Orisa Community It’s Time to Unite
In precolonial times, Orisa were born out of families and became local divinities who expanded to regional. Primordials incarnated in different regions to produce different Orisa. In some areas Yemoja. In others, they didn’t know Yemoja but knew Osun etc. Oyo divinities, traditions, rituals, and practices differed from Ife’s and Ketu and so on. The term Yoruba was not even used or known until the late 1700’s as it became the name Hausa, Arabs, and Christians used to apply to the people, regions, and ethnic groups under the rule of the Oyo kingdom. Ifa transcended the local divinities and expanded far beyond the Yoruba borders. Even so far as Benin, Togo, Ghana, Senegambia, etc. all used Ifa (although called Afa and Fa) but under local divinities. It pointed to a greater underlying truth beyond local differences. A cosmological application of spiritual codes that could be likened the metaphor of one operating system (Ifa) but with different apps ( divinities). No one evangelized purporting one to be superior to another. There was common unity even in their diversity. While there may be ethnic disputes fueled by politics, people could respect any spirit that manifested power and the ability to influence nature and bring favor, healing, or empowerment to ones life.
The transatlantic slave brought together thousands of different ethnic groups, languages, and regions together accompanied with various practices and traditions. Forced to work together in common interests rather than against one another, these practices merged over hundreds of years to systems that worked in the Diaspora. They fell under different name depending on the region in the Diaspora and different practices were emphasized depending on where the majority came from. But Yoruba, being one of the last sets of slaves to arrive carried significant weight because of them being the last to bring spiritual news from the continent that could be documented for posterity.
The multiethnic traditions were preserved in secrecy in the Diaspora. Abrahamic religions were forced on those captives but they managed to practice their rituals in the dark of night retaining what they could remember of their ancestral ways and infusing what they could under the banner of Christianity. In a final effort to preserve it, many practices became standardized and codified under various names depending on region. Local regions battled for supremacy to dictate the standards and whoever was dominant won. In other areas the names of the ancients faded but the practices remained.
Meanwhile, on the continent, colonialism and Abrahamic religions took hold and traditional religion significantly declined among people. In order to progress, one had to go to a school and the schools required conversion to Islam or Christianity. In order to be considered for work, you had to have a Christian or Muslim name. It took over the politics of the entire region. The 20th century nearly wiped out traditional African religion to the point that many countries don’t even recognize it as a state religion even now. In 2010 only 10% claimed traditional religion.
Fast forward, the 21st century has brought a resurgence through the internet and global reconnection between the Diaspora and those on the continent. Realizing their ancestral traditions were thriving in the Diaspora and the massive desire to reconnect with the Continental descendants, Ifa Orisa traditions began a renaissance globally that is still peaking. The infusion of new money in traditional spirituality and excitement in Ifa has stimulated a reclamation of the ancient traditions by those on the continent with renewed pride as they throw off the final vestiges of colonialism and embrace African spiritual wisdom and technology. The Diaspora interests in The tradition has expanded with the advent of more information and access to DNA, travel, and the ability to reconnect broken pieces of their past.
This has created both new pride but also new challenges. With a global reach, the ability to expand has brought separate interests and also divisions. It’s sparked those wishing to separate to protect their interests. Those wishing to monopolize to protect their interests. Those wishing to take advantage of others to advance their interests have all taken a toll. Infighting and divisive factions are growing. People wishing to enforce their experiences of the tradition battle those with different experiences. Those with some knowledge but little sincerity try to fraud those innocent seekers. Public humiliation is used to suppress those who don’t share the same viewpoint or experiences and it’s difficult to differentiate those who are truly fraudulent from those who simply practice differently. Meanwhile all use Orisa as a foundation. But now, many good and sincere people are being turned off and turning away from the tradition not because of the Orisa, but because of the people, priests, and their behaviors and attitudes. How can we say this is a healing and uplifting path when what they see are constant infighting and attacks toward one another.
And so it is, that as a community of Ifa Orisa Practitioners, we must do some self examination. We must note that those who promote more division than unity generally also have a financial interest in that said division. We can not deny that initiations and omos are accompanied with financial investments long term and those who wish to protect those financial interests will seek ways to preserve it at the expense of others. That’s what creating a Brand does. Branding is for marketing to dominate a financial market. Understand it is not Orisa or Ifa that is dividing us. It is people who are dividing us.
We must explore that unity doesn’t mean that one group has to control everyone else or dictate one dogma for it to be valid or “authentic”. You don’t have to pit priesthood’s and lineages against other priesthood’s and lineages. The need to monopolize and control are extensions of politics and a remnant from the Abrahamic religious approach to evangelize the world. It is not spiritual truth. It is Abrahamic faiths that seek to dominate and control and by extension manipulate and exploit others. They preached peace and love but brought war and destruction. It was through those tactics that colonialism and the trans Atlantic slave trade took place. Historically we can see that that approach was not to our advantage but to our demise globally. Hundreds of Millions have died globally from these Abrahamic faiths approaches to seek dominance in the crusades, witch hunts, the slave trade, and colonialism. It’s taken hundreds of years to throw off those chains. We can not afford to take on their damaging approaches to our ancestral traditions.
Our ancestors recognized different regions practiced differently and it didn’t mean superiority of one over the other. Our ancestors found common unity being born of Mother Earth and forces of nature. They recognized that we all have common needs .. To have a good quality of life. To have peace of mind. To live in alignment with our destiny. To prosper and thrive in our lives and be healed and whole. . We must seek to do as our ancestors did and find unity in our diversity and transcend our minor differences. …A greater truth beyond local nuances. We have to appreciate the different strains of light that Orisa come in just as the rainbow is beautiful from embodying different colors and applications in nature. Just as each Orisa is different but share a common source, purpose, and function in Olodumare, we must find common ground and common love in the name of our ancestors, the Orisa, and our global community as a whole.