Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Ifá Divination and Ẹẹ́rìndílógún Divination

Kolapo November 16, 2023

The Relationship Between the 256 Odù of Ifá and Ẹẹ́rìndínlógún (Sixteen Cowries)

  • Òrìṣà Religion has two closely related Divination Systems: the Ifá Divination System with its 256 Odù, and the Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún (Sixteen Cowries) Divination System with its 16 Odù. However, both Divination systems come from the same Sacred Ifá Literature created by Ọ̀rúnmìlà, the Omniscient Òrìṣà. Ifá Divination relies on the complete Sacred Literature (hence, it is more comprehensive), but Sixteen Cowries depends on the condensed, combined, and summarized literature of the 256 Odù. That is, the Sixteen Cowries divination system (i) condenses the 256 Odù of Ifá into 16 Odù and then (ii) summarizes and amalgamates several Ifá poems into each of its poems.
  • Only those who are (i) initiated into Ifá as Iyánífá (Ifá priestesses) and Babaláwó (Ifá Priests), AND (ii) are trained in the 256 Odù of Ifá as can use the 256 Odù of Ifá to divine. Those who are (i) initiated into any Òrìṣà other than Ifá, AND (ii) are trained in the knowledge and art of Sixteen Cowries Divination can use Sixteen Cowries to divine.
  • Therefore, if anyone tells you they are divining with Ifá or Sixteen Cowries but cannot chant poems from the Odù that came up in the Divination, get up and walk away. That person is not using Odù Ifá or Odù Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún to divine. If that person’s readings are accurate, the person is using a different power to “read” you.

Why the Ògún Way?  

  • Even though there is the Ògún way of divining with Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún, the Ọ̀ṣun way of divining with Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún, the Ọbàtálá way of divining with Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún, etc., all the different “ways” draw their poems from the one same singular Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún (Sixteen Cowries) Corpus. The only significant difference is in how they perform their rituals. There is only one Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún (Sixteen Cowries) Corpus.
  • Of course, this does not mean that every Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún diviner will know, chant, and use the same poems! If, for example, there are 50 poems in each of the Sixteen Cowries Odù, one diviner might know five of those 50, and another might know a different set of five poems. So, if you divine from the two diviners, they may chant different poems from the same Odù because neither knows all the poems from each Odù.
  • One problem is that we do not know the total number of poems there should be in each of the Sixteen Cowries Odù! With Ifá, we know that initially, there were 800 poems in each Odù to give a total of 800 x 256 poems = 204,800 poems in the Ifá Literary Corpus. Unfortunately, even though there is a smaller number of Odù in Sixteen Cowries, no one has studied it enough at an advanced theological level to determine how many poems there should be in each of the 16 Odù. Moreover, even though there are fewer Odù (and poems), most Sixteen Cowries “diviners” cannot even chant one single poem from any of the Sixteen Odù! This begs whether they are doing Sixteen Cowries Divination or just saying whatever comes to them!
  • We chose Oṣògún as the instructor for the Sixteen Cowries class because his pedigree goes back through his linage to the establishment of Ilé-Ifẹ̀. He learned Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún divination from his uncle, who learned from his grandfather, who learned from his great-grandfather, who learned from his great-great-grandfather, who … Simply put, the poems that Oṣògún uses, which are the ones you will learn in this Masterclass, are the most authentic version of Sixteen Cowries poems alive today.
  • At Ifá University, we started collecting, recording, transcribing and translating the Ifá poems we use for teaching Ifá Divination (and our Logunleko Odù Ifá Archives) in 1983. Back in 1983, when our collection of Odù Ifá poems began, we also identified several Sixteen Cowries Diviners (from the Ọbàtálá, the Ògún, the Ọ̀ṣun and the Ṣàngó ways of Sixteen Cowries Divination) who individually could chant ten or more poems from each of the Sixteen Cowries Odù. But because our initial focus was on Odù Ifá and Ifá Divination, it was not until the year 2018 that we at Ifá University started focusing on the Sixteen Cowries Literary Corpus.
  • Unfortunately, most of the knowledgeable Sixteen Cowries diviners we identified in 1983 had become ancestors by 2018. Between 2018 and 2020, we have dialogued with fifty-two Ẹẹ́rìndínlogún Diviners worldwide. Of these fifty-two, only four of them were Masters of Sixteen Cowries Divination in the sense that (a) they knew more than five poems from each of the 16 Odù, AND (b) they could chant these poems from memory without having to read them from a book, AND (c) they also knew the stories that go with the poems they chanted. Most of these so-called Sixteen Cowries diviners could not even chant one single poem from any one Odù! Some were reading the poems for the Odù they divined from the William Bascom Sixteen Cowries book! Some only knew one or two poems! Most Sixteen Cowries Diviners now just cast and ONLY interpret the Odù without any poems or stories! Only three of the fifty-two Sixteen Cowries diviners we dialogued with knew the stories embedded in all the poems they chanted!

Summary

  • The poems (i.e., the literature) of all the Sixteen Cowries “systems” are the same – whether it’s Ọbàtálá way, Ògún way, Ọ̀ṣún way, etc. They are all summaries (or condensations) of the two hundred and fifty-six Odù of Ifá into sixteen Odù. It was Ọ̀rúnmìlà Himself who gifted the Òrìṣà with the Sixteen Cowries Divination system. But since not everyone knows the same poems, it’s now almost impossible to cross-check the poems used by one priest with those of another. The only way to be sure that we are getting genuine poems is to rely on someone like Oṣògún, who is the ranking Ògún priest in the world and whose integrity is unquestionable.
  • Yes, the way the rituals are performed is different. You can always learn the ritual practices of Ọbàtálá from an Ọbàtálá priest who does not know the poems. But you cannot learn the Sixteen Cowries poems from an Ọbàtálá (or Ọya, Ṣaǹgó, etc.) priest/ess who does not know these poems!
  • It is important to note that irrespective of whether the rituals are performed the Ifá way, the Ọbàtálá way, the Ògún way, etc., all rituals go to Èṣù anyway.
  • To master the ways of rituals for your specific Òrìṣà, sign up for our Divination Practicum Summer Immersion Program.