November 10, 2010

Introducing our latest house reader: Iyanifa Fakayode

Recently The Sacred Well invited Iyanifa Fakayode of the Ile Orunmila Oshun to be our newest house reader. She is adept in several forms of Ifa Divination including Four Cowry divination, Sixteen Cowry divination (Merindinlogun), and Obi Obata.

But for those of us not in the know, what exactly is Ifa Divination?
To find out, we sat down with Fakayode and asked her the questions that we thought you might ask, and we learned a lot by doing so!

The Sacred Well:
Can you talk briefly about the tradition that this divination system comes from?

Fakayode: Ifa is said to be the esoteric words of the creator. The tradition, which is philosophy, cosmology, medicine, science, psychology, poetry, and spirituality heralds from the Yoruba people of southwest Nigeria, The diasporic ritual traditions stemming from this are known as Candomble in Brazil, Santeria, Lucumi, Ifa, Shango in Trinidad. Many people know this tradition as the Orisha tradition. The Orisha are the forces in nature that bring certain energy patterns into existence.

In this tradition, we acknowledge that all existence is alive (has what we call ase, or power). Ancestor veneration is central to our tradition as well; the ancestors figure prominently in practice and ritual.

The Sacred Well: What is the role of divination in this tradition?

Fakayode: Divination is utilized to help keep or get our lives on track. It is both a diagnostic and a prescriptive tool used solve problems, remove obstacles, attend to our health and relationships. My elder, Luisah Teish, says that divination is a way for us to track our contract with creation. Divination reveals the hidden parts of our destinies so that we can take the actions to stay in alignment with our life purpose and unfold our collective destiny as humans to bring goodness to the world.

Ifa explains how multiple elements work together. We have our destinies, which are the gifts, medicines and talents that we have come to share; and our efforts, what we are willing to do based on our free will; and we have character, which is the moral or ethnical way in which we engage ourselves and the world. Through divination and other means we learn what is in our destiny and what efforts we can make to more likely fulfill that destiny, and to be in good character. There may be things that we are mean to fulfill, but if we don't put forth the effort those things may not come to pass. The oracle will tell you how to put yourself in the best position for your destiny to unfold, and point you to the actions that will support that.

In Ifa everything centers on process, how we do things, how we strive and how we put our skills and talents to work towards goodness. Acting, doing the assigned work, puts us in alignment, even if what we initially desire doesn't necessarily manifest in the end. It is important that we free ourselves from a black and white perception of the world, to understand that we are constantly unfolding, developing and growing. The medicine of Ifa is about the person and their growth. The oracle will reveal the energy around a particular situation and what a person can do to best achieve a positive outcome. We need to nurture a broader understanding of what good fortune or alignment means. Sometimes what it takes for us to be in alignment might be achieved through difficult lessons.

The Sacred Well: How long have you been a diviner?

Fakayode: I have been studying in this system for twenty-one years and I have been divining for other people as an initiate in this tradition for seventeen years. Prior to being initiated in this tradition, I had studied both Tarot and the I Ching

The Sacred Well: What if I am not a practitioner of this tradition, how can Ifa give me direction?

Fakayode: My elders say that Ifa doesn't belong to a culture, or a people. Now, the understanding of who we are and what we have come to do, this understanding may come through specific cultural lens, in this case through the Yoruba people of Southwest Nigeria. But we live in this part of the world and we have to adapt our understanding of Ifa through our cultural lens. I may speak about a particular Orisha (force in nature) during a reading, for example, Oshun, the deity of the river. Oshun is the Yoruba cultural name for the river, yet the river is an elemental energy, a force in nature. Rivers exist all over the world. I can talk about this force in nature in a way that is understood by those living inside of any cultural context.

Part of our work as diviners is to translate the meanings from one cultural perspective to another so that the intelligence that is being spoken of, the intelligence that is the river, that is Oshun for example, resonates and is relevant to the person coming for divination. People who practice this tradition may have a certain body of knowledge of the concepts, the deities, or the sacred text, but this knowledge is not necessary to receive support from the oracle that can help you work with the issues in your life,

The Sacred Well: What divination systems or oracles do you use at the Sacred Well?

Fakayode: I use two divination systems at the store. Each system has different levels of information, stories, prayers, prescriptions and medicine. The first is called Obi Obata. A person can request either a 30-minute or 60-minute reading with this oracle.

With any of the oracles, the best way to frame questions is to ask about a potential action you want to take, not a particular outcome you want to manifest. For example, a person might ask, Will I get the job I am applying for? I would reframe the question to ask, Is it in my destiny to apply for this job? The systems are not fortune telling systems. The oracles can see into the future, but are meant to support you in taking actions that lead to outcomes that will align you with your destiny.

A 30-minute reading is designed for a single issue where you ask about taking a specific action, where you want to know the hidden energies around an action you are considering taking. For example you might ask, Will it bring me good fortune to pursue my singing career? Does it bring me good fortune to take a sabbatical this year? The oracle will reveal whether that action is in your best interest. However, because this reading is short, you have access to limited prescriptions and interpretations. These 30-minute readings are most appropriate and useful for those active in the tradition and for those who and have received more comprehensive readings in the past.

A 60-minute Obi Abata reading offers more depth and breadth to your issue. In general, either Obi Abata readings should be approached for situations that have lower levels of complexity.

The second level of divination is called Merindinlogun. This system takes an in-depth look at the current situations in a persons life. If you have questions about the big issues in your life, if you are considering taking actions that have the potential to profoundly change your life I strongly suggest a Merindinlogun. Also, if you just want to know, “Where am I right now and what do I need to be paying attention to?” Merindinlogun would be a better choice. Merindinlogun offers more information, interventions and prescriptions. This oracle has the means to read and respond to the complexity of an issue in a way that Obi Abata cannot.

The Sacred Well: So if I have a question about entering into a relationship, or relocating to the other side of the world, or changing my career path

Fakayode: You would get either a Merindinlogun or Ifa reading. A Merindinlogun reading is between one and a half or two hours. Depending on the seriousness of the issue, Ifa might be the better oracle. I don't offer Ifa readings at the store. For those readings, I will schedule a divination session with a person at my shrine.

The Ifa/Dafa divination system and corpus has even more stories, more prescriptions, more medicine, and more complexity. If you are going through something big in your life (major health issues, issues of safety, big transitions) an Ifa reading may be most appropriate.

The Sacred Well: What can I expect when I come for a reading?

Fakayode: Generally people come either wanting to know something specific about an issue in their lives (finances, relationship, health, career, etc.) or they are seeking information about a future transition. Sometimes people want a more general idea of what is happening in their lives.

The system of Ifa is a window into understanding what we have come here to do based on the understanding that we chose our destiny before we were born, and that we spend our lives recovering our memory of that choice. Divination will tell you whether you are in alignment with your destiny. The questions you put in front of the oracle will be considered in the context of your destiny, your individual big picture. Divination will tell you whether the change you desire is in alignment with your destiny; it will be both diagnostic (Are you in balance/alignment?) and also prescriptive. The prescribed medicine, and your efforts, can shift the energy or your situation to move you towards balance, or if you are already in alignment, will help to keep you in balance. With any of the oracles, you will receive information and spiritual homework.

When you come to divination, you are entering a sacred space. The process (prayers, songs, incantations and overall intent) opens up portals that have been closed until the time of the divination, portals in the universe and in the diviner, and in the person who comes for divination. Divination is revelatory. You want to approach your session willing to enter into that expansiveness, knowing that something that was hidden will be revealed. You will leave with more information, knowledge and awareness.

Also, when you come for divination the information you receive will be about you, The contract that we agree to is that you have given me permission to ask about you. The divining implements are attuned to your energy. As the diviner, I will ask questions about your consciousness, your contract, and your destiny. You will receive information about the elemental energies around you, about the actions you should take. The oracle will reveal whether you are in alignment with your destiny and will give you spiritual homework to either maintain or restore that alignment. It is inappropriate for me to ask questions about actions that a person outside of the reading will take in relationship to your issue.

Ideally, I like to talk with the person who wants a reading prior to the divination to determine the appropriate oracle for their given issue. Those interested should know also that they may come to divination with a particular issue but that once the oracle is opened, the divination will likely speak beyond that issue. Again, the understanding is that although you come asking about a specific issue, the divination will locate that issue in your larger life, inside of your destiny.

The Sacred Well: So I might approach a divination session wanting information about my job, but information may also emerge about some other area of my life?

Fakayode: This is particularly true with the higher oracles, Merindinlogun and Ifa. Remember that these oracles reveal the complexity of a given issue. What I do in my work life, for example, has implications for other areas of my life as well. My conscious and unconscious actions all take place inside the broader context of my destiny.

Given that, one must be willing to work with the information that comes. A person should be open to hear and consider the information and trust that the direction they receive will benefit them if they don't fully understand it right away; to trust that the oracle will bring their best interests forward.

The Sacred Well: What kinds of spiritual homework may people receive?

Fakayode: In this system, receiving information is not enough. Divination will identify where you are in balance, and where you are out of balance; then, you will be instructed to make the efforts (do work) that will either maintain your balance or to return you to balance if you have veered off course. Spiritual homework is medicine in of itself.

The spiritual homework and other medicines you receive will depend on what is revealed in the divination. Homework might include ending a bad habit, offering foods, giving things away, ingesting herbal medicine, or self-esteem work. You may be instructed to go the river and pray, to the ocean and cry, or to the mountain and dream. You may be told to let go of people who are no longer good for your life, or to seek forgiveness for some past wrong. All of this will be revealed in the divination process.

I pursue the work my destiny has assigned me. I follow the path down which Ifa directs me. I will not fail to drain the deepest waters in order to be prosperous. I will not fail to drain the deepest waters to achieve goodness. Odu Ogbe Ose (Maulana Karenga)

We are so thankful to have Fakayode as part of our team, and we can't wait for you to come in and meet her. She is available for her readings on Thursday evenings after 5pm, and it is highly recommended that you give us a call us at 510.444.9355 to make an appointment before coming in!

Hope to hear from you soon!

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