The Orisha god of foresight and hidden knowledge


Alternate Names Fa, Ifa, Orula, Orule, Orunla, Orunmilla
Pantheon The Orisha
Powers Intelligence Perception Magic Mystery Prophecy
Abilities Academics, Awareness, Command, Medicine, Occult, Survival


The second son of almighty Olodumare, Orunmila is the wisest of all the Orisha, the god of hidden knowledge, second sight and the destiny that rules the eventual fates of all men and gods. He and he alone possesses the secret knowledge of things to come, revealing it in glimpses to those diviners who use his sacred divination tools to ask for his aid. He grants this enlightenment only to the worthy, working in concert with Eshu to deliver the divine to mortal ears, and it is to him that the other Orisha look for guidance, aid and wise advice. As the only living being who knows the secret names and forbidden words of all of creation, he is the ultimate defender against witches and other magical threats.

Orunmila and Eshu

At the beginning of the world, Orunmila held all the wisdom of the universe, but he did not know how to share it and could not help the other gods or mortals when they struggled. He searched everywhere for a way to share his knowledge until he one day met Eshu, who promised to teach him how in return for receiving a portion of all the sacrifices made to Orunmila’s diviners. Orunmila agreed and Eshu instructed him to fetch palm nuts from the trees and sand from the ground; when he had done so, Eshu taught him the art of divination, so that he could pass it on to mortals who could use it to call on his wisdom. Orunmila was overjoyed and declared that he and Eshu would never be parted, and from that time forward one could never be called upon without the other.

Orunmila and the Stolen Fruit

Once when Orunmila was traveling from place to place to perform divinations, he found himself thirsty and hungry on the road and took a fruit from a nearby tree to satisfy himself. The owner of the tree, however, saw him and attacked him, believing him to be a common thief. Orunmila escaped, but his palm was cut open in the struggle, and the man went at once to the king to demand that all the men in the city have their palms examined to discover the thief. Orunmila, afraid that he would be caught, went at once to Eshu’s shrine and made double the normal sacrifice to call down his friend for help. Eshu, pleased, then took a knife and in the dead of night cut the palms of every single person in the town. In the morning, the king was unable to identify any thief because everyone was identically marked; Orunmila then rose up and demanded recompense from the king for the unjust treatment everyone had received and was hailed as a hero.

Orunmila and Iwa

Orunmila was married to Iwa, the goddess of integrity, who was very beautiful and faithful but who had no children of her own. While he was away, she went to a diviner to ask what to do, and was told that the only way she could have a child was to go to a faraway kingdom and marry the king there. At once, she traveled far away and married the king and immediately gave birth to a son, but Orunmila, who could hear all divinations, knew where she had gone and pursued her to bring her home. When Iwa saw him coming, she was afraid and ran away again, escaping to another kingdom where she again married the local king and bore him a son. Orunmila continued to follow her and she escaped to finally wed the god Orungan, but as soon as she had done so, her former husband arrived at the palace. Orungan prepared to fight for Iwa, but Orunmila calmed him and explained that he had not come to take her away. He loved her too much to be far from her, he said, and therefore would follow her wherever she went; realizing that they could not escape the god of wisdom, Orungan made a room for him in his palace so that Orunmila could live near Iwa even though she had become another man’s wife.

Orunmila and Oshun

It happened that one day Olodumare called all the orisha to come attend a great feast, but on their way to heaven they were waylaid by a pack of bloodthirsty cannibalistic witches, who used their dark magic to capture and devour the helpless gods. Orunmila, who had foreseen this calamity, ran at once to the camp of the cannibals, where he met the goddess Oshun who was planning to escape. He bade her help him and hid inside a drum; when the cannibals returned, Oshun pretended to have captured and cooked him for them, and offered them some roasted goat as a decoy. The cannibals were fooled and fell asleep after devouring the goat, and Orunmila and Oshun were able to escape together. Orunmila was so grateful to Oshun that he rewarded her by becoming her husband, and he crafted for her a system of divination of her own, used only by her worshipers, as a wedding gift.

Orunmila and the Elephant

One day, Orunmila decided to plumb all the secrets of the long-lived elephant by entering his anus. The elephant attempted to flee, but Orunmila caught up to him and crawled into him from behind. Orunmila’s disciples were worried when he didn’t re-emerge after several days and at a loss as to what to do with the elephant, so they called upon Ogun and Oshosi to come help them. The two gods cut the elephant into pieces, but to everyone’s surprise, Orunmila was no longer inside it, and instead they found a divining tray and sixteen palm nuts that could help foretell the future. Orunmila had vanished and gone to live permanently in heaven, but he had left behind the tools of divination to help struggling mankind.

Orunmila and his Worshipers

Orunmila went one day to test his worshipers’ wisdom by coming among them; they were frightened of the god’s presence and attempted to hide from him, but he called them out and posed them many questions. They were not able to answer all the questions to his satisfaction, some giving wrong answers while others answered too simply; irritated, Orunmila lifted his right hand and commanded two hundred people to fall, and then did the same with his left. Four hundred of his worshipers died instantly, and the rest, terrified, pledged to acquire more knowledge to use in the service of his worship. Appeased, Orunmila lowered first one hand and then the other, and the four hundred dead men came back to life and stood. From that time forward, no mortal has ever dared question Orunmila’s wisdom or instructions again.


God-Touched Nut_Meg