The Confusion between who is and who is not a Babalawo
The Baba ni Áwo, better known as Babalawo, is the term to refer to the most respected of all; and there are not many.
More and more frequently you see someone wearing a thicker and bigger Ide (bracelet) around their wrists, wearing innumerable necklaces, covered in “religious” attributes, dressed in white 24hrs a day and living in an Ile (house) extensively decorated with objects called Orishas or Saints, which are not the same and many do not even exist. Others who also call themselves Babalawo are those who, for example, sing in a music group but do not act as priest; or those who perform other activities except work with Ifá. People usually think that a person is Babalawo because he has consecrated Ifá, but this is not true; there still a narrow and long way to go. Everything is achieved step by step; initiation does not mean graduation (in Wande’s words), there is a process before entering wogbò Ifá (forest of Ifá). I believe in and hold on to the traditional method in which you have to prove your capacity before being initiated. I write about this because I see a big confusion on this issue and I like to inform in order to prevent mistaken opinions about the Yoruba religion due to negative actions by a (…), unpublished works by (…), suggestions against Ifá’s commandments by someone who calls himself Babalawo.
When a person is initiated or performs Itefá (Ceremony of Ifá), it does not mean that the person is Babalawo, this person is an Omo´ko´Fa (Apprentice of Ifá) and needs to practice, learn, understand and wisely interpret Ifá. This takes years of study, provided the person has the necessary capacity to absorb this knowledge, the intelligence to understand Ifá and a genuine source of learning. I have known some who have more than 30 years of Ifá and do not know who Igba Odu, Oro, Egbe and Edan are; they do not know how to perform an Ose Ifá correctly and they are spreading and transmitting misguided knowledge because, and I want to make this clear, they have also been victims themselves of their masters. What is difficult to understand is the reason why they continue holding on to their senseless, misguided, illogical and unreasonable knowledge. Anyway, when an initiate in Ifá be able to prove their knowledge, then will we be in the presence of a real Babalawo. It is necessary to gain Àse (power) to become a competent Babalawo. The Babalawo must prove his ability to Orunmila with confidence and wisdom through exemplary actions, the Babalawo’s commitment is to Orunmila, not to his colleagues.
Many people speak about Ifá without knowing what Ifá is, its emergence and what it literally means.
Ifá means: dismantle everything. In the process in which Olodumare was going to send Orunmila to the earth, together with the other Irunmoles, Olodumare only called Orunmila to give him the 16 barrels containing all the wisdom of creation whose content he had to eat and swallow without leaving any trace or residue. In this process, the biggest barrel spills its content and breaks into pieces. When this happened, Olodumare told Orunmila to pick up the pieces and clean every residue from the floor and swallow it. After having finished, Olodumare confessed to Orunmila what he had eaten and that this wisdom, sensibility and intelligence were going to improve his spirituality in all aspects of life; this came to a point in which Orunmila could spiritually see beyond his partners (Irunmoles).
Ifá is Olodumare´s words through Orunmila, it is a living and immortal message for the whole world in any circumstance.
This prevails in a verse by Osa Irete:
Ogbon inu Omo ni i ran om lo eyin odi
Ofun imoran ni i ro omoran I’ ero
Imoran amoju, ka mo ponna pelu, enu ni i yo ‘ni
Ni ojo ti Olodumare yo o ko okun ogbon le’owo
Summary: Intelligence and wisdom in abundance. A wise person makes good use of his intelligence and this puts you in a great position.
Do no rush in learning, life is too short for this, only the time and effort that is put into it will make your understanding and wisdom grow. It is necessary to live seriously inside in order to carry in total humbleness and light the specifications of Ifá to anyone who wishes to find them. Seek the essence of Ifá beyond praying a verse from memory like a poem, because as a prayed poem it does not have any Àse (power).
I will conclude with a phrase that my godfather Awo Ogunbiyi Elebuidon Omobobola:
“Igba Nlo, Igba Nbo, Ile Aye O re bi Kan”
“Time comes and goes but the land remains”. Thus, there is time to continue learning based on the cosmological cycle of life.
Ifá is wisdom, patience, honesty, sensibility, character, principles and values; it is to carry out the veracity of the truth. “Live by the truth, be righteous and kind, and avoid cruelty and greed”. Only then will you be blessed!