When an Iyawó is getting close to finish the Year in White there is a series of steps that must be taken before the First Anniversary party takes place. The first step is to do Moforibale (pay your respects) to the orishas of the main godparent and the oyugbonakán (second godparent). This is a simple ceremony, that when done with a full and happy heart, becomes a moment of joy to be remembered.
The iyawó must present a white plate, two coconuts, two white candles and a fee of $21. The iyawó goes first in front of the godparent’s orisha and presents the offerings and then prostrates in front of the orisha where she/he should be able to do a full moyugba and if possible recite some prayers in Yoruba for the guardian orisha of the godparent. The iyawó should thank the orisha for all the blessings received, the lessons learned and for having been accepted as a child of the ilé.
The godparent will lift the iyawó and depending on the house customs, a meal ore refreshment maybe shared together to celebrate privately the closing of a cycle.
The same process is repeated at the house of the oyugbonakán. The iyawó then must receive a head feeding (prayers over the head) and plan with the godparents what is to take place in the day of the anniversary.
It is customary to have a throne ornate with fabrics and to ‘dress’ the orisha for the first time. This is done by draping elaborate orisha cloths ‘paños de santo’ over the orisha receptacles and the pedestals where they rest.
Fruits are arranged on the floor around the orishas, and mats are kept at hand for other oloshas to salute the throne and congratulate the iyawó. It is also traditional for the iyawó to prepare a variety of classic desserts depending on the orisha that the iyawó has received. In the case of a iyawó Obatalá there could be rice pudding for Obatalá, natilla de chocolate (chocolate pudding) for Oyá, coconut candies for Yemayá, roasted sweet yams with honey for Oggún, sweet cakes for Oshún, a variety of hard candies for Elegguá and marifinga (sweet cornmeal porridge with raisins and honey) for Shangó. This is only a representation of what can be offered, by all means, typical offerings have a huge range of selection according to the orisha.
A basket is also placed at the foot of the altar where attendees can leave a few dollars for the iyawó and the godparents. This money will go to the main godparent at the end of the party, and on the second year, the money will go to the oyugbona. After the third year the offerings belong to the iyawó. This tradition is an additional way to thank the godparent for the sacrifices made and the dedication given to the iyawó upon her/his first year.
During the first anniversary the iyawó should wear the best white clothes she/he has and if there is enough money in the budget small gifts can be prepared for the oloshas that came to work on the Kariosha and party favors for other guests.
Some iyawós can go as far as doing a Guiro (drumming party with non consecrated batá drums), but this is a luxury not a need.
For my first year anniversary I went out of my way to make everything extra special. I cook every dessert by myself and made a scrumptious buffet including roasted pork, turkey, honey glazed ham, and huge variety of side dishes. I remember with much fondness all the hours of planning and cooking. I did everything with joy and overall, I was in the best of moods regardless of all the work ahead of me. Needless to say, I was exhausted at the end of the party, but I was also thrilled to have been able to share with so many people and to feel the energy of the orishas so vibrant all around me in my throne room.
The highlight of the party is the ceremony of obí divination with the orishas. Some people prefer to do this before the party starts because they rather have privacy in the process, others do it at the end of the party as to allow the orisha to observe how matters have developed through the celebration. This process is done by the main godparent while the Oyugbona takes notes on the Itá notebook for the iyawó. Most times this is a ceremony closed and where only oloshas attend. The advice given by the orisha during this reading is of great importance and will be the first of many such divinations to be repeated every year. A fee of $21 is paid to the godparent for doing the Obí reading.
At the end of the party, the endless ocean of fruits is distributed among the guest who ceremoniously come to the throne room to bid farewell to the iyawó and the orisha and take with them some pieces of fruit to enjoy later, share with their own orisha or to use for cleansings as they see fit.
There are small variances from ilé to ilé, but at large the process is fairly similar to this. This party can run from $500 to over a thousand depending on how elaborate it is.
However, if the iyawó does not have the means for an elaborate party, I guarantee you that the Orisha will be more than happy with coconut, water, candles and a basket of assorted fruits. The communal meal can be as simple as a soup if money is tight. The bottom line here is that the first anniversary is not about money and luxury, it is an opportunity to pay respects and to have a happy heart, a heart that now belongs to the Orisha until the last breath of air that olosha takes.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá