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When I decided to retire from my tech career in 2013, I attended the Art Institute of San Antonio specifically to refresh my eye, and catch up on latest technologies in photography and the business of it. I attended with some amazing kids, some my own children’s age. I had no idea what my focus was, or my “why”, but I discovered long exposures, perfect for my nocturnal habits. That fire finally grew into light painting and Steel Wool Burning Planning as seen in some of my examples. My classmates would always ask what “Jedi Mind Trix” I was going to share during some painfully constructive critiques from my instructor, Nancy Cavender.

Ọ̀nà Babalawo is a metaphorical spiritual practice akin to the “Force” that demonstrate the “powers” and challenges of Black Polymaths in America. It’s part of my “Matters of BLACK” mutl-approach project and used in the Ai narrated Children’s book Babalawo, my story told the the characters of my Ọ̀nà Babalawo Beanie Baby Kika Stone Collection.

Ọ̀nà Babalawo: In Yoruba, “Ọ̀nà” generally means “path” or “way.” It signifies a route or direction, both in a literal and metaphorical sense.

“Babalawo” is a Yoruba term that can be broken down into two parts:

  • “Baba” means “father” or “elder.”
  • “Lawo” refers to “mysteries” or “secrets.”

So, “Babalawo” essentially translates to “Father of Mysteries” or “Father of Secrets.” It’s a title given to Yoruba priests who are highly knowledgeable in the Ifá system, divination, and the mysteries of Yoruba spirituality.

When combined, “Ọ̀nà Babalawo” could be understood as the “Path or Way of the Father of Mysteries” or, in a broader sense, the method or practice associated with the spiritual guidance provided by a Babalawo through the use of divination and the Ọ̀nà Babalawo board.

In Yoruba culture, “Ọ̀nà Babalawo” refers to the sacred divination board used by a Babalawo, who is a Yoruba priest and spiritual advisor. This divination board is an essential tool in the practice of Ifá, a Yoruba religion and system of divination that seeks guidance and insight from the Orishas (deities) and ancestral spirits.

The “Ọ̀nà Babalawo” typically consists of a wooden board with specific patterns, marks, and symbols carved or drawn on it. These markings hold significant meaning in the divination process. When a Babalawo conducts a divination session, they use palm nuts or cowrie shells, among other objects, to create patterns on the board. These patterns are then interpreted to provide answers, guidance, or solutions to the questions or issues presented by the client.

Parallel with “the Way of the Force” from Star Wars: “Ọ̀nà Babalawo” and the “Way of the Force” from the Star Wars universe share a common theme. Both concepts involve a deep connection to a spiritual force or energy that guides individuals and offers insight.

In Star Wars, the Force is described as a mystical energy field that binds the galaxy together. It has a light side (associated with Jedi and benevolence) and a dark side (associated with Sith and malevolence). Those attuned to the Force can harness its power, guiding them in making decisions, enhancing abilities, and providing insights into the future.

Similarly, in Yoruba culture and Ifá spirituality, “Ọ̀nà Babalawo” represents a path to connect with spiritual energies and receive guidance from the Orishas and ancestral spirits. Babalawos are intermediaries who tap into these forces, offering wisdom and direction to those seeking their assistance.

Though differing in specific beliefs and practices, both “the Way of the Force” and “Ọ̀nà Babalawo” involve individuals seeking guidance and wisdom from a higher, mystical source. This parallel highlights the universal human pursuit of spiritual insight and understanding.

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