Sometimes the simplest of things can teach us the most profound lessons. The same way Sir Isaac Newton is said to have been inspired by an apple falling on his head, I was inspired by a pair of old coconuts, fortunately, they did not have to land on my head to inspire me.
As my orisha anniversary approaches, it is my custom to update my Orisha room. As I was sweeping the floor, Orisha Oko caught my eye. The coconuts and the clay tile were showing their age. It has been, after all, 25 years since I painted them last. I took the coconuts in my hands and I was transported to the day when my godfather, José Bravo, Jr. Omí Oké gave me Orisha Oko.
The beauty of the ceremony and the blessings it imparted in my life thanks to my godfather are not forgotten. His love and devotion to the Orisha inspires me. My own devotion and the act of writing on The Mystic Cup to share my experiences pays homage to his and other elder’s influence in my life. While some omó Orisha Oko may choose to simply get another pair of coconuts, paint them and move on, my approach is different. I refuse to replace the old with the new out of convenience.
The coconuts made me think of the need for constant balance. In this case, balancing the old to make it re-emerge encased, uplifted, and ready to proudly serve and survive with beauty. It is crucial to remember that our religion has a life of its own and to remain relevant and useful, it too must adapt to survive as it has been doing. Our religion is a confluence of forces of nature, it is not static. Intelligent oloshas are aware of what is fundamental and must be preserved and what can be enhanced and uplifted to keep relevance in an everchanging world.
One Obí Patakí, Three Deep Lessons
I will summarize and provide my own analysis of one of the favorite patakís of my son Ayótomíwá, a child of Eleguá. Olodumare recognized in Obí, the coconut, humility, justice, and beauty. Obí was all white, inside and out. He had a place of honor high up on the palm tree, it was also given an immortal soul.
However, Obí grew proud. One day, Obí decided to do a party and asked his friend Eleguá—who is as always so well connected and knows everyone, to be in charge of invitations. Along with the well-to-do, there were numerous beggars at the party. Obí was offended by the dirty outsiders and embarrassed Eleguá by kicking the beggars out of the party.
Olodumare, pretending not to know what happened at the party, asked Eleguá to pay a visit to Obí. Eleguá refused. Olodumare then decided to visit Obí himself, dressed as a beggar. Obí opened the door and quickly offended the beggar pointing out his disheveled and dirty condition. When Olodumare revealed who he was, it was too late for excuses from Obí to make any difference.
Lesson 1: Arrogance and Respect
In his wisdom, Olodumare pointed out that Obí was no longer unpretentious and humble. He had been previously uplifted in class and now must learn a lesson. Beggars—the outsiders or the world at large, had become a nuisance. Obí lost a key perspective, outsiders are children of Olodumare as well as those in Olodumare’s circle. Obí’s self-perceived grandeur made him feel impervious and behave with arrogance and lack of respect for others. Olodumare was about to set him straight.
Lesson 2: Know Your Place
Olodumare told Obí that he would indeed remain living high up on the palm tree. However, he would no longer be white inside and out. Obí would know the ravages of time and be subject to the laws of nature Olodumare had spared him from long ago. Obí would now go from green to brown while remaining white inside to remind him of his mortal soul. However, we all know that even the whitest of coconuts can be ravaged by mold and rot. Thus, we all must take care of our souls and not injure them with arrogance and pride. No matter how high Obí is placed, he can never be higher than Olodumare.
Lesson 3: Service and Humility
Olodumare ordained that Obí would fall and roll on the ground. The dark color in his exterior and as he rolls on the floor is to be a constant reminder of his offense. Whereas, his green color and the properties of fresh coconut water signifies the hope of redemption through service to humanity. Olodumare shows mercy on Obí by allowing him to become an instrument of communication to predict good and bad for all of Olodumare’s children. Furthermore, Olodumare gives Obí the opportunity to heal his relationship with Eleguá as a divination tool to support all of Olodumare’s children seeking help at Eleguá’s feet.
A few parting thought on coconuts. Avoid Obí’s mistakes. In a world that values and seeks equality of races, social justice, diversity of thought, and inclusion of ideas, it would be foolish for initiates to dismiss outsiders. Their opinions about our communities are important. Remain humble. We all start our journey from the outside hoping to make our way to Olodumare.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá