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The Year in White: Communications and Iyawós

The Lukumí community is littered by abandoned Iyawós and some who have simply opted to say “Hasta la vista baby” to their godparents due to a multitude of irreconcilable differences. Whether the conflicts arise from faults of the elder or the new initiate, most cases can have one fundamental issue: Communications, or lack thereof.

A successful relationship between any godparent and godchild must have the following elements:

1. Mutual respect

2. Constant two-way communications

3. Clear outline of house rules, mutual expectations, roles, rights, and responsibilities.

All of these elements must be tested through interaction and cemented with a relationship not based on a few months of knowing one another, but a relationship that has been allowed to mature through a considerable length of time. When people rush to enter the godparent/child bond without having these elements in place, invariably, the relationship will hit hard times one way or another.

A godparent/child relationship is a sacred covenant that must be cemented with, drum roll:


I can’t highlight this enough.

Why do I insist so much on having time to know one another? Godparents are the spiritual parents we are blessed to select; thus, it is paramount to take time to know the people you will be calling Babá or/or Iyá for the rest of your life. Once become an Iyawó, you will always belong to the family in which you get initiated. You may leave the house for any number of reasons, but one fact remains the same, the spiritual lineage of the Iyá or Babá you selected will always be linked to yours, so will their reputation and other members of that house. That Iyá or Babá, alongside with your Oyugbonakán and the Oriaté selected for your initiation will become a spiritual triad that will influence your spiritual destiny by the mere act of placing their hands on your head transferring part of their ashé as your heads become the seat the energy to your own Orisha. That energy pattern will be with you until you exhale your last breath on this earth.

You must be able to have an open and mutually respectful dialogue with your godparents before becoming an iyawó. If this communication does not exist ahead of kariosha, then it is crucial to consider carefully the choice about to be made because after kariosha there will be additional duties and responsibilities which need to be foster in an environment of frank and open communication. Once you receive Kariosha, there could be additional stress as a new olosha begins a process of training to last for years. The iyawó not only is making energetic and symbiotic adjustments in her/his body but also learning a new role and will have to rely on the guidance of elders to survive the year in white.

When an ilé has several iyawós to raise at the same time, as it seems to be more common, it is the responsibility of the godparent and the oyugbonakán to make time to train and care for every one of them equally. Underscore, equally. It is natural to have iyawós that have different talents and aptitudes, good teachers recognize early on potential and nurture accordingly. However, all iyawós deserve the same affection and care.

Iyawós must also understand that godparents are not superhuman. They have flaws and will fail at one time or another. However, keep in perspective one thing, that godparent’s hands have uplifted you for life. FOR LIFE. It is wise to carefully evaluate discrepancies, disagreements, and try to solve them in a cool and elegant manner. How we treat each other matters.

Communications are paramount to healthy relationships. It is not just the responsibility of the godchildren to keep those lines of communication open. It is a mutual effort. Understand that busy households will require scheduling and balancing time not only for the religious family but also for personal time and other commitments. It is healthy not to assume the universe revolves around oneself or that one’s needs are prioritized above everyone else. Good manners, politeness and carefully considering how to address difficult subjects are expected amongst adults, particularly among those who are seeking spiritual growth.


Oní Yemayá Achagbá

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