Interview with Awo Owolabi, Son of the Araba

Wed, Jul 14, 2010

Elders, News, Traditional Afrikan

Interview with Awo Owolabi, Son of the Araba

Good morning/evening, how are you today?

Ekaro, I am good.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. If you could, please tell our audience who you are, where you reside and what your role is within Traditional African “Religion” and when you got started.

I am Babalawo Owolabi Awodotun Aworeni, I live in Ile-Ife Nigeria, the “source of the Yoruba people” and I am an Ifa Priest.  I come from the Oketase compound and have been practicing Ifa tradition from birth.

You are related to the Araba Agbaye, can you tell us how?

Yes, he is my biological father.

What is an “Araba Agbaye” by the way?

The Araba Agbaye is the representative of Orunmila on Earth.

When did your father assume this position and why was he chosen?

My father took the title of Araba Agbaye in 1991, before that he was a practicing Awo and high chief in the Awolodumerindinlogun.  Ifa chose him.

How long has your family worshipped the Orisa?

We have worshipped from the beginning; Oketase is the home of Orunmila.  Orunmila said that all the Awos in the world must come to Oketase, the World Ifa Temple, the 1st Saturday of June every year to divine for the New Ifa Year.  We have worshipped Ifa and the Orisa from the beginning of this world.

What impact has modern culture had on how popular and how enthusiastically Orisa and Ifa are worshipped in Nigeria today?

It has affected us in many ways.  For instance people now use the internet to teach and learn Ifa.  In some ways it is good people can now more easily connect over large distances.

It seems that most Nigerians that move to the U.S. or Europe pretend to know little about the Orisa, is this simply a ruse/trick?

I say that they do this on purpose because this civilization has changed a lot of things.  For instance in our culture it is not good for a female to wear trousers but when some people stay in US culture they begin to practice something different than what they were taught at home. Some Orisa don’t like to see electricity, modern times have changed a lot of things and people are no different.

Traditional African Religion has grown in steady popularity throughout the world since the 1950s. Spiritual rites from Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana and places like the Congo have survived because priests from Africa willfully were captured and sold into slavery hundreds of years ago. They brought with them the “ase” or “essence” of important Deity shrines. In many cases we have even remembered the names of these priests who came from places like Nigeria Is that history remembered and/or taught among our brothers and sisters back in Nigeria? Are there any annual rites or commemorative events in Nigerian Orisa temples for Africans that died travelling to the Americas during slavery?

They are remembered every year during the New Year festival

In the last few years a lot of people have opted to travel to Nigeria to supplement what they have learned in western Orisa temples or to get initiated into the priesthood. What is the ethnicity are most of the people that are coming to Nigeria?

There are plenty of people that come here.  I can’t really say because there are many different towns they go to.  I can’t really say.

In some Orisa temples and lineages here initiation is something that everyone is expected to do. In Nigeria, does every devotee become a priest?

There are many Orisa.  It is only Ifa that if you want to go, participate and you don’t have to initiate.  If you go to any other Orisa house and want to participate in the ritual you have to initiate there.

What advice would you give to someone who is actively worshipping the Orisa, with consecrated shrines, but resides a city where they be the only Orisa worshipper, or don’t have the support of their family (who may practicing Muslims or Christians)?

My advice is to just pray to the Orisa.  Whatever they pray for Olodumare will hear them.

How important is for African-Americans to practice some kind of African spiritual tradition/religion? Have you seen any indication that their Ancestors want them to return to their roots?

Yes, they want their children to come back.  If it weren’t for the slave trade Ifa would have plenty worshippers and the other religions would not have so much power.  After the white people took our people to the diaspora they forced those here into their religions.

Recently, a group of Oba Oriate in Florida, USA issued an “accord” or agreement which states Lucumi and Traditional Yoruba Religion are “completely and unequivocally different” in effect calling them two separate and distinct religions. The accord allows Oba Oriate to strip Lucumi priests of their titles, authority and recognition when they receive initiations, shrines or participate in spiritual activities with Yoruba-born priests and/or temples within the U.S. that are tied to Yoruba lineages. However, the accord does not ban working with Candomble, and it does not prohibit Lucumi from engaging in activities with other African religions, like Akan or Vodun. What is your position on this and what is the position of the Araba Agbaye?

Orunmila doesn’t come from the Diaspora.  All of the Orisa are black and they come from Yorubaland.  I understand during the slave trade our people took their Orisa with them and practiced in secret, hiding it in white religions and we thank them for not forgetting where they came from, but Orunmila and the other Orisa are black and come from the Source there is nothing more to say.

I cannot ask the Araba this question because there is no disputing where Orunmila and the Orisa come from and who their descendants are.

What should a devotee or priest strive for first: knowledge of rituals, prayers, ceremonies etc or development of good character? What is the Araba’s stance on knowledgeable priests who also happen to be of bad character?

First thing people have to have good character then they must be humble before Olodumare, the Orisa and the Elders.

The opinion of the Araba is that bad character is not good; if a priest does bad things they will regret it at last.  They must change.  If you too see someone that is doing bad you must say so and tell the people otherwise you can be held responsible.

Can you share with us an Odu that speaks to good character?

Ogbe Ogunda speaks about good character.  Eji Ogbe speaks about it as well.  There are many Odu that speak to good character.

What are some of the traditional staples that you would recommend every Orisa devotee should keep around to take care of their Egun, Orisa and Ifa?

Obi (Kola nut), Otin (Hard Liquor/Gin), Eku (Rat), Eja (Fish), Igbin (Snail), Adiye (Chicken), Aguntan (Yam), Ole (Bean pudding), Akara (Bean balls/fritters), Obuko (He-Goat)

(Note: translations provided by webmaster)

Lastly, many devotees, priests and seekers want to know – what services and goods do you and/or your family offer to those of us overseas, and what are some of the prices you charge?

I offer spiritual advice through Ifa divination and consultation.  I provide personal odu consultation, so they can better understand their destiny.  I provide spiritual medicine when requested.  The prices depend on the extent of the service.

We also ship most any items requested from Opon Ifa and Iroke Ifa (Ifa divination tray and tapper), Iyerosun (powder used on Opon tray during Ikin divination), osun stones, beads, peke, etc… All items are made in Nigeria by skill craftsmen. In some cases they come from families that have made these items for centuries.

Contact Information
Babalawo Owolabi Aworeni currently holds the title Ojugbona in the Oketase compound and is a strong member of the Reformed Ogboni society where he holds the title Asipa.


Phone: +234-8035-2419-08 or +234-8058-1523-04

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3 Comments For This Post

  1. omisaide7 Says:

    I love you AwoOwolabi. Thank you so much. Some of us are forced to look home when all else fails. I was born on Mother’s Day freedom riders summer- Sunday on May 14, 1961. As the authorities locked the college students up in Parchment prison my Mom give birth to me. I have always been radical in my outlook on life since I took my first breath and I pray as I approach my physical death as the trees do in autumn I am reabsorb into the biosphere and regurgiated as a beautiful bird of the forest, an elder, to help those who are just like me who had to look homeward (to the east) for survival in this physical world. I thank you Baba and all my elders for being the keepers of the “Odu”.

  2. mahamed Says:

    l need talk to babalawo , l from brasil l need to look eyo owo . tank you . my ingles is bed sorry but l can espk

  3. Craig Says:

    I found this article to be very interesting. For the past five years or so I have had an interest in traditional Afrikan religions and will like to learn mor about them so as to be more closely connected to my roots. I now reside in New York and will greatly appreciate if information about the Ife religion can be sent to me, also I will like to be directed to resources dealing with traditional Afrikan religions. Hotep!

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