First my apologies, I have written this all on my phone. And wordpress doesn’t seem to like that.
The Yoruba people of Nigeria have a very interesting and complex religion. Among the many wonderful cultural gems they have, are the Priesthood of Babalawos (Fathers of the Mysteries). The Babalwos are members of the IFA order. Fa is the Orisha (Deity) of destiny. So IFA is the way that we understand our destinies and our place in the Universe.
IFA specializes in every aspect of destiny. I have seen them help to break generation and karmic curses. I have seen them correct people’s life paths. They have done wonders with their magics. They gain their powers from Orula, the Orisha of Divination and Magic amongst other things.
Every year Cuban Babalwos in Santeria engage in the the Letra del Año or letter of the year. They do special divinatory rites in which certain letters of IFA come out. Each letter has it’s own significance. The letters are tied to ancient stories known as a Pataki, which is our version of Biblical accounts. Our Legends. Our sacred texts.
The Babalawos will then interpret these stories in order to tell us the will of the Gods or sometimes the spirits around us. They do a letter of the year to tell us what we can expect to happen in the New Year. This begins with the name of the Reigning Orishas of the year (sometimes they can reign for two years). The colors of the Orishas put together in a flag. And of course the Ebbo or cleansing of the Year.
This is a cleansing to ensure prosperity and good energy. Or to protect from negative energy and bad influences. Usually I see them in English posted on New Year’s Day. But from what I can see they’re only in Spanish now. So, I’ve taken it upon myself to translate them in English for all of you.
Some words translated aren’t Spanish at all. Because they’re in the language of the Yoruba people.
Here’s a small glossary of terms :
An idol made up of sacred stones in Santeria and in the older Yoruba faith. Essentially the stones are part of the representation of the Orisha being honored. They are ceremonially charged with magico-religious rituals and then become a living embodiment of the Deity. In other words, the Divine Spirit of that Deity dwells in the Otan and lives with the worshipper inside their home by means of the idol. This is not idolatry.
We know very well these are idols. We do not worship them. We venerate or respect them because they carry a spark of the Divine embued by the rituals.
2) Ebbos and Adimmus
A special set of offerings for an Orisha. Usually to achieve specific goals. There is a very good article on what these things are is or at least the various definitions given here:
A ceremonial cleansing either with herbs or by rubbing a living animal like a chicken over your body to remove negative influences.
This is a very complex ritual that can only be done by a Babalawo or high priest of Orula. It’s too complex to start talking about here. But needless to say it is more than just an herbal bath. It is transferring a dark spirit of the dead who causes harm, to an animal. There are other ingredients and things that must be observed.
I don’t think that there are any English sources on this. So I will translate as soon as I have the chance. And the animal, a chicken, has to have it’s face covered because if not, looking into it’s eyes will allow the entity to return to a person to cause harm. Do NOT attempt this on yourself because you need a high priest of Orula. And don’t go to just anyone because you’ll mess yourself up.
5) Palo Rompe Hueso (Bone Breaker Stick)
In Yoruba practice, the use of magic sticks is very common. This stick is called Bone Breaker because it causes Spiritists to enter such a trance, that sometimes in their hysteria they will hit walls or tables so hard that they break their own bones. The scientific name is Casearia sylvestris.
The original in Spanish version of this year’s Letra can be found here:
“The IFA Oracle leaves us the following,
Recommendations and warnings that should be followed throughout this year to manage to protect us from all obstacles. Babalawos of different religious branches of Cuba have returned to meet led by the Yoruba Cultural Society. And the Council of Senior priests of IFA, to make known their predictions for the year beginning this Tuesday January 1: The letter of the year 2019. The ceremony began this last December 31 and has been extended until this January 1. From the IFA Oracle the following recommendations and warnings come out that should be followed throughout this year to manage to save from all the obstacles.
The enlargement of the document will be released on Wednesday 2 January at one o’clock in the headquarters of the Yoruba Cultural Society of Cuba.
Regent Sign: Oche Ogunda 1st.
Witness: Ika Ogunda
Second Witness: Osa Kuleya
Prophetic Prayer: Osorbo Iku intori Ogu.
Orula Onire: An Adimu (offering) of a yam, a coconut split into 2 halves, everything must be muddied or splashed with Coconut oil, his Coconut and his candles.
Otan Onishe Ara:
Sarayeye with a chicken which is then given to Oggun, with the other ingredients and a bath with herbs of Paraldo.
Otan governing Deity: Oshun
Accompanying Deity: Oggun Otan
Flag: Yellow with green edgings
Ebbo: 1 goat (for Elegba) 5 Güiritos, to which they are given indigo, honey, Palm oil butter, Palo Rompe Hueso, and blood of goat and hanged on the door, and the other ingredients. (1)
(Note : Güiro is a type of plant. Güiritos or “little Güiros” are the fruit of the plant which is super hard. Almost like a rock.)
Sayings of the Letter
“The Knife itself does not achieve,”
(Sort of a rough translation)
“One does not receive the arrow without first going to the Battleground,”
“What is left behind is not picked up again,”
Diseases that shall increase this year:
* Stomach and Intestine Diseases
* An increase in STD’s
* Men becoming impotent early in life due to Prostate Issues
* Malignant conditions of the colon and rectum
Events of social interest:
* Continued problems in agricultural production due to issues with the fertilization of the soil. This will of course effect production and sales in these areas.
* The Sea will enter the land which will lead to flooding and collapse of buildings or infustrature.
* Rise in the conflict over immigration
* The dangers of natural catastrophes in all it’s forms will continue.
Recommendations (as well as warnings):
* Be aware of the dangers of wasting money or resources. Needless wasting in other words.
* Avoid of the ill uses of chemical products in agricultural production.
* Be careful of epidemics and disease
* Beware of confrontations and brawls
* Maintain an appropriate religious ethic
* We must find resources and help between all of us to achieve a common goal.
* Respect the Elders and find a religious orientation.
* Avoid troubles with the law
* Venereal diseases due to sexual debauchery
* Better use the Agricultural resources we have
* Equality in all orders
* It is recommended to reinforce your Oggun (go to your Godfathers for this)
(Note: Oggun is a Warrior Orisha who is also a master of magic and protector of nature. This means any idol of Oggun would need a reinforcement ritual done by a Santero’s Godfather for extra protection. If you follow another tradition and you have any protective idols or charms, going to your own religious authority for a reinforcement of protection would be a good idea for this year.)
* Parents must beware of spoiling their children or giving them too much
* Parents must give careful attention to the care of their children’s education
* It is prohibited to self medicate oneself.
We thank these outlets of mass communication which make it possible for these predictions to reach all the corners of the world and wish everyone a Happy and Prosperous 2019!”
When I have time, I’m doing to do some serious reflections on this Letra. And I will point out the common patterns as well as things that seem to align. Although if we’re going to be honest, this has been the most straight forward and simple divination in a while. The common themes seem to be with balance and curtailing our more destructive qualities which seem to be coming out in mass this year. It seems the darker side of our natures is going to be coming out this year.
This makes sense since Oggun is one of the reigning Deities. However, Oshun is the main Deity and she helps to bring balance to his warlike energies. Oshun is the Goddess of Love, Nature, Witchcraft, Prosperity, and many other things. So it goes down to how we react to adversity this year. Yin and Yang can fight each other, or one can learn to work with both.
You can read similar things in the Umbanda religion from Brazil. Ogum (Ogun) rules this year in their faith. Here is the report on that
It’s up to us. Until next time,
(1) Now, No I do not engage in Ceremonial sacrifices. I try to get creative with my offerings to the Gods. They know I love animals very much. So they normally allow me to use replacement offerings instead. I check with my Godparents in Santeria for this.
There are times when my Godparents insist due to tradition. They however do it for me. I have the Eleke of Inle, the Orisha of Medicine. Because both Inle and my guides prevent me from the use of blood shed. It’s hypocritical to love animals and yet have sacrfices done.
My sacrifice is only for my Elegua and my Godfather will cook the poor Chicken to at least be dinner instead of just killed. I also intend to bury the bones in order to honor his spirit. But after that I don’t intend to do such things again. I’m going to ask my Godparents what offerings I am to give in replacement of some of these.