Tag Archive | "Yoruba"

Conference on Yoruba Culture in Havana

Saturday, July 19, 2008

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With the purpose of highlighting the Cuban culture’s deepest roots and strengthen unity between the island and other nations that share similar cultural backgrounds, the Fifth International Yoruba Conference will be held from July 17 to 20 in Havana.

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The Yoruba culture survives in Cuba

Saturday, July 19, 2008


The yorubá or lucumí religion which is also known as Santeria or Regla de Osha is the most expanded religion of African origin in Cuba.

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Egbe Orisa Osun Festival – Atlanta

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Aug. 9-10, 2008 the Egbe Orisa Osun Festival will be held in Atlanta, GA.

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State of the Orisa Community

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Back in 2004 Roots and Rooted posted what was supposed to be one of several polls that assessed the health of the Orisa community in the West. This initial poll, “State of the Orisa Community” was so popular that we ran for over three years. The poll was administered to do several things.

  1. Identify issues that are important to Orisa worshippers.
  2. Highlight strengths and weaknesses associated with the structure of Orisa worship
  3. Determine what role, if any, that Orisa worship played in greater society.
  4. Assess the skill level and training needs of Orisa Priests.
  5. Address communication among Orisa lineages.

The results of the poll were very interesting, but do come with some limitations. We didn’t ask people to identify their status as observer, devotee or priest. Although we do know that our website traffic is pretty balanced between all three. We didn’t ask respondents to provide their age or ethnicity. This might have been useful, but it would have bogged the poll down quite a bit. Lastly, we didn’t ask respondents to rate their overall opinion of the Orisa community as it stands. Despite the omission of these questions, the poll tells us lot.

Privacy vs. Public Involvement in the Orisa Community

During slavery, nearly every facet of Orisa worship was outlawed in the Caribbean, Latin America and the United States. The survival of African spiritual systems and its practitioners was dependent upon the ability of priests and devotees to practice their traditions without alerting European (White) colonists. But not much has changed since then.

Today, Orisa worshippers still prefer a relatively low profile to fend off harassment, religious intolerance and racism.High profile cases like Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah upheld the right of Orisa worshippers to practice controversial practices like animal sacrifice, but did little to prevent profiling (both religious and ethnic) by police and the media. Stereotyping in the form of unwarranted raids, unbalanced news reporting and incorrect portrayals in movies, music, television and books are still rampant. While it’s not odd to see a young devotee openly wearing Ileke and Ide, it would be highly unusual to see them openly discuss animal sacrifice or to explain why they must wear all white after priestly initiation. Orisa practitioners will usually take in account their age, ethnicity, religion, level of “patriotism” (which usually suggests some intolerance to anything non-white) when deciding what to disclose about their beliefs to family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and remote associates.

While the media hints to some ominous reason for all this secrecy, devotees are protecting themselves from religious and spiritual persecution.

Despite their fear of being persecuted by the general public, 73% of respondents still feel that Orisa worship has a role to place in the advancement of society. They see themselves as agents of positive change and they see the very people that persecute them as redeemable. There are two possible interpretations for this interest in public well-being.

In some circles, advancement of society looks like the role played by priests in Ile, Ife, Nigeria. These priests pray daily for stability in the world, providing just enough positive spiritual presence to keep war, eroding morality, environmental destruction and disease at a minimum. This “prayer of balance” is one adopted among the priests and elders of Native American and various Asian religions as well.

For others, the Orisa community’s role in supporting society is more secular. Propelled by their spiritual beliefs and ethics, practitioners see themselves as a voice of reason, diplomacy and caution, providing a role model that lends to greater tolerance of all people and heightened concern for the environment.

Modern Temptations

The Orisa community seems to have a strong distain for the evangelical approach of Christian and Muslim congregations. These groups tend to spread their religious message and moral values by means that are considered too aggressive by Orisa worshippers. This is not to suggest that Orisa worshippers aren’t concerned about what people watch and consume.

59% of respondents agreed that The Orisa community should take a public stand against such things as sexual or violent music and TV.” Yet, a full 21% disagree in some form or other.While this dissent may not considered pivotal its worth emphasizing that this minority of respondents disagreed with taking action against the most extreme and non-family oriented imagery, much of which includes referenced to crime, drugs, sex and materialism. Would this small group agree that this imagery might inadvertently take someone away from living a spiritual life or desensitize them to unethical behavior in society?

It’s hard to say if this position is a backlash against the kind of censorship and discrimination experienced by the Orisa community endured during slavery or an endorsement for individualism or simply a desire to stay outside of politics and social engineering. It could even be proof that the presence of non-Africans has changed or diluted the traditional values that might usually guide the Orisa community.

Over 80% of practitioners that believe that the Orisa community should be politically involved – which is amazing, given the kind of negative lip service that has been given to the idea over the years. For years some practitioners discouraged political involvement because it tended to expose discriminatory practices of European Latin and Hispanic devotees towards Afro-Cuban and African-American devotees and priests. (An unfortunate by-product of the Slave Trade and Jim Crow.) This change in outlook has limitless possibilities, provided that the Orisa community can stand the scrutiny of local, state and federal government.(Most political involvement results in government backlash.)

One of the more controversial questions in this poll asked respondents if Orisa Priests should be required to have a certification in counseling. Out of 225 respondents nearly one-third disagreed, which shows some apprehension for modern certifications, and perhaps training methods. However, the outcomes still indicate that there is growing support in Orisa community for more organized training. Priestly certifications where no different, most agreed that it is more than time to enact such measures. In fact, there was even more agreement.

The questions remains: Who could certify Priests without bias? What role would race, ethnicity and linage play in certification? Or should each lineage simply provide a paper certificate of its own? Who defines what “counseling training” is? Would it be based on Western or African principles of psychological health? How many months or years would it take to earn a certificate in Priestly counseling? All good questions that we can only hope get answered sooner rather than later.

Other Highlights

Some of the strongest results came when discussing relationships between spiritual lineages and community outreach. Respondents seem to agree that the Orisa community must do more to serve society by providing housing, meals etc. and that there must be more cooperation among different Iles and temples.

These two seem like logical responses, but they suggest a greater evolution is occurring among Western Orisa worshippers. Mutual help groups and Orisa temples that conduct community outreach are pretty rare. Even in countries like Brazil and Cuba we see less formalized community outreach and more case-by-case aid being given to the needy. The poll suggests that worshippers are ready to not only formalize a process, but reach out beyond other devotees and Priests and help anyone, regardless of their faith. This attitude may be a sign of the times, a reaction to the observation that the “poor or getting poorer” and the “rich are getting richer” or simply a belief that “Earth Changes” dictate a more benevolent perspective if we are to survive modern times.

The complete results of the poll can be seen below:

Orisa’Ifa worship has a role to play in the advancement of society.

Total votes 233

  • Strongly Agree (170) 73%
  • Agree (45) 19%
  • Mildly Agree (14) 6%
  • Strongly Disagree (1) 0%
  • Disagree (2) 1%
  • Mildly Disagree (1) 0%

The Orisa community should take a public stand against such things as sexual or violent music and TV

Total votes 234

  • Strongly Agree (91) 39%
  • Agree (47) 20%
  • Mildly Agree (44) 19%
  • Strongly Disagree (11) 5%
  • Disagree (31) 13%
  • Mildly Disagree (10) 4%

Orisa temples need to more involved in feeding, clothing and housing poor and low-income families.

Total votes 236

  • Strongly Agree (123) 52%
  • Agree (54) 23%
  • Mildly Agree (47) 20%
  • Strongly Disagree (3) 1%
  • Disagree (4) 2%
  • Mildly Disagree (5) 2%

Orisa devotees need to get more involved in politics.

Total votes 231

  • Strongly Agree (80) 35%
  • Agree (47) 20%
  • Mildly Agree (66) 29%
  • Strongly Disagree (10) 4%
  • Disagree (24) 10%
  • Mildly Disagree (4) 2%

The Orisa community needs a legal defense fund to protect our right to practice.

Total votes 233

  • Strongly Agree (143) 61%
  • Agree (54) 23%
  • Mildly Agree (22) 9%
  • Strongly Disagree (3) 1%
  • Disagree (8) 3%
  • Mildly Disagree (3) 1%

I believe in priesthood certification.

Total votes 229

  • Strongly Agree (93) 41%
  • Agree (43) 19%
  • Mildly Agree (39) 17%
  • Strongly Disagree (20) 9%
  • Disagree (24) 10%
  • Mildly Disagree (10) 4%

I believe priests should have to obtain a certification in counseling.

Total votes 225

  • Strongly Agree (66) 29%
  • Agree (41) 18%
  • Mildly Agree (46) 20%
  • Strongly Disagree (24) 11%
  • Disagree (40) 18%
  • Mildly Disagree (8) 4%

The greatest challenge to the Orisa community is:

Total votes 761

  • Poor teaching (76) 10%
  • Lack of organization (103) 14%
  • Conforming to Teacher/Student model (33) 4%
  • Using ritual to neutralize violence, disease and morality worldwide (43) 6%
  • Some spiritual knowledge/techniques have been lost (65) 9%
  • Lack of coordination between Westerners and Africa (79) 10%
  • Governments (27) 4%
  • Lack of sensitivity by law enforcement officers (25) 3%
  • Fear of being labeled different (45) 6%
  • Heavy dependence on technology and pollution making products (21) 3%
  • Lack of organization among all indigenous faiths (71) 9%
  • Racism (48) 6%
  • Sexism (46) 6%
  • Elitism (59) 8%
  • Poor health practices (20) 3%

I believe that:

Total votes 244

  • There are plenty of ways that various lineages can work together. (209) 86%
  • That the various Orisa lineages should not work together. (7) 3%
  • That the various Orisa lineages will always be in disagreement. They are not capable of unity. (10) 4%
  • Our lack of unity is not wrong. There is no reason for unity among lineages. (18) 7%

I am:

Total votes 306

  • Hopeful about the future of humanity. (96) 31%
  • Fearful for the future of humanity. (29) 9%
  • Leaving it in the hands of the Orisa. (46) 15%
  • Going to be working with the spiritual plane to effect positive change. (135) 44%

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Learn the Yorùbá Alphabet, Resources for learning the Yoruba language

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Learn basic Yoruba greetings, the alphabet and find resources for furthering your studies.

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Beginner’s Yoruba By Kayode J. Fakinlede

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Many of you may be unaware that you can read "Beginner's Yoruba By Kayode J. Fakinlede" online through Google Books. Of course, if you like it, you should consider supporting the author by buying a legitimate copy.

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A New Vision for Odunde

Thursday, June 19, 2008


A New Vision for Odunde

Odunde is the largest African cultural festival in Philadelphia, and one of America's largest and longest-running celebrations of African culture. Since its inception as a one-day street festival, Odunde has drawn more than a million celebrants, including visitors from as far away as West Africa.

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HRH Oba Adefunmi Ofuntola Adefunmi (Iba T’Orun) and Oyotunji Village

Sunday, June 8, 2008


(HRH) Oba Adefunmi became a Royal Ancestor on Feb. 11, 2005

In 1959, just before the Revolution, His Royal Highness (HRH) Oba Adefunmi travelled to the Matanzas region of Cuba to be initiated into the priesthood of Obatala.

Upon his return to the U.S. he founded Order of the Damballah Hwedo, then the Shango Temple, and later incorporated the African Theological Archmininstry. That organization would come to be called the Yoruba Temple. His spiritual message was accented by a Black Nationalist message. Though his words rang true in the hearts of many progressive African-Americans, his stance drew large criticsm within the ranks of Cuban priests. A new lineage of Orisa worship that placed Nigeria at it’s core, but that was tailored for African-Americans was formed;Orisa-Voodoo.

In 1970, Oyotunji Village was created in Beaufort County, South Carolina. In 1972, Adefunmi was initiated into the Ifa Priesthood, receiving the rank of Babalawo and later that year was proclaimed Oba (King) of Oyotunji Village. It is noteworthy that in 1981 his status as King was recognized when the Ooni of Ile-Ife arranged for formal coronation rites to be performed for HRH Oba Ofuntola Oseijeman Adelabu Adefunmi.

Over the years the number of residents at he Village has flucuated, probably hoovering around 5-9 families for the last ten years. Despite this small contigent of residents, the lineage itself is felt throughout the Western world and Africa via a growing number of devotees, chiefs and priests. Oyotunji forever changed the face of Orisa worship in the West.

Books by HRH Adefunmi

Speechs by HRH Adefunmi

Other Books and Academic Works about Adefunmi and Oyotunji Village

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Priests, Communities and Organizations Affiliated w/ Oyotunji

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Importance of Oriki in Yoruba Mural Art

Friday, June 6, 2008


n visual art, inspiration and concept are the driving forces in the execution of a particular art piece, be it in the Fine or industrial Art. Yorùbá traditional mural has been executed in most cases in veneration of the òrìsà and most of the products are for the Oba as well as for rich or influential individuals. Despite the painters’ claim to have been ’moved’ or inspired by the spiritual powers of the òrìsà in the execution of such murals, Oríkì, ’cognomen’ has been discovered to be a very important driving force in these paintings.

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Insights from Okana

Friday, June 6, 2008


The esoteric symbolism of Okana is 2 faces exactly the same. This represents the dual forces, and teaches us that everything is ruled by one force who contracts and another that expands.

As we can see, this is a beautiful lesson to our way of life and for our behavior–it is teaching us the perfect balance that must be in all our life. The world has the translation movement, one force attracts it to the sun and another one expels to the universe, and like this we have a lot of examples about the 2 forces in our lives and in nature.

Its not good to live just a material life. We have to take care about our spiritual life too, and these are 2 forces that well balanced can bring us joy. To have all the money is not happiness, even if you think it’s okay it isn’t. Money can help a lot; for instance, in case we have an illness that all the money in the world can cure, but what is money power really for? If we only are religious and live like a lame, without taking care about our body, sons and family, I really doubt that we can fulfill our path on this earth. If I know everything but I don’t practice what I say or believe, those are dead things. The best way to preach is to do and show what we think and believe and not only chat–that anyone can do. If I am the best padrino in the world but don’t love and care for my Ocha family, if I instead just care for the money, I don’t really believe but am just a trader in the religion. That is why I shout to the 4 winds that I am the best because I need publicity; the real Padrino is that one who cares and loves his Orisha House, his Religion and his beliefs, balancing the material things with the spiritual matters. All the secrets of this world are in balance, the perfect balance, so we can walk and not crawl in this world.

The impulse for talking has to be stopped by the force of thinking. I must think if what I am going to say is going to leave something good for anyone or is it just a way to increase my vanity. It is better to let other people talk about my knowledge and not myself. It is better to have balance between my spiritual and material life then to be a fanatic or a materialist. It is better to share both ways than to give without recieving. So let us stop and think about Okana’s teachings and apply them to our lives so we can become better humans, priest and parents.

- Oba Alafi Ayai

Oba Alafi Ayai is a Shango priest who resides and maintains his Ocha house in Mexico City.

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