It's about our community and our spirituality!

Getting Back To Traditional Ifa

Recently I was admonished by an Ifa devotee for suggesting a break from the so-called traditional interpretation of Ifa doctrine that requires the majority of people to give their spiritual guides or teachers full control of their spiritual development. The traditional interpretation of Ifa does not encourage everyone to learn the techniques necessary to develop the inner calm to communicate with our individual personal spiritual universe. Traditional Ifa keeps people dependent on their babalawos and iyanifas and every other person with a priestly title so that they can charge considerable amounts of money for spiritual development.

Who needs to take the time to establish a personal relationship with Orunmila and the other Orisas when you can just pay your local neighborhood Ifa priest for a reading every now and then? And an Ifa priest with an unhealthy craving for wealth and material goods, a very human condition, would never be tempted to manipulate a devotee’s reading for personal gain. Everything will always be honest and above board. Olodumare help the person who tries to encourage people to take control of their own spiritual development. Why, that’s like somebody getting in a car and doing their own driving instead of simply getting in a car and going for a ride while letting someone else choose the destination, the route, and the time of arrival for you. Surely the second option is much more appealing for most people. And it’s a very lucrative way for Ifa teachers to make a good living to boot!

From what I have been able to learn first hand of Orunmila, Baba does little to interfere with people’s personal development. Baba doesn’t tell people where they need to live, what they need to drive, who they should marry, or what profession people should pursue. But more often than not, people who go and get readings will be told that they have to be initiated and that they have to become some priestly title. And more often than not the priestly title requires outlays of cash that will run into the tens of thousands of dollars. The person conducting the reading will tell the devotee that Orunmila requires them to be initiated to a particular Orisa. By accepting the reading the devotee accepts the burden of finding the resources, the money, to be initiated. That is the tradition of our belief system. And it is rather interesting that Orunmila never tells the initiate that they need to be a doctor or an educator or a blacksmith or some other profession.

People like to say the traditional way of practicing Ifa has been around for thousands and thousands of years. The ancient African tradition of Ifa is older than most of the world’s more notable belief systems. Most Ifa practitioners know this and accept this without question. However, when this tradition was started, it was started without any knowledge of the concept of money. Money and economics are artificial concepts that have no root in nature. Our African ancestors knew nothing of money until they were introduced to economics by the European. The ancient Africans practiced the purest form of socialism and worked together for the benefit of the community at large without the slightest thought as to how much their bank account can be enriched.

Traditionally, an Ifa initiation wasn’t done for the individual. An initiation was done for the benefit of the whole community. The more spiritually developed the entire community was, the less likely the community would submit to the influence of wealth, materialism, status, and power. It was not until materialism and greed entered the picture that spiritual development required huge amounts of money. It is because of the introduction of money that many of us who grew up in this tradition believe that wealthy people can literally afford to be more spiritual than people who are impoverished. And as Ifa devotees, we allow ourselves to be manipulated into thinking that paying thousands of dollars for an initiation is the way this tradition has been practiced for years.

If we all exercised a better idea of what it means to be a student of Ifa, if we had a better idea of what it means to be spiritual, we would know that spiritual development does not depend on the size of our bank accounts or the amount of weighty status we have to throw around. Spiritual development requires little more than a sincere desire to be spiritual. It does take effort and a commitment and some financial resources. But spirituality does not require a devotee to spend tens of thousands of dollars. If a devotee has that kind of money to throw around then all I have to say is good for them.

But the more we allow others to control our spirituality and to connect the amount of spirituality we have to the size of our wallets then we lose sight of the tradition. Literally, our ancestors practiced this tradition without a dime to their name. That is the way this spiritual tradition was founded. That is the way it developed for thousands and thousands of years. It is only since we have been introduced to concepts of money and individual wealth have we confused the ability to pay large sums of money with conditions of spirituality. If we are to get back to being traditional practitioners of Ifa we will learn to do it the way our ancestors did it. We will learn to be spiritual without letting money get in the way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - Posted by | African Americans, Ancestors, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, God, Ifa, Life, Orisa, Religion, Spirituality, Thoughts


  1. In many ways, I agree with you wholeheartedly.


    Comment by Ogungbemi | Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | Reply

    • I have always had my own saying ” that money purverts religion”.Big ups for the post….im in total agreement.

      Comment by realrootsd | Monday, January 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback Ogunbemi,


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Tuesday, July 29, 2008 | Reply

  3. Thank you for raising this issue in a public forum. Spiritual and personal development has been placed on the back burner and the pursuit of the dollar has taken priority. While at times it is necessary to consult Ifa it is not wise on the part of the Babalawo or individual seeking a reading to be frivolous. Often if you ask a silly question you will get a silly answer.

    The spiritual journey is about developing a deeper realtionship with yourself, ancestors and the Orisa. It is important to understand that human beings are facilitators. We arrive here well equipped by Oludumare, well protected by our guiding Orisa. We just need to be still and be more receptive to the guidance of, our Ori, ancestors and the Orisa. Peace.

    Comment by Teni | Thursday, August 21, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the feedback Teri,

    Words of wisdom for sure!


    Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Thursday, August 21, 2008 | Reply

  5. WHY would you have an image of the Throne Room of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – The True and Living Creator God – The Triune Holy One of Israel – on your website? You don’t believe in Him… Your belief system is based on ascendence – becoming enlighted by invitation and initiation. Yours is a works-based religion, whereas the God of the Bible clearly states that He is the respector of NO MAN and that NO ONE gets to heaven by their own deeds and accomplishments. [edited due to rambling] Maranatha! Selah, Amen.

    Comment by A Common King | Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback A Common King,

      But I didn’t realize the image on my blog came from the throne room of god. I’d like to see the photographer and the Kodak that took that image. I guess god doesn’t mind the paparazzi. But regardless, like you said, I don’t believe in your bible, I don’t believe the image is actually from god’s chambers, and I don’t believe you have the authority to speak on his behalf. If you could provide me with some credentials I might have more of a reason to buy what you say. Then on the other hand, I doubt if I’d buy your credentials either.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Saturday, February 21, 2009 | Reply

  6. I totally agree with your analysis except that real Babalawos and Iyanifa and Orisa Priests never try to make folks dependent on them. True priests, through the teachings of Ifa, try to help folks become independent but at the same time not individualistic. Hope I’m explaining myself well. We all got our own individual work to keep up with but it should always be connected to the community’s well being and of course, none of us truly is able to do anything by ourselves. We need others to accomplish things. The problem is helping folks do things on their own but at the same time helping them realize, they need others as well.

    blessings, Fawole

    Comment by Jose Rodriguez | Monday, April 27, 2009 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback Jose Rodriguez,

      I think you summed it up very nicely. As the children of Ifa we need to learn the skills, tools, discipline, and etcetera necessary to become integrated parts of the community. A policeman has to know how to be a policeman when no other police are around. But a policeman also knows that he is part of a larger group of police people as well as a part of his community. Children of Ifa are no different. We have to know what we need when no one else is around and we also have to know that we are part of a larger spiritual community as well as part of a community outside the spiritual community. Anytime we make the choice to become wolves and betray the trust people bestow on us we no longer deserve to be part of the community and are unfit to be trusted with anything as vital as other people’s spiritual development. We all have a job to do and we need to take our jobs seriously and do them the best way possible. Our job is not to live off others by becoming spiritual pushers and using Ifa as some form of spiritual crack.


      Comment by brotherpeacemaker | Monday, April 27, 2009 | Reply

  7. Where are you now? I see the dates on this string are old but I like what you said. Your statement is true in all professions, but especially true for man’s religious money machine and the “spiritual” world, which has become like man’s religious money machine. I am new to Ifa as far as practice but old in my spiritual walk. There are certain things going on that I don’t feel comfortable with while other things seem to be totally off. I would like to know what the exact steps are to becoming an initiate/priest and what one is supposed to receive along the way? Plenty questions.

    Comment by TREIGINC | Friday, January 11, 2013 | Reply

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