Ifa Divination

by John Pemberton III
Professor Emeritus, Amherst College

Babalawo Kolawole Ositola performing a divination rite known as Idafa-Ilu, Ijebu-Ode, Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, June 1982. Photo by John Pemberton III. 

Having spread the iyerosun dust in the center of the opon ifa (divination board), the babalawo made the sign of the cross-roads in the iyerosun dust, symbolizing the place of meeting between the cosmic realms of the world of humans and that of spiritual powers. He calls upon the ancient babalawo, whose presence he believed was imaged in the faces on the rim of the board. As he prays, he repeatedly touches the sacred palm nuts and the center of the divination board with the iroke ifa (ifa tapper).