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  • Writer's pictureAwoifasola



This write up is strictly for informative purposes only and educational purposes. This has been done for those whom are confused and need guidance on the topic. Or are just curious to know what is “ ISEFA” and is it the same as what’s commonly known or referred to in the diaspora “MANO DE ORULA: AWOFAKAN for men and IKOFA ,ICOFAFUN for women in the afrocuban lucumi style of worship of IFA. This isn’t to compare or to make anyone favor on over the other. But to have the information to understand both . And what does each consist of on a basic level of understanding and nothing more. Each individual ORI (spiritual head) will chose where it needs to be or belongs in the end.

I will make this into a several blog post series as to not overwhelm most people with to much information in one blog post. In this Blog post I will talk about the why they call it the “ONE HAND” of ifa. And differences between practices as stated above.

Why is it called the “ONE HAND OF IFA” anyways ?

This name is used to describe what one receives as spiritual “ICON” : ( the pot and the elements that make up the contents of said pot) . One hand is a reference to the number of ikin( scared palm nuts) one is given. Which for men can number from 19-21 most commonly. One true hand consist of 16 palm nuts this is considered 1 hand because each ikin or scared palm nuts. Represents one of the each 16 major odus of the ifa corpus. Starting at #1Ejiogbe to #16 Ofun meji. So it is from this standpoint that the “one hand of ifa” derives it name.

The second reason or reasoning behind the referencing it “ one hand of ifa” other than that which above has already been explained. Is that ISEFA ceremony is but a precursor to what is commonly called TEFA in yorubaland or Iniciacion en ifa como babalawo Or initiation into IFA to become a BABALAWO in the diaspora. One hand or 16 palm nuts will at the time of initiation into IFA as a BABALAWO! Will be joined with atleast one more hands of IFA i.e one or more hands of ikin or sacred consecrated palm nuts . Meaning there will be 16 palm nuts of your 1 hand! ( typically more depending on the region and or tradition you are following but atleast 16 palm nuts).At that juncture your one hand will be added to your pot with the rest of the hands designated for you as a newly initiated babalawo.

This total amount will consist of 16 palm nuts from your hand of ifa and now the newly added hands of IFA with your 16 ikin you had already before. While other newly added palm nuts ( or newly added hands more than just one hand or sets of 16 ikin will be added) Making 2 hands ( bare minimum that need to be present in the icon to be considered a legitimate IFA of a babalawo) that then and only then. Once the initiate passes through the ritual rites and ceremonies ( of the tradition area or region he is choosing to go through ). Will have a complete IFA icon in it totality . At least 32 ikin So a IFA icon pot of a babalawo or omo awo or omo fa, of the newly initiate into IFA as a priest MUST! contain at least and bare minimum of 2 “ hands” of ikin or sacred palm nuts to be considered and IFA OF A BABALAWO.

This stated above is ONLY! for males in both traditions isese and afrocubans lucumi IFA. Women in the diaspora whom chose to initiation into afrocuban ifa with ikofaun or mano de Orula only receive 1 or 2 ikin or sacred palm nuts for there pots to worship. This depending on the odu casted for them at the end of that ceremony. Women in the afro Cuban style IFA with mano de Orula or ikofa worship CAN NOT! initiate into the mysteries of IFA. To be the equivalent to a babalawo . The journey with IFA for them stops at this stage typically for most women ( I say typically because there is one more ceremony which is called apetebi ayafa ceremony which enables them to add more ikin to there pots this is only done with certain criteria that need to be met). Women in the isese variant are allowed to go into the sacred grove of IFA. To under go tefa for a women . Making her an “ iyanifa” , which in that case the same rules as the men within isese would apply to her one hand or sefa if she has one. It will then be added to her IFA pot once the ceremony is complete. Side note :although 99% of linages in Nigeria yorubaland do accept iyanifas in my particular linage we much like the afrocubans have the same stance when it comes to initiating women into ifa. We don’t do it and also see it as a taboo. This topic is controversial and I wont be going into it here in this write up.

Isefa is then seen as a (for men) in both traditions isese and afro Cuban IFA. Momentary glimpse into ones destiny and a precursor to being fully initiated into the ifa cult as a Babalawo. Only a few things may hinder this for a male in the Afro Cuban lucumi sytem . 1 a few odus that state this person should not pass to IFA in the afro Cuban corpus or if the male is a homosexual for this to is forbidden in the afro Cuban IFA as well as within isese IFA traditions. There are no odus that iam aware of that may prohibit a male or female from being a candidate to able to initiate into IFA as a BABALAWO or IYANIFA within isese. With that being said many homosexuals males and females: ( more so in the isese ifa i.e iyanifas) on both sides of the aisle as it were have been initiated into IFA as priests knowingly or even unknowingly. But all the same it still remains a very BIG taboo to do so. Those who break those taboos choose to do so at their own risk and expense.

Check next blog post for more information on sefa and mano de Orula. To be continued….

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