If you’ve not read the Brittle Paper interview with Omítọ̀nàdé Ifáwẹ̀mímọ́, you should head over there right now. Omítọ̀nàdé is a priestess of Yemoja and had really interesting things to say while explaining her faith and stance as a Yoruba traditional worshipper. I’ve seen in so many places online where Ifa and Orisha worship are used interchangeably and I’ve always wondered but kept quiet because I’m not a traditional worshipper and when it comes to it, I don’t know much about it. Omítọ̀nàdé took her time explaining the difference.
Ifá and Òrìṣà worship are the original spiritual practices in Africa especially in Yorùbáland. In Yorùbáland where the religion comes from, the worship, rituals and traditions were mainly family-based. The practice of Ifá/Orìsà is a spiritual path to transformation, a transformation from the inside out, that begins with you as an individual and ends with you as an individual. Ifá worship is different from Òrìṣà worship.
Ifá worship is practiced by a Babaláwo or Ìyánífá. Ifá is the esoteric word of Olódùmarè. Ifá is the connector between mankind and Olódùmarè. Ọ̀rúnmìlà is the intermediary between Ifá and Olódùmarè. Ọ̀rúnmìlà is the Òrìṣà of wisdom, prophesy and ethnics. Babaláwo or Ìyánífá are believed to be able to contact Ọ̀rúnmìlà during their divination, rituals. They make use of Ọ̀pẹ̀lẹ̀ and Ikin Ifá as their means of divination. While Òrìsà Worship is being practiced by Babalórìṣà or Ìyálórìṣà. Òrìṣà are considered as ministers of Olódùmarè and intermediaries between humanity and Olódùmarè. Òrìṣà are human beings who once lived on earth and who performed in an exemplary way. They were later venerated as Òrìṣà after their death… people like Ṣàngó, Ọya, Ọ̀ṣun, Yemọja et al. Òrìṣà devotees make use of Ẹ̀rìndílógún (Sixteen Cowries) for their divination.
Ifa Orisa worship began from time immemorial. My take is that as mankind evolved and became aware of natural phenomena and the works of Olódùmarè around them, they found that all these things couldn’t have just come to being on their own, hence the need to reverence a Supreme Being (Olódùmarè). You know the Supreme Being provides its existence through nature like water, fire, wind… which represent each Òrìṣà. It is this belief that helped maintain our ecosystem.
(Gosh how I’d love to interview her myself)