Odu. The term is virtually all encompassing in Ifá. Odu is at once a deity and the term we use for the letters or signs that come up when we perform divination. Here we will focus more on the second definition.
There are 256 odu. Each can be regarded as a living entity with a personality and certain attributes. Each odu is also a complex creature having a number of separate caminos or paths that it can take. The Odus contain everything that has ever happened, is happening now and all that will happen in the future. And the Odus serve as divine precedents. For example, arguments are often resolved in the religion when it is shown that the situation 'has Odu', with what is said in the Odu having the final word in the matter.
When a person is seen with Ifá, the first operation is to find which odu is accompanying the person at that time. This odu will define what path they are on, what sort of situations they are facing and what can be done for them to achieve balance and to improve their life.
When an odu accompanies a person, the person takes on many of the attributes of the entity that is the odu. For instance, let's say a person comes to be seen with Ifá. It is found that the odu Ogundá Meyi; accompanies her. She is told the patakí for Ogundá Meyi. In this case she will be told that she is encountering or will encounter a situation where she will be tempted to fight with others over some 'prize' or 'out of principle'. She will also be advised not to be lured into a fight such as this and that she must instead find a solution that will be equitable to all involved. Otherwise she may be in danger of not only losing the 'prize' but that the fight could even lead to serious trouble. In fact, she could end up placing her life in danger. In this way, her life is likely to take one of the two paths described in this Odu. Ifá may tell her that she may need to make an ebó or sacrifice to aid her in this crisis. For instance, she may be told that she needs have her head cleansed and strengthened in order to giver the clarity, tranquility and strength of character to meet the situation without losing her temper and finding herself in trouble.
When a person makes Ocha or Ifá (becomes initiated as a priest, priestess or babalawo), they are born with an odu. In other words, deep divination is done to ascertain what the person's odu is. The odu with which a person is given birth to in the religion accompanies them for life and defines how their life will unfold.