I get asked about Ifa initiation often by clients seeking to embrace this tradition. It has become a popular topic of discussion throughout the diaspora community. It tends to be a big deal among the African diaspora because we have been separated from our traditions for so long. And many want to connect with them as quickly and deeply as possible. So, they often consider initiation early on in their journey.
But what many aren’t aware of is that initiation is not required for everyone. It is a beautiful and blessed part of an Ifa spiritual journey. But this process is not mandatory to enjoy a fruitful and beneficial spiritual practice. So, it’s definitely not something you must rush into.
Even more, many don’t realize that all Ifa devotees in Yorubaland don’t go through initiation. Instead, some only receive the Hand of Ifa and continuously work with their Orisa icons. This is because everyone is not called to initiate. In fact, it is a rarity for initiation to be a requirement for anyone. Contrarily, it is primarily a personal choice for the average person.
Should You Initiate?
Initiation into the Ifa tradition is a powerful and significant event in the lives of those who practice it. This ancient and sacred ritual, referred to as Itefa, involves a complex set of prayers, ceremonies, sacrifices, and offerings. Those who are initiated into the Ifa tradition are granted access to higher-level spiritual teachings and knowledge. Likewise, they tend to have stronger connections to Ifa and specific Orisas once they endure this process. So there are many benefits to initiating into the Ifa tradition.
But keep in mind that this is not the only way to achieve higher spiritual connection and communication. In fact, some people are naturally born with such abilities without going through this specific process. Instead, these individuals endure initiation through personal circumstances and challenges that give them a similar level of spiritual connectivity.
Beyond having basic knowledge of what initiation is and its benefits, there are other considerations you need to think about before making such a move. I have outlined a few of them below.
Cost of Initiation
One of the first things to consider before initiating is the cost of this process. For the average person, paying initiation fees can be quite exorbitant. While prices vary, I have seen costs between $5,000-$30,000 for various types of Ifa initiation ceremonies.
And keep in mind that these fees typically only include elements related to the initiation. You will typically have to pay your own airfare and other transportation-related costs if traveling for such an endeavor. However, room and board may be included in your initiation fees. So, you should definitely ask about this element and be prepared for it before taking this step.
Before you initiate, you need to have a strong connection with and understanding of the individual who will be initiating you. Likewise, you should be familiar with the other initiates and members of the temple where you plan to initiate. Though it’s not mandatory for you to like every member of the temple, you should have a decent relationship with them for the most part.
Beyond the semantics of social dynamics, the Babalowo (Priest) or Iyanifa (Priestess) who conducts your initiation should be qualified to do so. As such, you should take your time to get a feel for the quality of the individual’s work beforehand. This is usually done by getting divination and ebo performed regularly to determine the effectiveness of such solutions.
Keep in mind that initiation doesn’t automatically make a person righteous, infallible, or all-knowing. Nor is a person considered a spiritual leader simply because they initiate. There are additional requirements beyond initiation that set the stage for one’s spiritual growth and development.
Initiates are expected to learn and practice the teachings of Ifa and adhere to its moral code. Also, they must live with respect for their ancestors, community, and environment. Becoming an initiate also means taking on certain responsibilities as part of your role in the community. These responsibilities include maintaining a strong connection with the Orisa and honoring tradition. You must also serve as a bridge between the spiritual and physical worlds for others who may require your assistance.
Initiation is only the beginning of a joyous, transformative existence. Though it may come with ups and downs, it is meant to be the start of a cataclysmic change in your life. It is not the peak or conclusion of such a journey, as your process of spiritual growth and development is never-ending.
Outcomes of Itefa
Aside from the above-mentioned benefits of initiation, the following list outlines what you can expect from the process:
- A rebirth process that further integrates you into the Ifa tradition
- A holistic understanding and profound knowledge of Self
- Comprehensive understanding of personal taboos
- Deeper knowledge about your existence, purpose, and path
- Enhanced relationship with and connection to your Head Orisa
- Ability to overcome extreme or unrelenting difficulties and hardships
When Should You Initiate?
The decision to initiate is very personal. As outlined above, it should be made with careful consideration. But beyond these factors, the choice of when to initiate should be made based on when you are ready to do so. No one should ever pressure you to initiate, even if it comes up in a reading. And keep in mind that it is a rarity for someone’s reading to indicate that they must initiate.
Instead, some of the best Babalawos and Iyanifas I have worked with often discourage new devotees from initiating too soon. That is unless it is a matter of life and death, which is not typical. Usually, these individuals won’t initiate someone until they deem the individual ready for such a process.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, some people use unscrupulous tactics to pressure others into initiation. Typically, they will say that initiation is a requirement or that something bad will happen to the person if they don’t initiate right away. Or they will otherwise compel them into going through the process. But note that such practices are not part of the Ifa tradition.
Contrarily, people are usually encouraged to wait until they feel ready for initiation. This may take months, years, or decades. Or it may never come to fruition. And that’s perfectly fine. Anyone considering this path should do so when they are spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and financially ready for it.