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