Initiation in Ifa/Orisa – Part I

In Traditional Ifa/Orisa, initiation is a process of inducting someone, irrespective of their age, sex, race, into the mysteries of a particular Orisa through various ritual rites of passage according to the lineage of the presiding priests and priestesses. This intricate ceremony aligns the initiates with their destiny and, amongst other things, will reveal taboos which have been negatively impacting the their life.

Having varying life paths, reasons for initiation are personal to each individual. Two main reasons for initiation are, 1) for devotees to have a closer connection to a particular Orisa and to seal their commitment to the Ifa/Orisa way of life, 2) to get resolutions to life matters and challenges seen and unseen, known and unknown, that the initiate might be facing. For some, initiation is critical in order for them to have good quality of life and not necessarily with the intention to take care of clients.

Let us use Ifa initiation (Ite’fa) as the example. Initiation to Ifa is a very serious, intense and intricate process that must be overseen by a very knowledgable and competent Babalawo, known as the Oluwo. He will oversea the entire initiation. In addition to making sure that all of the required materials are present, he must also ensure the presence of other competent Babalawo (aka Awo) who can interpret the messages of Ifa to the initiate in a positive way. No matter what Odu Ifa comes out for the initiate, the Awo must be mindful of how he delivers the messages. Anything spoken while in Igbodu (the sacred Ifa grove) will manifest in the initiate’s life. Speaking negatively puts the quality of life of the initiate at risk because the Ase (power of the tongue) is very strong during the course of the initiation.

Ite’fa is directly tied to the initiate’s destiny. The Odu Ifa the initiate receives from Ite’fa is their life Odu and will be the navigational guide presiding over their life. The first step toward Ite’fa (full Ifa initiation) is Ise’fa (receiving one hand of Ifa), either at the time of the initiation or well before the day of initiation. Ise’fa gives us the ownership of our own Ikin Ifa (sacred and consecrated palm nuts). Without Ise’fa the initiation can not take place. For protection and resolution to certain problems, some people may need to receive Ise’fa well in advance of Ite’fa.

The process of Ite’fa depends on the lineage performing the ceremony. However, there a steps and protocols that must be followed by all lineages in order for the initiation to be considered complete. Although, Ikin Ifa is the most compulsory item, there are about 50 other materials which must be used for the initiation.

The number of people in attendance at the Ite’fa depends on the lineage and how many are invited by the Oluwo. Elders are usually present and roles are assigned to various individuals. Most importantly, there are specific people who must be present before the initiation can begin. They are: Oluwo, Iyanifa, Babalawo, and Ojugbona. Depending on the lineage, a minimum of 3 to 7 days are required for the Ite’fa to be completed. Also, unless spiritually stated, initiates should expect their hair to be shaved as one of the requirements of the initiation.

Feel free to contact us for more information.

Aboru aboye abosise!

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