Eleguá is the majestic core of every Santeria practitioner. From the oldest oloshas in our ranks to the youngest of aleyos discovering the ins and outs of the Way of the Orisha, we all have to pay moforibale (respects) to Eleguá, there is simply no way around it. His charm is nearly impossible to resist.
Eleguá to me is found in the sleepy smile of a child who simply lays in joyful abandonment over his mother’s breast; lazily twisting ringlets of his mother’s hair on his fingers as slumbers overtakes him. Eleguá is the toothless grin of an elderly man slowly zipping coffee on his rocking chair. He can meet you head on in a street corner, clothes ragged, smelly and with a spooky stare through eyes glazed with a haze of rum and cigars. Eleguá is a silver tongued devil with patent leather shoes and a red silky shirt, hips limber and ready of dance be it horizontal or vertically. Eleguá is the flash of blood that falls from Oggún’s blade; he is the direction of Oshosi’s arrows and the hunger in Osun’s belly.
Eleguá is filled with stories of mischief, devotion, trickster and slyness. He is loyal to a fault with those who slash their hearts to keep him warm tucked inside sucking on candies and lollypops.
This is the passion of Eleguá running through my fingers as I type all these elusive words that trick me and test my spelling.
Eleguá came to my on a summer afternoon nearly two decades ago. My godfather asked me to bring two big fat roosters. I outdid myself at the market for these creatures were just out of a Jurassic Park movie, really big and very feisty. I was told to sit outside while some preparations took place. I was pretty excited, not even the heat of a late Texas afternoon could contain my anticipation. Then I was ushered inside a closed garage where the Warriors—Eleguá, Oggún, Oshosi and Osun— were ready to be fed and activated. In a flash the ceremony was in full swing and then blood trickled over the cement head with expectant cowry shell eyes. The smell of blood and feathers cough me by surprise, the world seem to slow down, voices grew distant and if someone yelled ‘Timber’ I would not have even heard it. I was flat on the floor sooner than my husband could reach out to catch me. Yes, I was a tall city girl with no experience in animal sacrifice, so I fainted.
“A fine olosha you will be one day if you don’t learn how to handle animal sacrifice,” said my godfather Omí Oké. His words dug deep into my dizzy ego. I then promised myself that I would learn to handle a knife like any man and even better, after all women deal with meat in the kitchen on a daily basis, the only difference is that this meat had a head attached to it and flapped around nervously sensing that time was running short.
I am deliberately not going to describe the ceremony; I believe every person should experience this as tabla raza or blank slate, so the experience sinks in at multiple levels. I am sure that any diligent aleyo can find all sort of details on the Internet and books, the choice is theirs. I simply advocate for keeping some of the mystery of initiation in place and having the guts to face the unknown with a sense of wonder and mysticism.
Once the sacrifice was over, I diligently cleaned the floor following my godfather’s lead and prayed fervently to never have to clean my own blood or that of those I loved off the floor. I prayed for the roads to always be open for me and to have the blessing of learning from Eleguá the first tough lessons in Santería. I knew he would be an interesting taskmaster but I was ready to take whatever Eleguá could dish, particularly because as it was, at the time I was unemployed due to budget cuts in my line of work and without any immediate perspectives to obtain a job.
Not long after I got my Warriors my life started to change for the better, a very good job opportunity materialized and matters seem to flow better. I was very diligent on my routine of feeding him every single Monday. I gave Elegua his steady diet of achá (cigar), otí (rum), epó (palm oil), aguadó (toasted corn), and a pinch of ecú eyá (jutía and smoked fish), omí tutu (cool water) and ataná melli (two white candles). Life was good indeed.
However, one day, I sat to chat with my Ikofá godfather Iworí Chigdí in the hopes of finding out why Eleguá was sort of irresponsive as of late. When he came to the area where I kept Eleguá, godfather said to me that I had made Eleguá lazy with my penchant for exaggeration; there were simply too many offerings and toys. He then shared with me a good piece of advice. Life is unpredictable, we try to set routines and stick with them. But what happens when we can’t keep to our routines and perfect ritual schedules? What then? Do we risk inviting the wrath of Eleguá?
It is possible to be constant in your devotion and offerings, while not fixating about keeping to a schedule. So long as you offer your ritual dues to Eleguá from the heart, be it on the traditional Monday or on a Friday or any other day of the week, the important part is that you pour yourself into the very act. After all, Eleguá is hardly predictable and a flexible dynamic between this orisha and his devotee can save the later from much heartache.
This is but a page in my journey of nearly 20 years, stick around and I will share more about the lessons I have learned in Living and Dealing with Mr. Personality. In the meantime, feel free to use the space below to share your own experiences, after all, what good is to travel with Eleguá on his many roads if you can’t gather a couple of good stories to share.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá
PS. Here are some of my favorite tunes to Mr. Personality