Santería and the Key behind Olosha Names

What's in a Name?

The concept of death and rebirth is one shared by many religions; Santeria is no exception to this ritual. Crossing the threshold of the Igbodu and coming out successfully from Kariosha means massive changes for the iyawó. The crucial change is one of re-birth and every newborn needs a name. The process of selection of the name of an iyawó requires careful consideration and not just the alliteration of words that sound cool in Yoruba or in Lukumí depending on the linguistic knowledge of the Oriaté (officiating priest) and the godparents.

There are two main elements that must be considered when naming an iyawó:

1. Oddú
2. Orisha

Of course, this process is not removed from a third element which would be inspiration, but inspiration should not be free-formed, it should be based on deep knowledge of the prior two components.

I have made it a point to pay close attention to the signs that start to manifest in the Ebbó de Entrada (the first ebbó done for the iyawó as the process of initiation is started) and of the oddú that manifests during the lavatorio (ritual process of washing/consecrating the stones and shells of the new orishas), as those oddú will start to shed light on the new personality of the iyawó as well as particularities of the orishas that will live with the iyawó from that day on.

There are those who like to keep their initiatory names private because sharing this name is sharing a part of their essence outside of the confines of the ilé, and thus they chose to use a self designated Lukumí nickname when in public functions. I think that is a personal preference, however, nowadays most initiates don’t even consider such measure.

What is the key behind these new names?
It is actually quite interesting, the name in the Lukumí tradition not only designates the person, but also it can describe circumstances around the birth of the individual, as well as point out to a grace and perhaps even to challenges that the new initiate will have to face in life.

Those who know me in person know that I am particular about cognates and words and here is my story about my own names. Long before I got kariosha done I decided I needed a nickname for writing. I wanted a name that reflected the influence of Yemayá because when I was about 6 years of age, Maria Remedios a Puerto Rican elder son of Oshun, had told me as I visited him with my mother that I was a daughter of Yemayá. Oh the mysterious sound of those words remained in my mind for years to come. In my mind back then Yemayá was immediately associated with egg yolks. Please hold your snickering. As a little girl that sweet sounding name sounded to me like he was talking about ‘yemas’ or egg yolkes, thus it had to be associated with the color yellow. Can you blame the brain for liking to make free-formed associations to remember things for life? However, my brain was not far from the truth of what my life would be as is will become apparent to you.

I selected the name in my late twenties after I sorted out through divination with my godfather that I was indeed to be initiated to Yemayá, but that ‘yellow’ color or the influence of Oshún was for me undeniable. Thus, I wanted to honor both orishas with my humble penname: Omimelli, twin waters. You know what? I was not far from the truth, when I made kariosha oddú determined that my life was to be forever a balance of servitude to both of these orishas to the point that if someone asks me if I have Oshún crowned I will answer yes, for there is no denying the queen of sweet waters in my life.

Talking about being sweet, during my itá my obá oriaté Jorge Iturralde (Salakó) determined after analyzing oddú and having a dash of divine inspiration that my name was to be: Omí T’oñí. He said to me, “your name evokes the act of pouring sweet honey over sea waters.” Remember always to be sweet. Modupué babá Salakó you hit the nail on the head.

Sweetness is not the first thing people perceive when they meet me because after kariosha my life has evolved in such a way that I have changed careers. My new career path is one where I deal with a lot of decision makers and people who would chew you up and spit you out in an instant. Sweetness is in my field a weapon and a charm. There is sincere sweetness that runs deep within my personality, I save it for those who take the time and interest in getting to know me, and then, there is the ‘corporate sweetness’ the one that makes and breaks deals, the one that is like honey poured over salty sea waters.

A new name in Santería is but a reflection of the deep changes that are taking place during the kariosha and that continue to evolve during the first seven years of a person’s life as an olosha. In other words, a name maybe cool sounding, but it is up to the individual so to speak to fill in that name with good deeds that reflect the energy of his or her orisha and the particularities of expression of that orisha.

This is a subject that merits more analysis and in particular that could be greatly enriched by the stories that each initiate could share. You are welcome to tell us about your name and what it means for you as an olosha.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

If you like this article, please share or comment.
comments 4 people have left their opinions, what is yours?

4 Responses to “Santería and the Key behind Olosha Names”

  1. Omari says:

    How profound and true..your name is such a simple thing to some but without realizing it it carries such weight and defines who you are,what you become in this journey call life.growing up in the carribean I always here some of the Elders stressing on before you give a child a name know who wore it first,it’s not bout sounding pretty but the energy it carries..I never really understood it until I had my own kids and understood it in the African(indigenous peoples of the world)’s the only true thing we will really own in this life..our OSHA names act as a reminder and a guide as to our true essence of who we are,should be/strive to become,our becon in this life of evolution.Thank You for your beautiful insight..MODUPE..

    • Omimelli says:

      Alafia Omari,

      Naming children is an adventure and you are right, it is important to know well the person after we name a child. My own proper name was given to me after an aunt that could not bear a girl–thus I became her little girl…interestingly enough, I have not been able to have a baby girl, only boys, just like her. Did her name touched my life with this trait? It is something I have often ponder. That of course has nothing to do with Santería, but still it is interesting to note that names do impact our life in interesting ways, even if it is creating interesting concidences.

      Thanks for reading and participating.

  2. David says:

    I am loving all that I am reading from you.

  3. Willa Massey says:

    The new Zune browser is surprisingly good, but not as good as the iPod’s. It works well, but isn’t as fast as Safari, and has a clunkier interface. If you occasionally plan on using the web browser that’s not an issue, but if you’re planning to browse the web alot from your PMP then the iPod’s larger screen and better browser may be important.

Leave a Reply

© 2010 The Mystic Cup. Design based on Panorama Theme by ThemocracyThemocracy