I thought that with the inclusion of the Ifa poem, Lion refused to make sacrifice, that now would be a good time to repost one of my favourite poems, Tiger (From the Ifa Oracle) and to make a slight modification to the translation. In the translation from the Yoruba by Bruce Alvin King the big cat is referred to as a tiger but I think that the leopard is a more accurate translation.

This poem from the Ifa oracle illustrates how, through a superb description of the leopard’s hide and claws, leopard was granted honour by consulting Ifa and making sacrifice.

Ifa divination was performed for Leopard,
The one with the lovely and shining skin.

Could he possibly have honour?
That was the reason why Leopard performed Ifa divination

He was told that much was the prospect of honour for him,
But he should perform sacrifice:

And he performed it:
He performed sacrifice with ten knives
And one lovely and shining cloth.

The ten knives which he used for sacrifice
Were fixed to his fingers by his Ifa priests
And with it he does havoc to all other animals.
The lovely and shining cloth which he also used for sacrifice
Was used to cover his body
And it made him a beautiful animal.

He was dancing, He was rejoicing,
He was praising his Ifa priests
And his Ifa priests praised Ifa.
He opened his mouth,
And the song of Ifa entered therein.
As he stretched his feet,
Dance caught them:

He said, ‘O Animal created to have honour,
Animal created to have honour,
It is Oosa who gave honour to Leopard, (1)
Animal created to have honour’.

translated by Bruce Alvin King,
from Introduction to Nigerian Literature, 1971


Footnotes

  1. Oosa is the God of Creation, more usually known as Obatala.