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It's impossible to practice Ifá without honoring the feminine

Yemọja festival, Abẹ́òkúta by Pierre Verger

It's no secret that Christianity has caused us to embrace a very male-centered view of spirit. We use phrases like the father, the son, and the holy ghost. Are there no female deities worthy of being honored?


African spiritual traditions tend to be more balanced in this aspect. There is no better example of this than the Ifá tradition and Yorùbá culture in general. It's nearly impossible to effectively practice Ifá without honoring the feminine.


Here are some examples:


Ọ̀ṣun is an extremely important deity in our tradition. In the Odù Ọ̀ṣẹ́ Òtúrá, Ọ̀ṣun played a significant role in preparing the earth to be inhabited by human beings. It wasn't until the male Irúnmọlẹ̀ (spirits) gave Ọ̀ṣun respect and honor that the preparations of the earth commenced successfully.


 

The Ìyàmi are a powerful spiritual force known by many different names. Let's refer to them as the mothers of the night.

As Ifá devotees we understand that the Ìyàmi MUST be given reverence. In the Odù Òtúrá Méjì, Ọ̀rúnmìlà refused to give offerings to the Ìyàmi so he experienced great hardship in life. It wasn't until he gave the necessary offerings that his life began to turn around and he understood the importance of paying homage to women. Beyond the offerings that we give to the Ìyàmi as a part of our routine Ifá work, those of us who are close to the Ìyàmi may have additional mandates or taboos surrounding how we relate to women.

 

 

Odù is a female spirit at the center of our practice as Ifá priests. Odù has many vital roles, including its place in Ifá initiation (certain types). Òfún Méjì tells us that she was a wife of Ọ̀rúnmìlà and explains the pact she made with him that prevents women from looking at her. Men must undergo special rituals to see her and receive her shrine.


 

Ẹdan is yet another powerful female spirit acknowledged in our tradition. According to the Odù Ìrosùn Ìwòrì, Ọ̀rúnmìlà her called down from heaven to earth to bring order and justice during times of anarchy and chaos. Ẹdan is central to the Ògbóni cult.


 

We can talk about other powerful female deities like Yemọja or Ọya which are greatly honored and revered in our tradition.


We can discuss the festival/cult of Gẹ̀lẹ̀dẹ́ which celebrates and pays homage to women.


 

Even when we greet each other as Ifá priests with Àbọrú Àbọyẹ̀ Àbọṣíṣẹ, we are saluting three women who helped Ọ̀rúnmìlà during hard times in the Odù Ògúndá Méjì.


 

The ways we honor women in this tradition are too numerous and too significant to ignore!


This article merely scratches the surface.


Happy International Women's day!

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