by Francisco G. Gómez
Water is Life Presentation – Highland Park, New Jersey – October 28, 2017
Time is always a great factor when doing an arts installation show, and I was at the mercy of the clock! I briefly gave a rushed adaptation from the Ifá corpus at our “Water is Life” art exhibit and presentation that Raíces just finished last month. I want to tell the story here in its entirety so that it can be better understood; if you were at the presentation, you would know what I mean, A!
Olofín (The big Is, God, Source, Jah, the creator goes by many other names) decided that life should come forth from Oro Iña (Mother Earth), so the creator summoned Eleguá, the trickster, the shape shifter, the knower of all things and the keeper of the crossroads. When Eleguá arrived, he bowed before Olofín, not losing eye contact and asked:
“ How may I serve you, Eternal Source of the Universe?”
Olofín looked into Elegua’s eyes and said:
“ I have decided to create life on Oro Iña; you will deliver two prayers to my daughters down below; the first prayer is for Yemayá, and the second prayer is for Ochún”.
Eleguá lowered his head and queried the Creator again:
“ May I ask what these prayers contain, Master of all that Is?”
Olofín smiled as he looked away and said:
“ Come and examine the two sacred bundles that you will deliver very soon!”
Eleguá took the first bundle and opened it and let out a hardy chuckle. He then took the second bundle, and as he read the instructions for Ochún, he bid Olofín farewell. His laughter was heard well after he disappeared into the ether. You see, Eleguá, being the knower of all things, understood that all the creatures about to be born would keep the sanctity of the prayers, except one and that one would attempt to subdue Oro Iña until destruction would only be the fate of the would be subduer.
When Eleguá arrived on the southern shores of all that Olofín had created, what would one day be Africa, he made ebbó (an offering) to Yemayá of coconuts, coffee and white flowers, before he ascended into the abyss to deliver the prayer bundle.
Upon reaching the upper depths of the ocean, there sat Yemayá on her watery throne inside a castle made completely of water. Eleguá greeted Yemayá as only a loving son could:
“ Yemayá, my dear mother, I have come bearing a sacred prayer bundle from the great spirit Olofín. He has instructed me to tell you that you are to whisper the prayer contained in the bundle to all the Oro Iña children who will be born of your womb. In this way they shall always remember and cherish where they came from and thereby respect, protect and provide care for the source of all life that’s to come in the future.”
Of course, Yemayá became very happy with the gift and honor that Olofín had bestowed upon her and thanked her son for having delivered the prayer bundle. But, as always, Eleguá, being the mischievous childlike individual he always was, decided to give Yemayá a look see into the future. After all, Eleguá is somewhat of an oracle himself when you get right down to it. Couple that with his need to put everything to a test, he asked his mother to open the bundle and look inside. As she took a gander at the contents, she quickly turned away from the gift horrified, and her face turned very sad, and she began to cry as if in pain. It could be the reason why women who give birth experience that same sadness of pain as they go through the birthing process!
Remember the would be subduer a few paragraphs back? Well, what Yemayá saw in the bundle was a little something that Eleguá had added to the bundle as a prank, but prophecy to the core. She saw the only species to be born of her who would walk on two legs, be able to talk and communicate in words and would have a very large brain size – all to no avail of course! The species would be called human, and it would multiply in greater numbers than all the rest of the other animals, and it would attempt to bring about the destruction of all that it greedily surveyed in Oro Iña.
Time passed rather quickly, and humans began to cover Oro Iña in numbers like the stars. They did exactly what Eleguá had stated in his prophecy, and it was time for him to deliver the second bundle to Yemaya’s little sister, Ochún.
As Eleguá headed inland to see his aunt at one of the great rivers where she resides, he became furious and sad seeing all the horrible things that humans had done to Oro Iña, especially the rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls. He saw his aunt in the distance, sitting on the river bank, and she was also sad as she surveyed all that humans had done to her beautiful sweet waters because of their avarice and neglect. As he approached her, he called out to her:
“Greetings, my dear aunt Ochún, I have come bearing a sacred prayer bundle from the creator Olofín. He has instructed me to tell you not to lose faith and hope for the renewal of your sweet waters, and that you are to whisper the prayer contained in the sacred prayer bundle to all humans you meet on the banks of your rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls.”
As Ochún opened the bundle and looked inside, her sadness disappeared and a big smile shown on her face as she said:
“ I will use all my power to do as Olofín has instructed, my nephew. I feel hope and happiness that all may yet be saved in Oro Iña after reading this prayer and seeing what it can change in humans.“
Of course the trickster, the shape shifter and knower of all things, had added a little something to Ochún’s prayer bundle as well. He bid his aunt a fond farewell, but as he walked into the forest to meet his brothers Ochosi, Osaín and Ogún he turned to Ochún one last time and in a burst of laughter, he said:
“ The creator of all that is, Olofín, has given all that lives and breathes in Oro Iña the answers to achieve a life of peace and harmony, but if I were you, I would take it with a grain of salt when it comes to humans. These creatures are a plague to everything including themselves, but as you already know, there is hope, isn’t there?”
Eleguá let out another cackle as he disappeared behind a giant Baobab tree, and an echo was heard:
“But will they listen…….But will they listen……But will they listen……..”
After Thoughts –
1. Water is Life; Water is living; Water is necessary, and Water must be taken care of!
2.If you’re interested in knowing what the prayers are in the bundles, you can text me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org Just be patient, I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can. Warning, Ifá prayers many times read like Japanese Haiku!
3. I know, you still don’t understand what the Ifá Corpus is:
Ifá is a system of divination and refers to the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odu Ifá.