(Essay Part 1) Iyami and the Female Roots of Power in the IfaOrisha Tradition by Ayele Kumari

AK 3IyaMi (pronounced EeYa Me) are the collective ancestral mothers of Africa both in primordial form as forces of nature, as well as our biological ancestral mothers. The word itself means my mother. These mothers are expressed through the elements on Mother Earth whom we call Onile in the IfaOrisha tradition. Through women’s relationship with the land, they became masters of trade as they owned the marketplace since goods came from the land. Wealth itself is synonymous with woman. Aje is a water divinity whose name is the word for wealth. She is the daughter of Olokun, the mother of the Oceans. Her relationship to wealth is found deep in the ocean with cowrie shells, an ancient form of currency. The cowrie shell itself deeply reflects female qualities as its shape resembles a vagina.
The women of the marketplace used cowries as currency of exchange, a decorative ornament, as well as a means of divination though the system known as Erindinlogun. This ancient binary system of divination utilized cowrie shells to secure answers and forge communication with Orisha (forces of nature) and Ori (our personal divinity and higher self). Osun, Yemoja, Orishanla, Oya are but a few female forces (Orisha/ Goddesses) that are honored in this tradition. Their priestesses use the cowrie shell system to divine for solutions for life. The answers secured are expressed through Odu which means womb. In Erindinlogun, there are 16 possible answers, but within those answers are a collection of thousands of essays, proverbs, and stanzas that express an answer. It is an extension of an expanded wisdom system known as Ifa.

To be continued in Part 2

See ( Meet Mago Contributor) Ayele Kumari, PH.D





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