There are many rules in Santería, some are respected by traditional houses or ilés, and some are simply ignored by those who are fond of bending rules. Spiritual incest is a subject that merits careful consideration because it is taboo for a good reason.
There are different kinds of spiritual incest the one perpetrated when godparents take on the role of god parenting their own lovers, boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses, and then, there is the case of siblings who are in the same household but involved.
Let’s start with the godparent/godchild relationship. A godparent is absolutely not allowed to initiate his/her significant other, be it giving elekes, warriors, or any other simpler or more involved ceremony. If a person has any inkling towards a possible godson or goddaughter the best thing is to come out clean and reject the possibility of a religious relationship altogether because life has mysterious ways of testing people’s resolve and destiny.
People who are sexually attracted, involved, or romantically involved are strictly forbidden to enter into a godparent/godchild bond because of energetic reasons and reasons that extend beyond that such as placing one partner in a dominant status while the other one remains spiritually (and voluntarily) subservient.
There are taboos that forbid couples from handling each other’s orishas, feeding each other’s orís, and in general, having to do anything with the orishas from his/her partner or significant other. We could elaborate on fine points about this rule but they will not change the fact that people who bend this rule commit spiritual incest.
What to do if a godparent realizes that for example having given elekes to a godchild there is an attraction that develops between them? The proper thing to do would be to consult an elder who can break off the elekes, clean up the slate and refer that that person for re-initiation into another house, one not related to the same lineage.
This of course is a hypothetical that can get much complicated. What if a person falls in love with his/her godson/daughter after having done Kariosha to that person? This is a moral issue that boils down to a choice, a godparent cannot be the spouse or significant other of his/her very own godson/daughter. A forceful rupture in the godparent/godchild relationship is on order but even that will not release that couple to pursuit a normal relationship because the bond between their orisha will only be broken upon death. This is a no-win situation for either partner and it is why careful consideration must be taken before entering a godparent/godchild relationship.
The second case of spiritual incest happens when siblings from the same ilé get involved or when a couple enters an ilé already as a couple. Couples do better when represented by different sets of godparents (main godparent and oyugbonakán) because it provides for impartial and fair treatment for godchildren. Say for example that a couple has marital issues and they need counseling. Who to turn to? Can you be sure that the godparent will not take sides and represent both godchildren with equal zeal? What if there is a war between the couple and the godparent needs to intervene? Who to favor? What if disciplinary actions need to be taken for any number of reasons? Would one of the spouses resent the disciplinary action taken towards his/her significant other?
As you can see, sharing godparents is like taking a picnic in a minefield, you never know where you are going to step onto a trap/situation and blam!
In my case, both my husband and I started in the same ilé under the same godparent. However, careful consideration and observation made us realize that only one of us could only do kariosha under Omí Oké, and that was me. My husband took a very difficult choice and left the house, under no small amount of protest, to become part of a different ilé, even if we are both part of the Pimienta lineage we are children of different godparents.
If you are looking to initiate with your significant other in the same house, my humble advice is to reconsider the choice and to be open to finding another elder, if you wish it can be within the same lineage, but do not close yourself to the opportunity of having not only a set of godparents but also godparents who will become hopefully confidants and mentors in every sense of the word without having to be concerned with stepping on the toes of your significant other.
These are my two cents on Spiritual Incest, your turn.
Omimelli Oní Yemayá Achagbá
MrOshun says:May 31, 2011 at 4:07 am
Thank you for posting this. These were rules once upon a time respected and light should always be shed onto this. Thank you for this article for those of us in the traditions and for the new practitioners. Adupue.
eva alfonso says:June 2, 2011 at 6:15 pm
ache people need to know this is not acceptable in our religion this doesn't work. no one should fall for this incest use your brains
Yinka says:June 5, 2011 at 10:58 pm
Alafia, As someone also from the pimienta line I have to say ache for this post about spiritual incest. Modupe!!! These kinds of things need to be discussed. HOWEVER, TO REPRESENT SPOUSES BEING INITIATED IN THE SAME ILE AS SPIRITUAL INCEST HAS ALWAYS BEEN A MISNOMER AND OPINION RATHER THAN RULE OF LAW OR TRADITION OF KARIOCHA. It could be a challenging situation that requires counseling skills and spiritual integrity and sometimes consults with elders, but a necessary rule or tradition it is not. Olo Obatala
Anonymous says:June 28, 2012 at 2:43 pmI’m in a very difficult situation because someone close in age to me has become my main godparent and I’m bisexual so I’ve developed an attraction to her. I am still her friend as we are around the same age and I deeply respect her for all her knowledge and how much effort she has put into guiding and teaching me. I admire her and I think this has been perverted into sensual feelings. I’m hoping and praying I get over this. C she really is an amazing godparent with so much to offer me spiritually. She’s the only person I feel 100% comfortable to confide in and teach me. My Spanish is horrible and she is great at translating everything for me in english. I would be lost and depressed should I lose her or have to leave bc I am desperately in love w Ocha and want to make saint. I can imagine doing it under anyone else guidance. I had a dream about her last night that I crossed the line and kissed her at her house when i was visiting and then I saw a change in her personality. She didn’t seem my enl
Anonymous says:June 28, 2012 at 2:55 pm…enlightened confident/mentor anymore. Some of her worse more human base qualities were made more apparent. Then all this bad stuff started to happen in the dream. Everything fell apart, her family hated mine, and when it was time to leave Cuba the govt was tipped off that we were Americans n the police gave us problems w our paperwork they didn’t want us to leave. I honestly believe the dream was saying my attraction for her is bc I admire her so n naturally bc we are both young n she is beautiful that I’ve perverted this admiration into feelings. The dream is telling me that if I try to act on it that everything will fall apart. I’m actually too ashamed to admit it bc I respect her n also bc of the religion n bc were both girls. At this point bc I have no intention of acting on my behavior bc I’m already in a committed relationship w a man (a happy relationship) I feel I should pray for these feelings to go away n make sure our interactions are appropriate like how a woman wOuld conduct herself around any man she was getting close to. In my dream we were alone getting undressed together bc I was staying wvher family n just like two girls would change in the same room. I think at some point I should tell her bc she’s my godparent that I am bisexual. But I wanna get over these disordered feelings bc I think the dream is telling me they are from admiration but not necessarily reality n imagine all that I would loose. To b honest that’s not even an option right now but I am struggling w the attraction but I have to reiterate 1st n. foremost we r friends.