Mo júbà: The Power of the Voice, The Spirit of Tradition

The mo júbà is an act of praise.

There is power in words. Our grace as humans is to convey the full complexity or simplicity of our thoughts and emotions for others to understand. There is a primal need for humans to be heard, appreciated, and remembered. Words illustrate chapters of our life; they describe our deeds for the eyes of posterity to behold. Words are bridges to a multidimensional world where time, space, spirit and emotions intermingle and define our essence one sound at a time.

When we open our mouths to speak, pray or sing and we know what we are intoning, to whom we are conveying our message and why we are sharing it, a river of power flows from within our being and travels in waves that surround and penetrate our target no matter in which parallel universe it exists. Such is the case of the mo júbà.*

The true measure of the power of an olosha can be felt when a mo júbà is recited, not like a hurried formula (as I have seen many do), inaudibly mumbled between teeth almost in shame, but from the heart, slowly, eloquently delivered with the appropriate cadence.

I remember how eager I was to learn my mo júbà once I made Kariosha (initiation into the orisha priesthood). See, in the New World, that formula spoken in a foreign and exotic language is reserved for initiates. However, in Nigeria as I learned long ago, offering praise to the creator and to those who have come before us can be a daily act of communion for initiates and non-initiates alike. However, true to my Lukumí roots and traditions I held to what my godfather asked of me, to learn the mo júbà from him.

What is a mo júbà? The mo júbà is an act of praise meant to recognize and give thanks to the power of Creation, our ancestors, our lineage, parents and the orisha. This prayer includes the names of the lineage of egún that are part of the godparents house as well as one’s lineage, therefore from house to house the mo júbà will reflect subtle changes in which elders are included or not.

The mo júbà serves many functions, it is used to open all main rituals from reading the obí (coconuts), praising the Egún, doing the elekes ceremony, performing a head feeding, to conducting ebbós and main initiations. The mo júbà is a literally an invocation of power for the Lukumí and just as important as the Asson and the Prie Djo would be to a Voodooist, to draw a comparison with a sister religion.

I ask then, why do we have so many of our oloshas with a serious deficiency when it comes to such basic knowledge? I am astounded to see so called godparents who can barely open their mouth and eloquently raise energies in the room by intoning a proper mo júbà. What is wrong with people nowadays? Why the lack of pride in knowing the very building blocks of our religion? How can we allow more and more initiations to take place when folks are not even show their proficiency and pride in knowing the very basics?

It would be easy for me to simply explain what the is a mo júbà, what are the fundamental building blocks of the mo júbà, and which are the most common ancestors that most oloshas could cite as part of their mo júbà. However, in doing so, I would be making it very easy for those who like to boast of being elders but who are nothing but orisha factories with no desire to truly dedicate the time needed to raise godchildren as they should, one at a time and with time.

There is power in our words, but to find the power and to command it, first you have to find the right words of praise.

I praise those who came before me and dedicated time to teach me, may their words live through me and those who come after me in my ilé, may our actions be a tribute to their dedication.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

*The word mo júbà literally means ‘I give praise’ and it is also spelled mojugba or mojuba by the Lukumí in the New World.

5 Replies to “Mo júbà: The Power of the Voice, The Spirit of Tradition”

  1. This is an excellent article I remember when I was living in New York City, I had met iyalocha and babalocha with five to seven year’s of ocha. And he or she could not do a mojuba at all, never mind basic ebbo. Once an individual take the time, money and energy to do ocha or idosu orisa, you have to be able to take the time to reinitiate him/herself. In order to reactivate the ashe that was given to you. Studying and learning the protocols, the invocations and the proper ceremonies to your ocha lineage is imperative.

  2. Ginea,

    That situation you describe is sadly a common occurrance. However, the issue that strikes at my heart is when I see willful ignorance or the attitude that all possible knowledge will be magically transfered to the head of the initiate upon doing kariosha.

    In trying to uphold tradition I have been called many things in the past, one of them was meant as an insult, I was called radical. I felt so very happy when I was called radical. Yes, I am rooted, grounded, I bless the ground in which my ancestors rest and from where my roots are derived. Radical indeed, I am.


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