WHAT AIN'T IN IFA--ASTROLOGY
“West Africa’s Orisha and Astrology”
By Soyinka I Ogunbusola (posted by Chief Awodele Ifayemi)
“Orisha Rulers of the Zodiac”
By “The Gnostic Dread”
"Astrological Geomancy In Africa,"
by Prof. J.A. Abayomi Cole (1898)
Publ. by Kali Sichen-Andoh, Northscale Inst. San Francisco, 1989
Before we begin, let me say what the issue is here! The core question is "do we find any evidence whatso-
ever that "astrology" is a generic part of the religion of Orisha/ Ifa?" The answer is resounding no. Those who assert or imply that it is are misleading their readers and video viewers . And those that say that Orisha /Ifa has correspondences or can be likened to astrology are also misleading. I researched the history of as-
trology in Yorubaland and found the earliest book written on this purported correspondence to be "Astrol-
ogy to be "Astrological Geomancy In Africa," by Prof. J.A. Abayomi Cole in 1898. I am one of the few who has this book because it was published in California by the great Akan botanist Kali Sichen-Andoh (whom I met) in 1989. Prof. Cole was initiated as an Ifa priest. But whether or not he was actually a babalawo is a mystery to me. (And, there is some reason to doubt his thoroughness in Ifa in view of a few egregious errors that he made in his very cursory description of one of the most important "Olodu" in the Ifa corpus because Mr. Andoh had to apologetically explain away the error that the professor made in straining to depict the Olodu "Obara" as "the 8 house (sic)" of the Zodaical astrological scheme. I will comment further on this book at the end of this essay.
Astrology is not astronomy ;the science of celestial bodies and their physical effects on each other. It is not cosmology (the science of celestial ontology), nor is it cultural cosmology (i.e.,the cultural mythology of the origins and configurations of the "world" or universe). Astrology is a religion; the God of which is "the cel-estrial canopy" that attributes the causes of earthly affairs (especially of human affairs, personalities and personal destinies) to the heavenly patterns and movements of stars and planets. A variant of this line of thinking would, by contrast, to depict astrology as a version of "spiritism." In Yoruba religion and culture, obviously astronomy is known to some extent: That the sun and the moon affect the earth (and are assoc- iated with orisha) is not news. But aside from taking into consideration gede--a geographical locational divination for choosing the physical locations of shrines, igbodu sacred groves and ritual sites in light of astronomical planetary positions--there is not much there that resembles Zodaical astrology as it is known world-wide with its emphases on forecasting human personalities and personal destinies over their entire life-spans. Historically, astrology "pimped" the rudimentary science of astronomy and coopted its mathem-
atics with a cosmological belief system--that is, my friends, a religion operating in tandem with (or some- times against) established state religions, world-wide.
In contemporary times, however, we find a recent author, Soyinka I Ogunbusola, an African-Amercan science fiction writer, and a member of the American Federation of Astrologers, who is one that definitively asserts—not one who simply likens Orisha/Ifa religion to KMT astrology--but who also asserts that astrology is a part of Orisha/Ifa religion. I respectfully dissent from that view as something, regardless of how sincere and helpful she may view the public contributions on this subject to be, that is unwarranted and probably misrepresents the religion as well. For example, she writes:
[All comments in parentheses are mine]
“…The various planets influence the actions of man since time immemorial and has been recognized, as such, by all indigenous cultures around the globe under its numerous names.” (Not true; not "all" cultures are "astrological").
“…The foundation of a culture’s spiritual system is influenced by the celestial bodies and their movement in the heavens inspired them to erect monuments that marked the solstices and equinoxes as well as the transits of the planets…” (Or the religionists of astrology so believe)
“…It’s the descendants of (ancient Egypt) who migrated from the Nile Valley and the Great Lakes region over period of generations became known as the Yoruba of Southwest Nigeria.” (Questionable: From upper Nubia and the south Sudan, yes, but what is the evidence that the “descendants of ancient Egypt”—whomever they were--migrated to Yorubaland? The legend of Oduduwa does not claim that he came from Egypt. It says that he came "from the east" and "the east," from Yorubaland, is the south Sudan, i.e., upper
“…They practiced a religion that acknowledged “the creator through the forces of nature...” (True)
“…Within the elements of “earth, wind, water and fire…there exists an entire pantheon of deities known as Orisha…”(Here she introduces a Hermetic terrestrial cliché: “earth, wind, air and fire.” But this reductionist formulation of the world’s physical nature, and of the orishas, in her view, is not Yoruba religion. True, some orishas are so associated with earthly physical nature, but there are hundreds more that are not; starting with orisha Ela and Orunmila, but include many more).
“…The Orishas’ characters are based on the characteristic nature of the planets; their movements, such as oppositions, trines, sextiles, and conjunctions in a astrology and astronomy. (Says who? This is simply not true. It has been claimed that the omo'du Oshe Tura contains ese and itan Ifa (parables) that are astrol- ogical. I have looked and asked and no one to date has recited nor shown me the first poem or story that cites anything like KMT, Vedic, Babylonian, Grecian, Alexandrian-Hermetic nor any other kind of astrology; let alone stated where such is recited in Yoruba classical Ifa).
“…The celestial events are interpreted from the Yoruba’s own cultural perspective.” (What is the evidence that traditional Yorubas paid any attention to "astrological celestial events” as phenomena or worshiped the spirit of the moon (Oshupa, "Mawu"), the sun (Oorun, "Mawu," or Amoka), Venus (Aguala), or Sirius (Ofere ) as anthropomorphic personalities or animals; that is, as "astrological" entities? As an astronomical matter, except for recognizing the radiant power of the sun and the gravitational power of the moon, there are precious few devotional or prayer practices in Yoruba involving either, nor addressing or praising the one genderless God Almighty (Olodumare) for that matter. The concept "Olorun" embraces the whole firm- ament (sometimes called "Otunowa" or the "heavenly world above"; including the sun). And there is, as far as I know, only one ritual and one song that evokes the blessings of Olorun; also including the sun seem (though I have heard several songs to "Olodumare"--almost treating "God" as a monotheist would--but they o be sung by Christianized Yorubas who still refer to God this way;but seem not to mention any other "poly- theistic" orishas. It is called "Nanga (i)re ...ooo" and is rarely practiced; and has Islamic cultural roots, to boot.
Actually, "Olorun" /Olodumare is the God of "pre-creation" (if I may coin a term). "Ela"--male in nature--is all of the space of Creation and the primordial supernatural power that is responsible for splitting light from darkness i.e., creating "light" in the cosmic gourd--(the Igbamole) and, thus, announcing the illumination, as it were, or the inception of well-lit cosmic space itself. (I might also suggest that this act was what engen- dered in the first "Irunmole" (the primordial orisha) and endowed "Eshu" Aniqui" with the power to act for Eshu(s) to act in night and day that were brought into nature.
By contrast, "Odu" --female in nature --is the totality of all experiences and processes that can occur within the World of Creation. She is also the mother of the sixteen (elder) "Olodu" --eight male and eight female. Together, Ela and Odu gave birth to Orunmila, the first witness to and the formless son of Creation. Indeed, at times, even Olodumare--in its form of as also a demiurge within nature--consulted Ifa with the aid of Or- unmila. But Orunmila was not the only "first" witness to nature's "Creation." Also included in that number are: Egun, Orishan'la, Eshu, and, in some accounts, even Shango!
The key concept here is that Orisha-Ifa is a super-natural religion; not a religion solely based in "nature." While it includes all of "nature," as exemplified in its cognizance of all things "natural" (including the orisha), its fundamental theological concept of God-the-Creator is that it (God, "Olorun"--the "owner" of both the pre-cosmos and the cosmos' or "nature" as we experience it) is prior to and above-and-beyond "nature" and its cosmos. This is true even though "nature" was eventually created and ultimately included within it. This is why the devine ese (poetry) and itan (parables) or Orisha-Ifa religion contain endless stories of how all aspects of nature "were born" from Olorun, the author of all that is visible in nature. The religion of astro- logy does not address the origins of the cosmos; it simply posits that it, ipso facto,"is." Thus, by contrast , the agency of divine organization in astrology lies entirely within the cosmos, i.e., within cosmic and terres- trial "nature," and is not a priori to it.
Further, all astrological systems depend on the culture having possessed (and regularly used) a type of mat- hematical legacy involving complex calculations and astronomical geometry --an acumen necessary for year- ly calendar construction and predictions of the orbits of planets and stars on a calendared basis (These two things are necessary to construct ephemerides tables that are fundamental to all astrology).
That "Olorun"--the god of the pre-Heavenly void and heavenly or "cosmic" firmament "above"--is some- times depicted as the owner of the sun, Mawu (or Yemoja), as the the owner of the moon, and Shango with the stars (irawo). All contain the power of "light"; radiant and reflective and is, of course, a part of nature. Thus, Orisha-Ifa does refer to elemental astronomy; no news there. But, lately, even Neptune has been as- sociated by some Orisha-Ifa speculators with the spirit of Olokun--god of the depths of the oceans. But this
is, indeed, getting into astrological speculation. By contrast, in Orisha-Ifa theology, these heavenly bodies do not themselves affect human personal destinies, characters and Earthly "fates." And, especially, in this case of Neptune-as-Olokun, it is simply a made-up introjection of astrology into Yoruba cosmology (like the many introjections of Christianity into Ifa by early indigenous Yoruba scholars in the 1940's and 1950's). Please see the last section of this essay for more on Neptune "as Olokun."
In fact, once more, as is the case with our genderless God Almighty there are precious few songs and pray- ers referencing Olorun. Again, the "Nanga (i)re-ooo" ritual and song. And this devotional act is the simplest and shortest in the entire religion. By contrast, the orishas do affect human nature and have the agency (will power) to affect individual human destinies and , accordingly, are thus regarded as "gods." That the sun heats the earth or the moon affects tides are astronomical phenomena, not astrological ones (and are operative for all bodies with mass and radiant energy all over the observable universe).
…“The twelve houses of the natal chart (in KMT, Grecian and Hermetic astrology--A.M.O.) are areas of life governed by a particular planet...in regards to traditional Yoruba’s cultural perspective…(and) “one’s existence these houses would be ruled by a particular essence in nature or Orisha.(This sentence is gobble- dygook; what does “would be ruled” mean? Is she admitting the obvious here—i.e., she is simply drawing on Grecian-Egyptian astrology of the 13th through 3rd centuries BCE, and carried on by the Mediter- ranean-rim Hermeticists thereafter, that she then graphs onto traditional Yoruba Ifa in order to make it appear that these sub-Saharan Africans actually believed in and practiced astrology).
Going on, speaking of the twelve customary astrological Houses she says, that “the varying Orishas ruled them in the following ways.” (No sources are cited—authoritative or otherwise--of course. In reality, I believe that she has projected into Yoruba religion the Egyptian astrologers' typology of their gods as rulers of various “Houses” or, in western astrology, the planets as rulers of the same, as well).
In her view, the listing of the “houses” that the various orishas occupy and rule go as follows: First House (Ogun), Second House (Oshun), Third House (Ibeji), Fourth House (Yemoja), Fifth House (Osiris), Sixth House (Eshu), Seventh House (Oshun), Eighth House (Oya), Ninth House (Obatala), Tenth House (Babaluai- ye), Eleventh House (Shango, Ogun and Oya), and the Twelth House (Olokun).” (Where in traditional Yor- uba religion did she come up with this? In the ese poetry of Ifa? In the odus? In the itan(s) or "patakin(s)" of Ifa? If so, recited when, where, and by whom).
When compared, KMT astrology’s “houses” were ruled by 12 of their 2,000 deities: Her emulation of KMT astrology-- from the period of 1,300 BCE to the time of Christ thereafter (in Ptolemaic and Hermetic terms) projects onto Orisha/Ifa an analogue to the following scheme: First House (Nile), Second House (Amun-Ra), Third House (Mut), Fourth House (Geb), Fifth House (Osiris), S ix House (Isis), Seven House (Thoth), Eighth House (Horus), Ninth House (Anubis), Tenth House (Seth), Eleventh House (Bastet), and the Twelfth House (Sekhmet). And, as mentioned, in modern western astrology, these deities are replaced by Zodiacal signs and planets.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here, I offer a gentle reminder—using just one of her twelve examples—that should issue to people who believe as does this author: By contrast, for example, Oshun’s children sing “Iya mi ile odo. Gbogbo ashe. Obi ni sala maa wo e…”This means “My mother’s house is the river. All goodness and power comes (from there). Women who seek safety frequently visit her (there)." Oshun, “iyalode”—"top woman in charge”—is symbolically and theologically our “cosmic seamstress” ; though not literally (Olodumare is!). She, by tradition, used her five needles and “sewed together the fabric of the Universe.” But neither in the odus nor in orin orisha,i.e., the holy oral libraries of wisdom and songs of Yoruba religion, respectively, do we find Oshun saying that her home is in the “second Zodiacal House.” Nor does she trouble herself with references to “celestial planetary movements such as oppositions, trines, sextiles, and conjunc- tions” as having anything whatsoever to do with "eniyan" (humanity) nor "aiye" (the world), as this author would have it.
Again, in contradistinction to her view, our religion of Orisha/Ifa, teaches us the our ori inu (our true selves) while in Heaven, was crafted by Ajala and then allowed to choose an Earthly destiny. And this, in turn, allowed us to choose anew our general “story-line” or life plot, and our immutable characteristics (e.g., one’s biologic gender, or one’s current epoch) and, finally, our intelligence level for that incarna- tion. These things are re-born in us in each earthly incarnation as we are accompanied, once again, to Earth by our ori inu. All of these features of one’s Ori (one’s “Head”), when put together, determine the fulfillment (or not) of one’s destiny; not the positions and movements of stars and planets! Instead, in ceremonies given to girl babies at seven days of age, to twins at eight days of age, or to boys at nine days of age, their destinies are “read” in Ifa’s imori ceremony, followed by the essent’ayie naming cerem- ony where the baby’s feet are allowed to touch the ipon tray of the babalawo before it is allowed to have its feet touch the earth. (The New World equivalent of this destiny reading—which occurs as a part of a grown person’s deep initiation regardless of age—occurs in the "ita" ceremony that is held at a stage in the deep initiation proceedings. This word comes from itan which means a “story" -- or, perhaps, a book. In this case, it is the destiny story or book of one’s life--even if not written through divination until one is an
Astrology is now, and always has been, a de facto pseudo-science religion for whom “the Cosmos” is God! It comes in two predictive and post-dictive forms: "Natural Astrology" (which contemplates earthly events in nature), "Electional Astrology" (predicts future Zodiacal configurations of the sky, for purposes of planning of projects to enhance their likelihood of success) and "Juridical Astrology" (that focuses on the events and traits in a indivdual or group's personal lives). Astrology, therefore, as applied to sub-Saharan Africa, is neither authentic, reliable, valid, nor useful. And, therefore, it does not enhance one’s priestly ashe one iota. And, in my view, indeed, dim- inishes it). I irrevocably deny to it any validity at all. But this analysis is simply my view.
But to live is to make choices: Thus, a second word of advice that I may humbly offer to our friends and fellow travelors is that they would do better to follow the path of tradition and not confuse it with astrotheology or the religion of astrology. Astrotheology is laden with Eurocentric (i.e., Grecian and medieval) Hermeticism. But a person is free to indulge in, or even to undergo additional religious initiat- ions or certifications, even in astrology (which I definitely believe to be a religion without a single iota of truth regarding its predictive properties). Yet a serious downward pressure should be exerted or self-imposed on our tendencies to syncretize belief systems that are not a part of orò (i.e. not a part of our es- tablished tradition).
“Orisha Rulers of the Zodiac”
By “The Gnostic Dread”
[All comments in parentheses are mine]
This website openly proclaims Hermeticism and unabashedly declares that each orisha is to be equated with the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The good thing here is that these authors are--by their own terms—op- enly speculating in conjecture about the similarities between Orisha/Ifa religion and Greco-Egyptian Her- meticism, as they do not claim—unlike the rather naïve claims of Soyinka I Ogunbusola described above --astrology is a part of Orisha/Ifa religion.' They, quite responsibly, say that the Zodiac houses’ essences may be equated with the differing types of ashe that are un- ique to the varying orishas (even though this is not true even regarding comparisons).
Nevertheles, comparisons to other de jure religions (or to a de facto religion like astrology) may be simple a heuristic device for illustrative uses. That is acceptable, even if their hypotheses are wrong. But that is where it should stop because comparisons should not be morphed into historically false and incom- petent direct attributions. Such is the stuff of the cultural imperialism of the Eurocentric world-- and it does not matter who—whether Africans or North Americans--adopt or countenance it. We should be wary of the Hermeticism that some seek to syncretize into African traditional religion through this route.
In this case, in exactly the same way that aburo ire mi (my religious sister of good fortune) Soyinka Ogun- bosula does, the authors say that the Zodiacal signs (“houses”) are associated with the orishas in the following ways: First House/Sign “home of the Ascendant” (Ogun), Second House/ Sign “Taurus” (Oshun), Third House/ Sign “Gemini” (Ibejis), Fourth House/ Sign “Cancer” (Yemoja), House /Sign “Leo” (Orunmila), Six House/ Sign “Virgo” (Eshu--this formulation is really nonsense!), Seven House / Sign “Libra” (Obba), Eighth House/Sign “Scorpio” (Oya), Ninth House/Sign “Sagittarius” (Obatala), Tenth House/Sign “Capri- corn” (Babaluaiye), Eleventh House/ Sign “Aquarius” (Shango) and the 12th House/ Sign “Pisces” (Olokun).
Neither the sources nor the justifications of these propositions are addressed. Indeed, these comparisons or “equations” are simplistic to the point of banality. The nature, for example, of the Ibejis, has not a thing to do with the stereotypes of “Geminis” beyond them both being twins. Nor again, for example, do the distinctive characteristics of Oshun have anything to do with the personalities or destinies of those stereotypically born under the sign of Taurus. That they might is, more likely than not, speculative pop- pycock. And, finally, nowhere in the odus do we find Yemoja uttering words asserting her authority spec- ifically over the children of “Cancer.”She is the mother of the “fish children” whose domain is in the rivers and seas (Yemoja = “mother of the fish children”= "yeye omo eja").
"Astrological Geomancy In Africa,"
by Prof. J.A. Abayomi Cole (1898)
Publ. by Kali Sichen-Andoh, Northscale Inst. San Francisco, 1989
As mentioned in the introduction to this essay, more than a century ago, prof. Cole wrote that Ifa's corpus
"corresponded" to the Babylonia, KMT, Hellenistic, Roman and Arabic astrology. At most, the term "corres- ponded" to horoscopic (Zodiacal) astrology's "houses" was a bit strained. He mentioned that Ifa's 16 maj- or odus ("Olodus" or chapters and verses) corresponded in the following way:
"This accounts for the sixteen palm nuts used in Yoruba divination--all corresponding
to the twelve houses of the heavens + the two Geomantic witnesses + one Geoman-
tic judge + one Grand judge, the fifteenth figure of the first house, all equal to six-
Says who in Ifa? No one. Not a single odus of the 256 total ones, recites anything about astrological houses and judges. Next, he opines:
"The eight house is called Obara, or Ile Iku, that is, the house of death. It is also called
Akala, or vulture, the name of the bird of prey, which symbolizes death and destruc-
tion, corresponding to the Egyptian name Almankushu, i.e., the Demolisher."
First, the Olodu "Obara" is not the 8th olodu in any system of Ifa. Nor is Obara the "house of death (iku) in any system of Ifa (it is virtually the opposite conceptually). This was so much at variance from the Ifa that the editor, Mr. Andoh, had to apologetically explain this away as a 'bad translation" of prof. Cole's writing (p. 53 of the epilogue to the book). Additionally, prof. Cole revealed the influence of Christianity and Medter- ranean-rim theosophy by saying "On a certain day, Ifa (Orunmila) returned from the sea hungry and ex- hausted, having caught no fish. He thereupon consulted the god Elegba ("the devil ") [he says] what to do." [Emphasis added]. Elegba is not "the devil." This choice of words occurs from time-to-time in writings by Ifa priests--especially in the old days, because they were incorporating Christian indoctrinations into their Doctor of Divinity treatises on Ifa in UK and French universities. (Please see my essay "Conceptions of Ifa: Old World and New," in the appendix of my 1996 book African Spirituality vs. The African-American--available on this website--for descriptions of how and why early African Ifa scholars frequently incoporated Christian concepts into the expositions on Ifa in order to try to further "legitimize" it as a world-class religion to an English-reading international audience).
Then we have the glaring inconsistency in prof. Cole's efforts to liken Ifa's odus to astrology's horoscopic or Zodiacal 12 houses that depicts the "eight house" (sic. 8th house) as showing the Olodu Oshe which is in the 15th (or Afro-Cuban Merunla) position among the Olodu in Ifa in Isheshe Alagba-aiye (traditional Yoruba religion) in Africa, not Obara.
Unfortunately, in the total of 61 pages in this booklet, there is not another word about Ifa (save Andoh's preface). The entirety of the rest of the book is about various Mediterranean-rim cultures' views about as- trology. Even Mr. Andoh's preface to the book concedes that the only Africans that had any cultural legacy of astrology were north (Arabized) Africans who, given their locations, could actually study the night sky on a consistent basis. These manifestly do not include the sub- Saharan Africans the likes of whom practiced Ifa. In professor Cole's case, after writing about Ifa parables methods wrote exactly one sentence in the book about astrology being in Ifa: Again:
"....This accounts [this story about how Elegua taught the first babalawo divin-
ation] for the sixteen palm nuts used in Yoruba divination corresponding to
the twelve houses of the heavens + two geomantic witnesses + one geoman-
tic judge obtained by the permutation of the judge, the fifteenth figure, with
the figure of the first house, all equal to sixteen figures."
But, again, there is only one problem here. Not a single odu (nor any other source) is cited to authorize this conjecture. And so it goes with the astrotheologists who--downhill from there-- would seek to import into Ifa these Medeterranean-rim philosophies and religions in order to seek legitization as a world class religion in the eyes of Europeans and their unwitting progeny--including Pan-African Spiritualists among the African Americans.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The Religion of Astrology Described
For my purposes, I assert that, in its essence, astrology is still a religion and has never ceased to be one. It is a belief system that ascribes to its God (a God called “Cosmos”) the role of creating and setting into motion heavenly bodies such as planets and stars that, for their parts have agency, have temperaments (and, thus, personalities) which emanate “energy” (light, if nothing else) capable of affecting and governing the terrestrial, social, and personal fates of events and human destinies on Earth. Its religious rituals are in the nature of astrological chart constructions, and its ceremonies consists of conventions in which its adher- ents enjoy pontification about each others' canons and conventions of belief (or debate them). This is it; pure and simple--religion (or "espiritismo" or spiritism).
A quick review of its history—insofar as the Western astrological legacy is concerned—is in order. But this is only done to comment on the typical cultural, socio-economic and ecological elements and prerequisites that a culture would have to have in place before its rudimentary astronomy could evolve into a belief system like that which we call astrology.
All credible authorities, as mentioned, date astrology’s advent to the Babylonians in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) no earlier than the 22nd to 24th century BCE. At that time, sufficient mathematical skill had evol- ved to create calendars that recorded the annual appearances of fixed stars and illusory projections utiliz- ing them called constellations as well as the movements of the "planets" (a word which originally meant all celestial “moving objects” including the moon) against the backdrop of the nightly star canopy. Annual periodic events on earth such as seasonal changes, the flooding of rivers or droughts, the migrations and availability of animals, fishes, and vegetation at certain times, the acts of cultivating and irrigating fields or the sowing and harvesting of crops, and changes in sea conditions (for cultures involving seafaring) were all facilitated by that culture's mastery of astronomy.
And astronomy, of course, required a certain development of mathematics and geometry that could then be used to correlate and predict in time celestial and earthly changing conditions. At first, the relationship was one of correlation, and not of causation. The causes of terrestrial changes were attributed to God— a grand spiritual or, sometimes, metaphysical force. It was not a far step then to conclude that a few celestial events were so powerfully correlated—like phases of the moon being correlated with the tides, or seas- onal sunlight being correlated with crop growth or desertification—that the relationship between the celestial objects and earth must be causal in nature. And, following from that, therefore, other celestial bodies like planets must also have causal influences on earth. By comparison to astro-physics today, little was actually known about the physics of cosmology in ancient times.
For example, there was no knowledge of how large or how far away was the sun, nor the moon. The nat- ures of various types of radiant energies were also unknown. And it was not distinguished from reflective energy (e.g., neither the moon nor the planets emanate radiant energy; they merely reflect the sun’s rad- iant energy-- which is why, unlike stars, they never “blink” in the night sky). And it was certainly not known that the most powerful forces and determinants in cosmology were electrical-magnetic and plasmic in nat- ure; not gravitational.
The truly ancient Egyptians of the early dynastic periods were able to mathematically calculate the circum- ference of the earth and to determine relative earthly latitudes, but not longitudes. They, indeed, had suf- ficient numerical and geometric skills to do so. They also had projections onto the night sky—sky charts-- of the fixed stars that constituted many constellations. (Actually, there are no such things as “constellations” in the cosmos. What we call “constellations” are merely human projections and conventional labels, as seen from Earth, regarding what to call these certain configurations of stars. This is why "the constellations" vary in nature from one culture to another).
The practical uses of astronomy, and the needs for the same, in order to make efficient—through astrol- ogical divination—the tasks of the decision-makers in charge of agriculture, construction, and long distan- ce travel and trade across highly undifferentiated deserts, mountain ranges, flood plains and seas fos- tered the development of mathematics and more accurate predictions and calendars. Each of these factors was present in the cultures of Mesopotamia as well as Egypt, though the transition into extensive astrology lagged behind. Additionally, personal revelations based on an individual’s birthdate could issue which would help them determine what their lucky numbers were, whom they might be compatible with, the best days to treat a medical illness, or what their lucky days might be to inaugurate or cease a particular activity, and so on. By contrast, the physical environments and cultural legacies of sub-Saharan Africans was notably different from those of the Mediterranean-rim cultures from which arose astrology and Hermeticism
(please see the works of Cheick Anton Diop or the excellent “African Religions and Philosophy” by the ren- owned John Mbiti for clarifications on the differences).
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The esteemed Dr. Wande Abimbola, the awise (pronounced ‘a-we-shay’) of Ifa religion based in Ile Ife) is the 5th ranked babalawo in the world. He is a master of knowledge and diplomacy whom I liken to the Dalai Lama as one of my favorite theologicans to have ever lived. He has stated that there is no significant his- tory of astrological arts among our religious ancestors. Please be referred to “Ifa Will Mend This Broken World,” an interview by Ivor Miller for the following quotation:
Asks Mr. Miller:
“(A) Cuban babalawo tell(s) me that they study the movement of the planets,
positions of the stars before conducting important ceremonies (?)”
Dr. Abimbola responded:*
“This was never an important part of our own religion in Africa. They may have
imbibed that from some other African groups in Cuba,* or from some other sour-
ces. We live in the dense forested areas, where we cannot see the sky well. People
who can see the sky live in the grasslands areas, and are pastoral people who fol-
low cattle and sheep. Anything relating Ifa to star gazing was developed in the
Diaspora. To be sure we have some rudimentary ideas about the stars and the
moon, but they are not an important part of our belief and divination system.”
"ASTROLOGY v. ABIMBOLA VS Yoruba Traditions and African American Religious Nationalism - Tracey E. Hucks - Google Books",
It should be note that among some Cuban Santeria babalawos, astrological references or illustrations are given some credence. But for most Santeros, their indulgence in 'astrological' conjecture is much more akin to (or yet one more variant of) "spiritualism" (es- peritismo), along with "misas," candles, charms, centros, incantations, and the rest.
FOOTNOTE ON ESOTERIC NON-SENSE PROJECTING PREDICTIVE ASTROLOGY
INTO ORISHA-IFA THEOLOGY AND MYTHOLOGICAL COSMOLOGY
Baba Ifalenu Yoruba Olofista of Ona Iya Ile
(As Revealed to Him by His Eguns "Tata G" and
Comes next is the presumably Hispanic babalawo named “Baba Ifalenu Yoruba Olofista,” who writes in the online scholarly document archive entitled Academia.com, that the planet “Neptune” is the embodiment of the orisha of the depths of the earth’s oceans, in Yoruba religion, named Ol- okun. Alternatively, he refers to Neptune as the “Star (Iwaro) of Olokun.” In what he depicts as the cosmology of Yoruba religion, and writing for his association, the “Ona Iya Ile” (based in Mexico), he provides a diagram of the major Yoruba pantheon of primordial gods entitled “Yoruba Genesis.” In addition to describing the planet Neptune as the planet or “Star of Olokun” he writes that “Eshu” (the god communication, fates, vital power, etc.), is the “Consciousness of the Spirit of the Universe (whatever that might mean) and every star system in the Un- iverse has its own Eshu. Incidently, our solar system is specifically governed by the orisha Obatala.
Elsewhere in his esoteric depictions of Yoruba cosmology, he introduces Kabbalistic ideas, trees of life (KMT, Hebraic, Hermetic and Kabbalistic iconography). And, finally, he describes his “egun's” (his spirit guide's) informant--that is, the one who is the source of all of his--“Tata G's" knowledge of everything. That one is no less than "Baba Oduduwa" himself. (It does not matter, apparently, that even Baba Ifalenu Yor- uba Olofista's chart diagram of the Yoruba divinosphere and texts says that Oduduwa is gender-neutral, the embodiment of all of the "positive, negative, and neutral energy").
But note,“Baba Oduduwa” is not the biological Oduduwa of old Oyo lore, conqueror of (Ile) Ife civilization 800 hundred years ago and, thereupon,the founder of the 16 major Yoruba sub-groupings in the actual history (as contrasted to Yoruba mythological history)of the Yorubas), but is the egun (dead spirit), i.e. his egun's egun (!), whose roots and origins go back “to the stone age” of 20,000 years ago. And yet, in other parts of his tome he refers to "Baba Oduduwa" as the founder of the Yoruba nation and its 16 royal lineages "20,000" years ago while, in fact, those groups' origins go back no more than a few hundred years in reality.
It is owing, then, to his “Oyo”-oriented theology that 'The God of the Worlds' is “Olofin” (i.e., the "Alafin," or ruler, of the various kinds of primordial orishas--the Irunmoles. That is, Olofi is the Lord of the various primordial orishas like Olokun, Olosi, Olosa, Olorun, Orunmila, etc., (it comes from the word “Alafin”—an Oyo type of king’s title). In his account, Oduduwa rode (fled), with Ogun at his side out, of Egypt 4,000 years ago into primative--damn-near-- “stone age” Yorubaland in west Africa. "Baba Oduduwa," his egun's egun (!), not surprisingly, was Jewish in his origin ("a son of Aron (Aaron)"; the brother of Moses"; a Levite). It is common for Ifa (history) revisionists to favor tying their conjectures back to either two of the three Reveal- ed Religions of Christianity or Judaism for the purpose of seeking external legitimacy.
Finally, his personal “egun” mentor, “Tata G” (whose own egun, was in turn, “Baba Oduduwa)” informed him that he (Baba Oduduwa) intends to set up a new kingdom of Olofin-Oduduwa on Earth and thus, instituting a new milennium of the new Ifa. This, as of 2009, is starting in Mexico and then will move to the USA, he wrote. Once he establishes this movement, he further predicts that Yoruba religion will be demolished and totally cease to exists in Nigeria—being vanquished there by the Christians and Muslims by the year 2017)!
Interestingly enough, according to Baba Ifalenu Yoruba Olofista (and "Tata G") the Orisha religion is separ- ate from Ifa religion and always has been (though the two "march" in tandem')
What must be noted here:
--We have with these theses is the idea that the orishas are embodiments of specific heavenly bod- ies that play a role in determining the Ori of individuals. (Unlike Mediterranean-rim astrologies –KMT, Hermetic, Grecian, Roman, Alexandrian, Persian or Babylonian and so on--he does not assert that there is any annual mathematical cycles or periodicity tables involved in his astrological fore- casting).
--He overlooks the fact that that no human being ever saw, nor could have seen “Neptune,” the planet,” prior to 1610 when Gallileo spotted a “blue” object (which he thought was a star). And though, astronomers in the mid-1700’s predicted that a planet beyond Saturn probably existed based on irregularities in Saturn’s orbit, it was not until the 1840’s that it was reliably observed with the aid of improved telescopes. Not “20,000” years ago. That the Romans had a god called Neptune, owner of the undersea world, has nothing to do with the planet Neptune; as Neptune—a blue "water" world (its blue seas are not made of water, rather it, it's methane)—was named that way as a result of using Roman mythology, not the other way around. Even with pupils dilated by drugs, it would not be possible to “see” Neptune with the naked eye.
--He does not cite the recitation of a single Odu to support his eguns “Tata G’s” and “Baba Oduduwa's" revelations or predictions. This is critical because—here again—we have foreigners projecting into actual indigenous Yoruba theology their own preoccupations with Mediterranean-rim theology, theosophy and esoterica. That is, they use Orisha-Ifa religion as a convenient but wholly inauthentic backdrop. What this man has done is to set himself up as a prophet--as one who has received "Revelations" on the nature of the universe--Old Testament, New Testament, and al-Islamic prophets like Moses, Ezekiel, John of Patmos, the Prophet Muhammad, etc. and then goes on to declare how "Olofi" colonized the entire Universe with Eshus, orishas, and so on. Nothing in Ifa supports these unsolicited embellishments.
--And, finally, this is why, I take with many grains of salt the claimed or putative“revelations” and predictions of “egun spirit guides” professed to have passed in and through (or “possessed”) any eleguns (“mediums”) that do not arise as egungun (true family ancestral spirits who have some lineage accountability), in fact. All else poses an unacceptable and unnecessary risk of chicanery—some of which is false, misleading, fraud- ulent, and even dangerous. I say, regarding “spiritism” or “espiritismo,” “trust (if you must), but very verify” though authentic divination to your orisha, Ifa and, especially, your Egungun at your family oju'run (bov-eda, sarasa, or famly ancestral shrine).
In All Things "Egun-ish" and Espiritismic Trust If You Must (But Verify)!
Alashe Michael omo’Oshoosi