In a recent conversation, the subject of the body as a temple came about. The question raised by the Aborisha was, is the body considered the vessel for Orisha after ordination as an Olorisha? Is it then when the body is cared for as such?
My response was simple. The body is always a vessel for the spirit. Thus, we must care for our bodies as a repository for the divine. The concept of the body as a temple is not just Lukumí; it is present in Christianity and Hinduism, it is part of Yoga practices and many other religions.
However, focusing on the Lukumí perspective, whether the person is ordained or not, we all have Orí. Therefore, we all are vessels for the spirit. Why would we not treat our bodies with care and respect if Olofi has considered us worthy of life and blessed our bodies with spirit?
What does it mean to treat the body as a temple? To me, it implies many things, from eating correctly and avoiding overindulgence—easier said than done when one loves to cook. It also means exercising as possible and observing a prudent life that fosters a healthy organism. A healthy individual can better serve the Orishas.
Lesson #1: Menstruation
I got my first diloggún reading decades ago. I remember that I had to make an appointment. The olorisha said that to have the reading; I could not be having my period at the time of the consultation. At first, I felt the question was invasive. Thus, I politely asked why the restriction. He responded that menstruation was considered hot. Ok, I could understand that. It was not a matter of impurity; it was a matter or energy.
Do I still consider that menstruation is hot and inconducive to proper divination? Yes, but there are extenuating circumstances. There are specific parameters that allow an Iyalorishas to manipulate diloggún while on her period. I will not go into details as this is considered a subject for conversation within the ordained ranks. My perspective as an ordained priestess is different and broader. Still, the norms establish that aborisha ladies must not be in their period when getting a reading done, be it with an olorisha or a Babalawo. The same restriction applies to participating in ritual settings. Iyalorishas will have different rules which depend on particular circumstances.
Lesson #2: Sexual Abstinence
As time went by and I learned more about the Lukumí rituals and practices, I became enamored with the Orisha and decided to get the elekes prescribed in divination. I was excited about the process and made myself new white clothes for the occasion. A week before the initiation, my godfather-to-be had a conversation with me. He asked me to refrain from any sexual activity at least two days before the eleke ceremony. Since both my husband and I were getting the elekes on the same day, that was not an issue. I did not ask for an explanation, nor was it offered. This time, I assumed that sex and its lingering energies were also hot and not compatible with the ritual to be held.
Is it necessary to have full abstinence before an initiation? Yes. No one will die from withholding from sexual activity for a short time. Self-control is an offering of sorts. At least, that is my point of view. Moreover, going through an initiation implies sacrificing resources, time, and money; thus, it is logical to take every precaution to ensure its success.
Kariosha, or the process of ordination as an Olosha, has different rules regarding sexual abstinence, including a more extensive period of sexual inactivity. It is all worth it.
Lesson #3: Cleanliness
Cleanliness before a ritual is fundamental. Olorishas should not show up in dirty clothes and unbathed. An olorisha must dress modestly, be clean and well-groomed. Modest attire means under the knee dress or flowing skirt for ladies with a modest blouse not exposing her bosom. Ladies must cover their head with a scarf, wrap, turban, or a handkerchief. Gentlemen are expected to wear long pants that do not expose their underwear, a belt, and a clean shirt or polo. T-shirts and shorts are not appropriate attire, no matter how hot the weather is. Men can sport a nice cap or hat. Using white is always appreciated, light colors are acceptable, and wearing black or dark colors is not proper.
A well-trained Lukumí olorisha takes pride in its appearance and fosters behaviors conducive to cultivating iré or good luck. Disorderly conduct and a disheveled appearance reflect poorly on the person and brings shame to the godparent.
Cleanliness does not just have a pleasing external appearance; it also pertains to a person's internal status. A neat and clean person who acts rudely or lacks modesty is showcasing a lack of control and respect. Such behavior reflects a poor inner life and denotes insufficient advancement as an individual. It is evident that the person's orí is not aligned and there is unbalance. A person like that is externally pleasing and internally, disgusting.
In the same way that a person is expected to show up clean and well attired to a ritual, they must be ritually pure inside. Ritual hygiene means doing ebó misí (ritual baths) often, having a clean home, doing cleansings as prescribed by their elders, and in general, keeping up a spiritual regime that fosters iré, that promotes coolness (tutu) and calmness. One cannot progress in the spiritual realm and leave the physical realm unattended, both elements are considered a reflection of a balanced life.
One Last Word on Cleanliness
For those considering embracing life with the Orishas, think carefully about attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and actions that are not conducive to cleanliness. It would be wise to strive to live a life that attracts good fortune. Cultivate iré, invite it to your life and enjoy it. Iré is a byproduct of work and conscious behavior. It is the kind of work that promotes growth and allows ashé to flow. Cleanliness fosters iré.
Oní Yemayá Achabá