The Ifa’s Ethical Commandments according to Ika-OfunIká funfunA d’ifá fun agbaagba MerindinlogúnThis was Ifa’s message for the 16 Elders.Won n rele lfe won n lo reé toro ogbóThey went to Ile Ife to ask for a long life.Awon le gbo awon le to bi Olodumare ti ran won ni won n da Ifa siCould they live long just as Olodumare pronounced? That was the question they asked lfa.Won ni won a gbo, won a to sugbon ki won pa ikilo mo.They (the Babaláwos) said that the 16 Elders could live long, but they had to respect and obey the commandments directed by Ifa.Ika Ofun was revealed to them in the process of their consultation for longevity. The messages of Ifa were as follows:
# 1 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má fi esúrú pe esúrú
And they (the Babalawo) answered, “He who longs for a long life, let him not call the esúrú” (kind of yam like small potatoes). (Calling esúrú to be esuru means talking about what you do not know).Meaning of the 1st commandment:The priest should not deceive his fellow man by waving knowledge that he does not possess.Interpretation: The priest should not say what he does not know, that is, pass on wrong teachings or that have not been passed down by his teachers and elders. True knowledge is necessary for the practice of true religion.Message: Anyone who abuses the trust of others, deceiving them and manipulating them through religious ignorance, will suffer grave consequences for their actions. Nature will be responsible for recovering the mistakes made and this will be reflected in her consanguineous and spiritual descendants.
# 2 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn ma fi esùrù pe esùrù
They (Babaláwos) warned them not to call esuru (special bread) esuru, i.e. not to do any work for which they do not have the basic knowledge.”They warned the Elders not to call all things Esuru.” (Calling all the things “esúrú” is to consider all things as sacred beads).Meaning of the 2nd Commandment:The priest must be able to distinguish between the profane being and the sacred being, the profane act and the sacred act, the profane object and the sacred object.Interpretation:You cannot perform rituals without having the investiture and basic knowledge to perform them. To call all of Esurú, is to regard all, indiscriminately, as being carved for the priestly mission, which is not true or, worse, a manipulation of interests. Just as not all beads serve to form the Ileké (beads) of an Orisá (like sacred beads), not all human beings were born destined to priestly practice.Message: To be a priest of Ifá, it takes many moral, intellectual, procedural and vocational attributes. The simple initiation of a profane being, devoid of these basic and essential attributes, does not qualify him as a legitimate and legitimized priest. From the misinterpretation and non-observance of this commandment results the great amount of bad priests that proliferate nowadays inside the worship of Orunmilá. Here we see the difference between “being Bàbáláwo” and “being bàbáláwo”. He who undergoes initiation only for the status of a bábalawo, will never be a true priest of Orunmila.”It will be” bàbáláwo, position acquired by the initiation, but never “will be” bàbáláwo, condition imposed by his vocation, dedication and detachment. It is incumbent upon the initiator to choose, with great discretion, those who are really worthy of the priesthood.
# 3 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má fi òdìdẹ̀ pe òòdẹ̀
They (Babaláwos) warned them not to call odide (parrot), oode (bat), that is, not to mislead people.They warned them not to call forces, in the wrong way “ódidé”. (A reference to nocturnal and mysterious birds that feed on blood). Giving bad advice and wrong directions is exposing people to the dangers of unmanageable and evil energies.Meaning of the 3rd commandment:The priest should never mislead people by giving them wrong advice and wrong directions.Interpretation: It is unacceptable for a priest to use his power and his religious knowledge to induce to the error those who follow him. By acting in this way, they assume the posture of nocturnal birds which, in darkness, satiate their needs with the sacrifice and blood of others.Message: One of the most important functions of the priest is to guide his disciple, leading him on the right path, to meet “ire” (good luck), according to the dictates established by his personal Odu and his Orisá’s head. Anyone who arrives at the feet of Orunmila to consult his oracle in search of solutions must be guided by the priest correctly, regardless of his interest as a looker. The person who arrives with a problem should have their problem solved and not see it added from other artificially created servants with a view to providing those who consult, financial advantages or possibility of making money.
# 4 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má fi ewé ìrókò pe ewé oriro
They (Babaláwos) warned them not to say that the iroko leaves are oriro leaves. That is, do not deceive people. (Everything must be done in accordance with religious dictates and precepts.) The simple exchange of a single leaf can lead to evil consequences or render a great ebo ineffectual in the same way that the leaves of iroko are not the same as the leaves of the oriro.Meaning of the 4th Commandment: The priest cannot, under any conditions, use false resources, providing things without religious validity as elements of security or worship.Interpretation: The liturgical procedures must be observed in full and no one has the right to do “it” for “that” when in “what” is the solution.Message: He who uses lies and deceptive means against his fellow men, will be guilty of the crime of abuse of trust. Using deceptions and lies against innocent and kind-hearted people, the priest provokes the displeasure of Orunmila and the consequent wrath of Elegbara, and this is not good. Each spiritual entity has an individual name, according to the determination of Olodumare. In the same way, each Esú Elegbara has its own name and identity, as well as specific attributes. It is inadmissible, therefore, that this entity so sacred and important within the cult, be seated and delivered irresponsibly, and that those who receive it remain ignorant of its name, quality, form of treatment and specificity of function.Sentence: “Orunmila is the one who looks at us with love, do not do things where he can look at us with contempt.”
# 5 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má fi àìmọ́wẹ̀ bá wọn dé odò
They (Babaláwos) warned them not to try to swim if they do not know how to swim, that is, not to claim a wisdom superior to their possibilities.(“Knowing” is fundamental for those who want to “do.” For this, “power” is necessary, which only initiation can grant).Meaning of the 5th Commandment:The priest cannot proceed to liturgies for which he is not qualified through the initiatory process or whose practice he does not know or dominate only partially.Interpretation: Babaláwo should not spite a wisdom that in the truth he does not possess. Looking to know does not degrades, but, on the contrary, it exalts the person. Knowledge is basic condition for which it can be done.Message: Everything must be done integrally and with total legitimacy. If there is any doubt about a procedure, one should research deeply about it. It is up to the priest to teach everything he knows to those around him and to trust in him. The denial of correct and complete teachings implies the responsibility of the practice of cultural suicide. In the same way, seeking guidance in those who know has nothing humiliating and exalts both the seeker and the guide. True wisdom consists in the consciousness of one’s own ignorance. Only fools show themselves as knowing everything!Sentence: God did not give the ignorant the right to learn without first taking from whom he knows the obligation to teach. (From Eastern Wisdom)
# 6 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má fi àìlọ́kọ́ bá wọn ké hàìn-hàìn
They (Babaláwos) warned them to be modest and never self-centered.(HUMILITY AND DEPENDENCY ARE INDISPENSABLE ATTRIBUTES OF A TRUE PRIEST).Meaning of the 6th Commandment:The Babaláwo should not be vain of his powers, but conscious of them. It should not only act for its own benefit, he must exist to serve and not to be served.Interpretation:Vanity transforms a man weak in spirit into a peacock who makes a point of displaying his beautiful plumage (feathers) without the awareness that it is his beauty that, arousing the attention of others, will bring about his death.In odu Ogundakete, we find Itans (Stories) that speak about the Peacocks’ exhibition, which, while spreading the beauty of their plumage, attract themselves to all, which after sacrifice, they transform their feathers in fine drips and decorations. The true priests, the choice of Orunmilá, do not worry in exhibiting their power or their knowledge in voice and inconsequent disputes. Accumulates in yourself a great load of wisdom that you can transmit with dedication to whosoever deserves to know.Message: Exhibitionism is one of the greatest defects in a human being and inadmissible in a priest. Already the old verbiage said: “In a donkey loaded with sugar, even sweat is sweet.” This is how, in the eyes of the sage, the exhibitionists look like, “donkeys carrying sugar”.
# 7 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má gba ọ̀nà ẹ̀bùrú wọ’lé Àràbà
They warned that they should not enter the house of an Àràbà (title of the one who safeguards the secrets of Ifá’s leadership), with bad intention. (Good intentions should prevail above all else). The house of the Araba is the temple where the initiation is obtained.Meaning of the 7th Commandment:Initiation cannot be motivated by interests that are not purely religious.Interpretation: The true intentions of the initiate must be crystalline as pure water, and devoid of any other purpose than to serve humanity through Orunmilá. To want to start worshiping by simple vanity, to obtain social status or to hold priestly titles is to desecrate the sacred.Message: He who defiles the sacred tabernacle of Ifa, moved by whatever reason, will pay with harsh penalties the sacrilege practiced. No one enters the Igbodu Ifá with impunity. Knowledge corresponds to responsibilities that not everyone is prepared to take on. It is far better to err by not knowing than by knowing and persisting in error. The broader concept symbolizes the attitude of a predator who hides his claws seeking to acquire the confidence and knowledge of his victim to have a base to act at the time most conducive to their goals. The same responsibility assumes the one that initiates people who do not have the basic requisites required for such, aiming there, the simple financial
# 8 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má fi ìkóódẹ hun ìdí
They (Babaláwos) warned them not to use ikoode (sacred feather) for cleaning after using the bathroom, (do not use sacred feathers to clean the butt, i.e. do not break taboos).(The feather of the ikoode is one of the most sacred symbols within the cult, and for this reason it should never be desecrated.)Meaning of the 8th Commandment:The sacred foundations cannot be used for vain purposes. The taboos must be fully observed under pain of severe consequences.Interpretation: The priest must willingly submit to the prohibitions imposed by his personal Odu, as well as to the taboos of his Olori. The observance of these dictates is directly linked to the state of submission to the worshiped deities. The total obedience to Ifa’s guidance leads man to the fullness of blessings. To use one’s sacred knowledge lightly corresponds to profaning the sacred. The figure used here represents very well such an attitude. “Cleaning the butt with Ikodidé feathers” is the same as using sacred things for reckless and futile purposes. One should not use the power of magic to harm anyone. The practice of evil invariably yields faster results, but leads to tortuous paths that have no return. In the same way, one who uses these powers for the sole purpose of gaining economic advantages is at odds with the sacred dictates and will be held responsible
# 9 – Wọ́n ní kí wọn má su sí epo
They (Babalawos) warned them not to defecate in epo in the sacred Ifa meal, that is, the sacred tools should be kept clean.They warned that they should not defecate in palm oil. (Dirt and lack of hygiene are incompatible with the rite.)Meaning of the 9th commandment:The epo (palm oil) corresponds to the vegetable blood. A sacred and indispensable element in the ritual, it must always be very pure and clean. In the same way, everything must be clean, the instruments, the environments, the settlements, the people and, mainly, the attitudes. Under no circumstances is there a lack of cleanliness and hygiene in any aspect, whether physical, environmental or moral.Message: The priest must be scrupulous with everything. Its liturgical instruments, the settlements of the worshiped entities, its body, its attitudes and its character will always remain, impeccably clean. No Orisá admits the dirt, be it physical or moral.
# 10- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má tọ̀ sí àfọ̀
They (Babaláwos) warned them not to urinate inside afo (traditional workshop where the epo pupa is processed), that is, they must take care to keep the room clean. They warned that they should not urinate inside the afo. (The afó is the place where palm oil is made in Yoruba land).Meaning of the 10th Commandment:Everything that precedes a rite and refers to it must be performed with cleanliness and religiosity.Interpretation: In the same way that ritual should be surrounded by cleaning care, the making of food and offerings should follow the same principles. Preparing the ritualistic foods is also a rite and should be performed in full circumspection and religious concentration.Message: During the preparation of the ritualistic foods and offerings the attitude of those who participate in it should be the same as those who participate in the ritual itself. It is unacceptable that, at this sacred time, people are consuming alcoholic beverages, talking vulgar things, arguing, quarreling or trying to display their knowledge, humiliating those who know less. Posture will always be priestly, silence and concentration must be maintained, and teaching to those who do not know or to those who know less is a sacred obligation.
# 11- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má gba ọ̀pá l’ọ́wọ́ afọ́jú
They warned them not to remove the staff from the blind, that is, to respect the weak and be kind to them.They warned that the staff of a blind should not be removed. (A blind person uses his/her staff to replace his eyes and point to the obstacles that will be encountered on his/her way).Meaning of the 11th Commandment:The priest cannot show off their load of knowledge to humble or confuse anyone. The priest should have the deepest respect for those who know less. Nobody has the right to downgrade what others know and believe in Ifa. Throwing the faith of who knows little or knows nothing, is removing the staff from a blind, leaving him without any guidance on the path on which he walks.Interpretation: They should not take the staff from the blind; that is, to always respect those who are weaker, and treat those people with respect. You should not use your knowledge to confuse those with little knowledge in a deliberate manner to confuse and take advantage of them.Message: One of the most important missions of the priest is teaching and orienting. Many times arise when people who do not know judge those who know. It is at this time the wise priest shows love, the right orientation and the right teaching are passed with sweetness, strength and humility, without honoring the one who receives them and does not cause confusions in his head. Everything must be taught with clarity and logic. So, babalawo, in the exercise of his priesthood, also assumes the mission of master.
# 12- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má gba ọ̀pá l’ọ́wọ́ ogbó
They warned that an old man’s staff should not be removed. (The baton of the old man represents the accumulation of experiences acquired in the long years in which he lived).Meaning of the 12th Commandment: People should respect and show good treatment to the elders, especially the elders in the Ifa religion.Interpretation: Respect for the elders is one of the main foundations of the religion where, admittedly, old age is placed. To treat them without the proper respect and attention is to withdraw the staff on which they rest. Those who know how to respect, abide by and love their elders, will undoubtedly receive the same treatment when they also walk on their own staff.Message: The old people, through lived experiences, represent true sources of wisdom where each one must seek to drink a little, quenching the thirst for knowledge. They are sacred books, whose pages are to be read with patience and affection. A religion which, for countless centuries, had its foundations transmitted orally, should greatly enhance those who are the custodians of this knowledge. An old man, as obtuse as it may seem at first sight, will always have something, obtained in the long years lived, to teach. We must always remember that if antiquity (age) is placed, knowledge is power!
# 13- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má gba obìnrin Ògbóni
They warned them not to sleep with an Ogboni’s wife. (“Ogboni” is a title that means judge or magistrate in the traditional religion, represents a person worthy of respect).Meaning of the 13th Commandment: The authorities must be fully respected.Interpretation: The “Ogboni” in the sentence generally represents the authorities and the laws they establish. The Priest, as a good man, should guide his life according to the dictates of the laws of men and the sacred laws of Ifa.Message: Religious man cannot live on the fringes of the law and the society of which he must belong as an important cell. To strive for obedience to the laws is one of the obligations of a priest who, in this sense, must also guide his followers. In the same way, the laws of Ifá must be observed in full and nobody has the right to manipulate them for the benefit of themselves or others
# 14- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má gba obìnrin ọ̀rẹ́
They warned them never to sleep with a friend’s wife. (One should not betray a friend).Meaning of the 14th Commandment: Friends must be respected and a friendship must not be betrayed.Interpretation: “To sleep with the wife of a friend” is the greatest insult a priest can practice against this person. The sentence seeks to value the feeling of friendship that should always be based on mutual respect and ethical reciprocity, which in no way can be forgotten.Message: “A friend is worth more than a relative.” This affirmation of popular wisdom is based on the fact that kinsmen are imposed on us by fate, whereas friends have to be chosen from among the many people who arise in the course of our lives. If we elect, of our own free will, our friends, why betray them? Why not give them the same treatment that we would like them to give to us? Keeping friendships, treating them with respect and affection is, above all, a demonstration of wisdom. Friendships should be worshiped and no one should create animosity among friends by jeopardizing a relationship that can represent a great treasure. “A friend in the square is better than money in the bank.” (From popular wisdom).
# 15- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má s’ọ̀rọ̀ ìmùlẹ̀ lẹ́yìn
They (Babalawos) warned them not to find out secrets or discuss them, that is, not to betray the faith.Meaning of the 15th Commandment: They warned against sowing religious discord.One should not use religion to motivate separation and war between men.Interpretation: Religion has the sole purpose of uniting men through Olodumare. It is not conceivable, therefore, that it can be used as a separating element of human beings. Even within the same religion one can verify the performance of people who, in a nefarious way and for their own interests, play against each other, sowing mistrust and discord among priests, brothers and followers.Message: Many wars, incorrectly called “holy wars,” have made the blood of innocents to be shed, mourning in families and spreading pain and mourning. The religious motivation that encourages them is, however, a mask for their real motive: the attainment of power. The true priest must strive for the union of men, regardless of their religious creed. Olodumare is one, and all men are his/her children, and consequently brothers to one another. Likewise, priests of the same religion must act within an ethic that prevents them from speaking ill of each other, using reprehensible means to attract the followers of their colleagues.
# 16- Wọ́n ní kí wọn má sàn-án ìbàntẹ́ awo
They warned them not to disrespect, or ever go to bed with the wife of a Babalawo. The authorities must be respected (All those who hold religious offices are important and worthy of respect).Meaning of the 16th Commandment: Priests, regardless of functions and hierarchy, MUST MUTUALLY RESPECT ONE ANOTHER.Interpretation: A single word can synthesize the 16th Ifa commandment: “Ethics”.Message: The lack of ethics among the priests of our religion has greatly contributed to their weakening and lack of public credibility. The priest with an ethical attitude never opens his mouth to point out mistakes and defects in his brothers. If he finds them, he tries to correct them subtly and, if possible, unnoticed in the eyes of others, without bragging what he considers wrong. Many people try to cover up their own mistakes and hide their own incompetence, blatantly pointing out the error and incompetence of others. This is an attitude which has only hindered and prevented further development of our religion. It can be heard every night, on radio programs produced and presented by priests and priestesses of the cult of Orisás, true absurdities practiced in the name of our religion. People who engage in this type of disclosure should reflect a little more about their performance, often exaggerated and motivated by personal problems, and the harm it produces, not only to the targets of their criticism, but in the religion of the Orisás as a whole that, at every denunciation made by the air, falls into disrepute and public execration. Every publicly reported denunciation represents a new weapon for the arsenal of detractors of our religion.