Ifá: A Forest of Mystery by Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold [ Very Promising New Book on Ifa, the Yoruba Origin System of Knowledge ]

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Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

Oct 8, 2016, 8:24:24 AM10/8/16
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Ifá: A Forest of Mystery


                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Nicholaj De Mattos Frisvold

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          presented by

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Comparative Cognitive Processes and Systems
                                                                                                                                                                                            "Exploring Every Corner of the Cosmos in Search of Knowledge"


                                                                                                                                                                                                Orunmila, the male anchor of the wisdom of Ifa,one of the  illustrations in the book


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Part I · A Philosophy of Character

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Timeless Wisdom of Ifá
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Òrúnmìlà & the Secret Structure of Odù
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Art of Divination
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       The Cosmology of Ifá

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Part II · A Forest of Mystery

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Èjì Ogbè · The moist air of consciousness
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Òyèkú méjì · The mother of the spirit of death
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Ìwòrì méjì · Celestial agriculture in the land of transformation
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Òdí méjì · The house of deep comfort
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Ìrosùn méjì · The rivers of consciousness
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Òwónrín méjì · The sweet and bitter track
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Òbárá méjì · The fork in the road
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Òkànrán méjì · The crossroad the heart gave
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Ògúndá méjì · The relentless pathmaker
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Òsá méjì · The mysteries of the birds of night
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ìká méjì · The wicked cobra of fire
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Òtúrúpòn méjì · The secret path of truth
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Òtúrá méjì · Love’s gentle harmony
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Ìretè méjì · The author of fate
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Òsé méjì · The sweetness of mystery
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Òfún méjì · The calabash of character
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Òsétúrá · Èsù & the design of the world

Ifá: A Forest of Mystery by Nicholaj de Mattos Frisvold is a major study on the cosmology, metaphysics, philosophy and divination system of Ifá, written by a tradition holder and member of the council of elders, known as the Ogboni society, of Abeokuta, Nigeria. The work is a presentation of the first sixteen odù of the Ifá corpus of divination verses explained in stories, allegories and proverbs. It is both a presentation of Ifá for those with little knowledge of it, and a dynamic presentation of the wealth of its wisdom for those already familiar with Ifá.

Ifá – an alternative name for its prophet Òrúnmìlà – is a religion, a wisdom tradition and a system of divination encoding the rich and complex oral and material culture of the Yoruba people. The Yoruba culture is grounded in memory, an ancestral repository of wisdom, that generates good counsel, advises appropriate ebo (sacrifice) and opens the way to develop a good character on our journey through life and in our interactions with the visible and invisible worlds.

The work is a presentation of the first sixteen odù of the Ifá corpus of divination verses explained in stories, allegories and proverbs reflecting the practical wisdom of Ifá. The work is both a presentation of Ifá for those with little knowledge of it, and a dynamic presentation of the wealth of its wisdom for those already familiar with Ifá. The deities and key concepts of Ifá metaphysics are discussed, including: Obàtálá, Ònilé, Sàngó, Ògún, Oya, Òsányìn, Yemoja, Èsù, àse (power), egúngún (ancestry), ìwà (character), and orí (head/consciousness/daimon). Notably, Dr Frisvold has created a work which celebrates the Yoruba wisdom tradition and makes a bridge with the Western world. It is of value for the light that it casts on the origins and mysteries of Èsù and òrìsà, and an important source for those practicing Quimbanda, Palo, Santeria, Vodou and the African Diaspora religions. Yet its lessons are universal, for it is the art of developing character, of attracting good fortune and accruing wisdom in life. As Nicholaj writes: 

‘…Ifá is a philosophy, a theogony, theology and cosmology rooted in a particular metaphysic that concerns itself with the real and the ideal, the world and its beginning. It is rooted in the constitution of man and the purpose of life and the nature of fate. Ifá is a philosophy of character. The philosophy of Ifá lies at the root of any religious cult or organization involving the veneration of òrìsà. […] Through stories and legends, divinatory verses and proverbs, this philosophy will be revealed piece by piece until the landscape has been laid open before you… ’









                                                                                                                                                                                                 Limitation  736 standard hardback 64 fine bound exemplars
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Dimensions  240 × 170 mm
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Extent  400 pp
                                                                                                                                                                                                     Illustrations  18 original pen & ink illustrations by Childerico
                                                                                       Bindings  Fine edition bound in rust handgrained morocco blocked in gold, custom Victoria Hall paste endpapers, all edges gilt, finished with a silk ribbon and presented in a slipcase:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Sold out


                                                                                                                But you can ask the publishers if they shall be doing a reprinting. You could also see bookfinder.com, Ebay and other second book sellers for copies.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         AVAILABLE NOW

                                                                                                                        Standard edition bound in vibrant red cloth, palm leaf stamped in green, embossed bitter chocolate endpapers: £45 plus postage

                                                                                                                                 This title is now in stock and shipping. A Bibliothèque Rouge paperback edition will be available from Friday 21st October.






                                                                                                                                                                                                             Another illustration from the book

Publisher's Self Description

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Scarlet Imprint

Scarlet Imprint was founded by Alkistis Dimech and Peter Grey in 2007 with the talismanic publication of 156 copies of The Red Goddess; fired by a vision to create work that would inspire an artistic and intellectual revivification in modern magical practice. We have established ourselves, in the following years, as one of the leading publishers of the contemporary occult, with a progressive catalogue of books on the Western magical tradition, witchcraft, the African Diaspora religions, esoteric poetry, drama & occulture.

Our work is intended to support practising magicians, students of the occult arts, the esoteric community and the fine book arts. Our titles are notable for their erudition and scholarly standards, which are conjoined with the unique insight born of practice and experience. We are committed to presenting material with artistry and the highest standards of craft. All typography and design is done in house, with the aim of unfolding a modern and vital esoteric aesthetic that both manifests the numen of the book and contributes to the tradition of the fine book arts.

Our titles are available in limited standard hardbacks and fine editions, in conjunction with the unlimited Bibliothèque Rouge paperback editions.

To receive announcements of forthcoming titles, as well as pre-order of our standard & fine editions subscribe on our contact page.

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                                                                                                                                                                               Commentary by Oluwatoyin Vincent Adepoju

I was stunned into mental silence by the amount of effort suggested by the production of this book, from the impression I got from its list of contents to its series of magnificent bindings and its magical illustrations. This seems to be a true demonstration of the capacity of a book as a numen, which may be described, in this context, as a potent, mysterious spirit, a guiding intelligence and force working with but not constrained by the circumscriptions of human intelligence,  as the publisher indicates of the kinds of books they aspire to make. The chapter titles suggest an effort by the writer to characterize the odu ifa, the organizational categories and active agents of Ifa, in terms of themes or ideas he sees them as demonstrating, a vital effort on account of the heterogeneity of the vast scope of literature, an unknown number, attributed to each of the 256 odu ifa. This suggests intimate acquaintance with the subject as well as creative boldness to stake an understanding of the subject that is not conventional and which may not receive unanimous  acceptance by others but which can provide a conceptual framework in addressing the multifarious scope of each of these organizational forms.

​I am also very pleased to observe that the author seems to be a hard core occultist, a member of the Yoruba Ogboni esoteric order, a writer on witchcraft as practice and not only theory and a writer on Diaspora African spiritualities which seem to be particularly hard core.  An understanding of Ifa  is significantly enhanced  through a grasp of relationships between Ifa, Ogboni and Aje or Iyami, Our (Arcane) Mothers  the latter being the closest to witchcraft as described in  Western folklore as well as in  current Western practice  as a definite religion,  although different from modern Western witchcraft in the scope of claims of kinds of access to spiritual power made on behalf of both spiritualities, while Ogboni is an earth centred occult path, these two converging in Ifa in terms of relationships between the masculine principle represented by Orunmila and the feminine principle embodied by Odu and her various manifestations, related to Babatunde Lawal's description in The Gelede Spectacle: Art, Gender, and Social Harmony in African Culture of all female orisa as being aspects of Ile, Earth, one of these manifestation of Odu being  being Iya Agba, the old woman who retired to live under the earth surrounded by four calabashes provided by her four children, the orisa Oduduwa, Obaluaye, Obatala and Ogun, the calabashes containing materials representing the relationship of each of these orisa to human existence and guaranteeing a link between their followers and  the power embodied  by Iya Agba, a story I first encountered  in Judith Gleason's A Recitation of Ifa : Oracle of the Yoruba, and which shares similarities with  Dennis Williams' account in Icon and Image: A Study of Sacred and Secular Forms of African Classical Art  of the use of buried magical objects in the Ogboni illedi or meeting house.
The author also seems to have significant exposure to the Western magical tradition, described as demonstrating this through valid correlations with African spiritualities. I was led to the study and practice of classical African spiritualities by the Hermetic strand of the Western magical tradition, particularly exemplified by the magical school the Golden Dawn,  which provides a logical and supra-logical approach to magic that can be very helpful in dealing with ideas and practices meant to take the mind beyond linear logic, helping one to understand where various forms of rationality begin and end as well as their complementary roles in relation to each other.

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