Awo Ẹlẹ́gán is an initiated Ifá priest who does not see Òdù or is not exposed to the secret of Òdù. Such Awo is initiated but will never set eyes on Òdù nor partake from anything used in Òdù rituals. The Òdù we are talking about is not odù Ifá (Ifa chapters/signs) but a powerful female Òrìṣà.
There are two ancient, divine origins of Awo Ẹlẹ́gán, i.e. why some people can not see Òdù. These reasons are acceptable excusses in Ifá initiation but the third reason is not tenable and should be discouraged.
Firstly, Ọ̀rúnmìlà had many wives already before he came across Òdù in a riverine forest when she decended. They agreed to marry each other as seen in odù Ifá Òfúnméjì based on rules which include “no woman should ever set eyes on her…”. Ọ̀rúnmìlà agreed and did not allow the senior wives to see this new wife. Even, those he married after her did not set eyes on her. Also, all the sixteen children of Òdù could see their mother but their half brothers and sisters were forbidden to see her. Therefore, after her ascension and inclusion of her rituals into Ifá initiation, only her descendants/offsprings are allowed to set eyes on her. This is the first reason why some Awo are called Awo Ẹlẹ́gán, i.e. those who can not see Òdù. Those Awo Ẹlẹ́gán are the children of the other wives of Ọ̀rúnmìlà. They may continue doing their initiation in line with that, i.e. without Òrìṣà Òdù.
Secondly, in odù Ifá Òtúásá, Àwòdì was sent by Alapansiki to go and make rituals for Olókun. Though Àwòdì was not initiated, because, he was then still under training, he did the assignment because, Alapansiki, the child of Ajagunmọlẹ̀ had blessed and given power to him. He was then honoured and enriched by Olókun. Olókun, who did not know that Àwòdì was not initiated asked him to initiate his children for him. Àwòdì carried out the initiation successfully the way of Ẹlẹ́gán because, he himself had not be initiated let alone set eyes on Òdù. The initiation without Òrìṣà Òdù was successful because, Alapansiki, had blessed him before he left for Olókun’s place. In the crisis that ensued between Àwòdì and his initiated senior ones (Agbe and Àlùkò), who wanted to disgrace Àwòdì, he punished them. But, one of them (Odídẹrẹ́) gave Àwòdì due respect with this statement: Telegan tolodu la jo n sawo… Both Ẹlẹ́gán and Olódù, we are all one… He was able to return home to inform their father, Alapansiki, all that happened. Instead of cursing Àwòdì, Alapansiki blamed the priests killed by Àwòdì for making attempt to disgrace him. He told Odídẹrẹ́ that he had blessed Àwòdì before he left and whatever he did in the household of Olókun will be efficacious. And that those who are initiated by Àwòdì should continue as Awo Ẹlẹ́gán and nobody should ever deride them. With that, he has given approval to Odídẹrẹ́’s statement that “Both Ẹlẹ́gán and Olódù are all one…”
The third reason why some Awo are Ẹlẹ́gán today is modern and pathetic. Some Ifá priests are not initiated and they have opportunity of initiating godchildren. Because they are not initiated, they do not see Òdù and will just do the initiation in line with Odídẹrẹ́, i.e. without Òdù. The want to liken themselves with that of Àwòdì. They have forgotten that it is Àwòdì and only Àwòdì that Alapansiki blessed with such right. May be, they have also been blessed by Ajagunmọlẹ̀, Alapansiki or even Ọ̀rúnmìlà to carry out initiation without been initiated themselves, who knows? Also, some initiated Ifá priests initiate their godchildren abroad in line with Awo Ẹlẹ́gán. The reason is that the concerned Ifá priests go to countries abroad without this powerful Òrìṣà that must be present whenever Ifá initiation is to take place and they can not come home for the initiation or send for the Òrìṣà, they will just do the initiation without Òrìṣà Òdù. Those that they initiate like that will become Awo Ẹlẹ́gán, i.e. they can neither partake from any thing used in appeasing/doing Òdù rituals nor set eyes on the Òrìṣà. This is the third reason for Awo Ẹlẹ́gán. Hence, today, especially abroad, we have millions of Awo Ẹlẹ́gán.
By Fáyẹmí Fátúndé Fákáyọ̀dé