The University of Iowa University of Iowa

Ifa Divination

by John Pemberton III
Professor Emeritus, Amherst College

The Oloriawo (d. 1991), the leader of Ifa priests in the Igbomina town of Ila-Orangun, Nigeria, June 1972. Photo by John Pemberton III. 

Yoruba priests of ifa are known as babalawo (fathers of secrets). Trained from their youth in the rituals of divination, they are masters of a vast corpus of oral literature known as ese ifa often referred to as containing the wisdom of ifa. The doorway is draped with palm fronds indicating that it is the home of the leader of Ila’s ifa priests.