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IFA BY CHIEF FELA SOWANDE ... Oral Traditions that have come the way of the writer state categorically that, the Yoruba name for the Supreme Deity is OLORUN .... It is OLORUN, not because OLORUN means "The Owner of Heaven" - one cannot intuit Spiritual Potencies by using the Yoruba Dictionary - but because He is the OLU-AWO-ORUN, or OLUWO-ORUN, the Master of the Masters of the Sacred Mysteries of Heaven, a title fore-shortened into OLUORUN, and into OLORUN; He is indeed the Owner of Heaven, because of his place in the Heavenly Hierarchy; he is not the Owner of Heaven merely because the Yoruba word OLORUN means etymologically "the owner of heaven." We might go further and say that OLORUN is the Master of the Masters of the Sacred Mysteries of the Inner Courts of Heaven, because He has a sort of Prime Minister, or number two, in the OLU-AWO-ODE-ORUN, Master of the Masters of the Sacred Mysteries of the Outer courts of Heaven, in the Person of the great OFUN, the only one of the 16 ODU of IFA that the Babalawo always acknowledges by saying HEPA, whenever his symbol appears on the divining board. We could, perhaps, fore-shorten OLU-AWO-ODEORUN into OLODE-ORUN justifiably, but this is of no moment.
"OLORUN" is not directly involved in human affairs, because the Spiritual Force emanating from Him is of such Potency that it would shatter our human bodies; just as, were the Sun to come down nearer the Earth a few million miles, the result would be, not more light and heat and life, but so much of it that it becomes destructive, and death ensues. Hence OLORUN keeps His distance, for our safety, but it is His life, His everything, that we use. It seems to the writer that we can properly borrow Hindu terminology and say, of OLORUN, "Thou canst not know the knower of knowledge, thou canst not see the seer of seeing, thou canst not hear the hearer of hearing, thou canst not comprehend the comprehender of comprehension." For this reason, OLORUN has no shrines, no worship, but it is utterly erroneous to conclude that he is 'remote' or not known to exist.
Next to OLORUN in the Heavenly Hierarchy is ELEDA, a word which means, 'Creator' - an approximate translation, which would be no guide even if it weren't approximate. For ELEDA does not "create life" as we would understand that term. He is, however, the Root from which comes that which makes it possible for Life to manifest. He is Pure Dynamic Spiritual Energy, unconditioned by even the concept of Matter; if we can think of Electrical Energy existing independent of the wires conducting it, vibrating at countless millions of vibrations per second, rushing hither and thither throughout Space, free, boundless, and untramelled by aught, then we may have a faint idea of what ELEDA stands for. As the writer sees it, ELEDA also has a number TWO in 'ORI,' a definite concept in the Yoruba System, hence the saying "ENI ORI DA, KO L'AFARAWE" - "He in whose creation ORI has had a hand is a law unto himself. You cannot pattern your life after his, (without paying the price)." While ELEDA - like OLORUN - is still too rarefied, too Potent, to be directly connected with humanity, ORI - much less rarefied,
. as told in the following Stanza. It is. but all this only relatively to ELEDA -does indeed become involved in humanity. given this time by ARSADA: 'KE-KE-KENI NWON NKAN KOSO. NWON NI KI ORI SETUTU. A great shout went up in Heaven. O DI ENI APESIN.much less Potent. and OLODUMARE made ORI the most senior of all IRUNMOLES. Then came ORI and split it without effort. A DIFA FUN ORI. All the IRUNMOLES tried to split the kola-nut but failed. he threw them out of Heaven.. Selfexisting. IRERE KO NI ORI A GB'ERU LE. OBALUFON in IYINDE." This is almost impossible for one to translate.. in fact. Then they became jealous and envious of ORI. Self-born.. Later on. and so became someone whom people gathered together to pay honiage to on Earth. OLOTA landed in ADO.. without father. self-born. GUDUGUDU NI NWON NLU ARON ORISA: BI BABALAWO MEJI BA RI ARA WON. This is the justification for translating "ARE" in "OLODUMARE" as "Stranger with no known relatives. and ORUNMILA in ILE-IFE. another kindness comes our way: this was foretold to ORI when it was going to join the other lRUNMOLES to try to split the kola-nut of creative speech. the other way round. NJE. This was a kola-nut the splitting of which gave the person power to say "let such and such a thing happen" and it happens by unmutable law automatically." The story. ARE. A GBA OMIRAN: A DA A F'ORI. but it tells of the time when ORI came down to Earth for which event he consulted IFA. He is Vast. NWON A SE IRUKERE WON YETURU YETURU. OMO . ERINMI in OWO. Other Stanzas of IFA (ARSADA) further substantiate the Individual Existence of ORI and further confirm the writer's current view that ORI is ELEDA conditioned by Matter. the accepted meaning of which is OL'ODU . The Stanzas from EJIOBGE cited by LUADU in his ORUNMILA runs thus: "BI A BA DUPE ORE ANA. Stanzas dealing with Orl are not difficult to come by. NLO SI AWUJO GBOGBO IRUNMOLE LO I-P'OBI ORE". as given by LIJADU. ORI came to live on Earth. O RUBO. Mighty. but he conquered them all. the Vast and Mighty Being. ORISA in ITAPA. and so He is OLODU-OMO-ARE.. This translates roughly as: "If we say thank you for yestuday's kindness. offered the necessary sacrifices." It is important to mention here that a . they fought with him. OLODUMARE summoned all the IRUNMOLES (Hierarchy of Heavenly Spirits) to come and split the kola-nut of creative speech. one day. NIGBATI 0 NTI ISALU ORUN BO WA ILE AIYE. OGUN in ILE-IRE. ORI RERE NI TI IRERE. . also from EJIOGBE. without mother. was that. Next to ELEDA in the Heavenly Hierarchy is OLODUMARE. selfexistent. ORI RERE NI TI IRERE. NlTORI Kl O LE BA DI ENI APESIN. PEPE in ASIN.
I SHALL BE". is our proper concern. yet to me neither men nor angels may draw nigh. mine is the power that lifteth up . the Root of that which eventually becomes Form. Apart from me there is neither wisdom.OLODU. I WAS: In all worlds I AM: And when worlds are but a memory. Tlus boy grew up and became quite famous. Thus there are two OLODUMARES at least. perfect. in whom the Minister places absolute confidence. then into OLODU'MERE. Into every state of knowledge do I enter. that He enters into virtually every aspect of Manifested Life. which He is not. OLORUN. Of the three. in every System like that of the YORUBA. ultimate. we are concerned here with the Divine Spirit OLODUMARE. Ever the same is my inmost being. We have therefore in the YORUBA System. of which it has been said. Before all worlds.. whole. yet fixed in the heart of every one. I am the growth. not because He is the Supreme God. When his son was born. always itself. Of all existences I am the source. the continuation. changeless . OLODUMARE is the least rarefied. or OLODU.. The man had previously consulted IFA.OLORUN -. complete. He is pure Spirit. nor knowledge. in another system: . but also because these Three Names represent Three States of Manifestation of That which. ELERE.. Mine is the healing influence flowing down from consecrated hands. younger than the babe new-born. Four are the subtle principles . without end. All things and creatures I send forth. I cause their return unto myself . brighter than light. then he was referred to as OLODU OMO ELERE. We are not concerned. for I am known only to myself. is forever Nameless.. which was sometimes turned into OLODUMARE. absolutely one.. mine the venom of the adder's fang." it is also said: "From my substance all things derive their substance.the Supreme Deity. eternal. he was named as a result . older than night or day. and the end. we may perhaps regard Him as the Germ from which the Principles of Form and of Matter subsequently develop."I am. be because He may be likened to the Permanent Secretary of a Minister of State. ELEDA & OLODUMARE.. formless. From me the shining worlds flow forth. so that I am not less the ignorance of the deluded than the wisdom of the sage. here. infinite. indivisible. For what thou callest ignorance and folly is my pure knowing imperfectly expressed through an uncompleted image of my divine perfection . He is the Root of that which eventually becomes Matter. One does not upset such a Permanent Secretary and expect the Minister to have much time for one! OLODUMARE is vitally important because of this sort of relationship with OLORUN -.derives. but so near to manifestation. the "IT. being He is still neither Matter. This was contracted into OLODU OMO ERE. and who deals with the general public on behalf of the Minister. traditionally. and when the dream of separation ends. beyond all things and creatures. the son of ELERE. into false knowledge as well as into true." from which even the Supreme Deity . and within the framework of the Yoruba Traditional System. darker than darkness. and in whatsoever riseth. I support them while yet they stand without. to me all at last return.Stanza from OBARA-IRETE relates the birth of a son to a man.. ONILE ETI OSINMIMI and his wife. nor understanding. without beginning. I am the decay. But what the term signified. and all that hath form is built from my four-fold elemental manifestation. That is altogether quite a different matter and is none of our business. I am the germ.. with Yoruba Christians' concept of this term as a name for God within the framework of Christianity. Of this same "IT. Nothing falleth but by me. nor conditionedby Matter.
The story given by Lijadu. reliable. in YORUBA.as Mr. of the YORUBA text. NWON RUBO. was one of which BABALAWO stood in great dread. excellent in attributes. regained strength to climb out. at which both hastily emerged from their hiding place. AWON MEJEJI GBO EBO. But we cannot re-write the ODU corpus to satisfy any author. they could not get out. each sacrificed. stable.. WATER. they suddenly fell into a deep pit. and even then." It is the writer's currently held view that.which the wise conceal from the uninitiate by the names: FIRE. and the Stanza recited by the BABALAWO mouth-to-ear. ORUNMILA was in dire straits. and unsurpassable in majesty. may be briefly summed up as follows: OLODUMARE and ORUNMILA were out walking one day. They are transmutations of a single essence and from their mingling are brought forth all things. they ate. It simply does not belong in YORUBA Traditional System. ELEDA correlates with AIR. OJU MPON ORUNMILA: OLODUMARE NI KI ORUNMILA RUBO: ORUNMILA NI KI OLODUMARE NA RUBO KE.from which. and OFUN (HEPA) correlates with EARTH.prepared and presented a Script on ELA for YORUBA LIFE. OLORUN -ALANU. in the YORUBA System. EARTH. Ajanaku -. it was with difficulty he was able to persuade his BABALAWO to recite the Stanza." may apply to the concept of OLODUMARE in YORUBA Christianity. . Here is no picture of OLODUMARE as conceived by Mr. we turn exclusively to Chief Fagbemi Ajanaku. he went. except EDUN who threatened to spill the beans about the discomfiture he had found them in. Hereinunder is a detailed summary in English. OLODUMARE told ORUNMILA to offer sacrifice. "OLODUMARE was in dire straits. constant. They were there for days. The 'single essence' from which They all derive is the un-named and unnameable "IT. NWON JUMO YAN ASOBILIKI ERANLA KOKAN ATI OGBOBOKANLA LI EBO FUN ARA WON. from EJIOGBE. and ILE-IFE. Idowu. In endless variety of mixture and proportion." These same oral traditions state categorically that the permuted names of OLORUN. try as they would. Lijadu was led into a corner. ORISA. each divined for the other. were imported by the YORUBA converts and had no place in the Traditional System." Briefly. superlatively great. these mingle together for the production of forms. the ARABA of Eko. incomparable. but were both still so shaken by their experience that they went and shut themselves up in Heaven. perse. etc. until the monkey (EDUN) happened to discover them there. We should now consider. directed by my Will. viz: OLORUN-ELEMI. For the story of ELA. who. as briefly as possible: ELA. unchanging. OLORUN correlates with FIRE. cited by Lijadu: "OJU MPON OLODUMARE." Lijadu adds a footnote to say that this Stanza. as "one who is supreme. several years back -. where we find this Stanza. and they must be our ultimate points of reference. and no one could get them to come out. Idowu's OLODUMARE. collected some fruits which he threw to them. ORUNMILA said OLODUMARE too should offer sacrifice. AIR. OLODUMARE correlates with WATER.
it corresponds to our Monday. due to space consideration). things went on fine. mankind was fruitful and multiplied. QJO ETI corresponds to our Friday. and returned to Heaven on the same day he descended from Heaven.e. his mother was OGIDI. With ESU removed. This infuriated ESU to whom ELA was junior. and he and his followers took three alternative decisions: (a) either to prevent ELA from gaining a foothold on Earth. this is known as the day of the Three Tries. ELA then stayed on Earth for two more days.Sunday. but this time to take on human flesh. OLODUMARE always sent him as ORUNMILA to the particular place where there was greatest need. anything in parenthesis like this are the writer's comments. women became barren. with chaos everywhere. ELA became the senior of all the Heavenly Powers. He had different parents each time. hence the day is known as OJO AJE.were quoted in connection with this event. ESU got to know of this plan. and the Earth was populated. and that where this is not so. ESU and his followers then levied war against ELA. i. On the day of ELA 's descent. Then OLODUMARE instructed ELA to go down to Earth to put things in order. the other from IROSUN-ATERE -. corresponding to our Sunday (presumably implying that ESU was unable to prevent ELA 's descent. corresponding to our Thursday. the YORUBA believe that every person dies on the day of the week he was born. or failing that. (In the original Script.the Day of the return (of things to normal). order was everywhere. on OJO AIKU -. For some time. and was able to attract some of mankind to his band of followers. as ESU thought he had been by-passed in favour of a junior. When ESU saw this.QJO ABAMETA. if we include his very first visit as The Great Spirit ELA.one from EJIOGBE. on a day known as QJO ETI. ELA first had to break ESU 's power. This was the first of six times that ELA came to the Earth as a human being. either the person died on somebody else's day (as an unconscious substitute) or that he had actually died on that day of his birth. and his place of birth was Oke Itase. terrible battles followed. making seven times in all. the whole Earth was one vast mass of water and sky. i. On one of these incarnations. Again OLODUMARE instructed ELA to go down to Earth to restore order. at that time. (b) to prevent ELA from carrying out OLODUMARE's instructions. (c) to ensure that ELA was unable to return to Heaven to report back to OLODUMARE. or the Day of Restoration.e. he called his followers together. Hence. the sick remained sick. or failing that. ESU lost. the whole Earth was convulsed by terrible upheavals. the day of (attempting) the impossible. He also ordered ELA to supervise AJALAMO's work. Arriving on Earth. thus the day is known os OJOBO -. There seems no need to quote them here. for which he alone is responsible). two Stanzas of IFA -. but had enough energy left in him to last out a little longer before collapsing altogether. Trouble began again.When OLODUMARE ordered AJALAMO to mould man. and similar wicked things were done by ESU and his followers. those with child had miscarriages or difficult births. and next only to OLODUMARE. ELA/ORUNMILA was not the only . or of survival. QJO ABAMETA. ELA gained a decisive victory over ESU by establishing order. and the goddess AJE was sent down by OLODUMARE from heaven to assist ELA against ESU. his father was OPERTI. or AJE's day.the Day of not-dying.. as recounted above. Friday -QJO ETI and Saturday -. and he and his followers were chucked out of Heaven. corresponding to our Saturday. ELA and his followers descended to Earth on OJO AIKU .
roughly summed up as follows in English: "The oracle was consulted on behalf of the 16 IRUNMOLES (or by the 16 IRUNMOLES) when they were due to come down to Earth. he ordered EJI-OGBE to get up so that he (OFUNMEJI -. IRETE and OSE. OFUN. initially taught by ELA. authority and power was given directly to ELA by OLODUMARE. but as time went on.. but not quoted. then Each carried twice its original name. Who taught mankind how to divine. They inquired whether they would be able to stay on Earth. whom we know today as the 16 ODU of IFA: i. Among them are the 16 IRUNMOLES. .. he also cornmanded the water on the ground to let dry land appear. They were told to offer sacrifice. but EJI-OGBEanswered him not a word. OKANRAN. he (OFUN-MEJI) thought he would go down and see what was happening. having yielded the first position to EJI-OGBE. OYEKU became OYEKU MEJI -. When EJIOGBE and his followers arrived on Earth. Oral tradition also has it -. as we quote the EJI-OGBE Stanza relating the first time the 16 IRUNMOLES came to Earth as humans. there was no consulting of the oracle. He returned to Heaven to report that it was impossible to stay on Earth. Then OLODUMARE gave EJI-OGBE authority to set things right on Earth. OFUN (HEPA!) became ORANGUNMEJI. he found EJI-OGBE and his followers comfortably seated. for it was all Dark.or twice OYEKU. the oracle wasc onsulted. EJI-OGBE became the most senior of the 16 IRUNMOLE and ORANGUN-MEJI (the new name for OFUN-MEJI) became the last in order of seniority. When he arrived on Earth. grass began to grow. OSA. OTURUPON. in the story of ELA above.. and all kinds of animals began to make their appearances according to the commands of EJI-OGBE. ODI.. using 16 ivory counters. OFUN-MEJI was the first IRUNMOLE (he was senior) to be sent down to Earth. theoracle was again consulted. Tradition has it that it was ELA. Thus. . Thus we may rightly conclude that "divination. " as part of the system.e. EJI-OGBE was the only one who did as instructed. When however ELA first incarnated as ORUNMILA. and here we take our leave of the YORUBA Script by Chief Ajanaku." A point that might perhaps be mentioned here is that. and occupied the 16th position. OBARA.the senior) could sit down. and the sky become visible. when OLODUMARE sent ELA to Earth as Spirit. for one part to go upwards and the other half to go downwards. IROSUN. OYEKU. and one vast mass of Water. OGBE. OWONRIN. is of great antiquity. OGUNDA. and there was Light. nevertheless.as the writer understands it -.or twice OGBE. furthermore. (source . thus OGBE became EJIOGBE .one with multiple incarnations. in the EJI-OGBE stanza referred to in the story of ELA above. when dry land appeared. The cause of this is related in another Stanza of IFA from EJI-OGBE. when these IRUNMOLES became human-beings on Earth. OTURA. As we see from the above story of the first incarnation of the 16 IRUNMOLE.. he commanded the Water to divide into two. and so on. the very first thing EJI-OGBE did was to command that there be Light. This order is not universally followed throughout Yorubaland.that these 16 IRUNMOLE were part of ELA 's followers when he came to battle with ESU and replace chaos with order. on his first and only mission on Earth as Spirit. The same pattern holds for ORUN and several of the IRUNMOLES who took on human flesh and lived among men. and he did not hear nor see anything of EJI-OGBE. IWORI. OFUN-MEJI had fully expected EJI-OGBE to return to Heaven with the mission unaccomplished.ARSADA). IKA.
ELA AWOYE. whom we have been considering. Similarly there are two ESUs -.that they also form part of ORUNMILA's followers at each incarnation. The Great Spirit whom we have been considering in the Story of ELA. and ELA IWORI. the OLOJA. We are concerned here. In the above story about EJI-OGBE and OFUN. with ELA.ESU EBITA. Oral traditions aver that there are two ELA's . we see them in action. . and that these two ESUs should not be confused one with the other. Who is not of the same stature as ELA AWOYE. and that the two are not to be confused. the son of a Chief. independently of ELA /QRUNMILA. however. and ESU LALU.
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