The Year in White: Survival Guide for Iyawós

A Year in White

The Santería community is littered with abandoned Iyawós and some who have simply opted to say “Hasta la vista baby” to their godparents due to a multitude of irreconcilable differences. Whether the issues arise from faults of the elder or the new initiate, most cases can be boiled down to one fundamental issue: Communications, or lack thereof.

The delicate dynamics between godparent and godchild must be maintained with constant, open and respectful communications. Therefore I consider that a successful relationship between any godparent and godchild must have the following elements:

1. Mutual respect
2. Constant two-way communications
3. Clear outline of house rules, mutual expectations, roles, rights and responsibilities

All of these elements must be tested through interaction and cemented with a relationship not based on a few months of knowing one another, but a relationship that has been allowed to mature through time. When people rush to enter the godparent/child bond without having these elements in place, invariably the relationship will hit hard times one way or another.


A godparent/child relationship is a sacred covenant that must be cemented with R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I can’t highlight this enough.

Why you wonder do I harp so much on taking time to know one another? Because godparents are the spiritual parents we are blessed to select, it is paramount to take time to know the people you will be calling Babá or/or Iyá for the rest of your life. Once become an Iyawó, you will always belong to the family in which you get initiated. You may leave the house for any number of reasons, but one fact remains the same, the spiritual lineage of the Iyá or Babá you selected will always be linked to yours. That Iyá or Babá, alongside with the Oyugbona and the Oriaté selected for an initiation will become a spiritual triad that will influence an initiates’ spiritual destiny. The act of placing their hands on the head of the Iyawó and transferring part of their ashé during the process of Kariosha imprints an energy pattern will that be with the newly initiated priest until his or her last breath on this earth.
The first year of an Orisha initiate is indeed one filled with challenges, some of them arise from economic stress, others, from internal changes and the reconciliation of those changes between the old self and the new self.

For the purposes of this essay, I will focus on one issue that lately has been brought to my attention by various Iyawós: Finances.
When a person is preparing for Kariosha, seldom do I see an abundance of money; I see more often great sacrifice and struggle to put together every penny needed for the process. Therefore, money and proper management of initiation fees can become a central issue. The Iyawó-to-be wants to have everything needed, the godparent maybe trying to stretch out funds to offer the very best experience to the iyawó or maybe, the savings are going elsewhere…to line his/her pocket. The same way we have excellent babaloshas and iyaloshas devoted to their godchildren, we do have a share of greedy people who live off the Orishas and are willing to cut corners to make the process lucrative.

It is not a matter of making the process solely about money; it is a matter of accountability and respect. Whether an iyawó has struggled or not to obtain the funds needed, godparents must be accountable for every penny put in their trust. This is why I recommend Iyawós-to-be to talk openly and with respect the following items before walking to the Igbodú.

I will make a clear distinction, in the past a godchild would never dare to question how a godparent would dispose of the fees for initiation. It was consider outright disrespectful to question an elder on finances. There should be no need for fear from either side to face this conversation. Transparency in this process should reinforce the nexus between all parties. The secret here is how things are handled and said, alongside with the level of maturity on both sides.

I have learned to have clear accountability when planning a Kariosha; this involves preparing an Excel budget and having it open to revision if needed. Fear, secret and finances are not good bedfellows.

Before the Initiation:

1. What is included in my initiatory fees?
a. Spiritual masses and materials?
b. Clothes for the 7 days in the Igbodú?
c. Fees for officiating priests and initiation processes?
d. All materials for initiation processes?
e. Animals for ritual sacrifice?
f. Orisha tools, receptacles, elekes and bracelets?
g. Meals for all involved over the 7 day period?
h. Ashó Orisha for Día del Medio? (initiatory clothes for the 3rd day when a public reception is held)

2. What is the full cost of my initiation?

3. Do any unused materials get returned to me?

4. Is there contingency fund allocated in case of an emergency?

5. If that emergency fund is not used, is it returned to me?

6. Will my initiation include the participation of an Oluwo and an Oriaté or just the Oriaté? How does either team impact the budget?

After the 7-days are over:

1. What additional expenses will I face during my Iyawó year?
a. How much will Ebbó Meta cost and what does it include/exclude? (ritual offering done at the 3rd month of the Iyawó year)
b. How much does it cost to be presented during a Tambor de Fundamento? ( Wemilere, official drumming with consecrated Aiñá Drums)
c. Are my monthly head feedings or rogaciones included in the cost of Kariosha?
d. Are there any further financial commitments as part of the year of iyawó?

The First Anniversary:

1. What steps do I need to take before my first anniversary and what are the associated fees?

2. What are the expenses associated with this celebration?

3. Who has the right to collect the offerings placed at the Iyawós basket on his/her first anniversary and why?

If you consider that this kind of dialogue would not be a possibility with your godparents, consider carefully the choice you are about to make. Once you receive Kariosha, there could be some growing pains. The iyawó not only is making energetic and symbiotic adjustments in her/his body, but is going through a learning process about his/her new role and will have to rely on the guidance of your elders to survive your year in white—finances should cause no stress if managed appropriately.

There are many other considerations Iyawós and godparents can discuss in order to start on the right foot, we shall consider more of those on the next post.

Omimelli
Oní Yemayá Achagbá

About Omimelli

I am a Olosha or Santera and for years I have been at the service of the Orisha and the community. I am initiated to Yemayá and my father in osha is Aganjú. I am also an initiate of Palo Mayombe and hold the title of Yaya Nkisi. As part of my daily devotional I spend time at my bóveda and work with my spirits on regular basis.
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6 Responses to The Year in White: Survival Guide for Iyawós

  1. Ginea Jacmel says:

    Ashe what a beautiful article, too often I have seen alot of bitterness come out of iyawao during his/her year. I understand why completely because of the misconception that he/she goes into ocha with. When the orisha is seal on his/her head underneath that seal is the pituatary and pineal gland. Two glands that are responsible for Clairvoyance(the ability to see spiritually or to have visions) and Clairauidence( the ability to hear spiritual or to recieve vocal communication from spirits.)

    Once these glands become active by spiritual energies, the first sight we begin to have is our true existence within this mundane plane. Who we are? Where are we going? What is our purpose? What is this entity call destiny?

    When the iyawao begin to see what he or she does not like, prayer should be the ultimate ebbo for the solution. Instead of crumbling at the truth. In reiki there is a term I like alot call the “healing crisis.” The healing crisis is when an individual is at the top of the hill spiritually, facing the decision to go back to the way he/she was or to move forward to a new beginning. This were the true test of the iyawao, this is the test that make or break you.

  2. Nancy says:

    Very nice and informative article, ache and bless u…

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