We all should know what sacrifice is. “The giving up or foregoing of some valued thing for the sake of something of greater value or having a more pressing claim”. Whatever one desires in this life requires the giving up of something. Life does not strive on taking alone. Life also requires giving; hence life is a process of give and take. The simplest form of sacrifice one can give is time. The most complex form of sacrifice one can give is change. This subject of sacrifice takes on many facets. This page will only touch on the fundamentals of sacrifice from an African/Ifa worldview.
The sacrifice of time is the most fundamental form of sacrifice. In America we sacrifice most of our youth towards school. We then sacrifice our time towards daily labor to acquire finances for daily living. On a deeper level the sacrifice of time involves patience.
Time sacrificed does not always bring about the desired result in our lives. Nor does time spent on something guarantee you peace of mind. When these disharmonies are prevalent we are taught to seek the spiritual realm and pray to beg God for favors. Many of us are unaware and do not realize that the spiritual realm like the physical one requires some sort of giving in order to receive. Imagine walking into Human Resources at IBM and demanding a paycheck knowing that you never (sacrificed) worked a day at IBM. The Spiritual realm works the same way.
The Yoruba believe in one supreme God called Olodumare. Olodumare is very remote to the Yoruba by virtue of the duality that exists with Olodumare. In other words God created both the “good” and “evil” forces at play in the universe and he gave Ase (power) to both sides. “When you speak about ‘good’, you have already presupposed ‘evil’.” One cannot exist without the other. There are two sides to every story or problem. Within Olodumare lay both sides to one story, so directing energy to Olodumare directly can be vain. Within Ifa the cosmos is divided into two halves. The right side is inhabited by the benevolent supernatural powers and the left side is inhabited by the malevolent supernatural powers. The benevolent powers are the Orisa and their helpful associations with humans. The malevolent powers are evil and destructive energies like Iku (death), Arun (sickness), Ofo (loss), Epe (curse) and so on. There is no peaceful coexistence between these two powers, they are always in conflict.
The Africans believe that verbalization is not enough in one’s relationship with the supernatural. Ifa divination serves as a preamble to prayer. Via Ifa divination we can ascertain how to pray, to whom to pray and for what. For the Yoruba, divining (Ifa) serves as an approach to prayer and shows one why they need to pray and shows one the best procedure for elevating one’s prayer via some form of sacrifice. In this world of many choices, this complex and varied approach is still miraculously accurate and effective. In this world of choices, this complex and varied approach is necessary. The variety of sacrifice includes time, song, dance, money, change and life force offerings.
Communication with the sprit realm is what Ifa is all about. Sacrifice is an attempt to rearrange the forces of the universe so that they can work for us, resulting in peace and harmony for us in our environment. Within Ifa, sacrifice (in Yoruba it is called ebo) is an attempt by human beings to send a message to all these supernatural powers of the universe regarding our own human affairs. When all the supernatural powers accept our sacrifice/ebo, everybody is happy and are committed to work for us and we can achieve peace.
All of God’s creations have some relationship with God and communicate with God at some level beyond our comprehension. Within Ifa, animals are sometimes used to communicate our message to the spiritual realm. Each animal species have distinct properties that are beyond our comprehension. For instance, most humans cannot smell sugar, however if we put sugar or honey on the table, ants will flock there by morning because they have smelt it. Their sense of smell is much higher than our own. The Ifa sacrificial rituals use the unique communication abilities of animals to relay our messages to the supernatural forces at play. The chicken is the first animal inhabitant of the earth and she accompanied the divinities/Deities from heaven to earth. The chicken is a favorite communicator of messages to the spirit realm because of its close association to the Deities from the very start. Life force offerings direct prayer via the animals’ force to a specific force in nature to elevate our prayers for our benefit and to rearrange the universe to work in our favor.
For example, if someone is sick and a sacrifice is prescribed by a diviner, that sacrifice is meant too appease the left and right side divinities. Humans do not give sacrifice directly to the supernatural powers on the left, they give it to their own guardian divinity who is on the right. The closest of these right hand divinities is Ori (head) and can include a host of other Orisa and Eguns (ancestors). Esu, the divine messenger, who is almost always supposed to get part of any blood sacrifice and who shares elements of both the left and right side, will assure that the left hand divinities get their due. Esu plays a very important part in reordering universal events for the good of anyone that sacrifices in this manner.
Sacrifice is essential to human well being. Some people live happy lives sacrificing their pride to beg from strangers. Some people sacrifice half of their adult life in school earning PHD’s. Meat eaters in our society directly benefit from blood sacrifice to accommodate their daily meal. Most meat eaters are disconnected from the total disregard of the poor animal’s life during its slaughter/sacrifice for their benefit. The Jews have their kosher food, which is prayed over animals, sacrificed for consumption. Within Ifa most sacrificed animals are consumed as to further their power (Ase) for our cause and the animals are treated with respect. The European sacrificed the lives of an estimated 100 million African men women and children for their Gods of materialism, greed, lust and conquest. The Christians celebrate the human sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to this day still symbolize this via cannibalism with their communion ritual. Within Ifa the holy Odu Irete-Meji and OturuponTura forbids human sacrifice! Within the traditional African worldview you are for the most part responsible for your own self-improvement. If you want to change your condition you must make sacrifice. Sacrifice often times does not require blood. Sacrifice sometimes requires one to look in a mirror and see beyond what is reflected and to make some psychological change. This can be the most difficult of sacrifices. However, we here at Cultural Expressions are well aware of why the chicken crossed the road, and now you know