Differences Between West African & Cuban Based Ifa
Throughout my journey in the West African based spiritual system of Ifa I have encountered much resistance, criticism and attack because my presentation of the system; as learned, did not match the conventional practices of the system. My attempts to explain the differences were met with scorn and ostracization.The antagonism was such that; at various times, I backed away from the various communities in which I was involved and quietly continued my studies with my teachers.
Over the past five years, more of the West African trained priests and their elders have been speaking to the similarities and differences between the Traditional West African approach and the Lukumi/Santeria approach to the system.
Someone in one of my Facebook groups posted a link to an article posted by Chief Nathan Lugo Aikulola Iwindara Fawehinmi, the Gbawoniyi Awo of Osogbo (Oshun State, Nigeria) presenting some of the differences between the two systems. I found the post informative, refreshing and validating of the path I had been walking. I thought it would be nice to present some of the points one-by-one for self investigation and discussion.
Ilekes are beaded necklaces which represent an emotional/spiritual connection to Orisha. I, like many in the United States, received five ilekes in an Ileke Ceremony: Eshu, Obatala, Yemoya, Oshun and Sango. Receiving ilekes is not the same as being initiated to Orisha. I was told, however, that receiving ilekes was the first step towards initiation. There was, an unspoken expectation that I was part of a particular Orisha community. This was an expectation that created difficulties for me because; at the time, I was not interested in committing to anything other than to explore and to learn more about the spiritual tradition.
My first teacher in West African Traditional Ifa; with whom I studied for seven years, told me there was no ileke ceremony in Nigeria . This was the trigger which set me on learning the differences between the traditions and when and how to incorporate the differences.
Here is what was posted regarding the ileke ceremony:
1. There is no ceremony of “collares” in Yorubaland like the one that has developed in the Cuban tradition. It is true that one consecrates ileke for each Orisa and one can receive ileke consecrated in varied ritualistic forms. But we do not receive five at one time after a head rogation and stripping ceremony as is accustomed in the United States…this is from Cuba. Neither does one take the receipt of these necklaces as one of the first rites of passage for a new apprentice. Furthermore, there are deities in Yorubaland that either have no ileke whatsoever or no specific ileke, while still others have various ileke depending upon region.
Is there value in the ileke ceremony and if so what is it? Why would such a difference develop? Please leave comments for discussion.
Fa Sade Oshun Banke