Lecture:Iroko gbà mi o: Iroko, the World Tree Deified
Oba Iggi! Àtatú ni ti Iroko! King of Trees, the Iroko can never be knocked down. My father Iroko said that I will prosper in this life, good luck is mine. Iroko will speak in my favor. Iroko will let my words come true. My father Iroko- bring me peace at home, bring me peace on the road, let my enemies never charge against me. “ -Praise Poem to Irokó
While the concept of a World Tree is common in many cosmologies, the Afro-Diasporic traditions of the New World have complex extant rituals and devotion revolving around the Tree, embodied within Cuban Lucumí, Haitian Vodou, and Brazilian Candomble including offerings, songs, myths, dance and possession by this spirit.
It is a spirit so unifying that all spirits can gather under it, and the tree itself is not just ‘home’ to a great spirit of time, space, protection and petition- it is the spirit itself. The tree is so imbued with ashé (grace/power) that every growing member of its species is the deity itself. This deity, called by many names, but here examined as Iroko, Loko, and Kitembo, is the product of African reverence and its mapping upon the sacred landscape of the Americas. In the absence of the original West African Teak, the World Tree becomes the Silk Cotton, the Ceiba, the Mapou; it becomes the Banyan, the Strangler Fig, the Figueira. Here the deity spreads new roots deep into the melding soils of our Land, strong and needed as he ever was.
This lecture will provide a rooted examination of Iroko and his unique manifestations in the persona, rituals, songs, myths, and dances of Lucumí and Candomble Orisha traditions, with references to its expressions in Haitian Vodou, Candomble Angola, and Quimbanda.
Jesse Hathaway Diaz is a folklorist, diviner, artist and performer living in New York City. With initiations in several forms of witchcraft from both Europe and the Americas, he is also a lifelong student of Mexican Curanderismo, an initiated olosha in the Lucumí orisha tradition, and a Tatá Quimbanda. He is also a member of the experimental theatre group Dzieci, based in New York City. He is half of www.wolf-and-goat.com, a store specializing in occult art, esoterica and materia magica from many traditions including Traditional Craft and Quimbanda.