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EXEMPLIFIED BY THE ORISA TRADITION
DREA HABEEB from FACEBOOK
BY TOYIN ADEPOJU
THE MATERNAL WOMB AS WORKSHOP OF THE DIVINE IN CLASSICAL AFRICAN THOUGHT The maternal womb is considered to be the workshop where the Supreme Being causes life to germinate and grow.It is the privileged place of transcendence,the place of divine work.That is why tradition gives the rank of half-god to the woman-mother... Earth,the feminine and maternal power,is also the receptacle of the universal power which comes from heaven through the intermediary of ji (water),yellen (light) and even dibi (darkness). The Supreme Being in the Sudanese animist traditions created two fundamental principles which were inherent in all things:tyeeya (masculinity) and muesya (femininity).In West Africa,this principle of sexuality is applied to the members of the mineral,plant,and animal kingdoms.In this way,the sky is male,because in covering up the earth it fulfils its masculine function,while the earth is receptive,therefore feminine and maternal.Even today, "to cover up" in the Peul language means "to marry".The shape of an object determines its gender:all that is hollow symbolises the feminine ,while anything that projects outward represents the masculine. Amadou Hampate Ba "Earth,Moon and Stars",excerpt from Aspects of African Civilisation by Amadou Hampate Ba in Parabola",Vol.xiv.no 3.Fall 1989.48-9. THE SYMBOLISM OF MASCULINE AND FEMININE POLARITIES IN A CROSSCULTURAL AND INTERDISCIPLINARY CONTEXT The relationships between the erotic,religion,philosophy and great literature and art do not seem to be very well known even though different cultures have a long tradition of developing these conjunctions.I get the impression that it is a central stream in Classical Yoruba thought,but its delineation might take patient and broad study,reading between the lines and making conjunctions not always slept out.The metaphors emanating from male/female polarities and the sexual and generative potential of these polarities seems to be central to the symbolism and perhaps the ritual of the Aboriginal Ogboni,one of the central institutions in Classical Yoruba culture as well as to the hermeneutic process through which reality is engaged with in Ifa divination. The Odu of Ifa are collectively understood as female and as the wife of Orunmila,the Orisadeity-whose mandate underlies the divinatory system.This feminine identity resonates in the symbolism of the empty centre of the divination tray,the physical and symbolic template for divinatory quests into hidden knowledge.The symbolic configurations that emerge on this empty surface when the diviner casts their divinatory instruments on the surface of the tray can be understood in terms of the emergence of meaning from the conjunction of the cosmic associations of Orunmila,who is understood as having participated in the creation of the
cosmos and the terrestrial resonance of Odu,whose associations extend from the primordial Mothers,the forces who embody the capacity for creation and destruction represented by the power and volatility of life,to the primordial One who predates all--Odua-Odu-the sacred python-,to the calabash whose bottom and top represrent the cosmos.I have developed some of these associations on my own intiative but the evidence to back it up in the Classical network of symbolism is abundant. Associations evoking male,female polarities are explicit in Hinduism,as in the relationship of Shiva and his wife Shakti.Shiva represents a passive but underlying energy while Sshakiti embodies an active,directly creative energy[I think I am liley to be getting it right].This correlation is visualised by images of Shakti standing on the prone body of Shiva. These correlations between the masculine and the feminine are particularly striking so in the symbolism of Sri Yantra in Hinduism.A yantra is a geometric form that suggests the ontological identity of a cosmic force.It is understood as the mid-point in the various levels of abstraction in the depiction of such forces,with an anthropomorphic depiction being the most basic,the yanytra being the next most sophisticated and thse representations culminating in the expression of the force in terms of sound,the most abstract formulation. The Sri Yantra is composed of four triangles facing upwards ,superimposed on five circles facing downward.This structure is surrounded by a sequence of three concentric circles,which might have a sequence of eight,downward facing crescents in the space between the first circle and the second,and sixteen crescents in the space between the second circle and the third.The entire ensemble is enclosed in a rectangle,a foursided figure with sides of unequal length,with four extrusions that give the structure the sense of solidity and stability of a mansion. The conjunction of upward facing and downward facing triangles represents the conjunction of masculine and feminine forces in bringing the universe into being.The upward facing circles represent the masculine polarity while the downward facing cricles stand for the feminine polarity.The primordial state of the universe is represented by a point at the centre of the empty space defined by the intersection of all the triangles. Toyin Adepoju.Unpublished text.
IGBA IWA : THE COSMIC GOURD WITH TWO HALVES The popular Yoruba saying "Tako, tabo, ejiwapo" ("The male and female in togetherness"; Lawal 1995:45) is loaded with meaning. In addition to hinting at the life-producing potential of the couple--the source of the family--it recalls the Yoruba conceptualization of the cosmos as a "big gourd with two halves" (Igba nla meiji sbju de'ra won). (2) The top half signifies maleness as well as the sky/heaven--the realm of invisible spirits (Fig. 1). The bottom half represents femaleness and the primeval waters out of which the physical world was later created. A mysterious power called ase is thought to hold the gourd in space, enabling the sun
and moon to shine, wind to blow, fire to burn, rain to fall, rivers to flow, and both living and nonliving things to exist. This power emanates from a Supreme Deity known (among other names) as Alase ('Owner of ase'), Olorun ('Lord of the Sky') and Olodumare (the 'Eternal One and Source of All That Exists'). the Yoruba once regarded Oduduwa as the Supreme Goddess, an embodiment of Heaven and Earth. According to J. Olumide Lucas, one of the pioneer scholars of Yoruba religion and himself a Yoruba elder: In the early myths she [Oduduwa] is credited with the priority of existence ... She is regarded as having independent existence, and as co-eval with Olorun [aka Olodumare], the Supreme Deity with whom she is associated in the work of creation ... Oduduwa is known as Iya Agbe--'Mother of the Gourd' or 'Mother of the closed calabash; She is [sometimes] represented in a sitting posture, nursing a child. Hence prayers are often addressed to her by would-be mothers (Lucas 1948:45). D. Olarimiwa Epega, another Yoruba elder, makes a similar point: "Odudua is the SelfExistent Being who created existence. He is both male and female ... The word Olodumare is a praise title of Odudua" (1971:13-14). (3) Other scholars have drawn attention to the appearance of the word odu (chief) in the names of Ol-odu-mare and Oduduwa, suggesting that both apparently refer to one and the same deity (Idowu 1994:22-7, 31-2; Bamgbose 1972/73:28-9). (4) Indeed, Olodumare is also known as Eleduwa, which recalls the duwa in Odu-duwa. Thus the narrative attributing the creation of the terrestrial world to Oduduwa may very well reflect a divine act of self-extension, identifying Olodumare as a sexually biune Supreme Deity. In other words, is Ile an alter ego of Olodumare? In any event, the view held by some Yoruba informants that (a) Olodumare has a mother, (b) s/he embodies the male and the female principles of the cosmos, and (c) s/he may have something to do with a celestial python, has parallels among the Fon of the Republic of Benin, whose cosmology, many scholars believe, has been heavily influenced by that of their Yoruba neighbors (Maupoil 1943, Verger 1957). For example, the Fon conceptualize their Supreme Deity, Mawu-Lisa, as both male and female in essence. Its most sacred symbol is a closed calabash, like that of the Yoruba. The top half of the calabash symbolizes Lisa, the male Heaven, associated with day, heat, fire, fatherhood, and virility. The bottom half signifies Mawu, the female Earth, associated with night, coolness, water, fertility, motherhood, generosity, and nurture. Notwithstanding, the Fon often call the two aspects Mawu (Argyle 1966:179). As Melville and Frances Herskovits put it, Any discussion of the Great Gods with [the Fon] will make apparent at once the importance of the Sky-God. When the ultimate control of the Universe is referred to, Mawu is the god usually named. Yet when one speaks to persons immediately connected with the Sky-God cult .... the name given to this deity will be the hyphenated one of the two principal members of the Sky pantheon, Mawu-Lisa ... It is generally held that Mawu whose domain is in the moon, is female, and that
Lisa, who rules the sun is male. Bur mythological accounts vary. One version we collected tells that Mawu is androgynous and that Lisa is the son of Mawu ... Another relates that Mawu and Lisa are two beings in one, one-half a female whose eyes are the moon, the other a male whose eyes are the sun. This version, it is claimed, explains the meaning of the word Mawu (body-divided; 1933:11). Furthermore, certain Fon oral traditions identify Mawu-Lisa as the offspring of a Mother Goddess called Nana Buluku (Nana Buruku or Nana Bukuu in Yoruba) who derives much of her powers from a primordial python Dan or Dambala, who is associated with the rainbow, wealth, and dynamism. Usually signified by a coiled snake with its tail in its mouth to connote eternity, Dambala itself is believed to have two aspects: Dambala-Wedo (male) and AidoWedo (female). These parallels seem to increase the possibility that, before the impact of Islam and Christianity on Yoruba religion, Olodumare might have once had attributes similar in some respects to those of the Fon's Mawu, Mawu-Lisa, or Nana Buluku. (5) Another equally popular Yoruba creation narrative identifies the top (male) half of the cosmic calabash/gourd (Igba Iwa) with Obatala, the creativity deity, and the bottom half with Oduduwa in her role as female Earth (Lucas 1948:95). Apart from casting the two orisa in roles comparable to those of Olodumare and the Fon's Mawu-Lisa, this tradition makes Obatala the Supreme Deity, as implied in nicknames such as Orisa Nla ('Great Deity') and Alabalase ('The Wielder of Great ase'). Indeed, as Idowu points out, "he is called by some of Olodumare's significant appellations. For instance, he is called Atererekaye--'He who stretches over the whole extent of the earth'" (1994:70). Some stories even identify Obatala as the husband of the primordial python, mentioned earlier, that allegedly gave birth to Olodumare (Bascom 1980:212-15). And a number of scholars of Fon culture suspect that Mawu might derive from the Yoruba goddess Yeye Mowo, one of the wives of Obatala (Verger 1957:449, 552, Morton-Wil liams 1964:250 n.2, Bay 1998:95) whom some scholars identify as Oduduwa (Lucas 1948:96). Oduduwa now has a double identity, being worshipped as a male deity in much of eastern Yorubaland, but as another aspect of Ile, female Earth, in the western part. Oddly enough, those who regard Oduduwa as a male orisa still occasionally address him as Iya Imole ('Mother of the Divinities'; Idowu 1994:22-5). In sum, the metaphor of a cosmic gourd with male and female halves would seem to suggest that the Yoruba notion of a bipartite Supreme Being is much older than the current one that identifies Olodumare as a self-created Sky Father also called Olorun ('Lord of Heaven'). The divining tray on which the diviner fingerprints the odu has three basic forms: circular, semicircular, and square/rectangular. The most common, the circular tray, evokes Igba Iwa, the cosmic gourd. Human, animal, and mythological motifs carved in high relief frequently adorn the tray's border, leaving a recessed open space in the middle (Fig. 14) called aarin opon, the space for finger-printing the odu signs. That this recessed space is the intersection of heaven and earth and a stage for metaphysical theater is evident in the popular saying "Aarin opon niita Orun" ("The middle of the tray connects with heaven"; Abimbola 2000:177). Babatunde Lawal, "Ejiwapo: the dialectics of twoness in Yoruba art and culture",African
Arts, Spring, 2008. ODUDUWA,THE GREAT DARK GODDESS Oduduwa,the great,dark goddess,residing in the depth of the human psychiod...who preordained time,space,and the collective psychoid... Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983.
ODU OFUN MEJI AS COSMIC CALABASH The sixteenth major odu [Ofun Meji,an orgasinational category and active agent in the Ifa system of knowledge and divination],container of all mysteries,the complete calabsh of Oduduwa as formulated in the language of ifa,is all but inaccessible-placed out of the way and out of ordinary thought processes.What was lost at the "time" of Ose Meji must be regained,but how?The redemptive process might said to begin with the final episode in the saga of witches :Oshe Oyeku. Odu,the female principle imagined as a container,the fourth elemental being to siiue forth from the python's egg,having grown too "old",expresses her desire to go underground.Seated on her mysterious cylinder box,she calls her four advisors-Obatala,Babaluaye,Ogun,and Oduduwa (an active emanation of her self )-and gets them to agree to her departure by promising revelations to those of their children who come to solicit,to adore her properly in her house in the forest. This house has become the ceremonial apare-box containing a calsbh (her body),which contains in turn (or is surrounded by )the four calabashes given to her on that occasion by the four advisors.Obatala gives a calabash of chalk,Babaluaye offers his favorite substance,osun (red powder),Ogun-charcoal powder,and Ododuwa-mud.These gifts imply four roads,four corners of the universe.They are the original four major signs.From one of them will be born another forest principle,as once Odu from the pythons egg.Ofun,the calabash of chalk (efun) who gives (fun)himself,produces Obatala,the white divinity as Orisan-nla,greater than,the beginning and the end,first and last,the container of them all.The egg within becomes the womb,passivity becomes creativity personified.Surely this is part of the meaning of the orisha Obatala as Ofun. Igadu (igba, "calabash",and Odu )becomes an orisha,the divinty worshipped by diviners who have attained the highest degree of self knowledge-that is,the profoundest understanding of Ifa.Only such diviners may install the terribly powerful calabash of existence,once closed never to be reopened except under horrific circumstances, "symbol of the sky and earth in their fecund union,container of the supreme wisdom of Ifa, [the installation of which validates ]an esoteric principle of universal symbiosis". Judith Gleason,A Recitation of Ifa: Oracle of the Yoruba (New York:Grossman,1973)188191.
The Cosmic Calabash
The object shown here serves as a metaphor for one culture's concept of the cosmos. This Yoruba calabash distills one of the most complex ideas conceived by the human imagination into a design of elegant understatement and simplicity. The medium is an ordinary gourd that has been cut in half, scraped out, and dried before being carved. The surface of this simple, bisected sphere is covered with a series of finely incised interlace and bird motifs framed by elaborate borders. Here, the universe is envisioned as an entity composed of two distinct symmetrical units. The upper half depicts orun, the invisible spiritual realm of the ancestors, gods, and spirits, while the bottom half symbolizes aye, the visible, tangible world of the living. Thus, the work expresses the Yoruba cosmos as a union of structurally equal, autonomous elements, found repeatedly as the guiding principle in other Yoruba sacred artifacts. Yoruba spiritual precepts conceive of existence as a cyclical trajectory, according to which individuals experience life in aye, depart to orun, and are reborn. Olodumare, the Yorubas' removed and distant creator god, acted as a prime mover, infusing both hemispheres and all that they contain—gods, ancestors, spirits, humans, animals, plants, rocks, rivers—with life force (ase). Ase is at once the essential ingredient necessary to spark existence, an equivalent of the Western "anima," and the catalyst that allows things to change. Ase is alluded to figuratively in the gourd's decorative motifs through bird imagery, associated with the mystical powers attributed to women and divine kings in Yoruba society.
The threshold between aye and orun, represented as the line that bisects and joins the two spherical units of the calabash, is presided over by Orunmila, the deity responsible for the Yoruba system of divination known as Ifa, and Esu (also called Elegba), the divine messenger and mediator. According to Yoruba oral tradition, Orunmila's presence at creation endowed him with knowledge of every human being's destiny. At one time Orunmila (also called Ifa) moved easily between the realms aye and orun. However, the boundary between those two realms became a nearly impassable chasm after he retired to the world of the gods. While on earth, Orunmila had had eight children, the youngest of whom, Olowo, became king of the Yoruba city-state of Owo. Orunmila's omniscience made him uniquely qualified to serve as a wise counsel to his children, and, in return, he expected to be honored by them. Olowo rebelled against doing so, precipitating Orunmila's departure for orun. After he abandoned his children, they petitioned him to return. Instead, Orunmila provided each one of them with sixteen palm nuts (ikin Ifa) as a means of addressing questions to him. Since that time, the ikin have facilitated dialogues between Orunmila and individuals seeking to clarify their destiny. Ifa is consulted at each important phase of one's life, as well as in times of crisis, through the intermediation of professional specialists (babalawo). During Ifa rituals, babalawo repeatedly cast the ikin so that they reveal odu—signs that correlate with ancient verses of poetry that expand on their significance. The diviner recites these and interprets their significance to suggest influences that are affecting one's life and actions that one might consider taking. Although one's personal destiny (ori inu) is defined before coming into the world, a significant degree of self-determination allows one to make decisions that enable one to fulfill that destiny. Beyond its metaphysical significance, this prestige object served as a ritual container used in sacrifices to the gods and for divination. It was collected in Yorubaland by Leo Frobenius in 1918, and its design suggests that it was made in the province of Oyo. Ifa, . . . a Yoruba system of divination, is presided over by Orunmila, its deified mythic founder, who is also sometimes called Ifa. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art at http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/oracle/figures12.html ODU AS WORD,VOCATIVE CAVE,UTERUS,WOMB RECEIVER OF PHALLIC IMPULSE [Odu] is both the word [and] the dark cave of the mouth that symbolically corresponds to the uterus from which speech is born and in whose mysterious depths the flame-like tongue delivers its phallic sacred cargo.
Adapted from Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983.81.
ORUNMILA,ODU,OPON IFA,IYANLA,OSUN,OLOKUN:RELATIONSHIPS Orunmila, the embodiment of ultimate wisdom, whom both humans and Òrìṣà approach to gain insight from a totality of vision that even the ultimate creator, Olódúmarè, consulted in creating the universe.
Orunmila is present at the creation of every human being and so is aware of everything about the individual.He is represented by the Odù, symbols who embody the spiritual names or ontological identities of all possibilities of existence. Orunmila used to live on the earth, but, offended by his disciples, he withdrew to Orun, where they later met him under a sixteen branched palm tree, each branch having the dimensions of a house,the tree evoking the sixteen major Odù, here visualised in terms of their scope, which in a sense houses the totality of possibilities of existence in a manner similar to the Norse mythic tree Yggdrasil which spreads into all the worlds of the universe. Orunmila’s character as embodiment of ultimate wisdom is reinforced by the collective identity of the Odù being identified as his wife, thereby suggesting a synergistic relationship between the male figure, Orunmila, and the female figure, Odù, in generating the wisdom that emerges in the process of Ifá,divination, an image of procreative activity reinforced by the empty centre of the Ọpön Ifá,the tray where the Odù patterns form as the divinatory instruments are cast,which thereby assumes the character of a generative space. This procreative character is amplified by the association between Odù, and the calabash within which the divinatory instruments are housed, the calabash understood as symbolising the universe, the universe being visualised as the congruence of two aspects, the material and the spiritual, as the calabash is composed of two parts, one at the top, the other at the bottom. The images of the empty space of the Ọpön Ifá as well as the amplitude and circularity of the calabash, both evocative of the manifestation of the totality of the possibilities of being, further suggest the procreative associations of womb and vagina symbolism. These visual and ideational correlations are themselves reinforced in the associations between Odù and Ìyán Nlá, Earth, with whom Odù can be associated as a female, maternal figure, on account of the primordial role of the earth as mother of mothers on whose body all life feeds, the space upon and within which life exists.She is the nourishing darkness of the earth in which plants grow as well as the terrestrial darkness where the body begins the process that leads to its dissolving into the soil after the end of its earthly journey. Closely related to Ìyán Nlá are female Òrìṣà , particularly since along with being female, some of them embody elemental forces. Osun is associated with the Osun river which is her primary means of expression. Susanne Wenger descrbies her as the youthful beauty accessible to all and the ancient woman steeped in ancient and chthonic knowledge and power.One manifestation of her power is through the capacity of the womb to bear life. An aspect of Iyan Nla, is Olókun, embodied by the aquatic regions of the world. The “vibrations of the deep”, as well as the enormous calm power of ocean depths, manifest her presence. In her palace under the sea, she is dressed in immaculate white, welcoming all kinds of beings in their passage from one point of existence to another, as she dances to the rhythms of drums.
OPON IFA AS WOMB OF BECOMING Ifa is a practical metaphysical system first developed among the Yoruba ethnic group of southern Nigeria. The Odu, who are the means through which the system’s knowledge is organised, are understood to exist simultaneously in terms of different but correlative ontological categories: they are spatial patterns formed by the casting of the divinatory
instruments, vertical lines which represent these patterns, the numerical values of these configurations, the literary forms represented by the patterns as well as sentient agents which demonstrate their own Ori,or centre of ultimate direction which derives from the Supreme Being. Ifa sculpture demonstrates in visual terms the hermeneutic and metaphysical conceptions that inform the discipline. Central to this art is the divination tray, which, even when not used by the priest in divining, remains emblematic of the character and activity of the ontological categories at play in the divinatory process. The rectangular or circular symmetry of the tray is broken by the one form obligatory to all Ifa trays, a representation of the Orisha Eshu, the messenger of Ifa, a guide to the interpretation of Ifa’s meaning as well as an embodiment of the co-existence of paradox and order, of the unknown and the known. Carved at the edges of the tray are figures that could suggest, among other meanings, the nature of the hermeneutic process that Ifa divination involves or the various orders of being that participate in the divinatory process. The former could include spiral formations, both abstract and representational, described as evocative of the transformative power, Ashe, that enables the processes of becoming. The latter could include human beings or animals, animals being used in Ifa literature in suggesting human behaviour. The centre of the tray is left empty to be used as a template for the visual representation of the divinatory process as a point of intersection between human and non-human realms. This inter-dimensional conjunction is represented by the messages transmitted through the patterns realized by the divinatory instruments when they are cast, patterns which are represented by the inscriptions which the diviner makes on the dust placed on the tray’s centre. The empty centre is therefore a womb of becoming, a space of hermeneutic realisation, an observation reinforced by the feminine character ascribed to the collective identity of the Odu whose visual expression is represented on the surface of the trayThe structure of the Ifa system is also suggestive in relation to the study of probability, particularly in relation to decision making, as this is influenced by questions of actuality and potentiality. The Ifa priest Joseph Ohomina describes the Odu as representing an ontological map of all possibilities of being, both actual and probable. The knowledge represented by this significatory scope is invoked through the probabilistic configurations realised through the random casting of the divinatory instruments. The organisation of the Odu in terms of patterns of transformation and invariance in the modification of symbols also evokes ideas that could be studied in relation to Group Theory as the mathematical investigation of relationships between invariance and transformation in phenomena. Eglash describes this organisational system in terms of fractal geometry, in which symbolic forms are developed through repeated applications of the same transformative operation, creating forms each of which reflects at its own scale the structure of the group. This recursive operation terminates in the total number of permutations possible to the configurations of the divinatory instruments, and therefore of the numerical organisation of the Ifa corpus in terms of the Odu. The emergence of a transformational boundary, however, becomes a framework for the creation of a potentially infinite plenitude since there is no limit to the number of poems and stories that can be developed in relation to each of these organisational forms. One could see, therefore, that the system indicates the possibility of an infinitely expansive range of significations, a scope all the more compelling because it is organised in terms of a finite structure of numerical codifications.
Opon Ifa and the Sixteen Primary Odu
This notion of potential infinity is amplified by the metaphysical scope attributed to the system by its devotees. Abimbola describes the Odu as a means of organising a vision of the Yoruba cosmos through creating correlations between each Odu and various aspects of existence, including the Orisha, the divine beings who embody various aspects of the universe. Ohomina goes further to describe the Odu as the spiritual names of all possibilities of existence, whether actual or potential. Opon Ifa Division of Divination Tray into Intersecting Segments Indicating Paths Symbolic of the Conjunction of the Material and Spiritual Universes, of the Possibilities of Becoming Represented by the Crossroads of Convergence of Possiblities, both Hermeneutic and Practical, and of the Paths of Cognition and Action taken by Past Diviners as Actualising the Embodiment of the Ifa Tradition
This conception of the Odu as cosmic signifiers becomes even more marked in relation to the description of the collective identity of the Odu as the wife of Orunmila, whose wisdom is expressed in Ifa. The correlation of an Orisha, Orunmila, who is described as participating in the creation of the cosmos with a wife who represents the expression of his wisdom in practical terms suggests that Ifa can be understood as a means of developing and organising a vision of the metaphysical structure of the cosmos, and the divinatory process as a method through which human beings could draw upon this vision and utilise it in the details of their lives. The empty space at the centre of the divination tray is evocative of the template of existence within and through which human decisions and the various factors that impinge upon human existence interact.dynamism of human life the experience of being as an interactive encounter/relationship between the shaping of the self by factors that impact on the person
and the shaping of those factors by the self. “Which comes first, the pot or the hole in its centre?” Is it the human self or the experiential structure or pattern of their lives? In its metaphysical dimension,it embodies the crossroads of being, an embodiment of the nexus where new possibilities emerge through the mutual penetration of the transcendent and the material, the woman whose seeming weakness conceals the inner strength that reflects the hidden presence of the numinous in the mundane,the presence of the ground of being within its manifestations, the convergence of the Emptiness of that which is beyond being and nonbeing with the emptiness of the fleeting and mercurial nature of the material cosmos. ...the perpetual motion of beginnings, continuation and endings, powered by choice against the background of the unknown, anchored in primordial powers and those departed of flesh, that is the face of Opon Ifa,... Pot as Matrix of Metaphysical Enquiry
OLOKUN AND IYANLA Olokun Ajetiaye, Alagbalugbu omi Ajawo okoto Afailorogun pariwo See see ni gbede [Olokun ]the inexhaustible sea, immense water, Roaring eddy of sea shells, Querulous, though she has no rival Vibrations from the deep. This is Babatunde Lawal’s translation of a praise poem to the Yoruba orisha or deity Olokun. He describes “vibrations of the deep” in terms of an allusion to the world of values suggested by another poem, reproduced below, in evoking the “mystery associated with the female genitalia”. The previous poem he refers to celebrates the female deity Yemoja as: Iya olo yon oruba Onirun abev osiki Abobo fun ni l orun bi egbe isu. Which Lawal represents as The pot breasted mother With much hair on her private parts; The owner of a vagina that suffocates like dry yam in the throat These two poems, understood in their relationship with Lawal’s translation and interpretation, could be said to emblematize the tension evident in traditional Yoruba thought between various images of the feminine, particularly as these are expressed in relation to conceptions of the metaphysical significance of feminine physiology and its associated psychological expressions. These poems represent images of majestic power, as in that of the water deity and in the Yemoja characterization, the conjunction of reassuring image of motherhood in the maple breasts with taboo images of the mother’s genitalia culminating in the evocation of its deadliness. Endogenous Yoruba conceptions of the feminine could be said to operate in relation to the characterizations evoked in these lines and in terms of the biological characterization the lines delineate. In interpreting “vibrations from the deep” in terms of “the mystery associated with female genitalia” Lawal relates imaginatively to the poem in terms of it’s subliminal symbolism that provokes correlations between ideas of space, procreative and spiritual power, in relation to nourishing fluids, water and by extension blood. The evocation of ideas of power, the tumult of sound/creatively discordant sound suggested by the mighty waters if the sea, which Lawal translates as querelousness, of sound that reaches out from immense depths, and developing these images in terms of the characterization of a numinous figure who represents the characterisation of the world’s waters as an entity/personality/unified personality calls to mind the sense of mysterious power suggested by the depths of the sea which describes in his characterisation of Olokun,
as evocative of zones of being beyond the full comprehensibility of human knowledge/cognition/cognitive powers and relates to the Ifa poems correlation of Olukun and the primary Odu Why does Lawal move from characterisations of a water goddess, to conceptions /to correlating images which could be understood tom simply evoke the awesome depths of the sea with what he describes as the “mystery associated with female genitalia”. This correlation could merge from his response to the interttextual resonance that he perceives in the poem, where images of depth, of mysterious power, are associated with female figures, both divine and human and as reinforced by poems such as the second one he quotes where these images are transposed from the majestic to the taboo, conjoining the material and the erotic and foregrounding the sense of dread that such transgressive conjunction evoke in the characterisation of the vagina, which as bearded yam as it is sometimes called, can be sweet to eat but in certain contexts as in this one, could prove suffocating. Lawal’s interpretation could also be drawing upon his research into edan ogboni, the figurative sculpture of the Yoruba ogboni cult group, where he describes one of the depictions of female figures in the cult as engraved with concentric rings which suggest transformative power. The correlation of transformation with the feminine in turn evokes the sense of the transformation of life at various stages of biological growth, from conception to pregnancy to birth and the nurturing of the child into adulthood. This notion of biological transformation emerges in turn in relation to Lawal’s evocation, in relation to the coastal Yoruba, the movement of the sea is a reverberation of the drumming, dancing, and feasting going on in the rambling palace of Iyan Nla at the bottom. Hence the popular sayting; gbo iluni mbe l’okun,olkun dseniade asfilkilupe,oba omi (all kinds of drumming occur beneath the sea, olokun seniade the one who wakes up to the rhythm of drums, lord of the waters)as the mother of all, she receives and entertains visitors all day, all night-the orisa, spirits of the newly dead, spirits of plants and animals, souls of thousands of children waiting to be born into the earth, and souls of “returning” abiku, all flock around her as she dances through her huge reception hall dressed in immaculate white cloth and decked in white coral beads welcoming one group after another. As one informant put it, Iya Nla likes music and dance so much that she can celebrate for weeks without caring for food”. This image communicates more meaning when correlated with a similar image in Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies where a Mother Carey, a similar underwater freamle figure who relates to the process of life is portrayed: “A white marble lady, seating on a white marble throne. And from the foot of the throne there swam away, out and out into the sea, millions of new born creatures, of more shapes and colours than man ever dreamed. And they were Mother Carey’s children, whom she makes out of sea water all day long. He expected, of course¬-like some grown people who ought to know better-to find her snipping,piecing,fittinmg,stitching,cobbling,basting,fiuling,planning,hammerimng,turning,pol ishing,moulg=ding,mneasuruing,chiselling,clipping,and so forth, as men do when they go tom work to make anything. But, instead of that, she sat quite still with her chin upon her hand, looking down into the sea with two great grand blue eyes, as blue as the sea itself. Her hair was as white as the snow-for she was very old-in fact, as old as anything which you are likely to come across, except the difference between right and wrong”.
It is also made more meaningful when juxtaposed with the opening of Ben Okri’s Famished Road, which seems to be drawn from the same imaginative tradition: “In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out into the whole world. ………………………………………………………………………………………….. In that land of beginnings spirits mingled with the unborn. We could assume numerous forms. Many of us were birds. We knew no boundaries. There was much feasting, playing and sorrowing...” The “vibrations from the deep” could also be understood as expressive of the transformative powers at work in the sea where life forms are transformed from one sate to another, with the growth of plants and animals from one stage to another, which could be related to the theory that the first life forms emerged from the sea, a processes of biological transformation evoked by iconography often associated with Iya Nla ,the Great Mother, who represents the totality of the world and who therefore, of whom Olokun is an expression and who participates in the qualities of her children[lawal],the concentric circles which are not only evocative of the tremendous power of the whirlpool, as expressive of the “expansive power of Olokun” but of transformative processes. The notion of transformation could be understood as central to endogenous Yoruba conceptions of the feminine. This notion is interpreted in two contrastive but complementary terms as either negative or positive but another interpretation emerges in the conception of this by the philosopher of Yoruba tradition, Susanne Wenger as suggesting not positive or negative qualities but an understanding of the ambivalence and danger attendant upon magical creativity. This notion of transformative powers associated with the feminine operates in terms of a spectrum of interpretations, which could be understood as a transposition of the transformative powers represented by the capacity to conceive a life, nurture in uterine space, bring it into the world through the biological passages unique to the female and nurture it through the unique biological qualities represented by the life of the female body represented by breast milk. The invocation of the transformative powers associated with these unique abilities is understood to s demonstrate capabilities to shape the lives of children to whom they are intimately related, in the children who have been brought to life and nurtured through these biological qualities, an effect that could be positive or negative, depending on how it is directed by the mother. AETELIER WENGER AND RELATIONHIPS BETWEEN SPACE AND FORM The idea of transformative potential in relation to female biology emerges as central motif in the art of the school of Susanne Wenger. It is represented by the centrality of evocations of female biological spaces in their sculptural and architectural works as well as inhere in her transpositions of ideas developed in relation to the transformative powers of female biology in relation to her interpretation/conception of this art as a means of stimulating a psychological and spiritual transformation in the audience. Imagery evocative of the nuturant darkness of the womb, of the vagina as creative passageway, are central not only to the
formal expression of the art itself to but to its interpretation by Wenger. Central to her conceptions are ideas that centre on the interaction between space and from as suggestive of transformative processes, the relationship between creator and the created from/creator, created from and process of creation. This development of ideas of transformative process represents her interpretation of endogenous Yoruba thought and iconography in terms of her own transmutation of the tradition through her own imaginative terms, fed as they are by a cosmopolitan culture, a central aspect of which is the relationship between space and form as evocative of relationships between the ground of being and its expression in Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. She adapts Lao Tzu’s ideas, in relation to endogenous Yoruba iconography and its symbolic values in order to provoke sensitivity to the creative paradoxes her work is meant to dramatize and which represent her efforts to incarnate/ stimulate a response to the multidimensional world represented by the Yoruba orisha through her visual art and her poetic verbal expositions. The physical qualities of the vagina are evoked in relation to philosophical values that arise in relation to those qualities. Wenger’s sculpture achieves this primarily through the relationships her work develops between space and form, specifically between sculptural form and sculptural space and sculptural space and natural space. Sculptural space consists in the spatial forms she creates through the creation of concavities within her sculptural and architectural works while natural space refers to the space constituted by the forest in which her sculptures are sited and with which they interact. The interaction between these elements of space and form is directed at realising values related to the penetrative encounter associated with the sexual act as it emerges in relation to the vagina as well as to the generative processes that emerges from this penetrative encounter and as this is manifest in the conception and gestation of new life in the womb. The constitution of the entranceways to various parts of the forest in terms of entranceways that are evocative of vaginal and womb spaces realises this directionality of meaning while the amplitude of volume/ spatial resonance between these sculptural spaces and the surrounding natural space helps to foreground the qualities of volume realised through sculptural space. One of the most prominent realizations of this balance between sculptural form and space, both sculptural and natural, emerges in the Chameleon Gate through which the navigator in the Oshun Forest, where her work is sited, enters the field dedicated to the Orisha or deity,Iya Mopo. Dynamically curving walls shape a central space that resonates with three smaller spaces at the top of the structure that surmounts the central space. The entire structure generates the impression of dynamic emptiness realised through the manner in which the convoluting forms of the surrounding pillars seem to energise the empty space that they shape. This structure is evocative of the vagina of the chameleon, in which the empty space is evocative of the vaginal space, the upper smaller spaces with which the centrals space resonates, its anal opening and the curvature of the space that surrounds the vaginal and anal openings. The pillars represent the animal’s legs.
The Vagina of the Chameleon
In relation to ideas which emerge in Yoruba and other African cultures of animals as evocative of values of central value to human society, even values that are representative of metaphysical significance since they constitute unique forms in the tapestry of existence, Wenger evokes the values associated with the chameleon in relation to the ideas associated with the vaginal entranceway. Both forms of biological symbolism, as they emerge from ideas associated with the vagina and from ideas related to the chameleon, converge to realize a synergistic form that resonates in relation to a host of ideas suggestive of the possibility of physical penetration associated with the vagina and its consonance with cognitive penetration, and with the relationships between the ability of the chameleon to blend its colour with that of its environment and discernment in relation to the ability to identify imaginatively and psychically with one’s environment as well as with the ability to discriminate between n its various levels/aspects of meaning. The navigational penetration of the vaginal entranceway becomes evocative of the cognitive penetration into the cosmographic framework represented by the forest and entry to which Wenger’s sculptures are directed at facilitating. The chameleons ability to blend its colours with that of its environment suggest the character of this contemplative navigation as means of harmonising oneself in consciousness with the metaphysical signals communicated by the forest and ones environment in general so that ,in such cognitive identification one may be enabled to cognise aspects of meaning that would be otherwise inaccessible. Such cognitive penetration into hidden depths of meaning makes possible the ability to distinguish between the various aspects of meaning that the forest embodies, from the material to the aesthetic to the metaphysical, while being able to grasp their interrelationship. The chameleon metaphor, therefore, is evocative of the cognitive penetration into the cosmographic dynamics embodied by the forest in terms of the development of the capacities for both grasping the particulars of that cosmographic integration as well as understanding its cohesive integration arrived at through the unity the forest constitutes, and which itself is suggestive of the unity realized by the cosmos, a level of perception/a perception of depths of meaning made possible through a sensory and imaginative identification with the forest. IFA AND GENERATIVE SPACE The relationship between form and space realized by the symbolic realizations of the vaginal entrance, serves, therefore, to coordinate ideas emerging from associations between physical penetration and cognitive penetration in relation to relationships between the psychological space embodied by the navigator of the forest and the psychical space realized by the forest. Wenger’s development symbolic values through evoking relationships between female biological space, cosmographic space and their relationships with the space constituted by human consciousness resonates in the symbolism associated with the divinatory process in Ifa. The Ifa oracle originated with the Yoruba and represents the central endogenous knowledge system of the people. The oracular process represents a hermeneutic procedure that proceeds through the interpretation of the patterns assumed by the divinatory instruments of the Ikin or opele when they are cast by the diviner. The significance of these patterns is interpreted in relation to the texts the patterns symbolize. The patterns operate, therefore, as mnemonic devices for the recollection of a vast corpus of texts associated with each of them. The distinctive construction of this hermeneutic process emerges in the interpretation within the system of this process not simply as a hermeneutic
activity performed by the priest upon the geomantic patterns and their associated texts, but as a dialogue between conscious entities in which the priest’s interpretation of the significance of the geomantic patterns resents the last stage in a process of communication which operates at several levels, and of which the interpretation of the geomantic patterns is the last and visible level of interaction between forms, the other levels being invisible. It is at the level of the interpretation of the divinatory process in terms of conscious at all levels, of dialogue between the various forms at play that the divinatory process involves ideas related to female biological space and its associations with the genitive process, at both microcosmic and macrocosmic levels. The oracle’s response to the clients query is understood to emerge through a dialogue between the geomantic patterns that are configured by the divinatory instruments when they are cast by the diviner and the client’s Ori, their subconscious identity which predates their birth, will outlive their physical incarnation at death and embodies the totality of their possibilities. This recognition of the range of the client’s possibilities is what makes the dialogue with the Ori fundamental since only through the Ori can an understanding be gained into the significance of the client’s query as one expression of the structure of potentiality/of possibility represented by their life. The oracle, therefore, could be understood as a means through which the client becomes aware of the repose of their own deeper self, the Ori to the issues that emerge in their life. Within the relationship thereby constituted in Ifa between ontological characterisation of the human being and the geomantic patterns, the patterns are understood to exist at various, interrelated levels of being. At one level they represent patterns assumed by thew divinatory instruments when they are cast by the diviner. At that level, they are random responses to physical action. At another level, they represent a means of organising the texts through which the system is expressed since each of these patterns,256 in all, represents a vast series of texts one or a sequence of of which will have relevance to the query posed by the client on whose behalf the divinatory instruments have been cast to form that pattern. At that level, they could be understood to function like book chapters in a text. At another level, they act as a nexus through which the various orisha are integrated within the textual universe represented by the corpus, thereby enabling the Orisha to communicate with the believer through the Odu. At another level they are also understood to be conscious entities in their own right, each of whom embodies its own Ori or centre if ultimate direction and potentiality as the human being does. As conscious entities, the descriptions of their mode of operation suggests that the emergence of particular patterns in response to the client’s query emerges not at random as might seem to the observer of the visible and last level of communication represented by the divinatory process but through a dialogue between these geomantic forms and the Ori of the client. The pattern that emerges as the instruments are thrown is therefore a an expression of the outcome of this dialogue. The understanding of the Odu,as these patterns are called, as conscious forms emerges becomes even more significant in the understanding of the Odu not simply, at one level, as geomantic patterns, as organising categories of the textual corpus of the system at another level, through which poems and stories/literary texts related to the Orisha are organised and as a framework through which the orisha communicate with their believers, or even as sentient forms at yet another level, but as a means of developing and organising systemic construction of the scope of existence, in terms of its extant forms and its possibilities of
realisation, as these are realized at various levels, from the most abstract to the most concrete.. As the Bini Ifa priest, Joseph Ohomina describes the Odu The Odu are the names of spirits whose origin we do not know. We understand only a small fraction of their significance. They are the brains behind the efficacy of whatever we prepare. They are the spiritual names of all phenomena, whether abstract or concrete: plants, animals, human beings, the element, and all kinds of situations. Abstractions such as love, hate, truth and falsehood; concrete forms such as rain, water, land, air and the stars; and situations such as celebrations, conflict and ceremonies, are represented in spiritual terms by the various Odu
This conception implies that the Odu represent a means of mapping the cosmos in terms of semiotic categories. The notion of the Odu as spiritual names could relate to the idea of names not as arbitrary verbal symbols as conventionally understood in linguistics but within a continuum that stretches from the endogenous Nigeria approach to naming human beings in ways that reflect values, ideas and events associated with the person, to the idea of names as evocative of the ontological identity of the phenomenon so named.(see hampate ba on “The Living Tradition”). Juxtaposition of an Opon Ifa and an Installation by the German Artist Joseph Beuys. The Quotidian Reality Represented by the Logs is Transformed into Art through their Spatial Configurations by the Artist. In a Similar Senase, Ifa Divination is Directed at Reconfiguring Material ,Visible Reality in terms of Knowledge Derived from Spiritual, Invisible Reality, Elucidating the Known through the Unknown, to Adapt Angulu Nwujegwo on the Igbo Afa, a Related System
The Odu, then are centres of meaning, through which the ontological identity of the phenomena that constitute the physical universe and the activities of the human universe are
realized. The divinatory process, therefore, could be understood as a process through which this adapt base of ontological values are galvanised in relation to particular situations which would necessarily be interpreted in relation to their corresponding ontological identification in the various Odu. How does this relate to ideas of female biology? The correlation between this understanding of the Odu and ideas about female biology emerges in the verbal characterisation of the Odu and the sculptural realisation of the divinatory space within/on which the Odu configurate in order to realize their meanings in relation to the query represented by each divinatory session. The Odu are collectively understood as female and, in this collective identity, as being the wife of Ifa. The divinatory process, therefore could be understood as being characterized as relationships between a female and male personality. A generative process that emerges on the empty space where the Odu patterns are formed, graphically resented by the empty centre of the divination tray. Within this empty space, therefore, the macrocosmic values represented by the Odu in their fundamental characterisation as cosmic forms converge with the microcosmic patterns represented by the clients query in the emergence of the meanings of/significance represented by the clients particular situation that ahs brought them to the client. The empty space, therefore, becomes a generative space,a womb of transformation, akin to the vaginal space where new life emerges after its transformation within the womb space where its has firmed through the convergence of the distinctive material from that emerges from the distinctive genetic encoding of both parents and the power of life which is universal but manifests anew in each life form. This understanding of the generative symbolism realised by the empty space where the Odu patterns emerge/are manifest is given credence by example of Ifa divination trays that respreent images of transformative motion in relation to this empty space. The divination tray is the standard space where the divinatory process takes place, even though the functional and symbolic values it realises can be actuated in relation to any empty space where the divinatory activity takes place, whether it is a patch of sand or a piece pf paper.Around the examples of divination trays are images of spirals and of partly spiral and partly humanoid forms, and of forms that re partly humanoid and partly aquatic. As described by Babatunde Lawal in "Aya Gbo Aya To:New Perspectives in Edan Ogboni" : "The spiral or concentric circles motif appears prominently on many edan. Informants offered two different but related interpretations for it. According to some, it represents the spin (ranyinranyin) of the cone-shaped bottom of the small snail shell (okoto), a children's toy associated with increase, dynamic motion,and, by extension, with the transformatory power of Esu, the divine messenger who mediates between the orisa and Ile. Others identify the motif with the motion of a whirlpool, signifying the expansive power of Olokun, the goddess of the sea and abundance. Since Oduduwa reportedly created habitable land out of the primordial sea at Ile-Ife, it is apparent that Earth and Water are, in essence, two aspects of the same phenomenon venerated by the Gelede society as Iya Nla (Mother Nature), alias Olokun ajaro okoto ("The sea goddess, who whirls like okoto"). Indeed, the snail shell motif occurs on Ogboni doors Moreover, black mud from a river or lake is a vital part of the ingredients used in consecrating an altar to Ile, and a fish-legged figure often dominates the relief decoration on Ogboni doors and drums thus linking the terrestrial realm with the aquatic. In any case, as a metaphor for the rhythm of life, and increase (iresi), the spiral or concentric circles motif reinforces the ritual power of edan Ogboni".
Witte, on the other hand, describes the interlace pattern motif as expressive of “Osumare, the ever moving rainbow serpent, symbol of continuity and permanence…who encircles the world to hold it together…the principle of movement, the integrating force that bids the primordial elements together” Taken together, these interpretations could be understood as correlating images of cosmic continuity, linkage between differing ontological forms, macrocosmic and microcosmic elements and the process of mediating between them as these mediations suggest change and transformation from one state of being to another. All these associations relate ultimately to the transformative potential associated with the special relationship between the female and biological life and between the earth and life and the sea by extension of the earth.
Shrine by the Nigerian Artist Bruce Onabrakpeya which Employs the Same Structure as the Circular Opon Ifa
This interpretation of the Ifa hermeneutics lends itself to a apatain to hermeneutic/interpretive process that go beyond the conceptual structures associated with the Ifa system. It is also the space on which emerges the results of the dialogue between the Odu, understood as sentient agents manifested as spatial patterns which symbolise particular conceptions, and the Ori, who embodies the totality of the individual’s possibilities and is their ultimate centre of direction. The dialogue between this directional centre and the semiotic forms represented by the Odu determines the particular patterns assumed by the divinatory instruments when they are cast in divination.
The empty space also realises an implicit, connotative value because it may be understood as a space of becoming in more senses than are suggested by its role as the material space where the divinatory patterns constellate; this constellation itself being the consequence of a dialogue between abstract agents, one of these agents being the embodiment of the ultimate possibilities of the human self and the other a mode of being that exists simultaneously in different ontological categories: a numerical and verbal construct, which is also a sentient and agentive form. It can also be seen as suggesting the fecundative possibilities of the divinatory patterns, understood as emerging from the womb-space of the collective identity they represent/actualise. This identity is the feminine presence of Odu, one of the manifestations of Iyanla, the earth, understood as both the theatre of and active agent in the movement between modes of being, between life, death and rebirth. Odu is also the wife of Orunmila, the male Orisha or deity whose wisdom is represented by the divinatory system. Odu is therefore the feminine counterpoise that enables the balance of polarities dramatised by the creative activity of the Ifa system in correlating a wisdom that is understood as pre-temporal in its source with questions that emerge from the human situatedness in time and space. This correlation enables a metaphysical synthesis and an epistemological penetration that is described as able to identify all possibilities of existence, actual and potential, terrestrial and celestial, concrete and abstract . The empty centre of the divination tray,in being used as the point on which the divinatory symbols constellate, becomes an interactive locus/a nexus of realities/a staging point for various concetions of the ground being or being or existence, understood in relation to the semiotic/hermeneutic interplay between and within agents that constitutes the divinatory process and which can be understood as symbolic of the world and the activity of beings within it in terms of a dynamic interaction/interactivity that is made possible by hermeneutic processes understood as the fundamental currency of/being/existence/ interaction, both literal-between agents, such as between human beings--and metaphorical-between agentive and forms controversially understood as agentive or conventionally perceived as either nonagentive or quasi-agentive forms such as between human beings and landscape, enabling an appreciation of the world as a theatre of hermeneutic activity and exchange, an interactivivity made possible by the constant activity of conscious beings in interpreting and navigating within/in relation to their environments; the world is thereby understood as a marketplace where various forms of being interact through various forms of hermeneutic currency, transposing the cognitive forms created by members of one mode or form of being into the cognitive forms created by other groups within that same mode of being as well as those outside it, so as to enable communication between members of the same ontological family, such as human beings, and between animals, and between members of different ontological families, such as between human and non-humans, such as animals, and the controversial notion of modes of being which not accountable for in terms of conventional ontological categories, such as abstract entities and supra-biological forms, forms which have a biological counterpart/expression but which cannot be fully understood in terms of their biological component.
Opon Ifa The Dialectic between Empty Centre and Populated Circumference
Ifa divination exemplifies the conception/notion of hermeneutic interaction-interaction centred in the interpretation of semiotic structures, which can be understood to constitute any form of interaction-between aspects of the human self, an interaction mediated through the agency of the central semiotic forms of Ifa, the Odu, as interpreted by the Ifa priest. In describing the Odu, the central semiotic forms of the system as sentient agents, and the knowledge emerging from the divinatory process as emerging from a dialogue between these forms and an aspect of the human being, Ifa foregrounds questions of the relationship between humanly created cultural forms and the human mind, since the Odu are visible as spatial patterns, represented by configurations assumed by the divinatory instruments, which may be palm nuts or a chain, and written as series of vertical lines, which evoke a corpus of texts each pattern symbolises. Ifa ontology provokes questions which have also arisen in other symbol systems, such as mathematics, particularly when explored in relation to Plato’s theory of Forms, of the degree to which these/such cultural forms are the expression or the
creation of the contents of human consciousness ,understood as an autonomous agent, and human consciousness explored in relation to conceptions of its being part of a network of influences, which may encompass natural and/or metaphysical realms.
Japanese Garden, Inspired by Zen Buddhism, Depicting the Relationship between Center and Circumference Evocative of the Relationship between the Design of the Opon Ifa and its Role in the Generation of Knowledge through the Convergernce between the Fecundative Void of Odu Symbolised by the Empty Centre of the Opon Ifa and the Multifarious Activity of Existence as Suggested by its Circumference
THE SOURCE OF BEING:THE KUNTUNKANTAN SYMBOL OF THE AKAN AND GYAMAN ADINKRA IN THE LIGHT OF THE UPANISHADS He situates himself at the centre of Kuntunkantan, at the source of the possibilities of existence, from where issued the creative word at the birth of the dawning universe . The Adinkrahen establishes himself at that confluence where all forms in existence are bound by Something that unites them all, something not visible to the sleeping mind. At the centre of Kuntunkantan, she becomes that which is composed of this earth, the honey of all beings; all beings the honey of this earth. The bright eternal Self that is in earth, the bright, eternal Self that lives in her body, are one and the same. That is immortality, that is
Spirit, that is all. She becomes the water that is the honey of all beings; all beings the honey of water. The bright eternal Self that is in water, the bright eternal Self that lives in the human womb and seed, are one and the same. That is immortality, that is Spirit, that is all . At the centre of Kuntunkantan, the Adinkrahen become fire that makes transformations from one state to another possible, from matter to energy, from the first nothingness to everything, the primal explosion through which the universe was created, the rings of the great dance of circles the radiations of sound racing outward from the core of the terrible cataclysm, the forms that were crushed out of the chaos emerging as star clusters, as planetary systems, as the variety of the cosmos. Toyin Adepoju.Unpublished manuscripts. IYA MOPO:SHE WHO IS POT AND POTTER Iya Moopo,the goddess who is both pot and potter,the patroness of all women's occupations,including a woman's erotic vocation, of conception and child birth. Rolf Brockmann and Gerd Hotter,Adunni:A Portrait of Susanne Wenger .Trickster Verlag,Munchen,1994.53. Iya Mopo's technique as a potter woman is to mould form around a pre-existent hole or space,inspiring the question "Which is older,the pot or the hole inside it?" Adapted from Susanne Wenger and Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeleand.Worgl:Perlinger Verlag,1983.140.
Iya Mopo who is both Pot and Potter
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