What is Ifa/Orisha?
Ifa is the name of an earth-centered spiritual tradition conceptualized by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, West Africa. According to oral history, the practices of Ifa originate as far back as eight thousand years. It’s practice is ritual-based with sacrifice, song and dance being primary forms prayer, divination being a significant form of interaction with divine wisdom and ancestral veneration used as a means to commune with our place in the universe.
In the America’s, Ifa was preserved through hundreds of years of slavery, largely because along with being practiced in secret by educated slaves and their descendants, it was syncretized with the Catholic pantheon of saints, evolving into Santeria, Lucumi and other traditions throughout Cuba and other parts of the Caribbean and South America, while maintaining it’s philosophical foundation.
We worship one creator, called Oludamare, and a primary prophet, Orunmila, who brought the “word” or practice of Ifa to humankind. Between humanity and the Creator are numerous Orisha who govern different aspects of nature including Elegba: divine messenger, Ogun: an ironsmith, Shango: dancing warrior king, Obatala: white-clad symbol of purity and justice, Osun: river deity associated with all things sweet, Yemaya: our mother, the ocean and Oya: representing communication and the after life.
Traditional stories or Pataki about these and other Orisa and their interactions with one another and with humans and nature contain and convey archetypical wisdom, which–along with concepts from other traditions–we study and share together. We also practice elevation rituals, signifying and facilitating an individual’s spiritual growth and dedication.
Osun’s Golden Harvest Temple
In the early 1990’s Iya Nifa Monife moved to Pensacola to care for her mother in the hometown she had returned to from New York City. Her mother’s father, William Goldstucker and his brother had been free blacks who established Goldstucker Brother’s Funeral Home in Pensacola and–as the only funeral parlor that would accept blacks–were very successful. William built a house at the corner of 15th street and Scott in Pensacola’s East Hill Neighborhood, where Iya still lives and in the back of which the temple is currently housed.
The Temple, initially established as the Temple of Spiritual Elevation and Enlightenment in Los Angeles, CA in about 1978, moved to Pensacola with Iya Monife and was subsequently renamed specifically based on Osun: Osun’s Golden Harvest. There have been hundreds of members over the ensuing decades, many who have formed Temples, or “Iles” (houses) in the Pensacola area as well as in other parts of the country and the world.
The Ile is maintained and supported by it’s members through cooperative projects, tithing, through initiation/elevation offerings and by fees paid in exchange for Iya’s consulting and divination services.
We hold services monthly on the first Sunday at 1PM and all are welcome. Just drop us a line for the address or with any other questions.
Chief Olode Iya Nifa Osun Monife Balewa
Chief Olode Iya Nifa Osun Monife Balewa is an author, high priestess in the Orisha/Ifa tradition and an authority on Ifa divination, including work with the Opele, which she is one of few women in North America to interpret. She has been interpreting the sacred Orisa oduns for over 40 years.
Catherine Moore was born in Manhattan’s Harlem Hospital on April 25th, 1931 and grew up in New York City with a passionate, Christian faith. She married young and had a son with the owner of a tire store, Ralph Moore. The two founded a series of successful Bronx establishments together, including Cathy’s Cozy Corner–boasting the first Black-owned liquor license in New York State.
One of their businesses was a record store, Tricky T’s, run by their son (ultimately known as Baba Losa Songo Dara), which happened to be next door to a Botanica run by Jose Leon; a padrino and member of the Ile headed by legendary Cuban Lucumi practitioner Eduarda Pastoriza (Shango Lari.) Through her son, Cathy was introduced to Leon, Pastoriza and the practice in 1974, receiving a full set of Ileke (bead necklaces representing the seven primary Orisha) as a daughter of the river goddess, Osun, taking on the name Monife and moving into a deeper and more afro-centric approach to her Christian spiritual roots.
In 1976, Monife went into the priesthood, receiving the name Iya Osun, left the marriage and headed to California with a new partner who later became her husband and partner in a divination-based consulting practice as well as a musical act called Ambiance, which incorporated afro-cuban music and symbolism. They married around 1979 and Iya–as her godchildren call her–took the surname Balewa, which she later discovered was her already ancestral lineage!
By 1985 Iya had initiated dozens of practitioners, priests and priestesses and held dominion over numerous temples, making her a Chief. In 1995 she made pilgrimage to Nigeria, becoming seated as Moremi in the Ogboni society by Kabiyese Oba Opeodu and being initiated to Iya Nifa (high priestess) by Babalawo Eleburibon in Osun State, a position which is (finally) regarded with the same esteem as the male title of Babalawo.
Primarily occupied with teaching Orisa worship, Iya Monife has initiated over 50 people as priest, priestess and high priestesses as well as bestowing the Hand of Ifa.
Her book, Alafia, about Ifa’s obi and cowrie-shell divination, originally published in 1992 is available here.