Odigba Ifa (Divination Necklace)

By: Adenike Cosgrove Tagged:


The Yoruba typically turn to a babalawo (diviner) when seeking advice or faced with an illness. The necklace for Ifa (odigba ifa; Ifa is 'the grand priest and custodian of the Ifa Oracle', i.e. the Orisha of wisdom, knowledge and divination) is used by babalawos to signify their importance in the community (almost comparable to kings and chiefs of a village).

Beaded objects are usually reserved for royalty in Yorubaland, but the importance of babalawos in communicating with Orishas is underpinned by the possession of beaded items such as the odigba ifa. Magical and powerful medicines are sewn into the miniature pouches on either end of the necklace to protect the babalawo from witches and ensure his continued power. When the necklace is worn, the beaded 'medicine' pouches rest in the base of the babalawo's neck and also on his chest.

For more, see the UNESCO video HERE on the Yoruba divination process and the article on Ifa divination on the Art & Life in Africa website, hosted by the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) HERE.

Distinguishing Features

    • 16-strand necklace
    • Multi-coloured glass beads
    • Strands bundled at regular intervals by big multi-beaded cylinders, glass or wooden beads
    • Two beaded pouches attached on either side of the necklace
    • Some necklaces feature the 'gbekude' seed which is said to bring prosperity and long life to the babalawo

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