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Iyawó: Bride of the Orisha - The New Initiate


On the first day of their initiation the new Iyawó and her orishas are given birth to. His or her orisha is put to their heads and therefore received internally so that the Iyawó and her orisha are inseparably linked for life. On the second day, or the Day in the Middle the Iyawó is dressed in the splendid silks and satins that can only hint at the royalty that is now present on the throne to receive the visitors who have come to bask in the presence of the orisha and her new bride. On the third day, or Day of the Itá, the new Iyawó learns what the future holds in store for her. One at a time each of the orishas he or she has received speaks to them and gives them their sage advice. The Iyawó then spends the rest of the week on the orisha's throne resting and contemplating the new life that is just now beginning.

For the rest of the year the Iyawó remains in a protected state as befits the royal bride of a god or goddess. They must not allow anyone who has not been initiated to touch them or take anything from their hands. They cannot go out before noon or after dark and must only wear clothes of the purest white color. They cannot wear makeup or any jewelry except the bracelets and necklaces received during their initiation and for the first three months they must eat sitting on a mat which denotes sacred space in the religion. They are also babies in their new life and therefore cannot eat with a knife or fork for the year or go into crowds or the marketplace. They must not look in a mirror or have their picture taken. Nothing should interfere with the Iyawó's communion with their orisha. He or she must always be called Iyawó and not by their old name and, in fact, each time they are called Iyawó they are cleansed and separated a little more from the old life which they abandoned upon initiation.

The Iyawó is pampered and babied by the santeros they come in contact with. They are also watched very carefully as the Iyawó is must be protected at all costs and the they must not be allowed to violate their sacred taboos. Outsiders and those who have not been initiated often seem somewhat confused by them, as they are thinking of the Iyawó as a person in some sort of limbo between being a 'normal person' and being a santero and not the sacred personage that they really are.

During the Yaworaje (pronounced "ya-woh-RA-hay") or year the Iyawó follows his or her orisha as the two get to know each other intimately and thus forms the foundation for a life 'in Santo'and the understandings that are so innate to the santero. An understanding based on a sacred communion that lasts a lifetime..and more.