PRACTICING IFA AFA IN AMERICA

By I80355715_133875368068525_3556363359244779520_oyalemole Dr. Queenchiku Ngozi-Fabuluje

December 26th, 2019

US, Florida: In 2019, an 100th old age African in America woman said, “Living in America as the descent of slaves the rituals and rights of West Africa have not left my soul. Where do I belong? Where?” According to the 1860 United States Census, there were 3,953,761 African slaves that represented 12.6% of the total American population (Johnson, 2012). Some scholars suggested that the statue of Liberty and the Statue of Freedom were both created from an African slave woman model, which recognized the African presence in The United States of America.

Sambol-Tosco (n.d.) indicated that the “enslaved [African] men and women whom kept their rites, rituals, and cosmologies of Africa alive in America through stories, healing arts, song, and other forms of cultural expression, creating a spiritual space apart from the white European world.” Emerson Biakolo in the ‘Nigerian Guardian’ of 28th November 1992 asked: “Do men believe just because they want to or because the object of their faith is credible?” According to Edmund Burke (1790), “People will never look forward to posterity, who never looks backwards to their ancestors. The concept of diversity creates assimilation for American/Diaspora cultures and beliefs which brings a special type of unity, ideas for harmony, a unique mechanical design for spiritual growth and plasmatic substance for long life and the spread of Ifa. The American slaves where no different than the slaves in Cuba. They saw Christianity (church) a beacon of hope for freedom. The African slaves didn’t let go their religious orientation but combined with the church philosophy.

In 2008, Wilford reported that 300 pieces of metal, wood, and other items was found as archaeologists explored the old houses in Maryland of United States. The bundle was dated by the 17th century. This indicated that African Americans practice traditional African orisa-ifa-afa religions before the earliest phases of the 18th century. One of the anthropologist professors described the found bundle was West African artifacts (Wilford, 2008). In other words, the bundle was artifacts that pre-dated before Afro-Cuban lucumi/santeria spiritual practices in America. The Orisa and Ifa – Afa practice was here in America long before P. Neimark-Ifa Foundation of North America, Inc., Lucumi, Santeria, hoodoo, voodoo, Kwanzaa, or any other ideology of West African Yoruba spirituality and or Fon religious practices as claimed. National Historical Park Louisiana (2019) stated the end of 1700s the average African person in America were either free African or African slaved descents from various tribes. The African slaves brought their dance, music, stories and faith to a foreign land and after more than 400 years of struggle, they were finally recognized as AFRICANS IN AMERICA or as known African Americans. This recognition came with the rights and privileges afforded to ALL people of the land to be called Americans.

In 2010, a creed for a divorce was publicly post. Lukumi babas stated “…….devotees (lucumi vs traditional) are incompatible with each other (Lele, 2010).” The Lucumists draw the race card to explain the incompatibility. Nevertheless, “…. the worst part of it is that they spoke about false consciousness……[which] are all totally preconditioned (Odeyemi).” It like “two brothers become enemies” (odu Oyeku meji), one odu properly reminds humanity that two brothers (Lukumi and Traditionalist systems) who are born from the same womb (Yoruba), become enemies, due to envy, greed, ego, and political dogma. This has brought division and rapture among friends, families, and communities (Odu Otura meji). Today, the two brothers (lucumi vs traditionalist) still fight over childish principles, titles, women in ifa, watered-down rituals, fragmented and created ceremonies (Odu Ogunda fun). Lukumi says that they are a separate entity from their Mother (Yoruba West Africa) by their actions. Traditionalist say something very different in thought and actions. Many of the elderly lucumi priests agreed that many ceremonies and rituals are invented by Miguel Febles Pardon out of Cuba between 1919 – 1986. In 1920, he was consecrated as a priest of Ifa Babalawo by Eulogio Rodriguez, known as Tata Gaitán Many of the other oloshas in Lucumi followed. Despite the fact that the two to four subgroups of the Yoruba religion and culture disagree over who is right and who is wrong; they both share a deep concern over the spread of the Orisa and Ifa religious development in the world, as well as reserve their practices. Nevertheless, both have failed to bring a spiritual wholeness, ethnicity, evolution, and quantum leap for the growing pains of the culture and its practices among the African Americans in America. The Lucumi refuse to accept the brotherly love, evolution and ideology, while the Traditionalist perform racial cat calls with his new titles against various populations in the world who didn’t have the money for a weekend trip to Africa, just to suck the dribbling milk that still drips from the mother’s breast (Africa). The only thing that both systems can agree on is everyone is fraud if they personally didn’t initiate the person.

In Odu Ejiogbe says that the basis for understanding the beginning is knowing the end of all things towards the essence of life. It simply means that Lucumi and Traditionalist have either forgotten the laws of creation or they have never learned it (for say). “Although[t] the rituals and consecration practiced in Lucumi religion and in the so-called Traditional Yoruba religion share ethnic, cultural, and geographical origins, [our] practices differ considerably” (Lele, 2010). However, Lucumi states “Those priests ordained in the Lucumi Religion that for whatever reason wish or are desirous to be ordained by and/or convert to the practices of the Traditional Yoruba Religion will abandon and renounce any and all rights – hierarchical and practical – within the Lucumí Religious system” (Lele, 2010) has forced their now orphans to develop a new way of life – American Ifa (Movement of Odu). To illustrate, when a plant or animal is bred with a plant or animal from different stock, the process is known as hybridization. There are numerous reasons to create hybrids, including increasing genetic diversity and breeding for specific traits. It is frequently practiced in agriculture, to make stronger, healthier plants with desirable characteristics. Slaves and their combining culture and faith is hybrid to what is known today in America/diaspora. Sambol-Tosco (n.d.) stated that the African religions and practices to America were “numerous and varied.” The West African religion morals, values, and practices have reached a high level of challenges, especially for women. Many scholars who has written on the birth of lucumi, Santeria in America have a history of invention and misogynistic over tones. To illustrate, the traditional ifa stated in Odu Oyeku Pose ifa described only four priests is needed to initiate someone to ifa, while some Lucumi priest proclaimed its take 16 plus priests. But the ancestors were the major custom throughout the slavery displacement within the world.

Today, the most widely practiced of African faiths in the diaspora are Orisa, Ifa, vodou, obeah, and so on. The most prevalent one is IFA and is called by many other names, since IFA is the system that sets the guidelines for our way of life in so many ways. Ifa is the binary numerical system of odus (proverbs) of which determines our individual destinies. Ifa is the oracle of wisdom, knowledge and messages from Olodumare for an individual’s destiny in life which is governed by the Orisa Orunmila. Ifa have many names that have assimilated into many cultures as follows: “Ifá among the Edos of Nigeria, Fá among the Fon of Republic of Benin. Eva by Nupes, Ifa in Cuba, USA, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Surinarm and Haiti, Afá by the Ewe of Togo Ephod by Jews, Geomancy by Europeans and Malagasy as well as Ramal or Hati by Arabs. Ifá is widespread in Africa… it is practiced among the Igbos of Eastern Nigeria, the Kamuku and Gwari of Northern Nigeria, the Igbirra in South Central Nigeria, the Jukun of Eastern Nigeria, and all the tribes in the region around the Cross Rivers. Among the Siwah people in the Sahara, Ifá is known as “Derb el raml” or “Derb el fu” It is also widely practiced in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Sierra Leone as well as in Liberia” (Professor Idowu Odeyemi, 2007). In other words, Vince (2010) stated that the “United States is unique and NOT only is it a country, but it’s also an idea [where] people around the world don’t just dream of coming to America, they dream of becoming Americans.”

In 2015, Oluwo Fayemi Fatunde Fakayode wrote in the Facebook Ifa-Orisa-Egun Talk group that “many stories we hear today about most of our Orisa are mere fabrications. The fabrications started from non-practitioners. Most of them intentionally fabricated stories to gain popularity or to denigrate our faith, while some of them (especially the historians and anthropologists) gathered the fallacious stories from people who either were not conversant with our religion or who had aversion for this faith…It is high time we wiped out the fallacies that have overthrown the real history … Let us do away with stories that are not firmly rooted in Ifa, the scripture of our religion. Let us not depend on the history[ical]…of any Orisa which was/is written by christian fanatics or muslim jihadists who call themselves historians or anthropologists… What is sure is that the destiny of our religion is in our hands. It is high time we started rewriting the stories of our Orisa for the coming generation to have documents to lay hands on. Let us encourage ourselves to write books of our religions by ourselves. Let no muslim or Christian write the stories of our Orisa for us. Let those who have useful information about each Orisa document such information for the posterity.”

The question then became, how can we practice our African Roots in the places we live and still maintain the common tenants of our faith to the best of our ability? In essence, we recognized that we can be devoted to and practice our African roots in a foreign land just as our ancestors did which resulted in the survival of our African Faiths in a foreign land, the land in which we live, called America. In so doing, we found that we can express our commonality in the ways we express our spirituality in the places in which we live.

By watching the people of the diaspora over a period of countless years becoming closer to their spiritual roots in Africa through the yearning to connect with their ancestors. However, despite the yearning there was and is still a barrier. One barrier is distance. During the growth spurt of connecting to our African Roots, a large percentage of the growing numbers of IFA and Orisa devotees and practitioners were and still are financially unable to make the journey home to Africa. We then asked ourselves, “does that mean that we are not African or that we can’t devote ourselves to, or practice our African faiths? Even those numerous of people who were able to go back home, could not do so for an extended period of time, which is needed to become fully involved in Traditional African culture in the way it is done at home.

In 400 years, the Yoruba (African roots) spiritual ways of life have become a hybrid in America and the diaspora proper. America is the land of diversity that assimilates into one movement with individual arms. People of Color have looked to the Brazilians, Cubans, and the hill tops of the Caribbean for spiritual evolution and connection to their African roots. A good analogy of how this is being done can be taken from the example of what he Jewish did with their holy book, he TORAH. The Jews didn’t change the foundation of the Torah; they only adapted MODERN WAYS OF LIVING AND INCORPORATING THE STANDARDS OF THE TORAH (National Geographic, n.d). Even though there are your extremists in all forms, time does bring on a change that lessons the extremes but does not take away from the core essence of a thing. Another example is the Lucumi/Santeria religion is a hybrid which combined all the slave’s subgroups together along with Christianity.

It doesn’t take away the 400 years of struggles from the African Americans; it is incorporated, adopted and assimilated into the pores of the Americans and other peoples of the Diasporas who live according to Odu Ifa/Orisa and ancestral practices and rituals. The Odus are the roots and foundation of this way of life. In America, African Americans who embrace this form of living can move easily into spiritual elevation by adapting and incorporating the availability of what were presented within the 400 years on this side of the world. Basically, we need to look at the various ways which one Odus are being interpreted. Then, analyze how the concept of hybridization fit our modern environment and socialization to the world (National Historical, 2019).

Conclusively, THE SYSTEM is odu based, has becomes the people who in their expressions of life, live the embodiments of the Odus. Keeping in mind that all Orisas speaks through ODUS as well as to our diverse ancestors (not only of African origins but from other places in the world) as well as other entities. In the diaspora/America our passport says “American” and not African American, Cuban American, and White American, etc. It says “American” for ethnicity. Regardless, where you got initiated and you live and practice in the Americas/Diaspora you are practicing in America our West African roots. AMERICAN IFA-FA-AFA does not see to change or rewriting the context of the Odus of Ifa as some may imply but instead, we seek to celebrate the diversity of those Odus that are expressed by diverse groups people who live in various places around the world and collaboration between the various groups and individuals.

References

Johnson, S. A. (2012). African slave religions, 1400–1790. he Cambridge History of Religions in America Volume I: Pre-Columbian Times to 1790, 369-391. doi:10.1017/CHOL9780521871105.01.

National Historical (2019). Jazz origins in New Orleans’. Retrieved from https://www.nps,gov/

National Geographic (n.d.). 1917 original Dixieland jass band released the world first jazz record. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.org/

Wilford, J. N. (2008). Under Maryland street, ties to Africa past. The New York Times, Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/science/21arch.html

Sambol-Tosco, K. (n.d.). The slave experience: religion: Slavery and the making of America. Retrieved from https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/slavery/experience/religion/history.html