The knowledge of plants is an intimate process fully understood in light of research, experimentation and direct observation. However, most of us seldom get the time or the inclination to take these steps; no, we live in days of hurry, fast acquired knowledge and repetition without analysis.
There is much to be learned and shared in the study of herbs as it applies to Santeria and it is good sometimes to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Take for example a plant that is an annual, grows sort of wild in abandoned lots but has many applications that are crucial to the creation of omiero or the quintessential herbal water used to consecrate both a new initiate in Santeria as well as the tools this person will use for life.
Ewe tete is the name of the plant in question and it is one of four fundamentals for the many omiero requires. Its scientific name is Amaranthus viridis and there are about 60 different varieties of it, however the one used by Santeros is commonly known as Bledo Blanco. This plant is attributed to Obatalá and Eleguá and has various medicinal applications such as treating boils, diuretic, and it is used in tea to treat dysentery.
One thing I find very interesting about Ewe tete is that part of its scientific name, “Amaranthus,” describes a singular quality: It does not wilt. This is interesting to me because being a fundamental plant for omiero one would think that it was chosen with a purpose, imbuing the iyawo with special attributes to heal and transform. Consider the use of Ewe Dún Dún or Siempre Viva, as discussed in the first part of this series and sum it to Ewe Tete. Does this not constitute an interesting formula in the making?: A plant that is ‘always alive’ and, a plant that ‘does not wilt.’ This is food for thought, literally.
Speaking about food, Ewe Tete even finds its way into salads as it has a similarity with spinach and a good deal of vitamins as well. Actually in the times of Emperor Monctezuma in Mexico, it was cultivated along side with corn and beans as a major food stock, it is said that it even found its way into religious rituals as well. Aztecs were not the only ones to appreciate the Amaranthus viridis as it is also found in Asia and Africa where it is also used for food.
If you are an olosha, next time you sit down at a lavatorio to rip herbs and sing, remember that in your hands there is more than greenery, there is culture, history and a good deal of alchemy in the making.
May you always share your ashe through the making of omiero to transform the lives of others.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá