Omítọ̀nàdé Ifáwẹ̀mímọ́: The Voice Of Yemoja
Omítonàdé Ifáwemímo proudly identifies as an African traditionalist, and a custodian and priestess of Yemoja, the Yoruba water deity. Unlike many millennials of her time, Ifáwemímo is well-versed in Òrìsà or Ifa worship.
She takes Guardian Life on an educational journey into the world of Òrìsà:
Tell us about the journey through your adoption of Òrìsà worship
I was born into Òrìsà tradition. My knowledge of [it] comes from Olodumare. When I was young, I had no idea that I was being called by Òrìsà Yemoja (deity of all waters) despite the fact that I was born into the Yemoja lineage. My father thought, if truly Òrìsà Yemoja wanted, she would reveal herself to me. Years later, I had several dreams seeing myself in different bodies of water. When I told him about it, he divined about it and it revealed that they should initiate me and ensure they divine to know which Òrìsà owns my head (guardian Òrìsà). They did the Ikosedaye divination, and it revealed that Yemoja is my guardian Òrìsà. After this, my journey into Òrìsà tradition began.
I have earned the knowledge of Erindilogun(16 cowries divination), ceremony rites, years if reciting oriki(panegyrics) of all Òrìsà, praise songs et al. I am still learning o (laughs). By the age of 20, I was officially an Òrìsà priestess. This spirituality has been such a blessing to me. It has made me learned some things about myself both physically and spiritually and human experience that supported my evolution.
What was the initial reaction of your friends when they realised you are a priestess?
When I was at the University, my hostel mates and course mates were scared to relate with me. This is because of the negative perception they have had and how they have been seeing it in Nollywood films. It wasn’t until the year 2010 when I had my first interview in a national newspaper that people started to ask me questions which I answered with facts. In fact, the interview was later published in the university’s magazine.
Can you explain what the words Òrìsà or Ifa mean, their roles and why it is important to embrace the knowledge?
Òrìsà or Ifa is a spiritual path to transformation, a transformation from the inside out that begins and ends with “you” as an individual. Òrìsà or Ifa is a path of spirituality. [It] is a personal and communal journey. It is a spiritual path that accepts every soul, no discrimination. It is important to embrace this knowledge of spirituality.
You do not need to practice, but it would help modify your destiny through Òrìsà or Ifa divination. Divination gives insight into what that destiny may be, [and] sacrifices to enhance one’s destiny.
Having described yourself as a Yemoja priestess, is it safe to describe you as a herbalist?
No, I am not a herbalist. I am an Òrìsà priestess. My area of specialisation is divinity (to perform divination for people, Òrìsà initiation, feeding of one’s Orí and Òrìsà). There is a difference between Ifa/Orisa priest, priestess and a herbalist. A herbalist uses herbs, leaves and plants to improve health, promote healing and prevent and treat illness(e.g Yemkem, Oko Oloyun). I hope to learn herbalism in the future though. It is neither dangerous nor fetish. Anybody can have the knowledge.
What misconceptions about Yoruba spirituality would you like to address?
You can’t write off Yoruba spirituality and claim to understand Yoruba culture. Everything is interlinked. There are many misconceptions about Yoruba spirituality, but I will like to address “Esu is Satan”. It was Ajayi Crowther who was enslaved and forced erroneously translated Satan to mean Esu.
There is no correlation between [them]. Esu is the intercessor deity that all Ifa or Òrìsà devotees pay homage to. We are seeking his aid. Our own Esu would never think of derailing from his functions. Esu has nothing to do with cursing man or turning man against Olodumare. There is no record in Ifa that Esu rebels against Olodumare. Esu laalu means Ola ilu, he who the community is benefiting from. There are good records where Esu helped people in Ese Ifa (Ifa stories) such as Ejiogbe, Owonrinsogbe and Ogbese.
*In Ejiogbe, there was a story of Olurombi and her beautiful child. She would have lost her but Esu helped her.
“*In Owonrinsogbe, Esu saved Telairoko from death and also helped him to acquire wealth in life.
*In Ogbese, Esekan soso Ogbe would have fell into his enemies trap but Esu pulled him.(Copied from Popoola Ifagbenusola)”
Satan has no place whatsoever in Yoruba spirituality.
With your experience, what is the future of Ifa or Òrìsà worship?
I cannot see the future, but I would like to see [one] of Ifa or Òrìsà worldwide. I will try my possible best to change the negative perception of Yoruba spirituality to a positive one. May Olodumare and Òrìsà help me. Ase!