Orí - the kingdom of destiny
The Yoruba celebrate the three foundational principles of life: the Òrìṣà, the Orí, and the ancestors.
Orí is the principle that is most accessible to all of us because it is an inherent part of all living beings. This text aims to help us comprehend the fact that the mutual interdependence of everything that exists in nature is a prerequisite for maintaining the natural harmony. Every single thing that exists in nature has its own distinct purpose and meaning, but it needs another expression of nature to fully realize its potential and be of service. Water, for instance, would exist aimlessly without the plants and the soil that absorb it or without animals and humans who use it to drink and bathe and whose body mass is made largely out of it. All of the expressions of nature are highly dynamic, each in its own distinct way, but none exists solely for its own good. The Supreme God, the Òrìṣà, the time, the space, animals, plants, countries, etc. have their own Orí as well. To begin with, we shall examine the human Orí, which is the closest to us because, symbolically speaking, it rests on our own shoulders.
1. THE HUMAN ORÍ
The Orí, the royal essence of a being, is a personal deity and the seat of Àṣẹ that guides, directs and helps a certain being from the moment of birth, throughout the duration of life and even after death.
The literal translation of the term Orí is the head (in relation to the body), which is the highest symbol of Orí inú, the inner head.
The symbols of Orí are our head and our identity. The Orí is an amalgamation of the soul, the mind, the essence, the personality, character traits and all of the emotions that a person experiences; it is what forms our mode of operation.
The deities are called the Òrìṣà, which means: the original source of all the Orí.
The Orí is a partially independent entity and is regarded as a deity in and of itself. It is celebrated just like other deities; offerings are made in its name and pleas are addressed to it. Whenever Orí inú is well positioned, a person lives in favourable circumstances.
In its role of a personal deity, Orí is actively working for the benefit of its worshipper, even more so than any other divinity. We may, therefore, safely conclude that Orí is the most important deity in the Yoruba pantheon because, in spite of the efforts on behalf of other deities to help a certain individual, any kind of progress is always dependent upon Orí’s support and approval. If Orí is not supportive of a person’s best interests, other deities are utterly powerless. Even if the Supreme God Elédùnmarè or the Òrìṣà desire to help a certain person, they are only able to do so after the person’s Orí grants a permission.
Orí includes both the good and the bad and encapsulates all of the possible ways in which our life could unfold. A strong and efficient Orí is responsible for all the positive things that happen in our life. Alternatively, if an Orí is weak, it is precisely because of its weakness that bad things befall us.
Our own Orí is both our greatest friend and the most formidable enemy. It is the source of our problems and solutions.
2. ORÍ AND DESTINY
What is generally understood as “destiny” is divided into two separate concepts in the Yoruba philosophy:
- PREDESTINY encapsulates all of the things we bring into this world that had been determined in ọ̀run, such as gender, race, and nationality. Theoretically, these are the only constants in our life that remain unchanged. As the foundations of this ancient philosophy were being laid, people did not have the option of undergoing a sexual reassignment surgery or using hormones to alter their skin colour – even in this day and age, such procedures are quite rare. With regards to nationality, the fact is that we always retain the one we were born with, even if we move halfway across the world and acquire a citizenship of another state. Therefore, predestiny is the fixed aspect.
- DESTINY, on the other hand, is the flexible aspect that is entirely dependent upon our own activity. We may be born to succeed, but are extremely lazy. Alternatively, we may inherit distinctly negative characteristics from our ancestors; however, it is entirely up to us whether we choose to be spiritually active and remedy those deficiencies or complain incessantly throughout the duration of our lives. We may accept unfavourable reality as a fact of life and do our best to make a “career” out of the things we inherited. The crucial fact is that regardless of what we are meant to become, it is completely up to us to determine what will come true in the end. What shapes our destiny are our efforts, our action, all the things we do in life. In spite of the factors that are preordained as part of our destiny, if we pull into the opposite direction, if we are inactive or do our best to prevent things from happening, our destiny will have no way of realizing itself.
We must cherish our Orí and take good care of it to ensure that our destiny is activated and all the things that are meant for us come to be. In this way, we are able to improve and build on the positive aspects of our destiny.
3. ORÍ AND TIME
The Orí and human destiny are closely related to time. Destiny equals reality. The things that are a part of our destiny are the things that we are supposed to experience over the course of our lifetime. It is very important to maintain and worship our Orí and to communicate with it effectively so that we eventually find ourselves in the right place at the right time and our destiny unfolds in the most positive way. This is how humans may obtain better control over their own lives. By curtailing our impulsiveness and keeping our intolerance in check, we inevitably gain more control over what is happening to us. People who truly respect, maintain, and cherish their own Orí will never suffer from a lack of balance in life; they will inevitably be very harmonious individuals. The process of cherishing the Orí includes a constant nurturing of one’s own spiritual energy.
Certain things are beyond human control, but that is not to say we are powerless; if we want to actively participate in shaping our destiny, we simply must change certain things. This could relate to our way of thinking, the way of experiencing everyday occurrences, the environment we live in, or something else entirely.
4. WHY CHERISH THE ORÍ?
We cherish our Orí to obtain the following qualities:
– self-control and alertness, which enable us to take total control over our own lives and fight against all of the forces that we find detrimental to our spiritual, physical, or any other kind of development. We could say that once we obtain the two qualities, we are wide awake and that this awareness serves as a constant impetus to live our life to the fullest.
– spiritual equilibrium, which enables us to recognize the right direction and choose the right path in life. When speaking of walking down the path of life, we inevitably delve into an extremely important topic – the synchronization of our Orí with our feet and our hands. Let’s examine the potential of Orí, ọwọ (hands), and ẹsẹ (feet).
Someone may have a strong Orí that is not synchronized with the feet. Conversely, someone may have strong feet, but their Orí is unable to keep in step. And then there are those who have both strong feet and a strong Orí; however, they fail to spring into action at the right time. In various rituals, the Orí, ọwọ, and ẹsẹ are marked with the aim of harmonizing the wishes of the soul with the mind, the reason (head), the action (hands), and the direction in life (feet).
5. THE WAYS OF WORSHIPPING THE ORÍ
In the Òrìṣà philosophy, the following fact is highly significant:
We all have an Orí and no one’s destiny is pitiable or pathetic. However, the lack of ability to turn one’s life for the better is very real. This is a skill that can be improved. We must literally train our brain to alter our perception, our way of thinking, our understanding, our vision of life. We must strive to be able to perceive positive aspects and direct our efforts at achieving favourable things. In other words, we must actively work to make ourselves happy. Still, we must always bear in mind the fact that regardless of how hard someone is trying, there is no guarantee that their achievements will be on par with someone else’s.
A) Practical procedures anyone can use to worship their Orí
• The first and fundamental procedure involves the everyday head hygiene. A morning shower, where water pours over our Orí, is highly rejuvenating, while the evening procedure cleanses our energy of all the impurities that we have received from the outside and alleviates the tension that has accumulated in our head over the course of the day. It is equally important to keep our Orí neatly combed.
• We use our hands to gently hug our Orí and then say a prayer with utmost love, trust, and determination:
You are the source of my good luck,
I will hug my supreme energy
so that it will enrich my life with all the good luck I dream about.
Alternatively, we may compile our own prayer in English. The most important thing is that it is said loudly, with loving determination and motivation, and that it includes instructions with regards to the things we want to achieve in order to have a great day: patience, tolerance, acceptance of diversity, peace, allowing oneself to live differently, focusing on one’s own life, etc.
• Meditation: take a minute to imagine something marvellous that you want to achieve in life as well as something you want to avoid. In your mind, make a physical step (create motion) towards the thing you want (progress, a job, etc.) while completely avoiding the thing you do not want. After a certain amount of time, you will feel light as a feather. Imagining the things we want to achieve in life must become our daily ritual, our prayer. How do I want to lead my everyday life, what are my conflicts and problems? If we fail to answer these questions on a daily basis, it is impossible to have an impeccable Orí. Our soul and our mind are intended for creativity. As we create, we send a message to our Orí, and after a clear goal is set, Orí can help us achieve it. The crucial thing is to set a task for our Orí so that it can direct us to a good place in life and enable us to experience positive things.
• We must also take physical care of the Orí: never allow anyone to touch this symbol in any way. We should regularly caress our own Orí, but must never allow others to do the same. It is best to prevent others from touching us because we never know what are they carrying in their hands, what kind of problems they are facing, what kind of neuroses they are hiding inside, or what negative energies they possess. And once they touch our Orí, they inevitably transfer their energy onto us. The Orí is the strongest yet also the weakest part of our body.
B) Ceremonial methods of worshipping the Orí
The bọrí ritual (an ẹbọ = spiritual cleansing, an ẹbọ for Orí = bọrí) is the most complex method that includes certain procedures performed by trained priests. This is the ritual used to nourish and honour our personal deity with the aim of ensuring that it will treat us kindly. By undergoing this ritual, we make sure that our Orí, our personal deity, is present, attentive and constantly at our disposal, thus enabling us to lead a spiritually balanced life.
The bọrí ritual is aimed at revitalizing personal energy. Our energy is self-replenishing; however, since we are drifting further and further away from naturally replenishing sources and spend more and more time in stressful circumstances, we inevitably get drained. Imagine spending all day and every day expending your energy on solving a business crisis, fighting with your partner, screaming at a neighbour who parked in your courtyard, spreading salacious gossip about a married colleague who has found herself a lover, and expressing outrage over evening news. If an illness strikes, our reservoir is inevitably depleted. Because we spend all of our energy on mostly trivial things, we simply have nothing left when faced with an urgent matter. This is the ideal time to undergo the bọrí ritual, to go into nature and find the resources that revitalize us, or do something else to help us rise up to the occasion.
There are other ways of worshipping the Orí, such as ritualistic cleansing in a river, in the sea, etc. We may also worship the Orí with the aim of receiving a blessing from a certain Òrìṣà.
6. THE ORÍ OF TIME AND THE ORÍ OF SPACE
The Orí of time is expressed in nature and is, as such, represented by people, plants, animals, and minerals. Without all of these natural elements, time has no physical form. Without the changing of seasons and the alteration of dry and rainy periods, without people getting old and dying, without the plants dictating the cycles of rest, bloom, and harvest, without the alteration of day and night – how on earth would time express itself? No one would ever notice its Orí.
The Orí of space (an area, a territory) and the environment includes several other factors: the ancestors from a certain area, the ancestors that transformed a certain space into an urban environment, plants, animals, and people that inhabit that environment, minerals in the land that is partially built-up or used as a park, a meadow, a field, etc. Without this dynamics, the Orí of space has no expressive power.
All living beings have a multilateral relationship both with the Orí of time and the Orí of space; on the one hand, they shape the two and provide them with the possibility of expressing themselves, but on the other hand, the reaction of the two Orí may alter the course of destiny.
The Orí of weather incorporates all of the expressions of nature related to the weather, such as the sun, the moon, wind, rain, etc.
Humans, plants, and animals wield no influence over the Orí of weather; however, we may experience it as an irritation when hypersensitive to its effects.
7. THE ORÍ OF THE SUPREME GOD, THE COLLECTIVE ORÍ, AND THE MULTIPLIED ORÍ
With their personal Orí, all humans are inevitably a part of several collective Orí – the Orí of their family, home, country, society, the company that they manage or where they work, the association they are a member of, etc. Allow me to illustrate this with the example of an intimate partnership: the Orí of the husband and the Orí of the wife jointly form the Orí of their partnership, with each of them contributing their own portion in accordance with their personal qualities. If the wife is very successful and the husband is a failure, their partnership may be successful or not, depending on whether the husband is able to accept the fact that his wife is the source of his good luck. Alternatively, this could become a thorny issue for the husband leading him to destroy the relationship.
All human beings may also multiply their Orí by having one piece of their Orí in the child they conceive and another in some other incarnation, while a different piece is present here and now. For this reason, we may simultaneously be a venerable ancestor and someone who has been reincarnated. An example: France Prešeren is a venerable ancestor of all poets, not just Slovenian ones. Knowing that, we could celebrate him even if he has already been reincarnated in the meantime. At the moment of reincarnation, a part that is necessary for human existence on Earth separated from his venerable Orí and literally multiplied itself. Everything is a product of multiplication, none of us was created on an individual basis. Life as a whole is based on multiplication and reproduction, and nothing is entirely new.
The Supreme God does not have an Orí of his own; however, he is multiplied in the Orí of all of us. He is visible and recognizable inside of us, and we may talk to him through other people. He is being realized everywhere, at all times and in all things. By saying “God, help me” we make a plea to the god that is present in everyone and everything. This realization is the source of boundless respect for fellow humans and nature as a whole because each and every one of us may be a carrier of a divine energy and a divine message.
Audič, J. (2014). Ori – Kraljestvo usode. Revija Oriša, 8, 8-13.