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The gift of ecological humility

Ifa Divination

A salient example of ecological humility, and a powerful challenge to human supremacy in Black ecological thought, is the system of Ifa divination. Practiced among Yoruba communities and throughout the African diaspora, the Ifa divination system was inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list by the UNESCO in 2008.

Awo Onigbonna casts Ifa, a divination practice that Soul Fire Farm uses to ask permission of the Land before cutting down a tree, digging a foundation, or altering an ecosystem. If such a practice of pause and consent were universal, nature would have the opportunity to say, “Enough!” and be heeded.

Hand in hand with this concept is Soil Stewardship and Culture Biomimicry.

Modern Black environmental thinkers like Adrienne Maree Brown, remind us that, like the fractal pattern of a fern, the small reflects the large. That is, our internal and intimate practices are mirrored in the ways that society functions, or dysfunctions. Just as the forest shares minerals and messages through an underground network of fungal mycelium, providing nourishment to both kin and stranger trees, so we are challenged to embrace mutual aid and co-operation.

(From MMM Issue #18, April 2021)