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Session 216: Practicing African Traditional Religions

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

In Session 210, we talked with Dr. Dianne Stewart about the principles and themes that underlie many African traditional religions and we promised you a part 2 of that conversation to learn more about the practice of these religions. To help us dig into this topic, today I’m excited that we’re joined by Ehime Ora. Ehime and I chatted about her personal journey to being an Ifa and Orisha priestess, where to start if you’re a beginner in these practices, how technology and social media have made it easier to teach others about these traditions, and how practicing African traditional religions can work in tandem with Christianity, Islam, and other faith practices.


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Session 216: Practicing African Traditional Religions

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 216 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get into the episode right after a word from our sponsors.


Dr. Joy: In session 210, we talked with Dr. Dianne Stewart about the principles and themes that underlie many African traditional religions, and we promised you a part two of that conversation to learn more about the practice of these religions. To help us dig into this topic, today I'm excited that we're joined by Ehime Ora. Ehime is a Nigerian wordsmith and priestess of the Ifa and Orisha tradition. She is grounded in her purpose of reconnecting others back to themselves as an educator of African spirituality and holistic wellness.

Ehime and I chatted about her personal journey to being a priestess, where to start if you're a beginner in these practices, how technology and social media have made it easier to teach others about these traditions, and how practicing African traditional religions can work in tandem with Christianity, Islam and other faith practices. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining us today, Ehime.

Ehime: Of course, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate, I’m a huge fan.

Dr. Joy: Thank you. Likewise. I wonder if you can start by just telling us a little bit more about who you are and how you got started in your practice.

Ehime: My name is a Ehime Ora, also known as Iya Ifawole Sangodosu Erinfunto Adeola–long name, right? I’m an Ifa and Orisha priestess, I'm initiated into the societies of Ifa, Sango and Erinle. I am Nigerian, I was born in Nigeria in Ibadan City. I immigrated to a small little town in Florida when I was around four years old. Even though I was disconnected from like my roots and my traditions, my mother was really the one responsible for keeping things alive for me. She would be the one telling me stories of our ancestors, she would be always the one telling me about Sango before who I even knew Sango was. I wasn't even privy to that.

Like at a school night, she would always tell amazing stories. And you know, Nigerian moms are very dramatic so she would always be in the movement, in the voice raise, and I’d just be sitting there like, oh my god, it is so amazing. So through her and through her being very deliberate in connecting me with our ancestors, (as we are kind of forced to assimilate as immigrants) I've been able to keep that connection as I grew into my spirituality organically. As I found my elders, as I was able to reach back. It was really through the help of my mother doing what she could, you know, so that's definitely the foundational part for me in my practice.

Dr. Joy: When you say that your mother kind of kept those traditions alive through storytelling, were there like practices or spiritual practices that you grew up with, kind of in your home? Or did you kind of discover that later in life?

Ehime: My mother is always very connected to her tradition. Her group, her ethnic group that we come from, the Delta River and the Yoruba people, and she would always... Especially when it comes to like liquor, my mom would always have liquor in her house because liquor to her was attached to wealth and abundance. And even the way that we would offer liquor in our household is something that is traditionally rooted to our ancestors. Like the youngest person would take the liquor and they would pass it around the party and the youngest person would be giving the liquor to the elder and then they would pour some out for the ancestors, which is what the diaspora does too *[inaudible 0:06:08] the home base and everything. That connection then is definitely what I kind of grew up in.

My mother, she wasn't spiritually blind but she also was very aware of, you know. You were already black, then you're an immigrant, so also practicing indigenous spirituality will make you more targeted than anything else. So she definitely adopted Christianity and she definitely grew us in a Christian home because, to her, being Christian in this new land that we're all foreign to meant to be able to survive. So her ability to connect us through storytelling was her one way of being able to fight back against having to assimilate, against having to be in this oppressed state while raising us–me and my brothers.

Dr. Joy: Got it. So this was something that only as you got older did you recognize like, wow, this storytelling is connected to something much bigger.

Ehime: Exactly. It was really the connection because my mom has a very strong voice. And she would always say, when I was a child and I didn't really understand, she would always say, “If I use my words to curse you, the ancestors will hear.” And only until I had gotten older did I realize, oh, my mama said so many things at once with that one statement.

Dr. Joy: Can you tell us a little bit about the differences between what we describe as like spiritual practice versus maybe an organized kind of a religion.

Ehime: I think it's very easy to say that Ifa is spiritual tradition, which it is. That is kind of true, it is spirituality. But Ifa and the Orisha tradition is specified on culture and it's specified on organized hierarchical religious practice. And I say this because we have things like the Araba Agbaye in the Ifa and Orisha tradition, which is the head priest of Ifa on earth, and below him are 16 chiefs. So you have these hierarchical practice already happening within the Ifa tradition as a whole to keep things going and to keep things more organized and disciplined. And below these people, you have certain chiefs or certain arabas in their own villages, in their own tribal groups. So these things are kind of divided in order to keep things in order.

Because when you have things like, just referencing New Age spirituality, you get things to be in a way watered down. New Age spirituality, although it's a platform, it's a place where a lot of people, especially black people, are able to connect to something outside of Christianity. New Age spirituality also holds in, almost simplifying traditional practices, traditional roots, traditional spirituality of indigenous cultures, and it kind of creates a lot of misinformation.

And when you're being misinformed of things that are connected to something as massive as the Orisha practice, you become very vulnerable to people who are not practicing the tradition with integrity or even to certain things that you're not supposed to be doing, because of the lack of hierarchy. The Ifa and Orisha tradition is something that is very much connected to eldership and mentorship. You would be surrounded by your elders in the compound, helping them, being able to understand the religion and being able to understand all the philosophy and the culture in it because you're around it. Does that make sense? So it definitely is like an apprenticeship that's happening and why the Ifa and Orisha tradition is able to survive while still being an oral religion. It's an oral religious practice–there are no books, you know what I'm saying?

There are no books that are going to really be able to tell you the full potency of Ifa and this is something that kind of takes me back to this book called Socrates and Orunmila by Sophie Oluwole, I believe. And she was a Nigerian philosopher and she was so smart. Her books are so incredible, they open you to a different way of philosophy in a continental sense. And in that book, she was saying what's the difference between Socrates and Orunmila? Because those two didn't write anything, yet Socrates is considered to be the champion of philosophy while Orunmila, he is the holder of the Ifa oracle which is philosophy and wisdom. They are two fathers of wisdom yet one is seen as more credible when it talks to oral culture or oral wisdom. It’s a really interesting book and I definitely recommend that.

Dr. Joy: Okay, thank you for that. I think we had a conversation with Dr. Stewart recently on the podcast more about like the theory behind some of the African traditional religions and it is something that a lot of people are interested in. And it sounds like you kind of got some of this kind of through your mother and kind of growing up with that storytelling, but I think a lot of people just feel really confused as to where to start. How do I know like which traditions feel like the best alignment for me? So can you give some tips for people who, like maybe you’re figuring out, okay, I want to maybe start learning more about this but do I know if it's Ifa or Orisha or something else? Like where do people get started?

Ehime: I always recommend that people get started back to their roots, where they come from. Ancestral veneration is the foundation of all diasporic and continental spiritual practices. Without your ancestors, you're not going to be able to have the foundation needed to be able to work with other spirits. You'll be even more in a vulnerable position because you don't even know if your ancestors want you to practice these certain things, if these things are even aligned with your destiny, you know what I'm saying?

As an Ifa and Orisha priest, there are so many people who come across me who I can tell that their ancestors don't want them to practice Ifa and Orisha. But using platforms or using the connection with African spirituality, it's being able to guide them into, okay, maybe Hoodoo would be beneficial for you or Haitian Vodou and things like that. But that's how you're going to be able to really be able to understand this, through ancestral veneration. And working back with your ancestors on the altar space, which is really the foundational connection between you and your ancestors in that physical space residing in your home. So they’re able to protect you and your space and to be able to grow with you.

And it doesn't need to be the most extra dramatic thing starting out. Simple candles, a bowl of water, you know, nice little white blanket–that's it. That's all you really need to do to start to grow your connection with your ancestors. And being able to understand that your ancestors are not going to be communicating in the same way as somebody else. Maybe other people can hear or see them but maybe you can have all of these intense dreams with them. You are in the dream world and you're connecting with them in that way. Or maybe they're showing you symbols, maybe the bird that you see outside is that.

There are ways that you're going to be able to be like “those are my people,” you know what I'm saying? And it's going to be unique and it's going to be even the most refreshing thing because the ancestors go with you wherever you go. So even if they don't want you to go with Ifa, like if you attempt to walk in that, they can't just be like, okay, we're disconnected now. So it's so important to be in a group effort, to be able to be like, okay, this is what benefits all of us, so you can see their work happening to you in real time.

Dr. Joy: You mentioned that ancestral veneration is kind of like the basics, so that is building your altar. You've already given us some like very basic tips like a little table, white tablecloth, white towel, a candle. You mentioned something else–water.

Ehime: Tap water. Yeah, water is acting like a bridge into the spiritual worlds so it's going to really act as a purifier. It's not necessarily like a drink offering. You can get them water if you want to, but the water is gonna be like a telephone line, making things clear as possible for you to the other side. The fire is representing passion, the heart, the strength, being able to have your ancestors see you, hear you, feel you in a way where it's heavy. It kind of gives them almost like the heart or the fire–the spark for the altar space.

And the white is just giving cleanliness, purity. Like connects us to, for an example, Obatala who is the orisha of white cloth. Being able to have spiritual tranquility, serenity, and being able to not feel so absorbed by a lot of the spiritual heaviness that's happening. Because the altar space is going to be spiritually active when you're working with your ancestors so starting out with something white and cloth would definitely be beneficial for the beginner. And I always just recommend like some earth as well to keep things grounded into the earthly plane. Which is like flowers or crystals or stones or anything that connects you to Mother Earth.

Dr. Joy: Okay. And so the purpose of setting up this altar in your home is really kind of just like opening this pathway to your ancestors so that there can be an establishing of that relationship, so that they do come to you either in dreams or messages or symbols or, you know, it's kind of like letting the ancestors know “I'm open to this.”

Ehime: And to me, the altar space really is just a physical place where you're able to connect. Like a communication spot between you and your ancestors because they're already within you. And Ifa, Ifa tells us that the ancestors reside in our body, and particularly our feet, specifically your left toe of the foot. So being able, wherever you walk, you're walking with your ancestors. It's definitely a literal thing when we say the ancestors walk with us. But the altar space is just a good physical communication spot between you and your people where you can be able to greet them in the morning and being able to say this is the intentional place where I lay offerings, where I do prayer, but I'm also going to acknowledge you outside of that. It should be less of a super focus on the altar space and more so about creating intentional time with your people.

Dr. Joy: Got it. And the altar is just a reminder of it.

Ehime: Exactly, definitely.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Thank you for that. More from my conversation with Ehime after the break.


Dr. Joy: You’ve already mentioned that there are no real books, like the tradition is more oral, but it feels like a lot of people are now getting this information through social media. Like you use your platform to share more in the interest of educating people, we see people on TikTok and on Instagram kind of sharing these different things. And I would imagine that there are some benefits to the information being shared there but I would also imagine there are some limitations. Can you talk a little bit about both the benefits and the limitations to people kind of learning about this information through social media?

Ehime: Yeah. I think the benefits is being able to demystify the tradition, being able to be like, okay, this is something that is actually still being practiced now. Because, you know, if you go into museums, you will see Ifa and Orisha like spiritual tools inside the museums, almost making it feel ancient, almost making it feel like tradition has left us. But no, people are still venerating the orishas even on the continent to this day. People are still having festivals, venerating the orishas till this day, it’s still very active, still very alive.

And because Ifa to me is like the sentient living being that understands the cosmos and understands the world (because that's what Ifa is–it represents being able to see and recognize the wisdom of the entire universe within this algorithm code, just very mathematical.) But Ifa being able to be so aware, it knows that the next move is going to be on the internet. I always make this joke with my friends, my Ifa friends, and be like, oh, Ifa is on Wi Fi now. Because Ifa understands, you know, like the Orisha is on Wi Fi because the way that it's going to see like, okay, people are wanting answers. Especially during the pandemic, especially when we were initially in the pandemic last year and everyone was just like, so what now? And people had the space and the ability to be like, you know what? My faith is changing. What I'm believing is changing and I'm looking for information to connect me back to myself. And then Ifa pops up, like, okay, so let's go on the internet now. Let's educate the people in this way.

Ifa is traditional but what I also want people to understand is traditional doesn't always mean stagnant in time. It can be updating, it can flow, it can be adjusted, especially by the people who are holding the tradition. That they are going to be the people responsible in updating things and making things more accommodating for everyone. Because what Ifa doesn't like us to do is to be soap box preachers and trying to convert people into the Ifa and Orisha tradition. In the ordu, it says do not convert. You don't need to convert anyone to Ifa, you just need to talk about Ifa. The orisha always says as much as you talk about Ifa, the orisha will bless you because you're talking about them, you're bragging on them. Very Nigeria thing, too. Arrogant like the orisha, you know what I’m saying?

And it’s just so fun to me to talk about it because though Ifa and Orisha is something that's outside of their own culture and what they grew up in, and to be able to think differently because Ifa tradition relies on self-actualization, the ability to change yourself. Ifa relies on self-accountability. In order for you to see blessings in your life, you must change. The most important sacrifice that you can give is your character. It doesn't matter how many offerings you lay to the orisha, if your own behavior does not alter, it's going to be hard for you to see new beginnings, to see change happening in your life.

So being able to have that accountability, being able to be like, okay, maybe I'm the problem here, and changing that is what I love the most about Ifa because you really cannot blame anybody but yourself. That's why the most powerful orisha is the ori which is your higher self, living within your head. It is the most powerful orisha, being able to overpower them, all of them combined. So if your own ori does not want you to do something, it's going to be hard for you to accomplish those tasks. Like they always say, before you go to the orisha, you must always go to your own ori first. The creator gave you your ori to be god on earth, to be able to go to things that make you feel good, that resonate with your spirit. Which is why not everyone needs to practice the Ifa and Orisha tradition because they already have their own ori and their own ori *[inaudible 0:23:22], you know.

Dr. Joy: Got it.

Ehime: I guess the facts of sharing online is it doesn't always reach the right people. Not everyone wants to learn. We are still battling, even in tradition, in being able to pull away ourselves from people in our Christian backgrounds saying that we're demonic or that we are venerating things that are demons or the devil, etc. Like even the most dynamic orisha in the Ifa tradition called Eshu. Eshu is the messenger between two worlds, he is probably one of the most important orishas and his name translates to the devil because of missionaries and their Christianity influence and the colonialism over Nigeria. So there are priests in the continent trying to rip away this orishas tied to, you know... in the demonic influences.

But I just feel like that's the hugest thing. That's the most biggest thing, is being able to tell people that things that they don't understand, you don't need to connect that to something evil. You don't need to connect that to something demonic. Education is the most important thing. Being able to be educated, being able to understand someone before you say something, before you even curse what your ancestors came from. Our ancestors traditionally weren't practicing Christianity or Islam–they were practicing their traditional beliefs. And being able to hold space for that, especially the people that come from that, is I think the most important thing. Having integrity there, you know.

Dr. Joy: That's a perfect kind of segue to my next question which is, do you think that the practice of more African traditional religions can coexist with someone also practicing like Christianity or Islam?

Ehime: Yes, definitely. Because there's a difference between doing Ifa and Orisha work and being an initiate in those traditions. There's many ordus, many verses within Ifa about how the king who practiced Islam would go to the priest and get work done. Those things can coexist simultaneously if people allow them to coexist simultaneously. The word in Ifa does not go against Christianity or Islam in any sense. It's people that decide whether they want to be against something or not. So even like the divination of the year that was conducted for the entire world in 2020 said that it's very important for everyone to live in harmony with their religion, to not discriminate against people who are of different religious backgrounds.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Can you tell me more about the distinction between doing the work, you said, of Ifa or Orisha and being initiated? What does that mean?

Ehime: When I say Ifa and Orisha work, I mean like let's say you are seeking a divination from a priest. So you will go to the priest’s house, you'll sit on the priest’s floor and the priest will do a Ikin Ifa, he will do Dafa Ifa divination for you. And what the priest tells you, like, oh, you need to do ebo (which is sacrifice). We need to sacrifice certain things which can be certain animals or it can be certain character behavior traits. Or it could be warning you of something. That is doing Ifa and Orisha work because you're taking the prescriptions. That's what's being given to you.

Ifa is like going to the doctor. It's gonna be literally a medical doctor because that's what a priest is, being able to see your spiritual health and how to give you good health. Good health in your money, in your love life and your achievements and your destiny, to keep you aligned. But he's also going to offer you medication, which is your prescriptions, what you should be doing. Maybe you should change your behavior, maybe you should not be drinking liquor for the next 16 days, maybe you should do sacrifice with all this animal materials to give you good health on your path. That’s spiritual work, that's Ifa work. Anyone can do Ifa work.

But to become the priest that tells us what the client is doing, that's what an initiate is going to be doing. The one that is actually doing the work, that's studying under the elder, that's learning all the philosophy, is going to be the initiate.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Okay. And so what can you see people who are like new in the practice of some of this work–like what are the common things that you kind of see come up for people when they are new, kind of practicing this work?

Ehime: I think the most common thing that I get from people who are interested in the work is which orisha guards my head? I get that question a lot and it's very interesting. For me personally, I have to give the most thorough response to that question because it's not just a simple yes or no or simple small question to me. Because it's a whole lifestyle change, really. Because when you ask me the orisha (that) guards your head, what I'm going to tell you is all of them guard your head. Because the orisha, the purpose of the orisha is to assist humanity so they're all going to be working in your life in individual ways because that's what their role is on this earth.

And it's less about the concept of being a child of the orisha and more so about, what are you going to do with that information? Because it doesn't really help you to know that answer without saying that you want to be a devotee or to be an initiate because that's the only way you're going to be able to use and utilize that wisdom. A priest and elder once told me that, yes, you can find the orishas in nature but to understand the wisdom and how the orisha works is going to be within their priest. Because when the initiate gets initiated into the orisha, they become that orisha on Earth. They hold all of the wisdom and the philosophies of the orisha within their body. So it's more serious to me, I guess, when you want to know that because it's nothing like astrology or being able to be like my sun is in Taurus or my moon is in Aquarius, for example. It's more so like it's a religious thing. It's a very serious thing.

And it's also very more abstract because on the continent you can be connected to an orisha because of your lineage or because of the work that you do. And maybe you are a blacksmith so you're going to get initiated into Ogun to help you with that work. So it definitely is more of a larger answer than what people are kind of expecting, which is something simple. Like to even find out the orisha that is aligned with your destiny, that is connected to you, that rose up when you were going to be incarnated on earth, it’s going to be through rites, like true initiation rites. Things that kind of devote you to the tradition.

Because if you get it from like divination, divination is highlighting your energy at this moment–which orisha is assisting you at this moment? It's not something that is always current or stuck in time. That can change at any moment but when you do rites, then you're getting into something that's a little bit more permanent. Does that make sense? Like something that... when I received my hand at Ifa, which is like a step down from initiation, it picked up on Sango and it was Sango who was with me this entire time, even though I had many divinations. I said different orishas throughout my journey before I got that devoted connection with Ifa.

Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. More for my conversation with Ehime after the break.


Dr. Joy: I'm wondering, just like we have seen more information about people sharing this kind of stuff on social media, we've also seen I think an increase in like people sharing about African traditional religions in pop culture. One of the biggest ones, I think, was probably Beyoncé in Lemonade, right? And I'm just wondering your thoughts about like sharing that in pop culture–do you feel like that helps to kind of promote the messages or do you feel like that's a hindrance?

Ehime: I feel like the orishas are very smart. They do what they think is going to be best for people to talk about them because they like when people talk about them. And Oshun definitely enjoys when people talk about her so she's like, yes, of course. Yes, Lemonade, Beyoncé and me, you know. She loves that. And I feel like you cannot... especially being in the tradition, you cannot curse how somebody finds Ifa. That's not my job. I'm not going to demonize or even hold up my nose the way that you found the orisha.

Because the way that you found Orisha is unique and sacred to your own destiny and people should hold space for those who are exploring the Orisha tradition because of Beyoncé. Because, you know, Beyoncé did what she had to do. She's doing her purpose and you have the purpose of... being an initiate, to be kind, to have Iwa pele which is good character. To be able to be like, okay, let me tell you what the truth is with this tradition because now you're interested–rather than turning people away. That's just my opinion, anyway.

Dr. Joy: Ehime, do you see more African traditional religions as a safe space or kind of like a safe haven for people in the LGBTQ community, who may have felt isolated or ostracized by Christian communities or other kinds of faith practices?

Ehime: Yes. I feel like, yes, there's so much space open for people who are like me who are queer and trying to find community. And it just boils down to the elders and what they, individual people, what they want to twist Ifa into. Ifa, there are no ordus in Ifa that I know of that speak ill of people who are queer. There are so many orishas I know of who are queer and who are in our definition of queer, who are not aligned within gender identities. Like Olokun or Erinle. Erinle, the orisha that I’m initiated into, there's different versions and different stories where wherever you go, they will be a different gender. And that, in and of itself, is queer to me.

Sango, my orisha, was known for being androgynous-looking to be able to be so beautiful. He kind of looked like a woman, like he would do his hairstyles in a way where it was deemed for a woman. That he would paint his face, that he would cross dress before he goes into battle. These are like these little implications to know that the orisha sees everybody. The orisha accepts everybody because it was the orisha that created everyone. Very carefully and very selectively before we are born, we go through this process called ori selection where we are picking out our destiny, where we are picking out who we want to be on earth.

And it's a heavy, heavy thing, a heavy process between the orisha, yourself, and the creator. We're all working on your ori to make sure you become who you want to be on Earth. You're not going to be queer by mistake; you're going to be queer by purpose because your existence can help somebody and it can also help elevate and move forward the world’s soul mission, which is to create peace, mutual reciprocity, with everybody. So it really is an intentional thing for people to be open, especially elders, to be open to everybody because that is what the Ifa and the Orisha tradition is about.

Dr. Joy: You tell the story earlier about how your mom kind of taught you and your siblings more Christian practices as a way to kind of try to keep you safe. Like if we talk about these kinds of things, you'll be even more ostracized. And I'm wondering if you have ideas about like how we can talk to elders in our own families who may be concerned if we're learning more about this or starting to practice more of these things. What kinds of conversations might we be able to have with them?

Ehime: Bring up the stuff that they already do that is spiritual work, that they all talk about. Like, mom, why do you never put your purse on the ground, mama? “Why are you always cooking this food on New Year's Day? Why don't you want to let my broom hit your feet?” Because those are the stuff when we could say you are already doing something spiritual, so let me do something spiritual with intention. Being able to be like, your life is one thing and this is what I'm gonna do with my life and you're just gonna have to understand.

And even the most beautiful thing with ancestral veneration is it will heal family ties, family wounds. It will make things easier and it will make conversations easier, especially when you tell your ancestors, like I want to be honest with my family knowing what I do. I don't want to have to clean up the altar when they come over or anything like that. And your ancestors will literally create space for your mom to see your altar space and be like, oh what’s that? Without freaking out. Or wanting to understand or even telling you stories of her own people, of her own grandparents, that you can add to your own little, you know... I always recommend having people like a little journal of just stories of their ancestors to keep with them like a family tree. It's really beneficial especially so you can know which ancestor to call when you need something.

But to have that and see how your own parents, how your own elders would be helping in building your own ancestral veneration practice. Because what Ifa tells us is our grandparents are literally our connections to our ancestors. They are our first ancestors. Our parents are our first orisha and to be able to understand how meaningful that is and how important that is on both ends. How the parents, the elders, should be understanding to have that title, to have that position in someone's life, which means you need to have that position of integrity, that you're not able to abuse that position. It's something Ifa says how you should never go far away from your family but your family should never push you there to begin with. A mutual reciprocity practice. In order for me to treat you like the elder, you must first show me that you are the elder that I can treat you like that with.

Dr. Joy: You’ve already given us the kind of basics of building an altar. You just mentioned like a journaling kind of exercise, like keeping a family journal of stories of family members. Are there other things that you feel like beginners... it might be helpful for them to know about, kind of learning more about this practice?

Ehime: Oh, yes. Food, offerings. Offerings are amazing and offerings don't need to be so extra. I know when we talk about food offerings, we can feel like we need to cook like a four-course meal with desserts, everything. And I don't recommend doing that all the time. Like maybe you can do that for a New Year’s Day or for a particular ancestor’s birthday. But you can keep things basic. What the food offering represents or what offering represents, period, is an energy transference. Because you're giving them energy so they can have the energy to provide you with whatever you need. If they do not have the energy, it's going to be hard for them to give you things, to help you with things, to assist you with things, to even protect you.

So you are providing an energy transfer. When you're saying this is your cigar, this is your liquor, this is your flowers, and I'm giving you with prayer–prayer is the most important thing because now you're empowering that object which you are offering. Prayer is understanding that you are connected to the creator, connected to the universe, and your words have the ashe, the power to make anything happen in this world.

So when we take prayer and we attach that to offering which is the energy transfer, now you're empowering your lineage and giving them the energy they need to create change in your life. Which is the most beautiful thing, in my opinion. So when offering, don't ever move away from offerings. Always be laying offering because offerings will help you. And I've seen how offerings, with my own two eyes, has cleared away so much things from my life. And I will always have testimony for offering every day.

Dr. Joy: You should be giving an offering or making an offering every day?

Ehime: I would recommend making an offering at least once a week to give them energy. For me, I do lay offerings every day and the offerings will never... Whatever food I'm laying, I will give some of that to my ancestors so they are getting empowered while I'm also not forgetting that. Because, you know, I also have ADHD as well (diagnosed) so it can be very hard being neurodiverse and keeping up with those things. So finding out a schedule that works with you is what I recommend the most.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Any other tips for beginners?

Ehime: Keeping the altar clean is very important. Making sure that you are not having any mold on the altar, that the water stays clear, that there's no incense ash on the altar space. Because this helps you with just a clear mind, but also clear communication as well. So you're avoiding spirits of confusion. Because a lot of things like to live in a messy place. Negative energy likes living in a messy place and negative energy and trickster spirits can be very common when you're keeping things in a cluttered space. So not only keeping your altar clean but also keeping your surrounding energy to your altar clean as well.

Dr. Joy: Thank you for that. Any other resources that you find yourself suggesting for people who want to learn more or want to kind of dive a little deeper into this topic? Are there things that you suggest for our audience?

Ehime: I definitely recommend social media because there's a lot of people out there who know what they're talking about. And I would love to shout them out a little bit if I can.

Dr. Joy: Please, absolutely.

Ehime: Yeah, of course. Like A Little Juju, she is an awesome person. She has A Little Juju podcast, she talks a little bit more deep about ancestral veneration. So many people like myself and Iya Darasia, she has a Patreon where she talks about Ifa on *[inaudible 0:43:37] to myself. So there's so many people. Iya Ifayomi on Twitter, she also speaks a little bit about Ifa and the Orisha tradition and the herbalist side of the tradition as well. And there's so many, a lot of people in that kind of spiderweb who would be really good people if you're looking to support community space. The people that you trust who kind of move with integrity to start your path down this little rabbit hole because once you get one information, you’re like now I want to know everything.

Dr. Joy: Right, I love it. Tell us where we can find you. Please share your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share.

Ehime: Of course. You can find me at and on Instagram and Twitter under the same handle, @EhimeOra. I also have a Patreon which you can find me at Ora, on which I speak about Ifa and Orisha, ancestral veneration, and general holistic wellness.

Dr. Joy: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us today, Ehime. I really appreciate it.

Ehime: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you for having me. It was so awesome.

Dr. Joy: Thank you. I’m so glad that Ehime was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her and her work or to check out the resources that she shared, visit the show notes at And don’t forget to text two of your girls right now and tell them to check out the episode as well. If you’re looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It’s our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.


Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Sisterhood heals
Order Now

Looking for the UK Edition?
Order here

Discover the transformative power of healing in community in Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s debut book, Sisterhood Heals. Order your copy now!

Looking for the UK Edition? Order here