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 (http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/06/3170090_south-beach-santeria-decapitated.html#storylink=addthis), The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/06/goat-chickens-decapitated-south-beach-santeria_n_2422245.html) 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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