[PAST EVENT] Gender Controversies in Global Yoruba Religion: Can Women Practice Ifa Divination?
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- Open to the public
A lecture by Ayodeji Ogunnaike, Bowdoin College: As the tradition of Ifa divination has gained increasing popularity and membership around the world, the previously male-dominated composition of its priesthood has become challenged. This talk traces the origins of women who have sought the highest levels of Ifa initiation—primarily in Cuba and the US—engages the various arguments, concerns, and appeals to authority of the numerous players. Much of the debate hinges around ritual practice associated with the mysterious ori'a Odu, and consequently the paper addresses the relevant mythology and rituals associated with her in an Ifa context. It also places the male-oriented nature of Ifa within the larger context of Yoruba gender norms, contrasting Yoruba notions of gender with modern values of gender equality. Thus, it seeks to explain why male Ifa priests from West Africa have been eager and willing to initiate women. In addition, the talk will show that—contrary to many popular claims—several women have become Ifa diviners in West Africa, but that the important ways that gender is understood in a variety of different contexts, its ramifications for initiation rituals, and the rapidly growing number of female initiates in diaspora, will likely change the dynamics of the tradition going forward.