Clarifications About the Orisa Tradition of Yorubaland and the Orisa Tradition of Cuba known as Santeria or the Lucumi:
Written by Chief Nathan Lugo Aikulola Iwindara Fawehinmi, the Gbawoniyi Awo of Osogbo
*translation courtesy of omo awo Cory Sutherland (Please pardon the typos and grammar issues while I work on editing the english version of this article. - Oloye Aikulola)
There are many differences as well as similarities between Cuban Santeria and the Orisa Tradition of Nigeria. This is an ever-increasing list I am preparing in order to avoid confusion comparing both traditions as well as the traditions of Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago at times. But we must always keep in mind that these are generalizations that I am mentioning to be broad enough and that can apply to the entire Yorubaland for the most part. Although, there is diversity in Yorubaland, and when there are variations on a theme we will try to give more details. This in not an attempt to cause discord and controversy. To the contrary, I hope that this can improve the relations that until today had been very tense between communities of diverse expressions of Orisa like those of Yorubaland, Lukumi, Candomble, Batuque, Xango, Orisa of Trinidad and Tobago, Oyotunji tradition (a North-American syncretic tradition that blends Lucumi, cuban Palo, neo-kemetic tradition, and spiritism with elements of west african orisa tradition and some yoruba culture), and the Kele of St. Kitts. Alot of these tensions have been caused by lack of understanding between various traditions, especially when there are those that are under the assumption that all other traditions are like the one that they are accustomed to. However, we have decided it is best to be straightword with the differences between these systems of practice and thought since what makes these systems unique cannot be denied. And in order for there to be healthy dialogue there has to be an understanding of the similarities as well as the differences.
1. There is no ceremony of “collares” in Yorubaland like the one that has developed in the Cuban tradition. It is true that one consecrates ileke for each Orisa and one can receive ileke consecrated in varied ritualistic forms. But we do not receive five at one time after a head rogation and stripping ceremony as is accustomed in the United States...this is from Cuba. Neither does one take the receipt of these necklaces as one of the first rites of passage for a new apprentice. Furthermore, there are deities in Yorubaland that either have no ileke whatsoever or no specific ileke, while still others have various ileke depending upon region.
2. One does not receive “guerreros” or "warriors". It is true that we receive the sacred objects of Ogun together with other Orisa that are brothers of his, and perhaps this is where the Cuban concept of “warrior [deities]” comes from. But neither the receiving of the sacred objects of Ogun and his other brothers is a first rite of passage of a new godchild. A person receives Ogun if it comes out in divination that he should receive it, when it is in order to have an Ogun shrine for a family so that they can venerate it at any time, or when the person desires a better connection with this deity in order to have his protection and his favor.
3. There is no great separation between the IFA priesthood and the priesthoods of the other olorisa. Simply put, all initiated individuals, whether a person is initiated to Orunmila or Iyemoja or some other deities, are considered olorisa and awo (one of the meanings of awo is an initiated person). In Yorubaland all the priesthoods of each Orisa work together of one form or another, and at the same time focus on the principle deities associated with each priesthood. And many times the Orisa tradition of West Africa is known simply as Ifa, as Orunmila is one of the important leader deities of our tradition, together with others like Obatala, Osun (Oshun), Egungun, etc. One example is the Baale Yemoja of Ibadan, Olukunmi Omikemi Egbelade, the chief priest of yemoja in the capital of Oyo State, He was initiated at youth into Ifa and later made full initiation to Yemoja. In an interview i had with him he reconfirmed what I had been taught by my elders that we don't have a separation of Ifa priesthood and other priesthoods in the stark manner that is practiced in the Lucumi tradition. Another example is the Oba Sanponna (formerly Baale Sanponna) of Oyo land, Chief Obidiran Fabukola of Oyo town, Oyo State. In addition to being the chief priest of Obaluaye in all of Oyo state, he is also a babalawo, and Egungun priest. In fact, it is quite common for folks to be practicing priest in various orisa. And there is no such concept in West Africa that if a priest of one Orisa goes and makes Ifa that he will no longer be allowed entry into the initiation of other Orisa, as is often the case in Lucumi protocol. This is one area that makes us stand apart.
Here is an example of the general sentiment of Lucumi practioners that one can see evident in many different internet discussions as well as live conversation among Lucumi priests:
@ maurize what Jim said is. Is very true. Remember IFA and orisha worship are 2 different spiritual paths althoe the complament one another they are separate. Some awo's don't even have Ocha made and some have both Ocha and IFA. And if you do not come from a house of IFA then an oriate or santero who knows what the prayer's are,and how to prepair osun will put him together. I think the problem here is you are probably getting to many different answers from different olorisha's or awo's that are confusing you. This is what happens when jump here and there you get all jumbeled up and confused. I think Jim gave you the best answer to your question, and hope this has cleared your mind a lil. And in some situations you might end up with 2 osun's like me one from IFA and one from when I did my Ocha."
4. We do not have a year of “iyaworaje” in West Africa, or dressing in white for a whole year. The word “iyaworaje” comes from the word “iyawo” with the Spanish suffix “-aje”. Iyawo means “new wife” or "bride" and one uses it in the context of a new initiate, man or woman, in order to show that he has entered into a symbolic marriage with his deity and the initiate is the faithful worshipper of the deity. But our new initiates in Yorubaland do not use white clothing exclusively for the first year of initiation...only during the days of the specific deity and the region. In rare occasions in Africa during the divination that is made during the ita of the new initiate they recommend to the new initiate/iyawo Orisa that he uses more white during the first year or white exclusively during the first year. But in these cases it is for the sign that came out to the new initiate, and is not for general custom.
5. In Yorubaland one does not receive 5 or 6 Orisa at the same time during initiation. We maintain the same tradition, that also was the practice in Cuba, of receiving only the Orisa to which the iyawo is being initiated. And later the person can receive other Orisa that are recommended in his or her ita when he has the resources and when he is prepared to have the responsibility of having more sacred objects. The individual in West African Orisa Tradition even has the opportunity to receive any other Orisa that they feel a connection to without the need for a divination to confirm their interest. An interesting point to note is that the cuban term “foot and head” for describing our initiations in Africa was created in Cuba and many times it is used to speak disparagingly of initiations of Africa and Brazil.
6. When we receive the Hand of Ifa one does not receive the “guerreros” or warriors. Even though now there are some Nigerians and others that are exploiting the expectations of the public that do not know the traditions of Yorubaland, and so now they are giving warriors. When one makes the ceremony of “isefa” (consecration of the Hand of Ifa) it is the only icon that is consecrated and the person receives his or her shrine for Ifa (Orunmila). The interesting thing is that Cuba - the large island that it is - also has a great deal of diversity. It is known that in Palmira in the province of Cienfuegos that the babalawos of that town maintain the tradition of only consecrating the Hand of Ifa without the “guerreros”
7. The Yoruba language that one uses in Cuba and Brazil has deteriorated by the oppression of slavery and the loss of the Yoruba language as a medium of communication between the parent and children as it is till today in West Africa. The use of a corrupt remnant of Yoruba language is only used in liturgy in Brazil, Cuba, and Trinidad and Tobago. At best, this remnant of Yoruba language even with its distortions may be used at times in a type of code switching, and there is clear evidence that Yoruba and other african languages have influenced the native languages of these countries. We applaud the effort of the ancestors for at least leaving that much as a legacy in the form of many songs used for the Orisa. But comparing the liturgical Yoruba of West with other liturgical languages of other religious traditions, the difference is that the priesthood of Cuba and Brazil does not have as a requisite study of the language nor its comprehension nor the use of yoruba grammar to constuct sentences. However, in Yorubaland the Yoruba language is the base of all the religious literature but is also the language that they use on a daily basis in order to communicate within their families and among other Yoruba. Also preserved in Yorubaland are all the various dialects of the Yoruba language. There exist people in Yorubaland that only speak the Yoruba language and have not learned English that is the language of general use in the Nigerian government nor French that is the language of general use in the Republic of Benin. Now in some places the West is resuming little by little the more extensive use of the Yoruba language with the Yoruba immigrants that had moved from Nigeria and the Republic of Benin to Europe and the Americas. There is also an increasing interest in diasporal Orisa communities to relearn the Yoruba language that was used several generations ago by the Yoruba that were brought to the Diaspora during the trans-atlantic slave trade, and so they are seeking yoruba language instruction as well as travelling to Yorubaland.
8. In Cuba, Brazil and Trinidad the Orisa tradition has had many influences from other African-based religious traditions and not only Catholicism and other forms of christianity of the european colonizers. There exists influences of the traditions of the Kongo, Dahomean traditions (“Arara” in Cuba; “Jeje-Mahi” in Brazil), and also of the various manifestations of Espiritismo (Spiritism) that has its origin in Europe and New York but that also has had much influence from Aboriginal traditions of the Americas and from African concepts and traditions. In Africa the Yoruba culture has never been isolated from other ethnic groups. But much of what has happened in the Orisa tradition of Yorubaland in terms of religious exchange between various ethnic neighbors of the Yoruba has occurred prior to the enslavement of Yoruba brought to the Americas during the Middle-Passage and far before they developed the diasporal religious traditions based upon those of West Africa. It must be remembered that the Yoruba were among the last ethnic groups to be enslaved and taken to the americas, and this occured in significant number only over 150 years ago. At the same time, abolition occurred late in Cuba and Brazil. In addition to that there were also free africans that had either purchased their own freedom and began trading between West Africa and the americas, this last moreso in Brazil. So information was constantly being brought back into the Diaspora directly from West Africa. This activity eventually stopped. However, in speaking with elders that remember several decades ago the practices of Cuba and Brazil, they often recall with nostalgia how different Orisa was practiced. Many remember times when the spiritual masses performed nowadays in preparing a prospective initiate within the Lucumi tradition where not a part of the ritual procedures of Orisa initiation. In speaking with elder babalawos that have been born into Orisa Tradition in Cuba, they remember the time when the short osun staff usually given presently in cuban tradition was not given with the "warriors'. It was an icon associated with Ifa priesthood that eventually began to be included in the repertoire of sacred icons received by the larger Orisa community till today where both priests that are not babalawos also consecrated and provide it to their followers. Many other practices of olden days of Cuba and Brazil as recounted by elders of both countries reflect the current practices of Yorubaland in Nigeria and Benin Republic.
9. In Yorubaland there is no Espiritismo as its known in Latin-America(Spiritism). Certainly there are many concepts found in Yorubaland that also exist in Espiritismo, such as the companions of heaven (spiritual guides or the spiritual room in Espiritismo), trance-possession by deities, reincarnation, etc. But these concepts are not exclusive of Espiritismo, and they come most notably from traditions that had existed from far before the existence of Espiritismo.
10. Women, in the majority of regions of Yorubaland, can initiate into Ifa as iyanifa (even though the term “iyanifa”, like many others, changes significance depending on the context...sometimes the term “iyanifa” is the important woman during the initiations of Ifa that, using Lukumi terminology, “raises” the new initiate). It is true that women cannot initiate to Ifa in the tradition of Lukumi, on this we are clear and we respect it. But in many areas of Yorubaland there had been women initiates in Ifa since many generations. It is not an “invention of the Africans”. It is part of our tradition of Orisa of Yorubaland. In some areas of Yorubaland, for example in areas where one speaks Ijebu dialect, the women cannot initiate to Ifa...while in other areas where one speaks Ijebu dialect if they initiate women, but do not shave the head, between other details according to the lineage or region. Inclusive, in the areas where they initiate women in Ifa, many times, depending on the lineage or other area time, the woman can even throw opele and sometimes even manipulate ikin Ifa during the divination and make ebo like other babalawos. The only taboo in the places when they initiate women to Ifa is that she should not be exposed to the sacred objects of Orisa Odu (Igba Odu). Opponents of this practice and tradition tell us, "and because in Cuba never has there existed the concept of Iyanifa or giving a full hand of Ifa to women (although in the latter there are exceptions, with regards to Cuba). " Easy ... the Lukumi tradition is a league of different practices in different regions of Yoruba land ... and other ethnic groups also practice Ifa (in the case of Dahomeans called "Fa" or "Afa"depending on the land area within Dahomey). And the priesthood of Ifa always had been a priesthood where the men dominate most. In Brazil, where there exists the major population in the world of devotees to a Orisa, where some iyanifas arrived, that founded some temples of Candomble or other African-based religions in Brazil. Interestingly also is the fact that Ifa practice in Cuba, which has lots of influences from other ethnic groups and cultures, also has Dahomean influence, and in Dahomean culture it is accepted practice for women to get initiated to "Fa" in the majority of cases and regions. In the Ifa priesthood of Cuba it seems that there was a decisive movement to follow the practices of certain areas of Yorubaland, including areas of Ijebu dialect speaking areas, of only giving a woman one ikin for her Ifa shrine (unless the woman gets an oju odu or "melli", the latinized form for "meji" in Cuban tradition). Of course, even in Ijebu areas a woman can and does get a full hand of Ifa in the majority of that dialect area of Yorubaland. What is in fact logical is that since women as Ifa priests have always been a minority (being initiated is different from being initiated and prepared with authority to practice as a priest), it is possible that no iyanifa arrived in Cuba or only a very few arrived. It is also quite possible that iyanifa that arrived in Cuba were never taken into account or were simple ignored and/or oppressed. There are however, vague accounts of some female priests that might have been initiates of Ifa in West Africa prior to arrival in Cuba.
11. In our tradition of Orisa/Ifa of West Africa it is completely possible and even common that people can be fully initiated (“crowned”, using the Lukumi term of Cuba) to more than one Orisa. And also after initiating oneself in Ifa (Ifa/Orunmila is also an Orisa for us of the Orisa Tradition of Nigeria) people can make total initiation to other Orisa such as Sango, Obatala, Osun, Egungun, Oro, Ogboni, etc. Including for some priesthoods, like that of Sango of Oyo town, it is most healthy spiritually to make Ifa first and later his idosu Sango (“coronar santo” in Lukumi). We have many people in Africa that are initiated in more than one Orisa and that had done Ifa first and later other Orisa that were very important for the individual (neither am I saying that all automatically initiate to Ifa nor that Ifa initiation is always performed first). There is more diversity in Africa, including diversity of opinions., But in general it is widely accepted that that which has been said here is true in many areas of Yorubaland. In the Lukumi tradition, when the soperas (soup tureens used to hold the sacred stones and other icons of Orisa) of the 5 and more Orisa are presented during the initiation ceremony, there is only one “machuquillo/ashe” that is placed on the initiates head...the one belonging to the principle Orisa to that one is initiating. So, the iyawo Orisa in the Lukumi tradition only is initiated into one Orisa even though he receives various soperas at the same time. In Yorubaland, many priests receive a number of Orisa throughout their lifetime, but it doesn't made them adosu of those other Orisa since only the osu of the Orisa they were initiated into was placed on their heads....the exceptions are those that have performed idosu for several Orisa.
12. In Yorubaland it is not a taboo for rain to fall on the head of an initiated person...it does not affect his “osu” of the Orisa on his or her head in the least. For centuries way before the diasporal expressions of Orisa Tradition existed and before the trans-atlantic slave trade many priests and priestesses had farmland. Farmland is usually always at a distance from the town or city areas. So if a priest working on his farm encounters a rainstorm he or she is bound to get wet. This has no negative implications. Now, if a priest or priestess is in town and it begins to rain, it is best for the person to find some shelter. The idea is that it is not good for a priest to be seen soaking wet. This has to do with the professional image of the priest. On other occasions when one is celebrating Orisa festivals in town out in the public and rain falls and there are no options to find adequate shelter there is no repercussion. In fact the rain, may be viewed in a positive light, regardless of whether one gets drenched or not. Having said that, the head of an iyawo Orisa (a new Orisa initiate) is usually always protected from both the blazing sun and inclement whether during the days of the initiation period. The head of a new initiate is generally shaved and always prepared spiritually through plenty of ritual. Therefore the initiates head is considered tender as well as having been consecrated to the deities and must be respected. This is why we tend to cover the head of the initiate with a cloth when the iyawo must go outside for some rituals or to relieve him or herself. This precaution is easily taken care of since all iyawo are bound to the compound in which they are being initiated and cannot venture outside of the confines of the home during the initiation period.
13. In Yorubaland and elsewhere among those that practice the tradition of Orisa/Ifa of West Africa it is not taboo to wash the head with omi ero. It is true that the head of an initiate is respected or should be. But the head is the essential part of the body that represents the destiny and many preparations of Ifa are applied to the head or scalp. Of fact had been difficult in many occasions to make incisions of various types that Ifa had recommended for the head on initiated people in the tradition of Orisa in Cuba, was for long life, protection, victory, etc...They are used to the idea that nothing can ever be done to the head unless rogations of the head after initiation. In our tradition it is not taboo to receive incisions in the head, even when we had made initiation a an Orisa or other. In our concepts, it is not lack of respect to the ase of that Orisa nor it exists for us a way of “borrar el osu”(“erase/remove the osu”)...When one makes initiation to an Orisa, the person has the ase of that Orisa for life until death and his funerary ceremonies. The only exception with the use of omi ero or a traditional soap prepared spiritually is when some times there is to wash a specific part. In these occasions, like when there is by recommendation from Ifa to wash the head or a leg, only one washes that part through a specific aim and with specific materials. I reiterate that it is not a taboo in general that a person that is adosu (full initiate) washes the head with omi ero...all that is good for the body in general includes the head like the part most important of the individual.
14. In the Orisa tradition of Nigeria and the Republic of Benin it is necessary to uncover the head for the majority of the ceremonies, while it is the custom to cover the head with a cap or head-tie during rituals in other expressions of Orisa. For us the act of uncovering the head is to show respect to the verses of Ifa or Eerindinlogun that one recites or the poetry of each Orisa to the same that to show respect and humility to the same deities. Also, it is how the prayers come to be heard by our Ori that has to approve each sentence before the other deities can manifest the petition of its devotees. There are very specific exceptions to this general rule of thumb, especially with regards to higher rankings priests and priestesses, kings (rulers of towns), as well as those going through the process of initiation into Orisa (iyawo Orisa), or even some other specific ritual contexts. See 12. for details.
15. In our tradition of Yorubaland, the Orisas of the omo awo/omo orisa (godchild) is not born from the Orisas of his oluwo/babaloosa/iyaloosa. The same thing can be observed in the Candomble tradition. The priest uses his “ase” or authority of training from his own elders and initiations that had gone through for consecrating other individuals and his apprentices. So, in order to consecrate the sacred object of Obatala, the adosu (full initiate) of Obatala does not have to first wash his Obatala in omi ero that will be used for washing the Obatala of his godchild. For us this fact is not problematic nor confusing. There exists various expressions of Orisa here in the Americas resulted by Transatlantic Slavery where the Africans that were enslaved could not take anything with them nor even sacred objects of his deities here to the countries of the Americas. Only the fact of which they took knowledge and the “ase” of his deities made it possible. Of equal form the people that by unfortunate events had lost sacred objects of his Orisa do not have to worry...all the sacred objects of the Orisa can be replaced with the appropriate ceremonies. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that certain enslaved individuals ingested or placed sacred objects in bodily orifices in order to bring them to the Americas on slave ships...certainly not every single icon of every deity present in the Americas.
16. In Yorubaland, Iyemoja (Yemoja) is a deity of the river and not of the sea. Iyemoja has her own river in Nigeria that is called “Odo Ogun” (not to be confused with the Orisa Ogun who is the deity of iron, hunting and battle) as well as some other rivers and streams dedicated to her in other areas of Yoruba land, while each one of the other deities of water have its own body of water (it is not want to say that only one can communicate with these deities in its own specific river).
When one attends a Yemoja festival in Yorubaland in Nigeria and Benin Republic the rites are done at the temples and house shrines of the Yemoja priests. When there are rituals done at a body of water, they are always done at a river. The next time you are in Yorubaland, go to a Yemoja shrine in Ibadan or Abeokuta and you will see that it is the river that is venerated....one, because that is how it has always been, and two, because there is no sea in any close proximity. Yemoja is, once again, a river deity and not a sea deity...for those of us that practice West African Orisa Tradition.
Olokun is the deity of the sea. And Olokun is a female Orisa in the majority of Yorubaland and masculine in the majority of Edoland (City of Benin and their environs inside of Nigeria between groups that speak the Edo language and the related languages. Also, it is believed in indigenous Orisa tradition that all bodies of water are connected spiritually to all other bodies of water regardless of being landlocked.
Also, Aganju is not associated with volcanoes in West African Orisa Tradition. Aganju is however considered a strong deity and elder to Sango who punishes oath-breakers and represents the executioner.
17. We make direct initiations to Orisas such as Obaluwaye, Oba, Aganju, Osumare, Iyewa, Oduduwa, Olokun, etc. Moreover, each one of these deities has its own ancestral lineages inside Yorubaland where those are venerating from generations. Ayan Agalu
(Ayan) is an important Orisa for related with the drums bata and dundun...and there are places in Yorubaland where there is total idosu (full initiation) to this deity.
18. The bata drum is not the only drum used for the deities, nor is it the only sacred/consecrated drum. Also of much importance is the dundun, and there exists specific drums for each deity for its use between his followers like the igbin of Obatala, the bembe of Osun (Oshun), Oya and Igunnuko, the agere of Ogun and Osoosi, the agba of Ogboni, the aran of Ifa, etc. Also is the sekere, and its various styles, for deities like Obatala and its general use, and the agogo for Ifa, Obatala and certain others.
19. In Yorubaland there is no difference in as the sacred objects of an Orisa are prepared by an olorisa and by a babalawo. So, there is no “Olokun of babalawo, nor “Olokun of olorisa”. Olokun is Olokun for us. The only difference could exist following the community inside of Yorubaland, Neither is there in Nigeria the “Oduduwas of babalawo” nor the “Oduduwa of olorisa”. There are initiated persons to these deities or related that know its ceremonies that prepare them. And if it is also babalawo it is fine. But it is not that he adds another thing nor that one is of a style made by babalawo or olorisa.
20. In the Orisa tradition of Yorubaland one does not use crowns for the new initiate to on the head on the “dia de medio”. Nor does one call the place where the iyawo is seated a “trono”. The egan that is tied to the head of the iyawo of whichever orisa together with the paints of efun and osun that one uses to paint his head they show that the new initiate has the consecrated head and it is reserved for Orisa.
21. In our tradition the clothing of the iyawo orisa worn during initiation are simple and the “ropa de gala” is not used during the initiation. Many times the vestment of the new initiate can be even a idabora, or cloth put on the left shoulder as if it were the kente cloth that they use in Ghana or the toga of the ancient Romans. Towards the end of the initiation on the day of celebration usually the simple toga-like cloth or other simple styles of clothing with inexpensive fabric may be replaced with a more expense traditional attire so that the iyawo orisa may have a lavish coming out ritual.
22. In our Orisa tradition of West Africa, it is not essential to use a river during the initiation of a person into Orisa or Ifa. This binding rule of always using a river developed in Cuba, but does not exist in Yorubaland. In other words, if one can make consecrations to Ifa and to many other Orisa of the form that we make them in Yorubaland, even in places without a river. And this is usually dependent on the locality and whether a river is even accessible at a short distance or even a decision that can be made at the moment of initiation.
23. Not all the sacred objects of Orisa in Yorubaland are composed of stones. For some Orisa, stones of thunder, river or sea, of mountain, or of laterite is the base of the sacred object of the Orisa. For other Orisa the sacred object does not consist of stone. In fact, many Orisa have nothing to do with stones at all in West Africa.
24. There is no difference in how one salutes a babalawo and how one salutes whichever other olorisa in our tradition. For a babalawo one does not touch the ground with the fingers and afterwards kiss them or whichever regional variation used in the West. One makes idobale (prostration) to the babalawo like any other olorisa out of respect. Even babalawo continue to perform idobale to elders, even other priests of Ifa or of other Orisa, and always iforibale (touches head to ground) to the deities.
25. It is not taboo in Orisa of Yorubaland to make tattoos and other decorative markings on the body, even after one has been initiated to Orisa. Unless it came out as a prohibition in the ita divination, initiated people can receive tattoos on the body, whether traditional tattoos in Yorubaland or Western tattoos. The Yoruba culture has a tradition of tattoos and other markings in order to adorn the body and show ancestral origins of the lineage. Sometimes also one marks the face of an abiku child so that his companions of heaven do not call him back early.
26. The use of tobacco smoke is strictly prohibited because it offends deities such as Obaluwaye, Sango, Eegun (Egungun – the ancestors), etc in the Orisa Faith of West Africa. Even though at times Ifa or Eerindinlogun can recommend smoking it or the use of it as incense for prosperity or in order to attract positive spirits, no one can blow smoke of tobacco to an Orisa, Neither can one smoke near the sacred objects of Obaluwaye, Sango, Egungun, etc. In very little cases there are exceptions in certain places with the sacred objects of Ifa...but they are occasions that do not usually happen with frequency.
27. The first portion of food is not for “los muertos” or Eegun. The first portion of food is offered to Esu (Elegbaa) in our Orisa/Ifa Tradition of West Africa.
28. The verse used from the Odu Atepa Wori during the consecration of someone in Ifa is far a specific process and is not for the symbolic whips that one gives to the iyawo Ifa before entering the Igbo Odu/Igbo Ifa. The whips that are given are something more symbolic that shows the importance of such a ceremony in the life of the initiate. The process of consecration inside Ifa in the grove of Ifa is another process that has to see with your own eyes.
29. In the Orisa/Ifa Tradition of West Africa it is not taboo to eat the food of one's principle Orisa(s). In fact, it is preferred that one share food with one's deity.. An example is Sango that usually receives amala with gbegiri; after Sango is give his portion, the adosus of Sango eat his food during his religious service, festivals, initiations, etc.
30. The initiates of Sango do not have the taboo of the use of red clothing nor eating red foods. It is more appropriate that the initiates dress in red when they make service to Sango in his days of “ose”. Nor is it taboo for children of Sango to eat red apples in Yorubaland because first the color red is not taboo for the great majority of the initiates of Sango, and apples are foreign fruits and are not native to Yorubaland.
31. In Yorubaland we do not make Oba through Osun (Oshun)...simply because one does not make an Orisa through another in Yorubaland (the famous “oro pa tal”). Each Orisa one makes directly his initiate in the head of the persons (speaking of the Orisa that are of the idosu style and also those that which are not). And the other major reason never to do Orisa Oba with Osun in Africa is because the two are irreconcilable. Neither is advisable that a person who has the Osun sacred object have the Oba sacred object and vice versa.
32. In Yorubaland one makes divination with the Oosa/Eerindinlogun (the “Caracol”/the “Shells”) of the titular Orisa of the priest and not with the shells of Elegbaa. Even though in some places of Yorubaland they can call the “shells” of his titular Orisa by “Elegbaa”, and the process of divination with the shells is called “Kika Elegbaa”, it continues being the shells of the titular Orisa of the priest that utilizes them to consult.
33. The babalawos initiated and trained do not have use if the “ajitenas” following the Cuban meaning...So, we do not incorporate our practice of Ifa signatures of Odu mixed with the firmas of Palo nor the anaforuana (called “nsibidi” between the Efik de Nigeria) of the Abakua. That league of symbols happened in Cuba, and also there are examples of other leagues that were made in Brazil and Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. Neither do we have a sacred object of Osanyin that is a league with a prenda/nkisi de Palo.
34. In our tradition of Orisa of West Africa, the olorisa that used Eerindinlogun in order to make divination for his clients are not prohibited to initiate in Ifa. There are babalawos that can throw Eerindinlogun also and have the knowledge. It is true, there are certain individuals that by their signature of Ifa cannot use more no other apparatus in order to divine, including the Eerindinlogun. And many times the babalawo that also knows and can cast Eerindinlogun focuses most on the use of ikin Ifa, but will use Eerindinlogun in those occasions when it is necessary to use Eerindinlogun during the consecration of olorisa where it is required to use it.
35. In West Africa and among all that practice Orisa of Yorubaland, it is no taboo for the wife of a babalawo to cast Eerindinlogun nor is it taboo that she have her own clients using Eerindinlogun as divination appa. Of course, we have stories like when Iyemoja or Osun attended to the clients of Orunmila when he was traveling. But for us it is not that Orunmila was angry and prohibited the use of Eerindinlogun in his house. Instead, he sanctioned the use of Eerindinlogun for his wife.
36. In Yorubaland a person that in some moment had been “mounted” by some Orisa is not automatically prohibited to be initiated in Ifa. Moreover, to be initiated in Ifa is open to all people in the Yoruba town in general. True, the process of divination, is with Ifa or Eerindinlogun, guides the elders of the novice in how many of his principle deities and the parts that are most favorable to follow.
37. We do not offer a head of a pig for the Eegun when we make our ceremonies for the ancestors nor when we make consecrations in Eegun. The use of the head of a pig for the ancestors is a custom from China; it is one of the many influences from other cultures that had provided the expression of the Orisa tradition that developed in Cuba.
38. In the Orisa tradition of West Africa, the babalawo does not make ebo for himself. He should invite another babalawo or at least one of his omo awo (godchild) that knows how to perform ebo in order to make the prescribed ebo. A babalawo in our tradition of African can make his own divination. But if a babalawo makes his own ebo and puts the money of the ebo on the table of Ifa during the process, and later returns it to his pocket, it as if it was no made no sacrifice. The same is true for any olorisa that is an eerindinlogun diviner....they can perform their own divination/reading for themself, but they must have someone else perform the ebo riru. (In Lucumi tradition 99% of olorisa in that system only perform ebo riru or "ebo de estera" during the Lucumi "kariocha" or lucumi orisa initiation. the 1% that do are personal friends of mine that have been exposed to the fact that 16 cowrie-shell diviners perform ebo related to the odu of a reading very similar to the way babalawo also do) Also it is important, being the Orisa tradition a religious tradition of community, that others pray for someone and that he works also in the form of a religious community.
39. In West Africa and the Ifa Tradition of Yorubaland it is not prohibited for babalawos to dance. Those that visit religious communities in Yorubaland note that in the celebrations of Ifa the babalawos dance much and are very good in dance, as the rest of the olorisas. The babalawos in the Ifa tradition of West Africa can dance to religious music the same as popular and contemporary music. There are some in the Ifa tradition of Cuba that say that the babalawo can dance to religious music but that the babalawos cannot dance to popular music; while there are others that say that the babalawos can dance to popular music but not to religious music...each person that one asks will give his own explanation. But in the Ifa tradition of West Africa it is not taboo for a babalawo to dance at any time.
40. In the Lucumi tradition, in almost all the cases of ceremonies of great importance first acknowledgment is given to the dead giving coconut and sometimes if it is indicated an offering of an animal. This is not the case in the Orisa tradition of West Africa. Giving homage to the ancestors and the deceased priests is done in different forms. But it is not a standard practice in Yorubaland to give acknowledgment to the ancestors and less so “the dead”. The custom of giving acknowledgment to the dead before beginning a ceremony is the custom that developed and is standardized in Cuba.
41. In the Orisa Tradition of West Africa when a person is mounted or taken into possession by an Orisa it is understood to be the Orisa itself that manifested in the body of the person and not the entity of some deceased priest that was devoted to said Orisa that is possessing the person. In the Afrocuban tradition the majority of the priests of that tradition say that it is impossible that a deity takes possession of someone directly, and that it is through a spirit of the deceased that was a priest of an Orisa that can mount someone. For us in the Orisa tradition of Yorubaland we think that each deity is a spirit that like water can be divided or is in the different places without ceasing to be the deity. As additional information very interesting, it is thought that there used to be incarnations of deities such as Obatala and Sango, and many times that is where the term “caminos” or “aspects” originates. But when a person is mounted by Orisa, it is by the Orisa that mounts his devotees in Africa. There are states of trance when the Egberun/Egbe Orun (comrades of heaven) of the person, or of the deity, come and take possession of the person in the moments, when the Orisa is not present in the body. This fact in the tradition of Africa can be where the Lucumi belief comes of what only is possible an entity that was a priest of Orisa that truly mounts the person; this is not our belief. And also in Africa as in Brazil, persons can be possessed by Orisa much before being initiated.
42. It is not a taboo to use water for the worship and initiations of Obaluaye in Yorubaland of West Africa. In fact, plain water is one of the most basic elements used to placate and refreshen this deity, in addition to the use of palm oil, palm wine, and snail fluid. We still are not aware of the origin of this important detail and difference between Lucumi tradition and West African Orisa tradition of Nigeria and Benin Republic.
43. It is taboo to offer cooked fish to deities such as Iyemoja and Osun (Oshun) in Yorubaland. Whereas cooked fish is an offering made to these same deities in the Lucumi tradition.
44. The idea that someone initiated into Orisa and "born" by the Odu Ose Meji cannot initiate others nor practice the priesthood for others because the Orisa wants them for "themself" is not a practice nor concept of West African Orisa Tradition. In Yorubaland, it is generally one's parents that send one to apprentice with one's godparent under their roof to live there in a type of boarding school setting. This is because it has already been determined that their profession will be the priesthood. And after several years of training the apprentice gets initatied. Therefore in yoruba culture it would make no sense that after it is determined that a person will practice the priesthood professionally, and after the years of training and consequent initiation and sacrifice to then tell the person that they can never initiate others nor perform priestly duties for others because the odu that gave birth to them was Ose or Ose Meji during the Ita.
45. Salt is more often than not used for positive rituals to bring happines, joy, sweet things, and blessings. But due to latin influences in Santeria (Lucumi tradition), salt has a negative connotation for the most part in afro-cuban Orisa tradition.
*Keep in mind that these are generalizations of our Ifa/Orisa tradition of West Africa. Exceptions do exist for a number of reasons. In addition, there is also a great deal of cultural diversity in Yorubaland of West Africa. But in general that which has been written above includes most Yoruba regional practices. When one encounters some definitive and true information to the contrary of that which has been written here, there will be clarification.
Written by Chief Nathan Lugo Aikulola Iwindara Fawehinmi, Gbawoniyi Awo del pueblo de Osogbo
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