Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Soul remembering in Yoruba tradition

The Yoruba say that the individual soul, or ori, goes before the high god Olodumare before it joins a physical body. The ori kneels down before Olodumare to receive its destiny. It comes into the world to fulfill this destiny:

What the ori comes to fulfill
It cannot but fulfill it.

This personal destiny is known as iponri, which means “the ori’s portion or lot.” The more fortunate and evolved souls choose their own destiny at the feet of the high god. Most souls accept their fate, with only limited ability to negotiate the details. A third category have their destinies “laid on their backs” and come into the world reluctantly.
     In the Yoruba version, when a soul has received its destiny from Olodumare, it embarks on its journey toward physical birth. When the soul arrives at one of the gates between the worlds, it must answer the question of the Gatekeeper, the oni’bode.

Gatekeeper: Where are you going?
Journeyer: I am going into the world.
Gatekeeper: What are you going to do?
Journeyer: I will be born to a woman named X and a man named Y, in the town of Z.
I will be an only son….At the age of…I will…and will die in…and will be mourned by
all and given proper burial.
Gatekeeper: To. It is sealed. [1]

    The destiny is doubly sealed — at the feet of the high god and at the gates between the worlds.
    When souls come into this world, most forget their contract with the high god: the destiny that has been assigned to them.
    Can the destiny be changed? It can sometimes be changed for the better by divine intercession, especially with the help of Orunmila, the austere lord of divination who cannot be bribed. It can be changed for the worse through the interference of forces of evil. A destiny can be aborted through human weakness and impatience.
    One of the two most important insights, in the Yoruba version, is that “an unhappy destiny can be rectified if it can be ascertained what it is.” There is a story of a father who traveled to Ajiran — a town reputed to be a gate between the worlds — to discover why his children died young. In what was clearly a soul journey, he previewed the probable death of his surviving son from snakebite and was able to use his foreknowledge to prevent this from coming to pass.
    The other vital Yoruba insight is that we have an ally in heaven who is in no way alien to ourselves. This ally can help us remember our destiny — and coach us on how to fulfill it or modify it. The ori has a “double in heaven,” a personal daimon. When the Yoruba offer you the blessing “May ori go with you,” they are actually saying something like, “May you walk with your guardian angel, your own Higher Self.”
    Soul-remembering, in some of the Yoruba stories, is the key to weathering life’s ups and downs with grace and tenacity. There is a tale in the odu — the verse recitations that accompany Ifa divination — of a celebrated royal drummer who decided to commit suicide at the peak of manhood after suffering many misfortunes. He fainted during his suicide attempt.
    The drummer’s soul now comes face-to-face with a Gatekeeper who demands, “Why do you appear unbidden at the gate?”
    He recounts his troubles. The Gatekeeper shuts him up in a room and tells him to listen carefully.
    He hears footfalls as the people who are going to be born in the world come before the Gatekeeper. He listens as they recount their destinies.
   “Have you been listening?” the Gatekeeper demands. “This shows how one’s life is ordered.”
    The would-be suicide is reminded that what happened to him on earth happened in accord with his destiny.
    The Gatekeeper shows dim a house full of goods and a pen full of cattle that were to be his in the next year of his life, according to his destiny.
    The Gatekeeper shows him a house full of goods and a pen full of cattle that were to be his in the next year of his life, according to his destiny. “But through your impatience, you have forfeited everything.”
    The drummer wept and protested so strongly that at last Olodumare granted him an extension — ten more years in which to enjoy his predestined riches.[2]

1. E.Balaji Odowu, Olodumare: God in Yoruba Belief (New York: Wazobia, 1994
2. ibid, 180

Text adapted from Dreamgates: Exploring theWorlds of Soul, Imagination and Life beyond Death by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library

Image above: Ifa divination board. Ifa divination, under the patronage of Orunmila, may assist in remembering the soul's assignments,  opening the possibility that an unhappy destiny can be rectified if it can be ascertained what it is.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Mr. Moss, what is the difference between the imaginary world and fantasy or fancy as distinguished buy jung or coolridge?