Category Archives: Santeria

The orisha does discriminate and so must we!

One Elegua tells the other..."Let's add a little chaos into the registro to see if the diviner is awake!"
Years ago, I was at a Batá to Oyá and while she mounted my godfather and dispensed advice to those at the event I was pleasantly surprise to hear her assert her discriminatory powers upon those who are part of the ilé. I remember quite clearly that she said to the crowd, “In this household there is one door to come in and two doors to leave.” There was no question in my mind that she sets the rules as the head orisha of the house. She made it crystal clear; those who do not conform to the rules of the ilé can expediently leave. To come in the house, there is a filter, one door, to leave…don’t let the door slam on your rear end…whichever door you choose. If I was to further analyze the implications of her statement, one could say that even leaving a household has a procedure. Either we leave in disgrace or we exit properly and following procedures.

Procedures are precisely what will save us from making mistakes. I am glad to see that the first post strokes a nerve on many who were inspired to post a response. I will address some of the points made by readers on this second part, starting with divination and its role on the discriminatory process of initiation.

Divination is not an absolute

The role of divination in the process of admittance to an ilé is never an absolute; it should not be the only guiding principle or the litmus test to admittance. Here is why. Divination in itself is an act of selective discrimination on the sharing of knowledge applied to a situation through the energy of Oddu. Meaning, for divination to be effective, it must first encounter an imperfect filter, the diviner him or herself, who is only human after all.

The diviner must not only be well versed in the oddú and its meaning, but also learn how to discriminate what information to apply and share with the person seeking advice. Of course, I have seen very good diviners advising someone to make osha and giving them a step by step approach on what to do to prepare. I have however, seen with more frequency the Spiritual Terrorism approach to induction into the Santeria ranks. You will find more often those diviners who warn of tragedies, illness and chaos if the person does not run right away to make kariosha.

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Is there a Future for Santeria?

One Elegua tells the other: "Yeah let's bring some riffraff with money seeking Kariosha to see what our Omo does. Betcha a Jutia he won't examine the situation as we would like him to do."
Over the last 20 years profound changes have taken place in the way in which humans communicate and interrelate. The advent of the Internet and the creation of blogs, websites, forums, and finally, the emergence of on-line social platforms created a double edge sword for our Afro-Caribbean religions. The power of enhanced communications and the availability of all sort of information without a system of check and balances has created the perfect breeding grounds for merchants of the religion and con artists to flourish and prosper. Before finding shysters was limited to the communities they inhabited and perhaps to the occasional ad to be found on newspapers or word of mouth communications. Now, any so called initiate can set up shop on the Internet, troll on sites like Facebook looking to insert themselves as experts in conversations and forums, establish a blog or a website and drum up a hefty Santeria business.

How do I know this? I get to sift through piles of emails from people wanting help and advice after they have had a really unsavory situation thanks to having met the so called ideal godparent on line. I get to see a bit of everything, from those who find exploitative godparents who see their godchildren as meal tickets, to those who get really screwed with poorly done initiations. Overall, the feeling most people manifest is one of hurt; they feel deceived, damaged and abused. I have to say that one of the worse ways in which a human being can be abused is by having someone mess with their faith, with their spiritual being and thus with their development. If that is not akin to spiritual rape, then what is?

Under the premises of availability of quick information on line, some may argue that Santeria should not have any secrets and that initiates must share all of their knowledge without questioning to whom they entrust it and how they disseminate the information. I have gotten belligerent arguments from many on this regard; I make no apologies for being in complete disagreement.

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Santeria 101: Keeping Records of Your Readings or Registros

Some of my libretas have notes on more than just advice and readings...
There is absolutely no reason to live a life of strife and heartaches, particularly when one follows the Way of the Orishas or in short, practices Santeria. Perhaps it is partly because I do not trust memory to be perfect, or because of the years I spent pursuing a career in journalism, but I value greatly the art of record keeping for posterity. Thus, you can find in my orisha room a catalogue of readings done for me, from the very first one to the most recent one. They are all compiled in notebooks, organized by ceremonies and they include notes of results from the ebbós or workings prescribed from those readings.

This trail of notes is not a meandering one, it tells the story of my life and of the many stages and transformations in this spiritual journey, pretty much like this blog in a way weaves moments of my spiritual journey with the spiritual journeys of family, friends and anyone who is willing to spend a few minutes of their life here, reading along and sharing as they see fit.

As I was saying, there is no reason for living a life of frustration. Most of the answers to life’s challenges and to our very own shortcomings are in the readings we seek. Even the poorest of readings may yield a nugget of wisdom, a flash of divine inspiration passed by Olofi to the diviner. It is up to the person seeking that advice to listen with an open mind and heart, to understand that message and apply the advice diligently.

How do you go about keeping good record of your readings? The answer is simple. Select your recordkeeping method of choice. Perhaps you are one of those people who love to take notes on a portable computer, smart phone or you may be traditional, like I am, and find a certain amount of peace and reassurance in practicing the art of penmanship on a plain old composition notebook. Whatever you choose, know that the right decision is to keep notes, and plenty of them.

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The Ethics of creating Discordia…Just because You can, does it Mean You should?

Overall, I try to walk a pretty straight line when it comes to doing workings. I try to use momentum to aid my workings, to research carefully the ingredients and to outline a clean and organized path of action before I put the work in motion. Within all of these preparation steps I balance out the negative and positive impacts that my actions will unravel. In general, I try to do the least negative workings possible and to use the grace I have been given for good.

However, sometimes there are folks that cross me not once or twice but repeatedly. In those cases, far and few in between, I have no issues setting the balance back to zero…just because I can.
So here is a little something from the arsenal of simple and nasty little workings that I am willing to share, for the greater good of course. I hope you have a cool head to carefully evaluate if you really need to use it…or not. It is all in your hands.

To create Discordia


Saltpeter, Peony seeds, Sea Salt, Gunpowder, Cayenne Pepper, Sulphur.

This is a rather simple working to do. All you need is to place all ingredients together in a mortar and pestle and grind them to fine powder. As you add each of the ingredients, visualize discordia emerging like a fog and filling out the space where you will lay this powder on. If it is a house, then imagine the area filled with disgust, discomfort and in general, visualize lack of peace and a strong desire to argue.

If you intend to use this say in an office environment, visualize people grumpy, short tempered and unfriendly finding reasons to argue for just any little thing.

Please do be careful NOT to drop any of this powder in your own home. If you are going to use it in your place of work, know that you will not be exempt from its impact, thus, use your logic. Do you really want to lay this trick on your own place of work? I think not.

Good luck on creating havoc. Remember, just because you can, it not always mean you should, but I leave to each of you the ethics of creating discord.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

(Feeling pretty mischivous today)

A Bath for Lovers

A Bath for Lovers
Love is a child of Chaos. Its energies once released are impossible to gather back. Everything touched by love is unequivocally changed forever. Some people think that love needs sometimes a little bit of help. I would differ; it is love the force that helps us along the way. However, there is nothing wrong with enhancing time spent with a beloved one and with sharing cleanliness of body, mind and spirit.
Here is a bath that is meant to be shared with a special someone.


1 blood orange sliced
1 stick of cinnamon grated (yes freshly grated)
1 pomegranate (just the seeds)
5 cardamom pods (just the seeds)
5 drops of clove oil or 5 cloves crushed to powder
2 teaspoons of honey
1 red candle

Slice the orange, place it in a deep container, then grate the cinnamon over the orange slices, add the pomegranate seeds, cut open the cardamom pods and extract the seeds, mince them with a knife or crush them then add them to the container, add the rest of the ingredients and pour 5 cups of warm water over the ingredients.

Since this is a bath for lover, one thing you could do is to pour each other’s energies and intentions onto this bath by holding hands over it and speaking at loud your intentions or petition.

The slices of oranges are meant to be used in the bath as scrubbers. Light the candle once you are done speaking your mind while holding hands over the container with the ingredients.


Oní Yemayá Achagbá

Olokún: The Oubliette of Emotions

My Olokún and personal Oubliette of Emotions
There are things that are revealed to orisha initiates as they go along in their life’s journey. Tradition has it that libretas (notebooks) would be the resting places of those discoveries. Those libretas would be guarded with great zeal and only passed along as a treasure chest of knowledge to one or few selected initiates in the ilé (Orisha household). However, some orisha initiates take their secrets to their grave.

I may not have very many pieces of information to share, nor many years yet to have accumulated a significant treasure chest of data, but I am about to share one which I sincerely hope can ease the pain of many who have loved and lost a loved one for whichever reason. Sometimes life deals us tough hands, but Olofi has mercy and also gives us the means to ease pain.

This is not the panacea for all love inflicted heartaches, but I have indeed seen it work like a charm twice in the last 20 years. I call this petition to Olokun, The Oubliette of Emotions.

The term oubliette originates from the Latin oblivisci to forget or oblivion. An oubliette is a construction in a dungeon where there is only one opening from the top. Does that sound familiar? Traditionally an Olokun is housed in a ginger jar or a tall Chinese style jar with an opening at the top. That was my first hint of inspiration to put together this petition, but more inspiration came from a trip to France, exactly to Mont Saint Michel in the Normandy coast.

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Celebrating 7 Years of Yoko Osha Oggun

A doggie cake for Oggun

As promissed, here are some photos of the celebration from Oggún Addá Araí. He outdid himself working all afternoon to have a great meal assembled with literally no help from me or his father.

He was careful in the preparation of the amalá ilá and the product was so good that it was hard not to want to eat all the tasty okra cooked in spices and epó or palm oil.

Amalá ilá

Sweet potato cacerole
Oggún Addá Araí also worked hard on getting a nice batch of coconut candy done for Yemayá, his orisha mother and also placed a small cake in the shape of a dog to honor Oggun.

Enjoy the photos!

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

Oggún in His 7 Year Simple Splendor

Oggún Addá Araí prepares his Shrine
Oggun is simplicity and he is also splendor. He is splendid in his love for his omó, in his strong and handsome disposition and in the way in which he devours life with great passion. Oggún is the simple pleasure of a hard day of work, of a task well done. Oggún is in the sweat rolling off the hot arms that forge humanity’s character.

Seven years ago my son had the blessing of becoming for life a member of the household of Yeguedé José Merced and his oyugbonakan Omíkuya, Modesto Martínez. His godfather worked tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of Oggún Addá Araí’s yoko osha was done by the book. I ran the kitchen, made the clothes for the iyawó and lots of brothers and sisters participated in the ceremony. Ventura Santana did a wonderful job with the pretty gourds painted as gifts for participants in the ceremony and we had really a wonderful time bringing Oggún into my son’s life. Every bit of work was worth it.

Today, I have left Oggún Addá Araí and his papa Elefunké do the shopping. Normally I do it, but this time around, the guys took over. They have been most of the afternoon running around markets brandishing their long list of fruits, candles and other things for tomorrow’s family feast. Traditionally we would do a huge to do about this day, but this year, since we are newly arrived to a new state and have yet to connect with the local Orisha community we have decided to keep it a family affair.

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One Year, Many Oddús: A Comparative Table for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the United States (Miami and New Jersey)

Rituals are of great importance in the Lukumí and Ifá practices, particularly those that are designed to serve as a religious compass or framework for the community at large. Each year docens of Ifá priests gather to determine which are the oddús or signs that are to set the tone for the year and what are the recommendations to avoid misfortune and maximize opportunities.

The following table provides a snapshot of such results for Cuba, Puerto Rico and for two cities of the United States. More tables will be posted soon gathering the results for other countries.

Double click on the table to be able to see it in full.

Have a blessed 2012 and remember to stay true to your eggun and to traditions.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

One Year, Many Oddús: Letra del Año 2012 for Puerto Rico and Cuba

Flag for Oddu of the Year, Puerto Rico 2012
One would wonder why there is a need to determine an Oddú of the year in each country where Santeria and Ifá are practiced, and sometimes, there is more than one oddú determined per country. Such is the case of the United States where the oddú of the year or ‘la letra de año’ is determined in California and in Miami. The other case is Cuba where two different groups of Babalawos also perform this yearly ritual.

There could be a simple explanation, or a few complicated ones. The simple route dictates that each country has particular regional challenges that need to be address as a community; this could also apply to vast countries like the U.S. A second point of view could lean towards which group is sanctioned by the political party in control versus the group which has been determining the oddú for five decades and has grandfather status, mass approval and the clout of respect and credibility that follows.

Be that as it may, the oddú of the year for Puerto Rico and Cuba made me think today of the most famous poem by Lola Rodríguez de Tió titled “Cuba y Puerto Rico son”. This poem compares Puerto Rico and Cuba with the wings of a bird, a bird that is wounded or that receives accolades over a shared heart. What would it be, accolades or wounds? That is still to be seen, but it all depends on the attitude and behavioral changes that the inhabitants of these countries apply over the next twelve months.

However, if matters continue to develop in Puerto Rico like they have, with an upsurge in the crime rate, increased abuse against children, promiscuity galore and the tarnishing of our religious beliefs, the course is set from the start for a disastrous year.

Cubans have their own set of challenges to face as a people and nation, and, I will not list them as I have not spent time there to speak from direct experience. I can speak about what Puerto Ricans face because I am a Puerto Rican who got tired of the day-to-day situation in the Island and the lack of resolve and direction to correct it.

That said, 2012 seems to be shaping as a year or trials and tribulations for both countries based on the Oddús determined today by the Council of Babalawos from the Yoruba Temple in Puerto Rico and the Lázaro Cuesta Organizing Commission of the Oddú of the Year in Cuban. However, I will let you draw your own conclusions based on this summary I am about to present.

Here is a summary of readings, more details such as the flags and ebbós are forthcoming:

Oddú 2012 Comparison Table P.R. and Cuba

In the days to follow I will post other oddús for other countries as they become available. In the meantime, I do welcome the interpretation from awós regarding their perspectives on the social, political and religious points of view associated with these two oddús from Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá