La Santeria - a collection of gathered materials

topic posted Sat, January 14, 2006 - 11:28 AM by  ૐ Rev Ro
I grew up around people who practiced Santeria in a very natural and authenic way. It was a normal part of my surroundings. However being a Native of NYC I often found myself foolishly turning my back on my roots. It was hard trying to fit in with an accent, so engaging in Santeria was something I rejected almost as a form of survival. But it always followed me..somehow some way I often found myself peeping into this colorful and rich religion.

I've devoted this thread to Santeria. Now, keep in mind I am not a practicing Santera. I know a little more then the basics, however I am not an expert in this religion. Therefore, I might post a collect information that might need some further clarification. Those in the group that are more versed in Santeria do feel free to add your comments.

When it comes to Santeria, I know enough, but since I don't practice the religion, I don't attempt to learn more. Keep in mind, the Orishas can be possessive of their children and don't like to share. Which means, if I devoted myself to Santeria, I would have to truly devote myself and do a lot more then just attend a few bembes.

I'm too eclectic in my way of being to stick to one path...

Anyway..enjoy and do add your comments.
posted by:
ૐ Rev Ro
  • Santeria

    Sat, January 14, 2006 - 12:58 PM
    Santeria is one of the many syncretic religions created in the New World. It is based on the West African religions brought to the new world by slaves imported to the Caribbean to work the sugar plantations. These slaves carried with them their own religious traditions, including a tradition of possession trance for communicating with the ancestors and deities, the use of animal sacrifice and the practice of sacred drumming and dance. Those slaves who landed in the Carribean, central and south America were nominally converted to Catholicism. However, they were able to preserve some of their traditions by fusing together various Dahomean, baKonga and Yoruban beliefs and rituals and by syncretizing these with elements from the surrounding Catholic culture. In Cuba this religious tradition has evolved into what we know today as Santería, the Way of the Saints. Today hundreds of thousands of Americans participate in this ancient religion. Some are fully committed priests and priestesses, others are "godchildren" or members of a particular house-tradition, many are clients seeking help with their everyday problems. Many are of Hispanic and Caribbean descent but as the religion moves out of the inner cities an into the suburbs a growing number are of African-American and European-American heritage. As the Ifa religion of Africa was recreated in the Americas it was transformed, today as it moves moves into mainstream America we can expect further tranformation.

    Joseph Murphy, in his classic Santeria says that "The sacred world of Santería is motivated by ashe. Ashe is growth, the force toward completeness and divinity. [This is a ] view of the world [as] an ontology of dynamism, that is, a belief that the real world is one of pure movement. In fact, the real world is one not of objects at all but of forces in continual process." (130) I understand ashe as the energy of the universe. Modern physics teaches us that everything is merely energy moving at different rates of speed. I can change portions of the universe by adding and removing energy. In the simplest example, adding energy to water changes it into steam, removing energy changes it into ice. By understanding these principles of energy I have the power to control my environment. In the same way, by understanding the principles of ashe I can dance my true destiny.

    Murphy continues, "Ashe is the absolute ground of reality. But we must remember that it is a ground that moves and, so, no ground at all. To conceive this ground, in order to speak of it as something rather than nothing, santeros speak of Olodumare, the Owner of Heaven, the Owner of all Destinies. Olodumare is the object of ashe, the ultimate harmony and direction of all forces." (130) The Yoruba and their spiritual descendants view the world as a web of interconnected beings connected by ashe. The highest of these beings is Olodumare the source and owner of creation. Olodumare is the Owner of Heaven in the metaphysical sense of owning or being the source of a mystery. Creation consists of two realms: the visible and the invisible worlds. Heaven is the name given to the invisible realm, the realm that guides the evolution of the visible realm. Olodumare is both the source and owner of this mystery and as such is beyond human comprehension. Thus he is seen as austere, remote and difficult to approach. We find no shrines erected in his honor, no rituals directed toward him and no sacrifices made to placate him. Instead he is known in the visible world through the Orisha who are considered the manifestations of knowable aspects of Olodumare, whose essence remains a mystery.

    The Orisha are multi-dimensional beings who represent the forces of nature, act as Jungian archetypes and function as sacred patrons or "guardian angels". They have attributes and stories similar to the stories and attributes used to describe the ancient Greek and Roman pantheons. To the the followers of Santeria, however, the Orisha are not remote divinities, ensconced in their heavenly niches, far removed from worldly matters. On the contrary, they are vibrant, living entities who take an active part in everyday life. One does not pray to an Orisha on bent knees.

    In Africa, each Orisha was identified by a series of colors, numbers, natural elements, drum rhythms, dance steps, and icons that represent the qualities and attributes of that Orisha. The people saw the Orisha in the flash of lightening, stones, the rivers, and the like.

    (See also what Iya Olamide, a priestess of Yemoja with nearly two decades of ocha, has to say about the Orisha at Where Ogun Fears to Tread.)

    When the Yoruba people came to Cuba it was often dangerous to openly practice the old ways. The people did two things to survive. They "hid" the Orisha in the open. By this I mean they used the symbols of the Orisha to subtlety represent the Orisha, for example, bananas tied by a red sting or cloth in the kitchen, a scrap of white cloth over the door, railroad spikes at the foot of a tree. To the uninitiated these may look odd but not sacred. In more public environments they used their understanding of the Orisha to dressed them in the costumes of the Catholic saints the people saw around them.

    Below the Orisha in this cosmological system are human beings, made by the hand of the Orisha, Obatala, with the breath of life from Olodumare. It is humans who can make the offerings that feed the Orisha, it is the human communities that gathers together to call the Orisha into their human children.

    It is believed that every person has a specific energy pattern that is the foundation of his or her individual consciousness. This energy pattern marks the nature of the person's personality and character. This energy pattern is described as the Orisha that "owns one's head". Living in harmony with Nature, with Creation, means living in harmony with one's true self, with the lessons one is to learn in this incarnation. When one know one's patron Orisha one can form a spiritual link with those energies.

    Although they are more powerful than human beings, the Orisha are not omnipotent. Like all living things they must be constantly nourished. Only human can offer the sacrifice and praise the Orisha need to survive. And only humans can initiate the devotees that the Orisha call into their service. Without human beings, there would be no Orisha, without human cooperation there would be no Orisha either in their presentations or in their devotees.

    Egun (Ancestors)
    In the Yoruba cosmology there is no other world, only this world that contains both visible and invisible elements, that is those who are seen and those which is not seen. Both the Orisha and the ancestors dwell in the invisible world. During the rite of passage that is physical death, the human soul soul can become transform into one of the egun, that is an ancestral spirit.In Santeria, the ancestors included both the named and unnamed dead. With the rigors of the Middle Passage and slavery, few black Cubans had the connections to their ancestors common in Africa. Genealogies were lost or forgotten but the respect for the Dead remained.

    In the mid 1800's Kardecian spiritist traditions were brought to the islands of the Caribbean from France. This European "scientific" spiritism was incorporated into the existing African-based traditions of ancestor worship to form the new religion of Espiritismo. In both Cuba and the United States some santeros combine elements of Espiritismo with their practice of Santeria.

    Spirits are believed to have power to help and hinder the actions of humans. Individuals may have one or more protector spirits. But like the Orisha the spirits depend on the actions of their human "family" to become more highly evolved in their spirit realm.

    Plants, Animals, Rocks, Water, and the Like
    At the lowest level of power, but still of vital importance to the cosmos are animals, plants and what we call "inanimate" objects like rocks, the wind, dirt, iron, food, water, honey and the like. All of these contain levels of ashe that is be used by human beings for the benefit of the visible and invisible worlds. Just as the Orisha and spirits can not gain ashe without the help of the humans, so also these beings can not be transformed into higher element without the actions of human beings.

    Humans are required to keep the ashe of the universe flowing through this web of beings. If you think of these different beings as nodes in a web of being, humans are at the center controlling and directing the flow of energy between the various elements. Humans depend on members of each of these classes of beings for life, health and fortune. Each of the other types of beings depend on the actions of humans to enhance their own ashe.

    One lives in an interconnected cosmos in which some entities (spirits and Orisha) from other "planes" can mount or inhabit beings on this plane. One is always connected to one's ancestors, the Orisha and one's spiritual family. It is impossible to achieve any initiations outside of a community and higher initiations require a larger community to both perform and accept one's initiations.

    Online Resources
    African and Afro-Diaspora Religions: New World (Caribbean, North and South America) and African religious sites. Includes information on Santería, Candomblé, other Orisha religions, Vodoun, and more.

    Santeria, Joseph M. Murphy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1993.
    Santeria from Africa to the New World: The Dead Sell Memories, George Brandon. Bloomington:Indiana University Press, 1993.

    Culto Sincretico
    Mary Ann Clark
    Comments to:

    Revised: June 2000

  • Lukumí, Regla de Ocha or Afro-Cuba, most widely known as Santeria, (Santería in Spanish) is a set of related religious systems that superficially seem to fuse Catholic beliefs with traditional Yoruba beliefs. In the Yoruba language, Lukumí means "friends" and also applies to descendants of Yorùbá slaves in Cuba, their music and dance, and the cubanized dialect of the Yorùbá language.

    The name Lucumi originated from present-day Nigeria. The Yoruba people of Nigeria were initially called the Lukumi which was supposed to be from the word "Olokun mi"(my dear one). The name Yoruba is popularly believed to have been derived from a Hausa ethnonym for the populous people to their south, but this legend has not been substantiated by historians. The term first appeared in a treatise written by the Songhai scholar Ahmed Baba, and is likely to derive from the Oyo or Yagba, two Yoruba-speaking groups along the northern borders of their terrority. However, it is likely that the ethnonym was popularized by Hausa usage and ethnography written in Arabic and Ajami.

    Lukumí originated in Cuba and was historically practised by descendants of West African slaves, when slave owners purposely divided slave families and mixed members of different African ethnic groups as a way of maintaining control. Later, in the early 18th century, the Spanish Catholic church allowed for the creation of societies called cabildos to provide means for entertainment and reconstruction of many aspects of ethnic heritage for both sides. The slaves practised Yorùbá religious ceremonies in these cabildos, along with religious and secular traditions from other parts of Africa, combining their masters' pantheon of Catholic saints with their own pantheon of Orisha. This combination would come to be known as Lukumí.

    Lukumí's survival in Cuba was primarily due to this convergence of Yorùbá beliefs and Catholicism. When slave owners observed Africans celebrating a Saint's Day, they were generally unaware that the slaves were actually worshiping the Orisha. Today, the terms saint and Orisha are often used interchangeably. The common bond between the Lukumí Orisha and the Catholic saints has become a part of Cuba's religious culture. It was originally referred to as Santería (literally, Way of the Saints), a derisive term applied by the Spanish to mock followers' seeming overdevotion to the saints and their perceived neglect of God. The slaves' Christian masters did not allow them to practise their various west African religions. The slaves found a way around this by masking the Orishas as Christian saints while maintaining their original identities. The masters thought their slaves had become "good Christians" and were praising the saints, when in actuality they were continuing their traditional practices. [1]

    Lukumí is now practised in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Panama, and in Latin American population centers in the United States such as Florida, New York, and California.

    Beliefs and Rituals
    Lukumí ritual is highly secretive and primarily transmitted orally. Known practices include animal offering, ecstatic dance, and sung invocations to the Orishas. Chickens and fruit are the most common forms of sacrifice; their blood is offered to the Orisha. Drum music and dancing are used to induce a trance state in specific participants, who may become (supposedly) possessed by an Orisha who then speaks through them (see Yoruba music). One's ancestors, egun, are held in high esteem in Lukumí.

    Many animal rights activists take issue with the Lukumí practice of animal sacrifice, claiming that it is cruel. Followers of Lukumí point out that the killings are conducted in the same manner as many food animals are slaughtered and are not needlessly sadistic and that the priests charged with doing the sacrifice are trained in humane ways to kill the animals. Additionally, the animal is cooked and eaten afterwards. In 1993, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah that animal cruelty laws targeted specifically at Lukumí were unconstitutional, and the practice has seen no significant legal challenges since then. Lukumi does not advocate human sacrifice.

    OrishaNet: A website written by a Lukumi priest
    Santeria/Lukumi Resources
    Full text of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah Page on Santeria
  • An Orisha, also spelled Orisa and Orixa is a spirit that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare (God) in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system. This religion has found its way throughout the world and is now expressed in several varieties which include Anago, Oyotunji, Candomblé and Lukumí/Santería. These varieties or spiritual lineages as they are called are practiced throughout areas of Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, Mexico and Venezuela. As interest in African indigenous religions (spiritual systems) grows, Orisa communities and lineages can be found in parts of Europe and Asia as well. While estimates vary, there could be more than one million adherents of this spiritual tradition worldwide.

    Fundamentally a monotheistic religion, the Orisa faith believes in a creator deity, 'Olorun' or 'Olodumare', who is removed from the day-to-day affairs of human beings on Earth. Instead, adherents of the religion appeal to deified ancestors and culture-heroes for help with their problems. Faithful believers will also generally consult a geomantic divination specialist, known as a babalawo, to mediate on their problems and foretell future events. This practice is known as Ifa, and is still an important part of life throughout West Africa. UNESCO, the cultural and scientific education arm of the United Nations, declared Ifa a Masterpiece of Humanity's Oral and Intangible Heritage in 2005.

    An important part of the traditional Yoruba faith depends on proper alignment and knowledge of one's "Ori". "Ori" literally means the head, but in spiritual matters is taken to mean an inner portion of the soul which determines personal destiny and success. Ase, which also spelled "Axe", "Ashe" or "Ache" is the life-force that runs though all things, living and inanimate. Ase is the "power to make things happen". It is an affirmation which is used in greetings and prayers, as well as a concept about spiritual growth. Orisha devotees strive to obtain Ase through Iwa-Pele or gentle and good character, in turn they experience alignment with the Ori or what others might call inner peace or satisfaction with life.

    Yoruba were brought to the Americas during the Atlantic Slave Trade, along many other ethnic nationalities from West, Central, and parts of East Africa. Yoruba religious beliefs are among the most recognizable African-derived traditions in the Americas, perhaps due to the comparatively late arrival of large numbers of Yoruba in the Americas and the conglomerative and spiritually tolerant nature of the faith. The Orisa faith is often closely aligned to the beliefs of the Gbe ethnic nationalities (including Fon, Ewe, Mahi, and Egun), and there has been centuries of creative cross-fertilization between the faiths both in Africa and in the Americas. In many countries of the African diaspora, Yoruba and Gbe beliefs have also influenced and become influenced by Catholicism, and faiths that originate in the Kongo-Angolan cultural region of West-Central Africa. These include Palo in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, Quimbanda in Brazil and, according to some sources, the Petro rites of Haitian Vodou.

    Orishas include Shango, Olokun, Ifá, Yemoja, Osun, Obatala, Ogun, Oxossi|Ochosi, Oko, Soponna, Oya and Esu|Legba, among countless others. The Yoruba also venerate their Egungun, or Ancestors. (separate posts will be made for each orisha)

    Oxalá, the supreme father who is associated with balance, peace, fraternity and union.

    Omolu, The king of the earth, associated with health and absence of disease

    Nanã, The oldest Orixá, her followers are calm and dignified

    Iansã, Orixá of wind, change

    Further reading

    John Mason, Black Gods - Orisa Studies in the New World

    Chief Fama, Fundamentals of the YORUBA RELIGION (Orisa Worship)

    Baba Ifa Karade, The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts

    William Bascom, Sixteen Cowries

    David M. O'Brien, Animal Sacrifice and Religious Freedom: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah

    James T. Houk, Spirits, Blood, and Drums: The Orisha Religion of Trinidad. 1995. Temple University Press.

    Raul Canizares, Cuban Santeria

    Robert Farris Thompson, "Flash of the Spirit"
  • Shango

    Sat, January 14, 2006 - 4:08 PM
    In Yorùbá mythology, Shango (Xango), or Changó in Latin America, is perhaps the most popular Orisha; he is a Sky Father, god of thunder and the ancestor of the Yoruba. In the Lukumí (O lukumi = "my friend") religion of the Caribbean, Shango is considered to be the center point of the religion as he represents the Oyo people of West Africa. The Oyo Kingdom was sacked and pillaged and its residents brought in chains as slaves to the Caribbean and Brazil. All the major initiation ceremonies (as performed in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela for the last few hundred years) are based on the traditional Sango ceremony of Ancient Oyo. This ceremony survived the Middle Passage and is considered to be the most complete to have arrived on Western shores. This variation of the Yoruba initiation ceremony became the basis of all Orisha initiations in the West.

    The energy given from this Deity of Thunder is also a major symbol of African resistance against an enslaving European culture. He rules the color red and white; his sacred number is 6; his symbols are the oshe (double-headed axe), which represents swift and balanced justice. He is owner of the Bata (3 double-headed drums) and of music in general, as well as the Art of Dance and Entertainment.

    Modern-day portrayal of Shango in threatre.Shango is worshipped in Haitian Vodun, as a god of thunder and weather; in Brazilian Candomblé Ketu (under the name Xangô); in Umbanda, as the very powerful loa Nago Shango; and in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Venezuela- the equivalent of St. Barbara, a traditional colonial disguise for the Deity known as Chango.

    Shango was the fourth king of Oyo in Yorubaland, and deified after his death; mythologically, he (along with 14 others) burst forth from the goddess Yemaja's body after her son, Orungan, attempted to rape her for the second time. of course their are several myths regarding the birth and parentage of Shango. He is a major character in the divination literature of the Lukumi religion. Stories about Shango's life exeplify some major themes regarding the nature of character and destiny. in one set of stories Shango is the son of Aganju and Obatala. As the story goes, Obatala, the king of the white cloth was travelling and had to cross a river. Aganju, the ferryman and god of fire, refused him passage. Obatala retreated and turned himself into a beautiful woman. He returned to the river and traded his/her body for passage. Shango was the result of this uneasy union. This tension between reason represented by Obatala and fire represented by Aganju would form the foundation of Shango's particular character and nature. In further apatkis Shango goes in search of Aganju, his father, and the two of them play out a drama of conflict and resolution thatculminates with shango throwing himself into the fire to prove his lineage. All of the stories regarding Shango revolve around dramatic events such as this one. He has three wives; his favorite (because of her excellent cooking) is Oshun, a river goddess. His other wife, Oba, another river goddess, offered Shango her ear to eat. He scorned her and she became the Oba River, which merges with the Oshun River to form dangerous rapids. Lastly, Oya was Shango's third wife, and stole the secrets of his powerful magic.

    In art, Shango is depicted with a double-axe on his three heads. He is associated with the holy animal, the ram, and the holy colors of red and white.

    Shango is also the title of a Juno Reactor album.

    Shango was also the name of a rock group in the late 1960s. They had a minor novelty hit called "Day After Day", done in Calypso style, and mocking alarmist speculation that a deadly earthquake was imminent in California:
    • This post was deleted by ૐ Rev Ro
    • Olokun

      Sat, January 14, 2006 - 6:15 PM
      Olokun is experienced in male and female personifications, depending on what region and of West Africa He/She is worshipped. Olokun is personified in several human characteristics; patience, endurance, sternness, observation, meditation, appreciation for history, future visions, and royalty personified. Its characteristics are found and displayed in the depths of the Ocean. Its name means Owner (Olo) of Oceans (Okun).

      Olokun is considered the patron orisa of the descendants of Africans that were carried away during the Maafa, or what is sometimes referred to as the Transatlantic Slave Trade or Middle Passage. Olokun works closely with Oya (Deity of Sudden Change)and Egungun (Collective Ancestral Spirits) to herald the way for those that pass to ancestorship, as it plays a critical role in Death (Iku), Life and the transition of human beings and spirits between these two existences.

      Olokun also signifies unfathomable wisdom. That is, the instinct that there is something worth knowing, perhaps more than can ever be learned, especially the spiritual sciences that most people spend a lifetime pondering. Olokun also governs material wealth, psychic abilities, dreaming, meditation, mental health and water-based healing. Olokun is one of many Orisa known to help women that desire children. Olokun also is worshipped by those that seek political and social ascension, which is why heads of state, royalty, entrepreneurs and socialites often turn to Olokun to not only protect their reputations, but propel them further among the ranks of their peers.

      1 Yemoja-Olokun-Mami Wata Connections
      2 Olokun Priesthood
      3 Two Origin Stories of Olokun Worship
      3.1 The Hunter
      3.2 The Palm Tree
      4 Contradictory stories in Orisa culture
      5 Communion with Olokun
      6 A Prayer to Olokun
      7 Relationships as allegories
      8 External links
      9 Recommended reading

      Yemoja-Olokun-Mami Wata Connections
      Some Afro-Cuban lineages worship Olokun in tandem with Yemoja (Yemaya/Yemanja). In the past Lukumi and Santeria worshippers considered these two Orisa to be manifestations of one other, although westerner devotees know now that they are distinct, but kindred energies that were paired together during the Maafa as a way of preserving both Orisa traditions. In nature, the bottom of the ocean represents Olokun. Yemoja is usually considered to the visible sections of the ocean in the West.

      However in Africa, Yemoja is the divinity of Ogun River in Nigeria and Olokun is considered the mother of all bodies of water and as such is considered owner chiefly of the ocean, but all rivers. In Edo State (former Bendel State) Olokun is the patron Orisa of Ethiope River.

      In Nigeria and Benin, Olokun is sometimes worshipped in tandem with Mami Wata. They do have similar temperaments and personas.

      Olokun Priesthood
      Lukumi Orisa worshippers in the U.S. and the Caribbean do not initiate Olokun priests. However, in their traditions, you can receive an Olokun shrine for personal prosperity. Omo Olokun (children of Olokun) are typically initiated to Yemoja in Lukumi lineages. In other Orisa lineages and “sects” in the west, particularly Oyotunji, Anago and all indigene Orisa’Ifa initiations to Olokun do take place.

      Two Origin Stories of Olokun Worship
      While most Olokun initiates in Africa are female, the legends that mark the beginning of Olokun worship feature stories of men being their initial worshippers.

      The Hunter
      There was a hunter that resided in Urhoniigbe. One day he ventured off into the woods to find the source of distant singing and was met by a King and his court. He decided to stay awhile and at the invitation of the King participate in a spiritual ritual that was to take place. He ended up staying as the guest of the King (who is Olokun) for the following three years. During this time he learned the spiritual sciences and worship practices associated with Olokun.

      His family and neighbors assumed he was dead after being gone so long. They were surprised to say the least when he returned mute and dumbfounded (without the ability of speech or general sensibilities) carrying a water pot on his head. He only danced to the shock of townsfolk. Eventually the crowd that had gathered began to mock his dance and it started what was to become a 14-day tribute of ritual dancing to Olokun. At the end of this period the hunter began to talk again and chose to share some of his experiences. All skepticism about his story were eased as his began to do spiritual work that created positive results for those around him. He was named chief priest of Olokun at this point. Even until today, hunters re-act this famous prodigal son’s life with the annual festival and Ekabo dance. Urhoniigbe’s Olokun temple sits on the spot where he rested his Olokun pot/shrine on the 14th day.

      The Palm Tree
      In Ebvoesi, there was a boy named Omobe (rascal, troublesome child) that had great physical ability and was trained to be a wrestler. As he grew older his wrestling abilities grew stronger and before long he was considered the greatest wrestler in the world. At his birth the local priest/diviner warned his parents to not allow Omobe to climb palm trees. But one day while his parents were away he decided to climb a palm tree any way. From high up he could peer into the spirit world and he noticed that several divinities had gathered for a fantastic wrestling match! He immediately climbed down and made his way to the spirit world to test his own luck amongst a variety of spirits. He beat every opponent. Ancestors, Gods and all others lost at his hands, even Ogun. Finally he prepared to wrestle Olokun. While he summoned all of his physical strength, Olokun drew on His spiritual powers.

      During the match Omobe attempted to throw Olokun to the ground, but instead Olokun ended up firmly attached to his head. All attempts at removing Olokun from his head failed and Olokun declared it His permanent abode as a sign of Omobe’s arrogance and disrespect towards the other spirits. When Omobe returned home the local priest/diviner advised him to appease Olokun or die. So for seven days Omobe made sacrifice. On the last day Omobe was initiated as the first Olokun priest. After this Olokun loosened his grip on Omobe’s life.

      It is said that Omobe’s lack of respect for his parent’s, and spiritual elders and the divinities had landed his in such dire straits.

      Contradictory stories in Orisa culture
      In Orisa culture it appears that some stories contradict or compete with one another. The disparity or differences that exist are well understood by indigenous practitioners. While the stories are regarded as fact, they are also understood to be indicators of historical and social factors, which obviously differ from region to region.

      Communion with Olokun
      Those with a connection with Olokun may experience Her/His messages and healing through dreams and when in contact with the ocean. Priests may use mirrors (scrying), clouds (sky-gazing) and more familiar oracles like 16-cowry divination to communicate with Olokun on behalf of self, client, community and nations.

      A Prayer to Olokun
      Iba Olokun fe mi lo're. Iba Olokun omo re wa se fun oyi o.

      I praise the Spirit of the vast Ocean. I praise the Spirit of the Ocean who is beyond understanding.

      Olokun nu ni o si o ki e lu re ye toray. B'omi ta'afi. B'emi ta'afi.

      Spirit of the Ocean, I will worship you, as long as there is water in the Sea.

      Let there be peace in the ocean. Let there be peace in my soul.

      Olokun ni'ka le. Mo juba. Ase.

      The Spirit of the Ocean, the ageless one, I give respect. May it be so.

      Relationships as allegories
      In female form among the Yoruba, Olokun is the wife of Olorun and, by him, the mother of Obatala and Odudua. Other relationships are numerous, especially when the gender of Olokun changes. Again, while these relationships are taken quite literally they actually serve to tell occult members which Orisa work well together in healing situations, as well to provide historical references to relationships between communities that serve as centers or hosts to main shrines for each of these Orisa.

      Olokun is worshipped in Benin, Togo and among the Yoruba in Nigeria.
      • Yemoja

        Sat, January 14, 2006 - 6:19 PM
        In Yorùbá mythology, Yemoja is a mother goddess; patron deity of women, especially pregnant women; and the Ogun river (the waters of which are said to cure infertility). Her parents are Oduduwa and Obatala. She had one son, Orungan, who raped her successfully one time and attempted a second time; she exploded instead, and fifteen Orishas came forth from her. They include Ogun, Olokun, Shopona and Shango.

        Yemoja is also venerated in Vodun. In the Umbanda religion, Yemoja is a goddess of the ocean and patron deity of the survivors of shipwrecks. In Santería, Yemoja is the equivalent of Our Lady of Regla.

        Other names
        Imanja or Imanjá

        Retrieved from ""
        • Yemaya

          Sat, January 14, 2006 - 6:24 PM
          I had to include this information, because the previous material did not do justice to this wonderful Goddess of the ocean.

          Great Goddess; Ocean Mother; mother of all the orishas.
          Moon / Full Moon /Crescent Moon / Water / Saturday
          (African: Yoruba; Afro-Caribbean; Afro-Brazilian)

          Culture/Origin: West African (Yoruba).

          Myth: Yemaya is a West African creation goddess, often depicted as a mermaid. She is associated with the moon, the ocean and female mysteries. Typically portrayed as a beautiful woman, Yemaya governs the household and intervenes in women's affairs. She is a merciful goddess, invoked by women for aid in childbirth, love and healing. She rules over the conception and birth of children and ensures their safety during childhood. As a creation goddess, Yemaya's womb spilled forth the fourteen Yoruba goddesses and gods, and the breaking of her uterine waters caused a great flood, which created the oceans. From her body the first human woman and man, who became the parents of all mortal beings on earth, were born.

          Yemaya's Wisdom: I nurture, heal, touch, bless, comfort and make whole that which is incomplete. I am within you and you need only look inside yourself to find my eternal presence.

          Yemaya's name may be spelled Yemalla, Yemalia, and in many other ways. She rules the sea, the Moon, dreams, deep secrets, sea shells, ancient wisdom, salt water, fresh water, ocean secrets, the collective unconscious, and the surface of the ocean, seas, and lakes. Her many titles include Queen of Witches, Mother of Fishes, The Constantly Coming Woman, The Ocean Mother, Mother of Dreams and Secrets, Mother of All, Mother of the Sea, Holy Queen Sea, The Womb of Creation, Mother of Pearl, Stella Maris (star of the sea), and Yeyé Omo Eja, Mother Whose Children Are the Fish. In Africa she is Mama Watta, Mother of Waters.

          The African disapora spread Yemaya's worship to the New World, where she was syncretized with Mary as Our Lady of Regla (Virgin of Madrid), and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. In Cuba she is Yemaya, Yemaya Achabba (stern aspect), Yemaya Oqqutte (violent aspect), Yemaya Olokun (powerful dream aspect), and Yemaya Ataramagwa, Queen of the Sea. In Trinidad she is Emanjah, a river goddess. In Brazil she is an ocean goddess called Yemanja and Imanje. In Haiti her name is Agwe, Mother of the Sea, and in New Orleans she is called La Balianne.

          The cowrie shell is Yemaya's symbol, and fish are sacred to her. Her jewels include crystals, pearls, and mother of pearl. Blue, white, and silver are Yemaya's colors. Seven is her number. Yemaya is celebrated on February 2 and December 31, when offerings are made to her. She is also honored on September 7, September 9, and on the eve of Summer Solstice, by casting flowers and votive boats into water. There is a Brazilian tradition of the candelaria on December 31, lighting candles on the beach at midnight for Yemanje. Votive boats made from flowers are cast into the sea. It is a good omen for the coming year if she accepts your boat, and carries it out to sea. It is a bad omen if your offering is refused, and your boat is washed back upon the shore.

          Invoke Yemaya for blessings, compassion, wisdom, fertility, creation, riches, inspiration, motherhood, female power, natural wealth, love spells, wish magic, sea spells, fertility rituals, water magic, women's issues, having children, sustaining life, washing away sorrow, revealing mysteries, acquiring ancient wisdom, protecting the home, learning not to give your power away, and comforting children in crisis. Invoke her as Erzulie for beauty, good fortune, and good health. Invoke her as Yemoja to cure infertility, as Yemana for rain, as Emanjah for teaching children, as Yemaya Olokun for dream magic and protecting babies in the womb; and as Yemaya Ataramagwa for money spells. Invoke Yemaya as Agwe for affection and blessings.

          Yams, grain, soap, perfume, jewelry, and fabric are all traditional offerings to Yemaya, thrown into the sea. Rams are also sacrificed to her. Wear pearls or crystal beads to invoke her. To ask Yemaya to grant a wish or bestow a blessing, write her a letter and cast it into the sea
  • Ifá - divination

    Sat, January 14, 2006 - 6:17 PM
    Ifá is a system of divination that originated in West Africa among the Yoruba people. The system is also practiced among believers in Lucumi, (sometimes referred to as Santería), Candomblé, and similarly transplanted Orisa'Ifa lineages in the New World.

    1 Overview of divination system
    2 Divination process
    3 Odu Ifa
    4 Vocabulary
    5 Names
    6 External links
    7 Resources

    Overview of divination system
    The Yoruba divination system enabled diviners to invoke Orunmila, the Yoruba deity of wisdom, prophecy and ethics, and Esu (Eshu), who as messenger of the gods lends his authority or Ase to the oracle for the purpose of clarifying the future and providing direction to those seeking guidance. Ifa divination rites provide an avenue of communication between the spirit world and that of the living.

    Performing Ifa divination is called Dida Owo. Dida Owo is performed only by an initiated priest called a Babalawo (male Ifa priest) or Iyanifa (female Ifa priest), sometimes called Awo. Babalawo is directly translated as "father of ancient wisdom".

    Divination process

    Babalawo prays over child during Esentaye (child-naming ceremony)
    Containers such as these hold the Ikin and act as primary fixtures on or at Ifa shrines in West Africa and the DiasporaSpecial instruments are used to assist in the divination to transcribe Orunmila's wisdom through the diviner. The items used for divination include:

    a group of sixteen Ikin, commonly known as palm nuts, which are used to create binary data
    a vessel for the seeds
    a divination tray (opon Ifa).
    a tapper instrument (iroke Ifa)
    beaded belts for the babalawo to wear.
    The tray and tapper are used in Ifa divination, a central ritual within Yoruba religion. This tray, adorned with carved images and dusted with powder, serves as the template on which sacred signs (odu) related to the personal concerns of a diviner's client are traced as the point of departure for analysis. In contrast to those transitory signs, the more permanent backdrop of the carved motifs on the tapper and tray constitutes an artistic exegesis of the forces that shape human experience and the universal needs fulfilled by such quests for enlightenment.

    To initiate the ritual, the babalawo places the tray in front of him and taps rhythmically on it with the pointed end of the tapper, invoking the presence of past diviners and of Ifa (also called Orun-mila) the god of divination.

    Tthere a variety of palm nuts that are available, but only specific kinds may be used for Ifa divination. The palm nuts are grouped in one hand, then the diviner attempts to shift them all to his/her other hand at once, and counts the remaining Ikin left, hopefully to discover that either one or two remain. (Odu, which are the foundation of the binary data, can only be marked with either one or two palm nuts, remaining in the diviner's original hand. As this process goes on, the diviner marks single or double marks in wood powder spread on his divination tray until he or she has created one of the 256 odus that are available.

    Each of these odus is associated with a traditional set of Ese (verses), often relating to Yoruba mythology, which explain their divinatory meaning. These verses represent thousands of years of observation and are filled with predictions, and both mundane and spiritual prescriptions that resolve issues found in that Odu.

    After obtaining the Odu that governs a situation or event, the diviner then determines whether the Odu comes with Ire (which is poorly translated to mean good luck) or Ibi (which could be viewed as obstacles or impediments to success). After this process the diviner now determined appropriate offerings, spiritual disclipines and/or behavioral changes necessary to bring, keep or compel success for the person receiving divinatory counsel.

    Odu Ifa

    Opon Ifa (divining tray with Ikin)There are sixteen major Odu, when combined there are total of 256 Odu that govern all situations, all circumstances and all actions and consequences in life. These form the basic of Yoruba spiritual knowledge and the foundation of all Yoruba divination systems.

    Interpreting Odu is fairly easy. Where I is an odd count or a "heads" result, and II is an even count or a "tails" result, the sixteen basic patterns and their Yoruba names are set forth in the sidebar.

    The babalawo recites a series of proverbs and stories from the Ifa poetry that go with that choice. The final interpretation is made by the person seeking guidance, who decides how the verses that the babalawo has recited should be applied to the problem at hand.

    Though the number of symbols is different, the Chinese I Ching divination system also bears some resemblance to Ifa divination. Like the Chinese I Ching, Ifa combines a large body of wisdom literature with a system for selecting the appropriate passages from it. Unlike the I Ching, however, Ifa poetry is not written down but passed down orally from one babalawo to another.

    Awo. Ifa Priest
    Babalawo. Male Ifa Priest
    Iyanifa. Female Ifa Priest
    Dida Owo. casting Ikin Ifa.
    Ohunte Ale. Inscribing or marking Odu on the Opon Ifa
    Opon Ifa. Divining tray
    Orunmila. Prophet that developed and spread Ifa divination system. Now considered a deified Ancestor that embodies principles of Ifa.
    Orisa. Primordial energies from which all living things eminate from; The Deities that represent various manifestations of the ONE God, Olodumare.

    Ifa priests and worshippers among the Yoruba people or those who believe in Ifa bear names related with Ifa, typically, but not necessarily, begin with the word, ‘Ifa’, like Ifadairo, Ifabiyi, Ifadare, Ifabunmi, etc.

    Awo Fasina Falade Ifa: The Key to It's Understanding ISBN 0966313232
    Chief Fama Fundamentals of the Yoruba Religion (Orisa Worship) ISBN 0971494908
    C. Osamaro Ibie Ifism the Complete Works of Orunmila ISBN 1890157058
    William R. Bascom: Ifa Divination: Communication Between Gods and Men in West Africa ISBN 0253206383
    William R. Bascom: Sixteen Cowries: Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World ISBN 0253208475
    Awo Fa'Lokun Fatunmbi Awo: Ifa & the Theology of Orisha Divination ISBN 0942272242
  • More on... What is Santería?

    Tue, January 17, 2006 - 8:13 PM

    Santería or La Regla Lucumí originates in West Africa in what is now Nigeria and Benin. It is the traditional religion of the Yoruba peoples there. The slave trade brought many of these people to the shores of Cuba, Brazil, Haiti, Trinidad and Puerto Rico among others. But along with the bodies being brought over for sale into a life of misery, something else was being brought along. Their souls. And their religion.

    First of all, Santería is not a 'primitive' religion. On the contrary, the Yorubas were and are a very civilized people with a rich culture and deep sense of ethics. We believe in one god known as Olorun or Olodumare. Olorun is the source of ashé, the spiritual energy that makes up the universe, all life and all things material.

    Olorun interacts with the world and humankind through emissaries. These emissaries are called orishas. The orishas rule over every force of nature and every aspect of human life. They are approachable and can be counted on to come to the aid of their followers, guiding us to a better life materially as well as spiritually.

    Communication between orishas and humankind is accomplished through ritual, prayer, divination and ebó or offerings (which includes sacrifice). Song, rhythms, and trance possession are also means with which we interact with the orishas and how we are able to affect our day to day lives so that they we may lead deeper and fuller lives during our stay in this world.

    In the New World the orishas and much of the religion was hidden behind a facade of Catholicism with the orishas themselves represented by various saints. The slaveowners would then say "look at how pious this slave is. She spends all of her time worshipping Saint Barbara." Unbeknownst to them, she would actually be praying to Shangó, the Lord of Lightning, fire and the dance, perhaps even praying for deliverance from that very slaveowner. This is how the religion came to be known as Santería. The memory of this period of our history is also why many in our religion regard the term Santería as a derogatory.

    The traditions of Santería are fiercely preserved and full knowledge of the rites, songs, and language are prerequisites to any deep involvement in the religion. Initiates must follow a strict regimen and are answerable to Olorun and the orishas for their actions. As a person passes through each initiation in the tradition, this knowledge deepens and their abilities and responsibilities grow accordingly. In fact, during the first year of their initiation into the priesthood, the initiate or Iyawó or 'bride' of the orisha must dress in white for an entire year. The iyawo must not look into a mirror, touch anyone or allow themselves to be touched, and they may not wear makeup, or go out at night for this year.

    La Santería is famous for its 'magic'. This magic is based on a knowledge of the mysteries or orishas and how to interact with them to better our lives and the lives of those who come to us for the aid of the orishas. We live under the premise that this world is a magical one. This knowledge seems 'supernatural' only to those who don't understand it, but it really is quite natural.

    Although the people were yanked away from their homes in Africa and enslaved in the New World, the orishas, the religion and its power could never be chained down and the religion survives now. Not as an anachronism, but ever growing even now in such places as France and the Netherlands.

    Maferefún gbogbo orisha!!!
  • The Orishas

    Tue, January 17, 2006 - 8:16 PM
    The orishas are the emissaries of Olodumare or God almighty. They rule over the forces of nature and the endeavors of humanity. They recognise themselves and are recognised through their different numbers and colors which are their marks, and each has their own favorite foods and other things which they like to receive as offerings and gifts. In this way we make our offerings in the manner they are accustomed to, in the way they have always received them, so that they will recognise our offerings and come to our aid.

    The orishas are often best understood by observing the forces of nature they rule over. For instance, you can learn much about Oshún and her children by watching the rivers and streams she rules over and observing that though she always heads toward her sister Yemayá (the Sea) she does so on her own circuitous route. Also observe how the babbling brook and the flash flood reflect her changeable moods. As you observe the orishas at work in the world and in your own lives you will gain a better understanding of them and their ways. Yes, they are complex, but no more so than any other living being such as you or I. We are also blessed from time to time in the religion with the opportunity to meet the orishas face to face during a bembé where one or more of their priests will be mounted (see trance possession).

    Elegba (also referred to Eleggua or Elegguá)is the owner of the roads and doors in this world. He is the repository of ashé. The colors red and black or white and black are his and codify his contradictory nature. In particular, Elegba stands at the crossroads of the human and the divine, as he is child-like messenger between the two worlds. In this role, it is not surprising that he has a very close relationship with the orisha of divination, Orunmila. Nothing can be done in either world without his permission. Elegba is always propitiated and always called first before any other orisha as he opens the door between the worlds and opens our roads in life. He recognises himself and is recognised by the numbers 3 and 21.

    Ogún is the god of iron, war and labor. He is the owner of all technology and because this technology shares in his nature, it is almost always used first for war. As Elegba opens the roads, it is Ogún that clears the roads with his machete. He is recognised in the numbers 7 and the colors green and black.

    Oshosi is the third member of the group known as the Guerreros or Warriors, and is received along with Elegba, Ogún and Osun in order to protect the Guerreros initiate and to open and clear their roads. Oshosi is the hunter and the scout of the orishas and assumes the role of translator for Obatalá with whom he has a very close relationship. His colors are blue and yellow.

    Obatalá is the kindly father of all the orishas and all humanity. He is also the owner of all heads and the mind. Though it was Olorun who created the universe, it is Obatalá who is the creator of the world and humanity. Obatalá is the source of all that is pure, wise peaceful and compassionate. He has a warrior side though through which he enforces justice in the world. His color is white which is often accented with red, purple and other colors to represent his/her different paths. White is most appropriate for Obatalá as it contains all the colors of the rainbow yet is above them. Obatalá is also the only orisha that has both male and female paths.

    Oyá is the ruler of the winds, the whirlwind and the gates of the cemetery. Her number is nine which recalls her title of Yansá or "Mother of Nine" in which she rules over the egun or dead. She is also known for the colors of maroon, flowery patterns and nine different colors. She is a fierce warrior who rides to war with Shangó (sharing lightning and fire with him) and was once the wife of Ogún.

    Oshún rules over the sweet waters of the world, the brooks, streams and rivers, embodying love, fertility. She also is the one we most often approach to aid us in money matters. She is the youngest of the female orishas but retains the title of Iyalode or great queen. She heals with her sweet waters and with honey which she also owns. She is the femme fatale of the orishas and once saved the world by luring Ogún out of the forests using her feminine wiles. And,in her path or manifestation of Ibú Ikolé she saved the world from draught by flying up to heaven (turning into a vulture in the process). Ikolé means Messenger of the House (of Olodumare). For this reason all who are to be initiated as priests, no matter what orisha rules their head, must go to the river and give account of what they are about to do. She recognises herself in the colors yellow and gold and her number is five. Peacocks and vultures are hers and we use them often to represent her.

    Yemayá lives and rules over the seas and lakes. She also rules over maternity in our lives as she is the Mother of All. Her name, a shortened version of Yeyé Omo Eja means "Mother Whose Children are the Fish" to reflect the fact that her children are uncountable. All life started in the sea, the amneotic fluid inside the mother's womb is a form of sea where the embryo must transform and evolve through the form of a fish before becoming a human baby. In this way Yemayá displays herself as truly the mother of all. She, and the root of all the paths or manifestations, Olokun is the source of all riches which she freely gives to her little sister Oshún. She dresses herself in seven skirts of blue and white and like the seas and profound lakes she is deep and unknowable. In her path of Okutti she is the queen of witches carrying within her deep and dark secrets. Her number is seven for the seven seas, her colors are blue and white, and she is most often represented by the fish who are her children.

    Perhaps the most 'popular' of the orishas, Shangó rules over lightning, thunder, fire, the drums and dance. He is a warrior orisha with quick wits, quick temper and is the epitomy of virility. Shangó took the form of the fourth Alafin (supreme king) of Oyó on Earth for a time. He is married to Obba but has relations with Oyá and Oshún. He is an extremely hot blooded and strong-willed orisha that loves all the pleasures of the world: dance, drumming, women, song and eating. He is ocanani with Elegba, meaning they are of one heart. When sees the quickness with which lightning makes short work of a tree or a fire rage through an area, one has witnessed the temper of Shangó in action. Though he traded the Table of Ifá to Orunmila in exchange for the gift of dance, his children have an innate ability for divination. To acknowledge the greatness of this king, all in the religion raise up on the toes of our feet (or rise out our chairs if we are sitting) at the mention of his name. His colors are red and white and he recognises himself in the numbers four and six. He is most often represented by a double headed axe.

    Orunmila is the orisha of wisdom and divination. He was the only orisha allowed to witness the creation of the universe by Olorun and bears witness to our destinies in the making as well. This is the source of his title of Eleri Ipin or "Witness to Destiny in its Creation". His priests, the babalawos or "Fathers of the Secrets" must devote themselves entirely to the practice of divination and the accompanying arts. Through the Table of Ifá his priests unfold the secrets of the universe and the secrets of the unfolding of our lives. His colors are green and yellow which reflect Orunmila's relationship with Osayín (the secrets of the plant world) and with Oshún, who is his apeteví with whom he has an extremely close relationship. Orunmila is wisdom and Oshún is knowledge, for wisdom without knowledge is useless, and one who has knowledge without wisdom is merely a danger to themselves and others.
    • THE GODS (Orishas) part 1

      Wed, January 18, 2006 - 11:06 AM

      We are the gods' children.

      When Olodumare sends out the souls that will be born on this earth, the Orishas pick and choose among them, selecting the ones they wish for their own. They become our parents.

      One does not choose an Orisha. The Orisha chooses his or her "child". Insisting on worshipping and being the "child" of an Orisha who has not recognized the initiate produces absolutely terrible results. The tales tell of physical and psychological disturbances leading to suicide.

      No Santeria ceremony, no matter how simple, begins or ends without the ancestors being thanked and the spirits of the dead being placated. The dead are among us on a very intimate relationship. The ghost of an enemy in life is to be feared in death, having more power dead than alive.

      The following are necessarily brief descriptions of the major Orishas and ancillary spirits. Geographical differences and inconsistencies in the names and nature of the Orishas are unavoidable in a religion without a written canon. But, it is diversity that has maintained Santeria alive through the centuries. The information is broken down into a few groupings:

      The Saint

      The Catholic persona assumed by the African Deity to escape the wrath of the Inquisition.

      The Day of the Week

      Each Orisha has a favorite day. This is the most propitious time to make offerings, burn candles, consult the oracles, and perform the rites specified through the oracles.

      Colors and Collars (Ilekes)

      Each Orisha owns a collar of a specific color and shape. The Orisha's "child" must wear it around his or her neck. The collars should not be kept in the pocket or purse or inside a balled up handkerchief. Care should be taken that they remain unsnarled. When they are not being worn, they should be placed on the Orisha's tureen. When there are no tureens, they should be carefully laid out on a white cloth.

      The collars are not to be lent to anyone. A Santero or Santera should never sleep, have sex, or shower with them on.

      An Orisha's colors are the same as those of the beads that make up his or her Ileke. The Orisha's "child" should wear clothes in the colors that are pleasing to his or her patron. The Orisha's tureen and implements should also be of the appropriate color.

      Sacrificial Animals

      Each Orisha prefers to feed on the blood of a particular group of animals. His or her sacrifices should consist of those animals.

      Sacrificial Food

      Like their worshippers, Orishas have their favorite foods and are extremely pleased to have them presented as offerings.


      Each Orisha has power over a group of healing and magical herbs. The Omiero used to wash the Orisha's Otanes should be made up of the herbs that "belong" to the Orisha.

      The most common recourse for a Santero or any believer in Santeria when confronted by a problem whose solution does not require an animal sacrifice or any other specific Ebo, is to prepare an herb bath (Ewe).

      Used externally as a body cleanser, a spirit cleanser, or to clean the house and internally as medicinal potions, they are the most economic and fastest method for resolving problems and dissipating evils.

      When working with herbs for various Orishas, it is important that the herbs be piled separately until they are ready to be mixed in the final Omiero. Worshippers also often wash in their Orisha's Omiero to regain their health or to cleanse themselves from impurities.

      The herbs for the Ewe or the entire Omiero should be prepared in a deep mortar or over the soup tureen belonging to the Orisha being petitioned. They are never boiled and never used dry. The Otanes may be washed as frequently and as thoroughly as the person invoking the Orisha feels is needed.

      As the stones are being washed, a Mayuba should be made to the Orisha that is being washed. Animal sacrifices are not required before or after the stones are washed.


      These are the traditional African tales of the Orishas and their relationships among themselves and with men. They make up a constantly shifting mosaic of loves, betrayals and intrigue.


      The "tools" used by the Orishas and their worshippers to focus their power.

      And, a note about the music that always accompanies the ceremonies:

      The drum is the music of the African gods. Everything in Santeria is done to the beat of the sacred drums. They take the worshippers' messages to the Orishas.

      When the Orishas grant a request, the drums are played in thanksgiving and in joy. They are also played next to the sickbed, at funerals, and for the spirits of the dead.

      Regardless of the occasion, the drums must be well fed and honored before and after they are played. The offerings are made to Osain, the Orisha who "owns" the drums. When the drums are fed and happy, they sound better.

      OLODUMARE (Olofin, Olorun)

      Saint: Jesus Christ or the dove of the Holy Spirit.
      Day of the Week: Thursday.
      Colors and Collars (Ilekes): All and none.
      Sacrificial Animal: None. No animal sacrifices of any type.
      Sacrificial Food: None.
      Herbs: None.
      Ornaments: None.


      Olodumare, even though he was king of the other

      gods, had a mortal fear of mice. The other gods thought that a king, especially their king, should not be afraid of anything as unimportant and weak as a mouse.

      "Olodumare has turned into a weak old woman," they said, for they believed it shameful to fear mice. "It's time that we took away his power and named another king." Besides, they wanted total dominion of the world.

      Things continued as they were until the principal Orishas got together again.

      "We must take away Olodumare's power," they said. "He is getting old and weak."

      Everyone agreed, again. There was a problem, though. Olodumare was old, but he certainly was not weak. He was fierce and terrible and not one of the other Orishas would dare to challenge him in combat.

      The Orishas thought and talked and thought some more until one, no one knows who came up with an idea.

      "Let's scare Olodumare to death," said the unknown Orisha.

      "How do you propose to do that?" asked the other Orishas, since they themselves were deathly afraid of Olodumare.

      "Olodumare is afraid of mice," said the Orisha.

      "Everyone knows that," exclaimed the disappointed Orishas. "We thought that you had an idea."

      "If he is afraid of one mouse," continued the Orisha, "what would happen if we invite him over to our house and fill it with mice?"

      "Tell us," said the other Orishas.

      "If Olodumare finds himself in a house full of mice, he will be so afraid that he will run away from here or die. We'll take over his house and we will be the masters of the world."

      "That's a wonderful plan," they all exclaimed. Putting their heads together, the Orishas began to plot how they were going to lure Olodumare to their house and scare him to death with mice.

      They forgot that Elegua was by the door. He lived by the door, since he is the Orisha that rules roads, routes and entrances. They had forgotten all about him. He heard all their plans.

      What did Elegua do? What did the trickster Orisha do? He knew the day that Olodumare was coming. He had listened to the other Orishas' plans. He waited and hid behind the door.

      Olodumare arrived, happy to have been invited to a party. He knew that he was not as popular among the Orishas as he used to be. Little did he know that the other Orishas were hidden, waiting to release hundreds of mice. The moment he stepped inside, the door was slammed shut at Olodumare's back. The mice were released.

      Olodumare was terrified and ran around the house screaming, "The mice are attacking. The mice are attacking!"

      He tried to find a place to hide, but every box he opened and every closet he ran into just had more and more mice.

      Olodumare ran head first at the door, ready to demolish it, just so that he could escape the tormenting rodents. Just as head and door were going to meet, Elegua stepped out and stopped his panicked rush.

      "Stop, Olodumare," said Elegua, putting his arms around the terrified old Orisha. "No mouse will harm you."

      "Yes they will. Yes they will," cried Olodumare.

      "Watch," said Elegua. He started eating the mice.

      Elegua ate and ate and ate until he had eaten all the mice.

      Olodumare, whose fear had turned to fury, demanded, "Who dared do this to me?"

      Elegua said nothing. Smiling like a happy cat, he pointed out the hiding places of all the plotting Orishas.

      Olodumare immediately punished them in a very terrible and painful manner. After he grew tired of watching them hop and scream, he turned to Elegua and said, "Now, what can I do for you?"

      Elegua scuffed the floor and shook his head. "Oh, nothing," he said.

      "Nothing!" roared Olodumare. "You saved me and you saved my crown and you want nothing?"

      "Well," said Elegua, "maybe just a little thing."

      "You can have whatever you want," said Olodumare firmly.

      "I want the right to do what I want," said Elegua. He went on with more conviction, ignoring Olodumare's raised eyebrows. "I want the right to do what I will. I want the right to do what I want, whatever that may be."

      Olodumare wished it so, and so it was. From that moment on, Elegua is the only god that does as he wills without restraints or limits.


      Olodumare is unique within the Yoruba pantheon. He never comes down to earth. Few Santeros speak of Olodumare because there are no Babalawos "asentados" in him. No one is "asentado" in Olodumare. He never possesses anyone at a "bembe" or a "golpe de Santo".

      He is the ruler of all the other gods, except Elegua, as the Apataki shows. More than the Orishas' ruler, he was their creator as well as the source and origin of men, animals, plants, rivers, oceans and the heavens. He also created the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars.

      Before going to bed, a Santero will ask Olodumare to give him the strength to get up the following day by chanting, "olofin ewa wo", "May Olofin help us get up". At dawn, when he awakens and ascertains that he is still among the living, he says, "olodumare e egbeo", "May Olodumare grant us a good day".

      Olodumare is old. He is very tired and has been working long and hard on the universe, which is a very large job. He should not be bothered with small things. Santeros ask favors of the Orishas that can directly solve their problems and do not bother Olodumare.

      A series of commandments are attributed to Olodumare:

      You will not steal.

      You will not kill except in self defense or to survive.

      You will not eat human flesh.

      You will live in peace with your neighbor.

      You will not covet your neighbor's possessions.

      You will not use my name in vain.

      You will honor your mother and your father.

      You will not ask for more than I am able to give you and you will be satisfied with your destiny.

      You will not fear death or take your own life.

      You will respect and obey my laws.

      You will teach these commandments to your son.

      Saint: Our Lady of Mercy (La Virgen de las Mercedes).
      Day of the Week: Sunday. Thursday is also popular.
      Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
      His color is the purest white. The collar is made up of all white beads. A variation on the collar is 21 white beads followed by a coral bead repeated to make up the desired length.
      Sacrificial Animals:
      Female goats, white chickens, white canaries. In cases of grave illness, he will accept a white female calf.
      Sacrificial Foods: Yam, rice flour paste, corn meal dumplings and black eyed peas. He hates alcoholic beverages. The only spice that Obatala likes is cocoa butter. He drinks chequete. His water comes from the rain. His favorite fruit is the sweet soursop (guanabana).
      Herbs: Amansa Guapo, Chamise (wild cane), madonna lilies, calla lilies, cotton, purslane, almonds, white hamelia, white elderberry, white peonies, sweet basil, sweet soursop, wild mint, marjoram, jimson weed, blite, goosefoot, African bayonet, yucca, witch hazel and sweet balm among others. eguere egun, san diego blanco
      Ornaments: Obatala's image must be made of white metal or silver. In one hand, he holds a crown. A sun, a moon, four wristlets, a walking stick with a clenched fist, a half moon and a coiled snake; all made out of silver. Two ivory eggs.


      Obatala was the only Orisha that knew where Olodumare lived. This gave him a very important position among the other Orishas. At that time, the Orishas had no power of their own. They had to beg all their power from Olodumare..

      "Obatala!" the Orishas would call out. "Please have Olodumare straighten out the fight between Oshun and Chango."

      And, Obatala would make the long journey to Olodumare's house and relay the message.

      "Obatala, a person needs healing and love," said Yemaya. "Please have Olodumare give me the power to heal them."

      Back and forth travelled Obatala. He gave messages. He granted favors. He ran himself ragged. He became unhappy. He was not ambitious and he knew that the other Orishas were talking behind his back.

      "Obatala thinks he is our leader," the Orishas grumbled. "He gives himself airs just because he knows where Olodumare lives."

      "Do you see how he listens to us?" complained another Orisha. "It's as if we were his spoiled children. Who does he think he is?"

      So, Obatala took all the Orishas to Olodumare's home.

      "Good morning, Obatala," said Olodumare. "What can I do for your friends?"

      "I'm tired of running back and forth, with all due respect," said Obatala. "I would like for you to give each of my friends some of your power."

      "I don't know," Olodumare hemmed and hawed. "Do you think it's the right thing to do?"

      "Just think, great Lord," said Obatala. "If you give them a bit of your power, I would not have to come here and bother you about this and that every day."

      "You have a point there, Obatala," said Olodumare. "I'll do it."

      So, Olodumare gave each of the Orishas a bit of his power, hoping to get a little peace and quiet. Finally, he got to Obatala.

      "To you, Obatala," he said, "I give the right to control the heads of all the human beings."

      Since it is the head that makes a human being good or evil, a good son or a bad son, Obatala became the Orisha with the most authority over human beings. More than any of the other Orishas.

      "Did you see that?" said the other Orishas. "He brought us here just so that he could maintain his power."

      Which just goes to prove that you can't please anyone.


      Obatala is the supreme divinity on the terrestrial plane. He represents such a refined purity, that it cannot be described through words or songs. He is reason and justice and all that is moral.

      Controlling the head, he is considered the father of all human beings. He gives the best advice and is the one to turn to in times of great difficulties.

      The relationship between the Santeros and the Orishas is much more intimate and direct than in other religions. The Orishas have human passions and desires. They can be cruel and unjust just like human beings. When the Orishas manifest their cruelty, Obatala is called upon to mediate in the situation and to calm and soothe the furious Orisha.

      ORUNMILA (Ifa, Orula)
      Saint: St. Francis.

      Day of the Week: Thursday. Sunday is also popular.

      Colors and Collars (Ilekes): His colors are green and yellow. The collar is made up of alternating green and yellow beads strung to the desired length.
      Sacrificial Animals: A goat who has not given birth. Dark chickens.
      Sacrificial Foods:
      Red snapper and yam puree. Plums are his favorite fruit. He drinks white wine and his water is to come from a spring. His favorite condiment is corojo butter.
      Guava, sage, night shade, ginger, dog bane, guanine, myrtle, corn, honeysuckle, night jasmine, pitch apple, guasima, (guazuma guazuma) tree native to Cuba, parami, and corojo among others. san francisco (palo o hierba), don carlos, uvancillo, parami, chinchita
      A hardwood board having various shapes according to the Babalawos's tradition (Ifa's Board). As well as serving as a surface upon which the cowrie shell oracle is cast, the board is also the table upon which many rites are performed. Cowrie shells and oracular collars also belong to Orunmila.


      Orunmila does not fear death. One day, a woman came running up to Orunmila. These were the days that the Orishas still walked on the earth. She clutched at his shoulders and cried out, "Iku is going around and around my house."

      This was very serious because Iku is the name of death. When Iku wants someone, she walks outside the house looking for a small hole or opening through which she can get in and take away the person inside.

      "Iku is at my house," she cried again. "She wants to take my only son, my little boy. Iku sent in a fever and it's going to kill him if I don't do something." She started to drag Orunmila back to her house. "We have to hurry," she said, sobbing. "I have turned my back. Iku may be getting into my house right now to take away my child."

      Orunmila smiled down at her and said, "Don't cry, good woman."

      "But, what should I do? You have to help me," she said.

      Orunmila patted her head to calm her down. "Don't worry," he said. "Go to the market and buy four baskets full of okra and take them back to your house."

      "What about my child?" sobbed the frightened woman. "I will go to your house and make sure that Iku does not go in," said Orunmila. "Go to the market in peace."

      The woman followed Orunmila's advice. She went to the market and bought three heaping baskets of okra.

      When she got home, breathless from having run with the three baskets, she found Orunmila waiting for her.

      "Here are the baskets," she said. "What are you going to do with them?"

      "Hush," said Orunmila. "I don't have time for explanations."

      He took the baskets from the woman, went inside the house and spread the contents of the baskets all over the floors until they were covered by a thick carpet of okra.

      He handed the baskets back to the anxious mother. "Don't worry, mother," he said. "Iku won't be able to do your son any harm."

      Exhausted by the run from the market and a fear and anxiety that had not let her sleep for days, the mother collapsed on a cot and went to sleep.

      As she slept, the child's fever rose. Iku was thinking that it was time to take the child away, so she made the sickness worse. Iku went up to the door and found that it was unlatched and had not closed all the way. Death slipped in through the crack, hurrying to get to the child before the mother awoke.

      Iku strode across the room with her usual firm and silent steps. But, when her hard and bony heels stepped on the okra, the fruit burst open. Iku slipped and slid. All the okra on the floor oozed its sap as Iku slipped from one side of the room to the other. The sap was as slippery as soap. Both of death's feet slipped out from under her. Her long arm bones windmilled trying to regain her balance.

      "Oh, crap," she cried. And, before she could say anything else, her bony hips hit the floor, shaking loose all her joints.

      Iku had to slip and dig through the mess of okra to find one or two little bones that had come off. She made her way very carefully to the door. Outside, Orunmila waited for her.

      "How are you this afternoon, Iku?" he asked very politely.

      "Curse you, Orunmila," she spat. "I know that this is all your fault. Curse you and that cursed woman in there for getting you to help her."

      "Are you coming again?" Orunmila called out as Iku hobbled off down the path.

      She turned and gave him an evil look.

      "Are you crazy?" she said. "I'm going to wait a long time and make sure that okra is gone."


      Orunmila is highly regarded within the Santeria pantheon. He is the Orisha that predicts the future. He is in charge of destiny, both human and Orisha.

      He is an invisible presence at every birth, since he also oversees pregnancies and the care and raising of children.

      He knows how to use the ceremonial and healing herbs and instructs human beings in their uses.

      Orunmila is the intermediary between humans and Olodumare.

      The Santeros and the Babalawos are familiar with the problems and tragedies that afflict human beings. Thanks to Orunmila, who communicates with them through the oracles, the Babalawo or the Santero can come up with the solution to a person's problems. Their advice must be followed to the letter.

      Orunmila never possesses a human being. It is felt that he is too important and close to Olodumare for that. In a Santeria ceremony, the Iyalochas of Oshun dance for him since he does not have a physical body that can enjoy the drumming and dancing.
      • THE GODS (Orishas) part 2

        Wed, January 18, 2006 - 11:07 AM
        Saint: The Holy Child of Atocha.
        Day of the Week: Mondays and the third day of each month.
        Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
        Red and black. His collar is made up of three red beads followed by three black beads. After the three black beads, a red bead alternates with a black bead three times. The sequence is repeated until the desired length is obtained.
        Sacrificial Animals:
        Small goats, roosters. On rare occasions, monkeys, sheep, bulls, ox and deer. Chickens should not be offered. Elegua is a glutton and will bother and torment the participants at a ceremony until he has had his fill of blood.
        Sacrificial Foods:
        Smoked fish and smoked jutia. He loves yams. His favorite fruit is sugar cane. Everything should be well spiced with corojo butter. He loves to drink aguardiente and he favors standing water.
        Abre camino, (Bunchosia media), Cuban spurge, sargasso, wild convulvulus, foxtail, nettles, manyroot, crowfoot, neat's tongue, white pine nuts, jack bean, spiny blite, nightshade, black eyed peas, ateje, (cordia collocea), heliotrope, pigeon peas, mastic tree, camphor leaves, chili peppers, corn stalks, corn leaves, and corn silk, avocado leaves, avocado roots, coconut husk, coconut palm stem, corojo, guava, wild croton, coffee, cowhage, peppergrass, dried rose buds, senna, soapberry tree, bitter bush, and mint among others.
        Elegua is never without his "garabato", the shepherd's hook (sometimes only a crooked stick or club) with which he metes out punishment.

        He protects temples, cities and houses. He does this by residing in a helmet-shaped construction made out of stone or cement with cowrie shells for eyes. The small statue is placed next to an entrance way. From this abode, Elegua protects all the residents.

        Since he is as playful as a child, tops, marbles and kites hold a special fascination for him.

        Orunmila had returned to earth to see how all the Babalawos he had trained in the arts of divination were getting along. He decided to travel from town to town and greet his old students.

        "Orunmila, how nice to see you," said one. "I don't have time to talk with you now, I have an appointment."

        "Orunmila, how are you?" said another. "If you come back on Wednesday, I'll be able to see you."

        "Orunmila, I'm very busy with my clients right now," said a third. "Could you come back in a day or so?"

        Orunmila was furious. All his old students were ignoring him. They were too concerned with making money and having a big reputation to honor their old teacher. Orunmila decided to teach them a lesson.

        He sent out notice that he would challenge all the Babalawos to a contest to see who cast the most accurate oracles. Orunmila figured that, after they had been shamed by his incomparable skill, all the Babalawos would respect him again.

        After the notices had been sent, he went to the nearest town and challenged the Babalawo. Orunmila proved to be a far better reader of the oracles, of course. But, the Babalawo refused to pay Orunmila the agreed upon amount.

        Elegua, who is never far away and always likes to play tricks, walked up to Orunmila and the Babalawo.

        "Hello, Orunmila, how are you today?" said Elegua.

        "I am angry, Elegua." fumed Orunmila.

        "And, why is that, dear Orunmila?" Elegua tried to stifle his giggles, since he knew perfectly well what had been going on.

        "This cheat of a Babalawo has lost a wager with me," answered Orunmila. "And now, he refuses to pay."

        Elegua looked up and down the nervous Babalawo. "Is that right? Are you trying to cheat Orunmila?"

        "Well, Lord Elegua..." stammered the Babalawo.

        Before he could say another word, Elegua reached out and put his powerful warrior's hand around the Babalawo's neck. He looked at the man straight in the eye.

        "Tell me," he said softly, "are you looking for trouble?"

        "No," squeaked the Babalawo.

        Elegua raised his garabato stick over the Babalawo's head.

        "You'd never do anything to make me angry, would you?" growled Elegua.

        Another squeak, "No."

        "And what are you going to do?" asked Elegua, tapping the unhappy Babalawo on the nose with his garabato stick.

        "I'm going to pay Orunmila?" asked the Babalawo.

        "What was that?" shouted Elegua, shaking the Babalawo back and forth.

        "I'm going to pay Orunmila. I'm going to pay Orunmila." stuttered the Babalawo.

        He took his money pouch out of his clothes and handed the whole thing over to Orunmila.

        "I thought you wanted to cheat Orunmila, but I see that you are a man who pays his debts when he loses." said Elegua and gave the Babalawo a resounding slap on the back. "I'll leave you alone."

        Orunmila and Elegua turned and walked away arm in arm. The Babalawo picked himself up from the road and began dusting off his clothes.

        "One more thing," said Elegua turning back to the Babalawo.

        "Yes?" The Babalawo cringed.

        "Since you have forgotten that the oracles are meant to communicate with the Orishas and not to increase the Babalawo's wealth, I'm prohibiting you from using the Dilogun ever again."

        Orunmila and Elegua left the Babalawo wailing after them.

        In the next town, the Babalawo saw Elegua and his tick standing next to Orunmila. There was no trouble there.


        Elegua is the guardian of entrances, roads and paths. He is the first Orisha to be invoked in a ceremony and the last one to be bid farewell. He has to be first in anything, just like a spoiled child. The first rhythms of the drums belong to him. He must be petitioned before all the oracles. Orunmila is the one who communicates, but Elegua guards the paths of communication. It is he who acts as an intermediary between human beings and the other Orishas.

        He is the trickster, and is feared because, with so much power controlled only by his whim, great harm may result from his practical jokes. Like a very large and powerful child, he is ruthless with those that cross his path when he is in the midst of a tantrum. If his precedence is not carefully maintained, and the proper ceremonies are not followed, Elegua becomes indignant and rushes to open the paths to Iku, death.

        All beings have their destiny, but through Elegua's influence, destiny and luck may be changed. However, when petitioning Elegua, the Santero must always remember that he is a trickster and word the request very carefully. He can just as easily block the path to happiness and luck as open it.

        Elegua appears to travellers as a small child with the face of an old man, wearing a Panama hat and smoking a good cigar. He takes on other guises in order to play his tricks and to measure the level of charity and compassion among human beings.

        When Elegua possesses a Santero, he immediately heads to the door and stands guard. There, he carries out his pranks and childish mischiefs, dancing and threatening the other participants with a smack from his garabato stick.

        Elegua is one of the fiercest warriors in the Yoruba pantheon. When joined with Ogun and Oshosi in battle, nothing can stand in their way.

        How to Make an Elegua

        No matter which branch of the Santeria tradition is followed, Elegua always inhabits a stone. It could be a natural stone or a cement form. These are the instructions for constructing an Elegua out of natural stone.

        Find a medium size stone, one about the size and shape of a large potato is ideal. The stone should be collected next to a railroad track, at a crossroads, or under a coconut palm.

        Find the natural base of the stone, the surface where it will come to rest upright by itself. Bore a perfectly round hole into the base of the stone about two inches deep by an inch in diameter.

        Cut the head off a white chicken and let the blood drip onto the stone. Make an Omiero with May rainwater, coconut milk and the herbs that belong to Elegua. Wash the stone thoroughly in the Omiero and leave it to soak for 24 hours.

        Select three small precious stones. All gems belong to Elegua. Place the three gems in the hole in the stone along with three small pieces of silver, three small nuggets of gold, three small pieces of coconut, some feathers from the sacrificed chicken and a small personal piece of gold jewelry.

        Seal the hole with cement made with sand from a crossroads, Guinea pepper and cemetery dust.

        When the cement is dry, paint the rock black. Crown it with a fighting cock's spur, with the curve towards the back. Give it cowrie shell eyes.

        Take a white rooster and the rock to a palm tree growing by a crossroads. Sacrifice the rooster and let the blood drip on the stone. Bury the rooster three inches deep at the base of the palm.

        After three days, dig up the rooster and wash it in a flowing river, first asking Oshun's permission by tossing a live white chicken into the river along with a little honey.

        Elegua is ready to be stationed by the door.

        How to Place an Elegua

        Monday is the most auspicious day to position the Elegua, but it can be done on any day of the week.

        Place the Elegua inside a large clay pot heavily smeared on the outside with corojo butter. Place it next to the door. Smear the lintel and the door with corojo butter. Sacrifice a young white rooster. Allow the blood to drip upon the stone. Make three balls of uncooked corn meal and honey. Place them next to the stone along with a gourd of aguardiente, cigars. pieces of coconut, a small plate of sweets, smoked jutia, and as many of the things that are pleasing to Elegua as the Santero is able to afford. Arrange all the offerings around the pot.

        Kiss the neck of the sacrificed rooster. Consult the coconut oracle and see if Elegua is happy with all his offerings. If Elegua responds favorably, this is the best time to consult the oracle about anything else that may be worrying you at the time.

        Elegua's food should be changed every Monday. A candle should be lit in his honor every time he is fed.

        Elegua's presence is felt in the house as a noise that runs from one side of the door to the other. He is often seen by small children, who can touch him and exchange toys.

        Only those persons who have been initiated into Santeria and have been possessed by an Orisha have the power to grant an Elegua.

        How to Salute an Elegua

        Stand before the Elegua. Lift your right arm and move your right foot out the side and say:

        "A elegua ako pashu eshu toru le fi ya yomare ako eshu tori toru tere mafun elegua laroye locua e elegua atande naro elegua maferefun elegua."

        Or, you may speak your own language. The Orisha will understand the greeting.

        Repeat the same process with the left arm and foot. When you are finished, turn your back on the Elegua and wipe your feet backwards as if you were cleaning them. Never kneel to or lay down in front of an Elegua.

        An Ebo to Elegua


        Three pieces of yellow paper or three small paper grocery bags.

        Corojo butter. Three pieces of smoked fish.

        Smoked jutia. Dried corn.

        Cinnamon sticks. Three small pieces of coconut.

        Three cigars. Honey.

        Nine pennies.

        Divide the offering evenly among the three small bags or the pieces of paper. Wrap each small package tightly with red and black thread.

        Pass each packet over you head three times, turning around three times after each pass. Repeat the procedure over your feet, hands and, finally all over your body.

        Throw away one package at a crossroads. Throw the second away in a lot or field full of tall weeds. Throw the last one away near a cemetery.

        CHANGO (Jakuta, Obakoso)
        Saint: St. Barbara.
        Day of the Week:
        Saturday. Friday is also popular. Huge parties are held in Chango's honor on December 4th, St. Barbara's day according to the Catholic calendar.
        Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
        His colors are red and white. The collar is made up of six red beads followed by six white beads. Then, a red bead alternates with a white bead six times. The sequence is repeated until the desired length is obtained.
        Sacrificial Animals:
        Roosters. Complicated Ebos may require sheep, small bulls, pigs, goats, deer, rabbits, and oxen. A horse is required to remove a very strong curse or to change an oracle predicting death.
        Sacrificial Foods:
        Chango is a glutton. He loves huge portions of corn meal and okra. Apples are his favorite fruit, and he likes pitahaya (cactus fruit). All his food should be heavily loaded with corojo butter. Chango drinks red wine in large quantities. His water should come from a pond.
        arabo rojo, cordoban, vacabuey, siguaraya Banyan tree, kapok tree, poplar, sorghum, clematis, hog plum, Cuban spurge, cashews, ironwood, mugwort, bran, climbing vines, bull's testicles, American spurge, leeks, pitahaya, plantains and bananas, red hamelias, Bermuda grass, royal palm, pine, lignum vitae, amansa guapo, pine nuts and apple trees among others.
        A sword, a knife, a machete, an ax, a dagger and a spear, almost always made out of cedar. Chango is also represented by the image of a warrior holding a large double edged hatchet in one hand and a sword in the other. Both images, the warrior and St. Barbara can be found on the same altar.

        Obakoso, in Yoruba, means "the king that did not hang himself." This is the story of how Chango came by that name.

        Chango has always been a womanizer. Back in the days when he was a king in Africa, he had two wives. He ruled his women hard and he ruled his kingdom hard, for his temper had not mellowed yet with age.

        "You are always yelling and stomping in this house," said Wife Number One.

        "That's right," said Wife Number Two, "You never have a kind word for anyone."

        "All you care about is your stomach," said Wife Number One.

        "And you don't care about us, " said Wife Number Two.

        "You never buy us presents," said Wife Number One.

        "You never take us anywhere," said Wife Number Two.

        "You don't love us," wailed both wives in unison.

        "I don't stomp around the house," shouted Chango, stomping around the house. "I was having a pleasant morning, thinking about how nice it would be to have a little wild duck and you two have ruined it."

        "Do you hear that?" said Wife Number One to Wife Number Two. "I told you all he cared about was his stomach."

        "That's it!" shouted Chango. "I'm getting on my horse and riding into the forest. At least no one will nag me there."

        "How long are you going to be gone?" asked Wife Number One.

        "I'll be back when I'm good and ready. Don't bother looking for me or coming after me," snarled Chango.

        "As if we would," sniffed Wife Number Two.

        Chango stormed off through the palace, slamming doors and kicking cats. No one paid him any attention, since this was his normal way of walking through the castle. All his subjects were used to Chango's tantrums.

        No one waved as Chango rode off into the forest.

        "He's in one of his moods," said the groom to a kitchen maid. "He'll be back in a little while." He rubbed the top of his head. "I hope he comes back in a better mood and does not hit me again."

        A week passed and Chango had not come back.

        "He's with a new woman," some said.

        "He is on adventure," said others.

        "He's drunk somewhere," said Wife Number One.

        A month passed. Chango's wives would burst out crying without reason. His subjects missed the noise of the slamming doors and the screeching cats.

        "Where can he be?" They asked.

        "he's been gone way too long," said others.

        "We have to go and look for him," said Wife Number Two. "I can't stand this any longer."

        A well organized search party was sent out into the forest. It returned a week later.

        "Well?" asked Wife Number One.

        "Nothing," said the captain of the search party.

        Rumors began to fly in the palace.

        "Chango went into the forest and hung himself because he was ashamed of what a bad king he was," said some people.

        "He tied a rope around his neck and jumped off the top of a large Banyan tree because his mistress abandoned him," said others.

        The rumors and the search parties kept coming and going. Chango was not to be found. It had been six months since he had ridden off into the forest.

        A new massive search was organized. Everyone in the palace, from the youngest child to the oldest woman, set out into the forest. They looked under every stone. They climbed every tree. Slowly, they made their way into the center of the forest.

        Hundreds of voices cried out, "Chango! Where are you Chango?" And the echo came back, "Chango."

        Women beat their breasts and smeared their bodies with ashes. "Where are you, Chango?" they shouted. "Tell us if you have hung yourself."

        Deep in the deepest part of the forest, up on top of the tallest and oldest banyan tree, Chango woke up from a nap. He heard the hundreds of voices that had awakened him. "Chango, Chango. Where are you, Chango?"

        Chango was furious. He hated noise and he specially hated it when it woke him up from a nap.

        "What is that racket?" he shouted. "Who are all you people?"

        Then, he saw that it was hundreds of his warriors and thousands of his subjects beating the bushes, scaring the animals and destroying the peace and quiet of the forest.

        Chango's got angrier, as most people do when they are rudely awakened from a nap. He stood up on the topmost branch of the banyan tree and roared, "I am here! I did not hang myself and I will never hang myself."

        The forest was silent. A thousand heads looked up to Chango, standing proudly on top of the banyan tree.

        "Come down, Chango, come down!" shouted his subjects.

        "Quiet," yelled Chango. He waited for all the murmuring and muttering and crying to die out. "I'm not coming down," he said. "If I come down, if I go back to the palace, my wives," he pointed a stiff and slightly dirty finger at them, " Who are now friends, crying over my loss, will start fighting with each other again. What's worse, they'll start fighting with me again."

        "No, we won't," shouted Wife Number One.

        "You get yourself right down here," said Wife Number Two.

        "Come down, Chango. Come down." shouted all his subjects.

        Chango sat on the branch and thought about what he should do. He thought and thought until all the shouting had died down again.

        "Are you coming down now?" asked Wife Number One. "It's almost time for dinner," said Wife Number Two.

        Chango came to a decision. He stood on the branch atop the banyan tree. He raised his arms and shouted, "My people!"

        "Come down, Chango." they all cried.

        "Quiet!" shouted Chango. I've come to the conclusion that it is just too much of a bother and a problem and a headache to try to govern all of you."

        "Are you calling us a problem?" shrieked Wife Number One.

        "Are you saying we're a headache?" screamed Wife Number Two.

        "From now on," said Chango, as he dodged a couple of well aimed rocks thrown by his wives, "I will still rule you, but I will rule you from far away." Another rock whizzed by his head. "From very far away. I'm going to rule you from the sky."

        Ignoring the shouts and tears of his subjects and the curses and stones from his wives, Chango grabbed a thick chain that led from the top of the banyan tree to the sky. He pulled himself up link by link. When he paused for breath and looked down, his subjects were tiny. He could not distinguish his wives. He looked up. The chain disappeared into the blue sky.

        He climbed and he climbed and he climbed until he reached the sky. There, he stayed.

        He is now an Orisha among the Orishas. Chango looks at the actions of his people down here on earth and is swift in his punishment of the unjust and of those that do not follow the religion or make the sacrifices.

        He hurls down deadly thunderbolts on those people. He makes whole cities explode, or he blows them away in terrible tropical storms. His angry words make whole trees go up in flames and his annoyed snorts create wind storms that sweep all that displeases him away forever.


        Chango is the most popular and the most widely known Orisha in Santeria. He rules violent storms and thunder. He also reconciles these forces into peace and understanding. Like a tropical storm, Chango's attacks are sudden and devastating, but are soon over. During "golpe de Santos" (Santeria ceremonies), Chango descends among the participants and dances with his followers holding his feared two edged sword. When he possesses someone, the "caballo" dances round and round like a top. The possessed Santero will take food to all the other participants in the ceremony. Chango will then demand a sacrifice from those who have eaten.

        Chango loves good music, dancing and drumming. He likes to have fun, but is a braggart who provokes violent situations. He loves women and encourages clandestine sexual adventures among his "children".

        Chango has three wives, Oba, Oya (who used to be Ogun's wife), and Oshun. Yemaya is his adoptive mother. When Chango becomes aroused, it's necessary to beg his three wives and his adoptive mother to intervene.

        The only Orishas respected by Chango are Elegua and Olodumare.

        Chango's "children" are recognized at birth by the image of a cross on their tongues. These children cannot have their hair cut until they are twelve, or they will lose their power to see into the future. They are known as the Bamboche, the messengers of Chango.

        Saint: Our Lady of Charity (La Caridad del Cobre), Cuba's patron Saint.
        Day of the Week: Saturday. It is the day that lovers must act if they want their love returned.
        Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
        Coral and amber. The collar is strung with yellow and red beads. Amber and coral are to be used if the Santero has the money. The collar is made up of five amber beads followed by five coral beads. Then, one amber bead alternates with one coral bead five times. The pattern is repeated to obtain the desired length.
        Sacrificial Animals:
        Neutered or female goat, white chickens, sheep, female calf, female pig, female rabbit. Oshun does not like any other type of bird. Her sacrifices should be made next to rivers or other sources of flowing sweet water.
        Sacrificial Foods:
        Ochin-Ochin (spinach with shrimp) and pumpkins. Her fruit is the lucuma. All of her food should be liberally garnished with honey. Oshun drinks chamomille tea. The water for the tea, and all water used in a ceremony for Oshun, should be river water.
        All offerings to Oshun must be extremely clean and well prepared. She will not enter a dirty house.
        Rose, sunflowers, Indian lotus, morasun, alambrilla, frescura, cucaracha, hierba nina, arabito, mazorquilla, paraguita morada, hierba fina, ale and female ferns, creeping crowfoot, purslane, oranges and orange leaves, papaya, amber, anise seed and flower, peppergrass, marigold, sow thistle, river weeds, seaweed, white hamelias, plantain, vervain, lantana, purple grapes, maidenhair fern, rosemary, wild lettuce.
        Copper is Oshun's metal and she is sometimes represented by a gourd crowned by festive feathers and filled with copper pennies. She also loves gold and her chief ornaments consist of a golden crown with five points. From the points, hang five rays, five spears or five arrows. Oshun also owns two oars, a bell, and five bracelets. She loves fans made of peacock feathers.


        Oshun is now married to Chango. Her first husband was Orunmila.

        Oshun was the most breathtaking, absolutely beautiful maiden in the region when she was a young girl. Hundreds of suitors would come seeking to marry her. But, the result would always be the same.

        "marry me," gasped or shouted, or whispered the suitor.

        And Oshun would turn her back and walk away from the young man. Their last sight of Oshun would be her exquisite hips swinging back and forth, disappearing into her mother's house.

        More and more suitors showed up at Oshun's house. They brought mountains of gifts. Their horses trampled the garden. Finally, after seeing her rose bushes eaten by a camel, Oshun's mother rushed out of the house shouting, "That's enough!"

        The serenaders stopped playing in mid chord. The duelists dropped their swords.

        "You get out of my garden right now!" shouted Oshun's mother, "and don't come this way again."

        A brave suitor spoke up. "We're in love with your daughter."

        "That's right," said another. "We're here to win her hand."

        "You're here making my life miserable," grumbled Oshun's mother. However, she realized that they were right in wooing her daughter, since she was the greatest beauty in the region.

        "You're in the right," she told the surprised suitor. "But," she added, raising her voice to be heard by the crowd of suitors. "This madness has got to stop."

        "But, we want to marry your daughter," they wailed.

        "Quiet!" shouted Oshun's mother. "I have determined a fair way for all of you to compete for my daughter's hand without tearing around in my flowers and vegetables."

        The crowd settled down.

        "My daughter's name is secret. Only I know it. The one who finds out what her name is will have proven that he has the cunning to win my daughter's hand in marriage. His skill will melt my daughter's heart and will win my approval. He will be her husband."

        Orunmila was in the crowd of suitors. He is the god of oracles and can see the future.

        "This should be easy," he said to himself, concentrating.

        But, no matter what he did or how many times he threw the coconuts or rattled the cowrie shells, Orunmila was unable to find out the name of the most beautiful girl in the region.

        Orunmila's other attribute is wisdom. He knew when to call for help. He went out in search of Elegua and found the trickster Orisha. Even though he was only Orunmila's porter, Elegua had taught him all the sciences and secrets of divination.

        "Elegua, old friend, you must help me," cried Orunmila, seizing Elegua by the shoulders.

        "Do you need money?" asked Elegua.

        "I'm in love and I need your help," said Orunmila.

        "Even worse," said Elegua.

        "Please help me find the name of the most beautiful girl in the region," pleaded Orunmila. "She has won the hearts of all the men, but I want her only for myself. I want her for my wife."

        "And what do you need me for?" asked Elegua.

        "Only you, Elegua, who is such a wily trickster can find out the secret of her name."

        Elegua smiled modestly. "I'll try," he said.

        He went directly to Oshun's mother's house. He stayed there for days. Some days, he disguised himself as an old man. Other days, he maintained his surveillance in the aspect of a small child. He spent days acting the fool in the local markets, hoping that a loose word would reveal the secret. Or, he pretended to be asleep in Oshun's doorway, the better to hear what went on inside.

        Patience always has its rewards. After many days of patient waiting, Elegua, dozing in the doorway, heard an argument inside.

        Oshun's mother, who was always very careful never to say her daughter's name aloud, was very angry. Oshun had knocked over a fresh pot of Omiero while trying out a new and exciting dance step.

        "Oshun, look what you've done!" shouted the mother.

        Elegua heard. "Oshun, Oshun," he said to himself, "That Oshun is going to cost you a daughter, dear lady. That Oshun will turn a daughter into a wife."

        Elegua didn't waste any time in getting back to Orunmila's house.

        "Well?" asked Orunmila anxiously.

        "This has not been easy," said Elegua.

        "What have you found out?"

        "I had to spend weeks in the most uncomfortable positions," said Elegua.

        "What is her name?"

        "Weeks and weeks I spent wearing itchy beards and a small boy's body," said Elegua. "I'm all cramped.

        "Please?" pleaded Orunmila.

        "Her name is Oshun."

        Orunmila ran to Oshun's house. He knocked on the door. she opened it.

        "You are going to be my wife because now I know your name," he told her.

        "What is this? What is this?" asked the mother, appearing behind Oshun.

        "Your name is Oshun," said Orunmila, pointing his finger at her. "And now you are mine."

        The two of them were married and were happy for some time but...

        Men kept making offers and improper advances to Oshun, even now that she was a married woman. She paid no attention to any of them.

        One day, at a party, she glanced at the drummer, who was able to pull heavenly rhythms out of his instrument. Oshun was smitten. She was transfixed by love. She kept looking at the handsome drummer and saying to herself, "He will be mine."

        The miraculous drummer was none other than Chango.

        "Chango, do you see her?" asked the other Orishas at the party. "Oshun, the most beautiful of all is trying to flirt with you."

        "So?" asked Chango, concentrating on a specially difficult passage.

        "Make love to her," said the Orishas. "She is beautiful and wants you."

        Chango smiled at his friends and replied, "I have more women than I know what to do with. They throw themselves at me."

        "Braggart," thought the other Orishas.

        "Besides," said Chango, counterpointing his decision with the beat of the drums. "I'm not ready for any more complications right now."

        That was what Chango said, but, who can resist Oshun's enchantments? Who can say no to her grace and her flirtatious ways? Who can let her walk away after seeing her hips swaying? Who can refuse the invitation of her moist fleshly lips?

        Chango, the great womanizer, the great conqueror could not resist. He became interested in her. Oshun, for her part, became colder as Chango grew warmer. She wanted to teach him a lesson for having slighted her on their first meeting.

        It became too much for Chango. He waited for Orunmila to leave his house one day, went to the door and knocked. When Oshun answered, Chango burst in.

        "If you don't give me your love," said Chango, grabbing her arms, "I'll go off to war and never return."

        Oshun's heart melted. "Don't go," she said. "I'll love you forever."

        "Forever?" asked Chango, a little taken aback.

        "I'll be with you all your life," said Chango. "I'll be your wife."

        On that day, she left Orunmila's house and went to live with Chango. Their love produced the Ibeyi.


        Oshun is the most beautiful Orisha. She is sexy, flirtatious and happy. As goddess of rivers, she loves to bathe naked in natural springs.

        As Chango's wife, she is understanding of the difficulties in love and marriage. She also helps those with money problems, since she controls the purse strings in Chango's household. But, the petitioner should beware, Oshun can take money away as easily as she bestows it.

        Oshun loves parties and celebrations. No one has ever seen her cry. When Oshun takes over the body of a believer during a "golpe de Santo", she laughs continuously and puts on the airs of a distinguished society lady. Her arrival is always greeted with the words, "yeye dari yeyeo'.

        more to come

        • Re: THE GODS (Orishas) part 3

          Fri, January 20, 2006 - 8:10 AM
          Our Lady of the Presentation of Our Lord. (Santa Virgen de la Candelaria) and St. Theresa.
          Day of the Week: Wednesday. Friday is also popular.
          Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
          Black and white. The collar is made up of nine black beads followed by nine white beads. Then a black bead alternates with a white bead nine times. The pattern is repeated to the desired length. A variant is a collar made of brown beads striped in a variety of colors or lilac or maroon beads striped with colors.
          Sacrificial Animals:
          Chickens and guinea hens. Some hold that Oya does not eat any four legged animals, but others say that she likes female goats.
          Sacrificial Foods:
          Ekru-Aro (black-eyed peas unpeeled and cooked in a double boiler. Her favorite fruit is the star apple. Oya loves eggplant. All of her food should be liberally laced with corojo butter. She drinks chequete. Her water should be rain water.
          espanta muerto, bonita, varia, palo rayo, cabo de hacha, revienta caballo, Peppercress, marigold, plantain, Jamaican rosewood, mimosa, mugwort, aralia, camphor, breakax, cypress, flamboyan tree.
          Oya wears a crown with nine points from which hang nine charms; a hoe, a pick, a gourd, a lightning bolt, a scythe, a shovel, a rake, an ax, and a mattock.
          A spear or a metal rendition of a lightning bolt. A red gourd. The dried seed pod of the flamboyan tree. She also wears nine copper bracelets.


          Many years ago, Chango was embroiled in one of his unending wars. He had fought for many days and killed many of his enemies, but, more came than he could kill. He found himself surrounded by his enemies in the middle of the forest.

          "Enchile," he shouted, but his famous magical horse had become lost during the fighting. Chango was afraid to yell again. He might be found. He heard his enemies beating the bushes and shaking the trees to find him. If they did, they would kill him.

          Without Echinle, Chango had to scurry through gullies and cover himself in river mud to hide from his enemies. Days passed. His implacable enemies did not rest. They did not eat. Chango, tired and hurt, had to keep on running without sleep and without food.

          He ran and he ran until he reached the place where Oya lived. It was very deep in the woods. Very few people there knew that Oya was Chango's wife.

          Chango came to Oya's house and pounded on the door. She opened it and saw Chango bruised, cut and panting.

          "What has happened to you?" cried Oya.

          "Oya, they have me surrounded," panted Chango. "They want to hang me from a tree."

          "Come in, quick." said Oya, hustling Chango into her house.

          "My lightning is not effective against my enemies today," He told Oya.

          "That's because you lack the courage to fight," she scolded. Oya gave him water and a bite to eat.

          "It's not courage I lack," said Chango. "I'm very tired."

          "What do you want from me?" asked Oya.

          "If I could escape my enemies' deadly circle, I could rest and sleep." said Chango. "I would recover my strength and destroy my enemies."

          "Why is it that you only come to see me when you need help?" asked Oya.

          In those ancient times, Chango was used to fighting by himself, but he swallowed his pride.

          "Help me, Oya."

          Oya thought for a moment and then turned to her husband.

          "When night falls," she said. "You will put on one of my dresses. The disguise will let you escape."

          "They will still recognize my face," said Chango.

          "I will cut off my hair and put it on your head. That will complete the disguise." said Oya. "I will cut off my hair to save my king's life."

          They waited until night. Oya lit no fire. She was afraid that the smoke from her chimney would be noticed by Chango's enemies and draw them to the house. When the sun had gone down, but before the moon had risen, Oya cut off her beautiful hair and pinned it to Chango's head. Chango did not know what to do with woman's hair. It fell across his eyes. It tangled in his ears. Oya had him sit down and wove the hair into two long braids.

          "Here's a dress," she said. "Put it on quickly, before the moon comes up."

          Chango managed to tangle himself up in Oya's dress. "Stand still," she said. "Just stand still and let me dress you."

          Finally, Chango was dressed as a passable imitation of Oya. She went to the door and peered out.

          "Hurry," she said. "There's no one around."

          Chango stepped outside, imitating Oya's dignified walk. He walked until he reached the forest and came across the line of searching men. He greeted his enemies with an imperious tilt of his head and crossed their line. He did not speak to them because his voice is very deep. It would have given him away.

          This is the way Chango was able to escape his enemies' trap.

          Once he was far away from the forest, he made camp. He rested and slept and ate and regained his strength and his will to fight.

          Echinle managed to find his way back to his master. Chango fed him and groomed him.

          A few days later, rested and healed, Chango mounted Echinle.

          "It is time to kill," said Chango to his horse, and galloped off to find his enemies.

          it was dawn when he reached his enemies' camp. He came rushing at them. His fury was terrible to behold. Lightning flashed from his hands. He shouted wild warrior cries. He was still dressed as a woman.

          "Oya has turned into Chango," his enemies shouted when they saw the screaming apparition bearing down upon them, long hair flying and a gown flapping in the wind. They panicked.

          Behind them, Oya came striding out of her house, fully armed, and began hacking right and left with her ax. Her short hair bristled and shot out electric sparks.

          "If Oya helps Chango, there is victory," she shouted, cutting off arms and legs.

          Chango and Oya were victorious. Since that battle, Oya has been Chango's inseparable companion in war. With Chango's thunder and Oya's storms, they are invincible and remain so to this day.


          Oya is the only Orisha that has power over the dead. Since she is a compassionate Orisha, she has allowed many dying children to live as a gift to their parents. Cemeteries are known as "ile yansan", Oya's house. Anyone who uses dead bodies or parts of dead bodies in their ceremonies, must render payment and homage to Oya.

          Whenever there is a haunting, Oya is summoned to dismiss the spirit. Sacrifices must be made to ensure that she takes an interest in the matter.

          Oya is the Orisha of tornadoes and twisting storms, hurricanes and gales. The four winds are dominated by Elegua, Orunmila, Obatala and Oya.

          Oya has such a terrible face that anyone looking on it will be stricken mad or blind. In ceremonies where Oya descends, no one looks upon her. When she possesses someone, she puts on a red crepe dress or a flowered dress and weaves multicolored ribbons around her head. She only dances warrior dances. When her "children" enter trance, some of them can handle live coals with their bare hands.

          (Olocum, Ocute)
          Our Lady of Regla. (La Virgen de Regla) The patron Saint of Havana's port.
          Day of the Week: Friday. Saturday is also popular.
          Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
          White or crystal and blue. The collar is made up of seven crystal beads followed by seven blue beads. Then, a crystal bead alternates with a blue bead seven times. The sequence is repeated until the desired length is obtained.
          Sacrificial Animals: Lamb, ducks, roosters, turtles goats. Fish and pigeons.
          Sacrificial Foods:
          Banana chips and pork cracklings washed down with chequete. Black-eyed peas. All her food should be liberally spread with sugar cane molasses. Yemaya's favorite fruit is the watermelon. Her water is seawater.
          cucaracha, chinzosa, Yellow mombin, indigo, anamu (garlic herb native to Cuba), water hyacinth, seaweed, purple basil, green pepper, chayote fruit, Bermuda grass, Florida grass, sponges, coralline, majagua linden, salt water rushes.
          Yemaya is summoned at the seashore with a gourd rattle. She always has a fan made of duck feathers.
          She owns an anchor, a key, a sun, a half moon, a siren which she holds in her open arms. It holds in its hands a ray, the head of a shovel, a conch shell and a sea shell. All her ornaments are made of lead.


          Chango first saw the light of day thanks to Obatala (in a female aspect). However, Obatala soon became indignant with her son's pranks and threw him out of her house. Yemaya took pity on the young Orisha and raised Chango as if he were her own child.

          Chango grew up and left home to find his fortune. Chango forgot the details of his upbringing. He had no past. He wandered the world without roots and without goals. Many years passed and many women crossed his path. He had many amorous adventures. So many, that he forgot, in time, Yemaya's face.

          Time passed. Chango kept chasing women, fighting and going to parties. It was at one of these parties where Chango met Yemaya again. He was drumming and singing. The people were dancing. When he looked up, he saw Yemaya.

          He immediately felt a very strong attraction towards her. His heart opened and he felt an intense tenderness wash over him. He did not remember feeling like that before, so, he confused it with passion and sexual attraction. He was wrong. What he felt was the love of a son for his mother, his second mother, the woman who had brought him up.

          He stopped playing the drums, stood up and sidled up to Yemaya.

          "Have I met you somewhere before?" he asked.

          Yemaya turned her back on him for an answer.

          "We could go off and be alone," said Chango. "Just you and I."

          His lips brushed her shoulder. She shrugged him off.

          Yemaya knew the dissolute life that Chango had been leading. She knew he was a drinker, a brawler and a womanizer. When he attempted to seduce her, his own mother, she decided to teach him a lesson.

          "I'm going to teach him respect for women," she said to herself. "I'm also going to teach him a little humility." She turned to Chango. "What did you have in mind?"

          Chango jumped at the opening. "Let's go to your house and keep this party going. But, more privately." He did not want to go to his house, since his wives would not exactly approve of a conquest under their own roof.

          "Why, I think that's a wonderful idea," purred Yemaya, leading him on. "Come with me."

          She walked through the crowd. Chango was close behind.

          "What an easy conquest," he said to himself. " What a virile man am I."

          They walked through the sleeping town until they came to the seashore. Yemaya went to a small boat tied to a rock. She got in the boat.

          "Please undo the lines," she told Chango.

          "But, where is your house?" asked Chango. "I thought that you wanted to have a little party."

          "My house is over there," said Yemaya, pointing towards the dark line of the horizon. "Come with me."

          She stretched out her hand to Chango, who gingerly climbed into the boat. He was rapidly losing his enthusiasm for this romantic adventure. He was afraid of boats and did not like the water because he could not swim. But, it was too late to change his mind. He would appear frightened. He was, but he would admit it to any man, let alone a woman.

          Chango tightened his grip on the gunwale as the little boat bobbed over the breakers and headed out to sea. The farther out they went, the more nervous Chango became. The little boat was out of sight of land.

          "That's enough," said Chango.

          "Isn't the sky lovely?" said Yemaya.

          "I said, that's enough," growled Chango, striking the oars from her hands. "Who are you who has the strength to send this boat flying over the waves?"

          Yemaya did not answer. She sat in the boat calmly, her hands crossed on her lap.

          "Who are you who can live out in the middle of the ocean?" demanded Chango.

          Instead of answering him, Yemaya dove over the side and swam straight down to the bottom of the sea.

          Chango was petrified. He had no idea how to handle a boat. He didn't know what to do. Clumsily, he picked up an oar, but got it tangled in the lines coiled in the bottom of the boat.

          While Chango struggled, Yemaya sent a gigantic wave towards him. It was a wave taller than a mountain. When he saw the wave coming, Chango dropped the oars and covered his head with his hands.

          "I can triumph over men," he muttered, curled up in the bottom of the boat. "I can triumph over women. But I can't triumph over this wave." He took a peek over the side. A blue wall of water was bearing down upon him. He tried to make himself small. He tried to make himself disappear.

          The giant wave came crashing down on him. It washed him off the boat and sent him tumbling and bubbling to the bottom of the sea. It was quiet and blue. Chango was afraid.

          He fought his way back to the surface and felt immensely grateful to Olodumare when he was able to pull in a lung full of air. The boat was floating right next to him. He scrambled into it. He did not sink and drown.

          Yemaya came gliding on the waves, her feet barely touching the water.

          "I think you are going to have to save me," said Chango through chattering teeth.

          "I will save you upon one condition." said Yemaya. "Name your condition."

          "You must respect your mother," said Yemaya.

          "My mother!" blustered Chango. "My mother abandoned me when I was a baby."

          At that instant, Obatala, Chango's mother, who had been magically aware of the lesson being given to her son by Yemaya, appeared in the boat.

          "You have to respect Yemaya," said Obatala. "She is your mother."

          "You are my mother," he yelled. "You abandoned me when I was a child. You kicked me out of your house."

          "I brought you into the world," said Obatala. "But it was up to another to bring you up."

          "You forget women too easily, Chango," said Yemaya. "You have hated your mother, but you have forgotten your second mother."

          "You have forgotten that she is your mother, as well as I," said Obatala. "I brought you into this world and she raised you."

          "You have two mothers, Chango." said Yemaya. "you have two mothers in a world where many people have none."

          A stiff breeze sprang up and washed Chango clean of the hatred he had carried for many years.

          "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry I hated you, Obatala. I'm sorry I forgot you, Yemaya." He sighed. "It is indeed wonderful to have two mothers."

          From that time on, he began to respect women more. But, he is still a womanizer.


          Yemaya is the Orisha that controls all the seas and the oceans and all the creatures that live in them.

          She is considered the mother of all human beings.

          When Yemaya comes down and possess someone, she endows him or her with all her grace and very spicy personality. She will immediately call for a long gown tightly belted at the waist and for her fan. She dances with movements that are like the movement of the waves. When the drums heat up, she dances like waves in a hurricane.

          She is full of love and tenderness, as befits the mother of all mankind.

          (Chopono, Taita Cañeme)
          Saint: St. Lazarus.
          Day of the Week: Sunday. Wednesday is also popular.
          Colors and Collars (Ilekes):
          White with blue streaks. The collar is made up of white beads with blue streaks strung out to the desired length.
          Sacrificial Animals:
          Gelded goat, spotted rooster. Also, chickens, guinea hens, snakes, quail and wild pigs.
          Sacrificial Foods:
          Fermented corn meal. Babalu-Aye loves to drink aguardiente and to smoke good cigars. Coconut butter (ori) is his favorite condiment. His water should come from a pond.
          Babalu-Aye is an Orisha with simple tastes and will accept with a piece of stale bread and a glass of milk or water, dry wine and a few peanuts if the petitioner cannot afford anything better.
          jayabico, ateje, hierba vieja, hierba nina, tengue tengue, angariya, Guava, balsam apple, thistles, all types of beans and seeds, peanuts, guaguasi (Loetia Apelata) tree native to Cuba, Virginia creeper, pigeon peas, agave, heliotrope, caroba, bastard feverfew, basil, sage, pine nut, caisimon (Pothomorphe peltata L. Mig.) medicinal plant native to Cuba, yaya lancewood, cowhage, broom, rose of Jericho, datura, cocillana bark, sabicu, olive, sesame, cactus pear, and butterfly jasmine among others.
          Babalu-Aye always has his crutches and his two faithful little dogs. On his altar there is always a charara, a broom made from the fruit clusters of the palmetto, used to sweep away evil influences.

          Jute sacks also belong to him. Devotees who have been cured due to his intervention wear clothing made from jute in gratitude.


          A long time ago, Olodumare, the Supreme Being, the Creator of all the Orishas, decided to give his children a gift. He called them all together.

          "My children," he told them. "It is time for you to take over your responsibilities in this world."

          There were a few polite coughs. There were also a few giggles.

          "I have decided to share my powers with you," continued Olodumare, after staring down the gigglers. "I will give you of my ashe so that you may fulfill your destinies as best you are able."

          All the Orishas got very excited. This was the big moment when their influence among mankind was going to be determined. They shuffled and sorted themselves out in a line.

          "Oshun," said Olodumare. "To you I give the rivers."

          "Thank you, Father," said Oshun.

          "Chango, to you I give thunder."

          "Thank you, Father," said Chango.

          "Oya, to you I give the wind and the shooting stars," said Olodumare. "To you, Ogun, I give all the metals of the earth. Orunmila, I give you the power of divination so that you may guide the destiny of mankind. Elegua, Elegua, quit talking and listen to me! Elegua, to you I entrust all paths, ways and entrances and, since you love to talk so much, I'll make you the messenger of the Orishas."

          Then, came Babalu-Aye's turn.

          "Is there a particular boon you would like me to bestow upon you, Babalu-Aye?' asked Olodumare.

          Back the, Babalu-Aye was very good looking and very young. His primary concern was his ability to make love to women; as many of them as he could.

          "I want you to give me the power to be every woman's lover," said Babalu-Aye. "I want to dally with the ladies. I want them to love me."

          Olodumare frowned at such a frivolous request. "It is granted," he said. "But I want you to have one condition so that you may still have to exercise some control over your desires. On every Thursday of Easter Week, you are forbidden to have contact with a woman."

          "Thank you, Father," said Babalu-Aye. "I will do as you say."

          For a long time, Babalu-Aye respected Olodumare's prohibition. Every Easter Week, he would go into his house and stay away from women. But, one day, on an Easter Week, he was working on his garden. He looked up and saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

          "Hello," he said. "Would you like to see my beautiful garden?"

          Every day, he talked to her. Then, he held her hand. Then, on Ash Wednesday, they kissed. She came by on Thursday and Baballu-Aye touched her, kissed her, and took her to his bed.

          The next morning, when he woke up, he found his whole body covered with large, painful sores.

          "What is wrong with you?" screamed the young lady, leaping out of bed.

          "It's Olodumare's punishment." Babalu-Aye was afraid. "It's his punishment because I did not follow his law."

          "You're disgusting," cried the young lady, and she ran out of the house.

          For many days, Babalu-Aye stayed home and tried herbal baths, prayers and sacrifices. Nothing worked. Leprosy was consuming his body. Finally he dragged himself on his stumps to Olodumare's house. He knocked at Olodumare's door.

          "What is that smell?" said Olodumare as he opened the door.

          "It is I, Babalu-Aye. I need your help."

          "I seem to remember someone by that name," said Olodumare. "But, he was young and handsome and knew how to keep his promises."

          "Please, Olodumare," begged Babalu-Aye. "Please help me. I'm sorry I broke your commandment."

          "I'm sorry," said Olodumare. "But I don't speak to people who do not keep their word."

          He slammed the door on Babalu-Aye's face. And, right there, on the street in front of Olodumare's house, Babalu-Aye died with horrible convulsions and sufferings. Babalu-Aye's death was mourned by all the women in the world. They decided to send a petition to Oshun, the Orisha of love. The women were graciously received at Oshun's house.

          "What may I do for you?" asked Oshun.

          "Dearest Lady, we ask you to bring Babalu-Aye back to life." they cried. "The women of the world are saddened at the horrible death of one who loved them so."

          Oshun was moved by their prayers.

          "Ladies," she said. "I will go to Olodumare's house and try to bring your lover back to you."

          That evening, Oshun went to Olodumare's house. She found a side door open and went in without anyone seeing her. She went from room to room, sprinkling her oñi everywhere. Oshun's oñi is her power to awaken uncontrollable passion in men.

          Olodumare, sitting quietly and reading the paper, began to shift and wiggle. He threw the paper down and ran to his wardrobe closet. He felt great and he wanted to look great. He put on his best clothes and put perfumed pomade on what was left of his hair. He thought about old lovers who he had not seen in years and wondered what had become of them. All the passions that had lain dormant for ages of the world awoke. He looked at himself in the mirror.

          "I haven't felt this good in a very long time. I haven't thought about sex in an even longer time." he said to himself.

          Wise as he is, Olodumare knew that he was under the spell of Oshun's oñi.

          "Oshun," he laughed. "Are you in here?"

          "Here I am, Olodumare."

          "Thank you," he said. "Thank you for making me feel wonderful."

          "You see," said Oshun. "It's not such a bad thing to feel good. You punished Babalu-Aye for this very thing."

          "Give me some more of your oñi," said Olodumare. "I feel young again."

          "only if you forgive Babalu-Aye's indiscretion," said Oshun. "If you bring him back to life, I will give you my oñi."

          Olodumare had already decided to revive Babalu-Aye, since he had considered his death as a temporary punishment anyway.

          "Granted," said Olodumare. "Babalu-Aye will live again."

          Oshun gave her oñi to Olodumare and Olodumare gave life to Babalu-Aye. But, Babalu-Aye's sores never went away.


          In his African guise of Chopono, he brought smallpox and leprosy to the tribes, but now, he cures. His cures are always miraculous, especially among persons who are unable to walk. Babalu-Aye is full of compassion towards human suffering and misery. He knows more about pain than any of the other Orishas.

          When he takes over the body of a believer, the trance is characterized by muscle cramps. The individual walks with difficulty and, at times, rolls on the floor, feeling all of Babalu-Aye's sores burning into his skin. If the pain gets to be too much for the person possessed, the head and feet are sprinkled with water.

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