How Media Perceives the Orisha Community: 2015 a Turning Point for Santeria

Oloshas at CLBA Press Conference

Oloshas at CLBA Press Conference

The eyes of the world will be focused in the months and years to come on the evolution of the relationship between the United States and Cuba.  The intent of changes announced under the current Obama administration have already started a ripple of effects at many levels.  Of chief interest to me as an olosha is the impact that this re-establishment of relations will have in our Santeria community at large.

If you have been following The Mystic Cup, you would realize that I have never been one to mince words or to shy away from expressing my concerns and ideas.  In this case I have some areas of concern which deserve careful consideration and discussion amongst the leaders of our religious houses, no matter if they are Ifa or Osha-centric.

Perception is Reality

On January 2, Oba Ernesto Pichardo gathered media in Miami to announce that the Church of Lukumí Babalú Ayé (CLBA) will be fostering open relations with over 500 fellow oloshas in Cuba. The Church seeks to open the door for equal treatment to Oloshas as initiates with regards to the freedom that other churches have to carry on their missionary and religious work in neighboring island.  The conference also served to announce this year’s Letra del Año in Miami, which is a yearly reading used by Oloshas to guide their actions with the advice of the Orishas.

The Letra del Año is determined in many countries including Cuba.  The Island, the bastion of the Orisha religion in the Americas, could not fall short in announcing the most expected results of the yearly reading.  This time the reading highlights the importance of socio-political changes between the United States and Cuba.

There were two media powerhouses that reported on the Cuban Letra del Año announcement: Reuters and AP.  However, I will not limit myself just to those two, I am also going to analyze coverage done by local newspapers and TV stations in Florida.

Let’s start with the lack of professionalism and disrespect exhibited by the editors of the Associated Press.  Let me highlight the deficiencies of the article which even lacks a byline.

  1. The opening paragraph does not mention which is the group that called the press conference. Last time I checked, Who, What, When, Where, Why were of importance when reporting stories. There were two groups that called for a conference, one in Miami and one in Cuba. Attention to details, and, proper reporting generates credibility.
  2. The word babalawo is placed in quotes, this denotes a lack of respect for the religious status of an Ifá priest. Have you ever seen an AP story using quotes for the words “Bishop” or “Minister” unless they are questioning the validity of the rank or initiation? The appropriate course of action is to use italics for a word in a foreign language.  By the way, this is as stated in the Associate Press Manual of Style and I do keep a copy on my desk.
  3. On the same paragraph there is the use of a question mark that in my appreciation denotes either lack of proper editing, or a nonchalant attitude towards the information presented by the Ifá priests who determined the Letra del Año. I leave you to that consideration.
  4. The skimpy paragraph mentions the intent of a restoration of ties between priests in Cuba and the U.S. However, the reporter falls short on doing proper reporting by omitting the fact that the Church of Lukumí Babalú Ayé had a conference on January 2 and that the conference in Cuba amplifies the message of unity.
  5. The stroke of genius comes in the form of a closing paragraph that truly denotes how media continues to perpetuate the ignorant concept that Orisha practitioners are in fact all syncretic in their practices. We are not a mix of Roman Catholicism and African Yoruba. African Yoruba is not a religion, it denotes a people.

Talk about irresponsible journalism, the AP has truly done it this time.  However, if we do not raise our voices to point out these ‘tiny’ monstrosities, we will be all guilty of continued to have our image shaped by outsiders.

In any case, here is the original link, feel free to read it and leave a little comment to the AP editors if you feel as I do and like to protect the image of our religious practices.  I am also posting the article so you can see the reasoning behind my comments.

Original link:

—Beginning of AP’s Story—

Cuban Santeria Priests Welcome Closer Ties With US

HAVANA — Jan 3, 2015, 3:55 PM ET

A group of Afro-Cuban Santeria priests said Saturday the path is clear for improved dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba following the two governments’ announcement of plans to renew diplomatic ties.

The “babalawo” priests’ annual “Letter of the Year” also foresaw dangers of epidemics, conflicts, environmental imbalances and the loss of religious or political leaders ? general projections that have been common in past such Letters.

Lazaro Cuesta, one of the founders of the Commission of the Letter of the Year, said the planned restoration of ties, announced on Dec. 17, with the U.S. opens a period “of hope for all the world.”

“Our Cuban brothers who are there (in the United States) will avoid being victims of the walls that separated us until yesterday,” he said. “Those walls collapsed to create a bridge.

The commission represents about 1,000 babalawos and is independent of the government. Another Santeria group, the government-recognized Yoruba Association issued its yearly message on Thursday. It did not mention ties with the U.S. and urged people to “avoid social indiscipline.”

Santeria is a mix of Roman Catholicism and the African Yoruba.

—End of AP Story—

Continuing to break down the day’s coverage of news, let’s take a look at how Reuters, another media powerhouse reports the story.  Reuters is of importance because a lot of newspapers and Internet media pick up stories done by them and replicate them all over the world.  The same is the case for the Associated Press stories.  In the case of Reuters, the reporters are listed and their story is free of huge mistakes.  However, let me point out a few things that could have been reported better.

Opening paragraph fails to establish who these priests are. Credibility is key and the writers should present a context. Who, What, When, Where and Why…remember?

  1. On the second paragraph there are two factual errors. Cubans are not the only ones who honor the orishas and there are far more than 3 million around the world that are involved into what the media calls Santeria.
  2. On the fifth paragraph there is a huge mistake: Baba Eyiogbe is not a deity, it is an odú. However, it is even worse to attribute such faux pas to one of the most respected awós, Lazaro Cuesta.

Here is the original link followed by the article:

—Beginning of Reuter’s Story—

 Cuba’s Santeria priests hail U.S. detente in New Year forecast

By Rosa Tania Valdés

HAVANA Sat Jan 3, 2015 2:45pm EST

Jan 3 (Reuters) – Priests offering New Year’s prophecies from Cuba’s Afro-Cuban religion urged old Cold War foes Havana and Washington to continue rebuilding relations, and forecast that detente would bring economic benefits in 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced last month they would move to renew diplomatic ties, potentially paving a way to end decades of hostility.

Many on the Caribbean island eagerly await the annual forecast from the Santeria religion, which is practiced by 3 million Cubans and uses animal sacrifices to contact Yoruba deities originally worshiped by slaves brought over from Africa.

This year the priests, known as babalawos, predicted more conflicts between nations worldwide, the deaths of religious and political leaders, ecological strife and storm surges, as well as fatalities from inter-generational struggles.

One of the priests, Lazaro Cuesta, said building bridges for dialogue was key for the coming 12 months.

“All those who are involved in that, in all aspects of life, are called to victory,” Cuesta told a news conference in Havana. “Those who put up walls and break down bridges are doomed.”

The priest said the ruling deity, Baba Eyiobe, is applauding the rapprochement announced on Dec. 17 by the U.S. and Cuban governments.

Cuesta said Baba Eyiobe was telling world leaders, particularly those in Washington and Havana, “to use their heads as a fundamental basis for relations, their own intelligence, and not to be influenced by the past, nor by circumstances created by some ill-intentioned people.”

He added: “God wants the dialogue to continue for everyone’s benefit.”

The Santeria priests said one of the slogans for 2015 chosen by the faith was: “Wisdom is the force that moves the Earth.”

They also prophesied that 2015 would offer economic benefits thanks to the Cuba-U.S. talks, but gave no other details. Cuba said in December that it expects GDP growth of 4 percent in 2015, following years of economic slowdown. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)

—End of AP Story—

Local coverage of the CLBA news conference had good and bad reporting.  The exception was El Nuevo Herald.  Kudos to Alfonso Chardy for having his facts straight and writing with respect.  Here is the link to the article:  El Nuevo Herald also provided a video which allows visitors to obtain more background on the importance of the announcement.

So sad that the comments done by the readers (here is the link reflect so much ignorance and lack of courtesy.  These are the Christians that think of themselves as high and mighty but cannot be civil on a public forum and exhibit the respect and tolerance that they would demand to have afforded if the shoe was on the other foot.

America TeVé, a Miami TV station, also covered the conference live, however the anchors cannot help themselves and interjected their ignorant jokes.  Attention News Anchors, if you do not want to look like a bubble head, shut up and stick to introducing your story with dignity.  Please, by all means take a look at the video, it is in Spanish, but I have translated the dialogue in question so you can see what outrages me.

The male anchor, Juan Manuel Gaos: “…some have been mounted by the Santo in this beginning of the year Olance, no?”

Fortunately reporter Olance Noguera had the intelligence not to follow the lead of the anchor who was trying to be “funny” and make light of an important story for the Orisha community.  He continued to report with dignity and introduce his story from the field.

In the story, which is actually pretty fair and balanced, reports Ogbe-Sa (8-9) as the Oddú ruling in Florida.  One of the refrains associated to the oddú says, “If the perception others have of me does not kill me, not even a king can kill me.”

I rest my case, perception is king.  If we want to be perceived properly by the world we need to start by examining and questioning the way in which media reflects our actions.  Furthermore, we need to be cognizant of who we place in front of a camera or to give an interview. Fortunately, the spokespeople that reporter Noguera selected for his story were eloquent, but this is not the case all the time.

Brothers and sisters of stone and blood, perception is reality.  Take care of your actions, think carefully before you express yourself in public, but most important, let the head lead the body and act according to your rank and status.  What you do or not do reflects on all of us and this year can be a turning point for our religion if we do not take care of portraying ourselves with dignity and propriety.

To those who are leading, lead on.  To those who are good at questioning the actions of others looking in, continue to raise the right questions. To those who like to talk and not think before speaking, keep quiet until you know what to say, who to say it and when.



Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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The Oddú of the Year for 2015

Flag for Puerto Rico 2015

Flag for Puerto Rico 2015

One of the most anticipated events for the Orisha community worldwide because it establishes the pattern that its practitioners will follow for the next 12 months.  When the Santeria community was less globalized, the Oddú of the Year or Letra del Año would be done only in Cuba.  With the migration of Cubans and Cuban Ifá priests to the United States, there was the unavoidable additional Oddús of the Year determined.  Nowadays, you can find groups of Ifá priests in countries around the world, and thus, the Cuban Oddú of the Year is no longer the only voice to guide Orisha followers in their daily life. I see nothing wrong with having regionalized readings, it is quite logical that what impacts one region may not necessarily be the reality for others regions, not to say other countries.  Even in Cuba, there used to be one official group of Ifá priests, now there are more than one.  Granted, the emergence of multiple voices is due to various reasons.  One of them is the proliferation of Ifá priests, in the past the numbers of Ifá initiates were limited.  Another reason is the desire to establish a powerful voice and presence in the community and to influence thought currents and households adhered to the Ifá group in question.  Also, there could be political reasons at play, and the list goes on. I will post as many of the Oddús as I can find.  However, since I post the articles both in English and Spanish, the process is time consuming and it may take me a few days to round them all up and translated them.  I will also post the original sources of the different Oddús. Oddú of the Year as per the Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha in Puerto Rico The original post comes from their blog and it is solely in Spanish.  I have translated the salient parts for the benefits of the readers of The Mystic Cup and made a few edits not in content, but in style. Here is the original link: Oddú of the Year: Otrupon Koso Prophesy: Osogbo Eyó Kafetileri (conflicto or discussions generated by one’s own head) First Witness: Irete Ká Second Witness:  Ogbe Wale Ruling Orisha: Yemayá (adimú of fruits with ice and molasses, on the same day the offering is place is taken to the ocean). Assistant Orisha: Shangó (adimú is amalá ailá with opolopo epó, this offering is also taken to the ocean on the same day in which is offered). Defending Orisha: Obatá (Obatalá receives a female goat as well as the other feathered animals that go with feeding the King of the White Cloth). Flag: Rectangular flag with white background.  Inside it has another rectangle divided in two triangles.  The top one is blue and the bottom one is red and white, there is no specification on the pattern of the red and white side, I have taken some aesthetic liberties to illustrate it. Flag: Rectangular flag with white background.  Inside it has another rectangle divided in two triangles.  The top one is blue and the bottom one is red and white, there is no specification on the pattern of the red and white side, I have taken some aesthetic liberties to illustrate it. Orí: Prayers over the head with obí, omí tutu. This should be repeated several times during the course of 2015. Ará: Ebbó misí ewefá (baths with omiero of plants consecrated to Ifá, must consult a babalawo). Ebbó: Akuko fifeshu (feed a rooster to Eshu), ailá ará (measure your body-height), ailá lerí (measure your head), malaguidi okuni y obini (use a doll representing a male and a female), atitán batá (soil from your shoes), ashó timbelara (colored fabric: white, red, yellow and blue), gbogbo tenuyén Ifá (all the basics ingredients to be used for an ebó with Ifá.  It is recommend to consult with your babalawo of preference or the one affiliated to your household. Working for business:  Kasheoro gbogbo tenuyén Ifá (a working with little packages on the Ifa board or Tablero de Ifá), 3 baby chicks for Eshu-Eleggua and deposit the small packages on the four corners of the building where the business is situated. Introduction:  2015 must be faced with lots of patience, with conviction and perseverance and being very aware of your actions.  The challenges announced on the oddú Otrupon Koso represent a year of many trials, tensions and hard situations.  The prophesy determines that there will be debates or discussions and discord caused by one owns head.  This refers to conflictive situations that could arise due to the way in which we behave, the decisions we take and how we treat others. Ifá says that when facing conflictive situations it is better to be calmed.  The key of success lays on temperance, one cannot be impulsive or capricious.  It is advised to avoid imposing one’s will on an abusive manner.  How we treat others will make the difference in how day to day situations can be improved or worsen.  There will be a need for great perseverance, sacrifice and patience to improve those circumstances that surround us.  Ifá advises to try to be understanding and have compassion instead of judging others.  Ifá points out to the need of self-flection to improve and enhance our won spiritual development. It is important to be an example of good values for our children, so they can learn to solve situations using dialogue.  For our children, the best lesson is to be learned is how to live a healthy life for the good of all.  It is important that children learn to recognize their limitations and the repercussions of their acts so they stay on track. This year will be very hard for relationships between couples.  Economic, social and day to day circumstances are creating a lot of lack of tranquility, anxiety and unrest.  This is why it is important to treat each other with great respect, to be understanding and have solidarity.  Trying to be forceful or to impulse one’s will would create more losses than winnings.  In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated. Puerto Rico needs to learn to live with atmospheric phenomena related to climatic changes.  The sign talks about atmospheric changes, particularly cold fronts.  It is important to have lifestyles that honor a balance with Mother Nature. The resolution of conflicts of social and economic nature in the country will depend on the good will of all parties involved.  If there is no will to solve difficult situations, all will continue to be in a state of putrid stagnation.  Our wellbeing depends on focusing in productivity and what is for the common good of the people.  We exhort all of those in a position of authority in political and economic matters to transcend their own interests and to seek a dialogue with the commitment to achieve concrete solutions for the wellbeing of the country. Finally, good character, patience and perseverance will be the tools that will help us face those difficult situations that will arise throughout the year and will help us keep peace and tranquility.  It is with this mental balance, with a cool and clear head that will be able to find solutions to the problems that impact us on a personal level and in society. In this oddú are born the following:

  1. The poles of the earth and ice
  2. Yemayá Okute

Expressions associated with the Oddú:

  1. Do not do to others what you would not like done to you.
  2. Respect others as you respect yourself.

General Advice:

  1. Oddú speaks of mistreatment between couples
  2. Avoid all manners of vice because they will bring physical and moral destruction
  3. Tamarinds were sweet and how to turn sour to survive
  4. Avoid exaggerated ambition
  5. Respect your elders
  6. Couples need to treat each other with respect
  7. Communication and dialogue is fundamental to solve conflicts and problems
  8. It is a good year to receive the Warriors, to make Kariosha and for those who have a path of Ifá to become priests
  9. Have a more calm life
  10. The oddú speaks of traveling to other countries
  11. Do not be proud
  12. Be careful with stairs steps
  13. Do not pay attention to gossips
  14. Avoid arguments and disagreements
  15. If you promise something keep your word
  16. Beware of falls and of heights
  17. Be careful at night

—Oddú for 2015 in Cuba— For the full oddú, click on this link to the PDF file in Spanish: As more oddús become available I will provide links to the source and summarize the readings.

—Oddú for 2015 for Miami— For the full  oddú, in Spanish follow this link:

Omimelli Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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Start the Year Refreshed: Baths for Cleansing, Love and Peace

Days of Wine and Roses Love Bath

Days of Wine and Roses Love Bath

2015 is upon us and there are many ways to start anew and here is how I like to receive the New Year: Clean, at peace and surrounded by love.

I am going to share with you three bath recipes that I have tested and work like a charm. They are for cleansing, to bring sweetness and love to your life and, if peace is what you need, do try the other baths outlined below.

Remember to pray as you prepare the bath and to stay focus on your intention, be it cleansing, love or simply to obtain some peace.



Days of Wine and Roses Bath

If romance is what you are needing, here is just the thing to start a good spark. Now, bear in mind that the best way to find love is to love thyself and a bath like this gives you ample reason to pamper yourself and to give love to the person who deserves it the most: You.

For this bath I like to use red wine, however, rum can be a perfectly good substitute. I like to set this bath on my bóveda overnight or at least for a couple of hours, but you can simply prepare it and use it right away. I find it that it is more effective to set a candle and pray on it and let it be for a few hours before using it.

The process to make a bath is simple. Place all ingredients in a bowl, pour some of the water and macerate the rose and leaves with your hands until they are a pulp. Set the bath on your bóveda or if you do not have one set up, place a candle and glass of water by the bath atop a table. Call upon your protector spirits to bless your endeavor and ask for love and happiness to come to your life.


2 sprigs of fresh mint or spearmint
8 to 10 large sweet Basil leaves (Queen of Siam is also very good)
1 stem of Basil flowers
1 large red rose
8 to 10 Sage leaves (I had regular Sage and also Pineapple Sage, so I used both)
2 large sprigs of Tarragon
½ cup of Bledo Blanco or white Crape Myrtle flowers
Cinnamon powder (if possible, grate your own)
¼ cup Red Wine
1 teaspoon honey

rose bath 3

Ingredients ready

Bath at the bóveda

Bath at the boveda


Remember to strain this bath and to wrap the solids in a piece of brown paper. I like to use them to cleanse myself by passing them over my body and discarding them in the trash before showering. Once you are done with the shower, wash your face with this bath and the back of your neck and pour it from the neck down. Air dry as long as you can and then pat dry.


Shiny Penny Cleansing Bath

This bath makes you feel like a shiny new penny once you take it. Yes, it is very simple but it is quite efficient in its simplicity. The difference between this bath and the other ones that I am recommending is that this one requires soaking in your tub, while the other ones are simply poured over you.

You will find variations of this bath recommended by Spiritist and Hoodooists alike. I have seen it done with both ½ of alum as well as 1 teaspoon of ammonia. However, I prefer just to use the alum powder as it is an ingredient geared for protection. Ammonia in general is a powerful cleanser and some old fashion folks like to substitute it with an equal portion of their own urine. However, I don’t quite fancy taking a soak on pee, not for New Year’s Eve.


A full tub of warm water (make it as hot as is comfortable to you)
½ a teaspoon bluing or a small ball of bluing
2 tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon of alum powder
5 tea light candles (white or blue, your pick)

Omimelli’s Little Helper: Make yourself a delicious libation, in my case I made a cup of warm chocolate milk to sip while I soaked in the tub.

Sit on the tub of water and simply relax and enjoy time to think, have a nice warm or cold drink and pray for protection and to have negative thoughts stripped away from you. Time is a wonderful thing to have and to use wisely and meditate on those things that are negative and that need to be left behind or set aside in order to leave a better and more peaceful existence.

Cleopatra’s Milk Bath

Cleopatra, the last Egyptian pharaoh, used to bathe in Donkey’s milk to keep her skin soft and beautiful. However, donkey’s milk is not a runoff the mill item at most Walmart’s. Seriously, it is pretty hard to get, so in my book, this bath received a makeover. As you will see, Cleopatra is not really the center figure here, because she was not a particularly pacific historic figure. However, she is a fascinating one and I could not resist the story telling on the use of donkey milk for baths. The bath described below is mostly for peace, but is also does wonders for your skin. The elements are associated with Obatalá, King of the White Cloth and ruler over all white things in the body, amongst them the brain and bones. Obatalá blesses us with knowledge, patience and intelligence. Hopefully if you have some or all of those, you will also have peace of mind.


2 cups of warm whole milk
2 cups of coconut milk
2 cups of goat milk (if you can find donkey milk all the better)
1 cascarilla grated
2 tablespoons of cocoa butter grated

Combine all ingredients on a large bowl and wash your face, the back of your neck and pour the rest over your body once you have showered as usual. Let this bath dry over your skin as long as you can and then towel dry.

I like to pray to Obatalá before pouring it on me and I do like to dress in white after I take it and go to sleep if possible. You can offer a glass of water and a candle to the orisha as a thank you for his protection.

I sincerely hope that the New Year blesses you with love, joy, stability, health and that time is always kind to you and those you love.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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Musings on Dates, Relations and the Future of Afro-Cuban Religions

Babalu Aye

Babalu Aye

I have been meaning to write this post for days now, but lately time has been at a prime for me as you may have noticed by the reduced frequency of my posts on the blog.

A week has gone by since the U.S. Government announced its intention to resume relations with the Cuban government.

It was clear to me that the date for the announcement had not been selected at random. December 17th holds a very special place in the mind and hearts of Cubans and of anyone who professes faith in the Orishas because it is on this date that we honor Babalu Aye (syncretized with San Lazaro) and the patron orisha of those who are sick or suffering misfortune.

The relationship between Cuba and the U.S. is one that has been ailing for quite some time, since before I was born. It has been one that has created so many tear, hardships and list of horrors far too long to account and even harder to forget.

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Spiritism 101: Considerations for Success

Thinking about Spiritual Development?

Thinking about Spiritual Development?

Kit and I were having a conversation about the hard long hours that spiritual work entails. There is hard work and discipline required to attain a decent understanding of the mechanics of Spiritism and spiritual communication.

Since Kit is in the process of learning how to better communicate with his spirit guides, I have been sharing with him what I have learned over the years, it is a process of trial and error and it is very personal. However, we both agreed that things do not happen quickly.

Speed in manifestation is not exactly considered success for me. Particularly because who is to say that the energies, forces or spirits that are manifesting fast in a neophyte’s life are really what they seem to be. Spirits have their own agenda, most are adept at adapting and masking and when a person eager to learn about spirits shows along fresh and filled with energy…well that is equal to laying out a feast in front of a hoard of hungry homeless spirits. Anyone can show up for the meal…and abuse the host they will.

How does one protect themselves? Continue reading “Spiritism 101: Considerations for Success” »

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Prayers On-line to Pomba Gira, the Orisha and others?

Pomba Gira does not read The Mystic Cup

Pomba Gira does not read The Mystic Cup

Love and desperation are not really a good combination. When someone gets a whiff of desperation the immediate reaction is to bolt out the door. Desperation has a most unattractive vibe, one that smells of decay and sadness.

One of the most popular blogpost on The Mystic Cup is the one done to Pomba Gira. However, the comments area is often times bombarded by a litany to the Great Witch she is. This is particularly what makes me write today. I take down most of those prayers for a couple of reasons:
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15 Years of Blessings

15 Years of Blessings

15 Years of Blessings

Today, December 12, is a special day for me. 15 years ago I gave all of who I am to Yemayá. There are so many lessons I have learned from her, so many blessings I have received. She along with Aganjú my father are the center of my spiritual life.

There is not one day I have regretted of this journey. Every day since she became my North has been one where I have had purpose, direction and love. She is at the heart of who I am.

I do not have a lot of time before I head to work today, but I can’t let this moment go by without publicly sharing it with all who read this blog. I also want to send blessings to my godfather Jose Bravo Jr. (Omioké) and to my oyugbona Jose Bravo, Sr. igbae (Adé Kolá). There were many who touched my life on that day, many more who helped me along the way, including my adoptive godfather Jose Merced, Yeguedé to whom I always am thankful beyond words. My husband, Elefunké, my children Oggún Addá Araí and iyawó Elegua (Ayótomiwá), and my mother, Omí Eshú Adé are my strength, than you for being with me every step of the way.

Thank you for sharing my life, this spiritual journey and for reading my words. These few lines are but a pathways to the depths of my brain, to the core of my soul where today there is nothing but happiness.

You are welcome to enjoy it with me.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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Santeria: A Diseased Community

Elegua opens the road to healing

Elegua opens the road to healing

I have been quiet as of late, partly because of my heavy day-to-day workload. Yes, I do work for a living in something not related to Santeria. The other reason for my reduced frequency on posts has been introspection.

Elegua opens the roads to the world, to the mind and to the spirit. The recent initiation of my youngest son to Elegua allowed me to take the time to observe patterns and to reflect upon them. The pattern I refer to is the one of creation, the creation of a new priest. It is truly amazing to observe a young person initiate the steps towards a rich and rewarding spiritual life. Kariosha is not the end of a journey; it is the beginning of an arduous road of self-improvement and spiritual fulfillment. This is what my son understands from his commitment at the age of 8. This is what his godfather, my eldest son, who is 15, is instilling in him as the days go by. It is a blessing to be able to be there to guide and support them. I will make sure that my children carry on a spiritual legacy, but furthermore, that they become the pillars to new houses. In time those new houses will be able to change some of the things that are eroding our current practices.

Here we go to the crux of the matter. Our Santeria communities are polluted with sick people, and I mean sick people in the spiritual sense of the word. In order to heal our communities we need first to confront the malady with open eyes and then to take bitter medicine. Once we are done with the treatment, we need to stay faithful to a rigorous and vigilant regime to make sure we never again allow illness to creep into our houses.

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Ashó Eleguá: Initiation Garments as Art, Ritual Object and Textile Codex

Elegua Master of Roads

Elegua Master of Roads

June 1st was a day of transformation for my youngest son. He completed his initiation ceremony as an olosha at the hands of his godfather, Ogún Addá Araí and his Oyugbonakán Yegedé. The months leading to the kariosha were busy with preparations and planning. There are many elements that must be carefully sorted out to have a smooth kariosha. The initial steps involve coordinating dates for officiating oloshas, then come sorting out materials, planning meals, inviting participants, and then comes my favorite part, planning for the ashó orisha or the initiatory garments.

The ashó orisha varies depending on the orisha. However, in the New World initiatory clothes have become a textile codex. The ashó orisha can narrate a story, represent the symbols associated with the orisha or be a simple garment depending on the level of skill and imagination of the seamstress or tailor. For me, beyond a textile codex, the ashó orisha is an opportunity to prepare a spiritual armor for the new initiate. This armor will have elements sacred to the orisha, the appropriate colors and will indeed surround the iyawó with all the energy and good wishes I will imbue in them. In a sense, the ashó orisha is a ritual object of importance because it shows the stately position of the iyawó and it represents the presence of the orisha, the history and tradition behind the orisha and it becomes the focus of attention during the Throne Day.

Vest and pants for the crowning of an iyawó Eleguá

Vest and pants for the crowning of an iyawó Eleguá

I am particular about who I work an ashó orisha, when and why. Since being a seamstress is not my occupation, but rather a devotional activity and it involves a great deal of my personal time and energies, then I select carefully when and who I create for. Also it is crucial for me to know the iyawó, to be able to study their body, the way they move and their own sense of style. If the iyawó is to wear the ashó orisha properly, then she or he needs to be able to move well in it, to be free to dance in them and to feel comfortable to for one day, be the embodiment of an orisha on earth.
Continue reading “Ashó Eleguá: Initiation Garments as Art, Ritual Object and Textile Codex” »

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The Story of Diana Rosado: Santeria Fraud and Extortion in Orlando, FL

SAY NOThe story you are about to read is an example of why people need to research carefully before becoming involved in a Santeria house or ilé.

It has been about two months since Diana Rosado contacted me on email wanting advice. I am overly cautious to learn slowly the facts before sharing advice with a person or even recommending their case to a fellow orisha practitioner near the individual seeking assistance.

First, I want to make sure there is a real spiritual need. Second, it is important to match properly the level of skill of the olosha to be recommended to the needs of the person seeking help. If possible, I do try to find people whose temperaments are suitable to provide assistance to someone who has faced abuse. Dealing with someone who is hurt, whose faith has been shattered and trust violated, requires kindness, knowledge and a great deal of patience and empathy.

Maybe some would consider this too much caution, but when someone has been victimized, the least they need is to place their shattered faith and their mounting problems they face, in the hands of someone who can’t lead them to a proper solution.

In a nutshell, Diana made a few errors in judgment which lead her to trust an alleged Palera and Santera. I have no way to validate the initiation of the person who conned Diana. However, I can say that from Diana’s emails, the woman describes herself as gay and Palera. There lays the first warning bell for me, as no legitimate Palo house would initiate a gay woman or man. If you want to read more about that subject go to the area which highlights Palo articles, as this in itself is a complex and controversial subject.

The second warning sign I want you to pay attention as you read Diana’s story is about the ‘initiations’ and the constant feeding scheme the alleged Santera devised to conn money out of Diana. The third item of interest is the modality this person wanted to establish of having Diana pay ‘rent’ or ‘upkeep’
I do have photos of the person who allegedly extorted money out of Diana as well as documents (bills) the woman sent charging for payments to ‘feed’ her orisha. However, I have agreed with Diana to simply present her side of the story as a warning for others and not to make an accusation through the blog using names and evidence. If Diana wishes to place a claim, she can certainly do so through a Small Claims Court, she is in her right to do so.

This in itself should serve as a warning to those who may be out there abusing others and defrauding them of their hard earn cash, as they are legally responsible and can face the law for their actions.
Her story is still unfolding and hopefully it will have a good end as she now is being properly advised by an obá oriaté of solid reputation and experience.

Having made these observations, I leave you to her story:

“I write this story with the hope that my experience will prevent another person from making the same mistakes.

Four years ago I was having problems with my daughter. There was a lot of discord between my daughter and my husband. We had decided to let our daughter live rent free in our house in Orlando, Florida. She was struggling working part time and going to school part time and unable to keep up with rent and utilities on her apartment. In return, we wanted her to finish school and only pay her utilities and the property taxes on the house.

We added her to the deed so she could get homestead on the house’s property taxes. These taxes are due once a year and the homestead gave her a break on the amount of taxes charged on the house.
It all started out well. However, she soon quit working and was not maintaining the property as we had done. My daughter wasn’t taking care of the pool properly or keeping the grass mowed. The inside the house was no better than the outside. It was like she didn’t care about anything. This was the source of all disagreements between us and I became desperate about this situation.

I found myself seeking guidance from someone with a spiritual background. I found someone who claimed she was an active participant in the Palo and Santeria religion. She convinced me that she would be able to help me with my problems and I agreed to let her help me.

Soon I found myself receiving Warriors and Yemayá. My daughter also ended up with the same (Warriors and Yemayá) and also ‘received’ a Gitana.

Keep in mind that no ceremony was performed prior to us receiving the Warriors and Yemayá and my daughter’s Gitana. This should have been my first clue that something was not correct.

My first major mistake for not researching the person (who also happens to be gay and supposedly practices Palo) and what to expect before receiving the Warriors and Yemayá. The funny thing is a part of me felt uncomfortable but I thought I had found someone to help me.

My second error was not listening to my instincts. At first she was very understanding and comforting, but things changed. I could not keep my Warriors and Yemayá at home because my husband does not support my religious practices. He had a bad experience with a spiritualist he thinks that anything spiritual outside of the church is ‘evil voodoo stuff.’ I was unable to keep the Warriors and Yemayá in my home and she offered to keep them at her apartment for me. Thus, this woman was ‘tending’ to my Warriors and Yemayá and feeding them every three months with animal blood. This started a series of hefty payments done to keep up the Warriors. I had to pay both for my daughter’s as well as mine every 3 months. Whenever I could not meet the payments a fine or multa for ‘disrespect’ was added as well. The average payment each three months was of $2,600, plus a fine for alleged disrespect of $421. Continue reading “The Story of Diana Rosado: Santeria Fraud and Extortion in Orlando, FL” »

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