ANCESTRAL VENERATION IN THE NEW WORLD
YORUBA (CUBAN SANTERIA-LUCUMI) STYLE
by Alashe Michael omo'Oshoosi
© Michael omo'Oshoosi, 2015, All Rights Reserved
ORIENTATION NOTES AND PRINCIPLES
THIS IS A COURSE IN RITUAL PRACTICE AND EXPERIENCE TRAINING IN “GENERIC” ANCESTRAL RESPECT CANONS. SUPPLEMENTAL STUDY IS ALSO USEFUL. IT IS PRESENTED AND DESIGNED FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NOT INITIATED PRIESTS IN ANY VERSION OF YORUBA RELIGION. NEOPHYTES IN THIS RELIGION (“ALEYOS” OR “ALEJO” or “ABORISHA”) AND FORMAL INITIATES WILL HAVE WORDS AND PHRASES IN THEIR LITURGIES THAT YOU, AS AFRICAN-AMERICAN NON-INITIATES, WILL NOT HAVE IN YOURS.
THIS IS BECAUSE YORUBIC PRACTITIONERS AND PRIESTS OF OTHER AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS HAVE LINEAGE ANCESTORS WHO THEMSELVES WERE INITIATED PRIESTS AND MAY ALSO HAVE A MUN- DANE EGBE--SOCIAL GROUP OR GUILD ANCESTORS--THAT NON-PRACTITIONERS DO NOT HAVE. THIS IS A MINOR POINT BECAUSE APPROPRIATE SUBSTITUE WORDS AND PHRASES WILL BE PROVIDED FOR YOU NON-INITIATES AND THEY SHALL BE “PLUGGED INTO” THE RIGHT SPOTS IN THE OVERALL RITUAL FOR -MAT USED BY INITIATES.
(1) An explanation of why African Traditional Religions (ATRs) are rooted in praxis and only
secondarily in “study” will be offered herein.
(2) It is good to possess mental flexibility: the ability to hold one’s conceptions in abeyance,
and to be open to new ideas about ‘knowledge’ itself, cosmology, religion, ‘nature,’ time
demarcation, and other cultural-anthropologic categories.
THIS IS AN EXPERIENTIAL PROGRAM THE GOALS OF WHICH ARE TO ENABLE THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN TO PRACTICE A STYLE OF ANCESTRAL VENERATION AND COMMUNICATION THAT IS SPECIFICALLY MODELED ON THE CUBAN SANTERIA-LUCUMI VARIANT OF YORUBA RELIGION. THOUGH IT IS A RITUAL STRUCTURE THAT CAN BE RECOGNIZED BY YORUBA RELIGIONISTS IN AFRICA, CUBA, BRASIL, THE UNIT- ED STATES AND TRINIDAD—BUT MAY ALSO SERVE AS AN ANCESTRAL VENERATION “PROLOGUE” TO OTHER WEST AND CENTRAL AFRICAN RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS WITHOUT ADULTERATING THEM.
ALSO, THIS APPROACH TO ANCESTOR VENERATION DOES NOT REQUIRE FURTHER INITIATIONS INTO YORUBA RELIGIOUS PRACTICES AND GROUPS. IN FACT, THERE ARE CERTAIN PLACES IN THE SEQUENCE OF RITUALS OR LITURGY WHERE OTHER VENERATION VERBIAGE, e.g., PRAYERS, (IWURE, ADURA) MAY BE UTTERED DEPENDING ON THE WISHES OF YOU THE PRACTITIONER. BUT IT IS MOST IMPORTANT THAT THE ORDER-OF-RITUALS REMAIN THE SAME. AFTER THAT, HOWEVER, INDIVIDUATION OF VEN- ERATION PRACTICE IS ACCEPTABLE.
THERE ARE TWO FORMATS FOR THE LITURGY INFORMATION BEING PRESENTED:
(1) THE MEMORY AND PRACTICE PAGES: Pages 1-20 contain the bare-bones verbal or behavior-
al structure of the practice; designed for one’s immediate use. The emphasis in these pages
is on learning several basic reverent phrases, on the practice of really basic ritual steps, and
on remembering which stages or sequence of ritual practices certain kinds of things are said
(2)THE RESOURCE MATERIALS PAGES: Pages 1-40 contain notes on theological concepts rele-
vant ancestral veneration in the Yorubic (continental African and Cuban-Lucumi versions)
religion, and additional concepts for eventual use by you at a later time.
THIS TRAINING PROGRAM CONTAINS A ‘HOUSE ENTRY AND ETIQUETTE PROTOCOL.” THIS WILL BE TAUGHT TO YOU IN PERSON AND IS NOT WRITTEN HERE. THEN FIVE PARTS (THE TRAINING “MODUL- ES”) FOR THE RITUALS THAT FOLLOW FORM A “GESTALT” WHEREIN THE WHOLE OF THEM HAS A QUAL- ITY WHICH IS INDEPENDENT OF ITS FIVE MODULAR PARTS.
PROTOCOLS: HOW TO WALK INTO AN ORISHA HOUSE OR TEMPLE AND
HOW TO CLEANSE ONESELF PRIOR TO RITUAL (simple versions)
(1) THE “IJUBA” (praise mantra--a general ORIKI of sorts to the Dead)
(2) THE ANCESTRAL ALTAR (the ILE’RUN, a temporary SARASA, or group
(3) “BIRTHING” OR CONSECRATION OF THE ANCESTOR STAFF (OPA IKU, OPA
EGUN, OPA’SIKU, PAGUGU) is made from a ukhere tree, cedar, bamboo or
cane where possible. And an EBBO EJE (blood sacrifice) is a required part
of the ritual. When bells are added to the seven, eight or nine strips of
cloth on thise staff, it harkens back to the “aswe” ancestral staff (made of
metal) from Benin—adjoining Yorubaland--which is also fed blood, gin, and
prayer for consecration. The use of the staff is to invoke the ancestors and to
keep cadence when songs and prayers are being said to them.
(4) COCONUT SHELL DIVINATION TO THE ANCESTORS & PRAYERS
(5) COMMUNION SESSIONS AND MEALS FOR AND WITH THE ANCESTORS
THIS TRAINING PROGRAM’S PARTS ALSO SERVE AS “MICROCOSMS” OF BROADER YORUBIC INITIATION PRACTICES THAT, AT THE ELECTION OF THE PRACTITIONER AND THE ACQUIESCENT ORISHA, IN WHICH HE OR SHE MAY EVENTUALLY BE ENGAGED. FOR, AND ONLY FOR, THIS TRAINING WEEK THINGS WILL GO BETTER IF I AM TREATED BY YOU AS YOUR “BABA” OR “PADRINO” EACH DAY DURING THE TRAIN- ING WEEK EVIDENCED BY USING THE SIMPLE GREETINGS AND GESTURES THAT I SHOW YOU (THOUGH THIS IS NOT NECESSARY, BECAUSE I AM NOT YOUR ACTUAL PADRINO, IT IS A USEFUL THING TO PRAC- TICE). ANY HOMES THAT YOU VISIT IN CUBA, FOR EXAMPLE, ESPECIALLY HOMES OF OLORISHAS AND BABALAWOS WILL BE EVEN MORE ENJOYABLE IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING INTO AND HOW TO ACT.
I AM AN OLORISHA OR BABA’LORISHA (IN NIGERIAN TERMS) OF THE ORISHAS OSHOOSI AND OYA. EX- CEPT FOR THE WEEK OF TRAINING, WHEN I ASSUME (AND URGE YOU TO ACCEPT) MY ROLE OF IN LOCO PARENTIS AS YOUR “BABA” OR “PADRINO,” I WILL HAVE NOT NECESSARILY HAVE ANY FURTHER RITUAL OBLIGATIONS TO YOU NOR YOU TO ME. NOR DO I PROMISE TO DO ANY FURTHER INITIATIONS OF YOU, RITUAL WORK FOR YOU, NOR INVITATIONS OF YOU INTO COMMUNITY OR PRIVATE RELIG- IOUS EVENTS. THIS TRAINING IS A ‘STAND ALONE’ TRAINING PROCESS MEANT FOR YOU TO PRACTICE AS LONG AS YOU LIKE.
(1) The reason for clarifying this is so that we have a ‘meeting of the minds’ on what we can
expect from one another. The reason for the in loco parentis standard is so that you will also
get some of the experiential ‘feel’ –however brief--of what it is like to be “re-raised” in a
Santeria-Lucumi ‘house’ (ile or idile) that typically and purposely minimizes what you already
know (or think that you know), that purposely infantilizes you for a brief period, and that
familiarizes you with what Yorubic practitioners have already gone through who do not
share American (your) social assumptions and customs.
One’s natal age, acquired knowledge and wisdom (i.e., good judgment borne of experience),
and pre-existing initiations are not lost, but are not salient during this process. This holds the
place of a very minor and short-lived “symbolic death” of the “self-concept” that, in religious
initiations world-wide and from memorial times involves serious ritual acts of symbolic death,
re-birth, and growth.
(2) A brief explanation and demonstration of simple courtesies or protocols that are useful to
know when entering the home or temple of an olorisha or babalawo (Yorubic priest/ess) will
NOTE-TAKING, ASKING JUDICIOUS QUESTIONS, ETIQUETTE, SPIRITUAL-EMOTIONAL SELF-RESTRAINT.
(1) SPECIFIC QUERSTION ABOUT THE CONCEPTS or practices related to egungun will be an-
swered to the best of my ability. But my knowledge is limited; especially so because we, as
Lucumi priests, are not usually involved with functioning egbe egungun (ancestral vener-
ation cult groups) though we are often familiar with the kinds of practices and concepts ap-
pertaining thereto. We are also knowledgeable about correlates within Santeria-Lucumi
to ancestral veneration practices where they have historically functioned in the Old World.
(2) I MAY NOT SPEND A LOT OF TIME FIELDING GENERAL QUESTIONS about orisha religion or
“curiosity” questions. It is not good for me to try to instruct and simultaneously have too many open fields of knowledge being tapped. It is better for us to delve mostly into the
subject at hand—ancestor veneration—and to rehearse the liturgy and techniques apro-
po of that. Thus elders in our traditions do not like to be bombarded with questions which
we, especially we Americans, feel particularly entitled to ask at any time we well please.
When an elder (alagba-lagba) perceives the time is opportune he or she will openly dialogue
about your “curiosity” questions or defer them until he or she feels like answering.
(3) WHERE POSSIBLE, DO NOT PREMATURELY GET CONSUMED WITH CONCEPT TRANSLATION
AND COMPARISONS to that which you already know. Though, because it is only the human
nature of intellectualized people to want to do so, a modest amount of thinking or speaking
about comparative religion, folk culture and theosophy is acceptable. That is, it is only human
nature to want to ‘personalize’ or internalize new learning by way of comparisons in such a
way that accommodates old learning. I know that, and am empathetic. But a little self-re-
traint is good in this situation because we simply do not want to go off on theological, philo-
sophical or ideological tangents. Thus this self-restraint is important only for this week of
training. After that, you can talk freely about any and all things as you normally would.
(4) RESPECTFUL SELF-RESTRAINT IN REGARD TO “PASSING EGUNS,” i.e., in getting actually, or
ostensibly possessed by some “spirit. There is a time and place for the visitation by ances-
tral spirits in this process if they want to visit and “possess” someone. And even in sessions
(“iku joko” or “egun joko,” misas, séances) that are for the settled (non-drumming venera-
tion of the Dead, it is not “obligatory” that anyone pass any “spirits.” It is often good (in fact,
usually good) if they do, but unimportant if they do not. A misa is a celebratory mass--though
not a party—and is something that is done to recognize ancestors and spirit guides, to propri-
tiate them, to question them and thank them when, and if, they “pass.” Sometimes individuals
“pass eguns,” i.e., become possessed by, spirits that are malevolent and must be asked leave
(or encouraged to do so, if necessary).
Also, know that there are myriad ways to venerate the dead. For example, both bata drums
and the cajon (box drum) are used at times to Drum for the Dead. One can carry-on praise
for dead spirits in certain feasts, community spectacles and rituals (including those of making
libations) for community events, or in making a simple prayer upon arising in the morning to
your egungun, and so on; in ways great or small. You can also have prayerful communion with
them at any time. Once you are experienced, you may “pass egun” at any time—the truth be
told—but one should use good judgment when allowing an “egun” to proceed when it might
be disruptive or inappropriate for the circumstance. And, finally, in our African homelands,
traditionally, Societies for the Dead (egungun egbes) often have expected and unexpected
community parades--some serious and menacing (others for entertainment)-- occurring throughout the year—some events lasting for several days and nights.
(5) GLOSSARY--SPECIAL TERMS USED IN YORUBA DISCOURSE ABOUT SPIRITS THAT WERE
(A) EGUN --Literally means "bone" (also dundun means bones). Signifies that where bones
are, a living human being or orisha once was. Hence, eguns are "humanoid" spir-
its relevant to somebody's ancestors on earth. In Cuba, the term means all ances-
tral spirits that are not necessarily specific to one's own family lineage.
(B) ARA ORUN --Means the dead spirits that now reside (only) in Heaven; heavenly bodies.
(C) EEGUN --Means 'ancestral spirits' of some kind that are those of someone's (else's)
family lineage. This term is used in Africa moreso than in the western hemis-
(D) EGUNGUN --Are ancestral spirits specific to your own family's lineage. They are venerated
at the family shrines and may be seen as masqueraders dressed in colorful
garb and speaking in unusual voices while on parade in Yoruba communities.
Each family contributes a few male fathers or sons to the Egungun egbe (soc-
cieties or lodges) who discuss family and community matters, preside over
funerary affairs, and either warn or entertain the population as needed from
time-to-time. It is a male society, but there are some women title holders
within it. And the orisha Oya is, formally, the matron of the dead, the owner of one's breath, the owner of the gates to a graveyard and, therefore, the
titular head of the Egungun society.
(E) ELEGUN --Means "the owner of" or one who can "pass" (get possessed by) "eguns" and
various spirit-guides and avatars (orile). They are "mediums" and speak any-
where and at anytime by such spiritists; especially so in "seances" ("misas" in
the Hispanic world, or in "Egun joko" or "Iku joko"--"death-come-in-and-sit-
down and-talk" sessions in Africa). An Ishegun is another decriptor term for
'one who works the ashe of egun.'
A person who can also regularly become possessed by an orisha can also be
called an "elegun" of that orisha's spirit (because orishas, though gone back to
Heaven or to earthly abodes, e.g., in the rivers, seas, mountains, wind, etc. now
have left their spirits back on Earth to help deal with us in rituals and ritual
objects, in divinatory speech, and in possessions).
CLEANSING BEFORE BEGINNING REVERENT PRACTICE AT THE
It is considered proper and good to cleanse oneself with water and purifying coolness (a contractive or settling-down) experience first. This may be done by using a white bowl, filling it with cool water, and adding white flower petals, efun (cascarilla) scraped powder, and a pleasing scent (e.g., small amount of
Florida Water, Rose Water , Bay Rum, or some essential oil, perfume, or colonge). Customarily, this bowl
can be placed at the door of the shrine room or by the shrine itself. Using this, wash oneself lightly from
head to foot. Many people may dip their hands into the cleansing preparation and "wash" themselves in
turn. The cooling experience is a prelude to the mental "heating up" or consciousness expanding exper- ence of reciting the mantra called the Ijuba--described below.
The “Ijuba” or Ancestral Praise Recitation
An “ijuba” is a praise mantra that is recited from memory at the beginning of all Yorubic rituals and cer- emonies. It follows the same sectional format wherever the religion is practiced; in Nigeria, Cuba, the USA, Brasil, and all others places in the world. Its content or “lines” are personally composed by the in- dividual. All practitioners compose and learn one; though their first versions are usually copies of the one that their godparents (padrino or madrina in Spanish, baba or iya in Yoruba) recite. Before long, how ever, it is common to embellish one’s ijuba individually. In ritual work, once the ijuba is recited, then the substantive work of the ritual immediately follows (e.g., additional prayers and invocations, ancestral libations, offerings and sacrifices, addresses to assemblies, and so on).
Alternatives names for the ijuba in Yoruba are (the) “IBA” or “IBA-SE” (prn. “eeba-shey) or “IBA-e” or “IBA-o), while in Cuba it is mostly called the Moyuba. The ijuba serves the purpose of a mantra that is used to slightly “heat up” the Head so that one becomes better focused on the ritual at hand and one’s purpose (and it arises from the traditional odu Irete meji—to the best of my recollection). To give one- self var- iety, it is wise to use all three praise words: “mojuba,” “ “iba,” and “iba se” interchangeably. It is fine to say the ijuba entirely in English, but the sooner one remembers it in Yoruba, the better will be the results will be for achieving the “heating up and concentration” effect of this mantra.
The stages are as follows in the Cuban Santeria-Lucumi system:
Salutations to God Almighty
Salutation to Eshu Elegba
Salutation to the Orishas
Salutations to the Honored
Ancestors of One’s Priestly Lineage
Salutations to One’s Personal Egungun
Invocations of Support and Blessings from One’s
Living Priests/esses Who Give Protection and Support*
*In Africa this last section is not considered a part of the ijuba, per se, but is viewed as the beginning of the prayers that are part of the ritual, proper.
[FOR BEGINNERS, MEMORIZE AT LEAST SIX LINES FROM EVERY SECTION]
[SPRINKLE FRESH WATER]
“Fresh water, fresh water for the road, Omi tutu, Ona Tutu,
fresh water for the house (gathering), Ile tutu
fresh water for my spiritual power, Ashe tutu (“Spn. “ache”)
fresh water for the Ancestors Egungun tutu
It is God that brings constant rain. “ Olorun oba ni’won fon eji iworo-iworo
House of honor I greet you (3x) (response is “so be it”) Ile mo ke-o (3x), response is “Ashe!”)
I. Praise God
I praise God the Creator Mojuba Olodumare (Spn. “Moyuba”)
I praise the God of the Heavens Mojuba Olorun
I praise the God of Worldly Affairs Mojuba Oluwa or Olofi
So be it! Ashe!
I praise the God of today Mojuba olojo oni
Today is the child of God. Oni omo Olofin
Tomorrow is the child of God Otunla omo Olofin
Day-after-tomorrow is the child of God Oruni omo Olofin
My good fortune is the child of God. Ire mi omo Olofin
So be it! (“Yeild,” please permit my prayer to enter) Ache, Y’ago
II. Praise Eshu Elegba, (Spn. “Echu”--refers to your Eshu rock or “otan”)
Please "Yeild" (hear me) "Y'ago! Elegua"
I praise Eshu Elegba, … Iba Eshu Elegba
(Elegba) do not let me suffer death. Ko si iku
Do not let me suffer loss misfortune Ko si ofo
Do not let me suffer tragedy in this world. Ko si araye
Do not let me suffer gossip Ko si isoro
Do not let me suffer from fire Ko si ina
Do not let me suffer from curses Ko si ifibu
Do not let me suffer from bad health Ko si arun or aro
Do not let me follow bad roads Ko si ona buru
Do not me suffer negative unpaid debts to orishas Ko si gbogbo osogbos (Afro-Cuban)
Do not let me suffer misery Ko si osi.
Give my world the good fortune of longevity. Da aiye mi ire ariku
(Let me have)…condition of prosperity Odun owo
Do not let me suffer bad conditions of surprise K’odun oma!
Longevity for me, our father. Ariku, baba wa
“To Iban Eshu” (“to” is prn. “taw”)
So be it! Ashe-o!, Ashe-o!, Ashe-o!
III. Praise Orishas
Please "Yeild" (hear me) "Y'ago! (response is "ame")
I praise Orishas Iba, Mo Juba, or Iba se (prn "shey")
I praise all good primoidal orishas Mojuba gbogbo imole (irunmoles),
I praise the spirit of orisha in water Iba omi
I praise the spirit of orisha in fire Iba ina
I praise the spirit of orisha in earth Iba aye (aiye)
I praise the spirit of orisha in wind Iba afefe
[If you have ritually received orishas then iba [“Iba Chango,” or “Iba se Ochun” etc.].
them one at a time at this point].
May the blessings of Ifa manifest (and given) Aboru, aboye, (abochiche)
I greet the one (Ifa) who brings me good fortune Aboru, aboye ire Ifa gba mi o ache.
So be it! Ashe!
IV. Praise Honored Ancestors
"Yeild" (meaning 'please allow this prayer this prayer/ Y’ago
[ALWAYS, WHEN IT IS PRESENT, START POUNDING YOUR OPA EGUN OR OPA IKU ONTO
THE FLOOR OR THE GROUND STARTING HERE and YOU MAY ALSO RECITE AN ORIKI FOR ANCESTORS HERE OR SING A SONG TO THEM]
Please "Yeild" (hear me) Ancestors "Y'ago! Egungun!
I salute all of my honored ancestors that sit in Heaven Mojuba egungun ara orun bere
( just) beneath God. l’ojo Olodumare
I salute all of the (ATR) priests who sit in Heaven Iba gbogbo babal’ochas iku bere (just) beneath God. l’ojo Olodumare.
I salute all of the (ATR) priestesses who sit in Heaven /Iba gbogbo iyal’ochas iku bere (just) beneath God.. l’ojo Olodumare.
I salute those who have gone to the river, my spir- Iba gbogbowan olodo, lagba-lagba otoku
tual ancestors that bow at the foot of God ara orun timbelaye, imbelese Olodumare.
I salute the elders of heaven. Mojuba alagba-lagba ara orun.
Reverence to the fathers that were lost… Iba awon baba to nu (tabi sonu)
[If you are initiated into an ATR lineage you may iba the dead priests/esses of that lineage at this
point; each followed by “Ibae bayen tonu” which means “ I pay homage to the ancestral forces”].
I salute (clan and national heroes/she-roes) Iba se…..(list) etc. etc.
I salute all honored ancestors who were
fortunate enough to be buried in the soil of
I salute all of my honored ancestors who died
in the Middle Passage
I salute all of my honored ancestor who lie
buried in …(name places)
I salute all of my honored ancestors whose
names I may not mention at this time.
May you, upon whose shoulders we ride,
guide us and protect us…etc.
I salute all of my honored heavenly ancestors such as… Mojuba gbogbo egungun ara orun
I salute (names…..) Mojuba (name) ibae!
I salute (names…..) Mojuba (name) ibae!
V. Salutation to Living Priests of Your Lineage
[Technically, this is prayer not Ijuba so you may also salute all priests who important to you if
you do not have a orisha religion lineage, godparentage, and godsiblings in Yoruba religion]
I salute the king of my town Kinka ma se oba ilu mi
I salute my quick osun Kinka ma se osun were
Please protect me (names…..) Kinka ma se
Please protect me (names…..) Kini kin se
Please protect me (names…..) Ki awo ma se
Please protect me (names…..)
Please protect me (use your own name) Kinka ma se (your name)
So be it! “Yield” (“please permit my prayer to enter”) Ashe!, Y’ago
CONGRADULATIONS! THAT’S IT. NOW START YOUR PRAYERS AND RITUALS AT THIS POINT. FOR EX-AMPLE, AT THIS POINT YOU CAN POUR GIN AND DO ANCES- TRAL LIBATIONS IF YOU ARE DOING A RITUAL FOR A GROUP. AND AT THE END OF EVERYTHING, DO NOT FORGET TO SALUTE (SAY ORIKI OR SONG A SONG TO ESHU ELEGBA OR ESHU GEDE-NIMBO)
1. Pronounce the Yoruba words carefully with soft vowel sounds (!!!). Do not mess this up!!! If you do
you will sound like a “fool”!!! (There are additional pronunciation rules, but at least get this right).
A= “Ah…,” “arrest” E= “Egg” I= “Easter O= “Open” U= “Usted” (Spn.) “Ooh, Baby, Baby”
2. Do not betray the horrible ignorance of attempting to “iba” or invoke (or ritualize) a SPECIFIC orisha in your Ijuba that you have not ritually received from a priest that has that orisha to, among other things, “birth” for others, or allow others to invoke, that specific orisha. If you wish to truly iba an orisha, find such a person who has possesses (has) received that orisha and is willing to give you permission to do so. And never call an orisha priest solely by the name of his or her Olori (Head orisha).
However, you can iba Eshu (because you will have an otan of Eshu) and you can Iba Ifa because your obi-agbon has been washed in the omiero (“Holy Water”) of Ifa, but no others. Just iba orishas generally or iba their earthly representations like “rivers,” ”rain,” “wind”, “fire” etc. if you want to salute their egun spirits, their ebora. (In Santeria-Lucumi say “I salute the spirit of the Rivers” not “I salute Oshun,” unless you have “received” Oshun ritually).
Also please note, you cannot ritually work with only the earthly representations of orishas (except for
the consecrated rock or otan (representing “oyigiyigi” –“the rock of ages”) of your Eshu.. In other words, even though Oshun is the New World owner of rivers, and she may take ebbo there, it will only be bec- ause her spirit--which dwells in her consecrated otans (ritual rocks), her consecrated shells, her invoked odus and incantations, or the olori’s spirit (put to the “Head” of her “horse” (elegun) which has spoken ofo ashe (directive words of power) and so directed such an ebbo. Similarly, you cannot just go to the edge of the woods and start shouting orikis to Ogun on the theory that without the spirit of Ogun —first manifesting in one of the forms (or odu Ifa) described above—you will be successful. You will have ac-hieved nothing with or from Ogun except getting hoarse. In Yoruba (Santeria-Lucumi) you cannot "in- vent” rituals regardless of how “spiritual” or “wise” you think you are. We insist that all with whom we deal steadfastly respect the “oro” or traditions; no exceptions.
MODULE TWO—ANCESTRAL ALTAR
(YOUR “BOVEDA,” “SARASA,”“ILE’RUN, OJO'RUN”)
Your ile’run (sarasa or boveda) may be set-up in the floor, in a conjuncture of a strong inner walls in the corner of the room in Nigerian fashion (if it is in a house at all) as well as in the Cuban tradition, though in Santeria-Lucumi, it is most often built on a table (with or without a white table cloth).
On the wall behind it will go you list of honored ancestors. If you do not know if a particular ancestor was honorable or not, then ask this question at the shrine through ancestral divination (see below). Then place various small objects—especially a wooden statue or statuette—on it as well as nine glasses of water, chipped plates and cups for food and drink offerings, pictures of the deceased (and them only), cigars, rum, and so on. What goes on it is highly individualized and personalized. One should also place a single large glass with water in it on the boveda. In other parts of this practice-and-study material there are more details about the construction of one’s ile’run ('Heavenly home'). or Ojo'run ('face of Heav- en') However, at this point it is important to include an atena (a semi-circle with nine radial lines drawn from its center radiating outward, equi-distant from each other, with efun or cascarilla chalk). Please see your support material that is appended to this guide
for more details on the ile’run.
MODULE THREE—ANCESTRAL STAFF
(YOUR “OPA EGUN” OR “OPA IKU”)
The last vestige of our traditional Yoruba egungun society of masqueraders that venerated the Dead ancestors in the New World is the “Opa Egun” (or “Opa Iku”)—the death stick used for summoning the dead. (Technically, during an orisha initiation, there are nine little sticks of special wood which have a “ribbon” attached to the top of each (the symbolic “ropes”) used to symbolically—as a “whip”-- flail the new initiate which represents the atori whips used by members of the egungun societies). But as a gen- eral matter, there are few egungun egbes in the New World. The following is a paragraph taken from your appended study materials:
“BIRTHING” OR CONSECRATION OF THE ANCESTOR STAFF (OPA IKU, OPA EGUN, OPA’SIKU, PAGUGU)
Such a staff is ideally made from ukhere tree, cedar, bamboo or cane wood, where possible, but any strong wood or cane be used. Also, in Africa (where egungun society exists, the Opa Egun would have the head of a man or of a snake carved into the top). African Americans must do it differently because the stick—for us-- would also have to have seven (for a female), eight (for a twin), or nine (for a male) pieces of different colored cloth or ribbons (no red) attached to the top and covered by a white handker- chief. The cloth strips could also have bells attached to them (a Benin tradition where the staff would be made of metal and called an “aswe”; which is also “fed” blood, gin and prayer.
The use of the staff is to invoke the ancestors and to keep cadence when songs and prayers are being said to them. The washing of this staff with water, oshe dudu (Nigerian black soap), omiero (a liquid
made up of water, leaves and other substances) occurs before the staff is "fed" a blood sacrifice (an ebbo eje) which consecrates it. This must be done only by an initiated priest using the proper prayers and procedures!
Ancestral songs and praise phrases (oriki) to the dead spirits are offered as reverence as well using this
DIVINATION TO ANCESTORS WITH THE OUTER-SHELLS OF THE COCONUT (THE "OBINU") OF THE
COCONUT ("AGBON”) USING THE AFRO-CUBAN "CHAMALANGA" METHOD (SIMILAR TO THE"BIAGUE" METHOD OF USING THE WHOLE COCONUT PIECES) SHARED BY ORISHA
RELIGION (LA REGLA DE O'CHA) AND CONGO RELIGION (LA REGLA DE PALO MOYOMBE)
PRACTITIONERS IN CUBA
1. Get out a piece of paper and a pen. Write the general (or specific) questions that you want to ask of your ancestral oracle; leaving a good amount of space between the questions so that you may add incid- ental questions should they pop-up during the divination session.
2. Once the coconut has been prayed to with:
"(Y)ago Obi! Obi, see the true me; do no give me “yes” for “no,” nor “no”
After opening the four pieces of shells remove and “paint” with efun or cascarilla chalk on the inside or concave side, one lays out the mat (or on the floor) and draws the cir- circular atena (diagram) on the floor with the efun chalk (or cascarilla).
THEN SAY YOUR IJUBA IN ITS ENTIRETY
3. The next thing to do is to recite the Ijuba. This mantra is to “heat up” your mental concentration and to center you away from distracting thoughts. The phenomenon is called Isiri (I-si-ri) or to “jump start” your ori by mantra. This practice was born in olodu Irete meji, said my padrino, Roberto Clemente (Anya bi Osun, Ibae bayen to nu!) This will allow your thoughtful (not ritual) creativity, “Ele’eda,” and your good Head (ori ‘re’re) to emerge. When you have finished the Ijuba and the prayers to your satisfaction, you are almost ready to ask the Ancestors the questions you have in mind.
4. You must “present” the coconut shells to your body as follows:
(A) top of head, (B) back of neck, (C) right shoulder, (D) left shoulder.
5. Then hold them in both hands at chest level and nod head toward them saying:
“To iban eshu, to”
(The “to” is pronounced “taw”—derives from KMT “Thoth”=truth or otito, in Yoruba).
THEN SAY YOU PRAYERS OR EXPLANATIONS TO YOUR ANSWERS
6. Then, finally, one must “present” to obi shell pieces to the ancestral altar; the “ile’run” or “ojo run” as follows:
THEN ASK YOUR FIRST QUESTION, FOLLOWED BY ANY DERIVATIVE
QUESTIONS, UNTIL YOU GET A “YES” ANSWER TO EBBO DA? EBBO FIN?
TO THAT LINE OF QUESTIONING THEN GO ON TO YOUR NEXT QUESTION.
NOW, TO START THE LINE OF QUESTIONING FIRST DO THIS:
(A) Holding them in both hands, touch them repeatedly to the altar saying:
“Obi does not announce death” (“Obi n’ibi iku”)
“Obi does not announce sickness” (“Obi n’ibi aro”)
“Obi does not announce loss” (“Obi n’ibi ofo”)
(Other problems?….See the “Ko si’s” in your Ijuba for a list) …
(NOTE: When you've received one or more orisha you have the right to use the
coconut meat instead of the outer coconut shells (the little pieces--"nibs"--of which
by this point in the Ijuba you will have bitten off and held in your hand). When this is
the case, you will sprinkle these "nibs" on to the orisha's vessel as you say; "Obi n'ibi
iku, etc.) *
(B) Then holding them in the left hand, side-ways fist, tapping on top of the fist with the cupped right hand, then say:
"Earth I call on you." (“ile mo pe o”)
And then point with the pointer finger of the right hand at the earth and repeat:
"Earth I call on you." (“ile mo pe o”)
Then switch the the shells into the right, side-ways fist, and tap on it with the cupped left hand saying:
"Earth I call on you." (“ile mo pe o”)
And then point with the pointer finger of the left hand at the earth and repeat:
"Earth I call on you." (“ile mo pe o”)
Tap the right fist comntaining the shells on to the jar/vessel containing the orisha's implements, saying:
“The earth is abundant” (“Ile mocu o”)
And with the right hand, touch the mat or ground three times saying:
“I invite you to worship” (“Akweye”)
Switch the shells into the left hand and repeat the tapping on the orisha's vessel saying:
“The earth is abundant” (“Ile mocu o”)
And then with the left hand, touch the mat or ground three times saying:
“I invite you to worship”
“The earth is abundant” (“Akweye”)
Others who may be around you should also say "Akweye" (one time) as the response to your
call or invitation
(C) Then holding them in the right hand, tapping the shrine three times, say
“Orisha are abundant” (“Orisha mocu o”)
And with the left hand, touch the mat or ground three times saying:
“I invite you to worship” (“Akweye”)
(7) Finally, hold the stack of obi coconut shell pieces near your mouth and ask aloud or quietly your question, then bend over and hold the obi stack with both hands, at knee height (!!), bend over and say:
“I cast obi to you ancestors” (“Obi egungun”)
(8) And then let them drop to the mat or floor. Read the “sign” (see below) and keep track of the ques- tions and answers.
THE RULES AND ETHICS FOR QUESTIONING:
(A). Do not ask that which in your oju inu (your “inner eye”) you fully well know the answer.
(B). If you get a full “No/Unknowable” answer, stop that line of questioning (do not bullshit yourself by trying to be evasive and re-frame a question that was clear enough in the first place).
(C). Ancestors can always be consulted (the obi shells do not deteriorate), but do not open up their oracle if you are tired, likely to be interrupted (turn the phone off), or if youhave to go to work within a short time because the oracle might not let you close in time).
(D) Ask clear and unambiguous questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.” Do not ask two-part questions or contingency (“if…”) questions. Take the time to ask the questions in a linear sequence. Jot down the answers in each “line” (area) of questioning if you so need.
(E) Divine only for yourself; never for another person (but you may ask your ancestor to confirm reject things that you may say to another person about questions they may have of concern to them, but not with them present.)
(F) Divine on a perfectly flat straw mat if you have the option, but the floor is alright if necessary. Of course, divine in front of your ile’run or sarasa.
(G) If you are a man watching the ancestral divination of another, it is alright if they permit. If you are a woman, you can watch the divination process of a man (if permitted) but whenthe shells are dropped you must turn your back until he picks them up. Stick to the traditions though they have numerous gender asymmetries (in both directions)!
(H) When you ask a question be prepared to ask clarifying questions; that is called a line of questioning. When you are satisfied that your questioning in that line has been satisfied,ask if you can “close” that line (by asking “ebbo da, ebbo fin?” If the answer is “yes” then go to the next line of questioning. If the answer is “no” then you must ask clarifying questions like:
--Is there something or some area of questioning related to this topic that
I have not posed that I need to?
--Is there something that you want me to do that I have not done? (Then
ask what? Offerings, cleansing, actions you need to take, etc.)?
--Is there something that you want me to offer that I have not offered (Then
“what?” and “to whom?”)
--Is there something that I have been doing that you want me to stop?
(Then name things related to your line of questioning that might need
to be stopped).
--Is there something that I have not been doing that you want me to start? (Then
name things related to your line of questioning that might need to start).
After each successive question in the derivative line of questions, again ask can I close this line of questioning?— “ebbo da? , ebbo fin”?—and act accordingly.
If the answer is “no” then keep asking questions and proposing answers, lines of action, or things to do until you get a “yes” to the “ebbo da, ebbo fin?” question.
Once you get a “yes” to an “ebbo da, ebbo fin” question then you may go to the next question or question topic (and its possible derivative line of sub-questions).
(I) When you have been allowed by the Ancestors to end all lines of questions that you had in had in mind, then ask can you close the Oracle? If “yes,” then bend over, kiss the mat or floor where you were casting the shells, cross your heart, thank the Ancestors, throw the water out into the street, and go on about your business (and do the ebbos as soon as possible!). If the answer is “no” then it means that you have not asked the questions on topics that they think are important. Do not cheat! Start proposing other topical areas for questioning and see what they say. Complete the divination session until you get a “yes” to the question of whether or not you can “close.”
(J) If you know that you are going to do something that is anxiety-provoking (regard less), do not ask if you can do it (in other words, do not ask something that you already know the answer to) but you may ask—if your planned course of conduct is risky—does ire (goodness) lie in my path if I do so and, if not, is there an offering (or sacrifice) of something to some entity that I can do to assure that my conduct results in ire for me?
(K) Open the oracle as needed, but unless a circumstance has really changed, try not to repeat the same questions more than once a lunar month.
(L) Do not overly consult with the biague method, i.e., coconut shell divination to ancestors, doing so weekly should be enough--if that often (unless you are holding out for a "firm" answer--see immediately below).
HOW TO “READ” THE ANSWERS THE ANCESTORS GIVE.
The five possible “signs” for each “throw” where
“O” (concave side up or “speaking”) or
“X” (convex side up or “not speaking”)
“ALAFIA” = 0 0 0 0
This means “yes, yes” but is unstable (too good to be true) so you
must throw again to confirm or disconfirm this kind of “yes, yes.”
“ETAWA” = 0 0 0 X
This means “yes, but with struggle.” It, for that reason ,needs to
be confirmed or disconfirmed by a second throw. The second throw
is the true answer to the question.
“EJIFE” = O O X X
This means a resounding and stable “yes”; no need to confirm.
“OKANA SORDE” = O X X X
This means “no (but something can be done to make the answer
“yes”; no need to confirm. (Just ask related and relevant questions
about an alternative method to address, approach, or resolve the
question at hand.
“OYEKU” = X X X X
This means “no” (because the answer is unfathomable to us with
this oracle method . So stop this line of questioning now and go to
an orisha priest for a cowrie shell (dilogun) reading or to a babalawo
for an Ifa reading to get an answer to this question.”)
There are many additional protocols for interpreting these “signs” (or letras, in Spanish), but I will explain many more of them to you in person.
(You can hold out for only "firm" answers--Alafia, Ejife, or Oyeku--to a really important question by waiting a few days to re-ask such a question if you got "Etawas" or "Okanas" the first time around).
MODULE FIVE: COMMUNION WITH THE DEAD
CALLING, MEDITATING WITH AND FEEDING THE DEAD AS AN INDIVIDUAL OR FAMILY
You may and should greet your Ancestor at least once daily, especially in the mornings. One may simply kunle before them (kneel down on the right knee, bow one’s head, and tap the floor in front of the sar- asa) and say a greeting or recite an oriki to them (or pray). Also, it is good to salute them just before leaving your home daily.
You may and ideally should place samples of the foods you eat and drink on or in the chipped plates and cups each day, and take it away before retiring. They eat what you eat, or what they would have liked when they were living. If, in preparing food in your kitchen, some falls to the floor, be sure to give egun some of that food. They are asking for it.
Feasts can be held in their honor. There is a special feast for the Dead which you will know, if you hap- pen to attend one, because there in the middle of the table will be placed a roasted pigs head. The pig is considered especially sacred for our sub-Saharan ancestors. Whatever you do, do not comment negat- ively on this tradition that sacrilizes a rooting and fecund animal like the pig. The pig has the same an- cestral sacredness as the yam in our root cultures of west and central Africa (which are the only“roots” that we have, as a practical matter).
Many African Americans have been taught by Mediterranean-based Egyptianists, Jews and Muslims to
demonize the pig. By “black” (sub-saharan) African cultural customs, this is wrong, wrong, wrong. Get
rid of this bias. Now, for dietary preference and, putative, health reasons—though it is largely baseless—one might not “eat pork.” So do not eat it if you feel like this. But revulsion of the pig is nothing more than a culturally-learned conditioned reflex based in Mediterranean biases and history. Do not reject
sitting at the table because a pig’s head is symbolically sitting there. We are practicing west and central
African culture; we are not Egyptians nor their progeny though, as legacy cousins of Nilotic (Nubian) Africans) we obtained some of the same word-stock from our west and central African language ances- tors as did they (because their “high culture” was originally central African (proto-Ba-Ntu) in origin; dat- ing back about 15,000 years).
Prayer, Meditation, and Consultation
You may and should consult with them anytime that you like. You may also use the large glass on the altar for water-gazing as a method of meditation (meditation simply means dwelling on one thought at a time; a little harder than one imagines until trained to do so. We are not into all of the “mindlessness” and “real-world nullification-ism” rhetoric and philosophy of the Eastern religions. Pick a thought, a man- tra or mandala image of your choice, train yourself to resist intrusive thoughts for as long as you can, and you will then become relaxed (smooth breathing cycles) and “centered.” Meditation is not "rocket scien- ce.” Once “settled” it is a good time to think of the kinds of questions that you may want your ancestors to answer in a formal or informal divination session. They are especially good for consultations of your moral and ethical (and behavioral) questions going to your interpersonal relationships and choices for conduct.
Seances or "Misas" or "Centros" (in Cuba or Puerto Rico), or "Egun Joko" or "Iku Joko" ("death come sit down")--and talk in Nigeria.
I use this term only because it is so easily recognized. We have “sessions” to celebrate the ancestors, which, in Nigeria are called “egun joko” or “iku joko” where Death (ancestors or other eguns) come in and “sit down.” I repeat here, for your convenience, the same material that is in your Resource materials ap- pended to these training Modules.
CUBAN MASSES ("MISAS" or "CENTROS") FOR THE DEAD (“EGUN JOKO” or “IKU JOKO” in NIGERIA).
Mesa Blanca is also the name given to the table (and practice) where séances or “masses” (misas) are held to venerate “eguns” whether or not they are egungun (your personal family ancestors). A channel or medium--the eleegun or an “oku”—(owner of the Dead)) who presides here often “passes egun,” i.e., becomes possessed and speaks, warns, advises, praises, or simply nods assent and appreciation of the mass being held to praise the good spirits. In Yoruba this practice is called “egun joko” or “iku joko:” or "‘death (come in and sit down) to speak." These sessions are very democratic; no hierarchy of particip-
ants is exists.
For details of these masses, please see your Resource Material, below.
CONFIRMATIONS OF MESSAGES: In the Cuban Santeria-Lucumi version of Yoruba religion, "posses- sions" by the eguns of orishas is carefully watched and cultivated in those persons—“horses” or ele- eguns-- inclined toward possessions. More often not the first few times can be perplexing to the “horse” and it is common for him or her—after dancing vigorously--to cry from an admixture of over-stimulation, joy, or bewilderment. Just as the new “horse” is a “baby,” a newly manifesting spirit—even of an orisha—is a “baby” (at this sort of thing) too. For this reason, persons experiencing orisha posses- sions (which do not occur in misas) are directed into pantomime to express themselves until such time that another, more mature, eleegun who is also mounted by an orisha in the same event, recognizes and vets the orisha that has mounted the neophyte. The ancestral and orisha eguns often speak in disguised or alter- ed voices which is a throw-back to the anonymity of egungun masqueraders in Africa. They will also speak in other languages and someone in attendance will be employed to interpret for the client what is being said or advised by the orisha.
No such restriction and cultivation of a possessed person occurs in a misa because it is non-hierarchical and egun spirits may be passed by anyone and “speak.” So, after the misa, if you need to check on the validity of a spirit “passing” in yourself or in another (or to check on the validity of some “spirit” had to say to you) then you should go first to your own ancestors at their ile’run and ask them for insight. If they confirm that a valid spirit spoke to you, the best thing to do is to pay attention to the message and follow the advice. If not, then ignore it.
APPENDIX—THEOLOGICAL RESOURCE MATERIALS
CONCEPTS RELATED TO ANCESTRAL VENERATION
THE YORUBIC-NIGERIAN BACK-DROP
--WE CYCLE BETWEEN EARTH (IKOLE AIYE) AND HEAVEN (IKOLE ORUN) about every four gener- ations—80 years or so. Reincarnation is called "Atunwa."
--WE REINCARNATE: AIYE IS THE MARKET-PLACE OF EXPERIENCE. And so it once was for the spirits of the orishas. We have a saying: “The youngest leaves of the tree grow closet to God.” This means that we best treat and train our children well because one day we are going to reincarnate back into this place and lineage and we can only hope that current elders, who were once the children that we left be- hind, improved the world and not ‘blown it’ through irreverence and bad character. We would prefer not to come back into a world full of “osogbos” (unpaid spiritual debts and afflictions).” Our hope is that Amuniwaye (a praise name for Olodumare; from omodu “ejioko-oche”), will allow one’s heavenly guard- ian ancestor (the joto) to sponsor a return to earth (aiye) and to give us a new body and a new destiny; whereupon we will be “washed” through water (amniotic fluid) back into the world (aiye), just as we were washed out of it at the time of death when we were sent ‘down the river' (in a “canoe”). Among other things, a babalawo can identify the joto and be able to explain aspects of the newborn’s new des-tiny from that information. Death (iku) keeps the world fresh like a running river. For us, we were 'wash- ed in' to Birth and we shall be 'washed out' of it at Death.
--THE BETTER THE CHARACTER WE HAD IN A LIFETIME, the more likely we will reincarnate into our same family lineage, finding even improved conditions of life, and an even more auspicious new destiny. When here in the world we are expected to be productive, reproductive, aspire to good and gentle char- acter (iwa pele, mostly), periodically align our inner conscience’ or ori inu (our “super-egos, also called our eriokan) with our heavenly personality or ‘ori-ate’ (our heaveny ori-template) and leave behind good children. Needless to say, honoring—while alive--our good personal and group ancestors as well as the orishas. Our “Ori” and our “Olori” (i.e., our ori’s “owner” and guidance orisha or guardian “Saint” in Sant- eria-Lucumi; the orisha one gets "initiated to" or "crowned with"), our “spirit guides,” and the members of our heavenly egbe (astral similar “emotional” or temperamental mates that remain in heaven after we have returned here to earth)–-all in their places require remembrance, respect, and devotion. Note: the term “egbe” most often refers to our mundane “groups,” “lodges,” “associations,” or societies but there are heavenly “egbes” made up of our temperamental “mates.”
Finally, our culture's "ego ideal" (for you) is called your iponri and the ori inu is, as stated above, is our "super-ego." Our introspection is called the oju inu ("inner eye"). When the iponri is "introversive" in nature, then the ori inu will be extroverted in nature and vice versa. When a man or woman cross-dresses (e.g., an ilari priest or "messenger of Shango" can cross-dress in executing his duties) it has nothing to do with sexuality. It signifies the opposite complimentariness of the the iponri, on the one hand, and the ori inu, on the ot- her.
--"ORI" IS A TERM THAT HAS SEVERAL RELATED MEANINGS: (1) Ori means physical head (2) Ori means one’s three-part destiny (the resources and conditions you are born into that can be modified by you actions, the immutable aspects of your destiny—gender, lineage—and, finally, your life “plot” or “destiny” proper). (3) Ori also can be a constructed ritual object—an artifact—that can be used for rit- uals to stand-in for one’s personal “ori.” (4) Ori is sometimes used to denote “intelligence” or “ment- ality” (e.g., ori’ re’re or "ori ire ire"). (5) One’s conscience or inner-self (felt as located in one’s solar plexus-navel area) is an aspect of one’s ori that accompanies one to earth. It is the “ori inu,” the ori-okan ("eriokan" or heart conscience), or the ori apere or asiniwaye.” (6) Ori is also to related to hair style (orun ori) as an expression of inner self-composure, beauty, and group identification. (7) One’s persona is ori ode. (8) Ori, as “Head” is the basis of the Yoruba word for a “god”--“Ori (Head)-Sha (selected) or orisha. And (9) praise songs for the orishas are called orin.
Your “Head” or ori is your most important personal orisa and, periodically, “sacrifices” or offerings must be made to it in order to “tune it up” and strengthen it. Feeding the Head embodies the idea of praising it and, hence, the term “ib(a)-ori”= “ibori.” Feeding the Head, proper, is called or “ebbo’leri” (also called abori) and helps the person re-align his or her ori inu with the iponri and also to acquire wisdom ("ogboni")—specifically, 'the wisdom of the Earth' ("Onile")'--from Odua, who was a primoidal version of Obatala, as a person passes through the stages of maturity (agoge). Since this allows the individual’s inner self rise to the level (or at least approach) orisha possession at times and have “mystic visions" (iweju).
The “super-ego” or conscience, the eriokan, is located” in the solar plexus-navel area. It is the “ori-ate” (or inpori)--the morally highest “template” of self that resides in heaven--is used to refurbish the moral-self at times of reincarnation. This realignment is, on earth, ritually called a “rogation” or ‘feeding' of the Head which a minimally competent orisha priest or babalawo should be able to do. A master of ritual ceremonies in the Cuban Lucumi version of Yoruba religion is called an oriate; 'one who sits at the head of the mat of divination and ritual.'
--WHEN ONE RE-INCARNATES, ONES “SELF” OR “ORI” IS WHAT RE-CYCLES—hopefully—good form and expressing a new and good destiny that is chosen in Heaven by Emi. Hence, ancestry is tied up to the re-cycling of Ori(s). The dispenser or molder of the beginning and end of one’s “destiny” is Ajalamopin. This is done at the behest of Olodumare who breathes Emi –the soul breath of life--into each person. This destiny is recorded by Heavenly scribes (“bone owners”) called the aludundun orishas and witnessed by your Head orisa or your Olori or Eleri. Its three parts are, again: the life-span “plan” or plan (akunl- eyan), the resources and conditions of life that you will have to work with (akunlegba), and the immut- able aspects of your destiny like your gender and family line (ayanmo-ipin). The ability for the person to see this—more or less—is generic to life through “eye power” (oju ashe)—the human potential for per- ception.
Olodumare’s role is also to impart Ele’eda (spirit of creativity) into your Head and, as mentioned, soul breath (emi) into your body (your ere or ara) . “Ele’eda” is to Ori what Ela (spirit of pure insight) is to Orunmila –both creative precursors and alter-egos. An “altar” (vessel) to one’s Head can be constructed for ritual use; it is called an Ibori. A baby arrives with a three-part destiny, as mentioned, which is read by a babalawo (the imori ceremony) at three days of age and is before the baby’s feet are allowed to touch the ground in the essentaiye ceremony. This is also called the "naming ceremony" where the names are given to the baby by family well-wishers that also reflect his or her new destiny.
To warrant reincarnation one, in life, would have, ideally, been productive, been reproductive (or helped
others with natal or priestly children), and left behind good children. And, while in Heaven before coming
to Earth one typically should do many ebbos (sacrifices) there so that your life on Earth will be long and
smooth. Otherwise, you may have to do them while on Earth.
Please see the excellent essay on ori's many meanings entitled "Ori" by the art and culture historian and scholar Babatunde Lawal, "Current Features/ Previous Features," VII: 2/ Winter 2001/ Spring 2002, from
which drew upon to restate these iterations of the term "ori."
ADDITIONAL RELIGIOUS JARGON AND CONCEPTS
("ORI" IS MAINLY ONE'S "HEAD," ONE'S "DESTINY," AND ONE'S "INTELLIGENCE").
Fingertips are orika. They can be used to ebbo the head with certain gestures through settling motions like raking the head five times from back to front to settle one's nerves (from Oshun) or like using the “Saturn finger” of ori alignment with the water-wetted middle finger of a priest drawing a line from the bridge of the nose up over the crown of the "Head" and down to a certain point at the base of the skull where spiritual power enters the Head (called ori osise--where the work of the head starts) as when a Catholic priest "christens" a baby. A consciously bad person has an ori buruku or ori ibi (head in state of contraction or osogbo) and may be beyond spiritual redemption (that is, lost in and to elenini). Ori is also shea butter and wild white pigeons which are sometimes caught and allowed to fly free as a sacrifice to Obatala after they have been used to "ebbo" (cleanse) the Head. This is called an "ebbo'leri" (as this does not spill blood; something Obatala generally does not like). The orisha Ogun protects the Head with his
diplomacy and, where that fails, his iron weapons. Inspiration for the head is called isiri ('to work the
--EGUN or EEGUN means (bones) “spirit” of something that once had bones; that was once living. All orishas have egun spirits themselves. They often accompany the orishas and manifest in the real world. Egunyegun refers to the specific bones of one’s ancestors. All ancestors are “eguns,” but not all “eguns” are one’s personal ancestors. Egun is an orisha (the first one!), but then all orishas are or “have” eguns as well, as said above.
(1) “In the beginning” there were five primoidal powers (or irunmoles): first Olodumare (a title for God Almighty), next Egun (original orisha ancestor), next Obatala (the eventual shaper and progenitor of humanity), next Orunmila (the formless god of pervasive knowledge) and then Eshu (the god of com- munications, fickle-appearing fates, twists and paradoxes in life) who is also a primoidal force in the Un- iverse. In a sense they were all there to witness Creation. Additionally, there were, near “the beginning, 401 beneficial orishas (irunmoles) and 200 malevolent spirits or "hit men" (and women) called ajoguns
(2) It is said that “Egun comes first” in reverence (actually Eshu Elegbara comes first in the ritual com- munication of reverence). This means that “Egun bi orisha”—“Egun (pushed) birthed orishas.” Some- times, in San- teria-Lucumi jargon, “egun” refers to any and all spirits other than known orishas and sometimes—in both Santeria-Lucumi and Nigerian jargon the word is sometimes used with some disdain--implying that some “egun” entities signify a curse or imprecation.
(3) Ancestors can visit after “shape-shifting” into other animal forms. And our honored ancestors are most often benevolent and do not need to be asked for blessings, per se. They have clairvoyant and other powers that we in carnal form do not possess.
EGUNGUN ARE THE SPECIFIC ANCESTORS OF AN INDIVIDUAL, FAMILY OR GROUP, e.g., those of a family, guild, or egbe (society) who can returned to earth from Heaven or sacred grooves by summons or on their own initiative. In Nigeria they return to earth (aiye) in the form of masqueraded dancers and entertainers in parades and spectacles. And all ceremonies in Santeria-Lucumi honor egungun spirits first, e.g., with libations before veneration of orishas begins. In Africa there are egbes or cult societies of egungun. They, among others, deal with matters of funerals because families must insure that they are done properly or else the irritated egungun ancestral spirit can cause more disease and suffering to af-flict them. The egungun societies also monitors community morality, consultation to the populace, en- tertainment of ‘morality stories,’ the conveyance of messages from the family’s, community’s (or guild’s) ancestors and with pronouncements on and the punishment of moral transgressors in the community.
The tradition probably originated among the Oyo Yoruba under the guidance of Shango who--some say ---brought it to them from the Nupe area. The first egungun for the Yoruba was Shango’s father Oran- yan. Now many other Yoruba groups and other tribes (like the Igbo, who dress them in raffia, not cloth) have the cult or an analogue to it. The modern cults were originated in Yorubaland (old Oyo) near the beginning of the 19th century. Members of the cult are called “Oje” in the Oyo region, and Ele-egungun "owners of egungun”). This status is achieved by going through a ceremony in the egungun cult called “iseku” -----the creative elevation of the Dead. The head of an egbe Egungun is called an “alagba” (elder).
They also compose orikis and oriles which are chanted praise legends, creeds, mantras attesting to the deeds and characters of one’s family of ancestors (or ancestral totem animal spirits). Sometimes egun- gun would lead the community’s fighters into war. As heavenly bodies egungun are sometimes referred to as “ara orun “ (heavenly bodies) though they may, as mentioned, also dwell in sacred groves (Ojubo), trees, bushes, waterfalls, caves, etc. Each orisha has its own personal egun (spirit) which can possess people or be invested into ritual objects (e.g., rocks and shells). They observe the life of the community all of the time. But it is dangerous for them to be involved on a daily basis. When they come out, people feel pride, blessings and hear words of comfort from the deceased as well as pledges of protection from them. But sometimes they feel fear (if they are the subjects of moral accusations).
(1) The egungun, when masquerading in the community in a festivity are completely covered; guarding their anonymity. When they are out and about, women and children keep their distances. Inside the egungun society there are several “titles” and roles and the societies are male-focused and led. How- ever, there are typically three titles and roles that women also play in these egbes. They are mentioned below.
(2) The orisha Oya is closely associated with egungun as she, via breathing, is the fuel for respiration and the guardian to the gates of the cemetery (when she opens the gate her work with respiration is done and the person’s breath (emi) is taken away by the avenger iku (death). Her number is nine and her mul- tiple colors are drawn upon to dress a corpses (or whites are used instead), to make the egungun mas-
queraders’ costumes, and to adorn one Opa Egun (one’s ancestral staff; the last vestige of “egungun” left in the New World. Egungun as the yam is literally and figuratively associated with fertility (being high in estrogen precursors), is considered the penis of the egungun, and when planted in the ground symbolizes the corpses’ burial that can later be relied upon to regenerate, unseen by human eyes, new-births. One of her chieftancy titles is alafefe’re’re (“owner of Oya’s blessed wind”).
To see an egungun masquerader, please go to the top of this web page . * *
(3) In sacrifices, the orishas eat the blood of the sacrificed animal (ebbo eje) and the orisha’s egun eats special parts of the animal called its “aches.” Humans eat the main and regular parts of the animal that are typically used for human consumption.
(4) If a social group (an egbe, guild, or lodge society) has recognized elders in it, it may also have a line- age of egungun about whom legends are composed and recited as orikis. There are egungun cults for herbalists (egungun Oloogun), for warrior-hunters (egungun Ode and egbe Laye- wu that recite ijala chants for warriors), and specific egungun societies for the various orisha cults (e.g., the egbe Alakoro of egungun of Shango worshippers). Egungun is now a male-centered egbe, but in historical times it may have been female-centered. When a revered mother-woman dies a female egungun is created for one-time use in her funeral rites; it is not considered an ancestor. Generally, however Egungun society is a
manifestation of "manliness" (fatherhood) or "ikole orisha egungun." (See "Ela" by Awo Falokun at p.144, for this transliteration of 'manhood.')
As mentioned, there are at least three female title-holders inside the cult: the Iyamode, the Yeyesorun, the Iya Agon (agan?) or “Mother of the Society.” And there are also the ato(s) which are appointed to the society if they were born with an umbilical cord lying on their chest (like an atori whip) or if they had a caul membrane covering their faces at birth. This latter phenomenon connects “ato(s)” with Shango and his sister orisha Bayanni (or orisha Dada) who was born with a caul over her face. Shango, in particular, whose favorite wife was Oya, is very afraid of dead spirits out of respect for her and her awesome power in creating life, warfare, and chaos (not to mention her power to open the gates to the graveyard for the hapless when she does this on behalf of iku—death).
(5) Egungun societies did not survive the travesty of the Atlantic slave trade and are largely unknown in New World Yoruba religious practice. But there are a few such societies in New York, Chicago, Oyotunji Village (in South Carolina) and possibly other cities too.
(6) When we have questions of personal ethics, moral judgments, wise analysis of family or personal af- fairs we turn first to egungun for guidance. They may also be accessed and offerings made to them at your ancestor altar (your ile’run or your boveda). As in Africa, you may also propritiate and beseech them at their gravesites (sometimes buried in the home) if it is close enough. When the grave of an esteemed elder is nearby, no separate ile’run is needed.
(7) An ile’run –ancestral altar--can be built in one’s home on a table, placed on a floor, or on shelves or tables in one’s bathroom where running water exists that goes out through a drain. The spirits of the dead, including those that inhabit the deceased’s personal or religious objects or their bodies, may be symbolically or actually floated down a river into the after-world (or paraded in a canoe through the town before burial). In Africa, proxy ancestors are also “birthed” in clay pots upon which ritual can be done. This is similar to the making or an external or proxy “ori” orisha for ritual purposes which is freq- uently done there, but only rarely done in Cuba.
(8) An Elegun or Eleegun refers to a person who is the family’s appointed “medium” for “passing egun” or conducting ancestral rituals. It also means a family ‘that is into the egungun cult. Some people in San-teria-Lucumi use the term to refer to the spirit that has possessed any person (its “horse”) because even an orisha possession is actually a possession by the spirit or “egun of the orisha.” Things get really inter- esting when the person is possessed by an “egun” that also had “orisha made” in his or her lifetime.
(9) Egungun myths arise from the oriki of the egungun cults and from various odu Ifa. In them stories describing the use of the atori whips are used to strike the ground three times to invoke egungun (also used—playfully, not painfully-- in the early stages to symbolically “flog” the neophyte in the early stages of an orisha initiation ceremonies). Also many odus (verses) of Ifa describe the origins of egungun and their roles (which include seeking out human “witches” in the community.
(10) Ebora are ‘heavenly spirits’ that work on behalf of Olodumare. They carried ritual to all parts of the earth to stabilize it. Egungun is said to have originated from their role. Agan power, wielded by the eg -ungun derives from an ultimate ancestor—an avatar brown/black monkey (named Ero, or edan) or the ijimere (the red monkey) and is symbolized by the carrying its effigy in the egungun procession as a long piece of cloth--the tail of which ‘must never touch the ground.’ This avatar is magical and its magic also empowers twins (the ibejis).
(11) The igbale is the sacred grove of the egungun and the oju orori is the Yoruba term for the grave. The ojubo are the sacred “spots” or groves in Heaven for the egungun. The chief of the egungun for a family is its eegun.
FUNERALS FOR NON-INITIATED FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS—SIMPLE PRACTICES
It is doubtful that you will have the need for or participate in a Yorubic funerals so I will not list notes for that, but some ritual in this regard may be useful to you. Itutu (is an ebbo or atonement ritual) made simple could look like this. This may useful for the burial of non-initiated priest/esses.
--Announce with great apparent pain the death of a family member and look that way
(like you are seriously distressed. They are watching to see that you are distressed.
--Cleanse the corpse with sacred leaves and the elixir made from them (omiero).
--Dress the corpse in his or her favorite clothing; no red cloth.
--Consecrate the burial site (cremation is not a part of ATR’s, but can be done in
the West) with blood offerings (ebbo eje).
--Place foodstuffs and spiritual implements to help with his or her transition.
--Erect a special shrine for nine days and carry out ceremonies there. During this
period elevate a picture of the deceased by its own height on a wall each day
at the shrine.
--At the end of nine days break the shrine (deconstruct it) to symbolize the separation.
--Put the picture and objects, foods, etc. liked by the deceased on the family ile’run.
--Each day sing songs and hymns that would have been liked, and recite (or compose
praise poems (oriki) or proverbs from any little book (a small book containing
inspirational verbiage should always be on the ancestral shrine. Little Bibles are
common. And a wood carving (statuette), or more than one, should be at the
ile’run fetishizing the ancestors whose who the anjanu, have not completed their
cross-over into the spirit world; eleguns can talk to them.
THE CUBAN SANTERIA-LUCUMI VARIATION: TALKING POINTS
CUBAN (AFRO-LATIN) ESPIRITISMO is the form and nature of spirit reverence in Afro-Latin culture. While the “sarasa” or group “boveda” is the name given to an ancestral shrine (an ile’run, in Yoruba) there is a slight difference. In the Cuban tradition of “spirit veneration” the eguns of “spirit guides” who are not necessarily family or lineage members (maybe not even of the same tribe) are also welcomed to be ven- erated there. Though, obviously, no pictures of them would be available, they are most often totemized in the form of a female or male doll or statuette. If a doll, a new set of clothing is sewn for the doll each year and fitted over the old clothing so that each year it “grows” more.
Food dropped on the kitchen floor? In preparing food, or putting portions of it on a plate, if some falls off on to the floor, it is a sign that the ancestors want to be fed that type of food, pronto. (This is a Cub-ban practice but is based on the fact that our ancestors were often buried under the kitchen floor in Africa).
Mesa Blanca is the form of the ile’run (white table cloth on a table) or Ancestral Altar used by Afro-Lat- inos. This altar is usually somewhat to the side of main house traffic, in a backroom, or—very frequently—in the bathroom (where it symbolizes both running water—“a river”-- going out through a drain the way the spirit leaves the Earth (ile) and “the end of the road.” It is not placed on the floor at a corner-intersection as African indoor ancestral shrines often are. In both cases, however, a chalk drawing (an atena) is made by using cascarilla or “efun” (a white chalk lime clay from west Africa), that looks like a half-circle with, at the center-point, nine white radial lines are drawn out—equidistant--to the half-circle edge.
At the radial starting point, but only when the veneration is in ‘active ritual mode’ a white plate (that is not chipped) is placed there on that point or beside the boveda. And on it nine little pieces of coconut meat (obi gin gin) is placed in a circle around the edge of the plate. On each piece of coconut meat a dab (spot) of yellow-orange palm oil (epo or ope) is placed, then a dab of honey (onyin) on each and, finally, right in the middle of the honey spot is placed a single guinea-pepper seed (atare). (Handle the atares over a cup of water with caution because, in case you drop one, you do not want it loose and hidden on the floor. This leads to bad luck and heated arguments in the house until it is found).
Once this plate for eguns is done, one may place a burning white candle in the middle of the plate. The use of candles is not a particularly African thing to do, but a very valid Afro-Latin practice nevertheless). Technically, this plate is a substitute for a teja (tile) that a babalawo gives to a male (via the odu Otura Ogbe) or to a female (where it is born from the odu Irete-yero) practitioners. This practice was born in the odu Oyeku meji. Finally, but rarely, a bundle of nine prepared, bundled and hard-to-find sticks, made for egun, and called the cuje. They often prepared by “paleros” (priests in Congo religion of Palo Moyom- be) can be used in place of, or in addition to, the plate or the teja.
On the “white table” shrine or boveda/sarasa there typically are put small food chipped plates and chip-ped cups with coffee, cigars, pictures, and little book (like a Bible), items that belonged to the ancestors, shells, a list of their names on the wall (the “Olawumi” list or roll call of the Dead), tobacco, hemp, gin (oti) or other liquor bottles (little bottles), and multiple pictures of the deceased (not living people or non-relatives), prayers, and other offerings. Nine small glasses of water are customary and one large glass of water. The water is never thrown out, but before it evaporates simple refill the glasses. As men- tioned, candles are customary in the Cuban tradition as well.
We do not seriously pray to “all” of the ara orun (heavenly bodies); only those mostly those related to us. Our ancestors must have been decent people, especially if they were priests or priestesses, but did not have to be “saints.” They had to die old enough to have had children if they died during your life time. If they died before you were born then they are candidates to be put on the honorable mention list (the Olawumi list).
AGAIN: CUBAN MASSES (MISAS) FOR THE DEAD (“EGUN JOKO” or “IKU JOKO” in NIGERIA).
The Afro-Cuban Back-Drop
Mesa Blanca is also the name given to the table (and practice) where séances or “masses” (misas) are held to venerate “eguns” whether or not they are egungun (your personal family ancestors). A channel or medium (the eleegun or an “oku”—owner of the Dead)) presides who often “passes egun” (becomes possessed and speaks, warns, advises, praises, or simply nods assent and appreciation of the mass being held to praise the good spirits. In Yoruba this practice is called “egun joko” or “iku joko” –‘death [come in and] sit down [to speak].’ These sessions are very democratic; no hierarchy.
The shrine or séance area may be cleaned with cigar smoke (smudge in one direction, not waving) and by sprinkling fresh water (omi tutu) with efun or cascarilla chalk in it, or with Florida water.
Anyone present from the beginning, or any spirit can come in, identify itself, state its purpose, or hold forth on any topic of concern—usually those regarding the conduct, character, problems, or mysteries of concern to the clients. Even if no spirits manifest they can be verbally implored to come by invocation chants (suyere), the clients are free to share any thoughts, impulses, inspirations, or songs that they may like. Spirits can cause the Medium or a client to write messages on paper. The participants can read pray- ers of proverbs to the group—usually of four to twelve people. They—spirits and clients alike-- also pres- cribe acts to be done or stopped, things to be made, cleansings to do (along with specific ingredients), and so on for the benefit of any participant.
Visiting spirits may be greeted in English or in any language: in Yoruba, e.g., “maferefun egun,” “ibae se (“prn. “eeba-shey”) egun,” “dobale egun,” or “egun ire-oooo” (I salute ancestors, I praise ancestors, I prostrate myself on the ground on which ancestors walk, ancestors are good fortune, respectively).
(1) Occasionally, spirits of the Dead, e.g. friends, lovers, or family members, want the living client to leave the marketplace of earth and go to ‘good heaven’ with them. These spirits must be shown love and compassion but beseeched to let the client finish out his or her destiny Also, not infrequently, client will “pass” a malevolent spirit (an enviado; an envious one) and once this is determined, it should be encour-aged to leave. The directed use of incantations, prayers, cool water, efun, or ostracism and cold-watered sheets can be used toward this end if absolutely necessary, but sometimes they have come to warn of an "osogbo "(an un-paid spiritual debt) or ogo (curse) that needs to be addressed with a subsequent read- ing. A knowledgeble ele’egun/medium can also “exorcise” a bad spirit though a technique called a par- aldo or rompimiento.
(2) These sessions are sometimes plagued with pure interpersonal bullshit (bochinche) and others may
notice this and ask for an end to it. Two hours is typically the maximum useful time. Meals usually fol- low (but may precede) the séance. The eguns are fed by having a plate prepared for them where no one is seated at the table.
(3) Most important: A misa does not have to have a manifesting spirit or Medium for leadership. The purpose of a mass is to first and foremost to celebrate entities in the spirit world. Even if they do not manifest (and they most often do not for a spiritual group that is just ‘having a misa’ for the first few times). The mass is just as successful without spirit manifestations if it is sincerely engaged in; it is fore-most a celebration of and for them.
(4) On the floor of the room near the table or the boveda, there should be a white porcelain bowl placed with water in it, a scent like Bay Rum or Florida water, the petals of white flowers, and other sweet leav-es (like Bay Laurel). This is used for cleaning by participants at the start or anytime afterwards during the misa. It gets thrown into the streets after the misa.
(5) A lit cigar should be placed on a cup of freshly brewed black coffee at the boveda nearby. Just a whiff is enough; no need to make the room smoky!! The cigar and the candles are Cuban additions to the pro- cess; not African. Do not make people sick in the name of ‘healing’ their spirits. Light incense is alright too, but when dealing in ‘smoky’ things we are also touching on the ashe of Oya! So the room should be comfortable and have ventilation.
CONFIRMATIONS OF MESSAGES: In the Cuban Santeria-Lucumi version of Yoruba religion, possessions by the eguns of orishas is carefully watched and cultivated in those persons—“horses” or eleeguns-- in- clined toward possessions. More often than not the first few times can be perplexing to the “horse” and it is common for him or her—after dancing vigorously--to cry from an admixture of over-stimulation, joy, or bewilderment. Just as the new “horse” is a “baby,” a newly manifesting spirit—even of an orisha—is a “baby” at this sort of thing too. For this reason, persons experiencing orisha possessions (which do not occur in misas) are directed into pantomime to express themselves until such time that another, more mature ele'egun, who is also "mounted" by an orisha in the same event, recognizes and vets the orisha that has mounted the neophyte.
Babalawos, i.e., Ifa priests, do not get corporally possessed as do many olorishas (orisha priests) where- upon the possessing orisha can speak and do the ritual work for the occasion itself if it so desires (a real ire!) but they do seek to become “possessed” mentally by the spirit of the orisha Ela (a precursor and alter-ego of the titular orisha “Orunmila”) so that when so possessed, while doing a “reading” or "cast- ting” of the Ifa oracle, there is a “purity” of mind and focus.
The mature orisha egun (it is the spirit of the orisha that possesses people, not the orisha per se) can then authorize and announce to the ile (the assembled people at the house) that the newly possessed person should be taken (at a later time) through a ceremony involving his or her tongue in order to rec- eive ofo ashe--the right to speak in any language the next time a possession occurs. Note: in a deep pos- session the individual becomes indistinguishable from Olodumare in the form of Ele’eda (!), so what he or she has to say is damn important. Hence there is the need for this ritual protections against arbitrary messaging by immature people (or fakes). In a bembe--orisha dance celebration--or other ritual contexts, if an orisha seems to mount someone, the best policy is: “when in doubt, it is orisha…(for now).” That is, until you have time to check with your ancestors, or with an italero--an orisha priest that reads cowrie shells--or with a babalawo to see if that possession was bona fide. As mentioned earlier, spirits speak in disguised or altered voices which is a throw-back to the anonymity of egungun masqueraders in Africa. They will also speak in other languages and someone in attendance will be employed to interpret for the client what is being said or advised by the orisha.
No such restriction and cultivation of a possessed person occurs in a misa because it is non-hierarchical. So, after the misa, if you need to check on the validity of a spirit “passing” in yourself or in another (or to check on the validity of some “spirit” had to say to you) then you should go first to your own ancestors at their ile’run and ask them for insight. If they confirm that a valid spirit spoke to you, the best thing to do is to pay attention to the message and follow the advice. If not, then ignore it.
CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN INFLUENCES IN CUBAN ESPIRITISMO.
Note that espiritismo has Christian icons as well as Kardeckian influences. This is fine. Your ancestors most often were Christians and seances were known to them as well. As a result most of the spiritists implements found in candle shops (botanicas) will celebrate Christian personages “saints” (santos) or Jesus (Olofi in Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, or known as, but not “celebrated” per se, as Olorugbo or as “Ela” (the pure precursor to Orunmila in Nigeria).
The Christians had rituals for the near dead (e.g.,the Last Rites), and for the dead (“baptizing the Dead”). The apostle Paul speaks of baptizing the Dead in First Corinthians, Chap 15: 12. “Now if Christ be pre- ached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” And, at verse 29, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?” And the Mormons explain this in the Doctrine of the Covenants,’ in the Book of Mormons. Such a baptism (basulto) may be rejected by the Dead, but at least there is a chan- ce that they can yet be saved and the family is “Sealed” (i.e., its reincarnation is not adversely affected).
However, in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, there are numerous verses that forbid the living from contacting the Dead because, until the Judgment Day, they are truly dead so it is useless. And there are spirits who are active but they too should be avoided. Here are some of the verses relevant to death and the need to leave the Dead alone from a Christian perspective: Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Acts 2:31, John 9:4, Isaiah 26:14, John 11:11, Genesis 2:7, Genesis 1:20-25, John 17:17, 1 Samuel 28:3,5,and 6, 1 Samuel 28:7-19, Leviticus 19:31, Genesis 6:1-4, Jude 6, Deuteronomy 18:10-12, Ephesians 6:12, 1 Peter 5:7, Isaiah 8:19, Isaiah 26:19, and Job 14: 14, 15. These injunctions are important because Afro-Amer- icans, being raised up in Christian protestant culture mostly, are very nervous about ‘messin’ around with dead ghosts…’ and these verses explain why.
The Cuban “candle shop” spiritists also celebrate Las Potencias Siete: the seven African powers in which each orisha was given a Catholic saint’s identity. These “Seven African Powers” also represented the seven main nations from which Cuban slaves originated: Yoruba, Arara, Congo, Calibar-Efik (Abukua) and so on.
Finally, I noticed that unlike in western Cuba and the United States where “orisha” ashe is separated from “egun veneration” ritually and in regard to the separate locations of the shrines in a home, in Oriente province in eastern Cuba, there seemed to be more ritual integration of the two vectors or African religious practice.
A NICE ORIKI (Praise "Rap") FOR THE ANCESTORS (the Oku-Orun)
“EGUN FUN MI LO, A DUPE Ancestors we ask for good health and give you thanks.
EMI O MONA KAN EYI TI NBA ORI EGUN When I do not know which road to follow, I turn to the
wisdom of the ancestors.
MA JA KIKI WON ORUN, A DUPE All respect to the powers of the realm of the ancestors.
EGUN PELE O, EGUN PELE O, Ancestors, I greet you
EGUN MO PE O Ancestors, I call you
IBA SE EGUN Ancestors, I salute you
EGUNGUN KIKI EGUNGUN I salute the mediums of the ancestors
ISORO ORUN, A DUPE I salute the heavenly spirits, and thank you.
ORIN EGUNGUN (EGUN PRAISE SONG-CHANTS)
Simple Ancestor Praise Songs / Chants
Learned By Michael Oshoosi in Oyotunji Village,
South Carolina, U.S.A., 1989
Opening Song to Eshu Gedenimbo (Arara/’Rada-Haitian Eshu to the Ancestors)
Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Okurin To Bu Lewa
Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Onibode Ile Iku Call and Response
(Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, man, big, nearly beautiful)
(Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Owner of date (to) Land of (the) Dead)
Orisha Bi Egungun Ko Si (3X), Orisha Bi Egungun Ko Si—oooo
(Selected Head(s) birthed, ancestors, to gather together—“oh yeah…”)
Call and Response
Mo Juba Fefe Iku, (3x) , Mo Juba Fefe Iku
(I praise, quickly, the Dead) Call and Response
Iku—o, Iku—O, Enyin—O—O Ti Lo Joba Egungun
(Dead, exhalted, Dead exhalted, you, who have gone, to sit perched, ancestors)
Call and Response
(W)a-a-a Tun Bo Ye(3x) Wa-a-a Tun Bo Ye—ooooo
(We again, arrive, earth) Call and Response
Egun Arabara, Egun Arabara
(Spirits (bones), remarkable) Call and Response
Egun Wo Le Wo Le—A Tun Bo Aiye, Egun Wo Le Wo Le Alase--oooo
(Ancestors, Pay visit to house; We, again, come to earth—(oh) ruler)
Call and Response
SONG #8 (To the tune of “Give Me That Old Time Religion”)
Fu Mi (L)isin Igba Darugbo (3x), Se (Di)dara Fun Mi--oooo
(Wa) (Give, me, religion, old tme, that is old; Surely, good for me)
Verse B Call and Response
Se (O)dara Fun Baba Nla, (3x), Se (O)dara Fun Mi-oooo
Call and Response
SONG #9 (To the tune of “Kumbiyah My Lord, Kumbiyah”)
Wo Le Wa Egungun, Wo le Wa (3x), O—O—O—O Wo Le Wa
(Come by here Ancestors, Come By here)
Call and Response
Call: Egungun, Egungun Mi Ta (A)iye A Tijo (2x)
(Ancestors, ancestors, my, persist, earth joyful, dancing)
Response: Egun Fa (A)iye Niyin Ola Ha (2x)
(Spirits, bring, earth, honor, dignified, amazing)
Call: Ajuba Egungun
(We praise ancestors)
Response: Baba Wa
Call: Ajuba Egungun
(We praise ancestors)
Response: Ire Si Wa---Baba La, Baba Wa
(Good luck, into, us, father, very dignified, father, us)
ADD SONGS TO OYA / (I)YANSA (OPTIONAL)
CLOSE TO GEDENIMBO (AGAIN)
Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Okurin To Bu Lewa
Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Onibode Ile Iku Call and Response
(Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, man, big, nearly beautiful)
(Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Owner of date (to) Land of (the) Dead)