Being an Iyanifa, an artist and a Nana Buuken Priest

Iyanifa Olufadeke, known as Iyanifa Vassa... Nana Buuken Society director for the Ifa Foundation International. The Nana Buuken Society is a lineage of women who are fearlessly impacting the world and all her children in it....continuously!

Who is Nana Buuken?

Nana Buuken, affectionately known as Nana, is considered the Grand- Mother ... known as the repository for all wisdom.  Today, Ifa/Orunmila is what most people would consider being in that position of power.  But truly Nana is the most ancient place...existing since the beginning of time... and remains the “primal” of female energy.  Nana operates silently...circling and seeing for her children..and bring the Truth for balance and harmony in the family lineage.  Nana fills all that is missing in the Universe.

How does she manifest?

The most direct route to Nana would be when working with a ring of fire and going deep inside a transcended trance-like state.  Transformation can begin by chanting to Nana...singing, drumming and dancing to Nana and the sitting in a place of stillness... opening up to the whooshing whispers. As you open the space...changes begin to take place in a non-physical way.  Nana will see what needs to be done and will fill in those missing pieces...as she sees everything! Through circling and seeing from high above as well as nestling deep into the Earth’s magnetic core...Nana brings your awareness from a spherical perspective and warns you ahead of time as she is the “see-er” of all things.  She is the teacher...the telepathic communicator...but one must know how to train themselves to be open to the frequency that is only Nana’s.

Being a Nana

When is a person ready initiate into the Nana Buuken Society? Traditionally, most people would think of this being most appropriate when a woman is past her time of her menstrual cycle. But as we have listened to the voices of many younger women...we have discovered that other occasions reveal that being a Nana is needed for balance.  Such as a child born with extreme gifts of “see-ing” ... their abilities are so strong that they cannot find their own way of managing the gifts without some fear and chaos setting in.  So it is through the alignment during the initiation into the sacred society of Nana Buuken that they can achieve balance and harmony.  Nana teaches them to manage and become more grounded with their abilities.  It would be unfair to that younger female to make them wait until such an age of what was thought of as the traditional timing.

How is Nana embodied?

A true Nana operates with quiet strength.  She does not need her knife out to do her work.  She goes silently into the lives of her children and accomplishes the shifts.  She uses her silent waters and moves ever so gently.  She is a crafty artist at breaking down the shields...getting to the core Truth. At time she uses her piercing eyes..to sees through the veils. Nana is always creating illuminated space for all divine good for her children...so they may life with more peace and harmony.  A Nana Buuken Priest receives certain spiritual tools that she uses to restore the lives of her children.  And she will always rise to the occasion to work tirelessly through timelessness to achieve success of the highest order. A Nana Buuken Priest will deliver the messages of her Grand-Mother wisdom to fill all that is missing in the Universe!  ashe.

How do we come to know a Nana?

Everyone would benefit to have the knowledge of who is an appointed Nana in their family lineage. If there is no one existing in that space then they should reach out to have a connection with a Nana that is set up for assisting others.  The Ifa Foundation has initiated some incredible females that are in this capacity now.  We know how important this is and have placed a strong focus for this level of connecting to become available.

Many women from across the globe reach out to me to become birthed into this teaching and to get into this position of using their full purpose of being here in this lifetime.  It is an appointment by the ancestors for sure!

Any person...men and women alike may reach out to connect with a Nana Buuken Priest.  Nana is not an energy that is just to be tapped into by a chosen few...but for all children to know in some level.  Any skin-tone color...any sexual preference, any cultural background and any age level. Of course there are many levels of Priests out there that one can have assistance from...but it is Nana that would the one to reach for in those most difficult of concerns.

It is that optimum place everyone can count on for support and guidance and most importantly... PROTECTION!  It is a Nana that can raise us up from darkness and fear and bring us light and wisdom...and into a place where we some people are not able to get to on their own. It is with Nana’s special gifts and strengths that what needs to be done...IS DONE!

It is Nana that delivers us to places where we can access our “re-birth”...as she can reach her octopus-like arms out and gently move each of us into her sacred pool of energy for that high level for nurturing and healing. 

It is this level of hierarchy that tops all others and will always bring us the most appropriate solution...and not for the shorter gratifications but for the benefits that will last over lifetimes.

It is extremely important that where ever possible a family determine and appoint a Nana...especially in today’s society.  With a Nana in place there will not be this horrible epidemic of families breaking down and weakened to such a point where the family is missing so much of what should be there for them.

If need be...a divination can be performed to determine which female in that family would be the most appropriate.  It is usually an elder woman but... when the female is determined... she will see that it is her birthright to become initiated into the Nana Buuken Society and become fully empowered to what she is capable of bringing to her family line.  She would have the nurturing guidance of the other members of the Nana Buuken Society to become knowledgable of what is possible at each stage of growth.

There are tools and there are written materials that support the journey and work of a Nana. And there is continued dialog between the Nana’s.  There is an incredible support system for one another and an open sharing of what is possible in all types of situations going on.  Each Nana is invited to attend future initiations and pass along their wisdom and knowledge to the newer initiate.  It is a true building of a what a family can be like.

What Odu is associated with Nana Buuken?

A sacred Odu is revealed upon completion of the sacred “ring of fire” ceremony for the newly initiated Nana Buuken Priest.  As she is accepted into the society by her elders... she is given a divination which indicates her Odu path that she is here to walk with and teach through.  This is the Nana’s filter to operate with. The main Odu in Ifa for Nana would be Okanran Meji...this would be considered the doorway of energy to that matrix...we know this in both realms  (the light and the dark).  Okanran is the female asserting Odu. Each Odu has a partnering one. Nana is the all female one inside Okanran and Obara would be the male balancing side.  

How can Nana impact our lives?

In my personal life, at an early age, (between 5 and 6) sexual abuse became a part of my everyday existence.  And as this began to happen to me...I clearly remembered a tissue-like shape of an all white female figure enter the place where I was and she gave me a message...as she spoke her words to me... it felt like she was petting my head. She said “I know you will suffer so I will grant you these gifts to help you through it”...and then she left.  It was a moment in time I will never ever forget.  I do remember though that I did not know what that really meant until I was a teenager.  That vision and those words never left my heart...along with the memory of feeling like I was being embraced and protected.  I was brave...and decades later when I became an Iyanifa...the name that was divined for me, Olufadeke, had the meaning of “God used this crown to pet this child”.

Nana impacted my life throughout my life regularly.  She was the protective Mother that knew what I needed when there were no words even said.  Nana is truly the natural Mother... with all the instincts to “raise” her children to where they needed to go...gently guiding them all along the way.

I know I was definitely protected by some higher energy entity...as I had made some reckless decisions as a teenager and am here as a survivor! Something/someone...was watching over me for sure.

In time (mid to later teens)... I woke up and began to connect with a sense of myself... and take responsibility for my actions.  I began reaching out for ways and places to heal.  I found some great teachers and to this day apply pieces of their techniques in the healing work I do for others.

Eventually I worked through my survival shields and married the Oluwo Philip John Neimark...the man I am still in love with and married to 35 years later!  ashe

He worked with me to become who I am today. He has the wisdom and knowledge I so longed to have surrounding me and I am forever grateful that the Universe worked it out for us to be together.  He has been a great teacher for my life and for the lives of so many.  Together we have learned the ways of balancing our strengths...me, as the Nana and he, as the Oluwo. (a very short version of what we have for sure)

Nana moved into my life in another level as I was creating a female metal sculpture of an old old woman’s head...that shared the same height as me and looked me in the eye each morning during the months I worked on her before dawn.  We shared the sunrise of many a day. 

I know this had something very important to do with the process...as it was a true birthing of my inner power.  She became alive...It felt like I was Gheppeto building my Pinnochio.  The connection was and still is surreal.  The story of what happen after I put the last feather in her hair is too long to write about here but a great one to know one day...another time and place!

What I have found for my life is that where-ever I found a “hole” in my character...I could turn to my Nana and get into a place and space of timelessness and “fill-in” what was needed right there...right then.  It is an amazing ability and position to be in.  Nana can help you overcome your fears. 

Nana has the gifts of healing our top three areas...the spiritual health issues...mental health issues and physical health issues.  Nana can work with you on bacteria and virus issues and at times with cancers.  For the most part...anything that shows up as an imbalance. She does go back to correcting in the DNA level.

What are Nana Buuken’s tools and how would one connect with them?

The Nana tools that are on the physical plane are the Ileeshin staff..a serpentine shaped head; the bamboo knife; the black horsetail wand; the alligator jaw knife; the Esu/Iya/Aje in a special shell; the set of large cowrie healing shells; a clay dome; a special hut; a special rock and some handmade jewelry pieces along with a few other smaller items.

Each Nana initiate would go through the rituals to align her energy to use them properly... and then the elders would share their knowledge of how to effectively use them and share stories of how they had life experiences where they brought them into use.


I would like to move the conversation towards you personally so that the reader may learn more about you and what you do as an Iyanifa. You are an artist and have developed land dedicated to the Orisha. 


How did the Gardens come about?

I started in the 70’s with my husband, Oluwo Philip Neimark.  We were living in downtown Chicago and practicing with practitioners there what was said to be Ifa but really turns out to be a version of it through the belief system of Santeria/Lucumi.  We went to have readings done...and then rituals and ebbos performed.  For the most part they were all indoors.. in small cramp spaces that were either in a basement or a garage.  They were not pretty spaces to spend time in for sure and the energy just did not feel quite right. 

When we really committed our lives more into this great path, Ifa...we wanted things to happen in nature.  We knew that being out in the open air and sunlight and with the sounds and sights of beautiful land everything would be more pure. We asked the Universe to lead us in the right direction of where we could establish our new direction and it turned into a 15 acre piece of land down in between two hills and in between to huge national forest preserves.  It was endless nature.  You could walk for miles inside big forests with pristine creeks running through.  It was amazing territory and it came with a small structure on it so we could move in immediately. 

We started on the weekends... driving 4 hours south with a loaded car complete with our 1 year old Esu child and all gear necessary to set up home on the land.  It was like arriving in an African Village in no time.  We started creating a garden per Orisha...while I was tapped into the powerful visions that Susanne Wenger had developed with her restoration project of the original sacred Orisha gardens... beginning back in the 1950s or so.

The land suited all our needs immediately and just as soon as we set up the outside shower...interested parties arrived from the surrounding states to embark upon being initiated.

We had so many wonderful people eager to experience the Orisha in this natural way...and the gardens just became so magical with the continual love poured into them and the great rituals performed on the vortex locations. 

We had people coming from all over the world and sharing with us some incredible experiences from inside the matrix’s of this land.  There were incredible vortexes...just amazing energy expanding out in 360 degrees for all to feel and know.  People shape-shifted before your eyes.  It was amazing.  We had workshops and Ifa weddings and all kinds of events that opened people to the beauty the path of Ifa had to offer. 

I got into welding and built an extensive workshop and created sacred Orisha living energy art pieces...some huge pieces for each garden and then unique one of a kind things for people who wanted a special staff for their own home and garden.

I had a third floor art studio high in the tree tops like Susanne Wenger did in Nigeria...and I would set aside time to communicate with her telepathically and share in what the Orisha pieces and gardens were like there.  I could really feel it and people that had been to those gardens and then came to ours would make the most rewarding comments.  I just loved that others could get what I was doing.  It inspired me to keep on doing the hard work it took to birth each layer.

After 14 years of the challenges the ice and snow gave us each winter, and with our children's blooming Tennis careers, we decided to head south and be in a climate where we could work outside year round.  And again we aligned our energy fields and worked with Orunmila to be guided to another incredible piece of land.  This time on the edges of the Ocala National Forest in central Florida.

We soon learned that the State of Florida was originally attached to what is now the continent of Africa.  What a blessing!  We had the soil and plant-life of where the original Ile Ife and the Ifa path was considered birthing from. 

We brought as many rocks as possible and the tools that were in and on each of the original Orisha gardens in Bloomington with us when we moved.  Weighed a ton and cost a fortune but we had to...it had the ashe...and the accumulation we knew was important to have present for the level of ceremonial work we were doing.  We really wanted to do everything in highest order...and knew that was the right things to do.  Now we were able to work year round...and in another very private big energy vortex space.  It is truly another dimension when you pass inside our gates at Ola Olu.

We have been developing the land since 911 and as of 2014 have 22 gorgeous and potent Orisha gardens...the largest labyrinth ever...with the 256 odu’s as the steps you take in.  We have the giant Ela/IyaMoopo living sculpture that I built in honor of Susanne Wenger that people just love love love.

We have the 40 foot long Onile Mother Earth figure that people connect with that is so renewing and simply loving.  We have the vined covered tubular lane that you walk inside of that leads you into the ancient face centered in the Guardian Ancestor shrine.

There is so so much more but I must stop and tell you about the belly of earth that is where the Nana mound is.  This is truly a sacred place.  And this is where it all happens.  Nana comes right there and as we, Nana’s sit around her sacred ring of fire in the dark and watch her flames dance and listen to her music and open up for her messages...life becomes so much more.  It is an experience that truly divine. All the Nana’s love to come back and be a part of what this feels like.

We welcome people to come and experience all of the gardens...but only a Nana and an Iyanifa can be a part of Nana’s sacred ring of fire ritual. 

What is your experience as a working Iyanifa that is a diviner for so many?” 

Now, after 30+ years of being around the path of Ifa and being a working Iyanifa for more than half of that time... I feel honored for all of the trust and opportunities that being a diviner for so many has presented me.  I am truly humbled by this experience.  Everyone that has come into my path has been my teacher.  Just as I am teaching and sharing the knowledge in my life’s circle...they are also offering me the same. 

I look at everything the Universe brings into my presence as important.  I totally get that it is all there for a reason and that I am willing to openly accept the experience of what it is and do what is in good character...flowing with it with my personal integrity level. 

I am very connected with my Guardian Ancestor and work with the knowledge that he is always downloading in my head.  I am also very connected with my Guardian Orisha, Ogun, and use what feels natural for me to move with as I take each breath in. 

I always trust that Ifa has solutions to any situation and that I must be in alignment to receive the flowing information of the higher order that is my Truth.  This is my work...and this is what I teach others.  Divining for so people globally has expanded my communication levels.  I have opened myself up to truly listening to all those coming to be heard.

With great enthusiasm I embrace their challenges and connect the dots through the divination system of Ifa to allow them the clearest information that is of the highest order.  It is with this... which is revealed through the map of the divination that must be clearly stated to the person needing that set of directions. 

I am very involved in sharing things in a nurturing way...being a teacher that births them to another level each time we connect.  I love following their journey and supporting them as the mothering Nana. 

The Opele, an Ifa Priest level tool, begins speaking to you as you work with it longer.  You go beyond the words and tap into the energy matrix’s that are revealed.  It is through working with the energy of Ososi that I am best able to communicate information from the spirit world to someone in the physical world.

Divination can look like many things. I have seen videos from Anthropologists that have spent a great deal of time in villages all over Nigeria...and can say that each diviner develops a style of their own.  The
key is to truly meet the information clearly and communicate it to the person coming in need of receiving the information in a format that is digestible as well as usable.

A divination from me does not have fear in it.  It is all about how to best empower the person to become more responsible with taking action in a long term view.  It is a teaching experience and one that brings a road map surrounded by light so they see all of that which is possible.

I love the people that are attracted to us.  I have long standing relationships with them and in time some chose to take steps into the path of Ifa to become more connected to their higher self.  This is when they would come to the retreat and have an experience of something deeper.

I have been doing more and more readings for people who live far away through the on-line conference center we use for teaching our classes we call...Wednesday Webex - S.E.E. Spiritual Empowerment Experiences.  We have this great way of seeing each other face-to-face from each of our own places.  It is a great connection and super easy to use.

In seeing the person I can tell more about their health.  This is a big component in my teaching in the divination session.  I know that one must have the ability to calm their thoughts and open in a contemplative way to receive the information divined for them...and to use it most effectively in the long term.

Ifa is about finding balance in our partnership with everything in the Universe.  When we are eating food that is nurturing and promotes clear thinking throughout a day...and when we breath deeper along with getting proper rest...we can do everything much better.  So it is with this partnering that we take the information of the divination and bring more success to the journey.

Each divination brings building blocks to support our growth and teach us how to tap into more of what we carry right inside our own core.

What do you think the role of an Iyanifa is?

#1... to be living daily life with using the best character possible.  To keep an awareness that every thing is part of a whole...and make each action count!  With regards to what an Iyanifa is capable of specifically...we must be the teacher.  We must live using what we know.  We must do our own personal work to be true. 

When we are working with guiding others...we must have pure intention without any personal agenda and ego filtered in.  We must always respond steadily with unwavering values of what is of higher good in the  long-term.  We must know when to give and when to rest...restore and replenish.  We have to take care of ourselves and show others what that is.. from our example.

Many women will get so into the work and lose themselves in it...to the point where what they give is not so pure and will be weaker than is best. Using your own knowledge within your own life first and then your family and then your friends and then your community...keeping that priority is something I pay attention to.

You have mentioned there are people who don’t like you because of the color of your skin… So,  can you share what’s a white girl like you doing in a tradition like this?   What is your experience ?

I keep close connection with my core African Ancestry roots.  I ask those that want to challenge my purpose in being involved with Ifa...if they are working with their ancestors.  IF they are....then they will know that we are all connected.  We share everything.

We come from the ancestor world with a purpose.  We need to spend our time with a focus on connecting with this and support one another on their personal journey rather that doing anything that can deter them from why they have come.

At this time in the Universe I am walking in physical features that resemble my Greek guardian ancestor.  I walk proudly in the path of Ifa with daily honor that I can add to everything I am doing what my ancestor connections.  I open up daily to hear, see, sense and be one with what they are sending.

I love that I learn more about what my gifts are and how to use them each day...and I especially love having the opportunities that I do...to use them.  

It is with great honor and reverence that I am a part of sharing the experience of being a woman in Ifa.  Thank you for this opportunity.

We are all connected.  We are all humans.  Let us love one another.

What is the outlook for women and Ifa in general for the future?

With the way the world is moving now...There are more people waking up and seeing we need healing....and that it is time to find more ways to create balance so we can restore and become more prepared to deal with all of the rapid changes.

The special strengths and gifts that women have are important to bring out into the world now.  Women have been strong all along but not as respected and honored in some cultures.  What I am sensing is that in general...there is an opening being created and an awareness that in order for our world to be in better balance... the female energy needs to be elevated...listened to and implemented!  It is now that we need to add more of the female gifts and strengths to bring what is needed.

A woman in Ifa has stronger connections to very uniques abilities...and she has the knowledge and vision of what to do in more and more places.

Each year there continues to be an increase in women coming to the retreat to heal their past, clear their obstacles, and to truly move into higher positions of empowerment. It is a great time for women in Ifa to free themselves of the past roles placed on them and to be able to use their abilities freely...openly and with reverence!

It is at this time... women need to take on this responsibility and not let fear stand in their way.  They need to step up and in and partner with the male energy to restore the balance and bring what is necessary.

Ifa is a beautiful path and I would love to see it be more respected within our mainstream population.  Some people are afraid of not being accepted if they let others know that they are involved.  I say.... be proud that you are an Iya...be proud that you are walking with such a wonderful way of living life...and be all of that with the strongest light you have inside to shine and allow others to see for themselves the beauty that is the truth of Ifa.  We need to live it fully and honestly now.

Ifa is a very healthy path and very adaptable to everyones timeframe. It is a way of living that works anywhere in the world...by people of all ages and with anyones cultural background.  And most important... Ifa is available to all people...ALL!

In a study done a few years ago...Ifa was noted as the 7th largest path worldwide (when combining all of the variations of it).  We must overcome the negative connotations of it.  There have been people in teaching positions that have NOT done things in good character.  They have moved with ego and dollar signs and turned something so beautiful into something that some people see as evil.  And this has given the path of Ifa a negative view by some of the mainstream folks.

Let us as Iya’s call on some of these people and pray for them to change their thinking as well as be removed from their positions as teachers until they can become healed themselves and free from the negative character movements.  It is good character on our part to not turn away from this responsibility.

As an Iya... I am committed to bringing more clarity and understanding about the path of Ifa...showing that women and men are to work in harmony and compliment one another and help others that are seeking to find something good for their lives through what Ifa’s matrix’s have so naturally constructed.

We as Iyanifa’s can do so much more together... providing people a much clearer vision of what is possible.  I say...let us help those who are not clear enough to see for themselves...and teach them how to see for themselves and live a live healed from the past and become whole for the future.

Ashe. Ashe. Ashe.  All in love.