Òsóòsi : Ifa and the Spirit of the Tracker by Awo Fa'lokun Fatunmbi Iba Osoosi. I praise the Spirit of the Tracker. Iba olog arare. I praise the master of himself. Iba Onibebe. I praise the owner of the river bank. Iba Osolikere. I praise the magician of the forest. Ode ata matase, Hunter who never misses, Agbani nijo to buru, Wise Spirit who offers many blessings, Oni ode gan fi di ja, Owner of the parrot that guides me to overcome fear, A juba. I salute you. Ase. In Ogun state they have an Orisa, or Force in Nature that is called Òsóòsi. In this country it is usually spelled Ochosi. We have the influence of Spanish speaking Orisa worshippers because there is no "c" in the Yoruba alphabet. The traditional Yoruba spelling is Òsóòsi. One of the things that I have tried to do is to go back to the traditional Yoruba use of language so that we can get some sense of what is being said. When you see Ochosi spelled like this it is difficult to derive any meaning from the word. Yoruba language is rich with elisions. An elision is where you take a phrase and run a number of words together to make one word. When phrases are run together to form the name of a Spirit, the words that are run together are refered to as the Oriki of the Spirit. "Ki" means "praise," it also means "opening." "Ori" means "consciousness" or "head." So we have "praising the head" or "opening the head" or "opening the mystery that illuminates the head." Oriki is a form of praise poetry that describes the inner essence of the Spirit. The Oriki of an Orisa is both the one key sentence used to form the name of the Orisa and a rather lengthy praise poem that recites the history of the Orisa. Looking at the word Òsóòsi, it is very simple to break it down into two words. "Oso" is the word for "sorcery." That is not a pejorative word, I use sorcery as a reference to the ability to astral travel. Anybody who has the power to go out of their body has the power of oso. Parapsychologists call this OBE or out of body experiences. But oso refers to out of body experiences that are invoked intentionally. Moving out of your body with your intention and invocation as the trigger is the power of oso. "Osi," have you every heard me say "otun, osi?" That means right and left. "Osi" is left. What we get in English is "sorcery left." That does not make good sense in English, but it is a very clear reference in Ifa. You are all familiar with the divining tray. The right side of the tray relates to what has manifest in the present. The left side of the tray relates to that which is hidden. Odu Ifa has a right and a left component. The marks of the Odu are a mandala. The simplest way to look at the Odu is to consider that the right side represents what is happening in the physical world in the present. The left side represents what is happening in the invisible world. It usually represents that which has not yet come into Being. Ifa is based on the belief that all things which can potentially come into Being exist in potential in the invisible realm. The right side is manifest and the left side is what lies in potential. The clearest example of that polarity would be conscious verses unconscious. What you think is the problem and what is really the problem. The analogy applies to every realm of Being. When it rains the weather is caused by the conjunction of invisible pressure fronts. The examples are endless. If you look at the idea of atomic structure, the idea of a nucleus at the center and rings of power surrounding the center. When I went to school we were taught that there were little dots that circled around the nucleus. Now they teach that waves of energy flow around the nucleus without having a specific mass. The way the outer pattern flows is effected by what is pulling it at the center. The right side of the Odu could be considered the outer rim of the atom and the left side of the Odu could be considered the center of the atom. This sets up a polarity that is effected by the number of single and double lines in each quadragram. Western science teaches that atoms are made from one form of energy that merges together in different sets of relationships. It is these relationships that create diversity in the universe. What you have with Odu is a map of the possible relationships between primal forms of energy. I suspect that the more we studied it, the more we could correlate Odu with scientific phenomena in physics. We would see just how profound the system of Odu really is. I believe that it represents a tremendous breakthrough in the human perception of the world in terms of identifying primal forces in Nature. Whenever Ifa makes a reference to osi, the left hand side it is referring to that which is invisible, or that which is not seen, or that which is not yet manifest. If you have the ability to travel out of your body, you have the ability to effect your physical environment without being seen. Òsóòsi clearly means having an invisible influence through the power of sorcery. Nigerians refer to this ability in British English by saying "being a lefty." When I first heard that phrase it took me a while to understand what they were talking about. I finally figured out that it meant the ability to effect things without being seen. Now we have some understanding of the Oriki of Òsóòsi and what it means in terms of the elision of the word itself. The other thing I want to point out is that Ogun state is located near the coast of Nigeria. Òsóòsi is only found as an Orisa in Ogun state. You don't find it in Ile Ife, you don't find it in Oyo. There is throughout Nigeria what I would call local Orisa that only occur in certain regions. There are other Orisa that occur throughout Yorubaland. There are two or three that come to mind that are only found in Ogun state. Òsóòsi is one, Agemo is another and the other is Lagua. Those are three Orisa that are indigenous to Ogun state, that you don't find in the rest of Nigeria. The fact that Òsóòsi is so prevalent in the West tells us something about history. We have an Orisa that is only found in Ogun state that is very popular in the West. That tells us that a significant number of slaves who came from Africa to Cuba were from Ogun state. The reason I bring that up is because I have heard different interpretations of this fact. People go to Ile Ife and they don't see Òsóòsi and they think that Òsóòsi was lost and that the religion is in regression in Africa. The reason Òsóòsi is not found in Ile Ife is because Òsóòsi was never there. Lets talk about the function of Òsóòsi. You know the song for Òsóòsi? Òsóòsi ire, ode mata ode mata. Again we get a better understanding of who Òsóòsi is. The song says Sorcerer of the left hand, brings good fortune, spotted medicine of the forest. What the heck does that mean? Spotted medicine is put in tattoos or scarification, that is mata. Scarification is caused by peeling back the skin, putting a piece of sand under the skin along with some form of medicine. The medicine is called "Ajabo." "Aja" is "dog" and "bo" is from "ebo" meaning "offering." This says "Dog offering." Dogs are messengers of Orisa, so ajabo is the medicine that is put in the mata. You make ajabo by getting herbs or "ewe," and depending on the function of the medicine, you gather the herbs that are appropriate to what you are trying to accomplish. There are herbs for cleansing, for protection, for illumination, herbs to improve your memory, herbs to cure an illness. That is all ewe. The way ajabo is made is that you get the herbs and you burn the leaves so they are black and you grind them down with a mortar and pestle. You get a little mixture of stuff that looks like gun powder. Then you say the prayers and invocations that enhance the intrinsic quality of the herbs on to the powder. That powder is what you put in the incision, it is the mata. Again, the Sorcerer of the left handed path brings good fortune with the spotted medicine of the forest. That means that Òsóòsi is the authority on using the medicine that causes astral travel. The ability to travel out of your body can be induced with this methodology. The spotted medicine, or literally spots, they don't make a tattoo, its more like a circular pattern of lumps. That is Ode mata. Question: Is that done as a rite of passage? Fa'lokun: No, it is done with a specific purpose. You could be initiated into Òsóòsi and not necessarily get spotted medicine. But if it turns out that you have an aptitude for this, or a need to do this the medicine would be given. Question: Is it a form of shamanism? Fa'lokun: Yes. If we associate Òsóòsi with the idea of the Spirit of the Tracker then we ask the question what is the survival issue that requires astral travel in the forest? The purpose is to locate herbs and wildlife in the forest. The trackers in the rain forest speak of the ability to walk and to look with their right eye seeing straight ahead and their left eye seeing an airial view from the top down. They speak of the ability to do this simultaneously. This is a good tool when you are out in the rain forest. The rain forest is filled with green trees to the horizon in every direction. Its real easy to get lost. If you didn't know the area, how would you know what is in the forest? Òsóòsi as the tracker uses astral travel as a tool for both locating things of value in the forest, namely herbs and as an adjunct to hunting technology. In my opinion it does not represent something magical. It represents the optimal end of a particular potential that is latent in all of us. Because there is not much call for this skill in the West, the potential remains undeveloped. The question then becomes, what is the Spiritual significance of Òsóòsi in 1993 in Oakland? That is the big question. Lets take the Ifa symbol of the cross in the tray. It is, among other things, a map of consciousness. The purpose of Ifa is to balance all the elements of consciousness. The outer rim of the circle represents the sum total of a particular individual state of consciousness. The four quadrants of the circle represent the elements of consciousness in balance. Ifa expresses this idea that when you have balanced all the forces that create consciousness you are in touch with the inner self which is called "ori inu." It is the process of getting in touch with the inner self that we connect with the higher self which is called wither "ipori" or "iponri," depending on what dialect you are speaking. It is in making that link between the inner self and the higher self that you really understand who you are and you feel good about yourself and you open up the latent potential for growth. In New Age language, its called centering. Centering yourself in this way is also the preliminary thing that you need to do to experience what we inappropriately call possession. That is the connection with higher spiritual forces. The word for possession in Yoruba is "ini" which translates to "I am," so rather than being possessed by something other than yourself, you are getting in touch with who you essentially are. Then once you get in touch with your inner self, that becomes a magnet for similar forms of energy in the universe and that is when possession occurs. So understand, you can be in touch with your inner self and not hook up with universal forces. That is possible, that does happen. When you connect with similar forms of consciousness in the universe there is big power surge and we call that possession. Getting back to the map of consciousness. Ifa says that the ori that leaves the house in the morning should not be the ori that comes home at night. This means that in course of any given day you are going to learn something and you have to balance your consciousness. Most of the time what we learn is not mind boggling, so it is a relatively simple process. Think back to the day when you learned your times tables. That felt like a big surge of information, but it was not traumatic. So hopefully if we are paying attention we are reorganizing our brain everyday. Ifa says after initiation we initiate ourself every day. That means every time your consciousness expands, the person who was alive the day before dies and is reborn as someone more intelligent. That becomes an ongoing goal of Ifa, the death of the old self and the birth of the new self. Hopefully moving towards greater wisdom, better character and deeper insight into self and world. There are clear distinctions made when we go through rites of passage during which we have to embrace massive quantities of information in order to awake on a new day with a new role in the community. The first rite of passage is called "essentaiye" meaning "when the foot touches the earth" or "birth." Most people in traditional Ifa families do divination to see what the destiny of the child is so that the child can be tracked to develop those skills. The next rite of passage comes at puberty where you are moving from childhood to adulthood. This is a ceremony where you detach from your parents and break the bonding between your consciousness and the direct influence of the words of your parents. This is done so that you can start the journey towards forming your own identity. After this separation, you are taught the behavior of adults. This is usually taught by the grandparents. Men are given a test of courage to prove to yourself what you're made of. I'm not sure if this is done for women. In most traditional Ifa communities the test of courage is the use of tribal scars. This is done with a red hot poker to the face. You survive that and you have a pretty good sense of what you're made of. The map, or cross and circle represents consciousness, and as consciousness expands the circumference of the circle gets bigger. So the leap from child to adult represents a tremendous expansion of the circumference of the circle that defines an individual's consciousness. This kind of leap in development can be confusing and stressful. As a symbolic analogy we could image a circle the size of a baseball that represents the sum total of the conscious content of the personality of a specific child. We could say that the circle of an adult's consciousness was the size of a basketball. Picture the baseball resting at the bottom of the basketball and image that the center of the baseball has too move through a rite of passage to the center of the basketball. There are two ways to travel from the centered consciousness of a child to the centered consciousness of an adult. One is to travel in a straight line from center A to center B, the other is all the infinite ways that we can avoid traveling in a straight line. By avoiding a straight line, I mean allowing yourself to resist the process by either avoiding the responsibility, refusing to face the fear or by denying that growth is necessary. So we look for community support to give assistance to children as they make this important transition. Malidoma Some defined community as any three people who get together for a purpose. The purpose of a spiritual community is to support each other's spiritual growth. The purpose of Osoosi is to support the idea that moving from point A to point B can occur smoothly and efficiently by traveling in a straight line. By that I mean by going directly to the heart of the matter. This all sounds simple and clear, but Malidoma says humans are the least intelligent forms of consciousness on the planet because we can find all kinds of good reasons why the shortest route ain't it. Have you seen those experiments where there is a mouse in a maze? The mice will go down the tunnels until they find some cheese. Once they find the right tunnel they will go directly to the same spot until the location of the cheese is changed. When the location is changed the mice will start the search until they find it, then continue to return to the new location. Every time you move the cheese, the mouse only goes down the tunnel once, sees that its not there and starts looking down the other tunnels. Humans are not as smart as mice. Once we've gone down a tunnel and found cheese, we'll convince ourself that the cheese is there, will think its buried under the ground, will start visualizing cheese at the end of the tunnel, we'll pray for its return, we'll do everything possible except start looking down the other tunnels. I call this the big cheese theory of human consciousness. What we want to do when we're invoking Òsóòsi is to get a clear vision of the straight path, or the shortest path. You've got to see where the path lies in the course of your life before you can walk it with efficiency. Let me give you an example. I have been playing jazz for thirty years. Frequently younger players will ask me how do you improvise. I tell them you have to learn your scales and chords and be able to play them by rote.. That becomes the foundation for creative improvisation. The first step is that you have to know the basics. They can't believe that's it. They expect it to be some magic formula. The answer is you have to know the vocabulary of music, that's the shortest road to learn how to play jazz. The same thing is true in terms of what I call psychological barriers to spiritual growth. When you do divination part of what is revealed is the shortest path from A to B. Òsóòsi is an important factor in almost any divination experience. You say this is my problem, how do I solve it? I say this is the solution and this is the most efficient way to solve the problem. So Òsóòsi 's ase or power is assisting you in the transformation process. But what tends to happen is that people will take a problem and they will do what I call deify it. What I mean is that they will say everybody else who comes to Ifa gets their problem solved, but my problem is so unique that the whole world was created around the idea that I will always be unemployed. There is no solution to my problem, because that idea is etched in stone, that is the way that Olorun created the Universe, everybody else is happy and I'm miserable. The idea gets solidified, what I call deified, or etched in stone. When you are dealing with Òsóòsi on a real direct personal level, the shortest path is the ability to cut through those rigid ideas that limit our perception of who we are. So anytime you have an idea that you can't accomplish something, or anything that diminishes you own sense of self, it is Òsóòsi that we invoke to find an alternative vision. Anytime you deify a negative, the circle of your consciousness gets smaller. Your regress rather than grow. Regression takes effort and eventually leads to suffering and illness. The reason regression takes effort is because you have to constantly distort your perception of reality to conform to your negative self image. Things can happen to you that challenge your negative self image and rather than integrate it into your consciousness and grow, you won't see it, you'll distort it. Just think about it in your own life. Think about how you have held on to an idea that was self destructive, that caused you to miss some form of good fortune. Think about how it kept you from moving towards a goal because it was more important to hold on to that negative self image. An obvious example would be alcoholism. The only way I can get through the day is to drink. That becomes your deified concept of yourself. Everyday that you hold on to that idea your objective perception of who you are and who you could become diminishes. On some level we all do this. So with Òsóòsi we begin to look for alternatives to what psychologists call regression and what Ifa calls being possessed by elenini. The elenini is a self invoked and self generated demon. They limit your growth. Self created demons are the hardest to destroy because they have no existence in the first place. As a diviner when you encounter elenini, you know that you can't kill it, all you can do is educate it, try and convince the elenini that it is not real. Having taken this to a practical level, I would like to take it back into the cosmological and metaphysical realms. If we make a horizontal line that represents the spectrum of light, the top end is ultra violet and the bottom end is infrared. So you're all aware of the notion that we use our eyeballs to look at the light spectrum somewhere in the middle. There are vibrations of light on the lower end and on the higher end of the spectrum that we cannot see. If you really think about the Ifa concept of "Orun" which is poorly translated to mean "Heaven" and I think more accurately translated to mean "invisible dimension." If you look at the science of light, it is true without a doubt that there are invisible light rays that have an influence on visual reality. These light rays cannot be seen. That means we can say that there is an invisible dimension that helps shape the physical dimension. That in my judgement is what Ifa means when it speaks of Orun. It is not heaven, it is not the pearly gates, it is the invisible dimension of the physical environment that has clear substance and effect and real power, we just can't see it. The reason I believe this, is because Ifa refers to Orun as being on the earth, under the earth, above the clouds, in our own consciousness, with the living, and with the dead. There are seven different names for Orun which are located, I believe on different frequencies along the spectrum of light. What is it that allows us to see along a particular band of light? We are controlled by gravity, time and substance. If we had a different field of gravity and a different sense of time, we would be looking at a different frequency along the spectrum of light. When you have oso the ability to go out of your body, then the first thing you are doing is liberating yourself from the effects of gravity. In addition to being able to go into the forest and see things in the physical realm, you can also see things in the invisible realm. It is my belief that the really wise and adept masters of Ifa including the shamans of Òsóòsi, both see and enter physically these dimensions of light that are not normally visible. If you can physically enter that dimension, you can see invisible influences and you can effect them in ways that will cause them to have an impact on the visible realm. If you are able to do that, to those who are unable to do that, what you do appears miraculous. It isn't. You just have the key to enter those realms. If you don't know how a car works, the work of a mechanic can seem like magic. In Ifa there are two ways to enter the invisible realm. One is through the use of eiye which is the spirit of a dead bird that is used to pull yourself out of your body. The other is through Òsóòsi. Ifa has its own tradition of dwarfs and little people and they are associated with Òsóòsi. They are described in one of two forms. One is as small people who look like regular people in terms of their proportions, expect they're real tiny. The other is as what I call little fur balls. Do you remember the "Trouble with Tribbels" on Star Trek? That's the other way that the spirit helpers for Òsóòsi manifest in Africa. When these spirits appear visually and spontaneously out in the forest, which they do for people who are sensitive, it becomes a matter of caution. That is because when you get into the upper regions of the light spectrum time and space become distorted. So when the fur balls appear, if you follow them, you can literally disappear and reappear somewhere else. This is interesting, because that's not so far different from the description of UFO abductions. I'm not sure that isn't a spiritual phenomena rather than an outer space phenomena. The idea is that Òsóòsi 's helpers are taking you into the invisible realm and this is a long and well established tradition in Africa. Malidoma Some actually speaks of this much more eloquently, because in Africa it’s such a normal aspect of life, there is very little need to explain it. If you came to visit me from a different country and you didn't have a grocery store you may be interested in it and you may want me to describe it, but it would be just too mundane for me to bother with. So this kind of phenomena, although it’s not prevalent, it is mundane enough so there is not a lot of discussion or attempt at explanation. It’s not like my friends in Africa are saying yo' Fa'lokun come and see the fur balls. But there are certain places that are accessible gateways into this dimension that work as shrines that lead you into different realms. Those gateways are usually rocks or particular trees and when people approach those things they literally walk into the tree, or walk into the rock and disappear. They may reappear three or four hours later. This implies a mastery of the ability to shift dimensions. This is an aspect of Ifa that is still used and preserved and worked with in Africa that we don't have a clue about in this country. When you hear that Ifa is in regression in Africa, do not believe it. Especially in regard to this kind of phenomena. Question: You said earlier that when you go into this Òsóòsi state the realm you enter has physical substance. Fa'lokun: That's right. Question: Couldn't UFO's be a manifestation of the physical aspects of this dimension? Fa'lokun: We have the spectrum of light and I have said that one way to enter the invisible spectrum is to leave your body. The other way is to stay in your body and open your visual powers of perception, so that the invisible realm all around you becomes visible. One method is to project your consciousness out of your body, the other is tapping into higher vibrations of perception. Now I have experienced a little bit of both. When you go out of your body you see the physical environment around you. You are aware that you are not where you should be. When your visual powers begin to open up, you see things in the environment that should not be there and they are transparent in the classic sense of ghost phenomena. The thing that is mind boggling about this experience is that even though the things you see are transparent, they are tactile. If you reach out and touch it there is a sense of interaction. The brief experience that I have had of this type of interaction suggests to me that it can be used as a powerful tool for transformation. Question: Is that like shape shifting? Fa'lokun: Yes, shape shifting is an aspect of Òsóòsi that I did not go into. Shape shifting involves going into possession with the spirit of an animal, not so that you look like the animal to someone around you, but so that you feel like the animal to other animals. So it is possible to shape shift as a tool of hunting. If you are able to go into possession with the spirit of an animal, then you have the ability to blend with those animals in the forest. This is a hunting technique, but it does not manifest in real life the way it does in the movies. Questions: Is shape shifting associated with Oya? Fa'lokun: Yes. Question: What is the relationship between Òsóòsi and Oya? Fa'lokun: Òsóòsi is a local spirit and Oya is a much more universal spirit in Nigeria. Oya's oso or out of body ability is more associated with being pulled out of the body by a bird spirit. When a woman goes out of her body using the spirit of a bird, it is not always women, but usually women and Oya women in particular who have this skill, they lay down on a matt and they have someone guiding the out of body experience. They are painted and when you see them, they look like they are dead, they are barely breathing and there is no movement. Sometimes that is used as way of searching for certain things. It is also used as form of protection. It can be used to stimulate nightmares and cause aggravation. That is done in the context of self protection and communal protection. If someone was attacking a village and all the women of the village were astral traveling as the enemy was approaching, that can be very distracting to the enemy assault. Question: Òsóòsi will direct you to your spiritual path, what about Elegba? Fa'lokun: Esu is the gatekeeper. Esu's function is to put us at the center of the tray. When you say put us on the right path, you can't go from point A to point B without moving from your center. You cannot grow while being stuck in a place of fear for example. Esu puts us in the center of our self. That is symbolically called the gate or doorway through which movement occurs, but it is not the movement itself. You know people always say my life would get better if I would win the lottery. There is no way that you can grow spiritually while sitting around waiting to be saved by the lottery. You are living in fantasy or illusion and there is no way to move forward while being possessed by illusion. Before you can begin a spiritual journey, you have to come face to face with your inner self. If you are not face to face with your inner self you are in a state of Esu ni ba ko, or in proper Yoruba Esu ipako. People who are not centered, according to Ifa, have problems in the back of their neck. This is the place that links the head and the heart. Once you are thinking the same thing that you are feeling, then the head and the heart are in alignment. You are no longer possessed by a fragment of your consciousness, you are in the center of the tray. You are at a place where you can open the door that will allow you to step on the path. Coming to the center is Esu's role. Once the door is open and you see where the path is heading, then you invoke Ogun to clear away the obstacles. That is the reason why we associate Esu, Òsóòsi and Ogun because they have the inter-relationship that allows for growth. Their interaction is the fundamental Ifa paradigm for growth. These three spirits are called Ebora and the fourth Ebora is called Osun. The Osun is the symbolic representation of the map of consciousness or the realm through which the Ebora travel. Question: Do you invoke Òsóòsi before you invoke Ogun? Fa'lokun: That is my tendency. Sometimes if you invoke Ogun to cut away the obstacles before invoking Òsóòsi, the obstacles are something different than what you expected. It is always better to have a road map. The classic example is my life is miserable because my boss is an idiot. The truth might be that you are doing a bad job. So you invoke Ogun to clear the path, thinking that you will get a new boss and you end up getting fired. If you have a clear vision of where the path lies, you can move forward. This is one of the reasons why Ifa places so much emphasis on the respect for elders. For example, when you make the transition between childhood and adulthood, what better person to guide you than an adult. One of the real tragedies of life in America is that kids are initiating themselves with no guidance from adults. It is an effective initiation because it includes a test of courage. You know how you join a gang in Oakland? You come to the meeting place and get the poop beaten out of you. Afterwards you feel like a real man. What is missing is a clear sense of what do I do with my life? Do I go around and beat people up, or do I have a inner sense of certainty about myself that allows me the opportunity to stop having to prove myself? You can only make that leap of logic through the guidance of the grandfathers who have something to show for their life. The other issue is the question of why puberty rites are separated by gender. In life, a woman cannot tell a boy what it means to be a man and a man cannot tell a girl what it means to be a woman. If you ever use those words, if a man ever tells a girl to be a woman and if a woman ever tells a boy to be a man, it is never ever heard. That is why there is a need in single parent situations for same gender guidance. That is the need for the introduction of a same gender mentor. If this does not occur, the child gets stuck in ways that become extremely dysfunctional, even with the best of intentions from the parent. That is why, in Africa, they put so much value on the extended family. No matter what is going on in your immediate family, in terms of having a father or a mother at home, there are at least twenty fathers and mothers in the neighborhood who will take on that role. They will be believable as mother and father because everybody older than you of child bearing age is called Baba or Iya. If you ever try and ask an Africa who his real biological father is, it becomes a question that is hard to formulate in Yoruba. Question: If a younger person does something wrong they could get twenty spankings before they reach home. Fa'lokun: Not only do they have twenty fathers in the neighborhood, they might have nine older brothers who all take on a mentor role. When you enter a Yoruba household, they will identify who is the senior brother and who is the junior brother. This establishes a pecking order within the support system of providing guidance to the children. Question: This problem even occurs in households where there are two parents. Fa'lokun: Yes, two parents and no consciousness of the problem. Absolutely. I did not mean to single out one parent families as the only source of this problem. Any family that does not have a connection to the extended family and that does not recognize the importance of these issues will have problems. Question: What does Òsóòsi like? Fa'lokun: Òsóòsi in Santeria Lucumi is usually found in the Ogun pot as a metal bow and arrow, sometimes with two or three arrows and a chain for the string. In Santeria and Lucumi, Òsóòsi usually eats all the same things as Ogun and is fed at the same time with the addition of anisette. So when I say the same thing as Ogun, that is palm oil, gin, nuts and yams. They feed anisette to Òsóòsi, I have never seen anisette in Nigeria. So Òsóòsi is usually fed gin. When I give Òsóòsi, I give it separate from Ogun. I usually give a bow and arrow, antlers and Native American artifacts. The ase of Òsóòsi, the thing that brings Òsóòsi to the pot is ash. Burnt wood scraped from a burnt stick. If you want to receive Òsóòsi you scrape the charcoal on to the items for Òsóòsi. This is one of the four fundamental ase's that create the world. Question: Why do you use Native American pieces in your Òsóòsi? Fa'lokun: Òsóòsi has the ability to go into the invisible realm. This means that Òsóòsi can identify the invisible spirits of the land that you are living on. In Africa Òsóòsi is used to identify that which is indigenous to Africa. When you have a displaced Òsóòsi, in the West, you have some fundamental issues to resolve regarding the ritual technology of the new environment. The first problem is to identify those plants that can be used in a ceremonial way. They are no longer the plants that you are used to using in Africa. It is possible on the astral plane to go into dialogue with plants. You ask what effect plants will have on human consciousness. So one of the things we want Òsóòsi to do is to identify the function of various aspects of the ecological support system. Herbs and plants are a fundamental aspect of Ifa worship. When you go to the market in Nigeria there are booths that have hundreds of different kinds of tree bark. Each piece has a function and a name and they are commonly known in the area. Even Efun is eaten by pregnant women as a source of calcium. When you are in Igbodu, the first thing you want to do is to identify the natural source of the particular power that you are working with . So you don't go to the ocean to worship the spirit of the river and you don't go to the mountain to worship the spirit of the desert. But if you have thousands of miles of flat forest and if you are in the jungle of Cuba, it may not be readily apparent what forces are strongest in a particular area. It may not be apparent what the spiritual use of that land was in the past. You know the Catholic Church was notorious for building churches on holy ground of what every area they took over. The Africa slaves were much more respectful. They would invoke Òsóòsi to discover how the land was used before they arrived. They used Òsóòsi to discover the name of the indigenous spirits of the land and then they honored that in conjunction with the Orisa that they were used to working with. So Òsóòsi was used to insure that nothing was done in conflict with the Native American uses of the land. If you want to honor the spirit of this land, the place that we are standing on right now, the way you would find out what was here is to invoke Òsóòsi and have Òsóòsi bring back that information. That way you are not invoking conflicting spirits on this land that would neutralize their effectiveness. If you invoked the spirit of fire in the place that was used for the spirit of water you would negate any power that you were trying to generate. The big unwritten chapter in American history is the relationship between Native Americans and African Americans, especially during slavery and the period immediately afterwards. Many freed slaves after the Civil War went to Oklahoma and lived on reservations. So we have a very large African American, Native American ethnic mix in this country. When two cultures get together they exchange ideas. The relationship between herbs and the land as it was preserved in Native American spirituality needed to be assimilated into traditionally African spirituality as it was practiced on this land. It is my belief that Òsóòsi, or something similar, played a big role in this assimilation process. Òsóòsi was a spiritual mediator in the blending of these two traditions. The Language of Orisa in Cuba is a mixture of Yoruba, Spanish and Native American dialects. That is an interesting preservation. It is its own dialect. When I say that Òsóòsi spelled Ochosi is not proper Yoruba, it does not diminish the fact that it is proper in Lucumi dialect, which has its own inherent credibility. Question: Do you think Òsóòsi could explore outer space? Fa'lokun: Do you know the Dogons? They have a ritual that they do every 51 years to celebrate the elliptic of the dark star that travels around Sirius. They have been doing this for thousands of years. They have mapped the orbit and they celebrate the cycle of the orbit. The first time that this star was seen by a telescope was about ten years ago. It is invisible to the naked eye. This is either a remarkable coincidence, or they received the information from extra terrestrials, or they have highly evolved use of out of body perception. There is no way to trace the origin of this tradition, but my vote is on astral travel. Awo Fa'lokun Fatunmbi is a popular author of several books on traditional African Orisa religion, including "Iwa-Pele: The Search for the Source of Santeria and Lucumi," "Awo: Ifa and the Theology of Orisa Divination," and "Iba Se Orisa: Ifa Proverbs, Folktales, Sacred History and Prayer." He is co-founder of Ile Orunmila Oshun in Oakland, CA. A great babalawo and teacher, he is also founder of the Awo Study Center, an organization that teaches the techniques of divination and ritual to Ifa and Orisa initiates.