a long time when a friend introduced me to Ifa(at my request). That was in
    1999 and, I didn’t know it at the time,I could not have been served and mentored by a better house of priestests anywhere. Money was never a burden or obstacle to services, elevation and training into priesthood. This ile was one of the many that did not use Ifa as an income generator. Unfortunately of fortunately depending on how you look at it this ile fell apart. But then the landscape seemed to become littered with Afrikan born and trained,Afrikan initiated and trained,trained by a noted Ifa priest who has been asigned special jurisdiction Afrika who charged thousands of dollars just to so call initiate. Now I don’t begrudge the charging for service, but the trend, in my opinion,seems to conflict with the tenants of Ifa. So much for that I try not to get too wordy.
    I just want to thank you for the enlightenment that you send to us on our respective paths. Thank you for reminding us that spirituality exists beyound initiation and that we are all personally responsible for our own elevation. That spirituality can not be bought or sold else only the wealthy and rich would walk that road.
    Akinwole

    Comment by Akinwole | Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Reply

  3. Alafia

    17 years in Ocha – Got your link from BT. Faith and Religion is not the same thing. And we must return to our elder system, which some Ile’s have bastardized. All religions on the face of the earth are facing change. We began The Way, we must return to The Way, even with all the new toys.
    In the USA, today, most spiritual folks follow more than one faith. Nice site, please check mine.

    O’
    Omo-Osun/Ogun “Osunwole”
    Nana here is from the Akan tradition
    Stay Strong

    Comment by nanakwame | Thursday, February 11, 2010 | Reply

  4. That was beautiful and so true. Thank you for sharing.

    Comment by Chi-Chi | Thursday, February 11, 2010 | Reply

  5. Well said Brother, well said. I was also blessed with the opportunity to learn pretty early after my initiation that my path was not to follow that of my ile’s. It wasn’t a comfortable lesson, bit it was a necessary one. For me, I can’t follow a god who wants to be feared and venerated in exchange for personal favors. For me it is about taking care of the planet and all who reside here.

    Comment by Allhoney55 | Saturday, February 13, 2010 | Reply

    • Its good to see many have awaken and is also sad to see the way the Orisha and IFA has fallen corrupt to the system, further more those that don’t know as I too had to research for truth. IFA comes from the South Arabian countries and like the Muslims the Walisongo took the knowledge and try to preserve it. Anyting that separete us from what we are is not true. We are all GOD living in this state called life and when you truely see GOD in all things you change and try to have conpassion for your fellow man. I grew up in a house IFA and have been initiated from ” Palo mayombe to reciving Santo up to IFA” and can say it was a journey that showed me the way at the end. Many bleassings to all of you and thank you for sharing. At the end be self..

      Comment by Henry | Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Reply

  6. Alafia,
    Your words touched me. I just want to add a comment about your post, brotherpeacemaker. It seems that your path is not to be an Ifa priest, or at least not a member of the ile that you first selected. But that reflects more on the individuals that surrounded you than the religion itself. Ifa is a beautiful, rich tradition that encompasses so much wisdom, so much history, so much power. It is magick! The magick, though, is in the journey. Even if you have chosen another path now, surely your time in the embrace of the Orishas has changed you and given you more wisdom and discernment. Once you have convened with your Egungun, can you ever look at the world in the same way? Once you have learned the secrets of the Odu, can you ever feel helpless again?
    I do agree with you that our traditional religions are in a state of ragged flux right now, crossing the waters with lots of misinformation, opportunism, and downright fraudulence. I think that one of the greatest problems we in the Diaspora are facing with Ifa is how to get proper education. Everyone wants to initiate, but very few are willing or qualified to teach. I think that anyone who tries to initiate a novice without at least dedicating several months or years to assisting that person in learning about the spirituality as well as the ritual is not doing the initiate a favor. The primary mandate of our religion is not to pay money for initiation, to make ebo to the Orisha, or to dress in African clothing. Before anything else, we are told to know ourselves, to honor Ori. Then, we are to honor Egun. That part of the religion is not glamorous and spectacular; it is quiet, private, and reflective. But that is where the true power lies. A person who never knows a single Orisha, but knows his Ori, will be vastly more powerful than the most highly crowned awo who doesn’t know himself. Self-knowledge prevents us from being fooled by charlatans or going down a path not in our best interest; it is protection. Unfortunately, people are being urged to get unnecessary initiations but not to develop their Iwa. Religions that proselytize aggressively are quick to fall out of favor, and sadly, that is what seems to be happening to our beloved Ifa in some places. And we can blame it on Greed and Ignorance, a very dangerous pair!
    However, there are some iles and egbes and other traditional spiritual groups (such as Akan) that are doing amazing work to restore the grandeur and integrity of our traditions. There are some that hold public events, do charitable works, teach classes for initiates and non-initiates, and generally embrace the community with a spirit of service, honor, and education. You must seek them out if you are interested; no one will pressure you or even invite you to join, but they are out there. I hope that whatever your path, my brother, it is filled with love, light, health, prosperity, and all the good things that life has to offer. Aboru aboye abosise.

    Many Blessings,
    Madame Koiteh

    Comment by Madame Koiteh | Sunday, February 21, 2010 | Reply

    • Great words and very well put! And I could not agree more in having qualified people teaching and spending time with the initiate. You also made it more than clear as to what IFA is “self awareness” and something few fallow is responsability for the initiate in his journey! Yes you can’t see life the same, because you understand the nature of OLODUMARE and life.

      Thank you for sharing..

      Henry

      Comment by Henry | Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Reply

  7. Well stated kingman, the stronger we trod along our own path the sooner we find the “magic” that we are looking for. One

    Comment by Rio | Friday, February 26, 2010 | Reply

  8. I was in a awkward place spiritually and have had the exact same experience as you. Thanks for the confirmation; that in itself is magic :-)

    Comment by Jamie | Monday, March 1, 2010 | Reply

  9. You learned because you were initiated I have spoken to many and they don’t get it because they are not initiated … I do understand the bull with the house and the religion itself … You would not be where you are with out initiation … It is a real thing and a preist or preistess can get you there much quicker …Again I say you are right there is a lot of bull with the religion , polotics part of it .
    God bless Baba Ifagbolohan

    Comment by Rafael | Sunday, April 4, 2010 | Reply

  10. It is with great sadness that I read your post. Although you did stumble upon your own realizations evenutally. What I can say is that you may not still know why you were lead to walk down a certain path. Oftentimes what you receive is what you need for your own path and your own elevation. Yes it is true that some are confrotable being told what to do how to sleep how to pray what to pray…etc. And if that is not you, you are to continue walking. You have receiuved tools necessary for your own journey. Use them. Some do not need to be guided continually. For some, it is not necessarly to wax spiritual philosophies. Unforntuanelty, most Americans are ingrained in getting to know right away. I only offer that most are so busy trying to know they will never find out. Consider your expereince that of a blessing. That of putting the steel rod back into your spritual spine that causes to you to erect your mind to your own calling and purpose. Opportunists and charlatans abound everywhere in this world. If you are Light, you will attract Light. Hence your illumination from within will eb a beacon to others and you will find yourself walking and leading without even knowing it. So it is good to have learned from your experience. But please also know that everyone does not have thought processes like ones developed in the US. Please understand this. For example: If you are told not to eat red apples and you begin with a barage of questions: what about apple sauce, what about apple juice? How about if I cut the skin off? This is an American way of thinking….everwhere else it is understood No red apples! Period. No discussion. The problem is that there has yet to be synchronicity in regional thought processes and teaching and learning methods. That is all.

    Comment by Oluwafunke OmoObadayan Olorisa | Tuesday, May 11, 2010 | Reply

  11. It is correct that there is NO ritual or ceromonies that someone else can perform (for a price or no fee at all) on our behalf that will enhance our spiritual ashe and growth.
    This message can never be over posted,please continue to do so.

    Comment by Akinwole | Wednesday, May 12, 2010 | Reply

  12. Ire O’
    Brotherpeacemaker, I am currently going through about the same thing as far as being intiated an left like a floundering fish. Whats worse I left Lagos Nigeria without everything that was needed like Esu and Ori.But when I need counsultation and ebo needs to be done phone calls don’t stop. Its been a year now and I dont know not one Odu verse nor a prayer, with the exception of making Ose, so thats a slight contradiction. Alot of money has been spent over the years. Somewhere ther is an Iyanifa or Babalawo thats willing to teach without expecting compensation of large quantities.
    My search for a teacher won’t stop, Once my time has arrived there will be talk of a Babalawo thats willing to do for the benifit of ones Spiritual Growth in Ifa.
    “Ase Ase Ase O”

    Comment by AwoDosumu | Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Reply

  13. Alafiah Baba AwoDosumu,
    It sound as though you got misdireced.
    Ori is with you from birth and you don’t have to go all the way to Afrika to to received Eshu.
    I don’t know where you are located but never the less I can make some suggestions if you like.
    It sounds as though you have been spending money that you should not have been charged.
    you may contact me at kingofwhitecloth@msn.com

    Comment by Akinwole | Saturday, May 29, 2010 | Reply

  14. Just read this post… kinda late but I think this is why I am leery about getting initiated. Ive been studying for 5 years now and have yet to get initiated. Maybe its a blessing in disguise.

    Comment by Paula | Thursday, July 1, 2010 | Reply

  15. What I have learned in these past 5 years is to not rush it and let nature take its course. In the past I was so worried about looking to be initiated and then I realized-what’s the rush? It was then that I decided that the focus will not be about being an initiate but my spiritual growth.

    Comment by Paula | Thursday, July 1, 2010 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Paula,

      You see what happens when you pay a visit more often?

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, July 1, 2010 | Reply

  16. Through the wisdom of Odu, Ifa teaches us:

    Initiation alone does not give one character.

    Initiation alone does not give one knowledge.

    Initiation alone does not give one seniority.

    Initiation alone does not make one a true priest.

    Ifa tells us in the Odu Iwori Meji:

    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Bi o ba te Ita tan
    Ki o tun iye e re te
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma fi eja igba gun ope
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma fi aimowe wo odo
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma fi ibinu yo obe
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma ji kanjukanju jaye
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma fi warawara mkun ola
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, maseke, sodale
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma puro jaye
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma se igberaga si agba
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma so ireti nu
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, ma san bante Awo
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni
    Awo, bi o ba tefa tan
    Ki o tun iye e re te o
    Iwori teju mo ohun ti nse ni

    English
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    If you undergo Ifa initiation (Itelodu)
    Endeavor to use your wisdom and intelligence
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not use a broken rope to climb a palm-tree
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do no enter into the river without knowing how to swim
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not draw a knife in anger
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not be in haste to enjoy your life
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not be in a hurry to acquire wealth
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not lie, do not be treacherous
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not deceive in order to enjoy your life
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not be arrogant to elders
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not lose hope
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, do not make love to your colleague’s spouse
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you
    Awo, when you have been given Ifa initiation
    Initiate yourself again by using your wisdom and intelligence
    Iwori take a critical look at what affects you

    In this, and many other Ese Ifa, we are reminded of that character, ethics, proper behavior, intelligence, and most importantly, not assuming initiation in and of itself makes the priest, are critical to understanding the role and responsibility of a priest.

    By reminding us over and over throughout the Ese to “look at what affects [us]”, we are reminded of our responsibility to constantly reassess the world around us. Further, there is a reminder to those members of the priesthood who have been given special access to the wisdom of Ifa. It is our responsibility to use our wisdom and intelligence, i.e. don’t assume Ifa will provide the key simply through initiation.

    Lastly, Iwori meji reminds of one of the most important yet one of the least stressed concepts for the Awo Ifa, “Initiate yourself again by using your wisdom and intelligence”, it is here where Ifa tells the Awo that initiation alone does not make you a true Awo. It’s only through reflection and contemplation of Ifa that one can achieve an understanding of the initiation one went through, and through analysis and study, self initiation (awareness of the truths of Ifa) can occur.

    None of this is to say that we should not respect each other, or that certain priests are not worthy of respect and the rituals/rights that show that. But, initiation alone does not give a priest those rights, they must be earned. The attachment of the role of “parent” and the idea that the priest “gave birth” in the diaspora overemphasizes the mentor/guide role of the priest, creating cults of personality often, though not always, based on little more than performance of initiations and perhaps consultation in which they are interpreting and clarifying the advice of the Orisa for the adherent. These attachments to roles and status are ephemeral at best, and only serve to divert our attention away from the true meanings behind the role of a priest.

    So what makes a priest worthy of respect and the actions associated with that respect? Length of initiation means absolutely nothing. In and of itself, how can we give seniority values to the act of initiation, when it is only an enabling act, giving one a title, and the potential to access the Divine. The Odu Eji Ogbe tells us:

    We have initiated you into the secrets of Ifa
    You should re-initiate yourself
    This was how Eji Ogbe was initiated
    But he plunged himself into the forest
    We have initiated you into the secrets of Ifa
    You should re-initiate yourself
    If you get to the top of the palm tree
    Do not let your hands loose.

    Awa te o nifa o
    K’o o tunra e te
    Tite la t’Eji Ogbe
    T’o fi m’ori wo’gbo
    Awa te o nifa o
    K’o o tunra e te
    B’o o d’ori ope
    Ma she jowo si

    Eji Ogbe, the highest of Odu, went through self-initiation, even after being lead to the sacred grove (igbodu) for initiation (te’fa), he plunged himself back into the forest. This act shows that even an initiate must go back in to the grove in order to teach himself. And, even in this short stanza, Ifa reminds us that even if we reach the pinnacle of understanding and knowledge, our arrogance should take over, lest we let our hand lose and come tumbling down the palm tree.

    I posted this as to relect on what you posted. It is not the intiation but the reintiation of our selfself to Olodumare the orisha and the ancestor that bring about true alinment. Remember that intiation is rebirth. What happen when you are a baby you have to learn to crawl then walk. You are starting over again. The problem is that alot of people do not start doing the inner work before they intiate to the orisha. Ita is ment to tell you what your true purpose is. What are your taboos? what is your role as a priest? What is your life purpose? Once you intiate you must go inside to seek what is your GOD purpose!!!

    Comment by omooforisha | Wednesday, July 14, 2010 | Reply

    • Alaafia, Omooforisha, while I am certainly glad someone is reading my blog, and glad it is helping, I am also adimant that when people copy and paste my words, they also cite me as the author, and post the link to the original posting. You in no way indicated that this was not your post. Please respect authors and the time an energy they put into writing things. The title of this piece is Ifa is enlightenment, and it’s located at my blog http://ifalola.blogspot.com

      Odabo
      Ifalola

      Comment by Marcos Ifalola | Monday, January 17, 2011 | Reply

  17. I came across your site. I am familiar with Ifa and was told that I should become a priest in the path. I have my own issues with religion per se, but if I learned anything about life, I’ve learned that what ever course we choose we have to apply our selves totally-dive in and swim. Once we get to our destination-we look back on the journey to see what was learned.
    So, I really wanted to find out what was at the end of the rainbow which I see you decided not to go over and see.
    Not critical of you or anyone since none of us make mistakes we just choose the best path for us based on what’s available, so we can never judge each other.
    I do realize that on my own particular experience and path I have gotten the most out of things when I totally commit to them. That way when I move on there is no looking back wondering.
    I work with young students and often times I will set them on a path towards learning things that are often based in fundamentals first, but they always want the flash early and I say if I give it to you now you will have the flash but not know how to manage it. this is normal for all humans yet playing sports taught me how the fundamentals practiced daily are what leads to the highlight film. The fundamentals are what take us to a Jordan level or Dr. J as a hooper.
    Your story is good and interesting and has added some insight to my path since I am considering going down that path. If I choose it I plan to dedicate the time necessary to do it and complete it with vigor and afterwards see wear it leads?
    I like you am looking for that spirituality as well and ready to give it my total attention. This is one of the reasons why I have been reluctant to commit to such a path because I know that I would have to give to fully realize my potential. Even if it is not Ifa, it will be something else and it will still require that I go after it totally and see it through and never have to look back or wonder.
    In any case, I truly appreciate you sharing your story and realize that my essay is more about my own apprehensions and fears than any critique of your experience.

    peace

    Comment by Melki | Monday, September 13, 2010 | Reply

  18. Alafiah to all who commented,
    Some are to be friends and supporters of Ifa and some are
    CHOSEN to be children of Ifa.
    You must arrive at know which.

    Comment by Akinwole | Wednesday, September 15, 2010 | Reply

  19. So… How did you remedy your situation? I trust that you are still an Ifa practitioner?

    Comment by Nana Ataa | Saturday, July 19, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Nana Ataa,

      Honestly, I’d have to say no. Although I am neck deep with my faith in the Orisas and with Olodumare, I would have to say that I do not practice Ifa in the traditional sense. And from what I understand, from what I was taught by my ile, if you don’t practice the traditional way then you don’t practice the tradition.

      Peace

      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Reply

      • It all is very interesting. As of late, quite a few people (mostly people I don’t know very well) have approached me, asking if I am initiated, or when will I go through the process. I feel somewhat as you do about the entire process, as if there is something not genuine in the asking. I honor my ancestors. Have been for a long time. And I’m comfortable with that. Thanks for your reply, Sir.

        Comment by Nana Ataa | Thursday, July 24, 2014


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