1. There is no ceremony of “collares” in Yorubaland like the one that has developed in the Cuban tradition.
It is true that one consecrates ileke for each Orisa and one can receive ileke consecrated in varied ritualistic forms. But we do not receive five at one time after a head rogation and stripping ceremony as is accustomed
in the United States...this is from Cuba. Neither does one take the receipt of these necklaces as one of the first rites of passage for a new apprentice. Furthermore, there are deities in Yorubaland that either have no ileke whatsoever or no specific ileke, while still others have various ileke depending upon region.
2. One does not receive “guerreros” or "warriors". It is true that we receive the sacred objects of Ogun together with other Orisa that are brothers of his, and perhaps this is where the Cuban concept of “warrior [deities]” comes from. But neither the receiving of the sacred objects of Ogun and his other brothers is a first rite of passage of a new godchild. A person receives Ogun if it comes out in divination that he should receive it,
when it is in order to have an Ogun shrine for a family so that they can venerate it at any time, or when the person desires a better connection with this deity in order to have his protection and his favor.
3. There is no great separation between the IFA priesthood and the priesthoods of the other olorisa. Simply put, all initiated individuals, whether a person is initiated to Orunmila or Iyemoja or some other deities, are considered olorisa and awo (one of the meanings of awo is an initiated person). In Yorubaland all the priesthoods of each Orisa work together of one form or another, and at the same time focus on the principle deities associated with each priesthood. And many times the Orisa tradition of West Africa is known simply as Ifa, as Orunmila is one of the important leader deities of our tradition, together with others like Obatala, Osun (Oshun), Egungun, etc. One example is the Baale Yemoja of Ibadan, Olukunmi Omikemi Egbelade, the chief priest of yemoja in the capital of Oyo State, He was initiated at youth into Ifa and later made full initiation to Yemoja. In an interview i had with him he reconfirmed what I had been taught by my elders that we don't have a separation of Ifa priesthood and other priesthoods in the stark manner that is practiced in the Lucumi tradition. Another example is the Oba Sanponna (formerly Baale Sanponna) of Oyo land, Chief Obidiran Fabukola of Oyo town, Oyo State. In addition to being the chief priest of Obaluaye in all of Oyo state, he is also a babalawo, and Egungun priest. In fact, it is quite common for folks to be practicing priest in various orisa. And there is no such concept in West Africa that if a priest of one Orisa goes and makes Ifa that he will no longer be allowed entry into the initiation of other Orisa, as is often the case in Lucumi protocol.
This is one area that makes us stand apart.
Here is an example of the general sentiment of Lucu mi practioners that one can see evident in many
different internet discussions as well as live conversation among Lucumi priests:
"Re: How is it that a Santero can give warriors IF they don't have the knowledge OR Ashe to make Osun??
Fri, August 10, 2012 - 2:02 PM
@ maurize what Jim said is. Is very true. Remember IFA and orisha worship are 2 different spiritual paths althoe the complament one another they are separate. Some awo's don't even have Ocha made and some have both Ocha and IFA. And if you do not come from a house of IFA then an oriate or santero who knows what the prayer's are,and how to prepair osun will put him together. I think the problem here is you are probably getting to many different answers from different olorisha's or awo's that are confusing you. This is what happens when jump here and there you get all jumbeled up and confused. I think Jim gave you the best answer to your question, and hope this has cleared your mind a lil. And in some situations you might end up with 2 osun's like me one from IFA and one from when I did my Ocha."
4. We do not have a year of “iyaworaje” in West Africa, or dressing in white for a whole year. The word “iyaworaje” comes from the word “iyawo” with the Spanish suffix “-aje”. Iyawo means “new wife” or "bride" and one uses it in the context of a new initiate, man or woman, in order to show that he has entered into a symbolic marriage with his deity and the initiate is the faithful worshipper of the deity. But our new initiates in Yorubaland do not use white clothing exclusively for the first year of initiation...only during the days of the specific deity and the region. In rare occasions in Africa during the divination that is made during the ita of the new initiate they recommend to the new initiate/iyawo Orisa that he uses more white during the first year or white exclusively during the first year. But in these cases it is for the sign that came out to the new initiate, and is not for general custom.
5. In Yorubaland one does not receive 5 or 6 Orisa at the same time during initiation. We maintain the same tradition, that also was the practice in Cuba, of receiving only the Orisa to which the iyawo is being initiated. And later the person can receive other Orisa that are recommended in his or her ita when he has the resources and when he is prepared to have the responsibility of having more sacred objects. The individual in West African Orisa Tradition even has the opportunity to receive any other Orisa that they feel a connection to without the need for a divination to confirm their interest. An interesting point to note is that the cuban term “foot and head” for describing our initiations in Africa was created in Cuba and many times it is used to speak disparagingly of initiations of Africa and Brazil.
6. When we receive the Hand of Ifa one does not receive the “guerreros” or warriors. Even though now there are some Nigerians and others that are exploiting the expectations of the public that do not know the traditions of Yorubaland, and so now they are giving warriors. When one makes the ceremony of “isefa” (consecration of the Hand of Ifa) it is the only icon that is consecrated and the person receives his or her shrine for Ifa (Orunmila). The interesting thing is that Cuba - the large island that it is - also has a great deal of diversity. It is known that in Palmira in the province of Cienfuegos that the babalawos of that town maintain the tradition of only consecrating the Hand of Ifa without the “guerreros”
7. The Yoruba language that one uses in Cuba and Brazil has deteriorated by the oppression of slavery and the loss of the Yoruba language as a medium of communication between the parent and children as it is till today in West Africa. The use of a corrupt remnant of Yoruba language is only used in liturgy in Brazil, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago. At best, this remnant of Yoruba language even with its distortions may be used at times in a type of code switching, and there is clear evidence that Yoruba and other african languages have influenced the native languages of these countries. We applaud the effort of the ancestors for at least leaving that much as a legacy in the form of many songs used for the Orisa. But comparing the liturgical Yoruba of West with other liturgical languages of other religious traditions, the difference is that the priesthood of Cuba and Brazil does not have as a requisite study of the language nor its comprehension nor the use of yoruba grammar to constuct sentences. However, in Yorubaland the Yoruba language is the base of all the religious literature but is also the language that they use on a daily basis in order to communicate within their families and among other Yoruba. Also preserved in Yorubaland are all the various dialects of the Yoruba language. There exist people in Yorubaland that only speak the Yoruba language and have not learned English that is the language of general use in the Nigerian government nor French that is the language of general use in the Republic of Benin. Now in some places the West is resuming little by little the more extensive use of the Yoruba language with the Yoruba immigrants that had moved from Nigeria and the Republic of Benin to Europe and the Americas. There is also an increasing interest in diasporal Orisa communities to relearn the Yoruba language that was used several generations ago by the Yoruba that were brought to the Diaspora during the trans-atlantic slave trade, and so they are seeking yoruba language instruction as well as travelling to Yorubaland.
8. In Cuba, Brazil and Trinidad the Orisa tradition has had many influences from other African-based religious traditions and not only Catholicism and other forms of christianity of the european colonizers. There exists influences of the traditions of the Kongo, Dahomean traditions (“Arara” in Cuba; “Jeje-Mahi” in Brazil), and also of the various manifestations of Espiritismo (Spiritism) that has its origin in Europe and New York but that also has had much influence from Aboriginal traditions of the Americas and from African concepts and traditions. In Africa the Yoruba culture has never been isolated from other ethnic groups. But much of what has happened in the Orisa tradition of Yorubaland in terms of religious exchange between various ethnic neighbors of the Yoruba has occurred prior to the enslavement of Yoruba brought to the Americas during the Middle-Passage and far before they developed the diasporal religious traditions based upon those of West Africa. It must be remembered that the Yoruba were among the last ethnic groups to be enslaved and taken to the americas, and this occured in significant number only over 150 years ago. At the same time, abolition occurred late in Cuba and Brazil. In addition to that there were also free africans that had either purchased their own freedom and began trading between West Africa and the americas, this last moreso in Brazil. So information was constantly being brought back into the Diaspora directly from West Africa. This activity eventually stopped. However, in speaking with elders that remember several decades ago the practices of Cuba and Brazil, they often recall with nostalgia how different Orisa was practiced. Many remember times when the spiritual masses performed nowadays in preparing a prospective initiate within the Lucumi tradition where not a part of the ritual procedures of Orisa initiation. In speaking with elder babalawos that have been born into Orisa Tradition in Cuba, they remember the time when the short osun staff usually given presently in cuban tradition was not given with the "warriors'. It was an icon associated with Ifa priesthood that eventually began to be included in the repertoire of sacred icons received by the larger Orisa community till today where both priests that are not babalawos also consecrated and provide it to their followers. Many other practices of olden days of Cuba and Brazil as recounted by elders of both countries reflect the current practices of Yorubaland in Nigeria and Benin Republic.
9. In Yorubaland there is no Espiritismo as its known in Latin-America(Spiritism). Certainly there are many concepts found in Yorubaland that also exist in Espiritismo, such as the companions of heaven (spiritual guides or the spiritual room in Espiritismo), trance-possession by deities, reincarnation, etc. But these concepts are not exclusive of Espiritismo, and they come most notably from traditions that had existed from far before the existence of Espiritismo.
10. Women, in the majority of regions of Yorubaland, can initiate into Ifa as iyanifa (even though the term “iyanifa”, like many others, changes significance depending on the context...sometimes the term “iyanifa” is the important woman during the initiations of Ifa that, using Lukumi terminology, “raises” the new initiate). It is true that women cannot initiate to Ifa in the tradition of Lukumi, on this we are clear and we respect it. But in many areas of Yorubaland there had been women initiates in Ifa since many generations. It is not an “invention of the Africans”. It is part of our tradition of Orisa of Yorubaland. In some areas of Yorubaland, for example in areas where one speaks Ijebu dialect, the women cannot initiate to Ifa...while in other areas where one speaks Ijebu dialect if they initiate women, but do not shave the head, between other details according to the lineage or region. Inclusive, in the areas where they initiate women in Ifa, many times, depending on the lineage or other area time, the woman can even throw opele and sometimes even manipulate ikin Ifa during the divination and make ebo like other babalawos. The only taboo in the places when they initiate women to Ifa is that she should not be exposed to the sacred objects of Orisa Odu (Igba Odu). Opponents of this practice and tradition tell us, "and because in Cuba never has there existed the concept of Iyanifa or giving a full hand of Ifa to women (although in the latter there are exceptions, with regards to Cuba). " Easy ... the Lukumi tradition is a league of different practices in different regions of Yoruba land ... and other ethnic groups also practice Ifa (in the case of Dahomeans called "Fa" or "Afa"depending on the land area within Dahomey). And the priesthood of Ifa always had been a priesthood where the men dominate most. In Brazil, where there exists the major population in the world of devotees to a Orisa, where some iyanifas arrived, that founded some temples of Candomble or other African-based religions in Brazil. Interestingly also is the fact that Ifa practice in Cuba, which has lots of influences from other ethnic groups and cultures, also has Dahomean influence, and in Dahomean culture it is accepted practice for women to get initiated to "Fa" in the majority of cases and regions. In the Ifa priesthood of Cuba it seems that there was a decisive movement to follow the practices of certain areas of Yorubaland, including areas of Ijebu dialect speaking areas, of only giving a woman one ikin for her Ifa shrine (unless the woman gets an oju odu or "melli", the latinized form for "meji" in Cuban tradition). Of course, even in Ijebu areas a woman can and does get a full hand of Ifa in the majority of that dialect area of Yorubaland. What is in fact logical is that since women as Ifa priests have always been a minority (being initiated is different from being initiated and prepared with authority to practice as a priest), it is possible that no iyanifa arrived in Cuba or only a very few arrived. It is also quite possible that iyanifa that arrived in Cuba were never taken into account or were simple ignored and/or oppressed. There are however, vague accounts of some female priests that might have been initiates of Ifa in West Africa prior to arrival in Cuba.