An American lady is traveling to Lagos, Nigeria to become an Ifa priestess

Ọtọtọtọ, ọrọrọrọ, ọtọtọ laa jẹpa. Ọtọtọ nla jẹ imumu. Ohun tori tori, ohun tore tore nlaa fọba makin nile Iranje, ko ba le fi ohun to ri to re ta ni lọrẹ a dia fun Ogotẹẹrẹ ẹyi ti n gbogun lọ Ẹhinwọran. Ogotẹẹrẹ lorukọ a n poko. Ẹhinwọran lorukọ a n pobo. Eewọ oriṣa oko ii jagun ilobo ko sanwọ-o.

Ọtọtọtọ, ọrọrọrọ, ọtọtọ (What is real is real [true], what is not real is not real), Whole is how we eat groundnut. Whole is how we eat imumu (edible black seed). In Iranje, they assess the king’s valour through his performance. If you praise the king with his acts of valour, he will give you a gift. This reveals why Ogotẹẹrẹ made war against Ehinwọran. Ogotẹẹrẹ is what we call penis, and Ẹhinwọran is what we call vagina. It is an abomination to the gods for the penis to fight a war with the vagina and lose.

Poetic? That was quoting Ifa in Eji Ogbe, one of the 16 verses of Ifa.  There are sixteen major books in Odu Ifá literary corpus. Together, they make  a total of 256 Odu (chapters) which are believed to have the capacity to solve all problems, change situations and circumstances, as well as determine actions and consequences in life based on the uncountable ese (poetic recitations) attached to the 256 Odu coding.

Initiation into Ifa requires rigorous study. Anyone who aspires to become a Babalawo (Ifa priest) must learn no fewer than four verses from each of the 256 chapters (Odu) of Ifa. African American Siana-äiti Moirae is ready to go through the demanding study and initiation process to become an Ifa priestess. She has learnt a lot about the religion and has met with Ifa priests in Brazil; now, Siana wants to go to where it all started. She refers to her planned pilgrimage as one meant to “find the soul of my roots”.

Colonial influence

Ifa is an earth-centered African spiritual tradition believed to have been conceptualized by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. The practice of Ifa, according to some literatures, dates back to as far as eight thousand years ago. However, several adherents of the religion accepted Christianity (along with western civilization) in the mid-19th century through the Europeans, whose mission was more about business than about saving souls. Islam had been in Yorubaland centuries earlier, as a result of Yorubas’ trade with the Fulanis of the Malian Empire. Both religions have now become dominant in Nigeria, home to about 40 million Yoruba people, who judging from history, should be mostly adherents of a traditional region. However, the Yoruba people, who first had contact with the colonial masters were quick to embrace the white man’s religion. Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta said of the arrival of Christianity in his country: “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” 

Many argue that the missionaries were able to thrive in Africa because Africans allowed them to demonize their traditional religions. Siana agrees.

“African spirituality has been demonized and buried with a dusts of lies, corruption and enslavement making it hard for today’s world to embrace it and maximize our existence by understanding the teachings of the Motherland,” she notes.

The search

Having trained at Otura Tuka Los Angeles Temple, where Ifa is worshiped at the city of angels, Siana says she is now ready to further her Ifa practice and actualize her calling by being initiated in Nigeria. To make this dream come true, she started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $7,000 to fund her trip to Nigeria.

“All of the the funds will be supporting me with my Nigerian Visa, Flight, Travel Expenses and most importantly your donations will be going to the spiritual tribe in Nigeria that I will be staying with and will cover the expense behind the initiation ceremony supplies, lodging, and all other accommodations and transformations that I will be going through,” she writes.

Siana wants the money ready by February 1. As at January 31, she had only raised $3,022. But whether she raises $7,000 or not; by February 5, Siana will be on her way to Lagos, Nigeria, “trusting that all will work out for my good”.

Siana, who traced her bloodline back to the Yoruba tribe, two years after she started practising Ifa and learning the Yoruba language, was born into a Christian family. However, when she turned 7, she decided that she did not agree with all of the teachings of Christianity.

“The whole idea of people going to hell and the division between followers of Christ and the rest of the world caused me to become an atheist,” Siana explains to The Nerve Africa. “After growing up and learning more about physics and science, I became agnostic, having the belief that there’s something greater but I wasn’t quite sure what that “Greater” thing was.”

The Visitation

On December 21, 2008,  Siana was visited by spirits, who channeled messages and information that she had never heard before. To better understand the messages, she started researching all she had received, including the symbols she saw, the names she heard and the things she said in another language.

“90% of the time, I would find that what I channeled were valid information and names of people who passed away and different deities from different cultures,” says Siana, who continued to practise Christianity after that experience.

It later became clear to her that the things that came naturally to her “like connecting with people that passed away and divination” were not accepted by the Church.

“As much as I relate to the message and persona of Jesus, I couldn’t deny my innate gift to connect with the Spirit world so I continued my search for truth.”

Filling the void

According to her, having a dedicated practice seemed perfect but she still felt a void which has now been filled by her belief in the Orishas, whose names she started using without knowing what an Orisha was.

“I would write the names I heard in my Journal then google them. My jaw dropped when I found out I was being contacted by divine beings. That’s how my journey with the Orishas started,” narrates Siana.

Growing in knowledge and wisdom, she says, has made it clear to her that Africans hold so much power. She explains that the slave masters knew this and the only way they could have been successful in enslaving the black man was to force him to practice a religion and worship a god that look more like them. “If the pictures of Jesus were of a black man do you think we would’ve been empowered to break free of our bondage or remain as slaves?” Siana asks.

Spirituality

Siana believes at the root of everything in our world is spirit. “The spiritual plane directly effects and influences everything we experience in the 3rd dimension. Going even further I believe spirit is the orchestrator of our entire universe,” she says.

The priestess in the making reinforces her point saying “before we are humans we are spiritual beings”. Based on this belief, Siana claims that having a solid spiritual practice is important in living a fulfilled life, having healthy relationships, and most importantly reaching one’s highest potential.

“I found that being grounded in a spiritual practice helps decrease worry, fear, and depression. There’s a new awareness of acceptance when one commits to having a spiritual practice,” Siana says. However, her assertion about spiritual/religious practice will not make Siana despise those who do not belief in the existence of God or gods. She has a word for them: “Having a spiritual practice is a choice, so you don’t have to believe in anything outside of yourself but do yourself a favor and love yourself and others. My request for you is to everyday set the intention to improve your life, be open to learning, and willing to listen.”

Initiation

Lagos is known worldwide as the commercial capital of Nigeria. Most stories about Lagos focus on its population, its economic growth and its energetic youths who are building one of the world’s largest entrepreneurial communities. However, beneath this widely seen urbanism, is a deep-rooted  traditional religious practice. One would expect Siana to be going to Osun, a western state in Nigeria whose capital hosts the UNESCO-recognised Osun Osogbo festival every year. But Siana is traveling to Lagos where she says her initiation begins immediately she lands in the city.

Siana intends to share videos of every aspect of the initiation process which the initiates permit her to share on her Facebook pages (Siana-aiti Moire and Living The Alchemist) as well as her website: LivingTheAlchemist.com and her Instagram Pages (@iamxenophon and @livingthealchemist).

Siana is coming to Nigeria as an ordinary devotee, but she intends to leave as a priestess. She will be going back to Los Angeles, California where she will continue to study with her spiritual advisor whom she fondly calls Baba (Father/Old one). This will help in laying her foundation “doing rites of passages retreats as well as doing divinations and healings”. That won’t be all; Siana plans to also pitch her show Living the Alchemist to different television networks as she continues her pilgrimage around the world in search of the connection and truth of indigenous practices and religions.