The Coming of the Ifa Oracle

Once upon a time long, long ago, the gods were very hungry .Their sons wandering about the face of the earth , did not give them enough to eat. The gods were also discontented and quarrelled with each other. Some gods went out hunting. Others, particularly Olokun, the god of the sea, went out fishing. But, though they brought back an antelope and a fish, this was not sufficient to sate their appetite for long. The gods had been forgotten by their offspring, and wondered how they could get men to feed them again. Men no longer made burnt offerings, and so they suffered from hunger.

Edshu set out. He first consulted Yemoja. He asked her for something whim would enable him to win back men's favour. Yemoja said: You will have no success. Sopona (Smallpox) has scourged men with illness, but they do not come and make sacrifices to him. He will kill all men, but they will not bringĀ  him any food. Shango sent men lightning. He killed men. But men do not trouble about him, they die and make no sacrifices to him. So you hadĀ  better try something else. Men are not afraid of death. Give them something that is so good that they will long for it enough to want to stay alive.

Edshu went on his way. What I did not get from Yemoja I will get from Orungan, he said to himself. He went to Orungan. Orungan said: I know why you have come. The sixteen gods are hungry. The sixteen gods must be given something that delights them. I know something of the kind. There is a great thing that consists of sixteen palm kernels. If you acquire the sixteen palm kernels and learn to understand what they say, you will be able to win men back again.

Edshu went to a place where there were palm trees. The monkeys gave him sixteen palm kernels. Edshu looked at the sixteen palm kernels, but did not know what to do with them. The monkeys said to him: Edshu, you do not know what to do with the palm kernels? Let us give you a piece of advice. You acquired the sixteen palm kernels by stealth, now go about the world and enquire everywhere about their meaning. You must go to sixteen places to find out what the sixteen palm kernels mean. At each of the sixteen places you will learn sixteen maxims. After a year you must be able to understand sixteen times sixteen maxims. Then return to the sixteen gods. Teach them your knowledge and then men will learn to fear you again. Edshu did as he was bidden. He went to the sixteen places, and then returned to heaven.