What is it about?

The Yorùbá religion is arguably the most followed African religion worldwide. At its heart is the Odu Ifá corpus. Some Ifá priests hold that noninitiates should stay away from engaging the corpus. I argue otherwise.

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Why is it important?

Before anything else, the Ifá corpus is a spiritual system of knowledge. It is incredibly delicate to translate or understand, even for a knowledgeable Yorùbá person. However, these should not prevent a noninitiate from engaging the corpus in nonspiritual and academic spaces. Odù Ifá has emerged as a formidable spiritual gateway for humanity. No practical boundary mechanism can prevent noninitiates from engaging the corpus. It is in the interest of intellectual advancement to not push for boundaries. More so, there cannot be one way of using a globalized knowledge system like Odù Ifá in nonspiritual spaces. The beauty of knowledge lies in tolerating varying interpretative and analytic approaches. Odù Ifá cannot be an exception. Even as Odù Ifá is a sacred corpus, it does not in and of itself claim to offer the ultimate truth.


Nonetheless, the arguments raised in this article are intended to trigger more inclusive conversations on how Ifá priests, practitioner-scholars of Ifá, Ifá devotees, and noninitiate-nondevotee users of Ifá poems should picture themselves in the usage of Odù Ifá as a spiritual guide and as a source of knowledge. Should initiates and priests be present as gatekeepers to preserve Odù Ifá’s integrity as a body of knowledge? If so, how? If not, how could the issue of erroneous interpretation and appreciation of Ifá poems be realistically accounted for?

Ibrahim Anoba

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Odù Ifá in Transition: Contemplating Boundary Mechanisms in Discursive and Critical Appreciation of the Ifá Corpus, Journal of Religion in Africa, June 2022, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/15700666-12340218.
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