shells.jpg - 2800 Bytes Historical Museum of Southern Florida Orisha Ifá Paraphernalia

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Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami


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In the Orisha religion, the babalawo (“father of secrets”) is considered to occupy the highest category within the spiritual hierarchy. He is a priest of Orunmila, the orisha of divination, knowledge, and wisdom. His specialization is the study of Odu Ifá, the corpus of 256 verses, prescriptions, and proscriptions of the Ifá oracle, believed to have been handed down by Olodumaré (the Supreme Being). The babalawo employs a number of objects, such as the opón Ifá and opele, in his daily ritual responsibilities.

The opón Ifá is a wooden tray used primarily for divination with specially consecrated palm nuts. It is also employed for sacrificial ceremonies. The opón Ifá symbolizes the earth and is the resting place of Orunmila. Within the tray is the presence of Elegbá, Olodumaré’s cosmic deputy, who is symbolized by anything from a simple cross (representing the four winds) to a pair of hyperboloid eyes (representing the deity’s ever-watchful presence).

A chain, known as an “opele,” is a babalawo’s most commonly used instrument for consulting the oracle. After reciting initial incantations, the babalawo casts the chain on a mat to reveal one of the Odu Ifá. The opele’s popularity stems from its ease of use and the fact that it can be cast at any time of day or night. (Palm nuts, though religiously superior to the opele, require a more complex protocol.) While in Yorubaland an opele is made with the pods of the opele tree, in Cuba it is typically made from coconut shells.

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Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts in Miami
The Afro-Cuban Orisha Religion | Orisha Worship in Miami
Orisha Artists | Beadwork | Paños | Garments | Thrones
Herramientas | Music | Ifá Paraphernalia
The Orisha Tradition in Popular Arts
Pantheon of Orishas

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