Ifa Divination

by John Pemberton III
Professor Emeritus, Amherst College

Ifa divination performed at the house of Chief Obaloja in Ila-Orangun, Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, July 1974. Photo by John Pemberton III. 

Yoruba ifa divination performed at the house of Chief Obaloja in Ila-Orangun. The babalawo has finished "casting" ifa and is chanting the verses of the odu, the pattern of which has appeared in the iyerosun dust on the opon ifa. The ikin ifa (palm nuts) used in the ritual performance have been placed in a pile at the top of the ifa board with kola nuts and a bit of fruit next to them as offerings to ifa. Consultation with an ifa priest may be by an individual or a group. And the priest may or may not know the problem troubling the suppliants. In this case, there had been a series of untimely deaths among young persons in the extended family. Ifa disclosed that rites for the ancestors of ile Obaloja (Obaloja's house) should be performed, including the appearance of the egungun (ancestral masquerades).