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Sixteen Principal Odu
Name 1 2 3 4
Ogbe I I I I
Iwori II I I II
Irosun I I II II
Iwọnrin II II I I
Ọbara I II II II
Ọkanran II II II I
Ogunda I I I II
Ọsa II I I I
Oturupọn II II I II
Otura I II I I
Irẹtẹ I I II I
Ofun II I II I

Sixteen Principal Afa-du
(Yeveh Vodou)
Name 1 2 3 4
Eji-Ogbe I I I I
Ọyeku-Meji II II II II
Iwori-Meji II I I II
Odi-Meji I II II I
Irosun-Meji I II II II
Ọwanrin-Meji II II II I
Ọbara-Meji I I II II
Ọkanran-Meji II II I I
Ogunda-Meji I I I II
Ọsa-Meji II I I I
Ika-Meji I I II I
Oturupon-Meji I II I I
Otura-Meji II II I II
Irete-Maji II I II II
Ọse-Meji I II I II
Ofu meji II I II I

Ifá is a religion and system of divination and refers to the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odu Ifá. Orunmila is identified as the Grand Priest, as he is who revealed divinity and prophecy to the world. Babalawo's use either the divining chain known as Opele, or the sacred palm or kola nuts called Ikin, on the wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá.

Ifá is practiced throughout the Americas, West Africa, and the Canary Islands, in the form of a complex religious system, and plays a critical role in the traditions of Santería, Candomblé, Palo, Umbanda, Vodou, and other Afro-American faiths, as well as in some traditional African religions.


  • History 1
  • Yoruba canon 2
  • Igbo canon 3
  • Ewe canon 4
  • Odù Ifá 5
  • International recognition 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9


The 16 principle system seems to have it earliest history in West Africa. Each Niger-Congo ethnic group has its own myths of origin; Yoruba mythology suggests that it was founded by Orunmila in Ile Ife when he initiated himself and then he initiated his students, Akoda and Aseda. Other myths suggest in the that it was brought to Ile Ife by Setiu, a Nupe man who settled in Ile Ife. Igbo mythology suggests that Dahomey Kings noted that the system of Afá was brought by a diviner known as Gogo from eastern Nigeria.[1]

Orunmila came to establish an oral literary corpus incorporating stories and experiences of priests and their clients along with the results. This odu corpus emerges as the leading documentation on the Ifá tradition to become a historical legacy.

Yoruba canon

In Yorubaland, divination gives priests unreserved access to the teachings of Orunmila. Eshu is the one said to lend ashe to the oracle during provision of direction and or clarification of counsel. Eshu is also the one that holds the keys to ones ire, thus acts as Oluwinni (ones Creditor), he can grant ire or remove it.[2] Ifá divination rites provide an avenue of communication to the spiritual realm and the intent of ones destiny.

Igbo canon

In Igboland, Ifá is known as Afá, and is performed by specialist called Dibia. The Dibia is considered a doctor and specializes in the use of herbs for healing and transformation.[3]

Ewe canon

In Togoland, Ifá is known as Afá, where the Vodun spirits come through and speak. In many of their Egbes, it is Alaundje who is honored as the first Bokono to have been taught how to divine the destiny of humans using the holy system of Afá. The Amengansi are the living oracles who are higher than a bokono. A priest who is not a bokono is known as Hounan.

Odù Ifá

Divination tray

There are sixteen major books in Odu Ifá[4] literary corpus. When combined there are total of 256 Odu (a collection of sixteen, each of which has sixteen alternatives ⇔ 16^2, or 4^4) believed to reference all situations, circumstances, actions and consequences in life based on the uncountable ese (poetic tutorials) relative to the 256 Odu coding. These form the basis of traditional Yoruba spiritual knowledge and are the foundation of all Yoruba divination systems. Ifá proverbs, stories, and poetry are not written down but passed down orally from one babalawo to another.

International recognition

The Ifá Divination system was added in 2005 by UNESCO to its list of the "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity".[5]

See also



  1. ^ "Afa in the African Diaspora". 
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ "Igbo Medicine". 
  4. ^ Sixteen major 'books in Odù Ifá
  5. ^ "Ifa Divination System". 

Further reading

  • Áwo Ifàjare Oladeyi
  • Frank Baba Eyiogbe Babalawo, Santería's High Priests ISBN 978-0738739618
  • Awo Falokun Fatunmbi Dafa: Ifa Divination
  • Awo Falokun Fatunmbi Awo: Ifa & the Theology of Orisha Divination
  • Awo Falokun Fatunmbi Ibase Orisa
  • Awo Falokun Fatunmbi Iwa-Pele
  • Awo Falokun Fatunmbi Egun
  • Awo Falokun Fatunmbi Ebora
  • Awoyinfa Ifaloju writing on "Ifa Speaks" published articles on Ifa ideology & cosmology
  • Chief FAMA Fundamentals of the Yoruba Religion (Orisa Worship) ISBN 0-9714949-0-8
  • Chief FAMA Practitioners' Handbook for the Ifa Professional ISBN 0-9714949-3-2
  • Chief FAMA Fundamentos de la Religion Yoruba (Adorando Orisa) ISBN 0-9714949-6-7
  • Chief FAMA Sixteen Mythological Stories of Ifa (Itan Ifa Merindinlogun) ISBN 0-9644247-2-X
  • Chief FAMA FAMA'S EDE AWO (Orisa Yoruba Dictionary) ISBN 0-9644247-8-9
  • Chief FAMA The Rituals (novela) ISBN 0-9644247-7-0
  • Awo Fasina Falade Ifa: The Key to Its Understanding ISBN 0-9663132-3-2
  • Chief Adedoja Aluko The Sixteen (16) Major Odu Ifa from Ile-Ife ISBN 978-37376-6-X
  • Chief Hounon-Amengansie, Mama Zogbé (Vivian Hunter Hindrew) Mami Wata: Africa's Ancient God/dess Unveiled Vol. I ISBN 978-0-615-17936-0
  • Chief S. Solagbade Popoola library, INC Ifa Dida: Vol 1 (EjiOgbe - Orangun Meji), ISBN 978-0-9810013-1-9
  • Chief S. Solagbade Popoola library, INC (Ogbe Oyeku - Ogbe Ofun)Ifa Dida: Vol 2, ISBN 978-1-926538-12-9
  • Chief S. Solagbade Popoola & Fakunle Oyesanya Ikunle Abiyamo - The ASE of Motherhood ISBN 978-09810013-0-2
  • C. Osamaro Ibie Ifism the Complete Works of Orunmila ISBN 1-890157-05-8
  • William R. Bascom: Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa ISBN 0-253-20638-3
  • William R. Bascom: Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World ISBN 0-253-20847-5
  • Iyanifa Ileana S. Alcamo "The Challenge growing within the Orisa Community" ISBN 1-890157-31-7
  • Rosenthal, J. ‘Possession Ecstasy & Law in Ewe Voodoo" ISBN 0-8139-1805-7
  • Maupoil, Bernard. "La Geomancie L'ancienne Côte des Esclaves
  • Alapini, Julien. Les noix sacrées. Etude complète de Fa-Ahidégoun génie de la sagesse et de la divination au Dahomey
  • Iyalaja Ileana Alcamo (2007). The Source Iya Nla Primordial Yoruba Mother, Athelia Henrietta Press, Inc. ISBN 1-890157-41-4
  • Dr. Ron Eglash (1997) American Anthropologist Recursion in ethnomathematics, Chaos Theory in West African divination.
  • Bàbálàwó Ifatunwase (Colección Alafundé)Tratados Enciclopédicos de Ifá, ISBN 978-0-9810387-04
  • Ifá Ceremonies Lineage Fabunmi Amori
  • Babalawo Ifalola's blog: Ifa yesterday, Ifa today, Ifa tomorrow
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