Opinion Religion

Chief Okedairo Segun Ajayi is the founder and spiritual head of Ifa Seers Ministry Incorporated.  In this interview, the Ifa Initiate and devotee describes Ifa as not only a religion, but the source of other religions as well as the first religion on earth, while other religions remains the tributaries.

He speaks further:

TGTP: Could you tell us some interesting stories about Ifa mythology?

Ifa is not a mythology. It is not an old wives’ tale. Ifa, a Yoruba word, literally means that which makes something clear or plain. Ifa, as a religions connotation means, the wisdom of Olodumare = God, expressed in human word at divination, that makes a hidden mystery clear and helps one to make a good decision.

The wisdom of God cast in human word can never be a mythology or fable. Ifa, the wisdom of God, is knowledge and truth. The knowledge and truth of fact and reality about the universe and heaven.

TGTP: How does Ifa concern the universe and heaven?

Ifa is the only religion brought down from heaven to earth at the dawn of human civilization. Those who came at different times and brought Ifa from heaven to earth are known in Ifa as Igbamole = 200 knowers of earth; Okanlerugbamole =201 knowers of earth; and Okanlenumole= countless number of knowers of earth.

The whole idea about ‘imole’ or knowers of earth, which Ifa talks about, may sound mythic or fabled but modern astronomy, which is scientific, has come to term with this ancient knowledge. Astronomers call them extraterrestrial beings. These extraterrestrial beings are known to have different life span from ours. They are more scientifically advanced than us. They are known to have left our world with a lot of prodigious centres, such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids in Egypt. They are indeed our human ancestors, they practice Ifa religion and taught our progenitors Ifa divination. Hence, Ifa religion is not a Yoruba religion only, Ifa religion is universal and common to every race on earth.

On how Ifa concerns heaven. Ifa, far from being a man-made religion, exists in heaven. There is ample proof, from many Ifa verses, that the Almighty God himself consulted his wisdom or Ifa by consulting some Ifa seers.

TGTP: What are the benefits of Ifa to modern men?

The benefits of Ifa, to modern men are many. These benefits depend on the ones that are of interest to you because Ifa itself is civilization. This reminds me of the passage in the Christian Holy book: “The Jews demand for signs and the Greeks look for wisdom.” Permit me to add, all from Ifa or God’s wisdom in human word.

Let me begin with that of the Greeks looking for wisdom. If we may recall, Ifa is the wisdom of Olodumare expressed in human words. Some Christian singers have given the meaning of the word, ‘Olodumare’ in their songs. They sing, “Olodu omo are.” Not giving us the meaning of ‘’Olodu’’, they have translated the word, “are” to mean a foreigner. Hence, God is, “Olodu omo = son of, “are” = foreigner.” They theologized that since no one knows where God comes from, he is, “Olodu omo are= a foreigner.” With the greatest respect to these Yoruba evangelist artists, this definition or meaning of Olodumare is heresy. God, the Aborigine of heaven and earth, cannot be a foreigner in his universe.

The word, Olodumare is a three Yoruba word:

(i)                          “Olodu”= owner of ‘Odu’. ‘Odu’ is a female orisa, beheld and worshipped only by the Ifa priests. Female persons are forbidden from seeing this orisa. ‘Odu’ came from God and was married to Orunmila, who was the pioneer Ifa priest on earth. ‘Odu’ helped Orunmila to acquire more wisdom. Hence, the Yoruba words, orisa Odu and Odu Ifa or Ifa chapters, are synonyms. They mean God’s wisdom.

(ii)                       ‘ma’ = is an auxiliary verb, indicating continuity; and

(iii)                     ‘re’ = is an intransitive verb, meaning to go on. Think of the word, ‘Osumare’ or Rainbow. The word Olodumare means, the Owner of wisdom that goes on, without ending. Such is the unfathomable mystery.

On the issue of the Greeks and their search for wisdom. It is

history that the early Greek philosophers, in persons of Pythagoras, Thales, Socrates and Plato, came to study in Kaiyero in ancient black Egypt. The word Kaiyero = Yoruba: ‘May the world be stable’, was reduced to Kairo in ancient maps and is now written as Cairo. Odu Ifa or wisdom of Ifa was the darling course that drew these early Greeks to Egypt in Africa. Inside the black Egyptians temples, they were all initiated into Ifa before been allowed to study Ifa. Pythagoras was believed to have named this course Philosophy in their language. Philosophy is derived from Greek: Philein meaning, Love of; and Sophia meaning wisdom. Hence, Philosophy means, Love of wisdom or Odu Ifa. Each of the early Greeks that studied In Egypt was allowed to use the libraries in Egypt.

At the completion of their studies in Egypt, they went back to Greece to establish academies where they taught what was received in Egypt. ‘Akademus’ in Greek is cognate with ‘academy’ in English. Both words have their origin in Yoruba: ‘A ka de ami or A ka dami’ meaning, we read or counted to a remarkable point.

The early Greek philosophers professed that, ‘Only God is wise,’ and each of them ended up being called a professor or a wise man to this day. With the love of the name Orunmila in their hearts, they fondly called it Oracular. They called Orunmila’s word simply as Logos. From the name Orunmila, we have such English words as, oracle, oracular, oral and oralism.

The early Greek philosophers regarded philosophy as the science of all things through their ultimate reason and causes, attained by unaided light of human reason. Or a serious reflection on the problems of life e.g. Death, Sickness, Evil, End of man, etc. They divided philosophy into two branches (i) Speculative or Theoretical and (ii) Practical. As they introduced formal education to Europe, they made Doctor of Philosophy = PhD the highest degree anyone could obtain in their academies.

Still on Ifa’s benefits to modern men. The Jews, we were told, looked for signs. This is where we see Ifa as not only being the first religion on earth but Ifa, as being the religion, that Judaism, Christianity and Islam originated from. And it is not a bogus assertion to say that Hinduism, Buddhism and all other religions of the East all came out of Ifa religion. However, let us limit ourselves to how Judaism, Christianity and Islam came out of Ifa. If only we could recall, Moses who established Judaism received his education in Egypt. Some other prophets of Judaism also came to the ancient black Egypt to study. They studied Ifa religion. But unlike the Greek philosophers, who called Ifa Oracular or Logos, the Jewish prophets called Ifa, Ephod or casting the sacred lots. They called the two Ifa election or voting materials, of cowries and a piece of dry bone, signifying YES and NO, as Urim and Thummim. It was in this same ancient black Egypt that the Jews changed their former name for God, Ela to Yahwhe. Ela derived from Yoruba means someone who can save others or make others successful. Ela is another name for Orunmila. Yahwhe is from Ogu language. The full name is Ojixwheyehwhe = the owner of the house of rain. Ifa initiation was adopted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And before anyone could make an open profession or declaration for any of the three religions, he has to be initiated quite like what Ifa initiation is. Moses was asked to take his brother Aaron and his sons to the river. He was told to bathe them thoroughly; John the Baptist continued in this trade; Jesus himself was baptized. Paul’s letters with the themes: there is one baptism; All baptized in Christ have clothed yourself in Christ; the cleansing water of rebirth, born again, etc. find their full expressions and understanding in someone who has undergone Ifa initiation.

The journey to being a Muslim in Islam starts with ‘Guslu Dukhulu’ or Spiritual bath.

The highest rank a Christian could attain in the church is to be ordained a bishop or an overseer. The word overseer is from the Greek word, episkopoi meaning overseer. This Greek word was derived from the Yoruba word, Oluawo. The highest Ifa religious title is Oluawo= overseer. Every Ifa priest has the sacred staff called (i) Opa  Ajija (ii) Opa Orere or (iii) Osu. It always stands erect. The bishop crosier compares favourably with Opa Ajija. It too stands erect during church service.

There is more to Opa Ajija than being a mere staff of authority, it replicates heaven on earth. It has the assemblage of good seers who departed this world. That is why Opa Ajija is an orisa and is worshipped. Jesus Christ, all through his earthly life, was a Judaiser. But the core of his teaching is Ifa based. For example, reincarnation as told in the story of prophet Elija coming back to life as John the Baptist; what qualifies one as being son of God is the same as ‘omoluwabi’ in Ifa.

Jesus writing on the sand, when asked to pass verdict on the woman caught in the very act, with the Scribes, educated men, and the Pharisees, learned men, unable to read and give meaning to Jesus’ writing, was scholarship cul-de-sac. However, when we recall the acts of some Muslim clerics, who make imprints on the sand in big trays, we know Jesus writing or imprints on the sand was Ifa imprints. And for the simple reason that the Scribes, the Pharisees, and Apostles, who were neophytes, were not seers, they could not make meaning of Jesus’ imprints. But when the Apostles had their knowledge upgraded, they used the sacred lots or Ifa at the first conclave to elect a new apostle to replace Judas Iscariot. The word Awo means seer, has given rise to such English words as, Holy see, see and diocese.

TGRP:   Who is an Ifa priest and what does it take to be an Ifa priest?

We have two main categories of Ifa priests: (i) The Ifa seers or Ifa devotees or Ifa initiates and (ii) The Ifa diviners, or Ifa practitioners, or Ifa consultants. Anyone in any of these two categories has been configured to the sacred staff. And by that very fact, become a sharer in the priesthood of Orunmila. Hence, he/she is an Ifa priest or priestess.

The Ifa seers, Ifa devotees or Ifa initiates have their Ifa, they pray and sometimes bear the names connected to Ifa. But they need a diviner to divine and prescribe the sacrifice for them. Many people in this group use Ifa as their life support only. They engage in some other activities to earn their living.

The Ifa practitioners, or consultants or diviners are those who use Ifa as a trade or profession. They earn their livelihood by divining for their clients. They are mostly noted for retentive memory which gives them the ability to recite many verses of Ifa by heart. However, this ability is a device for intellection storage. To understand this fully, it would require us going into the history of the collapse of the black Egyptian civilization and its attendant effects. And for the sake of time, let us drop this issue now.  What it takes to be in any of the two categories above is to first, know what Ifa is, i.e knowledge and truth. Secondly, to be initiated in Ifa grove or igbodu, by a competent Ifa priest. If, however, the initiate or Ifa devotee wants to fall into the second category above, then he needs tutelage, still, under a competent Ifa priest. Tutelage in those days and even now lasts between eight to ten years or more. The learning and recitation of the many verses contained in each of the 256 Odu of Ifa chapters take most of these years. However, with the application of modern education, the prolonged years could now be reduced. All it takes to be an accomplished Ifa priest or priestess in either of the two categories mentioned earlier is for the person to know and embrace what Ifa stands for i.e., knowledge and truth of the universe and heaven.

TGRP: Can one be an Ifa priest and not be a polytheist or engage in fetish sacrifices to the orisa?

The answer to the first leg of the question is, Yes, absolutely so. One can be an Ifa priest and not be a polytheist. As a matter of fact, Ifa is the only religion, in the whole wide world, that is monotheistic, non-racial and non-violent. Other religions gravitate to this civilized level either by using polemics rather than substance or transmogrifying into a living vampire to make everybody quiet.

On the issue of monotheism in Ifa. Olodumare or God is one, unique, indivisible, unequal and unparalleled. And without suffering from self-contradiction, Olodumare remains primus interparces or first among equals. God is spirit and spirit is not subject to death or eternal destruction, so too are human souls. That is why Olodumare is called Oluwa. (i) Olu means, First, foremost, chief or prime (ii) wa means our or we. Oluwa means, the foremost in our beings. Olodumare or God has no enemy, no rival and no contender. Olodumare or God by nature is not seven, or three neither does he bear the name Ela. Olodumare or God has no favourite, no slave nor servant. Olodumare or God remains a loving father to all his creatures or children. He lets each one reaps the fruits of his/her hand freely, without intervention and a hundred-fold measure. Ifa believes that Olodumare is so great and infinite that no house could be built for him or named after him. He fills heaven and earth. Olodumare is a self-existence and prodigious provider that no sacrificial food could be offered to him. He sustains every living being yet, Olodumare is the first and last in every Ifa worship. On the issue of Ifa being non-racial. Some writers have tried to reduce Ifa to being a Yoruba religion. This is not so. Ifa is a universal religion. If more and more Yoruba embrace Ifa, it does not mean Ifa is alien to other parts of the world.

On the issue of Ifa being a non-violent religion. Permit me to rest my case on the note of, the matter speaks for itself and if I may pray, I say, ‘God come to our aid, for some man-made religions are killing your world.’

Coming to the second leg of the question. This has to do with sacrifices offered to the orisa. I say with humility and sincerity that not many Yoruba understand the meaning of the word, ‘Orisa’, if they do, there would not be any sermon directed against the orisa.

The Yoruba word, Orisa is a three word: (i) ‘O’ : (aux) is a letter giving to the verb it is a fixed, the signification of a noun; (ii) ‘ri’ : to drowned, to sink; (iii) ‘isa’ : (n) pitcher for holding water. Putting the three words together, an orisa is someone who sinks a pitcher of wisdom for humanity to drink from. Hence, the word Orisa has no equivalence in English in the form of god, deity or divinity.

Not all the people that came to this world or that are living become orisa. Only the very few people who display the outstanding quality of knowledge and truth expressed in selfless love for humanity become orisa. How many people possess this quality?

The orisa are lovers of God and humanity. That is why God blessed them with some extraordinary and peculiar qualities and benefits. The number of years the persons turned orisa, have left this world notwithstanding, they remain potent and viable in the world. And sacrifice as prescribed by Ifa divination, is one way to access the orisa.

Still on the issue of sacrifice to the orisa, there is no religion that does not prescribe and perform sacrifice. The difference is, where Ifa prescribes and sacrifices a mere chicken, others prescribe and make sacrifices such as lambs, rams or cows.

TGTP: Can someone be an Ifa priest without being a member of the Ogboni cult?

Yes, definitely. I am an Ifa priest and I am not an Ogboni member. How I wish I am. If I want to be, the membership is open to me. But I do not want to be.

I may not be a member of Ogboni but as a knowledgeable Yoruba man, I stand in a position to correct some misgivings about Ogboni society. Firstly, Ogboni is a cult in the right sense of the word and not in the derogatory meaning of the word; that is why I regard it as a society. If I may say, every religious organization is a cult. Can you conceive of any religious organization that its inner room or house is open to all its worshippers or members? Who can tell us what goes on inside the inner room or house? How do they elect or select their topmost leader? Do they not have information that has been classified top secret? Who does not want to be an Ogboni? I pray to be one, the word Ogboni is a two Yoruba words: (i) ogbo meaning, (n) longevity, old age, elder, (ii) eni meaning, (n) person. Ogboni means an elderly person. In the old Oyo Empire, the Ogboni society played a prominent role in the day to day running of the empire. It was the council of elders. However, its membership is now open to the youths who have washed their hands clean and are able to dine with the elders.

TGTP:   Can somebody be an Ifa priest and at the same time be a Christian or a Muslim?

Yes, is quite possible. God in Ifa has no contender or rival. Hence, he is not a jealous God. But anyone who does this only subjects himself to the barrage of unnecessary criticisms from the preachers of those who worship the jealous God. The preachers after receiving his collection would call him names such as, Kafir, Syncretist, admixture worshipper, religious harlot or religious prostitute.

Why should anyone allow his/her right to freedom of conscience be violated to such an abysmal level. Ifa believes in the dignity of every human being. And come to think of it, is it right for anyone to drink water from the source and from the tributaries at the same time? Yes, you can, only when ignorance flourishes, if you know where the source is, you should prefer to drink from the source only. Because water from the source is clean and uncontaminated, crystal clear and sparkling, and cool and fresh. While water at the tributary is contaminated, coloured and filthy. Ifa is the first religion on earth. Ifa is the source, while other religions remain the tributaries. 

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