Category Archives: Santeria

When the Head leads the Body: The Importance of having Orisha House Rules.

Rules are crucial to keep traditions alive.
Rules are crucial to keep traditions alive.
Some years ago, when I was still living in Texas my godfather Yeguede and I sat down to work on the content for some of the pages of the Yoruba Temple Omo Orisha. During the process, I brought up a set of rules I had drafted thinking of my own little ilé and my godchildren. Upon reading them, godfather thought they articulated overall the thinking and teachings of our lineage, thus they came to ‘live’ in the page for the temple.

This morning, as I woke up and did my moyugba and prayed for my godparents, godchildren and thought about the future, it occurred to me that I had never shared these rules on my blog. Granted, the blog is not an ilé, however in a way it has become for many a place to come and learn and share about their spiritual journey. Therefore, I consider that since I see so many people floating adrift without proper guidance, perhaps these rules may ease their spiritual journeys. Each line has been drafted with a purpose, not to be authoritarian, but because when we stray from the path we create arayé and that eventually becomes a problem for godchild and for the godparent who then needs to spend additional time fixing a situation of unbalance that could have been avoided by adhering to a simple set of regulations.

I have used some portions of the original essay as posted on the Temple, as I consider that it is still very much timely. I have made a few edits to make the text applicable to the blog, as well as some additions to the rules based on my experiences over the last 7 years.

Today our religion confronts new and diverse challenges such as the quick diffusion of information through both traditional methods of knowledge, like books, and non-traditional means such as the Internet.
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Yemayá’s Favorite Treat: Coconut Candy

This is ready to be enjoyed!
This is ready to be enjoyed!

My first memory of Yemayá is forever linked to the sticky sweet flavor of Coconut Candy. I can’t remember exactly how young I was, but it must have been before my parent’s divorce and I was 6 then, when I attended a party offered to Yemayá by the ocean. It was at night, it was dark like molasses and I remember this santera coming to me and placing a piece of coconut candy in my mouth. “Eat this child, it is full with ashé and blessings and you will like it.” I will never forget the flavor and its nice crunchy consistency. I have been a fool for coconut candy ever since. Since I have no prohibitions about eating coconut, I can satisfy my craving for this treat occasionally.

There are many ways to do a good batch of coconut candy. Some prefer to make it almost like a brittle, some like to do it a bit moister; I am an equal opportunity appreciator of coconut candy.

Here is my version of it prepared on small and easy to distribute portions for those who do orisha bembés and like to share treats. Dealing with sugary treats is an exact science, but I recommend allowing yourself the space to experiment and have fun. In my book, flavor wins always, even if the consistency of your candy does not turn out perfect.
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Do Oloshas need to have open shrines?

Open Shrines?
Open Shrines?
This week I had a dream that left me thinking about ethics. Here is what happened in my dream. I was finished setting up my altar for my anniversary. All was ready to receive guests, when suddenly my husband comes to me and tells me that there is an unexpected person at the door. In my dream an imaginary foe that had made our existence miserable was at my doorstep wanting to present an offering to my orishas and make amends.

In the dream, my first reaction at seeing this awó was one of anger. I could feel my blood boiling at the sight of his face; my mind was riling and baffled at the audacity he had to show at my doorstep after having—in my dream— tormented us for so long. Wars between initiates are never fun; they are like dueling with grenades. Thus, my first instinct was to simply kick this unwelcomed visitor out, to deny him entrance to my house, to the sacred space of my shrine to Yemayá. Then, years of conversations with my godfather Awó Iwori Oddí about ethics, potential of change and development of character kicked in. These concepts have become so ingrained in my every day pursuit of Iwá Pelé that they now are permeating even into the fabric of my dreams, or at the moment, nightmare.
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Not above the Law: Sacrificing and disposing of Animals in Orisha Rituals

Disposing properly of ritual remains is a matter of respect.
Disposing properly of ritual remains is a matter of respect.
When it comes to disposing of animal remains used in rituals, oloshas face a manifold problem. Recent articles posted in The Miami Herald (, The Huffington Post ( and other mass media outlets portray Santeros or Oloshas as brutes who abuse animals torturing them in bizarre rituals and then dispose of the carcasses on an unsanitary way in public places. Guess what? The articles portray with a good deal of accuracy some of the realities of the Santeria community.

Sacrifice, even done by the most expert of hands is not an act of gentility. A sacrifice is an exchange of life-force; a life must end so another one goes on improved. This end comes accompanied by pain; there is no question about it. Thus the word sacrifice, otherwise, we would call it party. Would we not?

However, sacrifices must be done in a humane fashion and the remains must be discarded following health and safety local rules. Here lays the crux of our manifold problem:
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Honoring Oshún and her Sacred Pumpkins

A plate of goodness, oven roasted pumpkin seeds.
A plate of goodness, oven roasted pumpkin seeds.

One of the best lessons I ever learned from my godfather Awó Jorge Puig Kaiser, Iwori Oddí is that it is a blessing to share a meal with family, friends and godchildren. Some of my best moments with him have been while having dinner. He not only enjoys the meal and always thanks the cook profusely, but he also likes to reminisce about his life back in Cuba, his friends and my favorite is to listen to stories about his godparents and other elders from the Island.

Often times when I am in the kitchen working on dishes for the orisha, I think of him. He does not cook, but he is always ready to offer to sample whatever is bubbling on the pot or roasting in the oven. Of course, you can imagine that I have no issues indulging the old man and letting him sample whatever he wishes.
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Oddú of the Year 2013: Organising Committee for the Oddú of the Year in Cuba

Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.
Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.

This is the version that is used in my ilé, it comes from the Organising Committee for the Oddú of the Year in Cuba by the Miguel Febles Padrón, Awó Odí Ká House. It has been a practice for this group to gather for the last 26 years at their temple in Ave. 10 de Octubre #1059 and Josefina y Gertrudis, Víbora in the City of Habana, Cuba.

Once again, I believe this to be the first translation posted in English. Please have the courtesy to refer to if you use this translation.

—For Cuba and the World—
To all priests of Ifá, Oriatés, babaloshas, iyaloshas and iworos.

The ceremony was presided by priest of Ifá, David Cedrón, ‘Otura Sá’ with the support from priests of Ifá from all families in Cuba, their descendants around the world, the oddú was determined by the youngest priest present.
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Oddú of the Year 2013: United States by the Temple of Ministers Shango Eyeife

Letra del Año sacada en Miami
Oddú of 2013 determined in Miami, FL
The following oddú was done in Florida by the Temple of Ministers Shangó Eyeife in Miami.

Main Sign: Eyila y unle (12-8)
Arayé elesse eleddá (problems that emerge due to bad choices) Osobbo

It is recommended to always consult with godparents.

Main Orisha: Shango
Secondary Orisha: Yemayá
Accompanying Orishas: Eshu and Oshún
1. When my memory fails I will go back to the secrets
2. A king goes to war and wins.
3. Without a head there can be no crowning.
4. A spider does not let go of its web, it stretches it.
5. When a whistle rejects a voice it makes no sound.
6. If you do not speak no one will understand you.
7. If you do a favor that harms you, you act against yourself.
8. When there is no respect all is lost.

Appropriation from African Traditional Religions

grew up in the hood (2)In the modern internet-based society, cultural appropriation from African Traditional Religions occurs often in my opinion. Everything from eclectic Paganism adopting deities, to commercial Conjure claims of being an expert on Orisa traditions, to Neopagan Vodou have collectively jumped on the bandwagon of adopting practices derived from African religions. The argument can be made that persons seeking or claiming enlightenment do so with a clean heart and good intentions. There is nothing wrong with seeking truth.

Unfortunately seeking truth is not always what happens. If you need a tooth pulled, going to a student intern who read a book on dentistry and decided to begin yanking teeth for pay with rusty vice-grips seems to me like asking for pain and trouble. Appropriation is a spiritual equivalent.

One symptom of appropriation is the monetary aspect. Yes our beloved ATR faiths do charge for certain things and rightly so. It takes time, hard work, and experience to learn the correct way of doing things within each House or group. Derechos (fees) have to be paid. Would a person consult an expert in any other field without having to pay, or a doctor? However, monetary goals seem to be at the forefront of appropriation-based issues especially from commercial internet shop owners. Fraudulent “Damballah Elekes”, “Oya grave dirt bottles”, “Yemaya La Sirene Mojos” and “Pomba Gira Homosexual Love Gris Gris bags” among other silly things seem to be increasing on the internet in my opinion. This is an unfortunate aspect of appropriation as far as fabrication of things that do not exist within the traditions being supposedly drawn upon. Caveat Emptor, indeed.
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Oddú of the Year 2013: A Glance at Lukumi Communities around the World

Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.
Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.

The Oddu of the Year is an interesting subject that gives us Santeros plenty to talk about for the month of January and the rest of the year. I remember when it was only one Oddu, the one done by the Comision de la Letra del Año in Cuba and we all waited eagerly to hear which Orishas came ruling for the year, that was before the Internet. Now, there are many different versions of the Oddu, in Cuba there are a couple and there are groups that prefer one over the other. There are also versions done by region which is quite reasonable because each country has particularities and their own sets of social and political issues that are addressed on those oddú. I guess you can look at it almost like a barometer for collective karma for the year…even if karma is a concept foreign to the Lukumi, or not part of our culture.

In any case, I like to do a comparison between the different oddús because it is interesting to see the trends and what common subjects emerge for santeros and the community at large. I will start by posting the full readings this year, whenever available and then run the comparisons as I have done before.
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One Bread Pudding, Two Happy Orisha


A delicious creation for Aganjú or for Oggún.
A delicious creation for Aganjú or for Oggún.

In our ilé we celebrate two anniversaries in the month of December. Mine is on December 12th and my husband’s is on the 13th. As you can imagine, there are tons of offerings set on the altar, particularly lots of fresh fruit. It is tradition in my ilé to share fruit with guests as they leave to go home, but having a double anniversary and a double shrine we had so much fruit that I had to find a way to use it creatively. Of course, some people pick pieces and use them for cleansings, but there are so many cleansings one can do. So I decided to create a few sweet treats for the Orisha and some to share with my family with the remaining fruit.

Since my father in Osha is Aganjú I always have plenty of pineapples and they usually take a bit to ripen, so I had 3 delicious pineapples in my hands today and inspiration to cook and offer a nice dish to my orisha and to make enough for my family to share. One of them, BBQ Pineapple Hot and Sweet Chicken, was only for the dinner table. The other one, Hawaiian Bread Coconut and Pineapple Pudding was a dessert and a sweet offering to the orisha. Pineapples are a favorite of to both Aganjú and Oggún, so you can certainly say that you can have One Bread Pudding and two happy Orisha.

By the way, it is good to mention that bread pudding is also a favorite of Obatalá. You can adapt a basic bread pudding to please most any orisha, substitute the fruit with mashed fruit bread for Obatalá. If you want to please Oshun, try using freshly roasted pieces of butternut squash and for Yemayá try substituting the coconut milk with fresh watermelon juice and serving it with watermelon simple syrup.

Hawaiian Bread Coconut and Pineapple Pudding


1 Package of Pineapple bread (12 pack dinner rolls)*

3 eggs

1 cup of coconut milk

2/3 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of rum flavoring

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

½ teaspoon of lime zest

3 teaspoons of melted butter

1 cup of chopped pineapple

* You can substitute this kind of bread by any sweet bread rolls.  I used King’s Hawaiian Bread Rolls.


Peel, core and mince the fresh pineapple.  You will only need one cup of it.  Place it in a large bowl along with the sugar, rum flavoring, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, coconut milk and eggs.  Break rolls into pieces and add to the ingredients.  Mix with your hands, do not over mix.  Pour batter into a greased soufflé mold (I used an additional 2 tsps. of butter for greasing the mold).  Use the zest to top the mixture and then bake on a pre-heated oven for 50 to 60 minutes at 350°F oven.

This recipe is fairly simple and the results are quite delicious.  You can add some chopped macadamia nuts to top the pudding for additional texture.  If you want to make the offering extra special, try doing simple syrup (equal amount of sugar and water cooked together) spiked with rum and serve poured over the warm pudding.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did working in the kitchen with my family and children, after all there are some offerings that are extra special when they carry the combined ashé of several santeros, and more so, when a family of santeros come together to work and thanks the orisha for the many blessings received over the last year.


Oní Yemayá Achagbá