While the power of the Orishas is legendary, one doesn’t become initiated for power or for money. Instead initiations in Santeria help the person to move forward in their lives, often in specific ways and impart the aché or spiritual power of the Orishas into your life. There are a number of levels of initiation, and the knowledge you gain deepens as well as the commitment expected of you by the Orishas and your Godparents. First a person will generally receive their Guerreros or warriors and/or their ilekes or their Necklaces. Later, they may receive La Mano de Orula or Hand of Orula. When the person is ready, they may be go through the kariocha or Full Initiation as a Santera or Santero if that is their path in life. Finally, if the person’s sign in their Mano de Orula calls for it they may be fully initiated as a Babalawo (Father of the Secrets) and serve as a High Priest in the religion. Initiations are recommended according to the needs of the person as determined by the Orishas themselves through divination.
When you go through any of the initiations they become a member of our Ilé or House Temple, Ilé Obatalá ‘Alabalaché. Once initiated you become part of our extended godfamily, with godparents, godchildren, godsisters and brothers, etc. It is the responsibility of the ‘godparents’ to teach their godchildren and to guide their spiritual development. and we take that responsibility to heart.
In the initiation of the Guerreros or Warriors, you actually receive several Orishas: Echu Elegguá, Ogún, Ochossi and Osun.They live by your front door and will need to be taken care of every Monday as well as whenever they ask for something via divination. As your knowledge deepens in the religion, the more you will be able to work with these Orishas. Over time, you will be taught how to give obí or coconut to your Guerreros to ask them simple yes or no questions.Echu Elegguá who is the Messenger of all the Orishas and is the Owner of all the doors and roads. Eshu Elegguá has literally over a hundred paths with different ‘specialties’ for each path. He is received so that he can open your roads in life and close the doors to all the forces that might harm you. Elegguá can be received from Santeros or Babalawos. When you receive Echu from a Babalawo, divination is done to determine which of all these paths of Echu accompanies you, and the secrets with which he is prepared differs for each path. When you receive your Guerreros from a Santero, the path is not determined until you are initiated as a Santera or Santero if that is your path in life.
Ogún is the Orisha of War and is the blacksmith of the Orishas. As Elegguá opens your path, Ogún clears your way of obstructions and gives you the tools with each to build a better life. He is also a might defender ready and willing to take on all comers.
Ochossi is the Hunter of the Orishas and represents the Enforcement of Justice in this world. He helps you to hunt for the good things in life. He helps you to avoid falling into traps and to ensure you are never lost in the wilderness of life. He also comes to your aid and ensures Justice is served when you are wronged or to defend you when falsely accused.
Osun represents your head and your well being, warning you if you are in danger by falling over. Only the Babalawos know the secrets of how to prepare Osun properly.
The Elekes or Necklaces (Collares in Spanish)
Receiving your Elekes or Necklaces puts you under the protection and blessings of your Godparents’ Orishas and makes you a part of their Ilé or Orisha House. This initiation was originally created when a person needed to be initiated as a santera/o and didn’t have the means to have the initiation performed. The elekes were a smaller initiation designed to appease the Orichas and to put the person under their care and protection until they could be initiated. The Ilekes are sacred and are the banners of the Orishas and act as a sign of the Orishas presence and protection. The preparations usually take several days to a week as several complex ceremonies are involved. The ceremony of receiving your ilekes itself takes several hours as it is made up of several rites, and the new initiate should be prepared to ‘make a day of it’ as they will be expected to go home and rest for the remainder of the evening. In many ways this ceremony is an equivalent to the ceremony of Baptism practiced by some religions. It is the ceremonial entrance into our religion and into a new life as a follower of the Orishas. Only Santeras and Santeros can perform this ceremony and this ceremony cannot be performed by Babalawos.
Mano de Orula (Hand of Orula)
Properly called Ikofá (for women) or Awofakan (for males) the Mano de Orula is an initiation into the world of Ifá. This initiation puts the person under the protection and care of Orula (Orunmila) and is a very serious ceremony that lasts three days. Women who have received Ikofá are considered Apetebís or Wives of Orula and are regarded as the elders of those men who have Awofakan since they have gone through more ceremonies and are more fully initiated than the men. The reason for this is that some men may later go on to be fully initiated as babalawos. During this ceremony, the deepest form of divination is performed using the Table of Ifá and the Odu or Sign that comes up will accompanies that person for their entire lifetime. This Odu, one of a possible 256, reveals the initiates path in life and gives advice by which they can fulfill themselves and prevent hardship. You might say it is a kind of Individual Users Manual for your Life and points out patterns and events which will surely play themselves out during your existence here on earth.
Kariocha (Making Ocha)
This is the initiation as a full-fledged Santera or Santero (Priest) in the religion. During the ceremony their Orishas are given birth to and their tutelary Orisha is ‘crowned’ on their heads, a term describing the ritual wherein the Orisha is actually ceremonially fused with the initiates inner head. They can consult for clients, perform cleansings and other remedies, as well as perform initiations. They are also regarded as royalty in the religion, as they are considered representatives of the Orishas and are vested with the power to work with the forces of those Orishas in full. This initiation also requires a great lifelong commitment on the part of the initiate. For instance, the newly initiated Santera or Santero must pass through a year long Iyaworaje or apprenticeship,where the Iyawó or Bride of the Orisha and must follow a strict regimen of wearing all white, avoiding the touch of non-initiates and following a host of other rules during that time. The ceremonies are extremely involved, requiring a large number of Priests.
This is the initiation ceremony wherein a person is fully initiated as a Babalawo or Father of the Secrets who specialize in the deepest forms of divination and the remedies that accompany them. It is extremely restrictive and involves a huge commitment in time, learning and responsibility. The Babalawos are considered the highest form of Priesthood in our religion.
How Do I Get Initiated?
In La Regla Ocha, when your are initiated you become a member of your Godparents’ Ilé or Orisha House. This makes you a member of an extended family known as your Godfamily. This includes Godparents, Grand Godparents, sisters and brothers and so on. As part of the Godfamily it places both the Godparents and the Godchildren in a position of mutual responsibility. The Godparents are responsible for the spiritual well-being, growth and teaching of the Godchild.The Godchildren are expected to respect their Godparents and as their elders in the religion and as your Godparents. Certain ritual observances are also included, depending on the initiation. And before any initiation we must get the approval of the Orishas through divination. This exclusivity is not based on an attitude of superiority, but is instead based on the individual’s level of development, the wishes of the Orishas and the continuity of the tradition as it has been practiced for ages. This is how we were taught by our Godparents and their Godparents before them.
Initiations by Mailorder and Internet
It is impossible to properly initiate a person at any level in Santeria via mail or the Internet. All the ceremonies involved in these initiations require the initiate to be physically present and without these ceremonies being done, the so-called ‘initiation’ is invalid and worthless. No serious practitioner of the religion will recognize them and they are considered unethical in the extreme. If you come upon anyone offering such ‘initiations’ run, don’t walk away from them. These initiations would harm you if they actually had any power in the first place.
OK, I understand. Now How Do I Get Initiated?
Well, first you will need to be seen with Ifá or with caracoles to see what the Orishas have to say regarding becoming initiated. You will find that there is little that we do in this religion without the permission and approval of the Orishas. As priestesses and Priests we are servants of the Orishas and it is the Orishas who call the shots. And the Babalawo, Santera or Santero must have the Orishas permission to perform any major ceremony. It’s always up to the Orishas.
Everything starts with consulting Ifá and the Orichas.
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