O.I.D.S.I stands for Obafemi Institute of the Divine Universal Study of Ifa. In its many definitions, Ifa speaks of the wisdom of nature and universal truths, which is referenced and understood through Universal Laws – the pillars that support this dimension and is at the base of most world religions and spiritual practices. The Western theological approach to spirituality (i.e. religion) is to teach/preach that in order for one to know, one must first believe, and then expand on that belief. The African Spiritual Science approach is the same at the base but expands on that knowledge of the system of knowing one’s self. It is also very important to note that Ifa is not a religion.
The Yoruba people who trace their roots back to the Nile Valley teach that in Ifa there is no devil and there is no hell. Ifa teaches that there are not only positive forces, but negative forces. The practice of good character and ancestral reverence are the first steps for one to understand their paths. Ifa also teaches that through oracle divination, the Sacred Odu, prayer and the ritualization (fusion) of elements, minerals, plants, certain invocations and incantations and various other methods, that one can understand his/her path. This also enables the person to realign him/herself back on their path properly if they have veered off path.
It is the belief of Ifa that the overwhelming majority of those people who are off path can be attributed to the person’s lack of self-awareness, lack of sincerity to put forth personal effort, and their immediate environment. In Obafemi Institute of the Divine Universal Study of Ifa (O.I.D.S.I), we believe that the incorporation of good character, a well-aligned Ori, and an ancestral altar to one’s own lineage constitutes the beginning of freeing the mind, spirit and body.
It is our mission for those practitioners of Ifa to understand the cosmology of heaven, earth, Òrisà (forces of nature), and one’s own Ori (inner head/ consciousness). By understanding and internalizing these concepts, the practitioner brings peace of mind to their lives, gains knowledge of his/her own personal journey, develops an understanding of the importance of staying in good character, and gains freedom from the overwhelming conditions of the various institutions and systems that deplete our quality of life. O.I.D.S.I. believes that by using Ifa as a tool, one will learn to trust themselves and the creator who lives within. By this, we mean that the Ifa oracle can help one to understand one’s purpose. This helps one to chisel, shape and create their own environment and their philosophical perception of their world.
Our book list brings enlightenment to the cosmology of Ifa. Our other references encourage one to invest in meditation, yoga, body cleansing, and the education of signs and symbols, i.e. the universal language of the one true source. We believe wholeheartedly that our mission can be fulfilled with the dedication to teach, study and continuously work to maintain an emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically healthy life that can be shared with family and others who are present and/or in the vicinity of a practitioner’s light. This is not an attempt to proselytize Ifa. We are a group of brothers and sisters from various backgrounds, careers and religious persuasions who embrace Ifa as a tool to expand on our own personal journeys. We encourage all Ifa practitioners to embrace all individuals who exemplify good character and energy, regardless of their spiritual/religious affiliations.
My belief as a priest of Ifa, is that one's salvation, especially African Americans, lies first with the knowledge of self through the history of one's lineage, the Creator, the understanding of nature and one's environment. I believe that the best system is the system that works best for you. I pray that the system you choose incorporates the concepts of Africa, nature, the science of self, and the source of all things.
What is O.I.D.S.I?
The beauty of nature is never to overlooked. The power of nature is never to be underestimated.
Why we often do things non-traditionally?
We honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, just as we also honor the journey we must walk today.
I greet you all in the spirit of humbleness and good character welcoming you to the priest/ess class of O.I.D.S.I. and all levels of practitioners.
In my many travels to Nigeria, going back to my first encounter in 2006 with the passing of my Olowu the late Afolabi Epega, I encountered different methods and orders of divination in regards to the rituals and readings concerning his transition. The first reading was completed in Lagos, the second in Ode Remo, which is where his lineage hailed and later would become his final resting place, and the final divination was completed in Oyo town, Oyo state. The first thing that struck me was the differences in how Odu Ifa (i.e. definitions, patakis’) was read in each of these places. The verses of Odu Ifa itself all seem to ring the same however, the order of seniority was quite different.
Presently, I am involved in numerous discussions concerning which way is right and which way is wrong as it pertains to the order of seniority of Odu Ifa. In Ifa, it is not what is right versus what is wrong, it is about understanding what works.
Whatever lineage you chose to become a part of or initiated into, you should by all practical purposes trust this lineage’s way of divination. This was more than likely the method used prior to your initiation, during your initiation, and finally at your Ita. To go back after any time spent to question the validity of your lineage’s way of divining is to question your ceremonial work and Ita, this may be taboo. As it is considered taboo to question the way in which your lineage divines it is also taboo to question the work of a fellow Babalawo or Iya, regardless of one’s judgment of his or her character and/or craft. These matters are left to his or her lineage, Ifa and the ancestors
When inquiring of the elders of Ifa and of my lineage, I have been told to study the verses of the Odu Ifa as this is most important. I have conducted many sessions of divination here in the Diaspora, numbering well over a thousand, and come to the conclusion that African Americans are not Yoruba. I say this not sarcastically but because our philosophical and cultural perspectives are often based on a Western state of mind, therefore we tend to expect a different outcome. Because of this Western perspective, a Nigerian-born Babalawo’s interpretation of the verses of Odu Ifa, is often seen as not always relevant to the client’s present condition and more often a very quick reading. Although the Babalawo can insist that the information is relevant to the client’s situation the client is often left puzzled that the core issue at hand was not addressed. The problem becomes even more compounded when the client is left with recommendations for ebos, i.e. rituals, to be performed that often leaves them in a state of doubt as to whether this was actually helpful to their primary situation.
Odu Ifa is primarily based upon the philosophical and cultural perspective of the Yoruba people gathered over hundreds of years. Although the natural landscape and social makeup of the Western hemisphere are quite different, Odu Ifa is still relevant to any situation. This is because it is a universal system and should not be relegated to just a Yoruba cultural perception. We must now, somehow, bridge this gap to take what has been spoken over several hundred years and just like the institute of Christianity and its Bible, adapt and apply these verses to the 21st century African American or Western position.
The lessons in this manual are not to take away or diminish what the Yoruba ancestors have written. They are quite simply to enhance, i.e. expand, the interpretation these Odus to a new people who have a different way of thinking at a different time in history based upon their historical and ancestral experiences. With the help of my fellow god-brothers and god-sisters, along with the situations of hundreds of clients, I have come to recognize the necessity of fusing the sciences of universal law as to how things come into existence. I have taken Odu Ifa and synchronized its geometrical manifestation along with a numerical expression in conjunction with the Orisha and how they speak through Odu Ifa themselves, to offer the best consultation to the client at hand. The purpose of doing this is to help account for not being born or raised up in a traditional Yoruba society of Ifa practitioners.
The absence of an elder present to teach Odu Ifa, its rituals and chants on a daily or consistent basis is the Achilles Heel of the African American practitioner. Furthermore, the majority of practitioners in this country are often initiated past the average age of 35 and some even older. Amidst job, stress, career goals, family, past family issues and a day to day rigorous schedule of trying to survive in a capitalist society often leaves very little time to even chant “Hello, how are you?” to one’s own family or loved ones. So, with the implementation of these schemes we are then able to discuss the condition of each individual that comes for consultation (karmic or otherwise).
This may be viewed as a shortcut or a lack of effort in practicing the traditional way of understanding Odu Ifa as learned by the Yoruba people, mostly memorization. I say it is not. It is however, a synthesizing of universal laws and energy in conjunction with an individual’s blueprint. At the end of it all that which matters most is that the client is pleased with the session and any or all rituals are accepted, the simplest results of all. I have often wondered why the African American practitioner never has had much respect for another fellow African American practitioner. We only seem to respect the Nigerian Yoruba practitioner. And although they represent the foundation they do not hold the master key as to how things continuously expand in regards to universal law. As the practice of Ifa continuously expands throughout the Diaspora it is important for us to hold on to that foundation of our ancestors. This is achieved by grasping their messages that are consistently revealed to us through the ways and laws of the universe. Spirituality, in its essence and manifestation, never rests and is never stagnant; it is in a constant state of motion.
I am of the opinion that Ifa, in its own destiny, left the shores of West Africa on slave ships in the minds and hearts of IFA priestesses and priests to bring forth a new way, to see a new order and to follow new definitions. Not by choice, but by destiny. Thus Ifa was reborn again in its original splendor and poetic romance with the universe and the revealing of dark matter consciousness, i.e. Odu Ifa. I say this out of much respect to all practitioners in the Americas, Africa and abroad we are one family, one creator, one name expressed in many stories, experiences, perspectives, opinions, colors, shapes, sizes, numbers and capacities. We are the manifestation of the continuous expansion of Odu Ifa itself.
Chief Oluwo Obafemi Ifayemi Epega
Founder of the Obafemi Institute for the Universal Divine Study of Ifa (O.I.D.S.I.)
O.I.D.S.I. Iles (United States)
We honor the sacrifices of our ancestors, just as we also honor the journey we must walk today.
What is Isese?
Isese means tradition and following more the ways and tendencies of your ancestors. It is not adapting totally the practices and philosophical perspectives of others.
Tradition, is paramount in the Ifa spiritual system. In the African regions where Ifa is practiced it is passed down generation after generation. We as westernized people, who are tied to our African ancestors, did not benefit from the generational passing of spiritual knowledge.
So, as we now unlearn to relearn a practice that is generationally ours, understanding the importance of Isese and it's role in Ifa allows us to practice with the proper intention.