An awo, a babalawo, an iyanifa, a babalorisa and an iyalorisa are representatives of Olodumare and of the Irunmole-Orisa. Have you ever thought about what it means to be someone’s representative?
It is and we feel it a great responsibility, privilege and honor to be a representative of an exalted, renown and accomplished human being. If this is true of being a representative of an exalted, renown and accomplished human being, what can be said of a person who is a representative of Olodumare, of Ifá and of the Irunmole-Orisa?! Is it such a simple and easy thing to be a representative of Olodumare, of Ifá and of the Irunmole-Orisa? Can just anyone do this? Can someone without any qualifications, without any training, without diplomatic skill, without personal dignity, without love, without sympathetic understanding and charisma be a representative of Olodumare, of Ifá and of the Irunmole-Orisa? Can someone who does not in good measure share the qualities, heart and mind of Olodumare, Ifá and of the Irunmole-Orisa represent them? Can a liar be a representative of the truth? Can a mean and indifferent person be a representative of kindness and compassion? Can a cheat and exploiter be a representative of honesty and generosity? Can an ignorant and uninformed person be a representative of pure wisdom and divine knowledge? Can a person who delights in filth, dishonesty and vulgarity be a representative of cleanliness, honesty (truthfulness) and purity?
If you had to select someone to represent you and to successfully promote your aims, what kind of person would you choose, and what qualities must this person have? Would you just choose anybody to represent you? Can a person be qualified to represent you by just having ‘good intentions’ or ‘good feelings’?
Shouldn’t they in addition to good intentions and good feelings also have knowledge, training, experience, sympathetic understanding and good social skills? After all they are representing you. Shouldn’t your representative have an honest and credible character, true knowledge-understanding, wisdom, courage, determination, commitment, training, maturity, gracefulness and a highly developed skill-set? Shouldn’t your representative care about you and what you are seeking to accomplish? Shouldn’t your representative have affinity with you and with your way of doing things?
What kind of people do you think Olodumare, Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa are looking for, to represent them and to promote their benefit conferring cause? These are things to carefully think about, to ponder and to consider, especially if we have the personal aspiration to serve and represent Olodumare, Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa before others.
In former times a genuinely developed, trained, qualified and mature awo or initiate, was considered a source of inspiration, strength and blessing to his family, community and nation. These awo or initiates were the spiritual pulse and heart of the community. The essence of their devotion was not merely ritualistic worship but to arouse a genuine and deep faith in Ifá (Olodumare) and in the Irunmole-Orisa. The were able to impart asé, hope, courage, inspiration and strength to others. By promoting the divine standard of Ifá values, they were instrumental in promoting the progress, wellbeing, peace, harmony and safety of their families, their community and their nation. These special awo were gifted with the special asé to create an atmosphere of harmony, peace, understanding, gentleness and love. These dedicated or consecrated awo had the special asé to disarm people of their worries, fears, doubts, anxieties and misunderstandings.
Let me ask you: If the ones who are charged with the privilege, responsibility and duty to draw people close to Ifá-Olodumare and the Irunmole-Orisa become dishonest, corrupt and indifferent, then what will happen to the family life, the community life, the communal spiritual life and the national life?
There is a great need today for awo, initiates and devotees of divine calibre who have true love and compassion for the people. There are so few authentic awo today! Many awo today have made a business of the sacred trust, that in former times was a great honor to discharge with humility, integrity, dignity and simplicity. And this is why we see so little prosperity, peace, harmony and wellbeing in the lives and families of many initiates, for how can they who are living in this sad condition help others. Some awo [initiates] have dedicated themselves to fooling and duping people to achieve their isolated desires and their selfish ends, and sadly many of the sincere but naive public blindly follow these kinds of ‘awo’ who fill their minds with all kinds of lies, make believe and fantasy.
It is a sad but strange wonder: An honest, sincere and true awo, initiate, priest or priestess comes along to freely share and offer the truth and values of Ifá to people and only a small amount of people will respond to this awo. But when a cheating, lying, duping, advantage taking, fantasizing, exploiting, double dealing and false promising ‘awo’ comes along, all come running to place their heads at his feet and to do his bidding and to secure his ‘blessings’?! What kind of ‘blessings’ can this person give when he himself is living an accursed life?! This is where we are today.
The ancient awo were not rich according to today’s standards and conception, and their search was not for money. The ancient awo were rich in peace of mind, good health, respect, wisdom, true spiritual power and divine virtue. The ancient awo sought for divine wisdom, imperishable values, health, spiritual power, penetrative insight, communion with the irunmole-orisa, harmony and longevity so as to be able to enjoy life to the fullest and to benefit others. Good conduct, good character and the earned (merited) respect of their community was their crown of achievement. Even today in Yorubaland there is an exalted title given out to knowledgeable awo of irreproachable conduct, extraordinary competence, deep understanding and sterling character: This sacred title is called Oba Iwa – the king of good conduct, virtue, good behavior and character! How beautiful and wonderful this is! This is the true gold and riches of Ifá!
The founder of Ogunda Meji Temple, the venerable Awopeju Bogunmbe was such an exalted, revered, holy, wise, hardworking, dedicated, inspiring and tireless servant of Ifá and the people, and this is why he was awarded with the title of Oba Iwa. The venerable Awopeju Bogunmbe was a rare awo. He was rare not because others could not live as he did, but he was rare in that he dedicated himself, by himself, to following Ifá with wholeheartedness and sincerity.
The same can be said of Olorunfunmi Adebanjo Oshiga the founder of Ijo Òrúnmìlà Adulawo and his worthy successor Olori Oluwo Ifajobi Fagbemi. The same can be said for the great high chief, the Oluwo Ifá of Ota, the venerable Fasola Opayemi Ifagbemi and his worthy successor and son, Babalawo and Ogboni Oluwo Fasola Faniyi of Ota. The same can be said of the founders of Indigene Faith of Africa [Ijo Òrúnmìlà Ato] and their present successors. They were and are the true and divine awo upon this earth. The same can be said for the wise and progressive founders of Ose Meji Temple. These great devotees achieved what they did because of their genuine love for and dedication to Ifá and Ifá blessed them beyond their expectation, but these men had to work hard, with patience, perseverance, intelligence and dedication. They cared for, loved and served the people with the wisdom and power of Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa. They left an indelible and uplifting and inspiring impression and made a transformative impact in the lives of all who were privileged to know them. These authentic devotees of Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa had to fight a lot of up-hill battles and had to persevere while being in the midst thankless, arrogant and unappreciative people. These men were men of action, dedication and integrity. These men taught everyone the truths of Ifá and the beauty and power of orisa esin ibile by the way they lived, related to people and treated people. Everything they did was scented with gracefulness, sanctity, authority and truth. This is why they were and are loved and cherished by the people, the irunmole-orisa and Ifá and Ifá. The irunmole-orisa and the people made sure that they never lacked the basic necessities. The people compelled by love and gratitude upheld them and supported them. How beautiful and wonderful. Aboru Aboye!!! When we serve Ifá like this, Ifá feels indebted to us and he begins to serve us!!! When we serve the people like this the people without being asked and without being prompted will uphold us, assist us and bless us.
But many want Ifá to serve them without them first serving Ifá and without them assimilating the spirit, character and manners of Ifá. They don’t really serve the people they serve themselves! They don’t really worship and promote Ifá, they worship and promote themselves! They want Ifá to listen to them and respond to them, but they do not listen to Ifá or do what Ifá expects of them!!
The great and true awo previously mentioned were and are the true embodiments of Ifá and true friends of Òrúnmìlà and the irunmole-orisa. And there are still presently such awo of divine quality in Yorubaland and in the diaspora, but they are few compared to the many who come to Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa for the wrong purposes or aims.
The awo is supposed to be an exemplary teacher, role model and guide, but today many awo do not want to assume these necessary obligations. Many awo are not paying attention to their true duties, mission or responsibilities. Instead of imparting true knowledge, they teach people incorrect things, tainted information, superficial understanding and superstitious foolishness and thereby lure people into incorrect paths and unsatisfying paths. Ifá is a divine science and a path of divine devotion, and not superstitious foolishness. But many ignorant or misinformed pseudo ‘awo’ promote superstitious ideas and fear-mongering in an attempt to manipulate, mislead and control people for their own selfish aims!
It is impossible to take upon oneself the name of awo and then practice such shameful, embarrassing and debasing things. The word awo implies a way-maker, a path-finder, a truth bearer, a genuine and reliable friend, mentor and guide. The word awo implies that one is able to successfully point others in the right direction and to the correct path that will lead them to genuine success, peace and happiness. A genuine awo does not practice fooling people, flattering people, manipulating people and inciting their feelings. There are not few ‘awo’ who shamefully use their ‘authority’ and who shamefully misrepresent the true, kind and loving nature of the irunmole-orisa to threaten people and to fill the hearts and minds of people with fear and imaginary worries. These fraudulent ‘awo’ don’t serve or represent Ifá or the irunmole-orisa. These fraudulent, immature and insensitive ‘awo’ serve their own pride, arrogance and ignorance. If they really believed in Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa they would never even think about pursuing such perilous actions which divine justice will adjudicate, discipline, punish and correct.
The sensitivity, compassion and generosity is disappearing from the hearts, minds and lives of some initiates. Many initiates have made of Ifá or have attempted to make of Ifá a cult of arrogance, self-worship, pride and conceit! Such ‘initiates’ are no longer human beings. They are animals with human faces. They are less than animals, because even animals have care, love, sympathy and concern for their own! When they could have chosen to live god-like or divine lives they have chosen to live impure, dishonest, scheming and unwholesome lives. They have become ajogun and servants of the ajogun!! Instead of promoting the cause of Ifá-Olodumare they are directly and indirectly promoting the cause of the elenini.
Ifá-Olodumare expects more from initiate disciple of Ifá and the Irunmole-Orisa. Ifá-Olodumare expects more from any and all human beings whether they are followers of Ifá or not. Those of us who have embraced Ifá and the way of the Irunmole-Orisa let us be true awo, true babalawo, true iyanifa, true babalorisa, true iyalorisa and true devotees. Let us help to spread the knowledge and practical love of Ifá and let us work individually and collectively to eradicate misunderstanding, negative tendencies and ignorance. This is what Olodumare, Ifá and all Irunmole-Orisa expect from all initiates and all genuine devotees. This is what we should expect from ourselves.
BY: AWO ÒRÚNMÌLÀ MARK CASILLAS