Black Spirituality Religion : Ile Ife, Sacred City of Yorubaland

Sekhemu

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By Oliver Oguntunde

Ife: The Spiritual City

My second meeting with chief Adeyela Adelekan, we sat together in his home in Ife, surrounded by images and statues of various Yoruba Divinities. In the center of the drive-in, a fountain dedicated to yemoja, the water goddess raised her hands in prayer.

The discussioh openend with a statement "Ile Ife is the centre of the world."

In the mythical version: Ife is the centre of creation, the gods arrived here "from heaven" and they created a landmass from where they fanned out to create the wider world. In the theoretical debates, the question centers on the "oke' its literary meaning in Yoruba is "up." Such words have various interpretations in Yoruba use, "oke" means: far, far away, a field away, up, upstairs and heaven. Yoruba people's creation myths says, they came from Ile Oke. To some it says "far north" while others interpret it as "up in heaven."

Baba Adelekan challenged the story with spiritual backing. "Don't follow the falshehood, the top we refer to is heaven." The gods descended from heaven into this place - Ile Ife. This is where they started the process of creating mankind. We know the sacred spots where these things happened, he said, it remains a sacred place of worship. Yoruba people then migraged from Ife to form other nations, that is what Ifa initiates are taught. The general public is told tht the people from Saudi Arabia migrated to the West African coast to start the Yoruba kingdom.

The former supports the notion of Ife as central to the world. The latter supports the day christians and colonial historians. Baba and Ifa initiates are one hundred percent convinced of the former.

Ife is the African Vatican, Baba added. Then whispered, and they all know it. The British colonial authorities suggested a move of Ife to another site. They had plans to open tourist attractions at our shrines, he laughed, and that is an abomination. The African leaders opposed their action. We will not allow them to refute our gods. The African leaders stood together to challenge this outrageous suggestion. The colonial authorities tried to rewrite history to meet this selfish and narrow aim. We can say with all honesty, they create havoc with their actions. Sometimes it is immediate, other times it takes years and centuries to see the evil implications their actions.

Then Baba raised the case in point of the Kemetic Pyramids. The doors of these sacred temples have been thrown open to paying tourists. This is ridiculous- he warned. This is a sacred shrine that requires conservation, reverence, initiation and strict discipline. To suddenly throw it open to the public eye is an abomination and and affront to the gods of the land. People have paid dearly for the affront; when people don't do rituals and walk into these temples, they pick up strange energy that materialize into akward illnesses and mishaps. People should be warned about this; there are things that are beyond western research and needs age-old reverance.

Does the world recognize Ife as a sacred site? Baba laughed at the question. It depends on who you ask and who wants to say. He pointed to pictures on the wall of his front room. A picture of the Nigerian vice president, walking through crowds. Vice president Atiku came here for a traditional title and prayers and to pay homage. Other world leaders come here to do various rituals and seek help, "they know what we have." He will not mention names. High profile world leaders paid us quiet and very secret visits. It was a super hush-hush affair. Then he pointed to a blank spot on the wall. There are other world figures, not known to the media, who come here to seek guidance, people know what is here, he demonstrated. All year round, the people of Ife hold festivals to honor the gods. Festivals are like carnivals with processions that celebrate life, the gods, plenty, harvest and humanity. Some ceremonies are open to the public; some are sacred, open only to initiates.

Edmond king a Triniman walked into the meeting. He is an initiate on a working visit to Ife; he came for the Obatala festival and is still enjoying the sites of the ancient city. Edmond is a native of Trinidad and a senior priest of Ifa worship in Trinidad. Among his many interests is a study of negroid features. All the features, from the tallest man to the shortest Twa (pygmy's) are presented in these parts of Africa he informed us. He has seen all these specimen in Ife.

Then he narrated the experience with the route master. During the Obatala festival, he saw a magnificent possession. The first group of water carriers walked along bare-footed with large earth-ware pots balanced on their heads. The carriers were the tallest men he has ever seen, and the guide was a short man who carried a thin long cane. He said "I watched the short man with amazemen; he was a perfect specimen, with well defined muscles and gracefull movement. There was something about this short man; he demonstrated strength and purpose as he led this line of tall and swanking guys." Edmond said he decided to take a picture, and he found his camera was trapped in his pocket. He struggled to free the camera as the possession walked into the distance. He was disappointed, but reassured himself "all is well." There was a national television crew present and he was sure they would have images of this man. When he saw the group returning from the stream, he decided to try taking the photo again. This time the camera was in his hand, but another set of problems materialized.

Baba said such things occur daily in this city. The city of Ife has an equal representation of human specimen and spirit specimen, Baba assured us.

Baba told us he will not do interviews, but he went public when certain factions of the secular religion were rumored to warn church members to avoid indigenous religions. This is ridiculous, he said, the lot of them, Christian and Muslim leaders come to us for power and assitance; they know who has the power. Christian and Muslim religions are youths in the Nigerian landscape, he reiterated. The practitioners of this imported religion are all fifth and fourth generation converts. Look at it this way, before the muslims and christians came here, all the people were involved in our practice. The short and long is, this entire people you see around you, ( in Nigeria) irrespective of their loyalty to Christian and Muslim dogma have roots buried in indigenous beliefs. Hence when we do Egungun (ancestral) festivals, they all come around and work with us.

Add to this; Christianity is on the rise for the wrong reasons. Some see it as a means to instant riches. Nigerian newspapers have identified this rapid rise as a new chapter in the Nigerian community. Some critics see this as questionable, and is has raised many debates. Some make a link with poor governance, bad policies, poor infrastructure, poor health facilities, general poverty and all this leads to to a dependence on external forces and a search for answers.

Baba said this with authority, the fourth generation Nigerian Christian is only an infant in belief patterns. Fact is, indigenous beliefs run thru is veins and motivate his thinking. Most of them resort to Ifa when they hit rock bottom. They come to Ifa at night, Why? This is because their church leaders have labeled Ifa worship as evil. Look behind you and you will find the priest tap into Ifa to help when he is in need.

Ifa is a noble religion with strict guidelines on right and wrong, he insisted. Anything that you have heard otherwise is wrong. It is part of a colonial programme to displace Indigenous religions and replace them with another. Another is Christian. This abuse, "religious terrorism," call it what you may, started years ago and it continues unabated.

Baba narrated the story of Rev Lijadu the right Reverand was instructed by his colonial minders to study Ifa and come up with damaging reports. He joined a "cult" and tried to seek information. In his subsequent report, he said Ifa remains the only true religion and the worship far surpasses the Christian dogma and practice. He was ordered to go deeper and he went in for initiation. Again he emerged with a glorifying report of Ifa as a connection with the true god-head. The colonial authorities refust to publish his reports as it did not fit their agenda.

Contrary to popular beliefs, both priest and practioners of Ifa are paragons of virtue all controlled by strict laws of conduct. When I became a priest I out-grew the ability to tell lies and practice falsehood, he said with full conviction. In our practice we worship in shrines where you can not hold anything back. In some worship, you approach the altar "strip" naked and accustom the gods with all your worth-in this place nothing is hidden. They sybolism is, nothing is hidden, nothing is covered.

The powers of Ifa are endless. The research is available he said, that documents this immense power. He touched on shape-shifters, spirit beings, water spirits, dimension doors. He narrated the story of Oba Ajagun 1910-1930, who was known to bask in his garden in elephant form. People would pass by and pay homage to the elephant as they will the king, because they knew it was the king in his shape-shifting mode.

Oba Sijuade is the king of Ife, and the spiritual head of the Yoruba. He lives in a palace in Ife and he is appointed the head of all obas. All oba pay homage to him and swear allegiance to his crown. The person and the crown are both holy and followed by various rituals.

End of Part 1.
 

nibs

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Jun 18, 2006
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fascinating article; thank you for sharing it.

it's funny that the newer youth religions "know where the power is". the initiated in africa know the answers that the rest of us have been stumbling around to find.
 

nibs

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MEMBER
Jun 18, 2006
483
22
Then Baba raised the case in point of the Kemetic Pyramids. The doors of these sacred temples have been thrown open to paying tourists. This is ridiculous- he warned. This is a sacred shrine that requires conservation, reverence, initiation and strict discipline. To suddenly throw it open to the public eye is an abomination and and affront to the gods of the land. People have paid dearly for the affront; when people don't do rituals and walk into these temples, they pick up strange energy that materialize into akward illnesses and mishaps. People should be warned about this; there are things that are beyond western research and needs age-old reverance.

let's expand on this.
here again we see that the continuity of kemetic culture in western africa, here yoruba, is not just acknowledged but taken for granted. the sacred shrines of kemet are not regarded as foreign in anyway, but as an ancient aspect of the culture.

this further emphasizes that the only way to truly understand kemet is through the continuity that exists with other traditional african cultures and religions; and ofcourse what was preserved in secret.
 

Sekhemu

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Part ll

Ile ife developed throughout three stages. The first was ife OoDaye, the land before the flood. The decond was ife Ooyelagbo, the city of the survivors after the flood. And the third is ile ife founded by Oduduwa and his tribal nation. Throughout these time periods there arose 5 major hill sites which are of great importance to the various facets of study and devotional directives in the ifa religion.

Oke ara: the hill that the orisa first descended upon
Oke igeti: the original home settlement of orunmila
Oke itase: the home and center of orunmila's teachings
Oke isokun: the first settlement of obatala
Oke imogun: the first home and settlement of Ogun

Prehistoric data speaks of the area of ife. There are artifacts from the late stone age that date from 15,000 to 5,000 b.c. There also exist human remains excavated from the area that date back to 8,000 b.c. Archeological findings reveal, that as time passed, ile ife developed into an urban spiritual center comprised of 13 large


communities all complete with stone pavements, networks of shrines and protective walls. During the period of 500 b.c. To a.d. 500 people from various locales Africa
continually migrated to ile ife in steady progressive waves.




At the center of the early pre oduduwa civilization were the oba ( in this instance the name of a tribal nation) religious settlements located in areas near akure and ekiti
 

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