African spiritual diversity in the Western Hemisphere has blossomed since the children of the continent were forcibly removed. Accordingly, throughout the Americas and the Caribbean basin there is a clear spiritual presence that tethers a diverse array of peoples and cultures to the Ifá tradition forming pockets of African religious practice throughout the New World. Consequently, the United States, the Caribbean Islands and South America are culturally and historically linked not just through the legacy of slavery or the remnants of colonization but through the survival of Africa’s children who still call on the deities of Ifá. Therefore, to conclude this series on the Ifá tradition, I will briefly survey Ifá traditions of the smaller Caribbean Islands as well as some critical Ifá cultural movements of the US in the 21st century.
The variations of Ifá among the religions of the Caribbean islands create an interesting medley of spiritual belief. For instance, in the Bahamas the variation of Ifá that is practiced is Obeah. By all accounts there is no indication that Obeah was principally used in any uprisings or revolts in the Bahamas, nevertheless after the Takyi revolt in Jamaica the practice of Obeah was outlawed throughout the Caribbean basin. This suggests that the practice of Obeah was greatly feared by colonial Europeans as they had no way of monitoring or controlling the religious practice. As well, the fear of Obeah practice was also well established on the island of Martinique. For European Martiniquais the fear of being poisoned by Obeah practitioners was a constant and looming concern. It was believed that not only was it very likely to be poisoned by some Obeah practitioners, many landowners believed they would be poisoned by those closest to them: a maid, wet nurse and/or cook. However, John Savage in his article “’Black magic’ and White Terror: Slave Poisoning and Colonial Society in Early 19th Century Martinique”, argues that while poisoning was a reality white enslavers had to face, the practice was not as widespread as French paranoia suggested; instead, he claims the real issue was simply a fear of the end of slavery in Martinique and throughout the Caribbean. In Barbados as well Obeah is the chief African syncretic religious practice. As with other English colonies, Barbadian Obeah was banned throughout the populace, but that did not keep practitioners from maintaining the tradition. However, Obeah among Barbadians is primary used as a healing art. This highlights the fact that the modality of Obeah, as with any other religious traditions, is highly dependent on the focus or purpose of the user. Obeah by itself is a neutral spiritual force; it can be used to heal or harm depending on the intent of the practitioner.
Some islands of the Caribbean still retain as much of the Ifá religious practice as possible. To explain, there are many variations of Ifá that took on a life of their own once in the New World, such as Umbanda which focused more heavily on the Portuguese language and Catholic saints. For Trinidad and Tobago however, there is an effort to keep the Ifá religion as close to the original form as possible through the development of Oríshá, formerly called Shangos. The practice of Oríshá throughout Trinidad and Tobago closely resembles the practice of Yoruba Ifá but also infuses elements in the immediate environment. James Houk, author of Spirits, Blood and Drums: The Orisha Religion of Trinidad, states: “Orisha is an old, established form of worship in Nigeria and its environs, which has been transplanted to the New World. As a religion it stands on its own to meet the needs of its devotees. Some worshippers in Trinidad, the Orisha ‘purists’ minimize the integration of extraneous elements so common to New World African-derived religions, proclaiming with pride that this African religion is as sophisticated and complex as any other. Borrowing is nevertheless a primary and important characteristic.” Despite this effort however, Trini Oríshá still incorporates beliefs and philosophies from traditions its shares space with (Hinduism, Christianity and Islam), which reinforces the notion that the Ifá tradition is malleable and adaptable to a variety of social and cultural environments.
The Caribbean islands are inundated with the Ifá spiritual tradition, but what of the US outside the cultural gumbo of New Orleans? In Sheldon, South Carolina, relatively close to the Sea Islands where Geechee and Gullah Americans make their home, rests the Oyotunji Village, first “intentional” African community founded in the United States. This community is a prime example of Ifá cultural practice outside of Africa. Their expressed mission is centered on “Feeding the community, engineering the progress of Black people worldwide, celebrating Yoruba African culture, traditions and heritage through practice, collaborations, education, philanthropy and research.” Within this community they function as they would in Yorubaland of Nigeria; they practice the Ifá religion, adorned themselves in traditional clothing, observe divination, use the Yoruba language and operate as a Nigerian village.
This community stands as an important example of African American retention and preservation of Ifá culture, however, describing the community as “intentional” is somewhat problematic. To explain, the practice of Candomblé, Umbanda, Vodun, Voodoo, Obeah, Santería, Oríshá, and Comfa are very much syncretic belief systems, but there is nothing accidental or unintentional about them. What enslaved and oppressed Africans created in the Americas represents a deliberate effort to preserve their belief systems and philosophies amidst the horrors of their New World experience. To imply that their efforts were fortuitous is to strip the fallen of their agency. African syncretic belief systems in the Americas are in no way accidental, instead they are a focused effort to not only preserve ancient traditions but more importantly they stand as evidence of the continued struggle against white supremacy.
To close this Ifá series it is important to tie the ancient with the contemporary and artist Beyonce Knowles personifies this bridge very well for Africana America. To elaborate, as anti-African violence has seemingly increased in the US, Beyonce has made it clear that she is channeling Yoruba deities in her music videos and photoshoots. Beyonce historically does not have a long record of astute African cultural expression in her videos or lyrics, however in the last couple years this has changed dramatically as she has loudly expressed both her dissatisfaction with police violence (the half time show of Super Bowl L) and her affinity with Yoruba deities. For example, in the song “Hold Up” from the visual album Lemonade Yoruba symbolism and imagery was abounding throughout, as was her 2017 pregnancy photo shoot. To elaborate, the website OkayAfrica.com featured an article discussing precisely this issue in February 2017; author Damola Durosomo argues that Beyonce’s video “showed the singer floating underwater while draped in bright yellow garments. Many have noticed that the images contain references to Oshun, the Yoruba orisha of love and fertility.” As an American cultural icon, her effort to positively and beautifully display African cultural imagery cannot be understated.
The Ifá tradition is a powerful spiritual tradition that survived the horrors of the middle passage and American enslavement only to develop into one of the more diverse religious systems on the planet. Ifá is rarely grouped in conversations concerning the world most wide spread and impactful religions, which is quite unfortunate given the richness of the practice. However, this highlights perhaps the most critical strength of Ifá in that it does not need the same commercial appeal as other religions. It exists as both a function of survival and cultural pride for African people in the New World. Meaning, as long as Ifá exists it stands as a beacon of cultural strength and nuance that has helped to maintain a sense of dignity and solidarity for Africans in the New World unlike any other philosophy or phenomena. As such, Ifá anchors Africana America to Africa through that all too critical element of culture: memory.
 Timothy O. McCartney. Ten, Ten, the Bible Ten: Obeah in the Bahamas. (Timpaul Publishing Company, 1976).
 John Savage. "" Black magic" and white terror: slave poisoning and colonial society in early 19th century Martinique." journal of social history 40, no. 3 (2007): 635-662.
 Ibid, 636.
 Jerome S. Handler. "Slave Medicine and Obeah in Barbados, circa 1650 to 1834." New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 74, no. 1-2 (2000): 57-90.
 Oríshá means Gods or Saints in the Yoruba language; Shango is the Ifá God of iron.
 James Houk. Spirits, blood and drums: the Orisha religion in Trinidad. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010), xii.
 Ibid., xii. Particular European Protestantism and Catholicism as well as Hindu and Hebrew Kabbalah.
 “Gullah and Geechee Culture.” http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/geechee-and-gullah-culture. Accessed April 2017.
 Oyotunji Village, http://www.oyotunji.org/. Accessed April 2017.
 “Beyonce Channeled the Yoruba deities Oshun and Yemoja For Her Pregnancy Shoot.” http://www.okayafrica.com/in-brief/beyonce-channeled-yoruba-goddess-oshun-maternity-photoshoot/. Accessed April 2017.
 Ibid. To be fair the entire album was replete with Ifá imagery.