Ifa Divination

by John Pemberton III
Professor Emeritus, Amherst College

Imodi Ijebu, Yoruba peoples, Nigeria, June 1982. Photo by John Pemberton III.

Ositola and Omosese, Yoruba priests of ifa in Imodi Ijebu, gather with other devotees every five days to worship Orunmila, the orisa (deity) of wisdom, through prayer, song, and casting ifa. Ifa may refer to the rite of divination or to Orunmila, who was present at the time of creation and gave his children ikin ifa (the sacred palm nuts of ifa) by which to communicate with him. Hence, it is orisa Orunmila who knows ori inu (the inner head or personal destiny) that each person chose and was granted prior to entering this world.