The Order Of The 256

The paired figures rank in power from Ogbe Meji, which is the strongest, to Meji. Ofun Meji, the last of the paired figures, is an exception. It has some of the strongest magic associated with it, and when it is generated, it is immediately turned over so as to make a different figure. Although listed sixteenth, Ofun Meji is equal in rank with Qwgnrin Meji in the eighth position. This is explained conventionally in terms of the story of a fight between Ogunda Meji and Ofun Meji, when the figures were historic persons who spent time on earth.

It is interesting that Ogbe is considered the most powerful of all the figures and Ogbe Meji is spoken of as 'father of all the figures', as Ogbe corresponds to the Arabic figure Tariq, thought by the Arabs to be the prime figure from which all the others have been generated. In terms of the order of the figures, this points to a closer link between Arab rami and ifa than between Arab and European geomancy, where the supreme importance of Tariq (Via) has been lost.

To summarize, the rank order descends from the double or meji pairs which are the most powerful, and so occupy the first sixteen places. After them come the fifteen other variations of Ogbe, then the fifteen variations of Qyqku, and so on down to the variations of Ofun, completing the 256 paired odu.

To return to the modus operandi, one of these odu will be generated by either the nuts or the chain and then drawn on the divining tray.


This tray is flat and usually circular, or sometimes rectangular, ranging from about six to eighteen inches in width. The outer edge is carved in a variety of geometric designs or representations of human and animal forms in low relief, and often numbering four or sixteen (obvious key numbers in ifa divination). The raised edged of the tray must have at least one stylized face representing Eshu (the equivalent of Legba in the Fa divination of Dahomey), which is placed opposite to, and facing the diviner, so that he can address his questions to Eshu, who conveys

Ifa's answers. Virtually all trays are made of wood, with the occasional quartz or brass tray being made for special occasions. The figures of Ifa are marked on the tray in a powder (iyqrosun) which is scattered on its surface. This probably comes from Baphia nitida, the camwood or irosun tree, and is actually the dust made from the wood termites. When some is needed, the diviner takes a termite-infested piece of irosun wood, pounds it to knock out the dust, panning it on the divining tray so that larger bits of wood can be removed. Although iyqrosun is preferred, the kind of wood does not matter as much as the fact that the dust is made by termites.

Wyndham and Price7 refer to the use of sand on the divining tray in Ifq instead of termite powder, paralleling closely the sand which is basic to Islamic rami. Whatever substance is used, it is not merely considered as a convenient marking device, but part of the magic of Ifa, an assurance of a correct answer. In fact, 'dust' in Arabic, afar, is probably the origin of the name of the god Ifa.

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