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256 odu ifa Signatures © Ifa University Photo/Moyo Okediji
256 odu ifa Signatures © Ifa University Photo/Moyo Okediji

Is there a “complete” written copy of the Odu Ifa ?

People often ask me if there is a “complete” written copy of the Odu Ifa. However, within the Odu Ifa it explains that there is no babalawo who knows all of the Odu Ifa because the pages in the Odu Ifa are infinite. It is like asking is there a complete written copy of the science of the universe. No such book could ever be written.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t books about science or condense versions of the Odu Ifa. Most recognize the Odu Ifa as consisting of 256 odu (wombs/books). The most abridged versions present each Odu as a poem, 4 pages long on average for each of the 256. However, the Odu are called books because each Odu really consists of numerous chapters.

The average well trained babalawo will know of 16 chapters for each of the 256 Odu. This makes a total of 4,096 holy chapters. A chapter is on average 5 pages (using a standard modern font), which suggests there are 20,480 oral pages that make up the average well trained babalawo’s repertoire of the Odu Ifa sacred texts. Compare this to the mere 1,200 pages of the average Christian bible. We should not be surprised that the Christian religion brings so much havoc when it is such a short piece of information and missing so many key lessons from the ancestors.

Many of you will gasp at a book 20,480 pages long and can’t imagine reading it let alone memorizing it as babalawos have. This is because the human memory has been greatly weakened by literate culture. Even Socrates (an illiterate Greek philosopher) warned against the destruction of memory due to the spread of literacy. Modern people have no idea of the true capabilities of the human mind, especially in regard to its memorization ability. Because we store all our information in written form, we have reduced our brain’s function to 7%. In antiquity, the average African oralists used much more of his brain, which allowed him to memorize such long lengths of information and teach it to the next generation written by Babalawo Osunniyi Olajide Ifatunmo

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