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Saggitario
May 3rd, 2006, 06:00 AM
I'm taking a Transpersonal Psychology class, and we had to have a transpersonal or spiritual experience and write a paper on it. I had started going to services at my local Ile (http://www.ileorumilaoshun.org), so I decided I would write my paper describing the religion (as I currently understand it), and the service.

Enjoy!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hepa Orisha!

The Religion of Ifa
and my experiences at an Orisha worship service



As we walk down the street to Ile Orunmila Oshun, we come across members from the Baptist church across the street. For a fraction of a second, we pause. We eye each other carefully. We're all dressed in white, and looking for a spiritual experience, but the paths we take are quite different. The moment ends abruptly, and we cross the street to our destination. Upon entering the beautiful blue Victorian home (much larger than most in the area) we meet Imaya, the owner of the property. I walk up to her and go to shake her hand, when she stops me. "You need to greet Iya first. Do you know how?", she said. I hadn't been taught yet, but I had seen others do it. "First, you cross your hands over your chest. Now touch your right shoulders together. Good. Now your left." I did as she instructed. "Now you say 'Alafia'." That is the standard greeting in the religion of Ifa, which comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Africa. It is a religion I've been interested in and finding information about for a while now.

As more people file into the house, removing their shoes as they arrive, they greet Iya and share the same greeting as I had. A caucasion man in his early 30's approaches me, and we chat for a little while. It turns out he is a priest in the Ile. He says that they are looking for more men to join the group, which does not suprise me, as the group is mostly women.

After everyone gets comfortable, the temple service begins as it always does; with the Ekabo. Ekabo is the Yoruban word for "welcome", and a song is sung.


Ekabo s'ile wa
Ekabo s'ile wa

Ese o, Ese o. Adupe
Ese o, Ese o. Adupe



The first part means "Welcome to Our House." The second part means "Thanks for having me". Everyone's voices melt together and I feel a strange, but pleasant, sensation. We sing a few rounds of Ekabo, and the service continues.



Ifa is an indiginous religion of Nigeria, West Africa. There are several components to this spiritual path, a major one being Orisha Worship. Followers of this path believe in a supreme creative force called Olodumare, who is distant and does not involve itself much with the affairs of humans. Instead, there are powerful nature spirits that are involved in man's day-to-day life. These are called Orisha. There is a pantheon of them, similar to other Pagan religions, but they are not refered to as Gods. Each Orisha has a domain that they are in charge of. For example, Oshun is the Orisha that is embodied as the river. She is the Orisha of love, art, Spring, wealth and sexuality.

A very important Orisha in Ifa is Esu. Esu is in charge of crossroads, travelers, and doorways. He is able to speak every human language, and the language of the Orisha. Because of this, and his affinity to doorways, Esu is always called upon first in any ritual or service. The man I spoke to earlier is a priest of Esu, and so he opened the service with a prayer. Then we sang a song for Esu;


Ibara-ago mojuba Ibara-ago ago mojuba
Omode ko'niko siba ago
Ago mojuba, Elegba-Esu lona

After calling Esu, it is time to ask our ancestors, or Egun, to be present with us so we could honor them and receive guidance. In Ifa, the Egun are important. In the physical sense, they are the reason that we are here. For that, blood relatives are honored. In a spiritual sense, ancestors connect us to the past so we can remember and learn from the acheivments and lessons they leave behind. This allows for ancestors that are not directly related to you. These are called "affinity ancestors", and are people who led lives that one might find outstanding or exemplary lives. One of the priestesses said a parayer to the Egun, and then it was time to sing a song. In traditional Yoruba culture, people would bury their dead under their homes, so when calling on them, they stomp the ground with their left foot in order to encourage them to come an join them. This tradition has carried over with the African diaspora, and is still done in the Ile. We begin to stomp on the ground singing "Mojuba o, love and respect to you", followed by the name of an ancestor that we wanted to call on or honor.



After calling the Egun, there is the section of the service for which this paper is named. "Hepa Orisha!" means "Hooray Orisha!", and is where the service attendees show their gratitude for all that has been given to them. One person will begin by shouting "Hepa Orisha!". Everyone else enthusiastically responds; "Hepa!". This is repeated three times and the person who started tells who they are thankful to and why. The responses vary from someone thanking Oshun for bringing good spring weather to the area, to one woman tearfully thanking her Egun for the love, wisdom, and estate her recently deceased parents left behind.



Following the gratitude section of the service, there is a teaching about a particular aspect of Ifa. The first service I went to talked about Ori. Ori is the Ifa concept of destiny. It is beleived that we are all born with an Ori or destiny that we choose before birth. It is possible for people to know their Ori, and in traditional Yoruba culture, it is not uncommon for a child to have his destiny divined within days of birth. As you go through life, you choose actions that either align yourself with your Ori, or lead you away from it, but you always come back to it. When we die, our destiny for this life is fulfilled, and our Ori dies with us but we are reborn with a new one, and our path towards learning continues. The other service I went to talked about 'Iyaami', which literally translates to "My Mother". The Iyaami are comprised of all that is female in Ifa; our female ancestors, the female Orisha, our female living relatives, and all that is feminine within us. They hold the secret to life, and without them none of us would exist.



When the teaching for the service is over, there is usually a song that relates to the focus of the service. For the Iyaami service, we san songs to the female Orisha. We sang for NaNa; the earth/clay Orisha, Yemoya; the Orisha of the sea, Oya; the wind Orisha, and Oshun; the river Orisha. My favorite one was for Oshun. It had an upbeat rythm and melody, and the words went like this:


E yo yo ke wa yo fun mi yo
E yo yo ke wa yo fun mi yo

A mi yo nile, a mi yo lajo
E yo yo aiye, I yo yo



Making offerings is a big part of both public and private practice in Ifa. An offering can be food, cigars, alcohol, money, trinkets, stones, whatever an Orisha or ancestor would like. In this case, the offering is usually a small sum of money, called the 'ocha di'. The Ile uses this money to help defray the cost of running the services, and keeping their website operating.



The next part of the service is interesting to watch. In the same fashion as the beginning, the service closes with Esu. Esu has to close the door that he opened in the beginning, so he can get back and be with the other Orisha. On the altar, there is always a full glass of water that is there to absorb the energy raised during the service. At the closing of the service, a participant puts the glass of water on their head, and begins to dance towards the door. At the same time, the rest of the patrticipants sing a very lively song:


Elegba 'legba, Elegba 'legba o.
Bembe ko la se Elegba.
Bembe ko la se Elegba.

The dancer exits the Ile and throws the water outside, releasing the energy.



After that, the service is over. The participants usually gather around afterwords for snacks, and it is not uncommon for many of the participants to go out for a meal or activity afterwards.



I enjoy attending these services, because they are small and casual. Everyone knows everyone else, and is very comfortable. It is interesting to watch the people and how they interact, considering who their patron Orisha are. They seem to have the same personality traits, and act out the cosmic drama that they adhere to. It is also a great feeling to get back to your roots, even if they don't go directly to Africa. Alot of the new-age or neo-pagan movement seems to be headed towards more shamanic or "primitive" practices, and this is a nice environment to experience it in. Hopefully, I can keep going back to learn more about the spiritual path that is Ifa.

plumedsnake
May 15th, 2006, 08:46 PM
A bit more information that you may be interested in:


In Ifa, the Egun are important. In the physical sense, they are the reason that we are here. For that, blood relatives are honored. In a spiritual sense, ancestors connect us to the past so we can remember and learn from the acheivments and lessons they leave behind. This allows for ancestors that are not directly related to you. These are called "affinity ancestors", and are people who led lives that one might find outstanding or exemplary lives.

There are two related but very separate energies that are call Egungun. In the new world it has come to mean only the ancestors, but egungun also means Masquerade. During divination when egun come up we ask if they are egun ara orun (heavenly citizens) or Egun Alaso (masquerades). Egun masquerade is is about presentation and expression. Everything in this world is a masquerade. IE it has a form that it shows to the world and at the same time it covers or masks a deeper reality.


After calling the Egun, there is the section of the service for which this paper is named. "Hepa Orisha!" means "Hooray Orisha!", and is where the service attendees show their gratitude for all that has been given to them. One person will begin by shouting "Hepa Orisha!". Everyone else enthusiastically responds; "Hepa!".

Eepa, or Yeee paripa is the cry of the Ogboni cult. This is the first secret society ever, according to yoruba tradition. It was brought to the world by the odu Ofun Meji. Yeepa, rather that hooray is a cry of shock or surprise. It expresses the moment of realisation when we see beyond into reality. The Ogboni are involved with the worship of the earth. Earth is related to Orisha. Oosa can be seen as the earth and on the other hand he is seen as the one who brought earth to the world. In any case Oosa is the owner of Earth. During creation he came down on a chain with a calabash full of earth and poured it on the waters.


The other service I went to talked about 'Iyaami', which literally translates to "My Mother". The Iyaami are comprised of all that is female in Ifa; our female ancestors, the female Orisha, our female living relatives, and all that is feminine within us. They hold the secret to life, and without them none of us would exist.

Hopefully, I can keep going back to learn more about the spiritual path that is Ifa.

Iyaami, My mother, but intoned differently so it could also mean my suffering are also known as the Witches. We owe every thing to them. They are probably the worst adversaries that any one could have. They are stronger than the orisha (osa meji) and even Ori is powerless without them (eji ogbe). Therefore we pray to the Iyaami osoronga to take up our cause and not to kill for meat but rather sustain us.
May the Iyaami and orisha bless and protect you.
:)

trxenfire
June 2nd, 2006, 04:04 PM
I have been having a hard time finding the right santero to do my priesthood ceremony is it because I am not ready even though it has been divined that I am to do priesthood? Could a priest lie about that?

plumedsnake
August 3rd, 2006, 09:53 AM
I have been having a hard time finding the right santero to do my priesthood ceremony is it because I am not ready even though it has been divined that I am to do priesthood? Could a priest lie about that?

I'd just take my time if I were you. Especially in this tradition. When things are ready to happen they will happen. Leave things to the orisha and to your ori. Pushing things (because of a feeling that something ought to have happened) is usually disastrous.