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Lukumí 101: Considerations to enter an Ilé Orisha

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

a plate two coconuts and two candles
A simple way to ask for blessings.

It is better to take time and walk the path towards the Orisha step by step than to stumble along the way. Missteps are a waste of time and energy for all parties involved and can be a considerable waste of financial resources.

A person considering joining a house of worship or ilé should keep in mind that there are supposed to be protocols to obtain the blessing of the tutelary Orisha of the Olorisha of the house. Taking this step is fundamental for a good start. In my case, as a daughter of Yemayá, it is her word which grants admittance to my ilé. Now, keep in mind this should come after a reasonable period of mutual evaluation. Even when the Orisha grants permission, it does not mean that the relationship will flow smoothly. It is just an entrance, not a binding contract. Experience has taught me that many things can go awry along the way.

Often, an aleyo (outsider) gets a consultation or a reading with an Olorisha or a Babalawo, and a laundry list of ebó and recommendations follows. Some suggestions are appropriate; some are but a way to make money. Those recommendations can range from a "rompimiento" or breaking away with undesirable spiritual forces, ebó misí or ritual baths to receiving initiations such as elekes (Orisha necklaces), Warriors, Olokún, to even getting ordained immediately due to reasons like health, stability, etc.

Let's debunk some common misconceptions. I will start from big to small. There is rarely a reason so pressing that a person needs to get ordained as an Olosha urgently. The odú has to be severe. I would recommend getting a second and even a third opinion before getting scared or corralled into a decision of this magnitude. Fear is not a wise counselor. A kariosha initiation is a life-time binding contract with the Orisha, not to mention with the godparents selected and the ilé.

Warriors, Elekes, Rompimientos and Ebó Misí

Warriors are a critical initiation. Picture getting four spiritual forces move into your home with no instruction manual. Particularly, having Eleguá, the chief trickster and taskmaster, coming to perch in your doorway. While some Lukumí godparents train their godchildren, who have received Warriors in obí agbón (coconut) divination, most do not. The lack of training leaves the aborisha dependent on the godparent and at the mercy of Eleguá's guiding graces, without a way to immediately decipher any of his lessons, and trust me, teach he will. When Eleguá is in the "teaching mode," the speed of response from a godparent can be the first test of endurance of a godparent and godchild relationship.

eleke Eleguá, Obatalá, Shangó, Yemayá and Oshún
The Elekes are a declaration of devotion

Elekes are not a minor initiation. They are the first step towards the Orisha, and they involve the first manipulation of the orí of an individual. The elekes are not just some pretty beads; they are certainly not baubles or fashion accessories like I have heard some misguided souls describing them. They are the declaration of intent from an individual to the service of Orisha.

Rompimientos are a way to rid people of "negative" spiritual energies. They should be used for extreme cases and not willy-nilly. I find that there are more uncomplicated steps to be done to clear spiritual obstacles. Still, often, they require work from the individual, and many lazy neophytes instead pay for a ritual than move a muscle to clean their spiritual mess. Nothing breeds laziness like money.

Ebó misí. Suppose the person getting a reading is instructed to do spiritual baths. The reader would do well to provide the individual with a list of ingredients and instructions on how to do the baths. Guiding a person in need is reasonable because it allows the individual to learn a fundamental skill, making a spiritual bath. Some may argue that there is grace or ashé in the individual's hands recommending the spiritual bath, and therefore, the diviner should prepare it. Yes, this is reasonable. However, I find that this could also be an excuse not to teach and to charge a pretty penny for something that can be made by the individual.

Protocol, an underestimated word

If you are dead set on entering an ilé and receiving any initiations there, I strongly recommend doing so with great care and respect.

There is a wonderfully simple thing you can do, although it is rarely observed by many. Bring a plate, two coconuts, two candles, and a small monetary donation to be presented to the tutelar Orisha of the person you have selected as your godparent. This offering is significant. The plate symbolizes the world and food, the coconuts a way to communicate with Orisha, the candles light the way, and the monetary offering is a small token of the sacrifice of resources according to the individual's means. Ask the Olorisha if it is possible to perform obí agbón divination. Securing the blessings of an Orisha is a sign of respect of firm intention and devotion. After all, an individual's salvation will rest on the hands of the tutelar Orisha of the godparent selected.

If the person selected as godparent refuses to secure a simple acceptance, I would strongly suggest re-evaluating that selection for who would oppose seeking the blessing of his or her Orisha for a future godchild?


Oní Yemayá Achabá

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