There has got to be introduced, a way to discern who is who nowadays in Yoruba traditional religion. When I read the headline FAKE IFA PRIESTS ARE TAKING OVER AMERICA and saw the name of the Ifa priestess crying out , I was surprised by the photo it led me to. Not to say she’s wrong, but just like you can no longer assume the ethnicity of a person going by their Yoruba name anymore, so also you cannot tell who’s a real properly initiated Ifa Priest too by their title. The system that produced the fake priests running around America which is being decried, produced her too.
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And it’s still churning out loads more real and fake priests daily…. Some people have even said the ethnicity of mass produced Ifa priests leans heavily on the White European side.
We have one or two exceptions of lighter skinned Ifa priests who immerse themselves into the community , learned the language and appear to genuinely have the interest of safeguarding West African Orisa/Ifa traditions at heart (sometimes even challenging homeland Yoruba folks of different faith , and diaspora folk, on their negative online utterances about West African tradition), but most are into heavily marketing online, Ifa tools, books, selling divination, Yoruba herbs and spiritual paraphernalia, under the banner of being initiated priests.
Anyway, the issue here is fake priests and evidently you cannot judge by race on this. As a matter of fact, on social media now it’s many times white and diaspora Ifa folks calling out fake Ifa priests of West African ethnicities because of the proliferation of Yahoo Yahoo (online fraud) Babalawos compared to genuine Yoruba Babalawo with online presence. This unbalanced representation on social media means you would be forgiven for thinking only the Western Ifa priests are authentic .
The major players in the international Fake Ifa Priest mill are those in Yorubaland selling titles; the Westerners , mostly white, buying those titles; and the Yahoo Yahoo boys in Nigeria pretending to be Babalawos offering to sell via inbox anything spiritually related.
Ironically, though the Yahoo Yahoo Babalawo modus operandi is cruder than the European Ifa priests with online botanica, following etc , the essence is the same – everyone is peddling wares- cash /Western Union/PayPal for Yoruba spiritual stuff. The westernised form of gbanjo gbanjo is more readily accepted by the Olorisa online community
So where do we draw the line? Who draws the line?
You cant tell by the race who’s real or fake, you can’t tell by their Yoruba name, you can’t tell by whether they sell online or not, you can’t tell by whether they have a spiritual title or not.
How will the uninformed discern? Some say use your intuition/commonsense but those seeking guidance are doing so because their own intuition/common sense seems insufficient… i.e. They are in need of guidance and maybe desperately unsure of their own common sense.
This is why we need the elders of West African Olorisa and Ifa community taking the lead in stemming this flow of instant Ifa Priests. Because the factory is in the homeland . Up till now they have been silent especially on social media even though it is a fertile ground for scammers. Because of this vacuum we now have a faceless Facebook page masquerading as Yoruba Traditional Elders Council proclaiming fraudulent priests in a vendetta like manner using criteria that only they know about, whipping up frenzied loyalties from all sides, and making a mockery of the West African Olorisha community as a whole.
We need the elders of the West African Olorisa community to also make it easier to access genuine West African Babalawos from wherever in the world one is. Otherwise people fall prey to homeland and diaspora Yahoo Yahoo!’s, and between those two groups whoever shouts ‘fraud’ the loudest will be seen as the righteous ….
Alaafin has been taking some steps to institute order, including intervening in some of the more blatant abuses, but surprisingly his moves met with some opposition from the top echelons of the Ifa community.
Are we to assume these blurred lines and the rampant chaos benefits the top layers of Ifa Orisa community in Yorubaland in some way? It can only lead to the ruin of the whole West African tradition as the dollars are more in the hands of charlatans and the Ifa community in the homeland is like majority of Nigeria is deprived….
Reality is that whichever branch of the Yoruba traditional religion, Lucumi, Santeria, West African etc that is able to eradicate this shameful problem of charlatans and make genuine practitioners more accessible worldwide will most likely be the choice for future converts. No one desires to be scammed
Excerpts of the article below originally from Tribune Online:
‘Fake Ifa priests are taking over America’
Yeye Ekundayo Adele Ifamuregun spoke with Adewale Oshodi of Tribune Online:
One big problem that we have in Nigeria is the issue of fake priests, and with the growing popularity of Ifa in America, do you also have this problem?
Absolutely! Of the people who come to me, a large majority have made contact with unscrupulous or simply ignorant Ifa practitioners here inside of the US, while some have also been bamboozled in Nigeria. Many clients come to me spiritually, emotionally, mentally and financially bankrupt, after passing through the hands of Ifa organisations in the US, as well as passing though the hands of various independent priests.
This is a huge problem which I cannot stress enough, and it has been giving me concern for many years, as I feel I am rowing against a tide of outright charlatanism, well-meaning or willful ignorance, or, in some cases, very dangerous injustices.
Just recently, I divined for an American initiated into Ifa in Nigeria, a so-called Ifa priest with his own “shrine” having issues. He didn’t even know that one must throw cowries or kolanuts after making an offering to check if the offerings have been accepted! He was having trouble with the gods because he had been offering something ridiculous to them (besides having no authority to do so). There is also a well-known Ifa priest on the East Coast who has been giving out a hand of Ifa with three-eyed ikin for years, obviously unaware that a proper hand has at least 16 four-eyed ikin, and unaware that by giving out a three-eyed hand, he will only bring misery to his initiate’s life.
It is insane what is going on out here in terms of Ifa, and it needs to stop. I work closely with my family in Nigeria and most of our work consists of sweeping up the pieces of peoples’ lives who have gotten involved with these fake “priests” and “priestesses” who simply have no authority or knowledge to be working in that capacity, or, they might have some working knowledge but are morally and ethically not capable of turning the practice into something other than a money-making tradition, or, they simply do not have the deeper understanding of Ifa and neglect to set their clients/initiates up with the fundamentals they need to know.
Although you don’t have the power to tackle the rise in the number of these fake priests, is there a way you are sensitising the public so that they won’t fall victims?
I discussed this with a very prominent person involved in Ifa in Nigeria a few years back, particularly how Ifa is being taken over, modified, diluted, exploited and appropriated by ‘cut and paste’ priests and those who make quick trips to Nigeria for an initiation (or have one within the US), then think that gives them the right to practice as priests, start divining and open up ‘shop.’ The best I can do is write extensive blog posts and articles on my website, farinadeolokun.com, talking about what Ifa is and isn’t, what to look for, what to watch out for, give people some basic solid knowledge and pray that Orunmila guides them, or brings me those who have been broken in trust and faith so we can set things straight and get them up and walking forward in life.
My prayers are always with the good Babas and Iyas of Nigeria, and my family, who hold the true and correct lineage upright and are examples of the faith. They have so far managed to preserve and sustain the true tenets of the faith.
Can you share an instance when you’ve had to rescue a victim who had had his ‘hands burnt’ by a fake priest?
There are simply too many instances to narrate. And I am speaking of both fake priests within Diaspora ATRs and also within Ifa, both in the US and in Nigeria. I’ve had everything from someone getting actual serious burns on their body from gunpowder during a “ritual” to “banish negative spirits”, women being s3xually molested, clients being told to sell-off millions of dollars worth of their properties and “give the money to Ifa,” thereby leaving them destitute, among many other instances.”
“The travesty is that the good name of Ifa is being soiled by charlatans, and by people in the Diaspora who are only after their own financial ambitions, as well as them Westernising the principles of the Ifa system.”