Making Ocha and the Initiation Procedure.

This little blog is directed to anyone who is thinking of taking the step to make Ocha. In particular I will emphasis the year of initiation, the Iyawo year, the so called year in white,

What does it mean to make Ocha?

Making Ocha refers to the ceremony of Kariocha where the tutelary Orisha of the person is seated in the person’s crown.  The Orisha is aligned with the person’s inner head. The person also receives various Orisha that are born during the ceremony that will have to be looked after and cared for. This is a life long process.  The ceremonies take place across the period of a week, however the whole process takes a year and seven days before someone becomes a Santero/Santera and it should be explained to each and every person making Ocha that the ceremony and process takes a year and seven days since unfortunately many come away after seven days and carry on as per usual seemingly forgetting that they have undergone a serious process. The person who has made Ocha is reborn. They must make a break with what has gone before. Their life is a new one since it has been realigned with Orisha.  One is entering a priesthood therefore it is important to give time to this process.

Who HAS to make Ocha and why ?

In all fairness, according to divination not many people have to make Ocha.  There are only certain signs which marks a person for Ocha. But it has become a fad or a fashion to automatically pass through each stage of initiation culminating in making Ocha without it really being necessary. Making Ocha is a serious realignment. I have to make the analogy of making Ocha with surgery on the brain to bring to life the importance and seriousness of going through this initiation. Some people will have to make Ocha to help themselves and to bring them health and when everything else has failed. Other people are destined for Ocha because they are here to represent Orisha and help others fulfill their destiny. They are the true priests and priestess of the religion working to help those in the community.  It seems to be the case now that so many people are making Ocha and by doing so they are neither helping themselves or helping others and this has to be put down to the fact that the religion has become a business for some rather than a spiritual path which involves personal development and evolution.  It also seems to be the case that there is a certain prestige amongst some communities to have the title  “ Santero” and ego may get in the way of what is truly necessary for a person’s evolution.

But it all starts with the Iyawo year.

The Year of the Iyawo.

My pet hate has to be the badly behaved Iyawo. The Iyawo that is out and about drinking, dancing , partying, arguing in public, out after 6pm, make up, beer in hand,  and so on and so forth. The only thing they seem to do is to wear white….. most of the time.  But it is not all about wearing white. The Iyawo year is about attitude, about how you behave during that year, about sacrificing your old ways, it is about ritual, it is about keeping quiet and silent and meditating on your new path. You require peace and quiet and a stress free time to allow the Orisha to settle in your head.  For those of you who do not know or understand the history of this religion, you need to take into consideration the fact that this religion and path was scorned upon before the revolution in Cuba and afterwards it was prohibited. Only recently after the Pope’s first visit to Cuba in the 1990’s was worship of the religion legalized. Those that made Ocha pre those times could not dress publicly in white. They had to hide away their beads of initation and they had to dress in normal clothes attending work or school and change as soon as they got home. In those days it was truly about sacrifice and about inner spirituality as opposed to an outer show of what they had been through. I am not saying that the wearing of white is not important. The wearing of white,  Obatala’s cloth, on a continuous basis is a really powerful Ebo which is purifying and protective. However what is the point in wearing white, if you are going out to party after 6.00pm; if you are in constant contact with the uninitiated, if you are drinking alcohol, if you are not protecting yourself?  I could carry on! I find it continuously shocking that anyone would spend the large derecho needed for the ceremony of Kariocha only to spend the whole year completely disobeying the rules.  I have heard several excuses for this type of behaviour. One of the most common is, “ My godmother lets me”, My one and only comment in response to this old chestnut is.  “If your godmother lets you, then she really does not care for your spiritual development”.   The UK experience must be similar to most places where there is not a fully fledged community. Here in London, it is a difficult scenario. As far as I know no one has been initiated here. Regarding the Lucumi branch of the religion most people here have been initiated in Cuba or the US. They are far away from their Iles and don’t seem to be have a lot of guidance regarding rules, ritual and general care. Sometimes I wonder whether this is convenient for some individuals. The idea that no one is watching over them seems to be attractive to some, and they forget that the rules have been put in place to protect them.

I cannot believe that people who are on this path are not aware of the rules that govern the Iyawo year. We don’t live in a bubble.  Do people truly believe they are a special case? Do they believe that the rules apply to everyone except themselves. Come on guys, it is ONE year only. If you cannot sacrifice your normal routine, how are you going to keep to your Ita (personal guidelines from Orisha given when you get initiated) and follow your taboos. It’s one year and it will never ever happen again.

This religion is not for everyone, this path is a difficult one. The more Orisha you receive the more advice you have to follow.  Every step you take may require more sacrifice; more inward looking, more challenges, are you ready? Making Ocha is not a miracle cure. No one makes anyone go through it and following advise and sticking to taboos is between you and the Orisha. But think very carefully before you take this step.

The Worship of ancestors, of God and of Orisha is for everyone, but following the path and becoming a priest, and for some, serving the community is another. It is truly for selected heads.

There are many sources of information explaining what is required during the Iyawo Year. So I have not gone into detail, but if you are interested, here are some links:

http://www.orishanet.org/iyawo.html  A little introduction explaining the importance of breaking the old ways and embracing the new.

Some of the rules set out in this Blog:

A very well written blog.

http://www.aboutsanteria.com/iyaboacute.html

More information about basic rules

http://blog.themysticcup.com/santeria/iyawo-basic-rules

and some more interesting comments regarding the Godparent and Godchild relationship:

http://blog.themysticcup.com/santeria/year-white-survival-guide-iyawos

More ideas of the rules:

http://www.reglasparasanteros.com/eng/oshumeta2.html

What every Ile you belong to, you can be assured that the basic rules are the same. There are fundamental rules that cross all family lines although there may be small minor differences.

Reflections and Diaries of the Iyawo Year:

Here is my reflection of my Iyawo year that wrote in Feb 2007

As I come to the end of my year…………………………….

These are some reflections of the past year as an Iyawo. I am about to complete my year on 9 February 2007, where I will spend it in Cuba. For those who read this who doesn’t know what is an Iyawo, here is a brief explanation. In Yoruba, Iyawo means Bride. In the Lucumi religion (also known as Santeria or Regla de Ocha) an Iyawo is a Bride of the Orisha. One becomes an Iyawo after having becoming initated as a priest/ess of the religion. It is after you are ” crowned” with the Orisha that rules your head. During the following year, the Iyawo is a baby just reborn and is vulnerable. During the year the Iyawo has to wear white. White is a healing colour and it repels negative energy. It is the year to reflect, to nurture and to sacrifice one’s daily routine. It is also the year to get to know one’s self and one’s Orisha. Therefore, there is no going out, partying, drinking etc. The Iyawo has a strict code of conduct in order to protect himself/ herself and her head. In addition to wearing white s/he has to drink out of a special cup and eats with a special spoon. The Elekes and Ide(sacred necklaces and Bracelet) are worn throughout the Year. Makeup and Perfume are taboo as is using any chemical produce, and contact with the uninitiated is prohibited.

So how did I get on throughout my year as an Iyawo. It is not an easy year. For those who knew me, it was probably quite a big shock, being the ultimate party girl. However, partying was not a thing I missed at all. The first three months, I was on such a spiritual high that I enjoyed the peace and quite that had been bestowed on me. I read a lot, began to make stuff (fans and elekes) and after my third month I moved house and so settling in took a lot of my time. I also began to learn Yoruba, and so was never at a loss for things to do. Also keeping my whites clean took time and dedication! And I have to say I am apprehensive but excited about wearing colours again!

 I learned a lot during this year. I learned about my strengths and weaknesses. Learned that I have patience but that I cannot stand injustice and find it difficult to keep my mouth shut when I see something unjust. I learned to accept and love myself and found it easier than I thought to ditch the make up! I learned to appreciate what I have in terms of family and learned to be calm in most circumstances. I also learned what Ochun wants for me and what she doesn´t. But things were not all roses. It was hard for me to be alone. I found that I felt quite disconnected at times. Many friends I thought I had were good time friends and since there was no more partying I didn’t see these “friends” for dust. It was hard to walk the streets in London dressed all in white. I had some wonderful comments on how beautiful I looked, but I also received my fare share of abuse, and strange happenings. I even got spat at once. Emotionally it was not easy and it was hard to be a single mum and yet feel as vulnerable as a child at the same time. It was also hard with my work as a musician and co-ordinating workshops on Afro-Cuban song and dance. I was unable to participate in the workshops in the first three months before I was presented to the drum. (Part of the initiation of a santero), and even afterwards, I would get the odd shaky moment. My highlights had to be my trips to Cuba: I went back to do my presentation to Aña, and my three month ebbo, another important ceremony. I then went at New Year with a group and spend two days in Matanzas which for me was very special as an Iyawo. I am looking forward to coming to the end of this special time but I will miss being an Iyawo and will look back on this year with a lot of love. I am looking mostly forward to going to see live music and taking part in “normal” life but I am also looking forward to a new life as a Santera, I am ready to learn and participate.

Feb 2007

Here are two more different experiences from two different Blogs:

http://riverofhoney.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/reflections-on-the-iyawo-year/

 

and Mr Oshun’s excellent Diary which kept me sane during my Iyawo year.

The Iyawo Experience

http://www.angelfire.com/my/IyawoExperience/

 

The same day that I wrote this blog, I received some very sad news regarding something that had happened to someone I know. I have seen many things that are quite extreme happen to people that have made Ocha and passed to Ifa also. The news that I received today reminded me to say that making Ocha is no miracle cure. As priests we are not immune from challenges and lessons that other people may face; far from it. If a person makes Ocha and takes a dark path, which may include the carrying of arms as a civilian, the dealing of drugs, the harming of other indviduals, a life of crime and so on, using their power as priests to abuse other human beings they can expect to be punished like any other. I say this without instilling fear. This is just common sense. Those that have made Ocha are lucky in that our personal Itas will warn us to be wary of certain situations and constant checking in with Ifa or Elegua will ensure that we are aware of anything in our behavior or circumstances which will cause us misfortune ( Osorgbo) . It is important that we all take responsibility for our paths and don’t blame anyone or anything else for misfortunes.

 As priests and as parents we sometimes make a lot of sacrifices to make Ocha to our children. We do this in the knowledge that they may have difficult paths and need that extra guidance from Orisha. But we can only go so far. At the end we have to let go and let our children listen to their Orisha, their Ita, and their own Ori and hope that they will do the right thing.

I hope this information will be of use to anyone thinking of making Ocha, anyone in their Iyawo year who may have found the year extremely difficult, parents that are thinking about initiating their children and to those who are just generally interested in the Lucumi path.

 

 

 

25 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for referencing my blog. I just re-read that entry and I realize how much I have grown, yet have remained the same. I look forward to visiting your blog often.

    1. Thankyou for taking the time to comment! Keep in touch!

  2. Bendecion,

    Thanking you so much for the informative informaon. As someone who by t of the honoring my Orisha because of specific mandate need. Not ego or to join the joneses.

    Ase o

  3. Bendicion, Thank you so much for your information . 🙂 ❤

  4. Aw this is so lovely xx Cordelia

    1. Thanks for Reading Cordelia!!

  5. thank you…so sick of peoples judgement

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  6. I enjoyed reading your comments and think they are right on target. I will recommend this to anyone who asks me the question, and I’ll also cross reference your blog on mine, http://www.aboutsanteria.com. Blessings to you.

    1. And to you too!! I also refer people to your Blog. We are on the same page I feel! Maferefun Our Mother Oshun!

  7. Hi, lovely blog! Were you presented to the batá drums? What does it mean when you lay down in front of them?
    I’m just interested 🙂

    1. All Olorishas are presented to Anya as part of the initiation process. “Laying down” is part of the salutation and respect to Anya the Orisha that lives in the drum

  8. How do you become a member

    1. You don’t really become a member, it is a life style choice, but I will post a Blog soon on steps you can take if you are interested in following this path.

    2. Have read here Olahttp://oshun-ibu-anya.com/2016/01/27/i-am-interested-in-following-the-path-of-orisha-what-do-i-do-about-it/

  9. Greetings,

    I absolutely loved your blog in regards to initiating into this faith. I’m at a point where I am extremely interested with the religion but have not known about it until 2008. I’m not Latino or have African roots. I’m a pure white boy raised Catholic. So reading and learning about La Regla de Ocha was at first hard but now I’m understanding it more. However, I’m concerned that maybe it’s not going to be in my path. I haven’t consulted with a babalawo or oriate yet. Can I go have a consultation to simply ask if I can take this path or if it’s meant for me?

    1. Thankyou for writing and sorry for the delay in responding. I truly believe that this path is a way of life and it is a way of life that anyone can follow. It does require a shift in mindset. It requires a connection to Ancestor and to nature and to yourself. The first two are connections that you can build yourself, but the last, can be helped by divination, whether Ifa or Dilogun. Following this, you then would require elders to teach and guide you. I believe that this is not a club that you join but that you need to get into the habit of walking the walk with regular consultations and advise from the Orisha/Ifa. I believe that there has been far too much emphasis on initiation of recent years. One can come and have a divination without being committed immediately. However it is important that you find someone reputable and take time doing a bit of research before hand before you go for divination. The hardest thing to do post having divination is the behavioural modification and truly looking at yourself and where you are going. I do believe that a consultation is a good start. It will orientate you. The first part of any divination will be invocations and prayers. During this time, you could meditate upon the questions that you have asked above, you will find that the answers will lie in the diviner speaking to you without having to simply ask out right the questions you have posed. After any divination there are time for questions, however with a good diviner, it is often not necessary to ask. The answers will be in the Odun and orientation that falls on the mat. This is a communal religion however, and eventually there may be a need to find a home ( Ile) where you feel you belong. All of this takes time, so I don’t recommend jumping into anything, nor dismissing it either. It is path that you walk and you have to be prepared to take your time and do the ground work before making commitments to Orisha and to any Ile or community. IF you have any more questions or need extra orientation please get in contact. Depending on where you are, also I can refer you to good Diviners if needs be.

  10. Bendicion Iya. Thank you so much for this blog post. Even though it was written years ago it is so timely for me today as I face the mixed emotions with my impending ocha. I loved hearing how you enjoyed your iyawo year and although ready for the “normal” life there are things you will miss. I pray that my experience is similar.

    1. Santo! I wish you all the best in your upcoming Kariocha ceremony. The build up, which I didn’t write very much about is extraordinary. I won’t forget all the mixed emotions, the excitement, the fear and saying goodbye to the old me. My head was literally all over the place and I had some extraordinary dreams that I have never forgotten just prior to the ceremony. This is a time to think about your life, your past, your present and what is to be after Ocha, when you are no longer alone but you open yourself to join with Orisha. Enjoy your Ocha year. It is truly a year that will be like no other! I am sure if you embrace it in this way, you will experience what I experienced! Thank you for writing, keep me posted!!!

      1. Bendicion Iya. Thank you so much for your words. As I am prepping and feel so overwhelmed, you have given me even more things to consider. I did not think of no longer being alone and that is a big thing in a physical, emotional, spiritual and metaphysical sense to me and very complicated on many different levels. I am not quite close enough to know how I will feel when it is time to say good bye to the old me yet. I kind of feel like I’m just treading water right now (and near drowning).

        My head is all over the place for sure and the strange dreams started for me when I finally made concrete plans to make Ocha and let my Madrina know. So the roller coaster of emotions has hit me in the dream world as well and there are many kinds of dreams I have never had before in my life. There are days at a time that although I have slept, I have not.

        It is a lot to cope with, but has gone a bit better since I have reached out for help from one of my elders. She is restoring some firm ground under my feet although she warned me that can give way at any moment, lol.

      2. It is a very strange time and it can be quite overwhelming. I wish you all the best with your up and coming Kariocha. I will be reading your Blog for sure!

  11. Dan Chapman

    Hi oshunschild, hope you are well. Im a practicing spiritist who has attended fets in 21 Divisions and Vodou with the gade nou leve society. As a spiritist who is interested in Afro Caribbean spirituality I have a keen interest in Santerismo and espiritismo. I recently got back from Cuba and had some interesting chats with various espiritistas and Santero’s. Im looking to make some contacts here in the UK along the lines of Santeria, Santerismo or Espiritismo. So far my contacts here have only found one gentleman in the Netherlands who holds misas or spiritual consultations. If I can im looking to speak with some people in the UK communities to further my development and study. Do you think you could offer any advice? Or sign posting. Thanks you for your time. Great blog by the way!

    1. Thanks Dan, I will email you. Although I have to say I am not sure what you mean by Santerismo as opposed to Santeria. Also just to emphasise that Espiritismo is a path that is separate from the Lukumi path although many practise both simultaneously. I am happy to inbox you and chat though. Thanks for the feedback regarding the Blog!

  12. I am on my final stages of my year. I have struggled not being told much other than most drinking , party, bars etc. My sons father and I had a big fight at the help of the his family doing witchcraft . That which i had dreamt on a few occasions . I struggle with the old me cussing and fussing and the thing s that are happening to me. I have been advised not to work with my orishas while on white don’t understand confused?????

    1. Santo Iyawo, I think you are going to have to trust your godparents on this one. The Iyawo year can be challenging. Things can come out which have been previously hidden. Some Iyawos really have challenging years. It’s part of the process. It is not for you to work your Orisha right now. It is for you to keep a cool head and try and process everything that is happening. Try and not get involved in any fights. You cannot control what other people do but you can control how you behave. You are also going to be extra sensitive. Believe me when I tell you that you are protected by the Orisha, no matter how hard things may be this year. Trust in your godparents. I wish you luck with the rest of your year. The Iyawo year only happens once. Try and honour it as best you can.

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