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A need for Revival in Ifa Religious Practice

By Wale Adedayo

Friends call me Babalawo. But I am not one. Of course, my maternal family, and to a large extent, relations from Dad’s side of the divide were and remain practicing Babalawos.

Living with my maternal grandfather, as a kid in Ijebu Ife, Ogun State, Nigeria was a whole lot of experience in Traditional religious practice. Obojo, as he was known, was 107 years old when he joined our ancestors in 1987. He was a Muslim, hunter and farmer. But the old man was a godfather to a lot of Babalawos.

There was hardly any Babalawo in and around Ijebu Ife, who did not consult Obojo each time they encounter spiritual difficulties. Yet, he NEVER practiced as one. But there was NEVER any ailment afflicting anyone Obojo could not sort out. He never took money from anyone. You buy what you need and he’ll do the needful.

He was versed in our Esoteric Words (Oro Ife) with which he often carry out many spiritual works. Obojo only need to talk to a protruding belly of a pregnant woman for her to give birth instead of going through CS. Childless? That was the most simple! The woman and the husband will come to thank Baba with gifts after a child is born. Obojo will NEVER ask for money. But once you get what you want, he’ll gladly accept your gift, not before.

Baba, to me, was like the Christian Evangelists of old. Always talking about how our Oshis (dead ancestors) will react if he charges people who visit him for assistance, his admonition to us was that “Agbomola ri awa wa. Si Edumare ron eni nise wa Ule Aye we!” Simply translated, “We were specially chosen by God, Who sent us to this world on an errand to assist the helpless!”

His first son, Butu, was well known as a quality Babalawo, beyond Ijebuland before he passed on a few years before the Dad. Like the Dad, his Ifa practice was based on that “Agbomola” status. Money was not the primary consideration. It was gifts from clients with a heart of thanksgiving he lived on.

I have been around Babalawos and Oniseguns a lot since becoming an adult. I always feel sad deep inside me, when I notice how money has become the major item. Ifa and Isegun practice has become a Business enterprise. Maybe, son of man is still an Old School person. But I strongly feel a Babalawo should work more as an Evangelist, instead of a Businessman/Woman.

In my almost 25 years of Journalism practice, I have seen stories of Babalawos in chains with criminals just like their Alfas (Muslims) and Pastors (Christians) counterparts. They aid and abet criminals because of money. They want to ride big cars and live in big houses without much sweat.

Obojo was an old man of modest means. He was not into full Ifa practice. But the son, Butu, who was a fulltime Babalawo like his grandfather, Adeeko, and great-grandfather, Ajiboogunsoro, did not die a poor man. Meanwhile, he never deviated from the age long family values of not putting money FIRST before assisting persons in need of solutions to life’s many problems.

How do we divorce this insane craze for instant wealth by some Babalawos from the mess created by adherents of foreign religions in our Land? Personally, I feel Ifa has a lot to offer mankind. But where are the quality Evangelists of Traditional Religious Practice who’ll make this to happen?

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  1. Matthew Oluyede

    I know many Babalawos who are versed in Odù Ifá who will only charge for the materials that they need. A Babalawo who hankers after cars and money has the wrong iwá and will end badly. Some of our Babalawos also tread the “conversion of foreigners to Ifá” path and thereby earn money, I cannot judge them for this for this is a good thing but it has also led to a rise in the number of fake awó who solicit foreigners in fb Ifá groups and advertise various bits of nonsense.

  2. AllCars

    Babalawo is a 3 in one position. The evangelist, spiritual head and a healer. I n this time and age is quite difficult for a Babalawo to run a charity considering the cost and effort of accessing all the needful.
    Why I think a reasonable fee should be charged for the practitioner to be able to attend to his domestic challenges, I think the area of evangelism should be entirely free.

    • Balogun Adesina

      A Babalawo, who is NOT an Evangeslist, to me, has missed the road! A Babalawo is the same as a Pastor or Imam. Once a Pastor or Imam goes for bread and butter, “It is finished”, as Jesus Christ said.

      If you are REALLY called to be a Babalawo, everything you need WILL always be provided by the spirits around you. How much will you charge for saving a life?

      My grandfather, Obojo, once taught me an Oro Ife. If you say it to the forehead of a person within one hour of death, the person will wake up again. Baba told me a story the day he taught me, because he wanted me to become Medical Doctor.

      A woman in our village, who had just one child, lost the girl. I think she was aged 12, when she died. Meanwhile, all the Babalawos around had done their bit without being able to bring her back. Baba only requested for Palm Oil, which we regularly use after saying the Oro. The child woke up.

      The woman is a great-grandmother today. But Baba warned I should ask with Obi before going ahead with it for anyone IF I am permitted by Awon Iya to do it. My grandfather was bedridden for 6 months after the child got well. He did not take a dime from the family!


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