African spirituality is a field where everyone seems to think they are experts. In medicine or auto-mechanics, people are more likely to defer to the trained professionals. But for a variety of reasons, the average person thinks that personal experiences somehow provide a direct window into the workings of the human soul. As a result, common people regularly challenge experts - i.e. priests - because they believe their anecdotal experiences are as valid as professional training and mastery.
Here is the danger; when you think you're an "expert," then you encounter data that does not fit your personal experience, you tend to disregard it... until it's too late. You can see this tendency in just about any online orisa group, where many intelligent commentators will rant with righteous indignation about how their personal experience shows just the opposite of the sacred text, or that their uncle Devonte was an exception to the rule of tradition.
This is especially true when it comes to doing things that require real change. When Ifa says that you cannot eat a food, wear a color or associate with a person that you like, you are more likely to start squawking about exceptions to the rule. "... But what if" is a phrase commonly used by people who think they know better than the babalawo, based upon some personal experience or a playground legend about the person who defied all the rules and still got what they wanted.
This is what I want you to do; the next time you disagree with the priest because your personal experience tells you different, keep in mind that your personal anecdote represents an individual experience that very well may be valid. However, just because you experienced it does not mean that the rule is invalid. It just means that, in that particular instance, you were able to get the desired outcome, in spite of the fact that you did something different from what was recommended. There are many variables to consider before we can say WHY you were the exception that time. Stated another way, even a lot of personal anecdotes do not become data.
When you look at the Odu Ifa, consider that the verses are comparable to scientific findings that are based on large samples of data that have been tested under varying circumstances over long periods of time. Tradition is not anecdotal.
Live the Medicine
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
Thought leader, Ifa priest and author of four definitive books, Obafemi Origunwa inspires metamorphosis through living the medicine that will heal your life and heal the lives of the people you're destined to serve.