Caracoles (Cowrie Shell divination)
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There is a fine line between trying to find answers to your issues in life and shopping around until you get the answers you want to hear. There are those who go from priest to priest to get a reading attempting to find a priest that will give them the response they were seeking the whole time. May seem reasonable, like going to a doctor then wanting a second opinion. The problem is tradition does not work that way.

Odu Ifa Divination

Odu is a binary language, like computer programming, a system of O and I that contain coding interpreted by a skilled priest or Babalawo. There is an art, a skill and an actual science that is involved in this method of divination. The divination system contains the issue that is brought up (i.e., chaos in your life), context and warnings (parables/patakis), and prescriptions to treat the issue (ebo). Sometimes, in a reading there are no problems, only verification that your life is blessed and you are on track.

Parts to a Reading

An ebo is your sacrifice. I love using that word in reference to tradition, because many people think that means run out and get a chicken. Ebo can be a sacrifice of your restraint: taking care of your health, not sleeping around, not gossiping, not whining and complaining about your life. Ebo can be making guavas in rum sauce for Ellegua, bathing in five different scented oils and rose petals for Oshun. Ebo can be cleaning your house (symbolically cleaning out your life). It is not all hocus pocus and it is not all blood. Animals are a last resort and not used routinely in these situations.

Another concept to address briefly is ase (life-force/energy) and vibration. There is an old saying that the mouth has the power to speak life or death. The vibration of speech, the voice, goes out into the universe and carries its own energy.

The Actual Reading

There are many more energies involved but very basically, an individual goes for a reading, which means they are consulting Ifa. Ifa (male energy) unites with Odu (female energy) and births your Odu from/on a metaphysical realm. This is your current and/or future situation. The Babalawo (or santero) interprets the Odu breaking it down for you to understand. He speaks on your situation (vibration and ase), you answer (vibration and whatever ase you may carry). A pataki may be given to provide clarity to the context of the issue. An example may be the story of Oshun luring Ogun from the forest.

An ebo is like a prescription and each Odu that falls has its own (as interpreted by the skilled Babalawo/priest). Two people can get the same Odu and have two different ebos because there can be nuances that the skilled practitioner has learned regarding the individuality of the situations.

Difference in Readings Between Practitioners

The same person may end up with two different readings and ebos by priest shopping. Is one of them wrong? Nope. The person may be causing the differences themselves. The reading can be like a snapshot. Originally, the person’s condition was one way. Now that they have not performed the original ebo prescribed, there are different events that are unfolding around them even if they cannot see it. They are altered from noncompliance, anxiety, or negativity of their own words, thoughts, or actions. So now the reading has changed. The two practitioners may not know what the person has done, but the Orisa are not blind and the ebo and reading can change.

Going around shopping for a desired reading not only wastes the priest or Babalawo’s time, but is frustrating. Not just because the person has inconvenienced someone else, but because that person has opened up a metaphysical can of worms. Many of them are totally unenlightened about the situations they have created in their own lives and continue to live in chaos and instability. They may feel it is normal (or that they have been cursed). The truth is people who manifest these characteristics have a tendency to priest shop as a part of the pathology of inviting chaos and instability into their lives.

Resolving Conflict with a Reading

Before going to another priest or Babalawo for a “second opinion,” stop and do the ebo that was originally prescribed. In doing the ebo, it may be discovered that the matter is actually being addressed as sometimes the ebos bring about challenges in the individual that had not been realized. After doing the ebo, think about the reading. What issues were brought up during the reading that require you to work on yourself? Can you work on the way you think about other people? Can you become more humble and stop bragging to the people around you? The biggest part of the reading is the work that comes after, not the reading itself. Once everything has been exhausted, then go back to the same priest or Babalawo and share your experience. There may be another angle to work the problem, or another reading that can address the next step that needs to be taken.

Success after a Reading

On another level, when you get a reading and take it to heart and things begin to work out for you. Go back to the priest or Babalawo and tell them of all the great experiences you have had in recovering from an issue. Everyone likes to hear the positive outcomes of the hard work they have performed and how everything has worked out well. Ifa verses frequently end in the client praising the Babalawo, the Babalawo praises Ifa, and Ifa praises Olodumare. Ase, Ase, Ase O!

Maferefun Orunmila!