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Meet a Babalawo

We don’t remember medicine until we are ill.  It’s the same with our  Yoruba medicine , many  don’t remember traditional medicine until Western medicine fails them.  To be fair, there are just as many or maybe even more for whom native medicine is the first port of call for the simple reason that they cannot afford the cost of  Western medical care . But where there are means, the leaning is more towards Western medicine, until of course a problem is encountered that defies orthodox science.

Reasons why people use/don’t use traditional medicine vary,  experiences vary. So many have only praises and some have regrets on using Yoruba herbal science. Why the variations?  There’s  no published  directory of herbal practitioners, or widely acknowledged certification , so that there is  no way of ascertaining the qualifications of a practitioner before you decide to place yourself in their care. In the days gone by, presumably word of mouth recommendation was all the certification required, and that’s at the root of the problem experienced by  people who would  use Yoruba herbal practitioners today. Just how many people who do use traditional medicine will own up to the fact? How do you get a recommendation when visits to Babalawo are seen by the educateratti as hush-hush.

babalawo implements

Can  you tell how much knowledge that Awo really does have just by meeting him?(Women practitioners are called Iyanifa). In fact, how much knowledge is actually held in the totality of Yoruba science? What are its limits?  How much Yoruba herbal knowledge has been lost, and how much is being lost everyday as practitioners pass on? Can anyone say  how much has been lost when we do not know how much we had in the first place?

Yoruba ancestors did not write. Everything we know about the ancient Yorubas has travelled through the ages via word of mouth. History, lineage, traditions, cures all preserved using  various forms of oral rendition.  Many Yoruba healing secrets travelled within the hearts and minds of Yoruba long after they had left the shores of their motherland, and many survived through the ages of slavery till the present day and are used in many Yoruba heartlands all over the Diaspora.

Ikin Ifa
Ikin Ifa

But many many more cures and potency secrets must have been lost  because when each  blessed Yoruba soul is lost everything he or she knew goes with them. Imagining how  many lives lost in Yoruba land of the 18th/19th century though the invasions, wars and through slavery provides a glimpse into the amount of knowledge sleeping with the ancestors.

We should really treasure those people who in this modern  age , have found themselves bequeathed  by  lineage as part of the human Yoruba Apothecary and who  subsequently choose to follow in the footsteps of their forefathers. Because they could just as well have chosen to work in a bank or a phone company….

Occasionally, in   newspapers in Nigeria and abroad adverts for Babalawos do pop up


Tucked away at the bottom of some Lagos society gist , the temptation is usually  to flick past especially if you don’t have a desperate case of poorly sized penis,  premature ejaculation or desire to win the lottery.

But if you know through personal experience that there is real knowledge behind the sensational cures being advertised you will recognize that babalawos are the custodians of whatever amount of Yoruba science we have left.

In this day of wariness about over-medication, inadequately tested vaccinations, antibiotic resistant bugs, and a general return to the natural ways, it’s wise to do as much as possible to understand how much the Yoruba Apothecaries know and how they work. In other words, be curious enough to peep behind that newspaper advert….

If you’d imagined  an archaic bedraggled old man , you’ve been watching the wrong  Yoruba Magic movies.

Ajagun – he uses herbs, roots and leaves majorly to treat diseases, he also consults Ifa because he is a Babalawo

Ajagun apprenticed with his father  for 17 years and has had his own practice for 29 years with offices in Ile Ife beside the Ooni’s palace,  in Ikorodu area of Lagos and in Oke Igbo town of Ondo State.

Working with ewe worowo ( senecio biafrae) leaves to make into a soap with other ingredients for the treatment of a skin complaint in youn children
Working with ewe worowo ( senecio biafrae) leaves to make into a soap with other ingredients for the treatment of a skin complaint in a young child
Ewe Worowo ( Senecio Biafrae)
Ewe Worowo ( Senecio Biafrae)

After a lengthy chat you realise that this section of yoruba society are actually warriors. Warriors for the preservation of Yoruba sacred science. This particular warrior is aptly named Ajagun .His  grand father was the then Agbongbon Awo of Ife, his father took over and he inherited the knowledge from his  father after  his death in 1987. What does it mean to be Agbongbon Awo of Ife?  It means the Agbongbon Awo  is the  deputy to Araba Agbaye. And what does that mean? Who is Araba Agbaye?  Araba Agbaye is also known as Araba Aworeni  and he is the World spiritual leader of all Ifa followers.

  1. Araba Agbaye, (world spiritual leader of all Ifa followers)
  2. Agbongnon Awo,
  3. Akoda Awo,
  4. Aseda Awo,
  5. Jolofinpe

That’s the hierarchy of Babalawos in Yoruba Science, so if you ever need the services of a Babalawo and he claims to be one of the 5 hereditary  titles listed above then you can probably assume that you are in the best hands for your Yoruba remedy . It was interesting to hear that the Yoruba sages also hold regular meetings of the community Babalawos to share , inform and support one another.

opele ifa

Human Sacrifice

Nollywood movies project a terrible image of Yoruba science, and so do local and foreign media.  Stories of people of African origin found with human bones or body parts inevitably link to the practice of an African  “voodoo”, “juju” religion usually Ifa . Whereas a white person found with such items is more likely to be labelled as mentally ill  or a serial killer.  Regardless of whether he went to mass every Sunday, his religion  never has a link to his deviant behaviour.

Ajagun made clear that ” Ifa teaches what makes one to be peaceful and healthy in life”,  human sacrifice “is against Ifa practice”. This is not to say that there are no renegades , but there are ways to tell an Onisegun , who because of their lack of Ifa knowledge could be more predisposed to use the negative side of Yoruba science to do evil, apart from a Babalawo who practices Ifa religion alongside traditional medicine . (That’s a post for another day)


Look on Facebook, look on Gumtree, skim through  newspaper adverts and these days you will find at least one babalawo advert a week. Its great to see the babalawos bringing their science to us using the modern media  and good to see them refusing to take a back seat to modern medicine. Surely, among all these modern ways of working , documentation will be made mandatory for all the herbal and spiritual aspects of Yoruba science in order to promote more openness, and also to protect the knowledge and  finally to assure would-be clients.


In other news, the Chinese must have their own version of Yoruba Magun , that potent spell which traps a man to his (usually married) lover until her husband returns to catch them, and in some cases the spell also kills the victim. This unfortunate Chinese lady is still attached to her client who died suddenly during sex. There are reports that the corpse had to be surgically detached from her before being removed to the morgue…

As you know Babalawos don’t practice evil but they can undo or prevent it. So call now for your Magun antidote and cure!  Male and Female  ?  #YorubaScience

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