The Great Mother’s Function in the World

Iyami’s Function in the World

Most people’s understanding of Iyami is very superficial focused mostly on just gender / sex. While the Divine feminine is their expression, it is beyond egotistic or antagonistic purpose.  There are human and immortal Iyami. You can’t just say because you are a woman, you are automatically Iyami. You might have a little Aje energy because part of it is connected to menstrual blood, but that alone does not mean you are truly supported by our divine mothers. Every woman has had a menstrual cycle at some point. Not every woman understands it’s mysteries or walks with the primordial mothers. This key however, is also why men can’t be, give, or initiate you to Iyami. You have to have had a menstrual cycle in your lifetime.

Still, being a man doesn’t make the mothers automatically against you. They are mothers to daughters and sons. It is the tendency for excessive dominance, aggression, and abuse that they fight. If you are not a man who considers women inferior or seeks to mistreat, abuse or dominate them, you have nothing to fear. If you live in harmony with your environment and others, there should be no problems. If you are a man of honor, you too will be supported by them. And there are those men who Iyami do support, who can be Oso. Oso are complements to Iyami functioning under the same laws but with their own processes to express them.

But…Anyone who thinks they can use the mothers to serve their own self serving interest is fooling themselves. Anyone who thinks they can mistreat women and get away with it by bribing them with an offering of livers, is fooling themselves. Iyami are not fools and cannot be bribed. Some may contact low female spirits that help them , but they are not the same Iyami that support Olodumare. Irete Meji teaches us that Iyami was there along with Orunmila when were chosing our destiny. Who could think that great mothers that help guide the world…. That seeded humanity are stupid enough, flaky enough, or petty enough to be persuaded to look the other way when an egregious act has been done because someone gave them a snack?  So femaleness is not enough and being female doesn’t exempt one from needing to have integrity and bribes won’t stop their wrath when warranted. This is why while there are ceremonies that are performed to be inducted to the human Iyami Egbe, they are still required to give confirmation of your status spiritually.

This brings me to the point that there are no all good, all bad , or all indifferent human Iyami. People in general do good or baneful acts with what ever tools they have at their disposal and according to their level of consciousness. There are some priests , medicine people, doctors, lawyers, etc who are honorable and there are some who are not. With the high rate of Baba 419 (Nigerian criminal code for fraud applied to Babalawos who scam people for money), Misogynist and abusive male priests, they should be the last ones suggesting that all or a certain group of women or Aje are all evil or destructive. The black, white, or red labels given to initiated Aje do not apply that way… No one group is all good or all bad… it all depends on a person’s personal level of evolution and character, not on if they are considered a certain kind of Aje under a certain color or Iyami at all.

And while primordial Iyami can bring Justice to situations, they do more than that. The Odu Osa Meji explains that Iyami was sent by Olodumare with gift of motherhood. This is not merely the ability to give birth. That is only the beginning. Mothers are our first teachers, our first doctors, our first protectors, and our connection between the ancestral spiritual world and the physical world. Iyami functions in those roles for humanity. Irete Meji teaches us that Iyami was present with Ela when chosing our destiny this lifetime. They know who we are and who we are meant to be.   As primordial mothers, they know we are all souls learning lessons and here to grow into spiritual maturity. Mothers not only give birth but also  RAISE children into adults. To that end, our primordial mothers do the same for their children of the earth. These are really highly advanced beings who guide Olodumare and help humanity to evolve. What comes across as misfortune or difficulty to a spiritually immature soul, is recognized as a lesson for growth and to build character for a mature one. Character doesn’t just magically happen. It has to be cultivated and grown through experiences. Sometimes all you have to do is be told. Sometimes you are hard headed and choose to learn the hard way. Just as children don’t like to be tested in school but teachers know one must be tested to know if you really mastered the lesson. You can’t advance without passing the test. This is why in the Odu, Irete Sa, Iyami tested Orunmila to see if he was worthy of their support. So while it’s been mis interpreted in the Odus to suggests Iyami came to bring misfortune, like any teacher, they are really just spiritual tests. And one can’t pass the test, unless one understands the lesson and respects the teacher’s lessons.

This is also how Iyami work with Esu. Esu, as a Divine teacher and messenger tests us. Esu tests our assumptions and choices, our perceptions and personal intergrity. Ose Otura teaches us that Esu teaches us Truth. As a bringer of truth, Esu tests not just when we lie to others, but even when we are lying to ourselves.

The tests often come in the form of testing your worldly self vs your spiritual self. Are you compassionate? Are you kind? Or, are you selfish, greedy, jealous, Or mean spirited? Do you take the low road or the high one? Elevation requires that you sacrifice your lower ego and choose the greater good. When we function from a place of low motive and self serving interests, it is often at the expense of others. In turn, there are consequences to that behavior. Alternatively, when we serve the good in sincerity and truth, you are supported and blessed. It’s important to note that your intentions are just as important as your actions. Iyami will often test you in your dreams for that very reason. You are more honest and your true character is expressed in your dream state.

So it’s important to know that if you find yourself on the opposite end of their sword of justice with all of your opportunities cut and blocked, it is not because of something petty. It’s because of something you knew you were wrong, and you did it and continued to do it. It is equivalent to your grandmother teaching you a lesson by putting you on punishment or…  a proverbial “go get me a switch!”

Lastly, I think it’s important to note that Iyami are not just Yoruba. Iyami is  a Yoruba word meaning my mother, but they are not owned by Yoruba not didn’t they create them.  Every society on the planet has Iyami… Primordial mother’s in some form or another. Every ethnic group in Africa has their own versions under different names. They just interpret them through their own cultural lens. This brings me to the debate about terms we use. Aje,Witch, Wise Woman, etc. Many hate the word witch being associated with Aje. I understand this because witches have been demonized on every continent. Women have been and are ostracized and killed because of being accused of being a witch. Who wants to be associated with that? I respect each person’s choice in the matter because of this. It literally can meanlife or death in some areas.

I will only say that women of power have always been considered a threat no matter what they called themselves or didnt  call themselves. They who embrace the word witch does so with the understanding of its original definition as a wise woman, not as the demonized version of an old hag who kills and eats babies. That demonized version is what has been projected on witches of Europe…The healers, herbalist, midwives, and goddess worshipers who did not align with the church. They created those images and stereotypes to discourage women from embracing this path. They made eldership something to fear…as elder women tend to be the strongest women of power. So they deemed them ugly hags instead of elder mothers. These women, they burned at the stake.   These days, women in those traditions take back the word Witch to mean wise woman again…more like Mother Goose, a European expression of Iyami whose sacred mysteries are hiding in fairy tales now. Same has happened in Asia and India if you follow the history. You would be surprised at what you did with an open mind. Personally, I don’t think it’s fair to buy into those same stereotypes and project them on others while denying women of color with the same traits but under a different name. We end up doing what has been done to us. But that is not my battle to fight. Each woman must determine for herself what is right for her.

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  1. Laura DeWitt

    Is there a post/blog about why there is sacrifice and offerings to the Iyami or Orisha? Or the other requirements that may seem to be superstitious or done out of fear for appeasement. What could be contrused as “buying” an answer to a prayer for help? As most are brought up with the newer religions these are either taught to be wrong, unnecessary or even superstitious and outdated. More insight into these sorts of issues are helpful for the newer generations.

    1. Ayele

      Each ebo has specific significance to the issue at hand. It is not buying anything so much as it is aligning with the energy necessary to create change. There is a law of balance in the universe. One that involves reciprocity. Orisha don’t need anything you can offer. But it can look into your heart and determine sincerity and effort. The ancients discovered a “language” that allows for greater impact in effecting change and that is through sacrifice. Sacrifice is to make sacred. There is no spiritual religion that does not have some form of offering, sacrifice, or effort to Deity. As far as outdated, the earth is not outdated. Just because humanity chooses to ignore it in lieu of “modern” conveniences, doesn’t mean she is not alive and well and responding to everything on the planet.

      This post covers some of what you are talking about.

  2. Laura DeWitt

    Thank you for clarifying. As for “outdated” for lack of better wording, maybe I should have used ancient. And as far as the world goes, that is pretty much the viewing. As we are more modern and supposedly/hopefully more evolved in our understanding. Especially with the world view on sacrifice. People of this day and age are under the impression that sort of thing is somewhat prehistoric or something belonging to the past.

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