Study the Teaching of Ifa and the Orisha's

OLOKUN (oni-okun, he who owns the sea), “Lord of the Sea,” is the sea-god of the Yorubas. He is one of those who came from the body of yemaya.

As man worships that from which he has most to fear, or from which he hopes to receive the greatest benefits, the inland tribes pay little or no attention to Olokun, who is, however, the chief god of fishermen and of all others whose avocations take them upon the sea. When Olokun is angry he causes the sea to be rough and stirs up a raging surf upon the shore; and it is he who drowns men, upsets boats or canoes, and causes shipwrecks.

Olokun is not the personally divine sea but an anthropomorphic conception. He is of human shape and black in colour, but with long flowing hair, and resides in a vast palace under the sea, where he is served by a number of sea-spirits, some of whom are human in shape, while others partake more or less of the nature of fish. On ordinary occasions animals are sacrificed to Olokun, but when the condition of the surf prevents canoes from putting to sea for many days at a time, In ancient times a human victim was offered to appease him. It is said that such sacrifices have been made in recent times, even at Lagos, by the people of the Isaleko quarter, who are chiefly worshippers of Olokun. The sacrifice was of course secret, and according to native report the canoemen used to watch by night till they caught some solitary wayfarer, whom they gagged and conveyed across the lagoon to the sea-shore, where they struck off his head and threw the body into the surf.

A myth says that Olokun, becoming enraged with mankind on account of their neglect of him, endeavoured to destroy them by overflowing the land; and had drowned large numbers when Obatala interfered to save the remainder, and forced Olokun back to his palace, where he bound him with seven iron chains till he promised to abandon his design. This, perhaps, has reference to some former encroachment of the sea upon the low-lying sandy shores, which are even now liable to be submerged at spring-tides.[1]

Olokun has a wife named Olokun-su, or Elusu, who lives in the harbour bar at Lagos. She is white in colour and human in shape, but is covered with fish-scales from below the breasts to the hips. The fish in the waters of the bar are sacred to her, and should anyone catch them, she takes vengeance by upsetting canoes and drowning the occupants. A man who should be so ill-advised as to attempt to fish on the bar would run a great risk of being thrown overboard by the other canoemen. Olokunsu is an example of a local sea-goddess, originally, as on the Gold Coast at the present day, considered quite independent, being attached to the general god of the sea, and accounted for as belonging to him.

Yoruba Fokelore

A Favorite Elegua story

One day Echu began a journey wearing a hat, red on one side, white on the other. Making not a sound he walked between two friends, one seeing the white side of his hat, the other seeing the red. Later in the day the two friends spoke to one another about the mysterious man in the hat.
Immediately, they began to argue about the color of the hat. White! Red! The quarreling turned to blows, as each man professed to know the right answer and demanded to be acknowledged as the victor in the violent discussion.The Trickster Eshu chuckled at the sight and walked over to the men, now bloodied and angry, and showed them his hat – red on one side and white on the other.

He was delighted by the fact they would fight about something as ridiculous as the color of another mans hat, ruining their long-standing friendship in the process. Taking pleasure in testing the strengths and weaknesses of mankind, he provides the lesson of making the right choices in life.

He is found at the crossroads, can see in all directions, watchs what people do, good and bad. His punishment is swift but he is also kind.

Eshu sits at the threshold to your home, guarding the entry.

Orisha Attributes

Creator of Human Form, White purity, Cures illness and deformities.

Messenger of the Orisha, Holder of Ashe (pover) among the Orisha, he is prime negotiator between negative and positive forces in body, enforces the “law of being”. Helps to enhance the power of herbs.

Orisha of Iron, he expands, he is divinity of clearing paths, specifically in respect to blockages or interruption of the flow vital energy at various points in the body. he is the liberator.

Mother of Waters, Sexuality, Primal Waters, Nurturer. She is the amniotic fluid in the womb of the pregnant woman, as well as, the breasts which nurture. She is the protective energies of the feminine force.

Sensuality, Beauty, Gracefulness, she symbolizes clarity and flowing motion, she has power to heal with cool water, she is also the divinity of fertility and feminine essence, Women appeal to her for child-bearing and for the alleviation of female disorders, she is fond of babies and is sought if a baby becomes ill, she is known for her love of honey.

Kingly, Virility, Masculinity, Fire, Lightning, Stones, Protector/ warrior, Magnetism, he possesses the ability to transform base substance into that which is pure and valuable.

Tempest, Guardian of the Cemetery, Winds of Change, Storms, Progression, she is usually in the company of her counterpart Shango, she is the deity of rebirth as things must die so that new beginnings arise.

Tortoise and the Pigeon

TORTOISE and Pigeon were often seen walking together, but unfortunately Tortoise treated his friend rather badly, and often played tricks on him. Pigeon never complained, and put up with everything in a good-humoured way. Once Tortoise came to him and said:

I am going on a journey to-day to visit my cousins; will you come with me?

Pigeon agreed to accompany him, and they set off. When they had go ne some distance they came to a river, and Pigeon was forced to take Tortoise upon his back and fly across with him.

Soon afterwards they reached the house of Tortoises cousins. Tortoise left his friend standing at the door while he went inside and greeted his relatives. They had prepared a feast for him, and they all began to eat together.

Will you not ask your friend to eat with us? said the cousins; but Tortoise was so greedy that he did not wish Pigeon to share the feast, and replied:

My friend is a silly fellow, he will not eat in a strangers house, and he is so shy that he refuses to come in.

After some time Tortoise bade farewell to his cousins, saying, Greetings to you on your hospitality, and came out of the house. But Pigeon, who was both tired and hungry, had heard his words and determined to pay him out for once.

When they reached the river-bank, he took Tortoise up once again on his back; when he had flown half-way across, he allowed Tortoise to fall off into the river. But, by chance, instead of falling into the water, he landed on the back of a crocodile which was floating on the surface, and when the crocodile came up to the bank, Tortoise quickly descended and hurried away.

Pigeon saw what had happened, and that Tortoise had safely reached the land; so he flew ahead of him until he came to a field where a dead horse was lying.

To trick Tortoise once more, Pigeon cut off the horses head and stuck it in the ground, as if it grew there like a plant.

When Tortoise reached the field and saw the horses head, he went straight away to the King of the country and told him that he knew of a place where horses heads grew like plants.

If this is true, said the King, I will reward you with a great treasure; but if it is false, you must die.

The King and a large crowd of people accompanied Tortoise to the field, but meanwhile Pigeon had removed the head. Tortoise ran about looking for it, but in vain, and he was condemned to die. A large fire was made, and Tortoise was thrown on to it.

But now Pigeon repented of the trick he had done, and quickly called together all the birds of the air. They came like a wind, beating out the fire with their wings, and so rescued Tortoise.

When Pigeon had explained this trick, the King pardoned Tortoise, and allowed the two friends to depart in safety.

Ifa Related

Counsel of Cuban Elder Ifa Priests

The Counsel of Elder Priests of Ifa of the Republic of Cuba, has expressed,
determined and required:

1- That we do not accept nor will we ever accept the Initiation of women inside
the worship of Ifa, that not be the ceremony of the Ikofa of Orunmila.

2- That we will not accept in any of our houses and calling extensively to all
in the worship of the Rule Of Ocha/Ifa, the presence of these women that say to
be Iyanifa or Oluwos and even less those Babalawos that have lent themselves for
this farce.

3- That consequently we will publish in our media the names of the people that
participated in this fault.

This document was prepared and carried out in the City of Havana, on the 11 day
of the month of September of 2004 and show faith the signatories.

1- Tomas Rodri guez Contreras ( Ocheleso )
2- Ruben Pineda Mariategui ( Babaegiobe)
3- Jose Manuel Pulido (Ireteunfa )
4- Angel C. Padron Cardenas (Babaegiobe)
5- Jose Cruz Diaz (Osa meji )
6- Norberto Diaz Ugarte ( Babaegiobe )
7- Julian Diaz Ugarte ( Okanarete )
8- Rogelio Diaz Ugarte ( Ojuanishobe )
9- Sergio Clerigo Mederos Soto ( Oturabara )
10-Antonio Sevilla ( Ofun meji )
11-Lucas L. Aberasturir Cabrera ( Obeyono )
12-Ignacio Gabriel Tartabur ( Obetua )
13-Mario Marino Angarica Diaz ( Ochelobe )
14-Lazaro Aldama Alfonso ( Ofunsa )
15-Francisco Escorcia Bringas ( Ogunda Bede )
16- Guido Felipe Cortés Tondique ( Obeidi )


1- Adriano Omar Quevedo Zambrana ( Osaloforbeyo )
2- Carlos M. Gómez Argudà n ( Ocheleso)
3- José Fernando Campos Fernández ( Osaloforbeyo )
4- Luis Céspedes Madrazo ( Okanasa )
5- Nicolás Sánchez Cartaza ( Osaloforbeyo )
6- Aurelio Pablo Chacón ( Ikarete )
7- Raúl Miguel Boffill Quintero (Iretejuany)
8- José Angel Villalonga Vianez ( Osaguory )
9- José Antonio Leal Bernal ( Ofungando)
10- Ricardo Betancourt Ponce ( Iguoryobara)
11- Enrique Malpica Torriente ( Ogbetua)
12- Frank Cabrera ( Obeche )

Los Guerreros

The Warriors / Los Guerreros

The Guerreros (warriors) are a set of orishas that an initiate receives usually after having received their Elekes and it is usually an indication that the person is on their way to Kariocha. The warriors consist of Elegba, Ogún, Ochosi and Osun. The warriors are received in a person’s life in order to protect them, strengthen their spiritual framework, teach them the importance of hard work and to open their spiritual road.

This is strictly a Lukumí initiation in that it evolved out of the environment that the Lukumí people were subjected to when they were brought to the new world as slaves. Originally, in the motherland, these orishas were worshipped and propitiated in communal outdoor shrines that belonged to the entire village or tribe. The exception would have been Elegba, which was received as an Eshu (a stone) by individuals when they were crowned, along with their crowning orisha. Elegba’s shrine was a large stone or collection of stones, Ogún’s shrine contained his iron implements, Ochosi’s included animal horns and the like, and Osun was a special staff that was much taller than today’s version and it was kept outside the home, staked into the ground – yet its function is still preserved in the modern version. All of the modern warriors are usually kept behind the front door, near the front door or facing the front door – indicating their importance in opening a person’s spiritual path, protecting the home from negativity and intruders, and still hinting at their closeness to the outdoors.

The modern Lukumí version evolved because the tribes of Lukumí people were split up and intermixed with other tribes and there was no possible was of having an outdoor public shrine at which offerings could be given without making it known to the slave masters. Thus each individual was to receive their own Elegba – which consisted of an otán (stone) and usually a cement head packed with magically charged substances that is essentially used like Elegba’s tools with which he can affect the physical and spiritual worlds. Here is a typical depiction of an Elegba to the right. But Elegbas vary from road to road, and each is unique and personal to the initiate in its own way. Usually Elegba that is received with the warriors is not a complete Elegba in that he does not have diloggún shells – usually these are added and empowered at the Kariocha. (But I have heard of ilés where they give diloggún with the warriors version of Elegba, but the diloggún are not yet fully empowered to speak.)

Ogún that is received in the warriors set is actually a smaller, less complete version of Ogún. This does not mean that Ogún is less effective, merely that he still has room to grow. He is received in an iron cauldron, with his otán, his tools that quite literally look like the tools that a blacksmith or a warrior would use and other iron implements. He does not usually come with diloggún either – these are usually received either in a separate ceremony, or at the time of Cuchillo. Inside of Ogún’s cauldron living with him, is Ochosi (his best friend or brother depending on which version of the legend you have heard.) Ochosi is also received in a very scaled down form, with the warriors. He is merely a metal crossbow that is empowered and lives within Ogún’s pot. Ochosi is received in complete form, in a separate ceremony. Often when Ogún is made full – by giving him diloggún and feeding him four legs, Ochosi is given full at the same time. Often this occurs at Cuchillo if it has not yet been done for an individual to that point.

Osun is a small staff that is packed with magical substances that acts as a person’s personal guard or watchdog. Many people say that he is your spiritual head, or the foundation for your higher self or Orí. He is lidded and sealed metal cup with a stem and is about 9 inches tall. on top of the lid is a metal rooster – the symbol for Osun. Hanging from the lip of the cup’s lid, are four jingle bells hanging from little chains. Osun is supposed to be placed in a high place in the house – preferably above the initiate’s head with the rooster facing the front door, so that he can watch for danger. He is supposed to remain upright at all times, and if he ever falls over, it is an indication that something very bad has either been thrown at the initiate or is on it’s way to harm the initiate. Osun should be immediately turned upright and the primary godparent should be notified of what happened. This is the scaled down modern version of the original that was found in Africa. There are human-sized Osuns but they are received for different purposes and in a separate initiation.

The warriors, when received into a home for the first time, or when the initiate moves into a new home, have to go through a special ebbó called the ebbó de entrada (the offering of entry.) This involves eyebale to Elegba, Ogún, Ochosi and Osun at the door to the house (Shilelekun.) This not only empowers and strengthens the door to the house for protection, but it also strengthens the presence of the warriors in that home and in effect lets them know that it is their new home and they are bound to protect it from any enemies or negativity. The initiate is then to tend to his new orishas in his home by cleaning them from time to time, coating them lightly with epó (palm oil), and a bit of honey, offering them rum, and occasionally cigar or a candle. Some ilés offer candies to Elegba, or fruits and toys. In my ilé we do not give candy to Elegba until he has completed something for us, as a reward.

Now that the initiate has received Elegba, the orisha can guide them spiritually, open their psychic senses and their doors to evolution and in general assist them through life. Many ilés call the initiate an Aborisha (follower of the Orishas) after having received the warriors.

La Historia De La Letra del Ano

Historia de la Ceremonia de la Letra del Año

La Ceremonia de la Letra del Año es el evento religioso más importante que se lleva a cabo por los Babalawos, tanto en Cuba como en Nigeria, aunque en fechas diferentes, por lo que debe ser del conocimiento de todas las personas que se preocupan por la cultura Yoruba.

No cuestionamos, ni cuestionaremos jamás lo que hacen los hermanos de las diferentes ramas religiosas dentro de su Ilé Osha, tanto en Cuba como en el mundo; pues merecen todo respeto y consideración hacia la identidad y diferenciación que puedan tener según sus códigos culturales.

Cuba es el territorio donde mejor se conservan las tradiciones culturales de esta religión que nos fuera legada por nuestros ancestros esclavos traídos desde África a finales del siglo XVIII. Esto se debe en gran medida a los esclavos pertenecientes a la etnia Yoruba, en específico los de las religiones de los Orishas e Ifá. En nuestro país esta religión es considerada como Religión Cubana de Origen Africano teniendo en cuenta, a través de la historia, los elementos tradicionales rescatados por nuestra población religiosa; elementos que han sido conservados y revitalizados y que por su apego popular han llegado a formar parte de nuestra cultura y de nuestra identidad nacional.

Esta religión, como la vida ha demostrado, se ha trasladado desde Cuba a cualquier región o país del mundo, de una forma natural y espontánea sin perjudicar la religión en general. Por el contrario, ha tenido un intercambio que le da riqueza a la religión y a la cultura, pues exportar una tradición como esta que se caracteriza por no hacer proselitismo "la convertirá en la religión del Siglo XXI", como expresara el Prof. Wande Abimbola (AWISE ABAGE, Inspector general de la religión Yoruba en el mundo), expresión con la que estamos completamente de acuerdo.

Nuestra Institución ha estado luchando desde hace muchos años por la unidad de todos los practicantes de la Regla Osha e Ifá del mundo en los aspectos más importantes y generales donde la Letra del Año tiene un papel fundamental.

En cuanto a este último aspecto hemos tratado de unificar a todos los religiosos sin lograr hasta el presente un resultado final. Esto es debido a que los patrones de cada practicante en ocasiones se vuelven absolutistas y es posible que no se haya pensado en que al rechazar la unificación y no tomar una decisión positiva no se hayan tenido en cuenta las dificultades que ocasionan. Y no sólo atañen a una persona, a un grupo institucional o familiar, sino que se daña una religión que nos fue legada por nuestros antepasados y forma parte del patrimonio que debemos respetar y preservar seriamente.

Se ha tratado de hacer un trabajo de unificación para llegar a un consenso en cuanto a la Letra del Año. Nos referimos a un sistema adivinatorio de probabilidades y es por esta razón que cada ceremonia da por resultado la regencia de distintos Orishas y odun en el año. Las personas, creyentes y no creyentes, se ven confundidas, no saben en quien creer, ni por cual letra regirse. Lo que hace que pierda credibilidad, prestigio y se considere que a nuestra religión le falta seriedad, respeto y la unión por la que luchamos.

Desde sus inicios las investigaciones cuentan que la Letra del Año comenzó a sacarse a finales del siglo XIX, sin poder precisar la fecha exacta. Por datos y documentos se nos revela que Babalawos procedentes de las diferentes ramas religiosas existentes en el país comenzaron a reunirse para efectuar con todo rigor las ceremonias establecidas, que concluían el primero de enero con la apertura del la Letra del Año.

A través del Oráculo de Ifá se daban a conocer las orientaciones y recomendaciones que debían cumplirse durante ese año, con el fin de evitar o vencer los obstáculos y las dificultades. Por esta razón la primera Letra del Año que se realizó en Cuba la efectuó el Babalawo Remigio Herrera, Obara Meyi, Adeshina, de origen africano, apoyado fundamentalmente en cinco de sus ahijados, a saber:

Marcos García Ifalola Baba Ejiogbe
Oluguere   Oyeku meji
Eulogio Rodríguez Tata Gaitán Ogundafun
José Carmen Batista   Obeweñe
Salvador Montalvo   Okaran Meji
Bernardo Rojas   Ireteuntendi

Es bueno señalar que algunos de los ahijados de Adeshina tenían como Oyurbona a Oluguere que era también de origen africano.

En el año 1902, por problemas de salud de Adeshina, Tata Gaitán asume la responsabilidad de la Letra del Año apoyado por los Babalawos antes mencionados y participando además:

SecundinoCrucet Osaloforbeyo
Bernabé Menocal Baba Ejiogbe
Quintín Lecón García Oturaniko
José Asunción Villalonga Ogundamasa

Igualmente contó con la participación de casi todos los Babalawos de esos tiempos. Aunque la ceremonia siempre se realizaba con la mayor discreción posible y en privado; ya que en el gobierno imperante, todo este tipo de prácticas de creencias africanas estaban consideradas como un delito común dentro del código penal. Por esta razón en algún que otro año se trató de disminuir la participación masiva de Babalawos y se invitaban a los jefes de familia con sólo uno de sus ahijados.

El 9 de mayo de 1959 fallece Bernardo Rojas y su sucesor, el Dr. José Herrera, hereda las deidades de Adeshina y la responsabilidad de la Letra del Año. Tomando en consideración que Joaquín Salazar era el Babalawo mayor y Obá de la rama, el Dr. Herrera le cede la dirección de la apertura del año; llevándose a cabo con la misma efectividad y rigor religioso que las anteriores ceremonias correspondientes a la Letra del Año.

Las actividades en estos años fueron realizadas bajo la dirección de Joaquín Salazar y la rama Adeshina, representada por el Dr. José Herrera.

Posteriormente Joaquín Salazar y otros mayores se dieron a la tarea de reorganizar nuevamente las ramas tradicionales existentes. De esta forma se volvió a ampliar la participación en la Letra del Año a todos los Babalawos. Es así como fueron llamadas, entre otras, las ramas que siguen a continuación:

Rama Nombre Signo Representación Signo Ifabi
Francisco Villalonga Ogunda Kete Ángel Villalonga Ogundaleni
Adeshina Remigio Herrera Obara Meji Fernando Molina Baba Eyiogbe
Ño Karlo Adebi Ojuani Boka Ángel Padrón Baba Eyiogbe
Pericón Pérez Ogbe Yono Alejandro Domínguez Osa Guleya

La letra que se interpreta en la ACYC hace ya algunos años, es la realizada por los Babalawos del país con mayor cantidad de años de iniciados y que desde su comienzo lo han hecho de forma ininterrumpida hasta la actualidad.

Las ramas más tradicionales del siglo XIX y del comienzo del XX estuvieron dirigidas por Babalawos africanos que después delegaron esta responsabilidad en sus sucesores cubanos.

No pretendemos centrar ni establecer tradiciones, sino defender la legitimidad de las ya existentes, transmitidas de generación en generación.

Nos satisface sobremanera que la Santería, "Regla Osha e Ifá, fructifiquen en cualquier territorio del mundo, con la misma fuerza que lo han hecho otras Religiones Cubanas de Origen Africano, que son las que hoy constituyen su fortaleza, como son por citar algunas, el vodú y el palo monte, siempre y cuando no exista en su trasfondo una base de proselitismo y el ánimo de lucro y comercialización.

Aprovechamos la oportunidad para dar a conocer nuestra inconformidad con el sacrificio público de animales, que realizan muchas personas en cualquier latitud en distintos festivales, eventos, espectáculos, videos etc., por una razón muy sencilla pero fundamental, no creemos que para llevar a cabo estos menesteres públicos de envergadura sea necesario llegar al sacrificio de animales, máxime cuando nuestra religión cuenta con tantas bellas manifestaciones y expresiones culturales posibles de exhibir..

Somos de la opinión que aquellos que se han prestado para ofrecer este tipo de actividades, no tienen bien definida su religiosidad, pues debemos tener muy presente que no todos los elementos de la cultura y la religión de un pueblo son comercializables, así como que no todos los habitantes del planeta deben tolerar la realización de un tipo de espectáculo de esta envergadura, pues su visión sobre esta cuestión es bien diferente y en ocasiones muchos son afiliados de asociaciones protectoras de animales, lo que conlleva a que su opinión sobre estos actos sea denigratoria, lo que en lugar de enriquecer nuestra cultura la lleva a su detrimento.

La Historia de la humanidad refiere, que todas las religiones en sus inicios sacrificaban seres humanos, pasando posteriormente de acuerdo a su mitología y patrones al sacrificio de animales, los que posteriormente fueron sustituidos por algún elemento que suplantara este sacrificio, no siendo el caso de las religiones de origen africano que hasta nuestros días siguen utilizando en su ceremonial secreto el sacrificio de animales.

Muchas son las personas que equivocadamente o erradas se aprovechan ahora de la popularidad que ha adquirido esta religión en Cuba y nos atrevemos a decir que en el mundo, para utilizarla como medio de lucro y de enriquecimiento, cuando anteriormente estás mismas personas la consideraban como cosas de negros, de personas atrasadas y de oscurantismo.

Sepan que le reservamos gran respeto a todas las religiones con las que cuenta la humanidad, que no nos preocupa que alguien que no se respete, hable mal de otra religión para que la suya prevalezca, al contrario nos da pena de que alguien tenga que utilizar este medio para que su religión florezca pues eso deja mucho que desear y se puede interpretar que su religión no está lo suficientemente fuerte ni tiene principios sólidos que sustentar.

El respeto es la base de la vida y cada persona es libre de escoger su credo y su línea a seguir ya que entre los seres humanos debe primar el respeto y no el intrusismo en la vida de cualquier semejante sea profesional o no, y en mayor medida si se trata de su fe religiosa.

Somos creyentes de una de las religiones más antiguas con las que cuenta la humanidad, ya que hoy en día se conoce que el lugar donde hubo vida humana por primera vez en la existencia de la humanidad fue en el continente africano y precisamente en la ciudad sagrada de los Yoruba (Ilé Ifé), procuraremos que esta no sea manipulada y ni sea objeto de espectáculo sólo porque a algunos les interese hacerlo.


This article is reprinted with the permission of the Cuban Yoruba Cultura Association.
I invite you to visit their website directly at CubaYoruba