In January of 2010 I began a contemplation of the geomantic signs used in the 16 sign divination systems. I recognized these figures to represent forces of nature but I had seen very little on how they were broken down and the explanation of how nature evolves based on these signs. I see the Philosophy of Ifa as an expression of the laws of nature itself rather than a religion and I approach it that way. Through understanding the laws and natural flow of nature, we can understand the ideas expressed in Ifa... and vice versa.
The signs that are used are binary sequences of quadragrams. In some regions it is expressed as one dot and two dots and in Ifa it is expressed as 1 line and 2 line sequences. These two signs express the duality of nature and more specifically how energy expresses itself in nature.
In nature, there are two forces. One is potential which allows energy to be stored up and reserved and one is kinetic which allows for energy to be outwardly expressed. These forces can also be described as active and receptive, assertive and yielding or yin and yang. We can see this energy expressed further in the forms of :
In fact all energy is contained within these 2 forces. These forces are expressed as assertive kinetic energy of the singular line or dot and the yielding energy of the double lines or dots.
This is the fundamental nature of the lines that are found within the signs and tetragrams.
Everything is predicated upon the natural law of development. Everything is first birthed out of darkness and this darkness is called the womb of existence or the cosmic calabash. This reference is to a Great Mother that can be known as Iya Nla or Oduwa- (Watery womb) or Olodumare ( Ol- Owner Odu- womb Mare-Stability or Eternal) Olodumare is the Owner of the Eternal Womb.
This mother gave birth to twins male and female or strong and yielding energy and these strong and yielding energies became the polarities expressed in the world as complementary opposites. Neither good or bad better or worse.. but natural expressions of energy within all things.
African Cosmology relates its symbolism to the natural elements around it and the most basic element is that of the family so these polarity twins when doubled to be strong can be expressed as Mother and Father of the family. While these are expressed as the family it is important to keep in mind that this is simply a description of energy and is not to imply strict application to men and woman. To do so will severely limit your understanding and application of the principles later on.
Mother and Father will then produce children which are a son and a daughter. These become the basis of the lines used in the signs.The symbolism that is inherent within the signs further demonstrates the relationship in that the Father lines resembles the shape of a male body in straight lines and the mother resembles the body of a woman with two breast and wide hips creating either a rounded appearance or an hourglass. The son resembles a penis and testicles at the bottom and the daughter resembles two ovaries and a vaginal canal.
As we begin to contemplate the nature of the lines further, we will see that the ancients used the lines as metaphors or symbols to express its meaning.
These forces can further be expressed within the natural cycle of life and the womb as it relates to the fundamental elements in the universe Air, Earth, Fire, Water.
When doubled or stacked they produce the 16 mother odus. The Odus break down as elements of nature through their combinations involving earth, air, fire, and water.
This produces the 4 directions or 4 quarters identified by the 4 colors red, yellow, black, white. These four directions represent the seasons, the cycles of life, the passage of day and night, the spiritual forces between heaven and earth. In the oracle itself these four directions represent the 4 phases of the moon. New moon, Waxing moon, Full moon, and Waning moon.
In addition it is replicated by the sun's relationship to the earth in the winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes. The Kikongo and Kemetic further elaborate on this as the stages of the development of the earth and its people. In the book The Cosmology of the Bantu Kongo these colors reflect the process of the sun from sunrise, noon, afternoon, and sunset.
These 4 directions can be found on the opon Ifa as well.
As such these four directions are expressed in Ifa as the 4 root Odus Ogbe, Oyeku, Iwori, and Odi. This being the case, we should be able to break these odus down into the same basic energies as the cardinal directions, seasons, cycles of life or wherever we see this fundamental idea expressed.
These 4 root Odus are expressed as Ogbe at the far right, Oyeku at the left, Iwori at the top and Odi at the bottom.
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.