What Does an Ifa Practice Look Like?

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This month we’re going to explore Ifa practice. It’s something I do a lot of in my coaching practice. What that work looks like is as varied as Ifa practitioners are. Let’s start with some general ideas that apply to anyone looking to deepen their experience of Ifa, then talk about what my personal practice looks like.

As with any coherent system there are elements within Ifa that should be followed. Outside of that we’re pretty much free to experiment and discover what works best for us. As with many people, priests and lay people alike, my Ifa practice has evolved over the years. Yours likely will too. The basic elements of Ifa are based on the foundational tripod upon which we stand. Our Ori (or guide for destiny), our Ancestors, and the Orisa form that tripod.

The order in which things are done, and when practices are performed, is up to the practitioner. An important thing to remember is that we always address Esu before reaching out to any other Orisa. Esu is our gateway to all the energies and so we ask his assistance with connecting. This is not required for Ori or ancestor work but I do know people who work with an Esu for their ancestors. I’ve never felt it was necessary. While connections can occur at any time it is always advisable to do spiritual practice in the morning. That way it sets you up for a positive day.

It’s traditional to greet Orunmila first, this is particularly true for priests. I’ve opted to change things around. While I always connect with Orunmila, and Ela before any other of the Orisa, I have chosen to start my daily prayers with my ancestors. This is primarily because of my experience as a novice priest when my ancestors played such a powerful role in my readings. I start my prayer session with my guardian ancestor, and then my ancestral pool.

The second connection I make is to my Ori. It feels right to connect with these more personal energies before moving on to the Orisa. This is my preference and is by no means traditional. I find that if I sink into ancestral and Ori connections first, that my connections with the Orisa are stronger.

Lastly I connect with the Orisa. In every prayer I use I begin with Esu as mentioned above, then reach out to the particular Orisa. First to Ela and Orunmila, then to the Orisa appropriate for the day, and finally to Obatala (my Guardian). Which Orisa rules over which day seems to vary amongst lineages. For ours: Monday: Yemonja/Olokun; Tuesday: Ogun, Ochosi, and Onile; Wednesday: Oya; Thursday: Sango; Friday: Osun and Osain; Saturday: Esu, and Sigidi; Sunday: Obatala, and Oko.

How you go about connecting is also very personal. At the beginning I opted for the traditional route and used physical tools consecrated to each Orisa. As my connections grew I started experimenting and realized I no longer required the tools in order to establish connections. My practice has now evolved to the point that I use breath-work and chanting of the Orisa names in order to establish the connection. Then I pray to deepen and ask for any help I might need from that specific Orisa.

Start small. Perhaps with your Ori, then ancestors, then Guardian Orisa. Add other Orisa as you develop your practice. The support that regular Ifa practice provides will encourage you to build your practice over time. Connect in more traditional ways at the beginning. “Tried and true” formulas serve people best until they’re ready to start experimenting. Building a regular Ifa practice will provide immediate and long-term benefits as it brings more alignment into your life.