Since writing about Otura Niko, I got curious and wanted to know more about it. I had never heard of this sign before. And I wanted to trace its origin. I think I found the possible origin. Translated from the original Spanish article here.
In the land of Yewe Inle, there was a time when there was a terrible drought. Everything was a great disaster. It was then when the main kings met with the Obá Ikú (king death), Elegua, and Iroko to deliberate in an assembly. The result of that assembly was that everyone should do Ebó. The last three, as they had no money for the Ebó, decided to ask Oba Ikú for twenty-four coins, he accepted.
But with the condition that they pay him back within three days. They formally promised to do so. When the three days passed. Obá Ikú went to Elegba’s house to collect. He found him sitting in the doorway of the house, he refused to pay.
Obá Ikú bashed him with his cane and killed him. And made a hill of crab land (Ilekan) and buried him there. Together with his hand of Ifá, he sacrificed a rooster for him, and said:
“From today onward, you will be the Orisha (God) Elegua,”
Obá Ikú continued to the house of Iroko. And found him in the heart of the mountain. He asked for his money back. But he refused. And so Obá Ikú took his cane and killed him.
Throwing two majá that Iroko had in his room, two white jars, and killing a white chicken, he sang to him:
“IROKO DILOYU, IROKO DILOYU, BABA IKU EGUN LAYE, IROKO DILOYU,”
(ROCO DILOYU, IROCO DILOYU, FATHER OF DEATH CURSED IN LIFE, IROCO DILOYU)
And he said to Iroko,
“You will become an Orisha, everyone will worship you,”
And at that moment a sacred tree rose, which is the Iroko. Obá Ikú sent an envoy to Orunmila. Who by now had made his daily divination and saw the Odu (text) Otura Niko. So he performed an Ebó, feeding his ancestors along with the land and his Ifá, and he prepared a large casserole of ajiaco.
Otura Niko becomes a child when Obá Ikú arrived
Orunmila invited him to lunch, when they finished Obá Ikú thought:
“I killed Elegba and Iroko, I must now finish with Orunmila as well,”
Obá Ikú raised his scythe to land a blow to Orunmila. But he dodged the blow of Obá Ikú. Who then pursued him tenaciously. And while he was escaping, Orunmila performed sarayeye (cleansing by rubbing a sacred object on the body) using the stick known as Espanta Muerto (frighten the dead). A cleansing to keep him safe from death.
And he arrived at the river. Out of fear, Orunmila leaped into the River. But Obá Ikú absorbed the river to catch him. But Orunmila still escaped. Then Obá Iku, disheartened, walked away.
Leaving Orunmila the victor. The river continued its normal course. And Orunmila came out of the water singing:
“IRE IRE WANWAN LELE ASHE IFA”
(GOOD LUCK WANWAN LELE DIVINE GRACE OF IFA)
Then Orula transforms into a child, to avoid being recognized and starts crying. He stands at the foot of a laurel bush, which had a lot of curujey (West Indian tufted airplant) on top and continued to cry. At that moment he meets two women who were passing through. They prepared a jar and opened one of the jugs. And filled it and leaves, some plants and placed the child (Orunmila) inside and took him to the house of Olodumare. One of them suckled him from her breast.
She was called Aiyé (life).
When they arrived at Olofin’s (GOD’s) house, the child surprises everyone by speaking to Olofin and tells him that he wants Aiyé to take him home. She rejects this, but because it was a direct order from Olodumare, Aiyé accepted and took him. She prepared a mat next to hers. When night came Orunmila returns to her in his normal adult state and says:
“I am Otura Niko and now I am your husband. With these transformations I defeated Obá Ikú. Because I am the foreman of the Egun (dead). But never reveal this secret to anyone,”
The woman was engaged and they lived happily. Where the fame of Otura Niko began to spread throughout that land.
After some time,
Shango, Egun, and Oshumare come to visit Otura Niko. To receive them all worthily, he tells his wife, Aiyé, to cook great delicacies. She replies in front of Shango:
“I have no time,”
Then Otura Niko threatens her. And she mocks and insults him, saying:
“You are only great because you are the foreman of the Egun (dead) and capable of shape shifting,”
At the moment, Otura Niko took his Irofá and ran after her. She was on her way to Olofin. But before arriving, Otura Niko caught up with her and gave her a blow from his Irofá and killed her. Then he said,
“I killed you for violating your oath,”
(You see, his power was in that he had become the foreman of the dead. And apparently, no one knew that. Nor that he was such a mighty shape shifter. To know the secret was to share in the power. And I suspect that Orunmila also didn’t want Iku, the Orisha of death, to know the secret of his survival).
Immediately, he made a pact with Shango. Also giving him the secret and the ashé (power) of Otura Niko. He took Aiyé and buried her. Then he put his Ifá next to her tomb and gave 2 black chickens to the spirit of Aiyé. Along with his Ifá.
And put the chickens with Ekó to Egun. They lowered the vultures and ate them. Letting him know the power of Egun that he had.
Prayer of Otura Niko, Otura Ogbe
“Otura Niko adifafun iku alashona oumbo wa ni eshu ishonshon oba lele iroko oba lele orunmila ore lawa oba iku yen ore amaiyekun belele iya lele lokua ariku omi orunmila oun sede otura niko umbo atefa ni egun agboran iku agboran olofin yewe inle oba iku onika ododo sekun iroko segun gbogbo iya kalalu elebo owunko elebo moyeni iku orunmila akue ye akualosiña iya laye oba iku,”
(Otura Niko, the death of our child’s mother, is the God’s faith, the king, the king, the king, the king of death, the king of death, the eternal friend of the mother, the king of heaven, he is the king of heaven).
It’s unknown if Otura Niko was named after him. Since he ritually becomes the “foreman of the dead” after this. Or if the Odu (text) already existed prior to him taking on this title. But that doesn’t really matter at this point. As the Foreman of the dead, Orula is immune to death.
He’s also shown to be a masterful shapeshifter. So he could take on any variety of forms and escape Iku. And foreman is another term for supervisor. Perhaps it even means he could command the dead in this form. Or command Iku to leave him be.
I’m not sure yet. I have to ask my Babalawo about his knowledge concerning the text. And see from there what happens. Take care of everyone. And as usual, be safe.