I read an article about the West African religious practice of Fa (or Ifa). As I understand it, Fa is the grand order and balance of life, and it is expressed in a complex series of signs or symbols. There are 16 primary symbols and they come in pairs, so there are hundreds of variations of the signs. The priests who study and practice the religion study these signs and the myths, parables and sayings that go with each one.
When a person in the religious context of Fa goes to a priest with a question, concern, or crisis, the priest consults the signs for guidance. Before the priest begins, however, he or she contemplates the order of the symbols: the 16 primary ones, how they are related, the meanings and combinations. Only then does the priest listen to the question or concern brought to him or her. In this way, the question, concern or crisis is understood within the greater cosmic order.
I know very little about this West African religion, mostly what I’ve read in this one article—and the article was written be an outsider trying to understand and interpret an African religion. (The article is “Divination and Deity in African Religions” by Evan Zuesse.) Still, I celebrate the wisdom here. When we seek to understand our own problems (or those of someone asking our advice), it seems like a good idea to look at the problem in a greater context. How does this problem fit into the larger order of things? We should pause to think about our understanding of humans and the divine and of life unfolding—and see how the problem fits or doesn’t fit into that pattern.
Another way to say that is, what is in balance (that we should leave alone) and what is out of balance (that we should seek to rebalance)?
Pagan wisdom asks me to pause at the spring equinox to reflect on balance. African wisdom reminds me to consider the grand order of the cosmos when thinking about everyday human problems. May we be open to this wisdom and may it enrich our lives.
Spirit of life and love, Goddess, Mawu, divine energy of many names and no name, be here now.
May there be balance in each one of us. May there be balance in our families. May there be balance in our communities, our nations, our planet, and in the wide universe.
May each of us have the wisdom to leave alone what is in balance.
May we have the courage and energy to re-balance what is out of balance.
May it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
March 24, 2021