Honey and Devastation

Ifá is a faith that venerates the morning dew – because the dew is soft and invisible and in secret ways fertilizes the greenwood with the elixirs of night, because it is in the night Onile (the spirit of Earth)seeks her rejuvenation and brings forth all possibility under the rays of the Sun.

Ifá sees the world as a marketplace, a place where transactions occur, where all possibility gathers into opportunity taken or lost. The marketplace is made up of the 256 cosmic vibrations called odu – or more correctly, omo odu – which are manifested fractals of light in meeting with darkness. These vibrations give identity and substance to all things that are and can possibly become.

Ifá speaks of the beauty of diversity and the possibility of harmonious gatherings – but in this we also have the possibility of feud, war and misunderstandings. A feud occurs when one substance experiences a collision with another substance – in this lies a failure to see landscape and horizon and in this make the pieces to fit – so a gathering of harmony can take place.

Our soul is like flocks of birds, nesting, defending, courting… the fuel of the soul is passions and burning blood and like the birds we act and react with passion in the limited space we define as out self and its unfolding. The birds of all the passions can bring ecstasy, joy, debauchery, feud, enmity and confusion – but it is also here harmony and understanding is first felt and then embraced by ori, our mindfulness.

Ifá is a faith that is anchored in iwá pélé, good character – good character in the view of Ifá is about being peaceful, about retaining optimism and happiness in the belief that we all are born good and blessed – and that we can stay that way.

However, good character is a daily work upon self because temptations all abound, to give up ones calm and positive disposition confronted with anger, envy, pride and so forth – obstacles on the path of destiny.  These obstacles are either instigated by yourself or by people around you who have not understood their truthful centre, or how to establish it. They turn into soldier ants who wages war on all things that they perceive as being in their way – and devastation of whatever is sweet.  

Ifá constantly uses the terms ‘dew’ and ‘honey’ to describe the nature of possessing a good character but Ifá is also mindful of the need to protect ones good fortune and good character. There is an odu speaking of the time when the denizens of heaven and the humans lived in peace, but the urges and passions to possess infested mankind so much that the denizens of heaven that lives on in the spirit of Ifá felt the need to guard themselves against the aggression. The odu Ìretè’sá says the following:

Enití r’ótè sá kò s’ojo
Oyin se tán, fáfárá dé’lé
Eerùn se tán, f’àgàn dé’lé
A dífá aráyé a bu fún ará òrun
Nígbàtí wón ´ngbógun si ara won

In Karenga’s beautiful translation:

One who guards against treachery is not
Overly fearful
After all, when honey bees are finished,
They leave a honeycomb in the house
But when soldier ants are finished,
They leave devastation.
This was the teaching of Ifa for the people of
Earth and the inhabitants of heaven
When they were warring with each other

Ifá points out in this odu that we need to be mindful of the passions that motivate us and also how our nature can be put to use. Ifá also speaks about our conduct and what we leave behind, it speaks about how soldier ants can besiege a beehive and drain it all to quench their own needs with the excuse of this being in their nature – but ifá says that no matter how the mixture of light and darkness is at essence in each and every one we can still walk the earth like dew drenched in honey and do our destiny. The soldier ant is simply a symbol of someone overtaken by matter and infused with fire that wages war upon all that provokes its error – and for such people, like the soldier ant, honey is surely the worst kind of enemy.