The Obi is a simpler form of divination created by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Ghana, Togo and Benin.
This practice is no longer just practiced by in their own tradition, which is one of the oldest in the world by the way. But it’s also practiced by Santeros, or adherents of Lukumi (Santeria). Lukumi is a syncreticism of the Yoruba tradition (Ifá) with Catholicism that took place during the slave trade. Although Santeros practice Obi, they don’t practice it identically to how the Yoruba do.
The Obi is a simple divination system in practice, where the reader casts 4 kola nut halves (Obi means Kola nut) and observes how they lay-out (face up, or face down etc..). When consulting the Obi one asks yes or no questions, and you can receive at least 5 different responses. The responses will reaffirm or negate at varying degrees. Sometimes it will ask you to start over again. However, there are more than 5 different results as the system can become quite sophisticated and dimensional if one chooses to truly delve into the practice whole-heartedly.
To make it easy, instead of thinking of nuts, think of coins. You first put the Kola nuts in your palmed hands you breath into them while thinking of your question. In Ifá and Lukumi, breath is regarded as sacred. You then continue to toss the nuts and observe how they fall (face-up vs face-down etc…)
> Alafia (all 4 face-up) it means that you have the blessing and you’re question is positively affirmed.
> Etawa (Spanish: Itagua) (3 up, 1 down) it means “Maybe”, it means that the question needs to be reformulated. After reformulating the question you then toss the coins again. If you get any of the first 3 listed above on the list: Alafia, Itagua, Eyeife, it means that it’s an affirmation. If you get any of the bottom two on the list, it’s a negation.
> Ejife (Span: Eyeife) (2 up, 2 down) it means an attentive yes. As the middle outcome it represents the perfect balance between experience and blessings, therefore it’s a yes with the condition of caution. Once you get the answer no more questions can be asked, it’s said to piss off the deity/Orisha Obi himself.
> Okana (1 up, 3 down) means an firm negative. It means that there are things the one asking the question has to do before attaining the blessing of what they’re looking to get.
> Oyekun (all 4 face-down) is a strong no and is also a whole other ordeal on its own. It’s believed that one gets this result when they are in need of a spiritual cleansing. This result is affiliated with Eggun and is considered dark (not evil). Sometimes this result means that the dead want a favor from you.
The major difference between how the Yoruba and how the Santeros practice it, are two. 1. in Ifá it’s held that anyone can practice this simple system of divination, it’s a birthright. The Santeros on the contrary require one to at least be a Aborisha (formally baptized person) to cast the Obi. 2. Obi means Kola nut which obviously relates to how the tools used are the Kola nuts. However in Cuba they didn’t have Kola nuts so instead they use 4 cut cowry shells, or 4 pieces of coconut instead. Its actually for this reason that they’ve call it “Dar coco” which in Spanish translates to “Give coconut”.
I’ve published this post for a couple of reasons. 1. Faiths originating in the lands of those of colour is constantly demonized. It’s amazing how Europeans can look at awe at their Etruscan, Hellenic, Norse etc.. Gods with such awe, while Voudou, Santeria, Palo and various forms of shamanism is looked down upon as diabolical. 2. I posted this because I think it’s handy and practical, essentially you need 4 even weighted objects and you can divine through 5 easy answers (at the base level). And my 3rd and last reason being because it’s almost secular. Obi is the simplest of the Yoruba divination systems and as it’s a common/secular in nature, it makes sense that one wouldn’t need an initiation.
There are 2 other systems of Yoruba divination. After Obi comes the Diloggun which means “20 minus 4” since it’s how the number 16 is expressed in word. This is attributed to the 16 cowry shells that are used. Santeria Priests (Olorishas) and Yoruba priests (Babaorisha masc., Iyaorisha fem.) . The last system, the Ifa is exclusively used by the Babalawo, a priest of Orunla, the Orisha of divination himself. In Lukumi only men can be come Babalawos, in Ifá women can hold the same position by the title of Iyalawo. Baba means father, Iya means mother.
This right here is a pic of the Kola Nut or Obi, which I just realized I haven’t shown a picture of.