7 Steps to Becoming a Yoruba Orisa Practitioner
These are ideal steps to take in becoming an effective Orisa practitioner. The speed at which you engage in these steps depends on your ori (destiny). Unless there is a crisis—there is no rush. However, you should immediately begin to address ancestors and clean living.
1. Embracing one’s ancestors/Egun.
In order of importance, this typically means:
A. Learning about one’s personal ancestors/egun via asking family members, and/or genealogy research. This includes acquiring the names of grand and great-grandparents and learning about their lives.
B. Engaging your ancestors through prayer, libation and gift offerings.
C. Setting up an ancestor altar under the guidance of a priest (i.e. Iya Winmilawe).
2. Clean living.
This is a holistic concept that everyone is capable of achieving. Establishing clean living will result in a strong link with your Ori (head/destiny). 'What is clean living?' It is having:
A. "Iwa pele" or good character. Constantly applying good morals and ethics to every area of your life. There are universal principles that are advocated in most religions, including this religion. These morals and ethics include: truth, love, and respect for all humans, animals, plants and spirits.
B. "Orire" or good head/destiny. This includes mental healthiness. Do you have a past trauma, addiction, mental or emotional unhealthiness that you need counseling for? Get the help from a mental health specialist or do the self-work required (e.g. Iyanla Vanzant is a Yoruba self-help expert). Spiritual guidance is best when you do your part on the earthly plane.
C. "Aiku" or long life, which is an important pursuit in Yoruba Orisa tradition. Your spirit needs to dwell in the holy temple known as the human body, for as long as possible to gain power. Aiku often comes from having good physical health and a proper environment to live in. Do you eat right and exercise? Do you care well for your living space?
3. Learn about Orisa and Yoruba
This requires social and/or scholarly study. One can start by reading the books suggested below and have on-going conversations with trusted and willing people who can help one understand the Orisa and the Yoruba cultural system.
It may be necessary to begin by mentally deconstructing one’s exclusive, denigrating and/or dogmatic mindset before learning about the Orisa. Once one is open, then seek to learn African history, Yoruba theology, Yoruba culture and Orisa: names, natural elements, characteristics, metaphysical domains, foods, original locations and Diaspora geography.
A. Here are some suggested books.
1) “The Core of Fire: A Path to Yoruba Spiritual Activism” by Aina Olomo
2) “Yoruba Culture: A Philosophical Account” by Kola Abimbola
3) “The Healing Power of Sacrifice” by Chief Ifayemi Elebuibon
4) “Olodumare: God In Yoruba Belief” by E. Bolaji Idowu
5) "Shango's Son" by Dr. Winmilawe
6) "Obatala's Daughter Discovers True Friends" by Dr. Winmilawe
7) "Oshun's Flow" by Dr. Winmilawe
More resources (i.e. suggested videos, websites and other media) available to official clients and students.
B. Learn Yoruba language basics, especially the vowel sounds. You'll need to know how to pray, chant, recite, greet and sing in the Yoruba language. One can do this by starting with learning the Yoruba alphabet, basics phonetics and words. It is not necessary to learn to speak it fluently, although if one is talented in that—fluency is encouraged. Click this Yoruba language site to practice the alphabet and learn more basics.
4. Get a reading
Divinations (a.k.a. 'readings') give you messages from the ancestors (egun) or Orisa (divinities). Yoruba Orisa priests use different divination tools/oracles depending on their Orisa and training. Readings are spiritual consultations that may address anything, including your health, love life, spiritual life, career, money, etc. You may or may not approach a Yoruba Orisa reading with a question—the Orisa will have messages anyway. Remedies revealed are to bring about further insight, transformation and/or blessings.
5. Participate in communal activities
If you are invited to group activities of an Egbe (group/association) or Ile (worship house) in your area, then go. It’s enriching to celebrate the spirits with others. It's even better if you trust the person who invited you and/or those people in charge. Also, it is best to ask priests you work with what effort can you contribute in creating communal gatherings?
6. Receiving Ceremony
If a reading from a trusted priest suggests that you are destined get a personal, ancestor or Orisa ceremony, or full initiation--then do it! Then, you will experience elevation from the ancestors (egun), Orisa (divinities), and/or other benevolent forces.
Rituals and ceremonies are for healing an aspect of one’s life, to gain greater access to the divine spirits, and/or to help one cross from one life stage to another. You can be of any religion or culture to participate. They take many forms including: head cleanings, spiritual baths, receiving elekes (beads), weddings, receiving ancestor (egun) or Orisa sacred objects, naming ceremonies, and full initiations.
For those wanting to be a full Yoruba/Orisa devotee—a ceremony is usually necessary. However, not every devotee is meant to do full initiation. Ceremonies usually cost from $100s to low $1000s. Initiations usually cost $1000s.
7. Continuous devotion
Once one is directly and officially engaged with the Orisa, and has direct access to this world, there are many ways to constantly fortify oneself. This includes regular communication with your spirits, such as regular personal readings (i.e. that one does just for oneself: obi and ose).
Continuing to learn and engage with relevant Orisa characteristics, cosmology, prayers, chants, verses, songs, poetry, dances, and rituals also strengthens your spirit. These lessons are lifelong and infinite! Interacting with like-minded devotees and with the spirits themselves provides stability. Eventually, one will want to pass on one’s knowledge to others.