Sei sulla pagina 1di 8

Treatise on Ebori and Ori: Feeding your Soul

In today's world of speed and complexity, we often hear people talking about how one should "feed one's soul." Even more often in American culture we hear about soul food, that home cooking that warms the belly and nourishes the body, and is so closely associated with the Southern African American culture. Two ubiquitous but seemingly disconnected ideas; one a metaphor, the other a cuisine. Where do they come from? Well, I can't tell you for sure, and I imagine that many cultures have their own version of these ideas. What I can tell you is that they are absolutely Yoruba theological concepts, and soul food, an outgrowth of the African American experience (many of whom descended from Yoruba slaves), holds a strong connection to Yoruba theology. Section I: Ori Let's start with the Yoruba concept of Ori. While its literal meaning is "head," there is also a more esoteric meaning for the followers of the Orisa tradition. Ori is in fact the closest equivalent in Orisa theology to one's soul, as evidenced most clearly by the idea that Ori chooses one's destiny. When one's Ori is in Orun, awaiting to make its descent to Earth, it goes before Olodumare to receive its vocation and pick the destiny it (Ori) will fulfill on Earth with Orunmila as witness (Eleri Ipin -- witness to creation). These two steps are included in the seven overall steps taken by Ori before its descent to Earth, as written in the Odu Ogbe 'yonu: 1. having d'afa performed by heavenly Awo, 2. performing prescribed ebo, 3. receiving one's vocation and ewoo, 4. getting to the gate of heaven, 5. digging one's "ditch of losses," 6. filling that ditch with one's gains, and finally 7. choosing one's destiny and Ori at the house of Ajala (Obatala Alamo ti i mo -- Obatala, the clay owner that molds destiny). For more on this process see: "The Healing Power of Sacrifice" by Chief Yemi Elebuibon. During the process of choosing one's destiny at Ajala's castle, one has the opportunity to pick from a variety of pottery heads, but not all are equal, some are deformed, some are fragile and weak, some are half baked, and some are well made. It is quite difficult to discern the differences in heads, and we are told to look to Ifa for guidance in our choice before and eventually afterwards on Earth (since Orunmila was witness, Ifa can reveal the deficiencies and prescribe

sacrifices/actions to strengthen one's Ori and fulfill one's destiny). This idea is reflected in Yoruba culture's use of the words Oloriire and Olori Buburu (owner of fortunate Ori, owner of bad Ori). After incarnating on Earth, one's destiny is forgotten, and our lives are spent attempting to find and fulfill it while on Earth. There doesn't appear to be specific reference to descending and ascending levels of destiny, but there is an assumption that one will choose a destiny that is befitting of the ideals of Iwa pele and Iwa rere (cool character, gentle character) which can be seen in the Odu Irete Ofun. It can also be safely assumed that picking a destiny that is positive and fulfills many of the ideals set forth in Odu Ifa (helping those less fortunate, helping one's community, bettering oneself, etc) is best. This assumption also plays a part in how one becomes revered Egun and eventually Orisa. Unbeknownst to many in the diaspora, Orisa and Isheshe are an expanding corpus of beings. Through one's actions, one may become a revered Egun and, after many years of being worshipped, may become Orisa. Demonstrating the positive choices of one's Ori can raise it even in death, so that even Orisa have Ori (thus linking the words Ori and Orisa). It also clarifies the traditional Yoruba view of Ori as being elevated with respect to any Orisa, because even Orisa have Ori, and their Ori guide them. Ori may be foreign to many in the diaspora, but it's important to understand that, through making poor choices, our Ori can in fact trump even the best laid plans and guidance offered to us by Orisa. The odu Irete Ofun says: Atefun-tefun Dia fun Okanlenirino Irunmole Won nlo sode Apere Atefun-tefun eyin oni Awo Ori lo dia fun Ori Ori nlo sode Apere Won ni ki won sakaale ebo ni sise Ori nikan0nikan ni nbe leyin ti nsebo Ebo Ori waa da ladaju Nje Ori gbona j'Orisa

Ori ma gbona j'Orisa Ori nikan-nikan lo ko won l'Apeere Ko si Orisa to to nii gbe Leyin Ori eni Ori gbona j'Orisa He who prints the chalk on the back of crocodile He was the Awo who cast Ifa for the 401 Irunmole When going to Apere (a state of perfection) He who prints the chalk on the back of crocodile The Awo of Ori who cast Ifa for Ori When Ori was going to Apere They were all advised to offer sacrifice Only Ori responded by offering the sacrifice The sacrifice of Ori had been abundantly rewarded Ori is higher then all Orisa (deities) It is only Ori which reaches Apere, the perfect state No other Orisa (deity) can give support Outside of one's Ori Ori is higher then all Orisa (deities) This Odu not only solidifies the understanding that Ori is a separate being, but that Ori is the highest of all Irunmole, and the one who remembered to perform sacrifice for its salvation. There are two other important things to note in this Odu. First, it introduces the idea of the perfect state and the notion that attaining the perfect state is something that Ori and all beings strive towards. This is a critically important concept that is sometimes forgotten in the diaspora. The second, is that it introduces the idea that the Ori is the one thing that can support one. My interpretation is that, while Orisa may be able to affect things, ultimately, one's Ori is the most important thing to have working in support of the goal of achieving the state of perfection. Without its support, even Orisa can't save you. We further see evidence of Ori's place in theology in the Odu Ogunda Oworin: Okun kun nore nore

Osa kun legb-lebge Ol'Owa nr'Owa Alasan nr'Asan Agba imole wo ehun oro, o ri pe ko sunwon O gi irunmu d'imu yayaya O gi irungbon di aya pen-pen-pen D'ifa fun isheshe merin Ti won nse olori oro n'Ife "Nje, kinni a baa bo ni Ifa?" Isheshe ni a ba bo, ki a to bo Orisa Baba eni ni isheshe eni Iya eni ni isheshe eni Ori eni ni isheshe eni Ikin eni ni isheshe eni Odumare ni Isheshe Isheshe, mo juba ki nto s'ebo The ocean is full The lake is full Travelers proceed to Owa (a town) Travelers journey to Asan (a town; in other words, people travel to their destinations) An elder considers the everlasting effect of a statement and realizes that it is bad He covers his nose with his mustache He covers his chest with his beard Divined for the four primordial energies Leaders of the sacred cult in Ile Ife (the ancient tradition, reference to Ogboni) "O! who should we worship?" The primordial forces should be appeased first before appeasing the Orisa One's father is one's primordial force One's mother is one's primordial force One's Ori is one's primordial force One's Ikin Ifa is one's primordial force God is a primordial force Primordial forces, I give my reverence before I perform ebo

Again we see that Ori is placed above even Orisa and ancient customs dictate that one praise first their Isheshe (mother/father (one's egun), Ori, Ikin (Ifa), and God), for without them we don't exist. Further, we have to acknowledge that Ori is a force that is reborn as we try to fulfill our destiny, hopefully learning with each incarnation, as is shown by the Yoruba names Babtunde/Yeyetunde (father/mother returns) given to those children who through divination are seen to be reincarnated ancestors. Seeing this evidence, it appears that Ori is: An entity in and of itself That which chooses our destiny That which chooses what is to become our Earthly head That to which we must pray for guidance An entity which is so closely associated with us/our being/body, that you can't in fact separate the two, though clearly it is also something that transcends traditional ideas of "consciousness" An entity that we worship An entity that transcends our worldly selves and travels back and forth to Orun Section II: The Soul Merriam-Webster's definition of the word "soul" is: soul Pronunciation: \sl\ Function: noun Etymology: Middle English soule, from Old English swol; akin to Old High German sula soul Date: before 12th century 1: the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life 2 a: the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe 3: a person's total self If we look at the Yoruba concept of Ori and compare it to this definition, it seems

fair to say that Ori is in fact the Yoruba concept of the "soul." So how does this tie into "feeding the soul" and "soul food"? In order for our Ori to fulfill its destiny and rise above any pitfalls that may occur by chance or design (through our choice of destiny), it is important to consult Ifa, adhere to Ifa's advice and, when appropriate, offer the sacrifice (ebo). In other words, we cannot simply walk through life and let things happen -- we have to take an active role. We must act in order to advance ourselves and our Ori. Without action, Ori is stagnant. Action can take many forms, literal and symbolic, from observing ewoo, to performing certain acts, changing our behavior, and leaving a food offering. Whatever the action, it is a source of energy for us and our Ori. That's why in the Odu Irete Meji it's said: Iwo ote Emi Ote D'ifa fun baba a lese ire Ma a l'ori ire Won ni ko ru'bo si ilaiku ara re O ru'bo Ko i pe Koi jina E wa ba wa laiku kangere You are a presser (an initiate) I am a presser Divined for the Baba with good feet but not with a good Ori (destiny) he was advised to make ebo for good fortune He made the ebo Not too long Soon after Join us in everlasting lives Ifa let's us know that with a good foundation (feet) even if our Ori (destiny) is not good we can make ebo (sacrifice) in order to lead a fruitful and fulfilling life. As I mention in earlier articles, it's important to understand that ebo is sacrifice, and

that sacrifice is performed not only by "giving" something tangible, but sacrifice can also be an action. Ifa reminds us of the idea that we are responsible for our deeds in the Odu Irosun'geda: Aja sunwon, aja fideyin Agbo sunwon ti roro Agbo ti o sunwon ka lo ile Ka lo re e magbo bo baba eni A difa fun ori, a bu fun iwa Won jo n torun bo waye Iwa lapo gbe wa re bo n rele aye Tara gbe iwa re pon Iwa lapo gbe iwa re The dog is beautiful up to the teeth The ram is beautiful up to the dewlap A ram without a dewlap is better to be offered as a sacrifice to ancestors Divination was performed for Ori and character Who both traveled from heaven to the world Deeds are sacks; carry your own Ifa also reminds us in Ogbe Yeku that we should adhere to advice: Eni taa pe ko rubo To ba rubo Lose de ara re ara re lo se de Eni ta a ni ko se rere To ba se rere Lo se de, ara re lo se de Eni ta a pe ko rubo, ti ko rubo Lo se de, ara re, ara re lo se de Whoever is told to perform a sacrifice If he performs it He does so for himself

Whoever is told to be good If he is good He does so for himself Whoever is told to perform sacrifice but refuses to do so Does so at his own risk So what, you are probably still asking, does all of this have to do with soul food and feeding the soul? We've established that Ori is the Yoruba equivalent to the soul, and Ebori is the ceremony in which one "feeds" one's Ori, thus "feeding the soul." Feeding and praying to one's Ori is prescribed time and time again in Odu Ifa, because the soul, like all other things in life, needs to be attended to. Nothing is self-sustaining, food strengthens us, strengthens our Orisa and that bond, and so we must do Ebori in order to strengthen our Ori. While Ebori includes foods/blood offering/prayer, feeding one's Ori is also accomplished by actions and the performance of good deeds. We strengthen our Ori by taking the time to do something for our Ori, taking the time to do something for ourselves, observing our Ewoo, enhancing our knowledge, being compassionate and also taking time to do something for others and our community. And so it is that the Yoruba were very likely among the first people to capture the idea of soul food, or feeding the soul, as a quintessential part of their theology. Our actions can elevate our Ori on their road to becoming revered ancestors. We should remember, at the end of the day "we can't take it with us," and we must evolve so that our Ori is worthy of being a shoulder upon which our future generations can stand. Nourish your Ori, feed it well. Ela moyin 'boru, Ela moyin 'boye, Ela moyin 'boshishe Marcos Ifalola Sanchez with inspiration from my apetebii Ifatolu