Over the years thinking about the relationship of the Apetebi in IFA is interesting. There has been a lot of back and forth on the perception of what the Apetebi represents. Some people look at the Apetebi and minimize what her role is in the IFA house. Often, the Apetebi is regarded as if she is someone who is just a slave to the system, that she is a slave to the Babalawo, that she is a slave to whatever work needs to be done at whatever moment in ceremony. It is important that we change our viewpoint on what the Apetebi represents
because there has been a stigma attached to it. In a way, much of the perception of the Apetebi is because of the influence in western culture in our lives. We tend to look at Apetebis’ as if they have just a low status or lower status than the Babalawo.
The Apetebi has a real important role because in IFA female energy is very important. For
anything to be done or done properly requires the energy of a female. The classic Apetebi
would be a child of Oshun because of the relationship that Oshun has with Orunmila.
Some people look at being an Apetebi as just low level work and part of that has to do with our point of view in this country that anything that seems as a domesticated role can be frowned upon because women in this country have fought to have the same and/or “equal” level of opportunities as men. Once we start to learn the importance of energy and how different energies effect different tasks that we are there to perform, we will see that a lot of it isn’t about men being better or getting certain tasks that women can’t do but a lot of it is about how does this energy effect the task that I am about to perform, what energy needs to be put forth, and what energy is strong enough to carry what we are about to do.
There are several reasons why women become an Apetebi, number one, they themselves might be married to a Babalawo, automatically she is his Apetebi, number two, she has herself been initiated into the first step of IFA and is therefore an Apetebi and number three, there are some women who IFA specifically ask them to lift someone else’s IFA. The latter of the three things happens because sometimes the man’s IFA needs the support of female energy for protection.
The woman’s role in the house, in society is one of great magnitude and if we don’t learn to
respect and appreciate it, our communities are going to continue to go down. It is through the mother that we learn how to nurture the world. If we don’t accept women than we won’t
except the Apetebi. We have to accept that we have been greatly influenced by western
The Apetebi is not meant to be a slave but a servant to her community however that may be.
We learn what the best role for the Apetebi will be by knowing what her odu is and how she
can contribute to her community, this is why we have odu, so we know what the person’s
purpose is, what their destination is, and to know how to get to there destination. If we don’t
take a step back and start to look at people for who they are and not what we want them to be we are going to still be in the same mindset many years from now.
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