Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 10

Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi



DIVINATION and the teachings of
Orunmila are embodied in the Odu, a
collection of stories having a .similar
theme. The Odu of Ifa are of two
categories the Oju Odu (The principal
Odu} which are
sixteen in number and the Omo Odu
(the minor Odu) which arc two hundred
and forty. (See appendix for details).
Both the principal Odu and the Omo
Odu are arranged in a specific order of
seniority and the hierarchical ordering is
of great significance in the
interpretation of Orunrnila's message.
There are two identical arms lo the
sign of every principal Odu. But to form
an Omo Odu, the sign on one arm of a
principal Odu combines with the sign
from one arm of another principal Odu.
(see chart

1 -4)
(Ofun on the right and Ogbe on
ihc left).
As shown in the above examples,
each Omo Odu is named and interpreted
in terms of the two halves
configuration. However, the sign on the
right arm of each Omo Odu said to be
more powerful for it determines (the
real message of Orunmila.
We are aware that, Abimbola
(1970, -1977), Bascom (l969) and
MicClelland (1982) have worked on Ifa
literary corpus generally, our main
focus in this paper is the examination of
the process by which Omo Odu are
derive (from the principal Odu) The
thirty. Omo Odu of Eji Oghe which
Abimbola (1970) calls Apola Ogbe are
being used as a case study.
Like the Apola of each of
The other principal Odu, the derivation
of Apola Ogbe takes

Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi

For example,
one arm of
Eji -Ogbe sign

can combine with
one arm of Ofun

to form an Omo Odu
called Ogbefun


(Ogbe on the right and
ofun on the left).The
combination can be
reversed to produce
4 O O

Bi omo odu se n hu ninu ifa dida
Bi awon babalawo se n seda amulu odu tabi omo odu lo je Bade Ajayi logun. Bi omo
odu won yi se hu 1o tan yebeyebe pelu iwadii to jinle. 0 fi han pe ogbon omo odu ni a le ri
fayo lati orison Apola Ogbe. O salaye pe ilana fonoloji tabi osuwon itumo ko le kogo
alaye nipa iecda omo odu ja ninu imoIfa, idi si niyi ti o ft tun foju asa daso ro won.

La derivation d'Omo Odu du corpus "ttcraire d'lfa
L'eeri vain propose L. examiner la derivation de lOmo Odu (Odu subardiniuc) de I'Oju
Odu (I'Odu principal). Ce faisant,les odus mincurs qui en resultent, montrent quelque
evidence des processus phonologiques tels I 'elision des voyelles et ton, of /yf' contraction
de voyelles. A partir dune etude soignees de la structure d 'Aploa Ogbe (des phrases
nomnales) on s point de contact entre la langue et Ie symbole. Lessignes Odu refletent
dans la langue.IIs .s 'eei ivent et se lisent du droite comme des mots arabes, tandis que le
yorouba, comme 1 'anglais et Ie francaissecrit du gauche a droit La derivation de
quelques Omo Odu est difficite a expliqucr linguistiquement, Mais ou ni Ies regles
phonologiques, ni les proprietes semantiques ne peuvent expliquer la derivation de
certains Omo Odu, Ieerivnin a pu, dans 1artiiclc, utiliser de I'evidence culturelle pou.
expliquer leur origine.

Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi

forms which are difficult to account for.
The something that happens when
forming Apola of any what two principal
Odu combine to form a minor thing in
the process of formation, many changes

the case of Apola Ogbe for instance,
when combined with any of the other
fifteen principal vice versa, the resultant
minor Odu shows some of phonological
The purpose of analysis, let us list the
thirty Omo Apola Ogbe contains:
1. Ogbe+Oyeku (Ogbeyeku)
2. Oyeku+Ogbe (Oyekulogbe)
3. Ogbe+Iwori (Ogbeweyin
4. Iwori+Ogbe (Iworibogbe)
5. Ogbe+Odi (Ogbedi)
6. Odi+Ogbe (Idingbe)
7. Ogbe+Irosun (Ogberosun)
8. Irosun+Ogbe (Irosungbemi)
9. Ogbe+Oworin (Ogbehunle)
10. Oworin+Ogbe (Oworinsogbe)
11. Ogbe+Obara (Ogbebara)
12. Obara+Ogbe (Obarabogbe)
13. Ogbe+Okanran (Ogbekanran)
14. Okanran+Ogbe (Okanransode)
15. Ogbe+Ogunda (Ogbeyonu)
16. Ogunda+Ogbe (Ogundabede)
17. Ogbe+Osa (Ogberikusa)
18. Osa+Ogbe (Osalufogbejo)
19. Ogbe + Ika (Ogbeka)
20. Ika + Ogbe (Ikagbemi)
21. Ogbe+Otuurupon
22. Otuurupon+Ogbe
23. Ogbe+Otua (Ogbealara)
24. Otua+Ogbe (Otuaoriko)
25. Ogbe+Irete (Ogbeate)
26. Irete+Ogbe (Irentegbe)
27. Ogbe+Ose (Ogbese)
28. Ose+Ogbe (Oseogbe)
29. Ogbe+Ofun (Ogbefun)
30. Ofun+Ogbe (Ofunnagbe)
In Apola Ogbe (1, 5, 7, 11, 13,
19, and 27 above), there is elision of
vowel I, o, orm let us consider what
happens in the following derivation:

(a.) Ogbe + Oyeku = Ogbeyeku
Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi
Ogbe + Odi = Ogbesi
Ogbe + Irosun = Ogberosun
Ogbe + Obara = Ogbebara

Ogbe + Okanran = Ogbekanran
Ogbe + Ika = Ogbeka
In the above example, the
phonological process of vowel elision
deletes the second of two vowels in these
derivations. In other words, the deletion
is constant. But it must be stressed that
other derivations such as those found in
b- d below are more complicated.
In Yoruba phonology, contraction
of vowels is a common process in the
language. Here are some sample words.
Omo+Eniyan= Omoniyan (human being)
Eti+okun = etikun (bank of the
Eran=oko = eranko (animal)

In each of these sample words
both the second vowel and its tone are
elided. The nominalisation pattern in (a)
is identical with this - i.e. Noun + Noun
showing an identical V2 (vowel two or
vowel number two.) elision process. As
closely observed, this phonological rule
applies when Ogbe is in initial position
of the compounded words. With the
exception of Otuurupon different forms
are obtained when Ogbe falls to the final
position of the derived forms (see b, c
and d below.)
Considering Apola Ogbe (2, 4, 10
and 12) a monosyllabic word, usually a
verb, is inserted in the two combining
(b) Oyeku + Ogbe = Oyekulogbe
Oyeku lu Ogbe (Labara)
Oyeku ni Ogbe {Oyeku-has-Ogbe}

Iwori + Ogbe = Iworibogbe
Iwori bo Ogbe (Mole)
Owonrin + Ogbe = Owonrinsogbe
Owonrin so Ogbe (mole)
We may give a tentative
statement or speculate what happens in
the process of this derivation. It may be
possible that after inserting a verb such
as lu (to beat), bo (do cover) between the
underlying form, the vowel of the
inserted item is deleted leaving only the
consonant remnant which of course,
helps to suggest the inserted verb. On
purely phonological evidence, what we
have are intrusive consonants which do
not seem to be predictable. However, a
semantic consideration will make us
consider that a syllable has been inserted.
A phonological process of vowel
deletion follows, in cacti of the above
examples, it is another Odu that
collocated with Ogbe. Can we therefore,
conclude that when any of the other
fifteen Odu combines with Ogbe a
monosyllabic word (preferably a verb) be
Definitely, such a rule or
generalisation would not be workable
because it does not cut across all Apola
Ogbe of similar combination. Examples
are 6, 8, 14 24 and 26. The, operation in
17 and 20 is even more complicated for,
in the former, the initial vowel of the
second Odu is elided and two other
syllables arc added. In the latter, a single
syllable is inserted.
(c) Ogbc + Osa = Ogberikusa

Ika + Ogbe = Ikagbemi
What all these irregular systems
of combination amount to is that we
cannot use phonological rules to ezplain
the derivation of every minor Odu in
Apola Ogbe. Semantically, the second
Odu of some Omo Odu not have bearing
with the original odu. Consider the
(d) Ogbe + Iwori = Ogbeweyin
Ogbe + Owonrin =Ogbehunle
Irosun + Ogbe =Irosunokanjua
Ogbe + Otua = Ogbealara
Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi
In the above example, the underlined
wards under the deriving forms do not
mean the same thing as their counterparts
underlined in the derivation. The
information collected from our
informants confirms dial neither is Iwori
related to weyin nor Oworin to hunle..
Iwori and Oworin are names of two
principal Odu while the terms weyin
(look back) and hunle (look after your
household) in isolation are verb phrases.
What all the irregularities thus pointed
out amount to is that semantic property
cannot be the basis for the formation of
Omo Odu.

As shown in the preceding analysis,
ii is evident that .either phonological
rules nor semantic properties can be used
to explain the derivations of some Omo
Odu in Ifa corpus. However, such Omo
Odu whose derivation cannot be
explained linguistically must have their
origin somewhere and thus cultural
evidence is put into consideration. Each
Odu in Ifa literary corpus normally, has
several stories or Ese Ifa associated with
Our finding reveals that the
babalawo attributes the most popular and
favourite oriki (praise names) arising
from one or more ese Ifa to a particular
Odu. Such Odu are named after the
praise names picked from the stories
associated to the Odu of Ifa in question.
Such names may be sentential or phrasal
in structure as characteristic of other
Yoruba names or nicknames. Hence we
have such Omo Odu as Ogbeweyin,
Ogbehunle, Oworin-Elejigbo,
Ogbeejengbere, Ogbe-afibisoloore, and
Ose-alaroye or Ose-awoko derived from
different ese Ifa. For example, the origin
Ogbeweyin can be traced to either of
these two ese Ifa:
(1) Ogbe weyin baja re o baa pa kun
A dia fun arugbofulani toun
Ogbe, look backwards should
your dog kill a kind of
Ifa divination was performed for
a Fulani with a club for self
(2) Ogbe weyin baja re o pakun
i gboro
Kannyanrin ma de o, obinrin

Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi


Popular Names Nickname/Appellation English equivalent
Ogbesa Ogberikusa Ogbe-runs-away-from-death
Ogbefun Ogbefohunfolohun Ogbe-gives-something-to-
Ofunnara Ofunnagbe Ofun-beats-Ogbe
Ogundabede Ogundamorogbe Ogunda-I-have-seen-Ogbe
Ogbeyonu Ogbeegun, Ogbegunda Ogbe-is-long, Ogbe-joins-
Ikagbemi Ikaalakengbe,
Ika-has-big-gourd, Father-
Ogarabogbe Obaraonigba, Obara-
Olowuu Obara-the-owner-
calabash, people/Obara-the-
Otuaoriko Otuaorikoku, Otuaoriire, Otua-head-rejects-death,
Otua-ogood-destiny, Otua
Osealaroye Oseawoko Oseafibisoloore Ose-the-talking-bird, Ose-
Owonrinsogbe Owonrin-onigbagbo, Owonrin-of-the-Owonrin-
Elejigbo, believers or
Christian faithfuls,
Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi
Emi n lo ile oko aaro
Ogbe, look backwards should your dog
kill a kind of squirrel,
Ifa divination was performed for
Kannyanrin the wife of over-grown farm.
Kannyanrin has come, the wife of an
overgrown farm.
I am proceeding to my first husbands
(1) and (2) the words Ogbe (a noun) and
weyin (a phrase) are nominalised to form
Ogbeweyin thatfor the name of the omo
Odu from which the two ese Ifa are
picked. Kannyanrin is a type of ese that
grows well in a fertile land.
Other example is that of the omo Odu
Ikagbemi coming from the following
favourite ese Ifa.
Ika gbe mi n o joba Ila
Ika o gbe mi n o joba Ila.
Ifa n lo taye Olufe so bi e ni
If Ika blesses me I will be
crowned the king of Ila
And if Ika does not bless me I
will be crowned the king of Ila.
The three underlinedwords are
compounded to bear the name of
the Omo Odu, Ikagbemi.
There are some Odu that tell the
histories and myths about the foundation
of particular Yoruba towns and villages.
These are described as Odu to te ilu do
(the Odu that founded a town), that is,
the Odu revealed when a babalawo was
invited to divine before the particular
town or village was founded. The
common practice was to have the names
of such town or village reflected in the
Odu question. For example, Owonrin-
Elejigbo is the name given to the omo
Odu (Owonrin+Ogbe) that founded
Ejigbo town in Osun State of Nigeria.
One verse from the Owonrin-Elejigbo
the nickname for Owonrinogbe reads:
(4) Aragbandu oko ni yi gbirigbiri,
A dia fun Ogboja
Ti i somo oba lEyo-Ajori.
Aragbandu oko ni yi gbirigbiri
A dia fun Elejigbo
Ti n lo fomo oba Eleyo-Ajori
A boulder that rolls over and
Ifa divination was performed for
The princess of Eyo-Ajori
A very big stone that rolls over
and over
Ifa divination was performed for
the king of Ejigbo.

Bascom Abimbola Mcclelland
Ogbe Oyeku Ogbeyeku Ogbe-Oyeku
Oyeku Ogbe Oyekulogbe Oyeku-Ogbe
Ogbe Iwori Ogbeweyin Ogbe-Iwori
Iwori Ogbe Iworibogbe Iwori-Ogbe
Ogbehunle Ogbe-
Owonrinsogbe Owonrin-
Ogbeyonu Ogbe-Ogunda
Ogundabede Ogunda-Ogbe

Who wanted to marry Eleyo-
Ajori princess.
In fact, each of the cited ese Ifa (1-4)
has long and interesting stories attached
to it, but for lack of space we shall not go
into the detailed stories.What interests us
is the derivation of some Odu which are
being explored by means of cultural
evidence. Eleyo-Ajori is part of Oloye
descendants Oriki, Yoruba praise and
descriptive chant. The ese Ifa above and
the ones (1-3) preceding it were collected
from Awo Olaifa Ajayi of Ondasa
compound, Oyo, Oyo State.
After a careful stujdy of the structure
of Apola Ogbe, it is observed that the
Odu signs are reflected in the language.
In this wise it is suspected that there
must have been a meeting point between
Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi
language and symbol. In fact, one would
be curious to know how the structures of
omo Odo are related to ritual function.
When, for instance, a babalawo casts the
chain and Ogbeyeku emerges thus:
the first of the combining Odu
appears on the right side of the sign. As
the sign changes position, the Odu names
also changes. For example, the name and
the sign of the following minor Odu
change position:
Ogbeyeku OO O

Oyekulogbe O OO
can this alternating effect in the language
and the Odu can be coincidence, an
accident or a design? As pointed out
earlier. Odu signs arc marked and sad
from right to left (the way Arabic words
are written). But Yoruba, like English
and French is written from left to right.
Since the system of marking the Odu and
writing the name of the same Odu takes
different directions, there is bound to he
changes of position in the sign and the
language though both presenting the
same thing. These changes would not
have been necessary if the Odu are
named in Arabic. Chinese, odu sign is
written from top downwards. Thus, a
babalawo prints an odu sign in the
following order:
2 1
3 3
6 5
8 7

Almost every babalawo in the
geographical areas of research prefers to
call the minor odu the way the Apola
Ogbe (1 - 30) are listed above.
According to Adebayo Kehinde of Elepe
compound, Oyo and Anafi Ijala of
Kondoro compound, Alore-Ilorin, omo
odu are callea as regorded to make things
difficult for the babalawo-in-training and
also to maintain the sacred-less of Ifa
corpus. For instance, during Ifa
divination session (where a number of
babalawo are present) or an initiation
ceremony or a graduating babalawo, the
young may be tested on the identification
of the Odu that bear certain nicknames or
appellations. For example, Ogbeelesin
(Ogbe has horse), Ogbeoloosa (Ogbe of
the deity), is the same Odu as Ogbeyeku,
the first minor in Ifa corpus. (Of the
many names that an Odu may have,
variant forms will surface under different
circumstances. None of them is actually
derived from the other). Any experienced
and learned babalawo can easily
recognise that the above appellations
refer generally to Ogbeyeku, the leader.
of the minor Odu. Our informants have
proved beyond any doubt that there is
hardly any omo Odu that does not have
at least, a nickname (beside the popular
name). The nicknames are oriki
characteristic of an individual omo Odu.
Here are some examples, (see table 1).
These nicknames or appellations
which often during divination process
especially when the signs are being
verbalised, can be multiplied. The
emergence of the names depends lo a
large extent on the situation and
circumstance surrounding the divination.
Another important question that
needs be answered in order to throw
further light on the derivation of omo
Odu generally Apola Ogbe in particular
is whether or not all scholars on Ifa
literary corpus write the names of the

Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi
Yoruba 1, (1) 68-73 Bade Ajayi
odu alike. The answer is definitely
negative. The way Bascom (1969:50)
writes the Odu is different from the way
Abimbola (1977:17) and McCtelland
(1982:44- _ 45) write and analyse.
The way, Bascom and McClelland
write the names (as shown above) is
basically the same. What differentiates
McClelland's writing is the use of
hyphen 10 compound the iwo words.
Almost all our informants list omo Odu
the way Abimbola writes them. Thus we
select relevant data from Abimbolas
together with ow own collection for this
As revealed in this study, the
derivatory process of some of the Omo
Odu names is difficult to explain
linguistically. But where neither the
phonological rules nor semantic
properties can be used to explain the
derivation of certain Omo Odu, cultural
evidence, as demonstrated in this paper,
can be used to explain the origin.
However, the learned babalawo are so
familiar with almost every odu in Ifa
corpus that once an odu is mentioned,
they can readily identify and narrate the
stories (ese Ifa) relevant to the Odu. At
initiation ceremony, for instance, the
master babalawo might call any emerged
Odu by its appellation or nickname to
test the ability of the graduating student