The Language of Ifa: CHARACTER

The language of Ifa is Iwa: CHARACTER. Iwa was given a precise meaning in Ifa. Ifa says that character is religion. Whoever has good character is the master of their universe. Ifa speaks of Iwa as if it is the mother of creation and all creatures emanate from Iwa. That is why one can notice the use of Iwa throughout the poetry, oriki and verses of Ifa and Ifa philosophy. 

Some examples include:

  • Igba Iwa (Calabash of Destiny, or good character attracts good blessings);
  • Iwalaase (the abode of the spirits, it is where we come from and where we shall return; what we shall leave behind at the end of our earthly journey is our good character)
  • Iwase (the beginning of all things, and the returning point of all things)
  • Iwapele (good character/gentle character)
  • Iwarere (good manners/gentle character; Iwarere leso eniyan means ‘good manners is the ornament and embodiment of good life’)
  • Iwalewa (character is beautiful)
  • Ti eniyan ba dara ti oni iwa lori asan ni (beauty without character is vanity)

Ifa speaks of prayer and good words as a prerequisite of good character, it speaks of positive attitudes and positive spiritual posture that will result in happiness and the removal of blockages. Ifa teaches us that the beginning of every investment or undertaking must be humble so that we appreciate our progress and success, as we grow.

One has to be of good character to acquire good things. Bad character can hinder the progress. It can repel one’s fortune, protection, and blessings. It is one’s secret thoughts, desires, and deeds that are weighed in the balance. Not what one does for the world to see, but what one does when nobody is watching, that measures good and bad/poor character. It’s not about the dog-and-pony show that most people like to put on. It’s the nay-saying voices in the head; the scheming plans of the heart, and the envious eyes glazed upon others. The preferred taste of competition and rivalry, and the constant diet of victimization as justification for hurting others, and being mean-spirited. Character is the things that Heaven sees, when one is in earth’s blind spot. 

In Eji Ogbe, Ifa says: I behave as my GOD creates me. I do good always, I am honest, too. I do no evil, Neither do I harbor evil thoughts; L’est I die wretched. This is because Whatever we initiate in our youth Will persist ’til old age. These are the declarations of the Oracle for ORUNMILA and the 401 IRUNMOLE, When coming from Heaven to the earth. OLODUMARE instructed them to do good always. Only ORUNMILA applied honesty of thought To overturn all evil machinations!

Character is tied to destiny because of the influence one’s character can have on the whole process. Also, bad character makes the Orisa angry, and incurring the wrath of Orisa can definitely hinder the reception of one’s blessings and breakthrough. Evil comes from within, just as goodness comes from within. A spiritual touch of light will illuminate the inner darkness of a person. Spiritual light (prayer, ebo, ritual, initiations, meditation, etc) will assist to destroy the evil/poor/bad/disturbed character of a person. One great concern about letting secret thoughts, desires, and actions of poor character persist is that the inner negative force eventually is met by outer negative forces of the world. We do not live in bubbles and vacuums and worldly negative forces also have to eat. To persist with ugly ways and unkind treatment of other people and/or self; destructive and disturbing behaviors; or mental and emotional meltdowns that destroy homes or communities, without the hard work of doing better/being better- is to be a smorgasbord for outer negative forces to dine well on! 

It is not about following a moral list of rules like, “I don’t kill and I dont steal, etc…” No. it is about living harmoniously in the universe and not destroying yourself, the earth, nor others in the process. It’s about using knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to chart your course in light and love, despite the hardships, tragedies, traumas, sad songs, and scarred pasts that one has faced. 

Irosungunda says:

Dog is beautiful with its teeth

Ram is beautiful with its mane

Dog does not have mane

Let one go home to fetch a ram

for sacrifice to one’s household Egungun

Cast Ifa for Ori-inu

Cast Ifa for Ori-ode

Ori-inu, please

please have mercy

Do not spoil Ori-ode

It is character that is important

No Ori can be totally bad thoroughly

Even right from the beginning of the earth,

It is character that is Important

-Ifa says that right from the beginning, character is important. May we push forward in good character at all times. May we have the courageous conversations that we need to have so that we don’t harbor ill feelings. May we have the strength to let go of things that weigh us down. May we have the strength to forgive those whom we need to forgive just as Heaven shows us forgiveness and doesn’t allow us to feel the full heat of the mess and confusion that we bring. May we keep our eyes on our own prayer mat, so that we are not watching and comparing other people’s fortunes or misfortunes to our own. May we take care of the earth. May we take care of ourselves. May we take care of others. Ase.

And never forget–>  The Ancestors connect us to the spirit realm and intercede on our behalf. They guide us through our journey. Because of our Ancestors, many of us have been given a second, third, fourth, and fifth chances to fulfill our destiny. Because of our Ancestors, many of us survive. The development of IWA PELE (good character) will allow us to, one day, become Ancestors, who can intercede on behalf of those who come after us. Only elevated spirits carry the Ase needed to elevate a nation and enlighten the world. Having IWA PELE will elevate and enlighten our spirit. Do you have someone who will be here after you are gone? Do you have someone who will call on you, in their times of need? Will you be an elevated spirit to your family, both kinship and spiritual? Can they call on you, when that time comes? Or will you be one that will need elevation work because of the life you chose to live, despite the warnings? Will you be a wasted candle to light?


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