You might be wondering how on earth the famous Vulcan, Spock, has landed leading off a blog post on Ifa, but there is something very logical and appropriate in bringing his memory and spirit to life (May Leonard Nimoy Rest in Peace). Spock was known for having an open mind, willing to approach life with inquisitiveness while tempering it with analysis (and self-analysis), something very important to those on the path of Ifa.
Among the Yoruba there is a saying of great importance to Ifa practitioners : ENU NI ÌFÀÁ WÀ, which roughly translates to ‘mouth brings favor’, or, ‘mouth brings blessings/fortune’. While this is not used exclusively within the context of Ifa and is a common expression, it bears taking a closer look as to the importance of ‘mouth’ in our daily lives – whether on the path of Ifa or not.
Words – no matter how big or small – hold power, as well as the emotions and feelings behind those words. When we are appeasing a deity we use not only the food offerings, but we also use our tongues and mouths in unison with our prayers to bring about the desired change in our lives (and/or others), through ritual. This is Ifa in action, the ase of our tongue in active prayer, everything turned towards the desired goal and outcome. We can also chew pepper to bring more ‘power’ to our words/requests, or even put a type of powdered ewe oogun on the tongue to bring about ‘command’ – but what of our words/thoughts spoken in daily life when we are not inside the shrine?
Esu, being the most ‘gluttonous’ of the irunmole, is always given his share first of all offerings made to other deities and is sometimes depicted as having a large mouth. Because of his special role in giving vision of the past, present and future to the mouthpiece of Orunmila in the Ifa divination system (again, that word ‘mouth’), and of also ferrying the requests and appeasements from earth to heaven and vice versa, Esu is portrayed as always eager to receive his share – whether a capful of palm oil, a whole jug, or a whole ocean of it. And we must carefully watch our words AND our thoughts while taking care of Esu Lalu Ogiri Oko! Without proper mind control, a Babalawo or Iyanifa is courting lackluster results – or worse – a possible thumping on the head. And in making offering to one’s ori we can find a similar focus on the mouth – but linked this time directly to our ori/best destiny. We take a sip, a bite of everything offered, and afterwards we may be instructed to also have those around us share in the offerings. Mouth as ritual – ritual as mouth. When we go for Ifa divination, we whisper our queries and desires before putting our symbolic money down (‘put your money where your mouth is’). Mouth is central to worship and to life. It is how we suckle as babies, how we nourish ourselves to stay alive, how we formulate the words and prayers that bring our victory. The one hiccup in all of this is in how we control ourselves in terms of our thoughts and our own spoken words – towards ourselves and towards others.
I have talked before about the importance of heartfelt prayers of thanks to God/Olodumare and to our ori, but it is also just as important for us to police our everyday thoughts and spoken words. While it may sound like some kind of New Age jargon, controlling not only our actions (positive/negative), but our own statements – whether voiced or just thought – is very important to our well being and progress. And this also dovetails into my other frequently expressed belief that we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to sabotaging our own lives.
When facing a difficult task/problem, when facing life and its many challenges, do we give in with our mouths – or do we rise to the task and take command of the situation?
Life already throws at us the most myriad of challenges – why make it worse by allowing our own thoughts and words to reinforce what we do not truly want for ourselves?
I have heard many times (myself included in some of these!), “I cannot possibly learn this”, “I am not moving forward”, “I don’t have the means/money”, and on a more destructive level, “I am too old”, “I am not smart enough”, “I’m finished”, “it is impossible”, “I am ugly”, “no one will ever love me”, “I’m headed nowhere good”, “I might as well be dead”, “I can’t find a job”, etc., etc., etc.
To misuse the mouth against another is a type of negative ‘killing’ – to misuse the mouth against ourselves is suicide.
The first thing I do when faced with negative circumstances (after having already sussed out everything I can do within the power of Ifa), is to immediately counter any negative thoughts or speech I might be using towards the situation with the exact opposite thoughts/speech in the positive. There is nothing more sad than someone who has gotten stuck in a broken loop repeating the same negative litany of curses towards their own life. A person MUST APPLY THEIR ORI/HEAD/MOUTH/THOUGHTS to their situation and all will-power available to counter the negativity.
Instead of waking up and looking in the mirror thinking “ugh, my ugly bald head/I hate how I look”, reinforce how your good character shines through your face and eyes, that you are beautiful with or without hair, that the people who are attracted to you will be kind and favour you and love and accept you just as you are (just as you would love and accept them). I know some people who actually talk so badly about their looks it makes me cringe inside! They pick on their teeth, their skin, their eyes, their hair, their hips, their legs, in fact it seems as if none of their body escapes their withering criticism! How can we expect to thrive and bloom when we are heaping the dark, negative coals of derision upon our own heads and bodies? Discounting our own intelligence? Our own beauty? Our ability to overcome adversity? We MUST prevail and be our own champion!
The instant you think or utter something negative about your self or your life – STOP that thought/spoken word – and counter it. If you cannot verbalize it publicly right then, then think it and make it the opposite. Words have POWER, and what you generate today can come back to bite you! The energy you put into those words backed by your emotions and ‘feelings’ can devil your heels. I cannot emphasize enough how many people get stuck in negative loops that they cultivate for years, decades, and on into their graves. Don’t be one of those people. Use your mind. Use your intelligence. Use your will-power. Use your ori. Be your own friend. Proclaim your victory. In spite of the worst odds, the worst conditions around you in real-time evidence, do not give in to the appearance of hopelessness and desolation, to the feeling of hopelessness and desolation, because you have the power to transform it and fashion it closer to your liking.
It takes practice, yes. It takes will-power, yes, but once you get in the habit you will find yourself with new energy and vitality towards solving/moving towards solutions, besides the fact that your life becomes much more pleasant, and you are someone that others find pleasant to be around! And you will find that yes, life never stays the same, that we DO find solutions and positive outcomes, but it requires us to keep all things in balance, apply slow and steady effort, watch our words, thoughts, our emotions/feelings and never let them run away with/spoil our good ori/head/destiny.
I frequently put ‘Western Mind’ in the cross-hairs when talking about Ifa but there is some truth for that. You will be hard-pressed to find any Yoruba man, woman or child who indulges themselves to the point of speaking ill of their own life or allowing themselves to reach the emotional pits that many Westerners seem to frequent like some kind of perverse watering holes of Hell. I once was talking to a friend of mine in Nigeria, a very beautiful and kind woman, a hard worker, who had been badly wronged in a serious love issue. I wasn’t so much ‘advising’ as trying to comfort her. Knowing the particulars, I proffered the usual palliatives one gives in these female to female teary confessions, but then after maybe 15 minutes of tears I witnessed her perform on herself what I half-jokingly call the ‘Yoruba Mind Meld’. Instead of giving in weak-kneed and weak-minded, she visibly gathered/called her ‘good’/highest ori/destiny to the forefront by focusing her will-power and resolve, grabbed hold of her emotions, stopped her tears and proclaimed that this situation would not get the best of her, that she would not let her heart destroy her life and that she would carry on happily until finding another man who valued and cherished her. Yes, indeed, and though this had been a many year’s long relationship, the betrayal did not take her down into a many year’s long recovery. Though clearly not the text-book description of a true Vulcan ‘mind meld’ (don’t want to offend the hardcore Trekkies here), it does incorporate the idea that our best/highest/’good’ ori is always at the ready to lead us, guide us, teach us and impart all of its wisdom and benefit to our lives. Think of it as a transference of the Divine as we become accustomed to digging deep to bolster and support our ‘good’ ori/destiny, by reining in the out-of-control ‘bad’ head/ori. The value the Yoruba put on the proficiency to control words, thoughts, emotions and feelings is also summed up nicely by Spock’s father Sarek:
“Emotions run deep within our race. In many ways more deeply than in humans. Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience. The control of feelings so that they do not control you.”
Wise words indeed.
I’ve witnessed the ‘Yoruba Mind Meld’ in other situations with Babalawos who have run aground here and there for various reasons. The face visibly changes in intention as they take charge and take control of their ori/their thoughts/their ase and command and nip situations in the bud before they take root. IT IS A CHOICE – BUT NOT AN OPTION WHEN ONE IS ON THE PATH OF IFA, WHEN ONE CLAIMS TO WANT PROGRESS, WHEN ONE CLAIMS TO BE ‘TRYING THEIR BEST’, WHEN ONE IS ACTIVELY PURSUING VICTORY NOT ONLY FOR THEMSELVES, BUT FOR OTHERS.
Our ori is symbolized by/resides within our head, and what do you think is the most powerful of all the features of the head? The eyes? Nose? It is the mouth! The inner and outer ori coming together, working together in alignment, the positive subduing and transforming the negative equals the ‘Yoruba Mind Meld’. We do not allow our ‘bad’ ori/head to spoil our ‘good’ ori/true best destiny! And as Spock would say, we can then “Live long and Prosper”!
Here in the Western world, prescription drug use for ’emotional disorders’, ‘bi-polar’ and every other umbrella diagnosis for the lack of a spiritual path/guidance and spiritual consciousness to support, guide and buffer the hard knocks of life is rampant. Perceived slights and injustices seem to affect many people to where they can’t think straight, talk straight nor conduct themselves civilly and without loose cannon emotions/actions in public, let alone face a job loss, relationship issues, etc.,. Anger and angry displays towards a perceived ‘other’ (who seemingly is the ‘enemy’), have reached levels where many people are seriously losing what little of their minds and possible peace they had left. Do I think this a symptom of Western lifestyle/culture and synonymous to some degree with Western thought/lack of true spirituality/humbleness before God, in the Western world? Yes, I do. Do I think that the spiritual practice and tradition of Ifa can be an example/lend wisdom for some on how to better live our lives here on earth and be happy? Yes, I do. It only takes a level of self-awareness and self-accountability, along with effort. Ifa gives us nothing for free without our own effort and striving, though God has freely given us this precious life.
Life is hard at times, and sometimes there is a long slog to endure before the road levels out, but it is never in good character to harm another or curse another – with words or otherwise. A lack of love towards another is simply a reflection of the lack of love and self awareness/self respect we have of, and towards ourselves. We do not need to agree with everything and everybody in this world. But at a minimum we are expected (at least within Ifa) to be responsible for our own thoughts, our actions, our character, our words, to mean and cast no harm onto ourselves, nor to others. We have one shot at this life. Make it count, make it beautiful, leave a legacy that is one of joy, elegance, peace, understanding, good nature, tolerance and a willingness to LOVE. Take control of your thoughts, spoken words and the emotions behind them so they do not negatively control you and your life. May God bless and keep you, May your Ori guide you perfectly, May you receive all the good blessings of life, Ase O!
“Logic is the beginning of Wisdom – not the end.” ~ Spock
© 2017 by Farin da Silva, All Rights Reserved. Pursuant to the Copyright Act of 1976 and subsequent amendments, codified as 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-810, the works contained within are protected by United States laws and by international treaties. This includes the literary and pictorial works created by Farin da Silva contained herein, as well as any other original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. The unauthorized copying, distributing, displaying, or production of derivative works is strictly prohibited by Farin da Silva. Copyright infringement may subject you to civil liability of a minimum of $750 per infringement for statutory damages, as well as the costs incurred to enforce these rights. 17 U.S.C. § 504. A court may award up to $150,000 per infringement. This copyright holder takes copyright infringement seriously and does enforce their rights.