A cultural troupe performing during the Obatala festival at Igangan, Oyo State, Nigeria
Obatala festival is celebrated in Igangan in Nigeria as well as Cuba, United States and Trinidad and Tobago.
Praying Obatala priests in their temple in Ile-Ife
In Trinidad and Tobago, Obatala Festival opened with the women coming together in prayer ,devotion and educational gathering. They chant to heavens until powers come down. They give advice , counsel and heal.
Obatala festival in Ille Iere
The Festival now advances to it’s next stage – focus on the children. The festival usually take place in Ita Osa on Alberto Street,Woobrook in Trinidad and Tobago.
The festival is under the auspices of Ojise Obatala of Edena – Chief Oriyomi Orisagbemi.
Participants at Obatala Festival, Republic Trinidad & Tobago
Obatala festival in Cuba and USA
In a small Orisa temple in Jovellanos province Matanza, Cuba a young man Walter Eugene King began his history making destiny. This young man would become the ﬁrst of the African Americans to be re initiated into the religion of his ancestors.
The year is 1959 during the month of august on the 26th day young King sat on the throne of ordination with his friend as twins. Walter ( Baba Oseijeman) being the child of the Orisa Obatala was initiated ﬁrst his friend Oliana was initiated to the Orisa Aganju. The entire Community rejoiced because they had never seen an American African receive such a high level of initiation. Baba Oseijeman and his friend Oliyana traveled back to the USA and opened up the Sango Temple. Thus making an ancient stolen way of life available to the American African nation wide. Today, the Yoruba religion and culture is very popular throughout North America and thousands re enter their strayed culture. The credit for the ground work for making Yoruba culture popular goes to Oba Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi I. The culture he re-created in the USA and the Oyotunji African village became an enigmatic part of the emerging south.
Madelaina Bolouc, of Boulder, Colorado, performs a dance of reverence to Orisha and Obatala, in gratitude for blue sky and luminous clouds during Burning Man 2000. telegraph.co.uk
This Years Obatala festival in Oyotunji will be one of great importance to all of us who practice what is commonly know as ATR ( African Traditional Religion). Upon arrival at this years festival you will be as Baba Oseijeman was in Cuba... in the midst of history. Expect to also take part in an history forum with
Oba Adefunmi II. This event gives the attendees the opportunity to meet and mingle with an array of priest from across the globe. The Obatala parade and bembe will be well attended by you. This historical occasion deserves your presence and vice versa. Orisa Bless.
Brief history of Obatala
One of the ORISHAS of Yoruba mythology, he’s a Creator God who didn’t get a chance to create.
He was issued with the task of building the Earth by Sky God OLORUN, who gave him blueprints, a handful of mud, a chain, a five-toed chicken, and detailed instructions.
...Unfortunately, on his way to perform this important task, OBATALA accidentally gatecrashed a Godparty and spent the rest of the evening roaring drunk on palm wine. Seeing the chance for fame and glory, his younger brother ODUDUWA pinched the holy building materials and attempted to jerry-build the Earth himself.
Advised by a friendly chameleon, he lowered the chain over the edge of heaven, climbed down, and tossed the lump of mud into the primeval sea. The chicken hopped onto the mud and began scratching it in all directions.
Pretty soon there was a decent size landscape and thus was the Earth born. OLORUN was so pleased with ODUDUWA that he promoted him to God of the Earth, while the disgraced and boozy OBATALA was put to work making mankind as punishment.
In Yoruba theology, Obatala must never be worshipped with palm wine, palm oil or salt. His worshippers may eat palm oil and salt, but never taste palm wine.
Oriki (Praise Names)
Oluwa Aiye or Oluwa Aye - Lord of the Earth
Alabalase - He who has divine authority
Baba Arugbo - Old Master or Father
Baba Araye - Master or Father of all human beings (lit. citizens of the earth)
Orisanla (also spelt Orisainla, Orishanla or Orishainla) or Oshanla - The arch divinity
The following praise poem (oriki) to the artist deity Obatala commemorates this archetypal event:Obatala Obatala
O da’mo, da’ya He created the child and its mother
O se baba lo ore tan, After doing good to the father
O ranse si omo ko wa gba ore… He sent for the child to come and collect its own good…
Oun lo da pete owo, He molded the inner surface of the hand called the palm
Oun lo da pete ese He molded the underside of the foot called the sole
Oun la da aya j’anka, ti a npe ni igba aya He molded the massive part of the body called the chest
Oun lo da omi lojolojo, ti a npe loju He created the refractive water ball called the eyes
Oun lo da oru rebete, ti a npe ni Atari… He molded the small pot called the skull…
Oosona, Alamorere… The-Orisa-has-made-a-work-of-art, Owner-of-choice-clay
From the Yoruba perspective, the variation in human appearance is due to Obatala’s unpredictable artistic temperament, earning him the epithet: “A da ni b’o ti ri” (He who creates us as he wishes). Besides, he is known for his occasional drinking bouts during which he creates cripples, hunchbacks, albinos and people with deformities. Thus it is customary for the Yoruba to greet pregnant women with the prayer: “Ki Orisa ya ona ire ko ni ” (May the Orisa [Obatala] fashion for us a good work of art).
The implication here is that, in spite of its biological aspect, procreation has an artistic dimension as well. The human body (ara), the handiwork of Obatala, is much more than blood and flesh. It is a kinetic sculpture, activated by ase, the vital force, concealing and revealing the soul in the physical world, enabling an individual to have iwa (physical existence). Iwa denotes both the fact of being and the distinctive quality or character of a person.
Its preeminence in Yoruba aesthetics is clear from the following poem often recited by Yoruba elders to educate the younger generation:
Omo t’o dara tiko n’iwa If a child is beautiful but has no character,
Omolangidi ni i He is no more than a wooden doll
Iwa rere l’eso eniyan Good character is the beauty of a person
B’obirin dara bi Egbara, bi ko n’iwa A woman can be as beautiful as the Egbara, if she has no character
Omolangidi ni i She is no more than a wooden doll
B’okunrin suwon, suwon, bi eja inu omi A man may be very, very handsome, like a fish in the water
Bi ko n’iwa rere If he has no character
Omolangidi ni i. He is no more than a wooden doll.
Conversely, a physically attractive person with a bad character runs the risk of being categorized as an awobowa, that is “the outwardly beautiful, but inwardly ugly.” For even when the physical beauty of an awobowa attracts attention, the initial admiration will disappear as the inner ugliness of that individual manifests itself like smoke. On the other hand, a pleasant disposition has the potential of transforming the physically disadvantaged into a likeable person, or into what the Yoruba call an omoluwabi, that is, a role model or “the good-natured and internally beautiful person.” Self-discipline thus becomes the key to social mobility, enabling an individual to make up for a physical deficiency or maximize the potentials of a natural endowment. As one Yoruba aphorism puts it: “Iwa l’orisa—bi a ba ti hu si ni i fi i gbe ni” (Good character is like an orisa—the more we cultivate it, the more it favors us).
For the human body—a “masterpiece” by Obatala—localizes a special ase (enabling power), that generates life, simultaneously inspiring and sustaining the creativity reflected in the visual and performing arts and enabling the Yoruba to continually redesign their environment.
Obatala Festival held at Ita Osa , Ile – Iere , Republic Trinidad & Tobago
Yemoo (known as Yembo in Cuba)
Igbin (who became a drum still played for him)
Excellencies : Mr. & Mrs. Ademola Onafowokan with Head of the Council of Afrikan Traditional Chiefs at OBATALA FESTIVAL 2011
In Ile Ife: the dying and rising god
According to mythical stories Obatala is the eldest of all orisha and was granted authority to create the earth. Before he could return to heaven and report to Olodumare however, his rival Oduduwa (also called Oduwa, Oodua, Odudua or Eleduwa) and younger brother usurped his position by taking the satchel and created in his stead the earth on the Primeval Ocean.
A great feud ensued between the two that is re-enacted every year in the Itapa festival in Ile Ife, Nigeria. Ultimately, Oduduwa and his sons were able to rule with Obatala's reluctant consent.
Itapa festival concerning Obatala
It appears from the cult dramas of the Itapa festival that Obatala was a dying and rising god. He left his Temple in the town on the seventh day of the festival, stayed in his grove outside the town on the eighth day and returned in a great procession to his Temple on the ninth day.
The three-day rhythm of descent into the netherworld and subsequent resurrection on the third day shows the closeness of Obatala to the pre-canonical Israelite Yahweh and the figure of Jesus
Obatala symbol at Obatala festival (Irawe festival)
Obatala in Candomble
In Candomblé, Obatalá (Oxalá) is the oldest "Orixa funfun" ("white deity"), referring to spiritual purity and pure light, both physically and symbolically as in the "light" of consciousness).
In the Bahia State (Brazil), Obatala has been syncretized with Our Lord of Bonfim and is the subject of a large syncretic religious celebration, the Festa do Bonfim, which takes place in January in the city of Salvador and includes the washing of the church steps with a special water, made with flowers.
Obatala in Senteria worship
In senteria worship Obatala represents Our Lady of Mercy. Obatala is another aspect of the Divine Trinity. Like Yemaya, he is associated with the Virgin Mary, this time in the aspect of Mercy. As the first-born of the gods, Obatala is regal and wise. He blows away negative energies and resolves ethical issues. As Yemaya is the patron of mothers, Obatala is the patron of fathers. He has dominion over all white things, from bones to the clouds in the sky. Your offerings to Obatala must be white foods: white hens, rice, milk, etc. Unlike the other gods, Obatala abhors alcohol. Leave your offering to Obatala at the base of a tree.
To cleanse your aura, make a bath into which you have poured a cup of milk, seven white carnations, seven teaspoons of sugar, and seven drops of holy water. Light a white candle and slip into the bath. As you immerse yourself in this bath, say seven Our Fathers (The Lord’s Prayer).
Obatala as Our Lady of Mercy in Senteria
OBATALA- Ifa and the Chief of the Spirit of the White Cloth
Obatala is the Spirit of the Chief of the White Cloth in the West African religious tradition called “Ifa”. The word Obatala is the name given to describe a complex convergence of Spiritual Forces that are key elements in the Ifa concept of consciousness. Those Spiritual Forces that form the foundation of Obatala‟s role in the Spirit Realm relate to the movement between dynamic and form as it exists throughout the universe,
According to Ifa, dynamics and form represent the polarity between the Forces of expansion and contraction. Together these Forces create light and darkness, which in turn sustains and defines all that is. Ifa teaches that it is the interaction between light and darkness that generates the physical universe, and it is Obatala who brings this interaction into Being. There is no literal translation for the word Ifa. It refers to a religious tradition, and understanding of ethics, a process of spiritual transformation and a set of scriptures that are the basis for a complex system of divination. Within the discipline of Ifa, there is a body of wisdom called “awo”, which attempts to preserve the rituals that create direct communication with Forces in Nature. Awo is a Yoruba word that is usually translated to mean “secret”. Unfortunately, there is no real English equivalent to the word awo, because the word carries strong cultural and esoteric associations. In traditional Yoruba culture, awo refers to the hidden principles that explain the Mystery of Creation and Evolution. Awo is the esoteric understanding of the invisible forces that sustain dynamics and form within Nature. The essence of these forces are not considered secret because they are devious, they are secret because they remain elusive, awesome in their power to transform and not readily apparent. As such they can only be grasped through direct interaction and participation. Anything which can be known by the intellect alone ceases to be awo. The primal inspiration for awo is the communication between transcendent Spiritaul forces and human consciousness. This communication is believed to be facilitated by the Spirit of Esu, who is the Divine Messenger. Working in close association with Esu is Ogun, who is the Spirit of Iron. Ogun has the power to clear away those obstacles that stand in the way of spiritual growth.According to Ifa, the work done by Ogun is guided by Ochosi, who as the Spirit of the Tracker has the ability to locate the shortest path to our spiritual goals. The essential goal that Ochosi is called upon to guide us towards is the task of building “iwa-pele”, which means “good character”. This guidance takes the form of a spiritual quest which is called “iwakiri”. One of the functions of Obatala is to preserve the Mystic Vision for those who make the quest of iwakiri in search of iwa-pele. The power of Obatala is described by Ifa as one of the many Spiritual Forces in Nature which are called “Orisha”. The word Orisha means “Select Head”. In a cultural context, Orisha is a reference to the various Forces in Nature that guide consciousness. According to Ifa, everything in Nature has some form of consciousness called “Ori”. The Ori of all animals, plants, and humans is believed to be guided by a specific Force in Nature(Orisha) which defines the quality of a particular form of consciousness. There are a large number of Orisha, and each Orisha has its own awo.
The unique function of Obatala within the realm of Orisha Awo (Mysteries of Nature) is to provide the spark of light that animates consciousness. To call and Orisha the Chief of the White Cloth is to make a symbolic reference to that substance which makes consciousness possible. The reference to White Cloth is not a reference to the material used to make the cloth, it is a reference to the fabric which binds the universe together. The threads of this fabric are the multi-leveled layers of consciousness which Ifa teaches exist in all things on all levels of Being. Ifa teaches that it is the ability of Forces of Nature to communicate with each
other, and the ability of humans to communicate with Forces in Nature that gives the world a sense of spiritual unity. It is the understanding of this ability which gives substance to the Ifa concept of good character, and it is Obatala who guides us towards developing this understanding.
Ifa teaches that all Forces in Nature come into Being through the manifestation of energy patterns called Odu. Ifa has identified and labeled different Odu which can be thought of as different expressions of consciousness. But because consciousness itself is generated by Obatala, every Odu contains an element of Obatala‟s ase(power).
In metaphysical terms, this means that all of Creation is linked to Obatala as the Source of Being. Ifa teaches that all forms of consciousness contain a spark of ase(spiritual power) from Obatala, and it is this spark that links everything that is, to its shared Beginning.
ALO IRINTAN OBATALA- (Folktales of the Spirit of the Chief of the White Cloth)
OBATALA IRIN-AJO IKOLE ARE- The Chief of the White cloth travels to Earth
Olodumare(The Creator) called Obatala (Chief of White Cloth) to Ikole Orun (the Realm of the Ancestors) on the day that he wanted to create dry land on the waters of the Ikole Aye(Earth). Obatala kneeled before Olodumare and said that he did not know the awo (mystery) of creating land on Ikole Aye(Earth). Olodumare told Obatala that he would give him the ase (power) to make land on Ikole Aye(Earth).
Ogun took all the iworo (gold) and forged a long ewon (chain), which he flung towards Ikole Aye(earth). Obatala placed his ase (power in a pouch and began the descent down the ewon (chain). When he came to the last rung he could see that he was still some distance from the primal waters.
Obatala removed the igbin (snail) shell from his pouch and sprinkled soil upon the primal waters. Then he removed the five toed etu (guinea hen) and dropped it in the land. As soon as the etu (guinea hen) reached the soil it started scratching the ground, spreading dirt across the surface of the primal waters. Seeing the ground had become firm, Obatala removed an ikin(palm nut) and dropped it on the land. The ikin (palm nut) sprouted and became a palm tree. When the palm tree grew to its full height, it reached the last ring of the iworo „won(gold chain). Obatala was able to step from the ewon (chain) to the palm tree.
After climbing down the tree, Obatala started to mold humans from the clay in the earth. As he worked, he became tired and decided that he needed a rest. Taking the fruit from the palm tree, he made palm wine and drank until he was ready to return to work. The humans that he molded while drunk did not look like the others, but Obatala did not notice and he kept drinking until he fell asleep.
While Obatala slept, Olodumare gave the task of finishing Creation to Oduduwa (Owner of the Womb of Creation). Olodumare waited for Obatala to awaken from his drunken sleep and told him that it was taboo from Obatala to taste palm wine ever again. When Obatala saw what had happened to the humans he had created while he was drunk, he agreed to protect all children for future generations. It was Obatala who said that he would never again let his White Cloth become soiled.
To this day those that worship Obatala say, “Obatala o su n‟na ala, Obatala o ji n‟nu ala, Obatala o tinu ala dide, Iba Obatala,” which means, “The Chief of White Cloth sleeps in white, the chief of the White Cloth awakens in white, the chief of the White cloth gets up in white, praise to the Chief of the White Cloth”.
Commentary: The word Obatala translates to mean “Chief of the White Cloth.” In metaphysical terms White Cloth is the primal source of the physical universe. Ifa teaches that light becomes transformed into darkness and that darkness becomes transformed into light. Within the unfolding if this transformation, Evolution creates greater and greater levels of complexity. The original explosion that created the universe produced massive quantities of light in the form of subatomic particles. As the universe cooled these particles joined together to form simple elements. The elements in turned joined together to form stars. In time, certain stars collapsed, forming black holes that imploded on themselves until they created a fission reaction. This sent huge clouds of complex elements throughout the universe. It was a cloud of complex elements that cooled to form the solar system, and within the solar system evolved the ecosystem that exists in earth.
The Myth of Obatala is the Ifa version of this sequence of events. It uses symbolic language to describe a series of evolutionary events that match closely with the theories of Creation that have been proposed by contemporary Western science. At the beginning of the Myth, Olodumare gives Obatala the instruction to create the world. Olodumare represents all potential form that exists in the universe as it remains dormant prior to manifestation. It is the White Cloth or light particles of Obatala that bring potential form into physical existence. Western science teaches that all of Creation evolved from the light produced during the primal explosion at the beginning of time. Ifa teaches that all Creation evolved from the White Cloth of Obatala‟s a robe.
The chain used by Obatala to travel from the Realm of the Ancestors to Earth appears to be a symbolic representation of the structure used to transmit genetic information from one generation to the next. The genetic code that is used to form each species is passed through a biochemical substance called DNA. When DNA is viewed under a microscope it appears as a double helix, which is similar to the pattern of a chain. In Ifa scripture the reference to the Realm of the Ancestors includes all those Natural Forces that led to the development of human life and is not limited to human form. In Western science that DNA which exists in mammals is believed to be an extension of a chain of transmission from single cell life forms at the bottom of the ocean to complex life forms that populate the earth. When Obatala climbs down the chain towards land, he takes soil a from snail shell. The shape of the snail shell is a pattern that recurs throughout Nature. The early Greeks called this pattern the “Golden Mean”. It is a series of expanding circles that get progressively larger at a steady rate. This growth pattern occurs in trees, plants, and sea life. It is the same pattern that regulates the distance of planets from the sun. The snail shell as a sacred object associated with Obatala symbolized the expansive quality of evolution.
When Obatala places the guinea hen on the ground, the Earth becomes a place that can support life systems. The guinea hen is sacred to Oshun and it has five toes, which is Oshun‟s sacred number. Oshun is the spirit of eroticism, fertility, and abundance. At this point in the myth, Obatala is introducing sexuality, reproduction, and the allure of the erotic into the unfolding pattern of Creation.
In order to reach the Earth, Obatala plants seeds which grow into a palm tree. Within the religion of Ifa the palm tree is regarded as the sacred tree of life. Most earth-centered religions designate a particular tree to symbolize the transformation of all things as they progress through the cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth. When a Myth refers to a deity bringing the tree of life to Earth, it is a reference to the existence of natural laws which guide the development of ecological systems on the planet.
Obatala reaches the ground and then begins to make humans. At the point Obatala becomes intoxicated, and the task of finishing Creation is given to Oduduwa. In mythic terms, this part of the creation story suggests that the unfolding of evolution can be flawed. Defects occur in Nature and the Ifa Creation myth reflects this truth. Ifa cosmonology tends to describe the world as it is and not as it should be.
The fact that the task of Creation was taken from Obatala and given to Oduduwa appears to
be a reference to the Natural Law of entropy. That law says that once an ecological system is set in motion it always moves towards inevitable extinction. By placing Oduduwa in charge of Creation, the myth is suggesting that there is awo, or a mystery beyond the visible universe and beyond the inevitability of death. Oduduwa is the womb of darkness through which all rebirth emerges.
When Obatala agrees to keep his White Cloths unsoiled, it is a promise to continue the struggle for perfection in a flawed universe. Without this struggle there is no existence, only primal unity. Primal unity is described in Ifa scripture as the loneliness of the Ancestors in Ikole Orun.
THE STORY OF OBATALA
No living creature, they are dead or alive is able to tell us the exact origin of the chief divinity ORISAALA or OBATALA. There are several conflicting stories surrounding the mystery of this divinity. GOD created the positive and dynamic powers of the heavens, known as IRUNMOLES (the great and extremely positive divinities) led by the personality of OBATALA. These divinities include IFA ORUNMILA BABA AGBONMIREGUN, OGUN, SANGO, ESU, ORO, YEMOWO and many others. In the same fashion OLODUMARE formed in the beginning of creation (IWASE) the alternatives of the positive and dynamic powers – negative spiritual vibrations called AJOGUN ORUN – THE PUNITIVE KNIGHTS OF HEAVEN.
The divinities are entities created by OLODUMARE to justify his own glory, nature and his phenomenal status in creation. Divinities are creatures that never saw the beginning of days nor will they see the end of life – they are immortal and permanent. They share the same original characteristics of GOD which signifies that they cannot change or be tarnished by error or age like men – they share the infinite divine quality, completeness and wholeness of OLODUMARE
The name OBATALA is derived from the words: OBA TI O NI ALA, meaning THE KING IN THE WHITE APPAREL, THE LORD OF THE WHITE CLOTH, THE KING THAT BROUGHT HUMANS INTO BEING or THE KING WITH DISTINCTIVE BOUNDARY
He is also known as ORISAALA or ORISANLA, which means the great divinity, or ‘the one of most grandeur’. Divinities however should not be viewed as a women or men, because their statutes or image could not be defined in terms of natural physical structures like men or women. Since OLODUMARE could not be seen as either a man nor a woman, hence divinities takes after him as an embodiment of this perpetual glory and reveals themselves in whatever form they see fit. The woman/man relationship of OBATALA depends on the odu in question - or the tradition employed by the writer. In one stanza of Ogunda Meji it is stated that Obatala is a woman and further down in the stanza it is said that Obatala is an ageless divinity that came into iwarun – together with a host of other potent divinities. Ogunda meji claimed that ORISAALA had no father and that she was the mother of all creatures in creation, while OGUN was the father of all creatures. In other words, they both were considered to be directly created by OLODUMARE. This was the main reason for why ORISANLA was viewed as the mother goddess of IWARUN - the physical existence – and why OGUN was named ONIWARUN, ONIRE OKO EYO, meaning THE LORD OF IWARU, THE LEADER OF IRE HUSBAND OF EYO
Traditions reveals that it was ORISAALA who was the mother of Obanla and Obalufon, both of them were men. ORISAALA had other children, amongst them Yemoja. Yemoja gave birth to Osun - the grand-daughter of ORISAALA.
Orisanla or Orisa ala had another daughter called EFUNSEEKE. Efunseeke came of age and married. One day Ogun was celebrating one of his annual festivals in which he was drunk and as a consequence of a joke wine and alcohol entered the eyes of EFUNSEEKE and she became blind. Orisaala went to consult IFA to know why such a horrific event happened to her daughter. Orunmila made the divination and the odu OGUNDA IGARA appeared. Orunmila bowed down and knocked his head on the ground three times for IFA saying ABORU ABOYE meaning, ‘obeisance to you oh divinity’- and while his devotees who were with him responded ‘a agbo a a to’ meaning: “we will live long , with wisdom and understanding”.
Orunmila asked Orisaala: IRU IGARA WO LO FE DA ALANIYAN YI OO, meaning: ‘what kind of challenges is facing the owner of this odu? ORISAALA replied and told IFA how OGUN poured gin in the eyes of her daughter EFUNSEEKE and how Eefunseeke went blind. This was the challenges they were facing right now.
Without mincing words, ORUNMILA replied that: BI AWO BA KI FUN NI, AA KI FAWO NI, TITI DI ONI OLONI, meaning: IF THE INITIATED ONE BLESSED ANOTHER INITIATED THE BLESSED ONE WILL RETURN THE BLESSING UNTILL THIS DAY (THAT IS , IF ONE IFA DEVOTEE GREETS OTHER IFA DEVOTEE, THE GREETED ONE, MUST RETURN THE GREETING)
Orunmila instructed Orisaala according to the odu to bring five snails as a sacrifice. The blood water from the snail would be used to cure the blindness of Eefunseeke. (Water from the snail is called OMI- ERO). Orunmila instructed Obatala to drop little by little OMI ERO into the eyes of her daughter until she would regain her sight. OBATALA (Orisaala) did all what was expected of him and followed the advice of IFA and indeed Eefuseeke regained her sight.
From that moment, gin or alcohol became a taboo for all the worshippers of ORISAALA, OGUN and IFA to ensure a sound mental state, a good spiritual state and physical fitness during worship and day to day activities. OBATALA, IFA and OGUN worshippers should refrain from drinking alcohol, smoking, behaving contrary to what is godly. They should also be moderate with consuming salt, sugar and oil - if not completely abstain from it – at least keep it to a minimum. In the case of salt, sugar and oil - they are taboo to all worshippers of OBATALA.
After the incident of blindness, and how she regained her sight, Eefuseeke got pregnant - but it was a complicated pregnancy. Orisaala went to the same Ifa priest, ORUNMILA, to know the cause for all the pains of this pregnancy. Orunmila threw the Opele again and the odu that came out was Ofun meji. Orunmila instructed Orisaala to prepare 6 snails, 16 obi, 16 orogbo, 16 yams, 16 eko (corn flour stew) as an offering to divinity. Orisaala performed the rituals as directed and the water from the snails was to be drunk by Eefunseeke. Again it was OMI ERO that stopped the tumultuous state of her pregnancy and she got healed from her pains. Eefuseeke gave birth to a child in the 16th month of her pregnancy and the baby was albino. Indeed, it was because of this that albinos were called OMO-ORISA or ORISA ADARA (the children of deity or good deity)
It was believed from that day on that albinos intuitively know the secret behind 16 cowries. They are seen as natural diviners of 16 cowries called Erindinlogun. IFA says that all albinos must practice a spiritual trade as their chosen profession and study the art of divination according to the odu ogbe irosun, that tell us:
Ogbe Irosun stanza 11
TO OGBERI LEJE
LO DIFA FUN OBATALA
TI O MA SE EBO, OMO RE TAN LORUN
IFA SO WIPE IRE AJE, IRE TILE, IRE ISEGUN
IFA NI KI A RUBO, AIKU, NITORI OMO
AWON NKAN TI EJE RE TI GBE NI OHUN EBO
OPA EKU, OPA EJA, EPO, OBI, OROGBO
OMI, IGBIN, EYELE, ADIYE, KI BABALAWO FI JERU
KI WON MA PA OHUN ELEJE YEN
OBATALA GBO, O RUBO AIKU, NITORI AWON OMO RE
OBIRIN ATI AWON OMO RE OKUNRIN
IGBA YI NI IKU KO PA WON MO
TI ARUN KO SE WON
OMO RE TAN LORUN
IFA SEBO OMO RE TAN LORUN
IFA SEBO OMO RE TAN LORUN
TAWO LEPO, TOGBERI LEJE
TAWO LEPO, TOGBERI LEJE
The initiated ones have palm oil
The uninitiated ones have blood
This the IFA oracle divined for OBATALA
That decides to offer sacrifice to his heavenly children
IFA says, the blessing of prosperity, the blessing of manifold success, the blessing of victory
IFA directs him to offer sacrifice of longevity for his children
The sacrifice of dry materials that include dried rats, dried fish, obi, orogbo, water, snail, pigeon, ori,
OBATALA heard and offered a sacrifice of long life, because his male and female children, that was how they got victory over death and sickness
Hence, the heavenly children of OBATALA were blessed
and so the chant goes
initiated ones have abundant oil
initiated ones have abundant oil
while uninitiated ones have abundant blood
while uninitiated ones have abundant blood
Albinos are natural prophets from GOD, sent here to direct our spiritual steps.
The second school of thought believed that OBATALA was a male deity, one of the greatest powers – a leading figure who led other divinities from the heaven above to the physical plain of existence. It was believed that ORISALA was the only divinity given a place at the right hand side of OLODUMARE in his majestic kingdom - ENI OTUN ELEDUA.
Because of his greatness, praise names were given to him from town to town, from village to village among his followers. In all Yoruba towns and cities worshippers see Obatala as their king, leader and their protective divinity of immense importance. Obatala according to the tradition is called ALABAA LASE meaning the giver of authority or the holder of absolute authority. The vibration or odu that created Obatala according to tradition was EJIOGBE that states:
Gbogbo ola omi ti nbe laye
Kole to ti olokun
Gbogbo iyi odo kole to ti olosa
Lodifa fun obatala oseere igbo
Lojo ti yio je alabaalase
Ti gbogbo irunmole nleri pe
Awon yoo gba okan ninu oriki re
Orunmila agboniregun yehun
E su lalu elegbara ogo yera
kosi ifa ti ni yi koja ejiogbe
alase ni a fi ase fun
gbogbo odo keekee kee ti oba so pe
ti olokun ko si laye
gbogbo won nii gbe lau-lau
bi papa bajo, eruku asoloju won
mo toro ola lowo olosa ibikeji odo
mo rije bee ni mo yo rara
tani ko mope ola OLORUN nikan
loto ni ije dojo iku eni
Of all the honor of the earthly water
None can match the honour of OLOKUN (the goddess of ocean)
All the glory of the river, none can match the goddess of sea
This was divined for OBATALA OSEREMAGBO
the day he was crowned the head of all divinities
All the divinities were jealous and promised
That they will take one of his numerous honour and glory
Orunmila Agbonniregun did not utter any word
Esu lalu elegbara stayed away
None of the odu has honour comparable to ejiogbe
Honour is given to whom it’s due
Ejiogbe, you are the greatest of them all
if the little river wants to claim superiority over the ocean
it will dry to its source
if the bush is burning, those who need to go into hiding must do that
l ask for prosperity from the goddess of the sea, the second in command to the ocean
l am full with blessing ,
Everybody knows that the blessing of GOD is sufficient for us
Till the end,
This odu ifa under Ejiogbe make it clear that it is from heaven above OLODUMARE chose to make ORISAALA the leader of all divinities. It was noted that he was full of meekness, calmness, patience and gentleness – and this became the traits of his character - which must be imbibed by all his followers. Obeisance must always be given to him in quietness and meekness, as a sign of perfect communication with GOD. Animals without bones are his preferable sacrificial animals, like the snail, shows that Obatala does not like to hurt nor animal or human. He loves to maintain the sanctity of life and to ensure their preservation in the universe. Based on this Obatala was saluted in the following way:
OBATALA O KU OOO
AJIMAJE NNKAN TO LEEGUN
APA IGBIN JE LEHIN IKAARAHUN
OBATALA LONG LIFE, TO YOU OH DIVINITY
DEITY IN WHITE APPAREL
THAT WAKES UP WITHOUT EATING BUT A BONELESS ANIMAL
THAT EATS SNAIL AFTER REMOVING HIS SHELL
We use the following items when performing rituals and making ebó for Obatala:
AKE EWURE (GOAT PLACENTA)
ATAARE (ALLIGATOR PEPPER)
OROGBO (BITTER KOLA)
The hierarchy amongst his followers is as follows
Males: Aboosa, Tabi aaje
White cloths are the symbol of his presence and should be worn frequently by his worshippers.
Taboos for Obatala:
None of his followers should drink strong wine or alcohol
Oil and salt must not be used to prepare food during his rituals and initiation;
Melon soup (obe egusi) is forbidden during OBATALA ceremony and Corn should not cooked during the week of rituals for Obatala (a ko gbo do se ase ti o ni agbado lojo ose obatala). OBATALA was the first divinity and he chose the first day of the week as his own day of worship. He is believed to be the real image of GOD and true representative of GOD in the world.
Obatala festival at in USA
It was believed that those who are looking for the fruit of the womb must offer prayer, sacrifice and indulge into regular fasting to Obatala. The barren must give daily obeisance to Obatala for the gift of children from GOD. GOD has given Obatala the authority to put smiles on the face women that are in dare need of children, hence all barren women should give obeisance in the following way:
ORISA ADATAN APAPA LAELAE
ALAGBO OFE A BI IWOMO WERE
THE DIVINITY OF ADATAN WITH INFINITE LOVING HAND
THE OWNER OF THE COMPOUND FULL OF BLESSED CHILDREN
WHO IS GIVING CHILREN OUT TO ALL THE PEOPLE THAT ARE IN NEED
Indeed, in the odu Ogbedi IFA says that Obatala and Orunmila were chosen to receive the absolute authority to bless all barren women in the universe and bring to them the gift of children
BI OJO IKU ABARAMEJI BA DARA LAYE
EHIN IWA WON KII SAN LORUN
LO DIFA FUN EJIOGBE ATI OBATALA
LOJO TI WON YOO NA ADO OMO BIBI
TI AWON ELEGUN WON YIO FI JEUN
OGBEDI NI GBOGBO ERAN ENI TI E BAJE
OTOTO ENIYAN NI YOO MAA DA
AWON LA FI TETE OHUN
KI A TO TORO OHUN LOWO ENI
A KII FI TULASI GBA NNKAN APO ENI WARA- WARA
LODIFA FUN OBATALA OSERE LASO (OSEERE MAGBO)
NIGBATI TI EDA YOO MAA RAWO – RASE
KI WON TO TORO OMO LOWO RE
AWON EDE NI EETISE
ORUNMILA NI A SE EYIN KO MO PE
OBATALA KII TA OMO RE LOPO
IF THE DEATH OF PEOPLE WITH TWO PERSONALITY IS GOOD IN THE PHYSICAL WORLD
LIFE AFTER DEATH WILL BE WORSE IN THE HEAVEN
THIS THE IFA ORACLE DIVINED FOR EJIOGBE AND OBATALA
WHEN THEY WERE PLANNING TO HAVE A CHILD
WHEN THEIR FOLLOWERS WERE SEEKING FOR FOOD
OGBE-DI SAYS, ALL THE MEAT WE SHALL EAT
WILL BE GIVEN TO US BY DIFFERENT PEOPLE
THIS IS POWER OF WORD
BEFORE ASKING ANYTHING FROM OTHERS
NOBODY MUST USE FORCE TO TAKE WHAT DO NOT BELONG TO HIM
THIS ALSO DIVINE IFA FOR OBATALA OSEERE IGBO
WHEN THE PEOPLE ARE BEGGING HIM
FOR THE BLESSING OF THE WOMB
PEOPLE ARE ASKING WHAT CAUSE THE DELAY
ORUNMILA ANSWERED THEM
DID YOU NOT KNOW THAT OBATALA WILL NOT GIVE OUT HIS CHILDREN WITHOUT A COST?
Orisa devotees at Obatala festival. Trinidad and Tobago
Before Orunmila left to earth from heaven GOD gave ORUNMILA the authority of teaching IFA to mankind while the ability to look patiently towards GOD for blessings of all kinds were given to OBATAALA. Both Orunmila and Obatala performed rituals to attract multitudes of followers that would spread their names throughout the universe. According to OGBEKA it was like this:
Aki I yo eyin adie ninu omi
Lati owuro ki dale ko to gbe
Bi omunu ogede ba pe ninu omi
Kio gbe boro boro
A fo aso tan ninu eji
Eji ko da , a ko ri oorun saa
Lo difa fun akoka
Ti nko gbogb aye ni ifa
Lo difa fun aseda
Ti nko gbogbo agba ni imoran
Won ni awon mejeeji rubo ajalu
Ki won ma baa j anile aye
Ki oruko won ma baa si parun
Mo juba akoda mo juba ase da
Gbogbo omo awo ni kii o maa juba yi
Iba ni a a ju fun oniba
Omo awo ti ko ba juba akoda
Bi o ba difa , ifa re ko le se
Omo awo ti ko ba juba aseda
Bi o rubo, ebo re ko le da
Iba ni a a ju fun oniba
Mo ji mo juba akoda
Mo ji mo juba aseda
Gbogbo ohun ti mo ba wi ni ki o se
No one removes the eggs of the hen from the water
From morning till dawn without being dry up
Whenever a banana plantain is put inside water
It will not ripe in time
We wash the cloth in the rain
The rain does not stop
While the sun does not appear to dry up the cloth
This IFA divined for AKOKA (teacher)
That teaches Ifa’s oracle to the whole world
It equally divines ifa oracle to aseda – the creator
That teaches wisdom to the sages and initiates
The two eminent divinities were advised to offer ritual against disagreement
So that they will not disagree when they reach the physical world
To avoid a situation where their names would not be blot out
From the book of life
I give obeisance to the first creature
My obeisance to the creator
All the initiates give their obeisance
Obeisance to those that deserves obeisance
Whoever among the initiates that do not give obeisance to the first creatures
Whenever he consults ifa divination, it will end up in total fiasco
Who among the initiate that do not give obeisance to creator
Whenever he offer sacrifice, such sacrifice will not be accepted by the divinities
Obeisance must be given to those that deserve obeisance
I wake up in the morning to give my obeisance to the first creature
I wake up in the morning to give my obeisance to the creator
All my steps and plan should witness the support of creator
AGBALAGBA ORISA TI GUN SILE AYE
A GREAT DIVINITY THAT DWELLS IN THE PHYSICAL STATE OF EXISTENCE
ONILE OJU POPO O JI REBI
THE OWNER OF THE HOUSE ON THE WIDE ROAD THAT WAKES UP TO DETER EVIL
AGBALAGBA BI O BA JI IRE ABUSE-ABUSE
THE GREAT DIVINITY THAT WAKES UP WITH IMMENSE RESPONSIBILITIES AND BENEFITS
ONIPOPO OMO AROOGBEE
THE LORD OF POPO, THE CHILD OF AROOGBEE
IWIN SO NGADA MERI APA
THE MYSTERIOUS PHENOMENON TIED FOUR TO ARM
IWIN OLUOGAN KO DADE
THE MYSTERIOUS OWNER OF THE JUNGLE WITHOUT CROWN
IWIN ODE NII TA IRINWO EFON
THE MYSTERIOUS HUNTER THAT SELLS FOUR HUNDRED BUFFALO
IWIN ODIDE YOMI YOWU OGBONNA SONU
THE MYSTERIOUS WEAVER THAT REMOVES THE WOOL AND THROUGH IT AWAY
IWIN ODE NII TA IRIN O EFON
THE MYSTERIOUS HUNTER THAT SELLS FOUR HUNDRED BUFFALO
IWIN A MAA TA META AJAGBO
THE MYSTERY THAT SELLS THREE OF THE JUNGLE WILD DOGS
O MAA TA LEKA ORUN
HE WHO IS OF IMMENSE IMPORTANCE IN THE HEAVEN
KI O LE BA A DUNNI JANJAN BI ABAJO
THAT WILL BE OF IMMENSE PAIN LIKE AS IF
ENI TI KO DURO GBO EJO
WHO DOES NOT CARE TO LISTEN TO ANY COMPLAIN OR TO HEAR ANY LAWSUIT
ENITI KO DURO DE ONILU RE
HE WHO DOES NOT WAIT FOR HIS OWN DRUMMER
TI O FI DE EJIGBO AKIRE
UNTIL HE REACHES THE CITY OF EJIGBE AKIRO
KO DURO GBEJO TO FI DE EJIGBO KORO
HE DID NOT LISTEN TO THE COMPLAIN UNTIL HE REACHES THE CITY OF EJIOGBO KORO
ONIPOPO OMO AROOGBEE
THE LORD OF POPO, THE SON OF AROOGBEE
IWIN SONGADA MERI APA
THE MYSTERIOUS BEING THAT TIED FOUR TO HIS HAND
IWIN OLUOGAN KO DADE
THE MYSTERIOUS LORD OF OGAN WITHOUT CROWN
MAJE KI A TA OFA NI LE YI
NEVER ALLOW THE EVIL ONES SEND EVIL VIBRATION TO THIS LAND
EMO IYAN NI O JE KI A TA SENU
(UNSMOOTH) POUNDED YAM WILL NO GO TO THE MOUTH
AGBALAGBA ORISA NILE EKEETA
A GREAT SAGE AND DIVINITY IN THE THIRD HOUSE
NIGBA TI O SOLESAYE TAN
AFTER HE HAD DESCENDED IN THE PHYSICAL STATE OF EXISTENCE
AYEWA DI GBARUGBADA
THE WORLD BECOME SETTLED AND PEACEFUL
MAJE KI A TA OFA NI LEYI
NEVER ALLOW THE EVIL ONES SEND EVIL VIBRATION TO THIS LAND
EMO IYAN NI KI O JE KI A TA SENU
A BAD POUNDED YAM WILL NOT BE TAKEN TO THE MOUTH
OLE ONISO ESE WO DO MOJA APA
HE PURSUED THE EVIL ONE TO THE RIVER WITH HIS FIST
AGBALAGBA ORISA OOO
THE GREAT DIVINITY OOO
OUN LO LAYE OOO
YOU ARE THE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE
IDA ILE OGUN BI ORI BA A NI
THE MARCHET OF THE HOUSE OF OGUN LOOK LIKE THE STRUCTURE OF THE HEAD
Ifa says that the first devotee of Obatala was ONIYAGBE who lived in a town called DOROMI - AWISE and was married to a woman named OMOJINKUN. Tradition impart to us that this couple farmed and planted corn in proportion to the land given to them by their ancestors. Omojinkun, the wife of ONIYAGBE was barren and they tried all possible means to have a child but to no avail. One day ONIYAGBE took his wife to consult IFA with a reputable IFA priest in the land. It was there ODU IRETE AAYA or IRETE MEJI appeared and in this odu we read the following:
Ogbori ngbiri, a tehin dopo
Ona taa ba to ri
Nii se ni siba sibo
Ohun rere ni yowo obi ninu aso
Ohun buburu ni yowo ofa ninu apo
Lodifa fun ako aaya
Lodifa fun abo aaya
Lojo, ti won lo oko iwaje
Ako aaya ni
Koloko o ma kuu
Ki igi ogunbere ma faya
Ti o ba di iwoyi amodun
Ki a ribi jo
Abo aaya ni boloko le ku ko ku
Bi igi ogunbere le yak o ya
Bi o ba di iwoyi amodun
A o ri ibomiran jo
The heavenly destiny could bring surplus and prosperity
Unknown path never walked before
Could bring confusion
Mentally, physically and spiritually
Good words bring good things from the pocket, that is good word bring harmony, luck
Peace and serenity
Evil utterance attract evil manifestation
This divine IFA –oracle for the male ape
This divine IFA –oracle for the female ape
When they were going to the forest of plantation and harvest
The male monkey says
‘’the owner of the farm should not die
And the tree of ogunbere should not fall
So that by this time of next year
I shall be able to dance
While the female monkey offered contrary opinion
‘’ If the owner of the farm could die
Let him die
And the tree of ogunbere (leucaena leucocephala) should fall
Let it fall
So that by this time of next year
We shall look for another farm to eat and harvest
We shall also seek another tree to pluck its fruit”
After the IFA priest had chanted the IFA verse he instructed ONIYAGBE that on getting to his farm the day after he should hide himself to witness a strange phenomenon at his farm. Whatever happened he was told to inform the Ifa priest of so he could be able to prescribe the necessary sacrifice to overcome the evil establishment.
What he saw that night was two apes who liked to eat the corn in ONIYAGBE’s farm. Very early in the morning ONIYAGBE went to his farm and he saw the two apes, a male and a female. Upon seeing them he hid to witness the mystical phenomenon. The male ape started first to pluck the corn, using both hands to pluck, like he used to do in past while he jumped from tree to tree saying
KI OLOKO MA KUU OOO
KI IGI OGUNBERE MA FAYA
BI O BA DI IWOYI AMODUN
KI A RI IBI JO GBANTETE – GBANTETE
The owner of the farm should not die
And the tree of OGUNBERE should not fall
By this time of next year
I shall be able to dance
Gbantete gbantete (the rhythmic sound of the drum)
The owner of the farm, ONIYAGBE, was overwhelmed with happiness on hearing the strong words of the male monkey. After this the female monkey followed suit, plucked the corn with the left and right hand and ate all what she needed and jumped from tree to tree saying
BI OLOKO LE KU KO KU
BI IGI OGUNBERE LE YA KO YA
BI O BA DI IWOYI AMODUN
A O RI IBOMIRAN JO
GBANTETE – GBANTETE
If the owner of the farm could die
Let him die
If the tree of OGUNBERE (leucaena leu cocephala) could fall
Let it be
By this time of next year
We shall look for another farm to eat and harvest
We shall also seek another tree to stand on
When the owner of the farm heard this he got furious. He pulled out his gun and shot the female ape and killed her. ONIYAGBE later opened the bowel of the female monkey and removed the placenta in her womb. He encountered another phenomenon in her womb called SESEFUN. He took the SESEFUN to the IFA priest. On getting to the house of the priest, there was another round of divination in which he was told that his prayer had been answered and his wife would conceive and he would need to do another set of sacrifices. ONIYAGBE was asked to bring a plain white cloth to be tied to PEREGUN TREE (DRACAENA FRANGRANS OR DRACAENA ARBOREA). He should place a pot under this tree and always pour water on the tree and the water would be dropped into the pot.
The chief priest told the wife that the water in the pot should be the water to be taken every morning (both for drinking and for bathing) and the SESEFUN the husband found in the womb of the female ape must be kept inside the pot with the water. The wife of Oniyagbe did all the rituals according to the instruction of the Babalawo and in a short time she conceived and gave birth to a beautiful child. She bathed the baby with the spiritual water in the pot as instructed by the IFA priest while the cloth wrapped on the PEREGUN tree was the only clothing used by the baby. In reality, when a child use such spiritual water and divine cloth, the child will be called the child of OBATALA because the materials are the emblem of ORISAALA ALASO FUNFUN - white cloth, SESEFUN - these children are given names like ABIAPE, that is , they have come with divine names which is derived from divinity and thus informs their destiny.
The above IFA myth teaches us two important things. The first important thing is the importance of learning to speak good about one self and also about others. One should avoid speaking evil, no matter how grave our challenges or evil circumstances might be so that we will not be attracted to greater evils and thus bring into motion greater calamities from our utterances and from our mind. IFA says that good words and good minds draw spiritual and physical sympathy and love while a strong word or evil utterance are like weapons. Good and kind words according to IFA can serve as a mechanism for progress, long life, and happiness, whereas, a mean word or evil utterance can attract strong negative consequences. The second important lesson is the act of conforming to spiritual guidance, to be able to achieve certain physical, mental and spiritual objectives, that is, one should adhere to spiritual instructions to fulfill one`s destiny .
Irete meji speaks of ILE (the mother earth) as the element of worship in the cult of OGBONI and ILE is seen as the most important and dominant force in creation. She secures all the living and the non living creatures of the OMNIPOTENT GOD – OLODUMARE.
ILE according to IRETE MEJI encompasses rivers, lakes, seas, hills and mountains - which are the spiritual personification of the mother – goddess of fertility to whom regular worship was made and unto whose bowel man finally returns at the end of his life
The below IFA verse from IRETE MEJI summarizes the importance of ILE (IRETE MEJI VII- ESE IFA KEJO)
Iyan bemu – bemu nii kun inu igba
Oro bemu- bemu ko kun ikun agbalagba
A difa fun ILE
To ni oun loun o kere gbogbo aye je
Ko I pe
Ko I jina
Ki ire gbogbo
Ka I ba wa ni jebute ire
Food (pounded yam) may fill a dish until it can take no more words
No matter how secret, the secret will ever remain safe
In the repository of an elderly people
Declared the oracle of IFA to earth
Who craved universal worship
Let all prosperity meet us at our domain
See how blessing follows sacrifice
IFA tells us that ILE (earth) consulted the oracle of IFA asking how she would profit from men’s undertakings and blessings in life. IFA instructed ILE to offer a sacrifice of 16 OBI, 16 OROGBO, 16 ATARE, 16 RATS, 16 PIGEONS, and 16 GUINE FOWLS AND 16 BAGS OF COWRIES.
ILE agreed and offered the sacrifice as directed by IFA. Indeed the work and the profit of all living being returned to ILE with profit. We build and all our undertakings and investment, our achievements and children is made possible because of ILE – and to Her we return - to the bosom of earth - after our earthly journey. We grow, we struggle, we become poor or rich on earth and later we are all swallowed up by the same ILE. Men ‘s profit and poverty in life will in death end up in the belly of the earth – AGBALAGBA - another name for OGBONI in the context of earth worship and propitiation
Irete meji says the Ogboni Society was founded to secure the worship of mother – earth. This forms the central part of all the ceremonies of the society. The proper time for propitiating the earth and ensuring its fertility is after all the necessary ceremonies were done and all rituals are carried out.
Another myth tell us that all divinities, including ILE –the mother earth, joined forces to dethrone OBATALA OSEMARAGBO (the ancient of days) and take for them his creative powers. Bitter rivalry emerged amongst the divinities and deities who wanted to share the glory of OBATALA. ORUNMILA was invited to join in the conspiracy but refused. ESU was invited into the evil plot against the ancient of the days OBATALA, but ESU refused. In the end the divinities lost the fight to take the glory of OBATALA. Consequently a universal glory was conceded to him forever according to the IFA stanza below. However, the refusal of ORUNMILA BABA AGBONNIREGUN and ESU LALU OGIRI OKO, to join in the conspiracy against, the illuminated one –OBATALA –was with great benefit and enormous advantages. ORUNMILA and ESU were both promoted to co –exist as equals with OBATALA in the trinity of divinities
Irete Meji says the following:
Orunmila wo suu , o ko won
E e ri i
Awon ojise aye
Awon igangan ife
Awon ni Orunmila maa
Nranse si ELEDUA
Envoy from earth
Town –crier of IFE
Were suddenly seized and slashed by Orunmila
The town crier
Are the emissary
Orunmila always send to GOD the omnipotent
The emissary from the earth and the town crier of IFE were ORUNMILA`S regular messengers to ELEDUMARE, the omnipotent. The message to the omnipotent was: “such being the state of things in IFE today, what sacrifice should I appoint as remedy?”
The reply would come ‘’offer a bush rat’’. Acting on this recommendation ORUNMILA would receive good auspices for the city and all would turn out well, but as time went on things changed. When the Omnipotent indicated the sacrifice of a goat, these messengers reported to ORUNMILA that a Lamb should be offered. The sacrifice would result in failure. What could be responsible for this turn of events wondered Orunmila. Eventually the truth came out but ORUNMILA said nothing, he merely stopped the messengers from bearing further request to the OMNIPOTENT.
One day ORUNMILA seized the messengers and killed them. The people of IFE wondered how ORUNMILA could do such an evil thing, killing his messengers who were always bringing good tidings to the people of IFE. The answer given to them by ORUNMILA was not satisfying, and the people decided to attack ORUNMILA, and without mincing words ORUNMILA hid himself from the anger of the people. They beat one of the disciples of ORUNMILA called IMULEGBE and AKALE – ORUNMILA`s guest was not spared.
ORUNMILA could not hide his emotions and he came out from his hiding and challenged the people. Orunmila left the city in annoyance, IMULEGBE and AKALE went with him. ORUNMILA warned the entire council of IFA priests to stop divining for the people of IFE, so that they may know the implication of their habit and actions
Orunmila later travelled to the forest with his friends until they got to a place called ‘’THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE’’ and here they built three hut’s, one for AKALE – ESU, one for IMULEGBE – OBATALA, and one for ORUNMILA. Soon, there was a report from IFE that the city was under heavy plague and many problems. Fishes were dying in the river, sickness and illness became the order of the day. The pregnant women would no longer find it easy to have their children, men became infertile and the barren could not conceive. There was total chaos and pandemonium and nobody in the city was able to find a solution to the problem. The chiefs of IFE went out of their domain to seek solution but all to no avail.
One day they met a diviner named CRAB THAT CRAWLS IN HOLES IN THE MARSH AWAY FROM WATER HABITANTS, but he declined to divine for them because of what ORUNMILA the chief diviner had said. He then instructed the people of IFE to look for ORUNMILA so that they might find solutions to their problems. They replied that ORUNMILA could not be found, and he said they should look for an antelope and bring him the animal so that he would help them look for another diviner. They brought the animal and were led to another diviner called GOLDEN –HUED LIKE FRESH PALM OIL who was expected to take them to where ORUNMILA resided.
The diviner then asked the people of IFE to look for an antelope for sacrifice like was given to the first diviner. This request was more laborious than that of the first diviner, but since they did not have alternatives, they prepared to go into the deep bush and look for an antelope. They found an antelope which they pursued up hill and chased the animal into the forest until the people of IFE found themselves in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE. Here, suddenly the antelope disappeared and they continued searching for the disappeared antelope until they found the three huts built for ORUNMILA, AKALE and IMULEGBE (ORUNMILA, ESU AND OBATALA).
The people of IFE could not believe that a sane man could live in this remote area, but to confirm their doubt and curiosity, they threw a stone at one of the huts and immediately ESU – AKALE, came out in annoyance asking them who threw the stone. They actually saw that it was ESU, and ESU asked them what was the problem with them and why they needed to find them here in the deep forest. They pleaded with ESU and told him the predicaments that were currently haunting them at IFE. ESU listened to them and asked them to go and look for some sacrificial materials if they wanted any solution to their problems. The materials they needed to get was 2 BUSH –RATS, 2 DRIED FISH, 2 OBI, 2 OROGBO, 2 ATARE and several other things in pairs.
They returned to IFE in order to secure the materials. They told about their experiences to the king and the king advised them to take all the materials and that they should try to find ORUNMILA himself. Immediately after they left ESU reported how the citizen of IFE came and stoned his hut to ORUNMILA and how he came out to question them and how he instructed them to look for some sacrificial materials so that their predicaments could be solved. Then ESU asked ORUNMILA how he could help them if they returned. ORUNMILA told ESU to go to the hut of OBATALA to report the case to him exactly as he had told to ORUNMILA.
ORUNMILA pleaded to OBATALA – IMULEGBE that OBAORISA would listen to ESU – AKALE and the story of the disasters in IFE. If nothing was done there could be even more severe situations unfolding.
OBATALA, in the first instance did not comply with ORUNMILA`s plea and despite numerous attempts, OBATALA did not give in to their plea. Then ORUNMILA chose and used stronger, wise and mystic language before ORISAALA heeded to the plea, and what was this language?
Obatala, you must return to your work
The blacksmith moulds iron over and over again
Until, it is straight and perfect
The barber has not finished his work
Until backs and sides are well trimmed
You must return to your unfinished work
Generations of kings have reigned on earth
Yet have I not seen one to rival this one
To rival Obatala, king of all divinities
Royal artificer of perfection
Who came from above but place
His earthly home in the city of IRANJE
He alone has power to lock the rain –gates
He alone created the white dome of the sky
He created the species of RAT to last for ever
He created the species of the FISH to last for ever
He created the species of the bird to last for ever
He created the species of the beast to last forever
And ordained that the species of man be never destroyed
With these mystical words, OBATALA replied “you are blessed, you ORUNMILA have the unique wisdom to recollect all these mysteries, I will heed to your plea.”
When the people of IFE returned with the sacrificial materials, ORUNMILA forgave them, ORISAALA forgave them and ESU also forgave them. With the materials a sacrifice of atonement was performed and the three divinities and the people of IFE returned to the city of IFE with dance and song, rejoicing that their city and the people had been saved from calamity. From that time on the city of IFE spread in all directions until it touched every corner of the world.
The story shows this trinity in the primordial order. ESU represents the junior divinity in this hierarchy and his role is to receive and forward sacrificial offerings, he is morally neutral, he represents chance, the unpredictable component of life,
The rating between ORUNMILA and OBATALA is extremely difficult to analyze, but since the junior should first seek the favor of the senior and in the beginning of the myth we see that OBATALA was the senior, being sought after by ORUNMILA.
But if we go by the power of words, and the significance of what words and its beauty could do, one would wonder that a good word could give us a leadership role. The power of forgiveness too should not be seen as an ordinary power - it is one of the strongest vibratory power in the universe and if we go by the last phrase of the concluding part of ORUNMILA`S pleading statement, it shows that ORUNMILA forgave them, OBATALA forgave them and ESU forgave them.
The above story shows the position of Obatala as a leading figure in the primordial order, and those searching for blessings in any form must not hesitate to pray to OBATALA
Obatala is next to GOD in order of importance. He takes precedence over all divinities. GOD endowed Obatala with the responsibilities of creating all creatures. He made the head, nose, eyes, mouth, skull, while OLODUMARE placed within man the breath of life which is the spirit and the soul that make man a living being. He is the maker of the image of man from clay and place man in the uterus of a woman.
Woman seeking the blessing of children must constantly give obeisance to OBATALA for a sound, perfect and whole child free of deformities and any blemish whatsoever. Deformed and blemished children like albinos are dedicated to him and takes a special prominence in relation to Obatala.
Obatala is also regarded as the sole protector of the town or city gates. He enjoys the uniformity of color among his devotees. His preferable color is white, that is, he enjoys using white in all his activities. White clothes, white food, abstaining from red meat, using white kola nuts and bitter kola instead of normal red kola nuts are some of his sacrificial material. The worshippers tend to use snail instead of animals when performing rituals to his honour. They go without food for a day or two while they pray and sing of praises to him. They abstain from sex and food during rituals to Obatala
Prayers for the gift of womb (child bearing) are offered to him by women finding conception difficult. He serves as arbiter of disputes among initiates all over the world. OBATALA is a divinity of purity. He represents highest moral and physical discipline among his devotees. The initiates are to ensure humility, purity, peace, calmness and patience in dealing in any matter concerning spiritual steps, mental activities and physical interaction with others. Obatala is known as the lord of vision and the lord of whiteness. Some of his names are
1) Orisa elemi: divinity that brought all being into existence
2) Alaba lase: proposer and disposer of great authority
3) Baba – baba , iya- iya: is the father before fathers, and mother before mothers. Both feminine and masculine attributes are exhibited in the traditional ad historical attributes of OBATALA
Tradition makes it clear that OBATALA was the chief male divinity in creation just like ODUDUWA was once the greatest female divinity in the world. The union between the two (OBATALA and ODUDUWA) resulted into the spread of humanity on the surface of the universe
Tradition also reveals for us that ODUDUWA was the first wife of OBATALA and their union being symbolized by the union between earth and the sky, which makes part of the mysteries of the Cult of OGBONI. The union is made manifest by the two parts of a white calabash joined together meaning what GOD has join, let no one tear asunder. This is also replicated in the traditional position of husband and wife when they take hold of the palace of love-making when they generate life in accordance with Idi Meji:
Ojo nla ta di sasa
A difa fun won ni di okunrin
A bu fun won ni di obirin
Nijo ti won nmekun oju se rahun omo laye
Idi ni a apa asa
Igba ti idi ba di meji
Ngba ye la dolomo
Obatala , oseremagbo
Majeki gbogbo olusin re yagan
Success depends on perseverance; see how rain drops in time wear out granite
Thus declare the oracle of IFA to the husband
The same was declare to the wife when they sorrowed daily
For lack of children
Commence your effort
From bottom upwards
For when two ends meet
A child is born
Never allow all your devotes witness barrenness in the world and the world to come
ODUDUWA is known as IYA AGBE, ‘the mother of the gourd’ or ‘mother of calabash’. She is represented by a woman nursing a child in a sitting position. Going by name ODUDU WA that is ODU TO DA IWA, which means the vibration that creates IWA. IWA according to Yoruba is ‘character’, ‘being’, ‘life’, ‘destiny’, and ‘heaven’ (like in the phrase ‘o losi iwa ORISA’ meaning; he has departed to the land of ancestors or divinities). Iwa here becomes a word on which the word ODUDUWA is patterned upon. Consequently He or She may be the father or the mother of all beings, but those who see ODUDUWA as the wife of Obatala did not miss the way – actually they reinforced the position of ODUDUWA as a divinity or deity of immense importance in creation.
Hence Obatala, the divinity of union, whiteness and purity join with ODUDUWA, the divinity of conception and from this comes all living beings. The union between the two gave birth to Aginju, Okanbi and many other illustrious children, deities and kings
We should not forget that the original IGBA IWA, The Calabash of Character, was given to OBATALA. Orunmila helped him to carry IGBA IWA from IWARUN to the ISALU AYE where the IGBA IWA was snatched from him by ORO and retrieved by ESU and returned to Obatala through patience and extreme spiritual wisdom. This was all OBATALA needed to endure and pass through challenges that transformed him into the greatest divinity of all.
GOD gave to OBATALA the secret to attract the blessing of wealth, prosperity, long life, happiness and strength – which he gave to his followers and other faithful followers of OLODUMARE.