“What is Ori and Why do I Need a Bori?”
Over the years, I’ve written a few articles about Ori and how popular the Bori ceremony has become in the United States since 2005. There are also a couple of articles published that allude to the importance of Ori in our daily lives. Recently, I’ve received more questions about basic concepts surrounding Ori and the ceremony of Bori within Candomblé (and recently more frequently within Lukumi).
In Yoruba belief, and therefore in the Yoruba derived religions of the diaspora, Ori is a multi-faceted and extremely complex concept. It would be impossible to truly explain Ori in one blog post.
Ori literally means head in Yoruba, so in the most basic sense Ori is representative of one’s individuality. The Yoruba understand the head to have both inner and outer components. In English, if we think about our inner head we tend to think about the brain. The Yoruba word for brain is opolo, and isn’t quite what the inner head (Ori inu – literally the inside head) refers to. Ori is the physical head, our subconscious and our overall destiny.
Ori is the divine force residing in everyone, the first Orisa to be praised, and the only Orisa that will never abandon its devotee. There is nothing that any other Orisa can do for someone without the consent of their Ori. In other words, without appeasing Ori, nothing else will work. This is why, in Candomblé, one’s first step in the religion is typically a Bori.
To really understand destiny in Yoruba belief, we have to understand the connection between Heaven (Orun) and Earth (Aye). In English, and in Western culture, when we think of destiny there is often the tendency to understand that if we believe in destiny, we don’t believe in individual choice. However, in Yoruba belief, destiny is inherently bound with choice.
Yoruba belief teaches that each human being, while belonging to a family and community on Earth, simultaneously belongs to a family and community in Orun. Our spiritual double resides in Orun as we navigate life on Earth. Prior to being born, we consult Ifa in Orun and make choices about our lives. As we make the journey from Orun to Earth through the birth process, our conscious mind forgets what our subconscious mind decided. This is why divination is so important in Yoruba culture and religion across the world.
This process is also the very important reminder that we need to be responsible for our own actions, as well as our responses to the actions of others. Having a strong connection with one’s Ori is how we develop good character.
One of the basic beliefs in Candomblé is that harmony is essential, and in order to have harmony there must be balance. In order to remain in balance, we consult the oracle, we make ebo, and modify our behavior to stay in alignment with our destiny. At the heart of a Bori, the ritual act of feeding and praising one’s head, is the act of realigning one’s physical and spiritual self with their destiny.
Due to the commercialization of the Bori ceremony in the early 2000’s, many Americans have come to believe that a Bori is synonymous with consecrating an Igba Ori – a pot or sopera representing Ori; this is a grave misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Candomblé.
While everyone can, and should, pray to their Ori daily, only an Iyalorixa or Babalorixa can perform a Bori in the context of Candomblé. Whether or not one needs a Bori is revealed as the result of divination. Your Ori is yours, pray using the language you speak and understand until you are in an ile and can follow the norms of your nation.