ANCESTRAL VENERATION IN THE NEW WORLD

                   YORUBA (CUBAN SANTERIA-LUCUMI) STYLE

                                                                                                                                                     by Alashe Michael omo'Oshoosi

                                                                                                                                                                                   © Michael omo'Oshoosi, 2015   

                                                                                                                                                                             (Michael F. Wright Ph.D., J.D.)

                                                                                                                                                                                       All Rights Reserved   

PAGE 1                                                                                                                                  *

                                  ORIENTATION NOTES AND PRINCIPLES

                                                                                                                   PART ONE

                                                                                                    I.

THIS IS THE SYLLABUS FOR A COURSE IN RITUAL PRACTICE AND A TRAINING EXPERIENCE IN “GENERIC” WEST AND  CENTRAL AFRICAN  ANCESTRAL VENERATION CANONS AND  CONVENTIONS. THE  MODEL USED HERE  IS BASED  ON YORUBA (ORISHA/ IFA) RELIGIOUS  PRACTICE AS  IT IS DONE IN THE AFRO-CUBAN ("SANTERIA"/ "LUCUMI") CIRCLES IN THE NORTH-AMERICAN HEMISPHERE.  THE TWO NAMES FOR YORUBA TRADITIONAL RELIGION IN NIGERIA ARE ESIN IBILE (WORSHIP TRADITIONAL) AND ISHE- SHE  (Al)'AGBAIYE  (ELDER  DIVINE  WORKS  OF THE WORLD) IT IS PRESENTED  AND  DESIGNED  FOR THOSE  OF  YOU  WHO ARE NOT INITIATED PRIESTS IN ANY VERSION OF YORUBA RELIGION, BUT NEO- PHYTES IN THIS RELIGION (“ALEYOS”/“ALEJO” OR “ABORISHAS”) AS WELL AS FORMAL INITIATES WILL HAVE WORDS AND PHRASES IN THEIR LITURGIES THAT YOU, AS AFRICAN-AMERICAN NON-INITIATES, WILL NOT HAVE  IN YOUR VOCABULARIES. BUT,  IN DUE COURSE,  THE WORDS OF IMO ORISHA  (THE THEOLOGY OF ORISHA-IFA RELIGION) WILL BECOME MORE FAMILIAR TO YOU.

 

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--I.E., 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 FORMAT USED BY INITIATES AND PRACTICING NEOPHYTES ALIKE.

 

                (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.   

                                                                                                                               *

IF YOU ARE AN AFRICAN-AMERICAN OR AFRO-LATIN WANT-TO-BE STUDENT OF ANCESTRAL VENERA- TION PRACTICES IN THIS CULTURAL STYLE, YOU MAY WISH TO STUDY THE METHODS WITH ME IN MY ON-LINE COURSE. THERE ARE SIX CLASSES IN THE COURSE; EACH OF TWO HOUR'S LENGTH. THE COST

IS $200.00 (AMERICAN), THE FEE MUST BE PAID IN ADVANCE AND IT IS NON-REFUNDABLE. A FEW AD-

DITIONAL TERMS APPLY. (FOR EXAMPLE, THE CLASS IS TAUGHT USING THE ZOOM CONFERENCING AP-

PLICATION, AND YOU MUST NOT ALLOW ANY OTHER PERSON TO SIT-IN ON THE CLASS UNLESS HE OR

SHE IS YOUR OWN CHILD, PARENT, BLOOD-RELATIVE OR MARRIED SPOUSE).  IF YOUR PERSONAL BIO-CULTURAL HERITAGE IS NOT PREDOMINANTLY  (50 % +) AFRICAN IN NATURE, YOU MAY TAKE A SEP- ARATE AND ABBREVIATED LOW-COST COURSE THAT I OFFER AS WELL. IN EITHER CASE, YOU MAY CON- TACT ME THROUGH THE "CONTACT" PAGE OF THIS WEBSITE, INFRA. PLEASE NOTE: MY TERMS FOR BE-

COMING ONE OF MY STUDENTS ARE NON-EXPLICABLE AND NON-NEGOTIABLE AS THIS IS A RELIG- IOUS ACTIVITY.

                                                                                                     *

                                                                                                    II.

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. 

 

  

 PAGE 2

                                                                                                  III.

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, (EWURE, 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.

 

                                                                                                 IV.

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

                     and done.

 

                 (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) White bowl with water, sweet smelling essence (like Florida water, white fower                                                   petals to dip fingers in for symbolic self-cleaning).       

                                                                                                                              *

                                 (2) THE ANCESTRAL ALTAR (the ILE’RUN or OJU'RUN FOR personal family;

                                        the OJUGBO or BOVEDA for both family and spirits and spirit guides of

                                        all gathered, including non-family SARASA, a temporary boveda) and the 

                                      FIRMA or ATENA (like a "vevein Vodou)--a chalk diagram on the floor in

                                        front of, or under, the altar (or to the side of it in some circumstances, e.g.,

                                        when, accompanied by egun stick or OPA IKU and ancestral plate for cer-

                                        emonial use when services are being rendered for someone  who is away  

                                        from home and, thus, not in front of their Oju'run).  The family or ances-

                                                   tral shrine is for the AWON BABA'NLA ("ancestors").     

                                                                                                                                                                        *

                                 (3) THE “IJUBA” (praise mantra and general ORIKI to the Dead)

                                                                                                                              *                                *

                                 (4) COCONUT SHELL DIVINATION (CHAMALONGA, OBINU) to the ancestors

                                        ancestors (divination using the meat of the coconut  is for use wth the an-

                                        cestors and the orisha (if you have received them).

                                                                                                                                   *

                                          (5)“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.

 

                                (6)  SONGS, COMMUNION SESSIONS AND MEALS FOR AND WITH THE ANCESTORS         

                                                                                                                                  *

PAGE 3                                                                                         V.

                                                                                                 

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 HOME 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 ORISHA(S) OSHOOSI AND OYA. EXCEPT 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

                     be included.

                                                                                                   *

                                                                                                 VI.

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 sometimes malevolent and must be

                          asked leave (or encouraged to do so, if necessary).

                                                                                                            *           

PAGE 4                   

                                                                                                             *

                    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 and gelede 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

                                            ONCE EARTH-BASED.

                                                                                                          *

                     (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. The term

                                             AWON ALASHEKU (the group that has the authority and ashe of the dead ones)

                                             is the name for the groupings of "spirit guides" in Yorubas' religion.

                                                                                                                                         *

                     (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 (or some-

                                                                    else's) family lineage. This term is used in Africa moreso than in the western

                                                                    hemisphere. 

                                                                                                                                         *

                     (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 awon Egungun (or                                                        Egbe Egungun (Egungun societies or lodges) who discuss family and com- 

                                                                   munity 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) ELEKU     --These are the deified spirits of an ancestor (among the Egbas and Ijebus).

                                                                                                                                      *

                       (F) 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' or a "medium." And so is the term an "Oku."

                                                                                                                                      *        

                                                   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 ob-

                                                   jects, in divinatory speech, and in possessions). 

                                                                                                          *

                          (G)  EGBE    --(HEAVENLY EGBE, NOT EARTHLY LODGES)--Means your heavenly  awon or                                                                    group of "soul mates" (i.e., temperamental stable mates; kindred spirits.   

                                                                  "Egbe" also is another word, along with "Ife,for love. Members of one's Egbe                                                                   may appear to you in life as  a "spirit guide."  Egbe can be saluted and prop-

                                                                   ritiated as one who is entitled to salute and "work" his or her ori and orishas

                                                                   though this is not much done in the western hemisphere. The awon egbe

                                                  orun are not orisha, per se (like our Holy Mothers, the Iyami and the warrior

                                                                   genies, the Ebora, are not Orisha, per se).  The term "egbe" also refers to 

                                                     social groupings, guilds and lodges of religious people that share specific

                                                     communalities. 

                        (H)    ISALE    --(Means "the land of the dead"; the Duat (KMT)

                                                                                                       .

                                                                                                       

        CLEANSING, MEDITATION & EMPOWERMENT BEFORE BEGINNING                                REVERENT PRACTICE AT THE ANCESTRAL ALTAR 

                                                                                                                                     *

Cleansing                                                               

                                                                                                                                     *

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.

                                                                                                                                     *


PAGE 5

                   

                                                                                                                                     *

Meditation

                                                                                                                                      *

On most ile-run or oju-run (ancestral altars), there will be a collection of glasses filled with water. But

there is also one glass, set in the middle, that is notably larger than the others. This glass is a special 

communications device or instrument (and it can be called a version of an osun). One can "water gaze" in front of it to calm one's mind. Meditation does not mean to have nothing on one's mind. Rather, it means to have the calmness and practiced self-discipline to achieve the goal of having but one thing--anything that is non-disturbing--on one's mind at a time.

                                                                                                                       *

Empowerment (Egungun Empowerment Center(ing)

                                                                                                                                      *

There are small rituals that one can do for one's self (one's ori) that is also calming and, in the world of ancestral veneration, is akin to the "head feeding" (strengthening) ritual that Yoruba priests called "ebbo (e)lerior a "rogation" ( term Santeros borrowed from the Catholic religion or, more, likely that the Catholics borrowed from Africans).  Take a large glass with a little water in it.  In front of the altar, think about the issues that have made you feel weaker lately. When you have narrowed them down to just a few really important ones, add a little more water to the glass.  You are going to do this nine times until the glass is filled with water but each time you think a little less about the "issues" and gradual- ly shift into the mediational mode so that by the last few 'rounds' you are comfortably settling on one or more images or sounds of empowerment. Consider seeing one's self as confident, non-anxious or

sufficiently connected to resources and resource people to resolve your issues or, at least, to make them

now manageable by clear and resoltute thinking (and a small action plan).  Imagine that your honored

ancestors are watching you (they are!) and are satisfied, if not outright delighted to see you engage in  such self soothing and self-care).

                                                                                                         *

                           MODULE ONE—ANCESTRAL ALTAR FOR YOUR ANCESTORS

                                                                            *

            (YOUR "OJU'RUN" or "ILE RUN" (EGUNGUN) SHRINE, YOUR "OJUGBO" or “BOVEDA,”  or YOUR                                     GROUP ANCESTRAL AND SPIRIT-GUIDE SHRINE,  the "OJUGBO" OR “SARASA”).

 

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 Oju'run ('face of Heaven'). 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 TWO

                                       The “Ijuba” ("Moyubacion") or Ancestral Praise Recitation

                                            This is an "Incantation" (or an "Igede" or "Ogede")

 

 

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 variety, 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.

                                                                                                                                   *

PAGE 6

                                                                                                        * 

The stages are as follows in the African Isheshe Alagba-aiye (traditional Nigerian system).  First, one must present oneself to the shrine. A small container of cool water (a jicara or half-gourd) is needed. Then go down on one's knees (kunle position), take off one's hat, and lean over and place the forehead on the mat and kiss the mat momentarily.  This is called the b’ori ku’le (where one places one's head on the floor--or allows it to "sweep the floor"--in a show of deference and respect. Following this, one would prostrate one's self fully on the floor in the do'ba'le position briefly and say a few words of salutation if your ancestral altar is on the floor. But if is using the Santeria-Lucumi style of ancestral veneration, on a table top altar, then a brief kunle is sufficient before standing up a greeting (briefly) the altar. Then the Ijuba proper should begin with the sprinkling of cool water, as below.  

                                                                                                     I.

                                                                                            Omi Tutu

 

                                                                                                II.

                                                                      Salutations to God Almighty

 

                                                                                                III.

                                                                          Salutation to Eshu Elegba

 

                                                                                                IV.

                                                                          Salutation to the Orishas     

                                                                                                                          (It is acceptable to reverse

                                                                                                                             the order of Parts IV and V)

                                                                                                V.

                                                                        Salutations to the Honored

                                                                Ancestors of One’s Priestly Lineage

 

                                                              Salutations to One’s Personal Egungun

 

                                                                                                VI.

                                    Invocations of Support and Blessings from One’s Living Priest/

                                             esses and Others 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.

                                                                                                                                          *

*PROPER CREDIT MUST BE GIVEN TO THE TWO BEST WRITTEN SOURCES FOR THE STANDARDIZATION OF THE "IJUBA" (THE "MOJUBA") FORM FIRST TO BABA'NLA JOHN MASON, OMO'OBATALA, OF NEW

YORK CITY. HE PUBLISHED THE PENULTIMATE CLASSIC ON NEW WORLD YORUBA PRACTICE CALLED

FOUR NEW WORLD YORUBA RITUALS, (YOR. THEOLOGICAL ARCHMINISTRY), AND FUNDAMENTALS 

OF THE YORUBA RELIGION (ORISHA WORSHIP), BY IYANIFA F.A.M.A. ("CHIEF FAMA"), (ILE ORUNMILA 

COMMUNICATION. THESE ARE THE CLASSICS, TO THE POINT, AUTHORITATIVE, AND ACCESSIBLE. 

                                                                                                   * 

                    Your "IJUBA" or "MOYUBA" or "MOYUBACION" (Afro-Latin)

                                                                     

                (FOR BEGINNERS, MEMORIZE AT LEAST SIX LINES FROM EVERY SECTION BELOW)

                  

                                                                                       OMI TUTU

                                                                        [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 salutation to my Head                      Omi tutu fun ori’re mi    

       (both hands embrace your head and take

        three sips of the water from the half-gourd).

   Fresh water for my   spiritual  power,                                Ashe tutu  (“Spn. “ache”)

   Fresh water for the Ancestors                                             Egungun tutu

House of honor I greet you (3x) (“so be it”)                       Ile mo ki-o (3x), “Ashe!”) 

                                                                                                                                           (Ile ọlá ni mo kí nyin)

                                                                                                                                      *
PAGE 7

 

I.  Praise God*

 

     I praise God the Creator                                                     Mojuba Olorun (Spn. “Moyuba”)

     I praise the God of the Heavens                                       Mojuba Olodumare

     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 will be the child of God                                  Lola omo Olofin

     Yesterday was the Child of God                                       Laana omo Olofin

     Day-after-tomorrow is the child of God                        Otunla omo Olofin 

     It is God that brings constant rain.                                  O wa ọlọrun ti o mu ojo ojo

                                                                                                            nigba gbogbo

     My good fortune is the child of God.                              Ire mi omo Olofin                     

     

       “Yeild,” "Acquiese" (meaning please per-                     So eso, Y’ago, Ashe, Adupe

           my prayer to enter), So be it! Thank you.

              *There are 2,000 praise names (oriki) for Olodumare. But there is only one direct ceremony  dedicated to God

                practiced in the diaspora--it is called the "Nanga Re-ooo" ("God, please bring us good fortune") ceremony.

                Examples of oriki to Olodumare being recited and sung may be found at:  

                                 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFvXn-qTWXA&list=RDTFvXnqTWXA&start_radio=1&t=43                                                                                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfMf9ja_0gI (Maami Evang Bola Are)

                                                                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfMf9ja_0gI (Ashamu)

 

II.  Praise Eshu Elegba,    (Spn. “Echu”--refers to your Eshu rock or “otan”)

     Please "Yeild," Acquiese  (hear me)                                  "Y'ago! So Eso"

     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 (fitibo or epe)

     Do not let me suffer from bad health                               Ko si arun or aro

     Do not let me suffer paralysis                                             Ko si egba

     Do not let me suffer fighting                                               Ko si ija     

     Do not let me follow bad roads                                           Ko si ona buru

     Do not me suffer negative unpaid debts to orishas     Ko si  gbogbo osogbo (Afro-Cuban)

     Do not let me suffer misery                                                 Ko si osi.

     Do not let me suffer any bad things                                  Ko si nkan nkan buruku (or gbo mole)

     Give my world the good fortune of longevity.               Da aiye fun mi ire ariku

     (Give me the happiness of)…condition of prosperity Odun owo

     Do not let me suffer bad conditions of surprise           K’odun oma!

     (Give me the odus of) Longevity for me, our father.   Odun ariku, baba wa 

    

                                                                                                            “To Iban Eshu”   (“to” is prn. “taw”)

     So be it!                                                                                       Ashe-o!,  Ashe-o!, Ashe-o!

III.   Praise Orishas (These Words Are For Non-Orisha Initiated Persons).

        (One Can "Praise" Only Those Orishas That One Has Ritually Received In

        Afro-Cuban "Lucumi.")

     Please "Yeild" or "Acquiese"                                            "Y'ago!, So eso (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

      I praise the spirits of our Holy Mothers                         Iba awon Iyami wa.

     I praise my spirit (temperament) kindred                     Iba se awon egbe orun (akika or asege;  

        Heavenly peers & abiku. (Your origination)                    resp. is "muso,  muso."  Iyalode egbe orun is head)

     I praise the spirit guides (“eguns”)                                  Iba awon Alaseku.

     I praise the gourd of the World and                                      Iba se igba aiye ati ti igbesi aiye.

         and all the gourds of Life.               

                                 

                                                                                                                                     *

PAGE 8

 

     [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, (aboshishe)

     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,” "Acquiese," meaning please per-                      So eso, Y’ago, Ashe, Adupe

          my prayer to enter), So be it! Thank you.

                                 

                [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" (to 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 you, I praise you who have dissappeared                Iba e, Iba e, Mo yin o ti o ti dide

    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

      Africa.

    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

              (such as)

    I salute (names…..), who has established a place              (Name) ibae bayen tona!

    I salute (names…..)  and who takes the lead to guide      (Name) ibae bayen tona!                                              

                                                                                                   *

PAGE 9

 

    V.   Salutation to Living Priests and Others of Your Lineage, Family, and Friends

                    

           [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]

 

    “Yeild,” "Acquiese," meaning please per-                     So eso, Y’ago, Ashe, Adupe

    I salute the king of my town!                                            Kawo oba ilu mi!

    I salute my quick Osun  (not Oshun)                              Ki nkan-kan buburu lo se osun were

    Greetings to you Who Hold My Secret                          Ki nkan-kan Awo Ma Se     

    Greetings                                                                                Ki nkan-kan buburu lo se… 

    Greetings to my family, wife, husband                          Ki nkan -kan  ma se ile mi, ati aya,

        children, spiritual benefactors etc                                 oko, omo, etc.

    Blessings from all priest/esses assembled here.       Da aiye ire fun iworo.

    Greetings to my blessed Head)                                        Ki nkan-kan ma se ori ire mi. 

                                                                                                                           *                                                                          

One's "Osun" is a deity (in the form of a metal cup mounted on a metal stand with a metal rooster on 

top of it). It can also be a design painted on something, or a clear glass of water set upon an ancestral shrine (that is separate from the nine glasses of water set upon such shrines in Santeria-Lucumi). In all cases, it is responsible for quick or instantaneous connection with Olodumare. It's like a lighting rod or capacitor that draws energetic spiritual communication to it.  For olorishas, it sits at the highest point in a shrine room, but for Ifa priests it sits on the floor/ground; often in the front yard or ritual shed. It con- nects one's ori to Olodumare directly. If it is ever discovered to have spontaneously fallen over, this omen signifies impending death and must be responded to by inquiries through divination to avert the tender mercies of iku. Its cup is loaded with essential ritual things and then sealed forever before it is put "on post." If painted on to a floor, the "design" is wiped up at the end of the appropriate ceremonial phase in which it is used. Even when a non-initiated person receives their "warriors"--an Elegba otan (rock), and the tools of Ogun and Oshoosi--for home protection, an Osun comes with this because the person has thereupon received an orisha (Elegba). Babalawo's have very large osuns that usually stand in

their front yards. (See page __, below for more on the power-object we call osun).


                                                                           [AT THIS TIME YOU MAY SAY YOUR PRAYER;

                                                          TO PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PRAY FOR YOU

                                                          AND TO RESPECT THE RESPECTFUL. YOU

                                                          MAY ALSO AD LIB  A FEW PRAYER LINES AND

                                                          PRAISES THROUGHOUT THE RECITATION OF

                                                          YOUR IJUBA. BUT THIS IS THE SPOT FOR YOUR

                                                          MAIN PRAYER].

                                                                                                        *

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 ANCESTRAL LIBATIONS IF YOU ARE DOING A RITUAL FOR A GROUP. AND AT THE END OF EVERYTHING, DO NOT FORGET TO SALUTE, SAY ORIKI OR SING A SONG TO ESHU ELEGBA OR ESHU GEDE-NIMBO (an eshu of the dead from Vodou).

                                                                                                      *                                                                                        *

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 in- voked 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.       

                                                                                                                                   *

PAGE 10                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                   * 

                                                                                                       MODULE THREE


  DIVINATION TO ANCESTORS WITH THE OUTER-SHELLS OF THE COCONUT (THE "OBINU") OF THE

          COCONUT ("AGBON”)  USING THE AFRO-CUBAN "CHAMALONGA"  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”   

                                for “yes.”  

                                                                                                      *

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 circular atena (diagram)  on the floor with the efun chalk (or cascarilla).

                                                                                                      *

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”   

                                for “yes.”  

                                                                                                      *

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 circular atena (diagram)  on the floor with the efun chalk (or cascarilla).     

                                                                                                                                    *

                                 

                  FIRST, DRAW A WHITE CIRCLE WITH WITH EFUN  ABOUT 15 INCHES IN DIAMETER  

                       SECOND, DRAW AND INNER WHITE CIRCLE ANOUT 12 INCHES IN DIAMETER

                                                                               (This is real  'ol skool !)    

                                                                                                                                  *

                                                           THEN SAY YOUR IJUBA IN ITS ENTIRETY

                                                                                                  *

                    THEN SAY YOUR PRAYERS OR EXPLANATIONS OF YOUR PLANNED INQUIRIES

                                                                                                                                   *

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 the 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.

     

                                                                                               *         

PAGE 11

                                      “PRESENT” THE COCONUT ("OBINU') SHELLS TO YOUR BODY 

4. As follows:

                                  (A) front of head (Iwaju), (B) top of head (Atari), (C) Back of neck (Ipako)*

                                  (D)  right shoulder (Otun), (E)  left shoulder (Osi),  (F) sternum (Eri Okan)

                                            (G) solar plexis (Ori Inu), (H) right knee (Kunle), (I) left knee (Kunle Meji)

                                  (J) right foot (Ese) and (K) left foot (Ese Meji).

                                    ____________________________

                                   *The complete phrase is "Eshu ni pa ko" which means '(Do not) Eshu decapitate me.'

5. Then hold them in both hands at chest level and nod head toward them saying:

                                                                                                 *

                                                                                  “To--Iban Eshu, To

                                                    (Pronounce "to" as  “taw”--derives from truth or otito in Yoruba).

                                                                                                                                  *

 

6.           PRESENT THE OBINU SHELLS TO YOUR ANCESTRAL ALTAR (I.E., YOUR "ILE'RUN" OR                                                                                                     "OJU'RUN")     

                                                                    

                (A) Holding them in both hands, repeatedly touch them 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 you want to avoid?….See the “Ko si'ku" section in Part II, above)

                              


                                              (NOTE: When you've received one or more orisha you have the right to use the coco-

                                               nut 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" (obi gin gin) on to the orisha's vessel as you say;

                                               "Obi n'ibi iku, etc.)                                                                                                   

                                                                                                      *

                 (B) Then holding them in the left hand, held side-ways in a fist, tap on top of the open-

                        right hand, fist with the cupped right hand, and Then point with the pointer finger

                        of the right hand pointed to the earth and repeat:

                          "Earth I call on you."                                                              (“ile mo pe o”)

                          "Earth I call on you."                                                              (“ile mo pe o”)

                          "Earth I call on you."                                                              (“ile mo pe o”)                                                                                      “Akweye”                                                                                  (“Akweye”)  

                 (C) Then switch the the shells into the right, side-ways fist, and tap on it with the open-

                           palmed left hand saying:


                          "Earth I call on you."                                                              (“ile mo pe o”)

                          "Earth I call on you."                                                              (“ile mo pe o”)

                          "Earth I call on you."                                                              (“ile mo pe o”)                                                                            "Akweye"                                                                                   (“Akweye”)  

                                                                                                      *

                                                                                          AFTER THAT

                   (E) Tap the right fist containing the shells on to the altar or the jar/vessel containing the

                                  orishas' implements, saying:

                                                                                                     *

                          “The earth is abundant”                                                       (“Ile mocu o”)

                          “The earth is abundant”                                                       (“Ile mocu o”)                          

                          “The earth is abundant”                                                       (“Ile mocu o”)                         

     

PAGE 12                    

                                                                                                 AND

                   (F) Tap the left hand's fingers containing the shells on to the ground right after saying

                          "I invite you to worship."                                                        (“Akweye”)

                                                                                             

                                                                                               THEN


                   (G) Tap the left fist containing the shells on to the altar or the  jar/vessel containing the

                                  orishas' implements, saying:

                                                                                                   

                          “The earth is abundant”                                                       (“Ile mocu o”)

                          “The earth is abundant”                                                       (“Ile mocu o”)                          

                          “The earth is abundant”                                                       (“Ile mocu o”)                          

                                                                                               AND

                   (H) Tap the left hand's fingers containing the shells on to the ground right after saying

                          “I invite you to worship”                                                         (“Akweye”)

      Others who may be around you should also say "Akweye" (one time)  as the response to your

                                                                                         salutation

                                                                                                AND

                      ( I ) Tap the sopera or shrine and say:

                                "Obi hails survival"                                                            (Obi ke nye)                                                                                      "Obi  hails avoidance"                                                       (Obi ke nye)

                                "Obi hails satisfaction"                                                     (Obi ke nyo)

                                "Obi hails happiness"                                                        (Obi ke nyo).

                                                                                                  *

(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” that falls on the mat (see below) and keep track of  the questions and answers.

 

 

                         THE RULES AND ETHICS FOR QUESTIONING WHEN DOING DIVINATION

              

(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.


                                                                                                     *

PAGE 13

                                                                                                     *

 (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 (regardless), 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?       


                                                                                                     *

PAGE 14

 

(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”)

 

                                                                  are:

 

                            “ALAFIA” =  0   0   0   0  [CHANT "ALAFIA NI!, ADUPE" ("Peace is here, thanks")

                                      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” because it may

                                       be Obatala speaking.  [ For initiated priests, after "Alafia" you can always ask

                                       if it is Shango speaking? If so, since he only speaks once, no need for confir-

                                       mation. But if not then cast for a confirmation].

                                                                                            Speaking are Obatala and Shango

 . 

                                                                                                                                                *

                                       "Don't put your head in the clouds; use total committment and control to

                                       produce and preserve the good outcome.

                            “ETAWA” = 0   0   0   X   [CHANT "ETAWA WO, ETAWA MA, ETAWA EGUN, IKU

                                                                       BABA WA"]

                                                                         [NOTE: 'THE SON WILL CARRY THE WEIGHT OF THE FAT-

                                                                         HER']

     

                                       This means “yes, but with struggle upon struggle before success.” It, for

                                       that reason that needs to be confirmed or disconfirmed by a second throw.

                                       The second throw  is the true answer to the question. Etawa-Oyeku = Elen-

                                       ini =The matter is beyond spiritual  redemption; it lies strictly inside the

                                        ambit of the personality. [Struggle Upon Struggle Before Success."]

                                                                                         Speaking are Shango, Aganju and Elegba

                                                                                                                                              *

                             “EJIFE”  =    O   O   X   X

                                       This means a resounding and stable “yes”; no need to confirm. ("IT TAKES

                                        TWO TO LOVE].

                                                                                                         Speaking are Elegba, Obatala, Yemaya, Oshun and Ibeji                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                       *                                                                                                         

                             “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.

                                        The struggle fails because of one thing. Therefore, consider a notably dif-

                                        ferent approach to your questions or proposed options. But be sure to ac-

                                        cept the "no" to the question as you originally stated and meant it. Be hon-

                                        est. 

                                                                                          Speaking are Oya, Elegba, Shango, Egun

                                                                                                                *                 

                              “OYEKU”  =   X   X   X   X  

                                         This means “no” (because the answer is unfathomable to us with this or-

                                          acle 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 read-

                                                      ing to get an answer or insight into this question.”)

                                                                                  Speaking are Babalu, Aganju, Olokun, Odua, and Egun

                                                                                                                  *

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 repeat such a question if you got "Etawas" or "Okanas" the first time around).

           

                                                                                                                                                  *

PAGE 15

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                *

                                                                                                              *

“BIRTHING” OR CONSECRATION OF THE ANCESTOR STAFF (OPA IKU, OPA EGUN, OPA’SIKU, PAGUGU, IGI EGUN ARE VARIOUS NAMES OF THIS ARTIFACT FROM EGUNGUN SOCIETY))

                                                                                                                               *

                     

                                                            MODULE FOUR--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:


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 eb- bo 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

staff.

                                                                                                                            *   

                                MODULE FIVE: COMMUNION WITH THE DEAD

 

CALLING, MEDITATING WITH AND FEEDING THE DEAD AS AN INDIVIDUAL OR FAMILY

 

Greetings

 

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.

                                                                                                                                 *

Feeding                     

 

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)*

                                                                                                                               *

PAGE 16

 

Many African Americans have been taught by Mediterranean-based Egyptianists, Jews, Christians and Muslims to demonize the pig. By “black” (sub-saharan) African cultural customs, this is wrong, wrong, wrong. (And it is even wrong in respect of KMT, as the pig was a sacred and useful animal as it was necessary for the sanitation of the areas where it was kept from human garbage and wastes. It was also sacred for other reasons. 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 Mediter- ranean biases and his- tory. Do not reject it (and, in those ceremonies, note that it is not eaten; being there for purely symbolic and ritual reasons).

                                                                                                                                       *

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” rhetoric and philosophy of the Eastern religions. Pick a thought,  a mantra 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. 

                                                                                                                                 *

                                APPENDIX—THEOLOGICAL RESOURCE MATERIALS   

                                                     

                                                                                       PART A

                                                CONCEPTS RELATED TO ANCESTRAL VENERATION

 


                                                                                           

            FUNERALS ("ISIKU") 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.


PAGE 17

                                                                                                                               *

THE YORUBIC-NIGERIAN BACK-DROP TO THE AFFAIRS OF THE DEAD

 

--WE CYCLE BETWEEN EARTH (IKOLE AIYE) AND HEAVEN (IKOLE ORUN) about every four gener- ations—80 years or so.  Reincarnation is called "Atunwa" or "Atunbi."

                                                                                                                                *

--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 omoduEjioko-Oshe”), 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.

                                                                                                                                   *

                                                       "ORI" CONCEPTS    

  "ORI" IS MAINLY ONE'S "HEAD," ONE'S "DESTINY," AND ONE'S INTELLIG-    ENCE") AND THIS IS WHAT LIFE AND DEATH PERPETUALLY RECYCYLE

       

--"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 “des- tiny” proper). (3) Ori also can be a constructed ritual object—an artifact—that can be used for rituals to stand-in for one’s personal “ori.”  (4) Ori is sometimes used to denote “intelligence” or “mentality” (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”--orisha: “Ori (Head)-Sha (selected). And (9) 

praise songs for the orishas are called Orin.

                                                                 *

"Ori" has many meanings. 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 ori').

 

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, ("the ego ideal in Heaven; your template"), on the one hand, and the ori inu, on the other hand.

                                                                                                                                   *

PAGE 18 

 

Your “Head” or ori is your most important personal orisa and is periodically given offerings and must be “tuned 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")—specifical- ly, 'the  wisdom  of  the  Earth' ("Onile")'--from Odua, who was a primoidal version of Obatala, as a per- son 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 iponri)--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 oba 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 (imi) –the soul breath of life--into each person. This destiny is recorded by Heavenly scribes (“bone owners”) called the aludundun orishas and witness- ed 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 perception. (The "third eye" is called Iwaju--forehead--meaning the face or eyes of "sight."  

                                                                                                        *

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.  While it must be rem- embered that it is Obatala who brought light into the world, it was Ela who first split off light from darkness at a primoidal cosmic level.

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."


--EGUN or EEGUN means (bones) “spirit” or iwin (ghost) 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!-- not to be confused with the avenger Iku (death). 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

or avengers.

                                                                                                                 *

(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 Santeria-Lucumi jargon, “egun” refers to any and all spirits other than known orishas and some- times—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. 

                                                                                                                                            *

PAGE 19

 

(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 clairevoyant and other powers that we in carnal form do not possess.

 

--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.

--especially if one does sufficient ebbos when still in Heaven! When here in the world we are expected to be productive, reproductive, aspire to good and gentle character (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 Santeria-Lucumi; the orisha one gets "initiated to" or "crowned with"),  our “spirit guides,” and the members of our heavenly egbe (Heavenly 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 (one's Heavenly blue print ego ideal)and the ori inu is, as stated above, is our "super-ego." Our introspection is called the ori oju inu ("inner eye"). When the iponri  is "introversive" in nature, then the ori inu (inner self) 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 carnal sexuality. It signifies the opposite gender complimentariness of the the iponri, on the one hand, and the ori inu, on the other. The bi-gendered

nature of the ori-ode ilari priest signifies that wholeness requires the recognition of both genders.


                                                                                                                      *

--"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 iponri)--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 REINCARNATES, ONES “SELF” OR “ORI” IS WHAT RE-CYCLES—hopefully—in 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 Ajal- amopin. 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 (akunleyan), 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 perception.

                                                                                                        *

PAGE 20

                                                                                                        *

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 Or- unmila –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."

                                                                                                                      

(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 begin- ning of the 19th century. Members of the cult are called “Oje” in the Oyo region, and Ele-egungun "own- ers 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 .         

                                                                                                                                 *

PAGE 21                                                                                                                                                            *                                                                                                                                                                                               *

(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 Layewu 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 par- ticular, whose favorite wife was Oya, is very afraid (or acts like he is 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. And,

in respect of dead spirit or spirit guide posessions ("passings" or "mountings"), one must take note: a 

horse is mounted from the ground up! The spirit moves up through the body; that is, does not drop down

from the sky.

 

 (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).

                                                                                                   *

PAGE 22

 

(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 the 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 sacred groves for the orisha are called igboduThe ojubo are the sacred “spots” or groves in Heav- en for the egungun.  The chief of the egungun for a family is its eegun.

                                                                                                                                    *

                                                                                                        

LATINO ESPIRITISMO OR SANTISMO ("MISAS" or "CENTROS") FOR THE DEAD. (SIMILAR TO “EGUN JOKO” or “IKU JOKO” in NIGERIA).

                                                                                                     *

Seances or "Misas," "Mesa Blanca" or "Centros" ("Centers") in Cuba or Puerto Rico, or "Egun Joko" or "Iku Joko" (meaning "death/ come sit down" and talk) in Nigeria are ritual sessions, like seances, that invite dead spirits--at least ancestral ones--to come in, 'sit down and talk.'

                                                                                                      *

I use this term--misa or mass--only because it is so easily recognized. We have “sessions” to celebrate the ancestors, which, in Nigeria are called “egun joko” or “iku joko” events where Death (ancestors or other eguns) come in andd “sit down.”  I repeat here, for your convenience, the same material that is in your Resource materials appended to these training Modules.       

                                                                                                     *

                                         "Nosotros tenemos la sangre Africana; la sangre llama."   

                                                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                                      *

Mesa Blanca is also the name given to the table (and practice) where séances or are held to venerate “eguns” (spirits) . A channel or medium--the eleegun or an “oku”—(owner of the Dead) who presides here often “passes eguns,” 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 participants is exists.

                                                                                                     *           

For details of these masses, please see "Electric Santeria" by Aisha M. Beliso-DeJesus,  (Columbia Univ. Press, 2015). This is the best book that I have ever read on the over-view of Lucumi-Santeria and Espirit- ismo or Santismo ("spiritism"); a practice that is very popular in Latino folk culture.  I will summarize her ideas here:                                                                                                         *  

                        (1) She speaks of the practice of Espiritismo as invoking individually or in small group                                              misas the visitation by spirits, personal spirit guides, ancestral spirits, who form

                              each person's "spiritual cord" or grouping of such entities--usually numbering from

                              two to ten nor more in the Latino cultures of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominic-

                              an Republic. These seances  were originally practiced in the USA, but became vogue

                              in the Catholic Latin world of the 1920's.  A "spiritual cord"--the "Espiritismo de cor-

                              don"--is one's posse or a "spiritual court" of, e.g., old Congo spirits, gypsie spirits, Cat-

                              holic nuns and priests,  Indians, dead warrior spirits etc. They often advise, console,

                              or warn anyone in attendence of what they need to know for their or their relatives' 

                                       betterment. A good example is the "Aunt Jemima" icon; a curandera and wet nurse 

                               in this racist legacy of Latino caricatured "eguns." 

                                                                                                                                                                   *

                               [A big part of the origin, I think, of the emphasis on spiritism in the Afro-Latino world

                               is that New World Africans were not able to re-establish the cults for the veneration

                               of the Dead. This meant that the "handling" of the Dead and spirits thereof, from a

                               a multiplicity of mixed tribes, clans, and families in slavery times was a real problem.                                         Basically, "ancestros" for a specific families or guilds were one thing, and everything

                               else in the nature of "spirits" were regarded as "eguns."  Also, they did not recognize

                               the concept of Egbe (Awon egbe orun) groupings of Heavenly kinsmen from which 

                               an individual comes and is separated from upon birth. These Heavenly personages

                               in their African context, were not "eguns." They were a part of one's 'temperamen-

                               n tal Heavenly soulmates' and they followed one's affairs on Earth--even to the

                               point of coming to Earth to entice a person, from time to time, to leave Earth and

                               prematurely return to Heaven to "hang out" with them again. In the original African

                               context, they would be verbally venerated in the orisha section of one's Ijuba.]

                                                                                                                              *

                       (2)  These visiting spirits may also prescribe tasks (e.g., the giving of offerings to deities

                               or other spirits or human beings like beggars) or the acquisition of items like dolls,

                               tools, bells, flags, belts, bows and arrows, animal parts or relics or--virtually anything

                               --even talismans and other charms that they think couild be helpful to the individual

                                who is receiving the advice or warnings.

                                                                                                                              *

                        (3) The "medium" or elegun who is skilled at "passing" (being possessed by) the spirits

                                is usually paid for the services. The participants may ask questions and even have a 

                                dialogue with the spirits. And the will speak in a voice that is unusual; not the cus-

                                mary voice of the medium who leads the session.  But "eguns" may also 'possess' 

                                anyone in attendence who, for their part, can say what the spirit directs them to

                                to say. Sometimes people pretend to be a possessed person (and this is why some   

                                messages may not be authentic, valid nor useful. So,where needed, "gazing" into 

                                the truth of the matter by use of formal divination is later warranted). It is also pos-

                                sible for people to simply say what is on their minds to another, so long as the ad-

                                is not malicious and not purported to be an "egun." The word "Oku" also means one

                                who owns the Dead.

                                   

PAGE 23   

                                                                                                              *

                         (4)  Many of the spirits are protective in character for various individuals. But others  

                                may be malevolent or themselves spiritually ill and, thus, being in the dark, need

                                attention and aid from the living participant in the nature of bringing them into 

                                'the light' in order to call their restless (and nuisance) souls. And just as when ori-

                                first possess a 'horse' (a possessed person or montado), that orisha or egun may 

                                itself be a baby or youngster and has to be matured over the months to come in 

                                order to know how to deal with the living. In Santeria-Lucumi however, newly

                                possessing orisha do not have automatic license to start talking to an asessm-

                                bled group (their right to speak must be affirmed by another orisha (i.e., anot-

                                her person who is concurrently possessed by a recognized orisha. By contrast, 

                                anyone's "eguns" may speak in a misa. 

                                                                                                    *                                         

                         (5) In a similar "democratic" or populist vein, "eguns" may be passed (possessing)

                               a person anywhere and at anytime; not just in a misa. Among the Santeros, if

                               no "eguns come down" (bajar) to the event, it is not considered to have been

                               successful. [Actually, a misa is a "mass." And, in Catholicism, a "mass" is a celebra-

                               tion. So, celebratory words and songs in praise of benevolent spirits is also pos-

                               and, thus, they too offered. If this alone happens, the misa is not really a failure

                               in the least].

                                                                                                       *

                         (6) Some do not engage in misas very much in the way of Espiritismo. As such, they

                                simply may not find them credible (too many people 'talking smack' annoy them   

                                because their messages may actually be dangerous for unwitting participants).

                                Instead, they may prefer to take anything that they hear (if they do attend) to     

                                subsequent formal divination with coconut shells, with cowrie shells or with Ifa. 

                                Or they may simply ignore "spirit guides" and other "eguns"altogether and sim-

                                ply connect with their personal honorable ancestors directed at their ancestral

                                altars by "gazing" (e.g., water gazing or mirada), by chamalonga (coconut shell                                                      divination), or "obi" (coconut meat) divination. 

                                                                                                   *

While espiritismo is to be taken very seriously as a spiritual art (I have personally seen some amazing

things occur in them (like "magic" stuff) and heard many deeply sagetic messages and benefitted from them, I have also heard a good deal of "baloney" in them as well. It should be noted, as you read below, this practice arises out of European and American Catholic cultural ideas of Christian "possessions" in the nature of. or rooted in, the incorporation of the 'body of Christ" in Holy Communion rituals--transub- stantiation where the spirit and the physical body interpenetrate. Beliso-DeJesus, op cit., is quite poignant about the conceptual and cultural souces of seances and misas.

                                                                                                    *

By contrast, for the African American, raised almost exclusively in Protestant cultures, there is a mistrust of "things" in nature of "spirits,""haints," "ghosts" and "devilment" stuff psychologically. In most protes- tant congregations in the black communities, folk "gettin' happy' and having emotional catharsis is bas- ically tolerated as well as are ecstatic trances brought on songs and "sermonizing." But only a minority of these groupings actively invite "Holy Ghost" possessions and the "speaking in tongues"--i.e, the marrying of intense bodily engagement with the spirit of God Almighty's alter-ego. Most Christians tend to view that intimate a union to take place at the ideational (or transcendental) level--a neo-Platonic vestige 

from the 18th century. [Please see below the Old and New Testament scriptures that disuade commun- ion with the Dead that discourage African Americans, generally, from accepting such connections. We

tend to treat "ghostly spirits" the way that traditional Yorubas do: as "iwin"--'the ghosts of madness ."(which is what "iwin" means). But, in Yoruba, there is a saying "O ti she she!"  This means:  "It is possible!"].

                       

                                                                                                                                    *
PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN PROHIBITIONS ON THE INFLUENCES OF SPIRITISM--ESPECIALLY LATINO CATHOLIC ESPIRITISMO AND ITS EFFECTS ON AFRICAN-AMERICANS

 

For Christians, generally, the Dead are dead until the Day of Judgment. African Americans inherited the legacy of Protestant fundamentalism in respect of the following:

                                                                                                        *

But the Christians also have rituals--narrow ones indeed--for the near dead (e.g.,the Last Rites), and for the “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 rein- carnation is not adversely affected) 

                                                                                                       *

PAGE 24

                                                                                                       *

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), Efon, 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.

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 or some other part of the house 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 or palm tree oil) 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 “Olawonmi” 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 Olawomi list).


                                                                                                      *

PAGE 25            

                                                                                                                           *  

                                                                                          PART D

                                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.

 

_________________YOUR NOTES 

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                   SALUTATIONS, SONGS & CHANTS FOR DEPARTED ANCESTORS

 

                                                                                                             

           Baba o, baba o -- hey, hey! Yeye o, yeye o -- hey, hey!                   (Fathers, hey! Mothers, hey!)
           Awa ki egungun loni ooo!                                                                     (We greet the ancestors today!)
           Alagbara egungun! Alagbara egungun!                                             (The ancestors are powerful!)

              Egun de! A juba! Timbole!                                                                              (The egun have arrived!

                                                                                                                             We give praise! The earth trembles!)

           Egun (i)'re ooo,  Egun sun (i)'re ooo                                                The ancestors are of good fortune!

                                                                                                                                    May the Ancestors Sleep Well

                                                                               

                                                                                                    I.

                                                                        A Nba Wa Ori, A nba Wa Ori

 

A Nba Wa Ori, A nba Wa Ori*

              (We are meeting to seek to find him)     

A Wa O-sun,  Maa Le-ri O

              (We come, he  is asleep. We seek him continuously)

Ma Le-Ke a Wo

              (In the head he is always to be the uppermost initiate)

Ara Orun Ka We

              (Citizens of heaven reap children)

                                                                                     

              *[Translation by baba John Mason, omo Obatala in Orin Orisha, Publ.

                 Yoruba Theological Archministry, NYC, 1992).

 

                                                                                                           II.

                                                                    Simple Ancestor Praise Songs / Chants

 

                             Learned By Michael omo’Oshoosi in Oyotunji Village,

                                                                 South Carolina, U.S.A., 1989

 

SONG #1

 

Call

Gedenimbo,*  Gedenimbo, Okurin To Bu Lewa

Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Onibode Ile Iku    

                (Owner of date (to) Land of (the) Dead)

                 Man, big, nearly beautiful)      

Response 

    (Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, man, big, nearly beautiful)    (Gedenimbo,

     Gedenimbo,

 

SONG#2

 

Orisha Bi Egungun Ko Si (2X)   

Orisha Bi Egungun Ko si oooo                                         

                 (Selected Head(s) birthed, ancestors, to gather

                  together—“oh yeah!”)

                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                       *

PAGE 27

                                                       

SONG #3

 

Call

Mo Juba Fefe Iku, (4x)       

                (I praise, quickly, the Dead)

Response

,Mo Juba Fefe Iku (4x)

                                                                                                         *

 SONG #4

 

Call

Iku—ooo,   Iku—ooo,  Enyin--ooo Ti  Lo Joba  Egungun

                   (Dead, exhalted, Dead ,exhalted, you, who have gone,

                    to sit perched, ancestors)

Response

Iku—ooo,   Iku—ooo,  Enyin--ooo Ti  Lo Joba  Egungun

 

                                                                                                 

SONG #5

Call

(W)a-a-a Tun Bo Ye(2x)         Wa-a-a Tun Bo Ye—ooooo

                   (We again, arrive, earth)    

Response

(W)a-a-a Tun Bo Ye(2x)         Wa-a-a Tun Bo Ye—ooooo

                                   

 

SONG #6

Call

Egun Arabara,   Egun Arabara

                    (Spirits (bones), remarkable)                                

Response

Egun Arabara,   Egun Arabara 

 

SONG #7

 

Call

Egun Wo Le Wo Le—A Tun  Bo Aiye,   Egun Wo Le Wo Le  Alase--oooo             

                     (Ancestors, Pay visit to the house;  We, again, come

                       to earth—(oh ruler)                                                                       

Response

Egun Wo Le Wo Le—A Tun  Bo Aiye,   Egun Wo Le Wo Le  Alase--oooo

SONG #8  (To the tune of “Give Me That Old Time Religion”)

 

Call

Fu Mi (L)isin Igba Darugbo (3x),  Se (Di)dara Fun Mi--oooo

                    (Give, me, religion, time, that is old; Surely, good for me)

Response                                                                                  

Fu Mi (L)isin Igba Darugbo (3x),  Se (Di)dara Fun Mi--oooo

 

Call

Se (O)dara Fun Baba Nla, (3x),   Se (O)dara Fun Mi-oooo

                    (It was good for great father, Surely good for me)

Response

Se (O)dara Fun Baba Nla, (3x),   Se (O)dara Fun Mi-oooo

 

Call

Se (O)dara Fun Iya Nla, (3x),   Se (O)dara Fun Mi-oooo

Response

Se (O)dara Fun Iya Nla, (3x),   Se (O)dara Fun Mi-oooo

                                                                                                 

SONG #9 (To the tune of “Kumbiyah My Lord, Kumbiyah”)

Call

Wo Le Wa Egungun, Wo le  Wa  (3x),   O—O—O—O Wo Le Wa

                     (Come by here Ancestors, Come By here)

                                                                                                                                            *

PAGE 28

                                                                                                

SONG #10

Call:                

Egungun,  Egungun  Mi Ta (A)iye A Ti jo (2x)

Response

                    (Ancestors, ancestors, my, persist, earth joyful, dancing)

Response:     

(Egun Fa (A)iye Niyin Ola Ha (2x)

(Spirits, bring, earth, honor, dignified, amazing)

                                                                                                             *

                                                                                    CLOSING SALUTATION 

 

Call:                

Ajuba Egungun

                   (We praise ancestors)

Response:     

Baba Wa

                   (Father, ours)

Call:                

Ajuba Egungun

                   (We praise ancestors)

Response:      

Ire Si Wa---Baba La, Baba Wa

                   (Good luck, into, us, father, very dignified, father, us)

 

 

 SONG #1

Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Okurin To Bu Lewa

Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Onibode Ile Iku                

                 

                                               III.

                                     ISHE OLUWA

    ("The Works of God Can Never Be Destroyed")

Call

Ishe Oluwa,  Ko Le Ba Je ooo  (2x)

                  (The works of God can never be destroyed)

Response

Ishe Oluwa,  Ko Le Ba Je ooo  (2x)

                                    Repeat Call and Response

 

Weeping Willow Tree, Tell Me What You Know

River Were You Crying, Many Rains Ago?

 

Sacred Baobon Tree, Lost Your Children To The Sea

River Were You Crying Many Rains Ago

 

Goodbye, Motherland,  Ko Le Ba Je oooo

Goobye, Motherland,   Ko Le Ba Je ooooo

 

Sing Me and Old Song From Many Rains Ago

Ishe Oluwa, Ko Le Ba Je oooo

Ishe Oluwa,  Ko Le Ba Je oooo

                                                  ADD SONGS TO OYA / (I)YANSA (OPTIONAL)

 

                               CLOSING SONG  TO GEDENIMBO (AGAIN)

Call

Gedenimbo,*  Gedenimbo, Okurin To Bu Lewa

Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, Onibode Ile Iku    

                (Owner of date (to) Land of (the) Dead)

                              Man, big, nearly beautiful)      

Response 

    (Gedenimbo, Gedenimbo, man, big, nearly beautiful)    (Gedenimbo,

     Gedenimbo,

PAGE 

 

 

                                 Photo Credit to Jason Javier, 2013

IT WAS NOT UNUSUAL IN THIS AREA FOR NEW YEAR'S EVE CEREMONIES TO OCCUR WHERE BOTH EGUN (SPIRITS) AND ORISHA CO-PRESENTLY ATTEND.