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Taking Care Of Your Ilekes (Necklaces)

In most cases receiving ones ilekes (Collares in Spanish) is the first pass into the religion. It is a complex initiation tearing you away from your old life and setting your feet onto the path of your new life, your life in the Way of the Orishas (La Regla Ocha). From that moment on you will be under the care, protection and blessings of your godmother's or godfather's orishas. You that have experienced this initiation don't need to be told all this. The rites that you went through explain this breaking away from your old life, your dependency on your godparents and their orishas, and the care and respect that is so much of this religion.

Your ilekes are the banners of the orishas themselves and must be treated with respect. They should never be worn when you are having your period or while you are having sex (you should take a bath or shower before putting your necklaces on again). And you should not wear them to bed unless you are very ill and under the direction of your godmother or godfather. You also should not wear them when you go out "partying". This is not to say these things are necessarily bad, it is merely that they must remain separate from them and their banners. Actually, the reason that a woman should not wear their ilekes when they are having their period is the same reason the matancero removes his ilekes during a sacrifice. Blood is hot and only cool things should be near the orishas except under specific conditions. Also, you should not let other people touch your necklaces.

You should put your necklaces on or remove them one at a time. This should be in the same order that you received them. This order is usually: Elegba, Oshún, Yemayá, Shangó, Obatalá (if you received your ilekes to Obatalá). If it has been determined which orisha rules your head then that orisha's ileke goes on last and Obatala's goes on second. For example if it has been determined that Oshún is your orisha then you would put your necklaces on and remove them in this order: Elegba, Obatalá, Yemayá, Shangó and Oshún. You should kiss the necklaces as you put them on or remove them. They should be placed on a white cloth or on your altar to the orishas, not thrown in a jumble in a pocket or in your purse. You must respect your ilekes as you would the orishas themselves.

If one of them breaks, don't panic. It means that orisha has just saved you from some sort of misfortune and if you look closely you will know what this was. As I mentioned before the ilekes are banners and amulets of the orishas.Just pick up as many of the beads as possible and should contact your godmother or godfather immediately so that they can ascertain if any other action needs to be taken (usually not), and so that they can remake your necklace.