Frequently Asked Questions about the Yoruba Tradition 

Who is Olodumare?

Olodumare is our creator; the supreme being. The one who blesses our destiny. The one who receives and answers all of our prayers. The one to whom we all answer.

What is Ifa?

The Holy Corpus (Oracle) given to us from Olodumare. Ifa is the voice of Olodumare interpreted by Orunmila. Ifa holds information about past, present, and future. Ifa provides the guidance we need to navigate our path in life.

Who is Orunmila?

Orunmila is the witness to our destiny (Eleri-ipin). Orunmila is the interpreter of Olodumare’s messages (Ifa corpus) through the use of Odu Ifa.

Who are the Orisa?

Orisa are the representatives of Olodumare who support us here on earth (Aye). They are a denomination of Ifa. Orisa ensure our overall well-being. They protect and guide us. With the blessings of our Ori they help us to fulfill our life’s purpose. Each Orisa is known to have specific areas of expertise. For example, a barren woman will appeal to Osun to help her to conceive a child.

Who is Ela?

Ela is the child of Oyigi and was Orunmila’s first apprentice. He was one who Orunmila loved and trusted very much. We call Ela’s name when we want to work with Orunmila,

What is an Odu?

Odu are chapters of Ifa, the messages of Olodumare. Ranging from Eji-Ogbe to Ofun Ose, there are two hundred fifty-six Odu. Each Odu has more than one thousand verses.

What is the purpose of divination? How can it help me?

Divination helps to ensure that you are in alignment with your destiny. It provides resolutions by exposing the root causes of problems and will provide lasting and permanent solutions. These solutions will manifest, as long as we take heed to the instructions given by Ifa.

What is a Babalawo?

A Babalawo (father of the secrets) is a male person who has been initiated to Ifa. Also known as an Ifa Priest, a Babalawo is fully capable and knowledgeable with chanting and interpreting the Odus of Ifa. In addition to performing rituals, worship and ceremonies, a Babalawo will chant and interpret the Odu that comes when performing divination for a client.

What does a Babalawo use to perform divination?

The main apparatuses used by a Babalawo for divination are Opon Ifa (divination tray), Opele (sacred Ifa divination chain), Ikin Ifa (sacred Ifa palm nuts), Iyere osun, and Ibo Ifa.

What is an Iyanifa?

Iyanifa is a female person who has been initiated to Ifa and has undergone extensive training.

Is an Iyanifa the female equivalent of a Babalawo?

No, not quite. According to the holy Odu corpus of Ifa, there are some functions that a Babalawo is can perform that an Iyanifa cannot. For example, women are not allowed to see Orisa Odu or perform any rituals for that Orisa. Another example, there are some Odu Ifa that women are not allowed to chant. Because of a number of restrictions, Iyanifa is not an exact equivalent to Babalawo.

What is Ebo?

Ebo is a ritual sacrifice performed on the Opon Ifa tray by a qualified Babalawo. It includes chanting of specifics Odu, a process known as calling of Adabo. When carried out properly, the Ebo will manifest good results for the client.

Is it necessary to do Ebo for every divination?

Yes, it is very important. In order to ensure manifestation of desired outcome the client must complete the Ebo as prescribed during the Idafa (divination). Ebo removes all forms of adversity from one’s path and makes way for good fortune.

What is Ibo?

When offering is given to the Orisa, it is called Ibo. Ibo can include food items, fruits, or animals.

Why is my situation still the same after doing Ebo?

Ebo is not magic. It has to be given time to manifest. Depending on the purpose and/or circumstance, it will manifest quickly or gradually. Also, it’s very important that we also adhere to the messages communicated by Ifa. Manifestation of the Ebo depends on both the Ebo and our adherence to the messages communicated.

Can the animals or birds used for Ebo be eaten?

Yes. Animals and birds used for Ebo (sacrifice) or Ibo (offerings) can be eaten; however, in certain instances they should not be eaten. For example, if the animal is used to remove negativity from an individual it should not be eaten. Also, in some instances the Orisa might request to keep the animal.

Why are beads worn around the neck, wrist, ankle, or waist?

Aside from being cultural, beads are like emblems used to identify which priesthood initiates belong to within the Ifa/Orisa community. Beads identify, for example, a Priest of Ifa, Priest of Osun, Priest of Sango, Oloye (Chief), etc.

What is an Ifa/Orisa temple?

An Ifa/Orisa temple is a place where devotees gather together to worship Olodumare (God).

What is a Shrine?

This is a sacred place where one can go to worship, pray, and give offerings to Ifa and Orisa. The Shrine can be in the devotee’s home or at a communal location.

Who are the Herbalists in this tradition?

A Herbalist is a person who is capable of making spiritual or herbal medicines. Part of the process of training to become Babalawo or Iyanifa, includes learning how to prepare various herbal and spiritual medicines.

Why do I need to use spiritual medicines such as black soap (Ose Dudu) or black powder (Ebu Ifa), etc.?

There are a variety of spiritual medicines that are made in various forms. Some are taken orally and others are used topically for protection, healing, prosperity, etc. These medicines are taken to ensure our overall well-being.

What is Akose?

Akose is special and customized spiritual medicines. It is recommended for anyone initiated to Ifa to periodically use the Akose of their Odu Ifa to help achieve their spiritual and physical goals in life.

What is Isese?

Isese refers to the culture and tradition of a certain village, town, city, state or country. It is the common cultural and spiritual value among the Yoruba. August 20th has been designated as Isese Day in Nigeria. On that day Ifa/Orisa devotees celebrate their tradition in a big way.