Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: January 26, 2009 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412964623 | Print ISBN: 9781412936361 | Online ISBN: 9781412964623| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
A Babalawo is a priest of Ifa, also referred to as Orunmila, who is probably the most popular deity of the Yoruba pantheon and certainly one to whom great attention is paid by all. Indeed, Ifa is the deity of divination, a most important and favored epistemological mode in Africa in general. African people turn to divination on a daily basis and, therefore, to Ifa in Yorubaland for guidance and advice on all kinds of issues, trivial or critical. It takes, however, a person specially and carefully trained to decipher Ifa's messages to the humans, and this is precisely the function fulfilled by a Babalawo. Those called into Ifa's priesthood must undergo a long and expensive initiation process, which may last anywhere between 3 and 15 years. During that time, the initiate must acquire an extensive body of sacred and secret knowledge and memorize no less than 4,096 couplets associated ...