The path of initiation in Ifa: Lucumi and Traditional Yoruba

Aboru aboye aboshishe,

After a few conversations including a longer one with my Oluwo in Nigeria, I thought that it would be quite useful to post my understanding of the processes of initiation into Ifa for both Lucumi/santeria Ifa practitioners and traditional Yoruba Ifa practitioners. I'm not doing this to say that one is right, and one is wrong. They are their own interpretations of Ifa, and while they agree on many things, this particular area of ritual/theology, they differ quite a bit.

For Lucumi practitioners, the process goes like this. One can be introduced to Ifa through their "madrina/padrino" if they have ilekes first, or they can go directly to a Babalawo, if they are not yet affiliated with a house. Having a divination session is something every Lucumi practitioner that works with Ifa eventual does, with varying degrees of frequency. Everyone, at some point, who is associated with lucumi Ifa can and should receive Ifa via Awofakan (ceremony for men) or Ikofa (ceremony for women). For women, Ikofa gives them their birth Odu, and can dictate only one more potential initiation, that of Apetebii (wife of Orunmila). Becoming an Apetebii is however, a requirement for any women who is the wife of a Babalawo.

For men, Awofakan (owo ifa kan-one hand of Ifa), gives them their birth Odu, unless it is determined they have an Odu which destines them for the priesthood of Ifa. If this is the case, and they observes the taboos of Ifa for his priests, he would do his Itefa (Ifa initiation) during which he receives his true birth Odu and Odu of priesthood (which he uses to identify himself). Of course having an Odu for the priesthood comes with responsibility, please see my article on this for further information:

I will also mention here that during Ikofa or Awofakan, it is perfectly acceptable to determine a person's "guardian Orisa", instead of having a separate "plante" to do this. In lucumi Ifa, homosexuals are forbidden from the Ifa priesthood, as are women. I don't say this to get into a debate about it, it's simply religious law, but it does not forbid either from going to

In traditional Yoruba Ifa practice. you . This is where things truly diverge because. The unfortunate thing is that many go to Nigeria to Itefa thinking then they are a Babalawo (and perhaps are sometimes misled to believe so). Everyone who comes from an Ifa worshipping family should first do their Ese'ntaye 7 days after birth. The logic is perfectly clear to me. as well as their Ifa name. Ese'ntaye [meaning "stepping on the earth"] acts as a guide for your early life. It is only through the Odu they receive during Itefa (their true birth odu) that it is determined whether they will be allowed to be an Ifa priest (and thus a Babalawo) and learn the deeper secrets/knowledge of Ifa. like the lucumi) either either in the Itelegan style (where the man does not see Odu the mythical wife of Ifa. all men who can/have the resources. However. they are not considered a Babalawo. if they do not have the resources they should Ishefa (this is the traditional Yoruba equivalent to the Lucumi Awofakan-owo ifa kan). This is where traditional Yoruba Ifa varies from Lucumi Ifa.Ifa for divination. direction on what they will do. in my own case. equivalent to Lucumi initiation into the Ifa priesthood). If they took the second route and only did their Ishefa. So it's my Odu of Ifa (birth Odu received in Itefa) that allows me to be a Babalawo. they may receive an Odu in Ishefa that says it's compulsory that they do their Itefa (similar to the cuban system) in which case they are required to do their Itefa anyways. but only an initiated follower of Ifa. it's only in receiving your birth Odu that you know your path. but this is not the case. in traditional Yoruba Ifa. should Te'Fa. and Ewoo (taboo) for the child. since I did Itefa Traditional Yoruba. revealing personality. even though I had Odu for babalawo in my Awofakan (received via lucumi priests). This is radically different from the lucumi interpretation which says once you Itefa you are a Babalawo. Ifa worship begin dramatically earlier. In traditional Yoruba Ifa. (like I just did for my son). once one has done their Itefa (either Itelegan style or Itelodu style). not done in the Lucumi system) or Itelodu (where the man does see Odu. help or Awofakan/Ikofa. or Itefa (initiate Ifa. I didn't truly know whether I was going to be allowed to be a Babalawo until I received my birth Odu in Itefa (which I didn't understand at the time!). To clarify.

an Ijebu practice. This does not mean that traditional Yoruba Ifa accepts gay babalawos. it's your birth Odu that determines it. which is completely contrary to Ifa theology. before calling yourself a Babalawo. first receiving ese'ntaye. it can be determined she needs to Itefa and become an Iyanifa. Iyanifa are female Ifa priestesses that can Te'Fa. In some areas. the Babalawos Odu is the Odu of the house. If the woman is married. When receiving Isodu. This comes in part from the requirements of Ifa priests (ie. So even if you want to be a Babalawo and go to Nigeria to Itefa. but are NOT allowed to see Odu (the mythical wife of Orunmila). In receiving this Odu. and why would you do that? I still maintain. then Isodu (the Ide (bracelet) of Ifa and one ikin . just that some people are working around the system. All . having children. In traditional Yoruba Ifa. the only difference is which Odu determines that. the Babalawo casts his own ikin to determine the woman's Odu. you are simply going against your destiny. Women follow this path. treatment of homosexuals is varied. she can cast Opele (divine). including whether she should Te'fa and become Iyanifa. If you decide to be a Babalawo anyways without the Odu. and what the timing and meaning of different ceremonies are. which is exactly like some Lucumi lineages) for those who are not a Babalawos wife. however all factions bar homosexuals from being Ifa priests. you must adhere to the commitments and Ewoo (taboo) of a Babalawo and if you are committing Ewoo (taboos) you should not act as a practicing priest nor call yourself a Babalawo without respecting those ewoo.are only a follower of Ifa unless being a Babalawo is your destiny. having an apetebii (being married to a woman). The commonality between Lucumi Ifa and traditional Yoruba Ifa is that being a Babalawo is a destiny. but she receives an Odu during her Apetebii ceremonies which tells more about her specifically. There are other who don't believe this and work with homosexuals. In all areas an Iyanifa learns Ifa verses and other rituals of Ifa. and from other things. but not Ikin. most typically they are viewed as acting contrary to Ifa and nature and are outright shunned. There does seem to be a don't ask. a position not recognized by Lucumi Ifa. don't tell or look the other way policy as of late. not a choice. and some folks who were shunned by Lucumi practitioners have taken to going to Nigeria where they are not known.

the women are ritually married to both the man and Ifa. 3 at most later. Itefa is typically done around puberty (when he becomes a man) but can occur anytime after that. Alase Ope abise warawara Translation: It is not advisable for one to wake up in the dawn of one's life without knowing the Odu that gave birth to one Divined for Olupo Alaelu Who reclined and was weeping in lamenation of his inability to achieve all Ire in life He whose life was as hard and tough as pebbles He was advised to sacrifice He complied Before long. In Ogbe Ate. Other important notes are that Ishefa (owo ifa kan) would be given to the child of a babalawo within a month of birth. but can be received 1 . not to far All IRE in life came to him in abundance. be married) and during said ceremony. Ifa says: A kii ji ni kutukutu Ka ma mo Odu to da nu s'aiye D'ifa fun Olupo Alaelu Eyi t f'eyin ti To n fekun surahun ire gbogbo Eyi ti ti ile aye ni lare kokooko bi ota Won ni ko sakaale ebo ni sise Ko si lo ree te ifa O gbe'bo o rubo Ko pe. . ko jinna Ire gbogbo wa ya de tuturu Ifa de o.Babalawo are required to have an Apetebii (ie.2 years.

It's been a learning process for me as I shed some of my own layers to learn how things are done in my particular path.I hope that this helps clarify some of the processes and differences in Lucumi and traditional Yoruba Ifa practices. Odabo Marcos Ifalola .