Prayer is an often forgotten ally in our modern world, even for traditionalists who call themselves orisa worshipers or followers. Certainly we all pray when ebo is being made, when we are bowed standing or on our knees in a shrine, but what about when we first wake in the morning? How many people can honestly say they pray, or even know how to pray? While this is easy for those who are initiated into Ifa, if one is not initiated into Ifa with a hand of ikin (the sacred palm nuts of divination which represent Orunmila), then what exactly is one supposed to pray to?
I was brought up in the “Xango” tradition in NE Brazil, and while we had orisa and our own personal spiritual guides we worked with and prayed to, we were never taught certain things that were lost over the centuries of slave trade from West Africa. Though my Mae de Santo’s Ile-Ifa had a Yoruba title and orisa, we were missing many basic Yoruba practices which bring about a healthy psychology and life.
In brasil we were taught to bow at the doorway of the shrine in greeting and recite the xire of the orisa while pressing our palms of each hand firmly on the front, back and sides of the head, to gather the energy up with our hands and press it to our head but there was never any talk of how to care for our ori (our divine spiritual self/destiny/life path), though we used the term “ibori” when speaking of feeding the head of an initiate when entering the realm of orisa through initiation and blood offerings.
The laws of attraction are that what you put your thoughts, your mind to, and what you speak, becomes who and what you are and live. Ofo is the power of spoken command, backed by Ase or spiritual force, spiritual energy, but how does one achieve that type of ofo, that power, to transform their own life? How does one turn around a life that seems without hope or direction? I believe WE are responsible for what comes out of us, more so than any prayer to orisa to come enter our life and “save” us.
Firstly, we hold within us, all of us, our divine inner self, our spiritual double which knows exactly what is best for us, and that divine self is called ori and is situated in our head, is our spiritual head. The Yoruba believe also that the big toe is a type of head of the body, and for this reason it is anointed with offerings when we make any ebo, especially an offering to our ori: an ibori.
So, interestingly enough, getting cut off from one’s ori can also mean that one is lost in life, not sure of their direction, like having a wonderful sailing ship full of food and water, riches, but not having the sail raised nor the understanding of how to raise that sail in order to maneuver the ship. Do you know the expression “he/she can’t see beyond their own nose” ? That is similar to a person who is lost, is seemingly “living” in their head and not seeing the bigger picture, stuck in their head where so-called thinking goes on, but at the same time they are completely lost, not knowing that their divine head has been there all along, but has just not been awakened, not recognized, not called into power and use! But while life would seem a bed of roses if we all chose “good heads”, some of us are born with some inner flaws, perhaps a hot temper, perhaps a tendency to be negative, perhaps with a desire to just “do bad” or going through tough times and not able to stop the loop of negative and self fulfilling thoughts. These are problems and issues that Ifa can address, that worshiping our ori can aide, but for some people, going against the negative they were born with can be a tough march through thick grass. We must gather everything within our power to awaken and reinforce the positive.
The Ifa divination oral corpus makes no mistake about it; our ori IS the most important orisa amongst all the orisa who can help us!
“kosi orisa ti danigbe lehin ori eni, ori pela atetegbenikosa”
“there is no orisa that guides one without his/her ori, it is our ori that leads us to orisa”
The Yoruba believe that the ori is actually a type of orisa, a divinity that is to be respected and paid respects to. In actuality it is our own divinity that is being honored, and having chosen our destiny before birth, the best outcome for us is to align ourselves with the universe in order to fulfill this destiny. When things are not going right in our life we must look at ourselves and see where we perhaps have been maltreating others before we point the finger, and more importantly, where we have perhaps strayed from honoring and acting from our innermost divine ori’s Truth. We only hurt our Self when we do not love, nurture and support our inner and outer Divine Self, our ORI. Offerings to the ori (ibori), are done to bring about peace and equilibrium in your spiritual world; harmony between the inner and outer cosmos.
If I have money
it is my Ori I will praise
My Ori, it is you
If I have children on earth
it is my Ori to whom I will give praise
My Ori, it is you
All the Good things that I have on earth
It is Ori I will praise
My Ori, it is you
The head, or ori, to the Yoruba is believed to hold the seat of ASE, divine power or universal intelligence. Ase is the emanating power that determines our identity and existence, influencing our behavior and personal destiny. The head is seen as the Lord of the body and therefore must be acknowledged and propitiated with offerings to ensure a smooth life. Many personal shrines in Yorubaland in Nigeria contain a relic to the owner’s ori that is worshiped and fed. The physical head is viewed as nothing more than an enclosure for the inner spiritual head called ori inu, which localizes the Ase that empowers the physical self. Although Ase emanates from the Supreme Force or being of Olodumare, this Ase is mediated by Esu, the Divine Messenger.
Reasons to make offerings to our own ori can vary from small offerings to our own ori to bigger ebos dictated by another orisa through divination by a priest or priestess; offerings are useful during periods of spiritual stress, mental stress coming from problems in the personal life; a need to make an offering to our spiritual ori in the realm of heaven (this spiritual ori is our mirror self which knows the destiny we have chosen before birth). The Ifa priest or priestess can use the cowrie shells, opele or cast Ifa using the divine palm nuts to discover which orisa is calling for the need to bring harmony between the inner and outer ori.
First thing in the morning it is good to give thanks for everything positive you are receiving that day upon awakening. I like to pray first to God/Olodumare and give thanks for everything I have, for all. If you are more comfortable using another word for the heavenly creator, that is great, as long as we pray, we are opening ourselves to the divine and for divine alignment and harmony.
Yoruba tradition holds that we should rinse our mouths out, and also the arms and legs as a minimum before praying to God. I understand the desire to cleanse ourselves before the most Holy of Creators, but I also can’t help but think that some of this was adapted from Muslim ideology. Regardless, and this is my opinion and mine only, if you are in a state of mind of discomfort/depression, if your living situation does not easily allow for rising and taking a shower first thing, if you are simply not motivated to do so, then don’t. It is better to simply lay in bed first thing upon awakening and pray, than to start heaping more self hatred upon yourself for not being able or wanting to follow another “spiritual rule”. There are people who are severely depressed in the world, looking for help and answers, and if you are one them, please, open your eyes from sleep and I want you to bring your thoughts first thing to ALL OF THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF YOUR LIFE, whether you believe you are in permanent misery or not, I want you to try this for a week and you will find that hope is alive, there is a way out, let your ori lead you! If you slept well, give thanks for that. If you have the use of your arms, limbs, legs, hands, eyes, ears, give thanks for that. If you are one of the lucky ones with food for breakfast, give thanks for that. Start with what you have and praise God for that blessing. Say:
It is I,__________(state your name)
the daughter/son of,_____(state your mother’s name).
As I take my place in your world today,
I ask that I be given the opportunity to send and to receive divine Ase (power backed by Divine wisdom).
I ask that I be worthy of doing your work,
protect me and my loved ones as we live our day today,
…etc….make your prayers for your life and your family etc, for particular petitions… and close with
Next put your hands on your head, palm on forehead and other palm securing the back of your head and call out:
“Ori! Ori! Ori!
You are the first and the foremost!
You are the King and the head!
There is no orisa more powerful than you, my Ori,
Without ones’ ori, no one can go anywhere,
The fish in the stream use their head to find their way,
The animals in the bush use their head to find their path,
My Ori, it is I ,_________(state your name)
the daughter/son of , _____________(state your mother’s name),
who received the odu of,_______(state your birth odu if you know it),
who is calling on you now,
Please come and hear my pleas,
Guide me to the people, places and things that will help me and further my life, (here you can ask for everything you need, explain that you desire to be open),
Help me my ori, guide me well this day,
Ase Ase Ase O/Amen Amen Amen!”
Make your prayers for the day and tell your ori what it is that you need and desire for immediate help, what has happened to you in your life. When times are tough we sometimes cannot count on others, but we can most certainly count on our own ORI, our divine inner self that God gave us to lead us to the good things we need in life to be happy. I always say, “If we are not for ourselves, than who will be? If we do not love ourselves, than who will love us? A house divided cannot stand.” So be good to your SELF, LOVE your SELF, take CARE of your SELF and start on the path to happiness.
Life success is not measured by having everything work out perfectly. That is impossible. There will always be positive and negative things that happen to us, but we can minimize or avoid completely many of the negative by using our ORI to lead us in the right direction and choices, by forming our character, our positive actions/reactions, by counting to 10 before speaking/acting in haste,and by using our POSITIVE ATTITUDE to minimize the harm any negative circumstance might do to us.
We guide our ori as much as it guides us. We don’t want the negative parts of our “destiny” we were born with to override our inner head which knows what is best for us, and we don’t want a hot head to ruin our destiny which might be very good, by making bad choices, speaking things which create conflict or close doors for us. Having a healthy ori, a good head, is very important, and most people who suffer, suffer because their ori is out of alignment. They are not behaving in a way which harmonizes the outer and inner destiny. A lot of people lack self control, and it can be hard to change ingrained patterns and habits. It takes prayer and will power to overcome a “bad ori”, but it can be done. Even with mental illness, there are ways to apply ewe oogun /Ifa medicine, and prayer, to bring about change, but the person must also participate and work consciously on themselves, make an effort.
In the odu of Ofun Otua, there is a verse which relates the story of a simple man who was so poor that he had only one sheep. And each day he would walk with this sheep to his farm and tether the sheep to graze while he weeded his crops. The odu begins by speaking in the parable:
“If the eye did not see difficulties like one being bound by tight ropes;
It may not see things as shining as brass”
The parable continues that one day the sheep spoke up wearily that even she could no longer tolerate such wretched poverty. To make a long story short, the amazed farmer immediately went to the King to announce that his sheep had spoken. Of course the King did not believe this and said if he were to hear the sheep speak he would give the farmer half of his kingdom. Naturally the sheep did not speak upon command, even with the pleas of her simple owner, but just stared back at him stupidly. Several days went by like this til the King ordered the death of the farmer for making such a ruse and causing commotion. The henchmen began to torture the farmer and he pleaded for his life. At the last second the sheep spoke saying “Do not kill him!”. The farmer’s life was spared and the King was aghast that he had almost taken an innocent man’s life. The farmer asked the sheep why she had taken so long to speak, imperiling his life and she explained that the King would not have kept his promise and be moved to give half of his riches had she spoken immediately the first day. She had thus secured the King’s promise to share half his wealth with the poverty stricken farmer.
So we learn from Ofun Otua that even poverty has its lessons, that there are times in life when we can feel we are bound and tied, in absolute poverty and misery, but that our riches are coming and we must pass through these times with the faith that our good things are coming. Ifa speaks in parables, and Ifa speaks the truth, our good things are coming. We must keep our heads up, our mouths speaking truth, we must follow our good sense and ori to bring about our positive victory in life!
One of the hardest times in my life was when I was suffering after a terrible car accident. It had not been my fault. A man who was emotionally distraught and going through a divorce had tried to commit suicide (I believe) by running a red light while speeding through an intersection long after the light had already turned green to proceed. My car was T-boned and spun in a complete circle. I blacked out hitting my head on the window. My life changed for the worse for at least 4 years after that. Everything was difficult. I walked with a limp, I had no use in my left arm, I could not do even the simplest of things such as brush my hair or take care of the house, I could barely walk or carry a simple bag of groceries, and worse, my pelvis had been damaged inside so that I could not share in a normal happy marriage between husband and wife. But the worst was that I was being drug over the coals by the insurance company of the man who had hit me and who was at fault. I hired a lawyer to try to secure a settlement to pay for the mounting piles of bills not covered by my own insurance. We tried out of court settlements; I had audiences with judges, lawyers, it was terrible. Doctors failed me, judges failed me, the insurance companies failed me. I leaned upon my rock, Esu, and one day while manifested in me he passed a message which I clung to until I had my day in court and a unanimous 12 person jury victory in my favor. Esu said:
“When you allow man’s decisions to touch you, you have given away your God-given power, You have to say: “I don’t recognize man as my maker or my keeper, therefore, I do not respond to him.” Have faith in God and you will be rewarded.”
ASE ASE ASE O ESU! It took me many more years to recover but with the help of capable hands of specialists in brasil and much effort on my part, today I do not walk with a limp and have recovered with very little pain and trouble. So please, take heart, and remember we all have our battles and struggles, but help is here for us if we open up and reach out in faith and prayer. With Ifa all things are possible, Ase o!
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