What does the number 9 mean in Yoruba numerology? Is there even such a discipline as Yoruba numerology, as it is practiced in the West? For example, do the Yoruba count count this year as 2016? Does it make any sense to the indigenous mind to sum the numerals of a year in order to produce a number quality? (That is, 2016 as 2+0+1+6=9).
I assure you that this kind of logic is entirely foreign to Yoruba indigenous knowledge. Yet and still, there is definitely a form of numerology built into Orisa Lifestyle. In order to fully appreciate it, however, you have to be willing to think as the ancients thought, which means delving a bit into Yoruba language and culture.
Araba Fayemi Elebuibon tells us that "The ancient system created by the Yoruba reveals to us the inner mysteries of the universe through mathematical configurations. Everything has mathematical value..." It is natural then, that numerology plays an important part in Orisa Lifestyle.
As a whole, Orisa Lifestyle is a systematic way of healing and bringing balance to matters concerning "heaven and earth," the ultimate goal of which is to bring about the Good Condition. One of the principle methods by which the babalawo (Ifa priests) strive to bring about the Good Condition is called ebo riru, or sacrifice.
When we prescribe ebo riru, all the elements used are measured by numbers. Araba Elebuibon tells us that "When a person is distressed by lack of money, it may seem as if the priest adds to their problems by prescribing a heavy ebo, but the numbers of items indicate the actual location of the problem and also reveal the essentials of reformation."*
Let's take the number 9, as an example. 9 is pronounced esan, which means "It turns." But instead of running in circles, esan is turning things with purpose. Thus, "to take turns" is lati sesan. Similarly, fi ire sanre and fi ibi sanbi mean to retaliate or pay someone back in their own coin. And so, the word san connotes turning over, results and exchange. It basically represents the principle of reciprocity. If you're in a situation wherein you're giving more than you're receiving, the babalawo might prescribe sacrificial items in multiples of 9 (esan) in order to activate the principle of reciprocity. Let us consider what the Holy Odu EjiOgbe says, in part:
...The next number is esan. Is it not?
I replied, It is indeed so, Ifa
Orunmila said, San, the root of esan means turn
Clothes are not turned until the ninth washing
The ninth washing is when clothes become thread-bare
Listen to this pun on the root san
The master of the market at Akesan repays courtesies with money and clothes
Do you comprehend?
San in Akesan is synonymous with san in esan
- Holy Odu Ejiogbe*
Here, it becomes essential to underscore the difference between esan as reciprocal energy and esan as mere rotation. Reciprocity promotes shared sacrifice and mutual growth. Reciprocity is responsible for creating spiritual abundance within a particular social context, i.e., Oja Ejigbomekun (the mythological marketplace of the orisa). You will remember that Ifa teaches us that "Earth is a marketplace. Heaven is our home." Within the marketplace of life, where we have all come to purify our souls in preparation for our return to the heavenly realm, "The master of the market at Akesan repays courtesies with money and clothes. Thus, we see that giving more is the only way to receive more. In this way, Oja Ejigbomekun is synonymous with Orisa Economics.
In order to fully understand the significance of number 9 to Orisa Economics, I want you to take into consideration the fact that reciprocity is actually one of three basic principles that govern Orisa Economics: They are dominance, reciprocity and identity.
These three principles, together, govern Orisa Economics, which drives Orisa Lifestyle. When practiced in harmony with the leadership and identity, the principle of reciprocity (esan) can elevate our spiritual consciousness and material wealth to exceptional heights. May Ifa continue to guide and protect us as we master the art of reciprocal energy. Ase.
Aboru aboye abosise
Obafemi Origunwa, MA
* Elebuibon, Fayemi. OgbeYonu Festival Program 2004
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.