For those who are new to Santería or Lukumí spirituality, the concept of kaworí eledá or ‘feeding’ one’s head could sound pretty alien. However, lavishing attention on the cranium (eledá) as the repository of orí (guardian angel or higher self) is something of importance not only for oloshas but also in other African Traditional Religions such as Voodoo where the Lave Tete process also is centered around the head as a seat of power in the body.
In the body, eledá is the seat of the orí, thus it stands to reason that special care is given to it because an orí out of balance could cause difficulties. There are multiple reasons and instances when orí must be fed. Chief reasons fall under three main categories: Strengthening, cooling, and balancing. The two main ritual instances that call for kaworí eledá are: Initiatory and expiatory, however, it can be part of a preventive healthy spiritual regime.
There are many different ingredients that are used during kaworí eledá (head feeding) but the fundamental one is done with coconut, water, efún, cotton, and cocoa butter among other ingredients. Some head feedings are done with ejá (blood of a sacrificed animal) and some with different fruits depending on the prescription that originates from a proper reading done by an italero or an awó Orunmila. Speaking of awós, they have their specialized head feedings as well, such as the head feeding with ejá tutu (fresh fish) in most cases a red snapper or a freshwater fish, once again depending on the reading.
Much can be said about the steps in the process of the head feeding itself, but I would leave that sort of discussion about ritual mechanics to take place between initiators and their initiates. Granted, there are lots of iyawós and relatively recent oloshas that due to issues in their ilés are left to their own devices and not trained about how to do a kaworí eledá, it is shameful to see this happen but the process of learning to do a kaworí eledá is one done not only through reading but from careful observation and direct participation.
The head feeding should be done by an olosha, although it is possible for an initiate to do a self-kaworí eledá if there is not an elder at hand to do it and it is an urgent matter. The grace of a kaworí eledá comes from having a different set of hands help to align your orí. It stands to reason that if there is an imbalance in one’s head the corrective action should come from an external energy source, one that is balanced and cool. Otherwise, how much can a person that is unbalanced help him/herself? The person that touches one’s head must be someone of trust and whose life is not filled with drama, conflict, and negativity. This is crucial and I can’t underscore it enough.
For those who have been prescribed a kaworí eledá and have never gone through this process here are some things you should know. Take with you a clean set of white clothes, have a large white head covering with you, and do abstain from sexual activities of any sort for 24 hours prior and after the kaworí eledá. This is a time of coolness and integration of energy. This means, you are done with your kaworí eledá, go home and stay indoors avoiding direct sunlight, exposure to the elements, night energies, and rain. Do refrain from any activity that would heat you up, this may include watching violent movies, playing gory video games, getting into arguments or heated discussions, eating spicy foods, working any sort of rituals, in other words it is rest and relaxation time.
How do you know if your kaworí eledá was properly done? The first sign is in the reading at the end of the ritual, you should come out with an eye ife or an Alafia at best. Itawa melli readings are ok, but not my favorite, I would do a second kaworí eledá within 21 days to realign the orí.
Going into the ritual, here are some things you should observe. The ritual space should be clean, well lit, and organized. You should not do a thing in preparation for the ritual, just bring the ingredients and sit to wait while the olosha grates the coconut, sorts out the materials, and gets the pieces of coconut for the reading. Yes, I have seen lazy oloshas ask their ‘clients’ to bring the coconut grated and the pieces of coconut for the reading already cut and prepared. My question to lazy oloshas is, why would you ask someone with a heated or weak orí to do part of your work when this person comes to you to get a situation solved?
After the kaworí eledá is done you should immediately feel a marked difference, such as calmness, strength, or invigoration. Some oloshas have hands that are so cooling they will put you to sleep right during the process; some others will make you feel like you have been given a jolt of energy. The results also depend greatly on the intention of the ritual and the materials utilized. Overall, a rogación should be done in the afternoon or before sunset allowing enough time to the person receiving it to head home before dark and go to rest.
Even if you have gone through the process of kaworí eledá many times it is important not to trivialize the ritual and to appreciate its importance and its role in helping to keep our spiritual life balanced.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 20, 2011