“Ago Obi, ago Obi, ago Obi”
The prayers begin for Obi, the binary system of divination from the Yoruba religion to obtain “Yes” and “No” answers to questions in various levels of intensity and meaning. This system, crucial to all in the African religious concepts under the major heading of Ifa and their various levels of dilution under the categories of Lukumi and Santeria, are a methodology of the ways Nigerian kola nuts (Obi Abata), fresh coconut meat (darle el coco) and four cowrie shells speak to us and are considered the ‘mouthpieces’ of the Orichas. The Orichas, as they are collectively known as, are African based Gods and Goddesses of Nature who rule various places and elements of the World and are considered ‘guardian angels’ of each and everyone who inhabits the Earth. Each and every one of us is considered having that particular Deities’ “Ache” or “spirit” and it is within the patakis, or stories of the Orichas’ interactions with each other and the World that the lesson is given or the message is delivered.
The spirit of Obi, once a mortal on earth, ascended to being an Oricha once good deeds had been done, fell from Grace because of Ego. Upon descending to Earth, Obi’s spirit embodied the coconut palm tree. Although Obi cannot speak with the use of his tongue, he communicates through the white (“clean”) side or brown (“dark”) of coconut meat. If cowrie shells are used, it is the side that has been filed open to indicate “Yes” (“clean”) and the closed ridged side that indicates a “No” (“dark”) side of the answer pattern that fell during questioning.
After ritual libations and prayers, some utilize Obi divination with coconut to answer questions during a divination reading in the presence of the client. Obi also gives clarity to confusion in regards to the message of the cards when used with cowrie shells in a tarot card reading for a client. Clients can ask Obi a question and the consultant or spiritual worker may also be prompted to ask as well when the layers of cards upon themselves are not in association with the clients’ dilemma. Obi divination is not to be taken lightly and is regarded as a tool to help Mankind seek clarity in decision making, regardless of whether you are fully initiated into the religion or not. There are 5 levels of intensity to Obi; two affirmative or positive in different severities, two negative or “no” answers, and a “maybe” answer that needs a second question to extract a less ambiguous answer.
The five different shell patterns that will fall during a questioning session are as follows:
“Alafia” – “Yes with blessings!” – This is the most affirmative answer but because it can be over eager in it’s delivery, it must have a second toss to confirm and secure the answer. The second fall of the cowries must be another “Alafia” or an “Ejife” or “Etagua” answer to be taken as a “Yes” answer.
“Ejife” – “Yes” (but without emphasis) – This affirmative answer is interpreted as a “Yes, and your World is balanced”, meaning that what you have proposed or achieved (or about to) brings balance to the give/take, yes/no, or contradictory struggles of the World to keep in harmony.
“Etagua” (or “Etawa”) – “Maybe” – This answer comes up when the question needs clarification (posing it in a way to be able to obtain a “Yes” or “No” answer to begin with) or Oricha is pondering the whole situation and needs a second question that has been ‘tweaked’ to be able to answer. When Etagua appears, the second answer of the second toss of shells is the true answer. If another “Etagua” (Etagua-Meji) falls after the first one, the meaning is “do not ask what you already know”.
“Okana” – meaning darkness is surrounding the client and a positive outcome is not available, perhaps without additional spiritual work. One open shell and three closed ones indicate to focus on the small beam of light in the darkness.
“Oyekun” – The most serious “No” answer as it tells of the client being out of touch with their spirituality and walking in darkness. This is a dire warning; it presages unforeseen problems, accidents, fires and even portends death. Additional questions need to be asked in the clients’ behalf to determine why Oyekun has come. Water must be sprinkled on Oyekun and if it appears more than once, the shells must be placed in water to ‘cool’ down the answer.
After the full tarot card reading, the client has an opportunity to ask questions that were not addressed in the card reading. These may be of additional clarity on the original shell toss or other unrelated questions on relationships and business strategies. Once we begin to receive multiple “Etaguas” to questions in an obvious pattern, this is an indication that the line of questioning needs to end as the client is asking questions to obvious answers in front of their face.
While not always an immediate answer, Obi gives insight on things to come. It is no mystery that clients who return for a follow up reading three months later will exclaim, “The shells were right! I just didn’t see it (the situation) evolving before me!” and other affirmations that indicate that revelations of Truth that Obi gives come true. For me, as well as over 70 million plus devotees of this African indigenous religion, we know Obi does not lie.