About Ifa/Orisha Tradition

This page is a work in progress.  I will be adding information and resources as I find the time.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me at oshunshango@gmail.com for any specific questions. I will try my best to answer them and when I cannot, I will ask my elders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do you believe in God?

Ifa teaches that there is a higher force or consciousness that creates (and is constantly creating).  We call this force or consciousness Olodumare (the owner of the Universe).  How human beings understand Olodumare changes and will continue to change.  The stories in Ifa depict Olodumare as having personality and will (Olodumare directs, speaks, advises, etc.) but this doesn’t mean that Olodumare is literally personal in the way that other religious traditions describe their deity.

So, yes, we believe in a higher force or consciousness but that doesn’t mean that we believe in “God” in the way other religions have taught people to believe in God.

But some of us do believe in God in the way that some other religions do.

So it depends.

Confusing, right?

Indigenous traditions aren’t as interested in developing creeds, dogmas, and strict lines the way some other traditions are (no shade or knock because all things have a place) which can be amazing at times but frustrating at other times.

So, based on what I have learned so far from Ifa this is what I believe.

  • There is a higher force of consciousness that guides the cosmos.  It creates and is still creating.  Ifa calls this force Olodumare.
  • Olodumare is a unifying force that has consciousness. All things emanate from Olodumare: the orishas, the stars, the planets, amoeba, you, and me.
  • Olodumare is not literally male or female but many people prefer to use personal pronouns to describe Olodumare.  (Never let anyone tell you you are wrong to call Olodumare “She.”  Never.)
  • Olodumare has both masculine (active, expansive, visible) and feminine (still, contractive, invisible) traits. This is how everything emanates from Olodumare and how Olodumare creates. Masculinity cannot birth or create on its own. (I specifically call out masculinity because many of the main religious traditions of the planet are hyper-masculine oriented, which is why there is so much imbalance.)
  • Most humans prefer to see all things good as coming from God and all things bad coming from God’s opposite, aka, the devil.  Because all things come from Olodumare, Olodumare isn’t “good” or “bad,” “infallible” or “fallible.”  The very possibility of goodness and badness exists in Olodmare; binaries simply aren’t going to hold up with Olodumare, literally or philosophically.
  • Sometimes (most times) it’s easier not to get too caught up in philosophical mumbo-jumbo.  I think it’s good to have a strong intellectual basis for your belief (especially for those of us who like intellectual rigor) but at some point, we have to conclude that the human brain is finite and it can’t understand everything.  And it doesn’t need to.  So if you want to truly participate in spirituality, you eventually have to let go. Malidoma Some’s experience in Of Water and The Spirit explains this so well.

Q. Do you believe in Jesus?

Ifa is a tradition that is more like a spiritual science, a way to interpret nature and individual and collective destiny than it is a religion that has strict demarcations between itself and other traditions.

There are many people who practice Ifa and who are also Christians.  Those people interpret Jesus’ role in their lives and in the cosmos in various ways. Some people refer to Jesus as Olodumare’s son.

That’s cool.  We’re all Olodumare’s children, in the sense that we all come from the Source.

Ifa does have specific teachings about Jesus.  Ifa says that Jesus is an incarnation of Ela, a divine spirit that can be understood as light, creation, and manifestation.  Ela is a way to describe the consciousness of Olodumare.The Bible says that Jesus was the Word in the flesh (see the Bible; John 1 – very similar to Ifa Odu Oyeku Meji). The Word/logos is another way to describe consciousness. So Jesus was indeed a highly evolved being who incarnated in the flesh to help elevate humanity. Many spiritual teachers can be understood as being on that same continuum.

For many practitioners of Ifa who are not Christian, Jesus doesn’t play a huge role in their lives.  For those who are Christian, he does.

Both approaches are okay.

For me personally, I think the unaltered teachings of Jesus are on point. However, the package he is presented in has been distorted, unfortunately. Hopefully, the church will get back to a more balanced, holistic, and cosmic understanding of Jesus’ teachings in the future. Matthew Fox is a great Christian teacher who teaches about the Cosmic Christ.

Q. Does Ifa have a text like the Bible or the Qu’ran?

Ifa is an oral tradition, handed down from teacher to student.  Not until recently has Ifa been written down.  Malidoma Some in Of Water and the Spirit talks about the pros and cons of oral traditions moving to literate traditions.

Even with all the texts written about Ifa now the most enriching way to understand Ifa is to participate in communal practice.

I personally resist the practice of referring to Ifa as “The Word of God” or a “holy text.”  Ifa is the result of collective experience; though it could be argued that some (or even much) of it was channeled from the spiritual realm, much of it is based on observation of nature.  If anything, I think it is best to understand it as a co-creation of the divine and humanity, not something that was handed to us in a perfect form. And so if we understand that nature and humanity are extensions of the divine, then Ifa is holy just as the entire cosmos is holy, not because it is “other” or set apart from nature. That may make some people, who prefer to believe in literal truth that comes from Heaven, uncomfortable, but I find it liberating.

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