Someone brought up a question about how to find a good elder. The end result of that conversation was that it was difficult for people to know if an Ifa /Orisha teacher is good or bad until it is too late. Too often, people are eager to jump without looking closely for what or who may be best for them. Compatibility is important because when seeking a mentor, you are seeking to develop a relationship that will require trust and humility that will last for years. Each lineage and even Oluwo (teacher) has different requirements as far as training and certification goes. Some offer a certificate called Itowobiye while others simply give a nod of the head. Some can train you in a year. Some will take ten years.
I've compiled a list of considerations when choosing a mentor for the priesthood. These considerations are not meant to be judgments... Well most aren't.. Rather, they are intended to help you reflect on your needs, determine compatibility. and support you making an informed choice rather than an ill fated one.
You will have to decide what your goals are in the first place. Is it to know your life path, to be a diviner, to be a healer, to gain protection or healing, or to floss with no intention of actually learning anything? What do your readings say?
Do you want traditional or Lucumi lineage? Yoruba, Edo, Ewe, Fon lineage? Do you want an African born, American, Cuban, Peurto Rican born teacher? Do you want English, Yoruba, or Spanish speaking teacher? How do they feel about women and what is their approach toward initiating and training women? Or, how do they feel about initiating and training Latinos, African Americans, or whites? How do they feel about gay lifestyles? Do they have rules that prevent initiations for gays, women, or other races?
What is their background and training? How effective is their work? (Very important! ) How long have they been practicing? What initiations do they offer? What kind of character do they have? Are they patient? Kind? How do they treat their family and omos? Do they chase women if they are men? Are they arrogant, greedy, or humble? Are they petty, jealous, or competitive with other priests or Iles or are they able to work in partnership with others? Are they surrounded by drama all of the time? How do they handle their personal affairs? Are they judgmental and intolerant? Do they approach you for sex or use sex as a bargaining tool or tell you that the Orisha wants you to have sex with them? If that is the case Run Forrest Run!
Can you afford them? Do they require monthly fee to be a part of their Ile or joining fees? Is training included with initiation fees or separate? Do they put a dollar sign on everything they do? Do they offer payment plans or sliding scales? Can they openly discuss upfront costs or do they keep you in the dark until they have you? Is there a contract with clear roles, fees, expectations and responsibilities for both parties? That is not common but a good idea to start.
Do they have a large Ile or a lot of Omos or do they have a small one? This determines how much time they may have? Do you want a big family or individualized personal support? How do they treat their omos? How accessible are they? Do they have support? What are the rules and expectations for people in their Ile?
How do they go about training? Do they require that you learn Yoruba before they teach you anything? Do they offer written, oral, and practical application training? Do they teach divination? If so what levels? Do they make you work ten years in their Ile before they teach you Obi? Do they emphasize technical skill over understanding what and why you are doing it? Do they have a set curriculum that lets you know what you have to master and how far to go? Do they determine your skill based on clear objective criteria that can be measured or arbitrary criteria like personal feelings? What skill level are their omos at? Do they have any that have actually been trained and cleared operate on their own or do they keep them forever training and dependent? Have they received their Itowobiye or other certification to practice if they are from Nigeria? Do they offer it?
What is their approach toward the tradition? Religious, esoteric, cultural, spiritual, Nationalist? Do they answer questions or leave you hanging? Do they inspire you or leave you more fearful and distrustful? What ethics and values do they hold dear? Do they follow them themselves?
I know it's a lot of questions and they are not a judgement about people as there is no one size fit all approaches. If a potential Oluwo is impatient and dismisses your questions though, it says they lack patience which is one of the key character points an Awo should have. These are just considerations when looking for someone to apprentice under to determine if you are compatible. They can help you avoid a lot of misunderstandings later.
At the same time the approach is two fold.. Just as you are evaluating potential "God parents", you will need to determine what kind of student, apprentice, or omo you can and are willing to be.
Are you willing to reciprocate for time and energy given for training, initiation, and support whether financially, by barter, or other agreement?
Are you willing to actually be a student, follow directions and be humble?
Are you willing to honor your contracts, commitments, and do what you say you will do?
Are you willing to not spread gossip about your Oluwo?
Are you willing to communicate respectfully especially when there is a problem?
Are you willing to be patient with your training and do what is required to get the most out of it?
Are you willing to follow the ethical codes of the tradition and be honorable?
Are you willing to respect their time and private life?
Are you mentally stable?
Are you willing to do the work of self development?
Lastly, if you are a trained priest or priestess that is taking omos, feel free to leave your information, where you are located and available to work in the comments. Be clear though.... I do not vouch for anyone listed and take no responsibility for the actions of any priests listed. Each person has to do their own research.
For those that need to know the differences between traditional and Lucumi paths, this link offers a good explanation:
This is a meditation and reflection journal on Ifa and African Spiritual Traditions. This is not intended to reflect popular or conventional beliefs so much as it is intended to explore the sacred wisdom of Africa beyond religious dogma. Like all traditions, there is a religious component practiced by the lay person, and then there is the esoteric tradition practiced by seekers of spiritual truth. The difference is in the approach. My approach is through understanding the laws of nature itself we can understand Ifa... and vice versa. Through understanding these laws, we gain insight into our very nature and can use these sacred tools and wisdom for our evolution and advancement as souls on the planet. They ultimately allow us to live in harmony on the planet and in alignment with our divine destinies and with nature itself.