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The Pope Of Ifa


A few years back I paid a visit to an Orisa house that just went through a growth spurt.  With more members and seemingly with more credibility the leadership of the ile told its members that Orunmila had decided the time had come for the leadership to be addressed as royalty.  The woman who ran the ile was now a king and her children were part of the ile’s royal lineage.  The leader starting addressing herself as the royal we and the children were to be addressed as your grace.  I, just like everybody else, was told that Orunmila deemed it necessary.  I wonder whatever happened to those folks.

In the Ifa tradition, it seems that there is never a lack of people trying their best to manufacture some kind of elevated status for themselves.  All somebody needs is divination tray and the next thing you know they will tell you that the spiritual realm has decided that their status needs to be kicked up a notch.

But truth be told there is little to be gained from competing with others for spiritual status.  My godmother taught me that the one concept that Ifa should teach us all is that in this vast universe filled with things that we have yet to comprehend, we are nothing.  The pursuit of status by one Ifa practitioner over another is like the pursuit of status of one grain of sand over another.  It takes countless number of sand granules on a beach to even make an impression.  And out of that entire mix, which grain is more important than the other?

Now, I’m no expert on Ifa.  I doubt if anyone on this plane of existence is.  And that would go for anyone claiming to be the Pope of Ifa as well.  I was rather appalled to see anyone in the ancient Yoruba spirituality use such a reference.  Not to say that I am trying to promote some idea of spiritual superiority over any of our catholic brothers and sisters or anyone else for that matter.  But there is no single figurehead that represents the embodiment of Ifa the way the pope embodies the Catholic Church.

I have to confess that I am no expert on Catholicism either.  In fact, I know very little of this religion.  But from my cursory observance of the papacy, the Pope appears more suited for concepts of spiritual law rather than spirituality.  The difference being the former is an interpretation of a set of rules and regulations designed to govern spiritual behavior compared to the latter which is true spiritual behavior regardless of any definition or law.  If you feel it is spiritual then it is spiritual regardless of what any law written by someone else may say.

So now some of us want to take the concept of the Pope and try to put this catholic peg into an ancient African spirituality hole.  It is my understanding that the head of the Yoruba tradition worldwide is the Supreme Leader Araba Agbaye.  The Araba is considered to be a direct descendant of Baba Orunmila and is the overseer of all practitioners of Ifa and his duties include influencing the teachings and ethics of the Ifa tradition as it was passed down for generations in order to protect the tradition from evolving as people evolve.  Nothing stays stagnant unless it is forced to stagnate, including faith.

Not knocking anybody’s interpretation of our spirituality but I simply cannot believe anyone has the ability to direct my spirituality for me even if he is the supreme leader of all things Ifa here on planet Earth.  I know a lot of people who think that the traditional ways practiced hundreds or thousands of years ago are the only way.  But spirituality should be flexible enough to adapt to an age where jet travel is the norm and electricity and cell phones are essential.  Besides, how is it possible that the Araba’s spirituality supersedes anybody else’s simply because he has a title?  Who is this guy?

Personally, I never met the Araba and I probably never will.  He might be a nice guy, he might not.  But the point I’m trying to make here is that if we know nothing about this man who lives halfway around the world, why would all of us be so inclined to trust his judgment when it comes to our spirituality?

I’m sure some people find it convenient to dump responsibility for their spirituality on someone else.  But I seriously doubt if the Araba or anyone else would take the development of my spirituality as seriously as I would or should take it.  Instead of letting the Pope of Ifa take responsibility, or credit, for my spirituality I’d rather take that responsibility for myself.

On the flipside of this same coin, if I was the Araba I wouldn’t want to take responsibility for anybody’s spirituality on the other side of the room let alone halfway around the world.  If I was the Supreme Araba of Ifa I think I would be telling people to quit trying to clamber out of taking responsibility for their spiritual development.  Letting someone else do my spiritual development would be like me being enslaved having someone else experience my freedom.  It doesn’t work that way.  It doesn’t matter if you’re the elder of an ile, spiritual royalty, or the Pope of Ifa.

Friday, May 22, 2009 - Posted by | Ifa, Life, Orisa, Spirituality, Thoughts

1 Comment »

  1. BrotherPeaceMaker, All to often there are way too many sheeple involved in religious/spiritual movements or groups looking for something instead of themselves. As you said
    “Letting someone else do my spiritual development would be like me being enslaved having someone else experience my freedom.” Very similar to what the great Harriet Tubman said “I freed thousands, I could have freed more if only they knew they were slaves.”

    Comment by Ensayn | Friday, May 22, 2009 | Reply

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