There is nothing like the pleasure of spending time reading and learning from a good source. What constitutes a good book from my point of view as a professional book editor? There are many elements that define a good book. When I consider a book for publication, I take into account a variety of elements depending on the subject and purpose of the book.
From the perspective of the Orishas and Santería if I am looking for a scholarly read, I take into account the credibility of the author, book sources, organization of the research, and most of all, I want to read material that is engaging. An excellent writer has the ability to convey ideas with simplicity and elegance. Writers with quote-laden sentences and convoluted speech make reading a mental gauntlet and are not engaging for the average reader.
When considering books on personal experiences, I applaud authors who are engaging and human and that can weave facts and research as understood from their perspective. A good book ultimately will be defined by what the reader can incorporate into their life.
There are many other books and authors in my collection, however, the list curated here I would consider a primer for those wanting to get a good perspective on the Orisha experience.
By no means, this list summarizes the many great titles available or which have really enjoyed reading. I have just listed some of the books that I love and have contributed to my development over the years. I could write about each of these titles, but I would rather leave people to make their own judgment as they read, so no spoiler alerts.
Arts, Aesthetics and Music
1. Santería Garments and Altars: Speaking without a Voice by Ysamur Flores-Peña
2. Santeria Enthroned by David H. Brown.
3. Santeria Aesthetics in Contemporary Latin American Art, edited by Arturo Lindsay
4. Orin Orisha by John Mason
5. Ase Omo Osayin…Ewe Aye by Miguel “Willie” Ramos, Ilari Oba
About the Orishas
I have many other favorites, but kept it to top five.
1. Los Orishas en Cuba, by Natalia Bolívar Aróstegui
2. El Monte, by Lydia Cabrera
3. Orixás, by Pierre Fatumbi Verger
4. On the Orisha’s Roads and Pathways: Yemojá, Mother of the World by Miguel W. Ramos, Ilarí Obá, PhD
5. The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts, by Baba Ifa Karade
6. Growing Up Yoruba, a Teen Guide Book for Practicing the Yoruba Lucumi Tradition, by Kemba Mchawi
There are so many mediocre mass market divination titles out there which are nothing but plagiarized works from libretas.
1. Obí Agbón, Lukumi Divination with Coconut, by Obá Oriaté Miguel “Willie” Ramos, Ilarí Obá
2. Sixteen Cowries, Yoruba Divination from Africa to the New World, by William W. Bascom
3. Dilogún, by Yrmino Valdés Garriz
4. Los Caracoles, historia de sus letras, by Andrés R. Rogers
5. Ifa Divination: Communication between Gods and Men in West Africa, by William W. Bascom
1. Walking with the Night, The Afro-Cuban World of Santería, by Raul Canizares
2. Santería an African Religion in America, by Joseph M. Murphy
3. Santería the Religion, by Migene González-Wippler
4. Drumming for the Gods. The Life and Times of Felipe García Villamil, Santero, Palero and Abakuá, by María Teresa Vélez
5. Finding Soul on the Path of Orisa: A West African Spiritual Tradition, by Tobe Melora Correal
This is an area where I feel writers can do so much better as I have yet to find a book that has the right balance of botanical knowledge, oral tradition, practical applications and patakís. We really need a book with top quality illustrations that include all plant parts and how to cultivate them.
1. Guide to Afro-Cuban Herbalism by Dalia Quiros-Moran
2. Ritual Use of Plants in Lucumí Tradition, by Maria Oggunbemi
3. Working the Roots by Michele E. Lee
4. Ewé Osaín, 221 Plants, Herbs and Trees Essential to the Lukumí Tradition, by William J. Irizarry
If you have a particular book you would like to recommend which has made a positive impact in your life, drop me a note as I am always looking for interesting titles to add to my collection, Omimelli@gmail.com.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá