Patakís or itás are the repositories of the oral tradition in our religion. They are the sum total of the wealth of wisdom left to us by our ancestors. Most often, they are the stories or myths that accompany the odu (letters or signs) that arise in divination, each letter having several Patakís that orient the practioner and the person coming to be ‘seen’ with the shells or Ifá. These stories depict how that particular odu operates and gives an example of how it might affect the person who has come to be ‘seen’. The Patakí also tells the person what they need to do under the circumstances of that particular Odu.
The Patakís also serve as sacred precedents, one sometimes hearing that a certain ritual act, attitude or view ‘has odu’, meaning that it is upheld by tradition as shown in a Patakí.
One last note. The Patakís often have several meanings and it is only with time that a person develops a deep understanding of these ‘receptacles of wisdom’ contained within the odu.