What do Ifa Orisa Priests Actually Do?

Job Description of a Babalawo/ Iyanifa, Baba/Iyalorisa 16 Responsibilities of Community priesthood or Temple.

People ask me what do you do? I tell them with the straightest of faces that I’m a professional priest.  The look on their faces is often comical as they try to figure out what that means.  Honestly,  very few even in the tradition really know what we , as Ifa Orisa priests actually DO. Contrary to popular option, we don’t spend our all our days on Social media making pretty videos!   Most people also  don’t understand why it’s not “free work” and why it may not be just  a side job.
The job description of a community Olorisa or Awo Ifa can vary depending on the specific community, level of training, tradition they belong to, and if they function as an individual priest or run a spiritual community. Majority of initiates engage as a spiritual practice but do not serve the public as a divining priests. 

Community priests serve the public and hold significant responsibilities. Being called a Babalawo, Yeyelawo, Baba/ Iyalorisa requires extensive cultural, spiritual, and technical education over many years (often 5-10 or more years like that of a doctor) and serve in a hands on apprenticeship under the direction of a senior priest for many years ( like a residency). Even with that, the work often requires more than one person to get it all done. 

That being said here are some of the main responsibilities that a Babalawo/Iyanifa/ Baba/Iya Orisa may do in service to the community.

1. Divination: Facilitate Ifa Orisa divination for spiritual diagnosis and problem solving of physical, spiritual, emotional, and social, issues using one of the following divination tools: Ikin, Opele, Erindinlogun (16 cowries), for individuals and groups in the general public seeking guidance and address ailments to restore balance in an individuals life.

2. Prescribe and carry out appropriate remedies, offerings, or sacrifices called ebos and ipese to address issues found through divination as directed by the Divination.

3. Perform Rituals, and Ceremonies specific to the faith such as initiation of priests, rites for healing, and restoration, as well as ceremonies associated with birth, marriage, funerals, and other rites of passage

4. Preside over community Ose Days, Festivals, and other sacraments and events the Ifa Orisa faith. The use of orisa song, orisa dance, oriki, invocations, chanting, and other means of invocation of spiritual agencies may be employed. This also includes event management such as providing logistics, scheduling, and coordination to ensure smooth execution of event.

5. Prepare and Consecrate shrines, spiritual tools and technologies of the faith according to the traditional processes of the lineage.

6. Serve as a Spiritual advisor and counselor to individuals seeking guidance and solutions to personal problems or challenges. They provide spiritual insights, and offer advice on how to lead a balanced and harmonious life and comfort to individuals and families in times of need or crisis.

7. Education: Provide spiritual instruction through teaching the general public, devotees,  the young, training the priesthood, preserving and transmitting the knowledge and wisdom of Ifa Orisa. This includes interpreting verses of Odu Ifa / Eerindinlogun . All priests must engage in continuing education from spiritual elders which may include international travel including lodging, food, and honorariums for professional instruction. A true priest never stops learning.

A community Orisa Temple with Shrines

8. To maintain the religious shrines and temples daily and support its upkeep through regular application of traditional rites, cleaning, charging, maintenance of their own work and spiritual connection with their Orisa, ancestors, and Egbe.

9. Provide leadership and human resource management and support by ongoing support to junior priests, devotees and members of the community shrine. Non divination based calls, emails, texts, etc. Community advocacy and representation of the faith. Coordination of activities of the priesthoods and collaborate with other community priests globally to fulfill the mission of the the faith.

10. Oversee the day-to-day Organization and management of the Community shrine or temple through maintaining records of divinations, ebos, consults, ceremonies, membership . This includes maintaining legal paperwork as required by law as either an individual priest or minister or as a non profit faith based organization (FBO), or NGO. 

11. Provide ethical financial management of shrine through regular bookkeeping, management of donations, memberships, ebos, , purchasing supplies, maintaining inventory, and managing expenses associated with shrine work. Because a community shrine is religious in nature, financial documentation should be maintained under government tax codes as a faith based organization (FBO).

12. Traditional Medicine and Ethnobotanical management for physical. Emotional, and spiritual healing. Herbal cultivation, maintenance, preservation, and dispensing of traditional and natural herbs (Ewe) for use in Oogun and akose ( medicines). This may include garden maintenance, preparation of herbal remedies, baths, soaps, etc. May also include midwifery or birth management, hydrotherapeutics, soft tissue manipulation, and other traditional medical approaches for healing.

13. Animal management such as the care and feeding of animals, including transport, housing, maintenance of birds, goats, rams, cows, etc. This also includes the work of ritual slaughter, processing  and sustainable disposal of remains.

14. Nature and Environmental stewardship implementing sustainable, environmentally friendly practices for rituals and sacraments to be in alignment with the ecology, the Earth, and community standards. 

15. Oversee the use of technology and media such as website management, social media management, public and community relations, writing, authoring, or preparation of religious educational materials.

16 Prophecy and Mediumship by being a conduit and medium for divinities through mediating communication of Orisa, nature spirits, divinities, ancestors, spiritual guides, through dreams, direct transmission as Elegun. 

Hopefully this can give you an idea of the work involved and why it’s a calling , real work, and  not just about prestige or titles.  the work can be long, exhausting, and 24/7 because Orisa never sleep. 

Categories: Resources