Why folks receive the hand of Ifa
Ifism Religious Concept
The importance or great significance of receiving your hand of Ifa(sacred palm nuts) , or as more popularly put too receive a hand of Orunmila(divinity progenitor) . Takes us to the basic fundamental or root of why this great religion exists. It is to help, support or enhance an individuals destiny or way of living. Although, we use the names Ifa & Orunmila synonymously. Ifa is the system of communication or word of God. And, Orunmila the facilitator or master & teacher of the system to mankind.
Lets begin with the knowledge that Orunmila(orisha/deity) sits on the high counsel of Olodumare(God) witnessing when souls go before him. They petition the right to come or re-enter the realm of earth, to achieve something new. As in, the realization of a divine purpose. When a petition is met with great reverence and admiration. God concedes the right for that soul to proceed. That purpose is expressed and represented by an Odu(oracle) of Ifa in heaven; and follows the soul to earth. An Orisha guardian is assigned to support the individual soul on its quest. The Eguns(ancestors) or ancestral links or spirit guides; come in as a result of past life experiences, and interaction with former self. Then new ancestral links are acquired when born into a new family.
According to the odu(oracle) of Ogbe Yono(gunda) , the soul must acquire a head. It first receives divination by the holy Babalawos(elders) of heaven. This reading which takes place for the soul in heaven is too determine what they will be up against throughout their new adventure(life) . It also determines which offerings, sacrifices, or support, are too be given to the divinity which constructs heads. This divinity is of the order of Obatala(owner of heads) named Ayala. The scripture(patakin) states that there are three kinds of souls. Those that are so anxious to come to earth that they forsake divination and performing sacrifices. Those that do obtain the divination yet don't fulfill all the requirements. And third, those that do what is required completely. As the three souls, arrive at Ayala's home. The first soul which is so anxious to leave looks around. Ayala, seeing that no sacrifices or payment is to be made. Directs this soul to a room of bad heads, those with imperfections and weak. The second soul is directed to the room of heads which are almost perfect, with maybe a screw or two loose. Thirdly, the soul which satisfied Ayala correctly, gets the best heads. Those with better and stronger mental capacities. Hence, there are those which arrive to earth with bad heads on their shoulders, so/so heads, and those with great heads on their shoulders. Which head do you feel you've obtained?
Those with bad heads, are always in trouble. In need of folks bailing them out of situations. They can't keep a job, have trouble learning and achieving things. The So/so heads, acquire blessings yet there is always a struggle. It seems that they have to work twice as hard to achieve, and sometimes left incomplete. Then, there are those that seem to have been born with a silver spoon, or right foot. Persons which resolve relatively easy, clear headed, calm, never stressed. They obtain a good education, create jobs, and happy marriages. Never the less, great achievements always require sacrifices to maintain them or for new ones to be continually made available. Ifa, is here in order too support the needs of all three souls/heads. Ifa has been supporting individuals and their purposes, through divinations and ritual work; past down through generations, for many thousands of years.
Now, that it is on its way. The soul enters the womb and its memory is erased during conception. This is the only way that God would know that the soul will remain true to its purpose. Conceptually, an individual can lie. Yet, the truth always lays stored within the liars heart. If one follows the truth within your heart. You will achieve what you set out to do before God, regardless of obstacles. And, if you were to get into any trouble. The inner truth within your soul, would attempt to lead you towards obtaining help; via divinations or other sources of divine wisdom. Ifa through the divinity of Orunmila responds with what a person needs to do spiritually in order to correct situations in their life.
When an individual seeks out one of Orunmila's followers (a babalawo) , their destiny and guardian Orisha are identified and reaffirmed for them. This is done through the ceremony of receiving the hand of Ifa. The Odu attained during Atefa(manipulation of palm nuts-ikins) , marks the individuals walk or path in life. In other words, their divine purpose, is re-surfaced for them. This odu has all the advices and pre-prescribed necessary sacrifices or spiritual work needed; to overcome adversities, or achieve success in undertakings. As part of receiving the hand of Ifa. An individual also receives the gifts of communication and being able to work with four other divinities. They are Eshu, Ogun, Oshosi, & Osun. These 4 divinities and the roles they play in an individuals life are paramount in achieving ones goals, and overcoming difficulties. Eshu is the divinity of satisfying arbitration or arbitrating forces/energies. Offerings made to Eshu are shared with positive & negative forces. When satisfied these forces are able to allow us to move with greatest of ease. This is what is meant by Eshu being the divinity of opening doors. Ogun is the divinity of strength. Very valuable, for he gives us the strength to overcome battles, obtain work, and in moving forward, he is a freight train. Oshosi as a hunter, supports the causes of obtaining or capturing. He is instrumental in an individual avoiding being sequestered by negative energies, overcoming them with Ogun(in unity there is strength) . He is the Orisha of hitting the target. Supports things going in the right direction, and us not losing our way. Osun is the divinity I call the antenna. He synchronizes your internal intuition(spirituality) with the external connections to all other forces or divinities. In other words he picks up the transmissions. Osun symbolically is represented by the roof wind gage. He sees far into the horizon, and knows from which direction the wind is blowing. He is the watchman for the other three divinities and announces what is to come. These four divinities are commonly termed “The Warriors”(los guerreros) .
All these things can be said of receiving your hand of Ifa with warriors, even without having received Osha. For those that don’t have Osha, it represents the first time they receive “Ashe”, divine grace or gifts, in the religion. They are able to speak and be heard more effectively by an Orisha, toss obi(first divination system, learned) and become effective. They are no longer an Aleyo(stranger) or lay person. They have a position in the religion, even without having been fully initiated as an olorisha priest/est. For those already initiated/crowned under an Orisha guardian. The hand of Ifa, uplifts their Ashe(grace) even more so. The oracle of the diloggun(cowrie shell system) by which each Orisha speaks. Can now be even further expanded upon. By merging and extending the diloggun oracles advices, with the Ifa Odu. An individual will have an even greater perspective on their lives. They will have the ability to tackle situations more effectively and resolve them more speedily through rituals; at the Ifa level.
When the spirituality of Orunmila enters a persons home. It balances all spiritual forces, facilitates communication with all divinities, and energies for the individual. With or without the material presents of other Orishas, Orunmila is one central voice for all the Orisha to speak through i.e. the Ikins, serve this purpose. When one has Ocha related religious attributes or consecrations. The Odus of Ifa combined with the materialized presences of Orisha or Egungun, take the work to even higher levels. The resolve and resolution is quicker, effective, and longer lasting.
By now, you should come to realize that the Odus themselves are divine spiritual beings. The manifestation of the word of Olodumare coming to life or light. The reason for an existence, the cause an effect backed up by a treaty, pact, or law among beings/entities/elements/forces, in order to act, and influence change. All this interaction is realized by the individual that receives their hand of Ifa. The Babalawo through being ordained to serve God by way of Orunmila and the divine Odus, is the conduit for bringing the Odus down from heaven. The Babalawo has the authority to work not only with ancestors, and Orishas, but all divinities or spiritual forces; saints, demons, elements, energies, entities, deities, etc.. By way of rituals and incantations via yoruba religious work are these forces, and entities dealt with. Believe me, spiritual forces acknowledge each others existence, and mutually respect one another. I learned through hands on experience, that they recognize the role a Babalawo plays as intermediator between them and mankind.
I've shared in my belief the significance and importance that I have come to realize after becoming Babalawo. This has been and will always be a religion of indigenous people of great antiquity. That it has survived is a marvel beyond most peoples comprehension. Yet, to me it is a testament of God's knowledge being spread in an other form. Specially, for those not too mainstream which want to connect with him and the forces around us. In a very unique way. Many blessings to all (Ashe-O).
Some reference Odu where my information was derived from:
Oshe Tura : Eshu's role as receiver and distributor of sacrifices
Ogunda Meji : The birth of Ori, and when an orisha is assigned to an Ori
Ogbe Yono : The Ori is to pick a head before coming to Earth
Ogbe Di : Sperm meets egg in the land of blood for the creation of embryo
Odi Meji : Embryo becomes a fetus, Eguns come in passed lives erased
Eyiogbe : The Head on Earth, and the path it chooses
Osalofogbeyo : The knowledge the different spiritual aspects of an individual