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Founded in Ilé-Ifẹ̀, an ancient Yoruba city in southwest Nigeria, Ifá is a religion and a system of divination practiced in West Africa, the Americas, and the Canary Islands.

Ifá is said to have originated with Orunmila, the Orisha of wisdom, knowledge, and divination, believed to have had a hand in the creation of the Universe. It was Orunmila who carried Ifá to Earth.

Orunmila is second in the trinity of God, which includes Olodumare, Orunmila, and Èṣù. The Supreme God has three manifestations: Oludumare, the creator; Olorun, the ruler of the heavens; and Olofi, the conduit between heaven (Orún) and earth (Ayé).

Another tradition suggests that Ifá was brought to Ilé-Ifẹ̀ by Setiu, who came to there from the neighboring Yoruba, an ethnic group in northern and central Nigeria.

However, according to Nigerian historians, Samuel, and Obadiah Johnson, Ifá was introduced to the Oyo Empire, in western and north-central Nigeria, by Arugba, the mother of Onibogi, the 8th Alaafin of Oyo, in the late 15th century. According to their history, Arugba initiated the Alado of Ato, conferring the rites of initiating others. The Alado initiated the priests of Oyo, who then brought the religion to Ilé-Ifẹ̀.

Whatever its origins, it included an oral tradition that held that the Universe was a vacuum several million years ago. Olodumare begged to Sea to show itself on the planet. The Sea was by itself for another several million years. Recognizing that the Sea was lonely, Oludumare decided to devote more of his time to the planet. He sent Orunmila with soil from the heavens, and a five-toed rooster to help spread the soil on the top of the Sea. From that beginning, the Earth continued to spread. The Yoruba people believed that the place where this first began was in Ilé-Ifẹ̀.

While Ifá holds that there is only one God, they believe that the divine essence is manifested in more than one person or elements. There are other energies in which the divine is manifested. These include the Seas, Oceans, Mountains, Rivers, Wind, Sky, Thunder, Lightning, Volcanoes, and so on.

Slaves who were shipped from Yoruba to the Caribbean and the Americas brought their religion with them.

Within the cultural region of Yoruba people of West Africa, which includes Nigeria, Togo, and Benin, divination gives priests access to the teachings of Orunmila.

In southeastern Nigeria, the homeland of the Igbo people, Ifá is known as Afá, and its clergy are known as Dibia, and are considered to be the equivalent of doctors, as they are trained in the use of healing herbs and other skills.

The Ewe people of southern Togo and southeastern Ghana also know the religion as Afá, and it is through Afá that the Vodun spirits come through and communicate. Thus, Afá is closely related to Vodun within the practice of the Ewe people.

There are sixteen books in Odù Ifá, which forms the spiritual canon of Ifá. These include references to all of the situations, circumstances, actions, and consequences that people may have to face in life and form the basis of the Ifá religion. In addition to the Odù Ifá, there are several proverbs, stories, and poetry that are passed down orally from one Babalawo to another, but are not written down.

From the Yoruba language, Babalawo is a spiritual title that refers to a priest of the Ifá oracle. The female counterpart is known as an Iyanifa, as women are permitted to practice Ifá divination and to be a custodian of the religion.

Both the religion and its primary figures are known by several names, depending on where it is practiced. The focus of this category is on the Ifá religion or on Ifá divination, by whatever name it might be known.

 

 

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