Let’s say you’ve got a problem. You might talk to your shrink, your mom, your rabbi. Or, you might go to an Ifa priest or priestess, like Dr. Kola Abimbola, to perform a divination. That’s the way to communicate with the gods in the Yoruba religions of Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean.
The priest or priestess would base their advice on one of about 204,800 poems from the sacred scriptures, known as Odu Ifa.
|This is a story he might tell:
Here’s some more background: To choose which story to tell, a priest or priestess like Dr. Abimbola would cast the sacred palm nuts (called Ikin) and the divination chain (called Opele), which land in one of the 256 patterns that make the collection of Holy Scriptures called Odu Ifa (kind of like Chinese I Ching). Each of the 256 Odu has about 800 poems. The shortest poem is four lines, and the longer ones are up to about 30 pages. The Ifa priestess or priest would chant poems from the Odu that corresponds to the particular pattern (from memory), and then interpret and use the poems as the basis of their advice to you. Odu Ifa is the sacred scriptures of African-derived religions such as Orisa Religion in Nigeria and the United States, and Santeria and Candomble across the Americas.
Watch a video of Ifa divination, which was deemed “Intangible Cultural Heritage” by UNESCO:
Music used in this piece: “Leroy” by Tweak and Tony Allen, “Bembe” by Bill Matthews.
More stories in the Why Music Matters story series.
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