Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pataki: The Black-Eyed Peas and the Corn (Ogbe Oshe)

There was a town in which the residents were almost always going through struggle and changes. They couldn’t live in tranquility. There came a time in which all of the town’s inhabitants began to look for a place where everything was less expensive, but in the new place they did nothing about growing food for themselves. A family moved in there that was a
lso without resources. The head of the family had nothing but worked at everything that presented itself to him with the help of his son. Although he was very mischievous he helped his father in whatever he could.

This boy sometimes went to the edge of the ocean and there, on the beach, would play a little flute made of bamboo.

One day Yemayá heard him, came out of the water, and asked his name. “Oguru Yorun,” he answered. Yemayá responded, “you mess around a lot and that is why you find yourself in the position you’re in, but when you do what you should do, you are going to have a change in your luck and everyone will look up to you. Your grandfather, your mother, and your father will help you and when you are a big man they will name you ruler, because Agayú, Oshún, and I are going to help you.”

“Now, go to the house of the omofá of the town—tell your mother to accompany you—so that Orunmila can read you, and if you don’t have enough money you will pay him with the flute he will receive from you.”

With this conversation over, Yemayá returned to the ocean and the boy went to his house. He told his mother everything and she told him that the next day he would go to the house of the omofá.

The next day, very early, they went to the house of the awó of the town and he read the boy. Ogbe Oshé came out and he told him, “you have to make ebó.” And, as he had nothing with which to pay him, the omofá accepted the flute in payment for his work, and each time he needed something from the boy he called him with the flute.

When the boy made the ebó for himself he took everything to the ocean, because Orunmila had indicated that it be thrown out there, and when he was going to return to his house he encountered a man who asked him if he wanted to work with him. The boy said yes and the man put him on his farm to care for the black-eyed peas and the corn.

Over time the boy asked the owner of the farm some times for ears of corn or a little of the black-eyed peas and the owner gave him what he wanted some times. The boy took them and started growing them at his house and when he harvested the crop his father started telling everyone that his son sold black-eyed peas and ears of corn and they came from all over to buy from him. The business became powerful.

Yemayá, Agayú, and Obatalá got together and asked the people of the town to give a festival in the name of the three of them. A festival was made and that day the town named the boy Governor of the Town and among the gifts that he received was the flute that he had given to the omofá, and Agayú said to him, “all the good you have you owe to Yemayá, Oshún, and Obatalá; listen well to the advice of your elders so that you don’t destroy what you have and the arayé who envy you don’t beat you down.”

(c) Copyright English Translation by David H. Brown 2014


Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Orunmila is called Ogbe Wale in this path. He was the husband of Oshún. Despite being treated well by Oshún, he made her suffer a lot, including hitting her when she got jealous, because he had many obiní in the street. Oshún took her complaints of what was happening to her sister, Yemayá, who advised her to leave this man. But Oshún was very much in love with him and didn’t want to leave Ogbe Wale. He abandoned her more as each day passed and each day Oshún dried up a little more.

Already tired of Oshún, Ogbe Wale robbed a calabaza from her and planted it on a violet bush. The bush sank into the marsh, calabaza and all, and this caused the death of Oshún. Upon seeing Oshún die, Ogbe Wale got scared, and so no one would find out, he buried her in the marsh together with the eleguedé plant.

Some years passed and Ogbe Wale married Yemayá. She was a mayombera and one day had to go to the marsh to look for shoma opalo root in order to prepare an inshe. There, at the foot of a tree, she stepped on some bones, and just then she heard a voice that said to her, “be careful daughter that you don’t step all over these bones. They belong to your sister, Oshún, who was the wife of Ogbe Wale, now your husband. He killed her. I am Yewá; look at my avatar.” And suddenly an owl appeared and said to her, “you must avenge your sister.”

Yemayá took a bone of Oshún and reduced it to a powder together with the shoma root and a jujú of the owiwí. When she got back to the ilé, she prepared a potion for Ogbe Wale. When he drank the potion, blood began to pour from all of the orifices in his body until he died. This was the revenge of Yemayá.

(c) Copyright English Translation by David H. Brown.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pataki: When Ogun and Osain Asked Olokun to Forgive Them (Ogunda Leni)

When Olokun came down to the earth he was accompanied by Yewá on the order of Olofin. They lived in the depths of the sea, but one day, tired of the monotony of his environment, Olokun began to turn around and around down there where Yewá also lived.

This disturbance shook up the bottom of the sea and a series of monsters began to come up to the surface. Among them rose a very strange being—very lovely with a beautiful head of hair—who always carried a gold shield and traveled atop the waves.

One day Ogún saw her and fell in love with her, but she was not interested in men, so Ogún, in order to have her, turned to the powers of Osain. The result was that Osain, too, fell in love with her and he couldn’t have her either. He cast a spell upon her so that she would neither be his nor Ogún’s.

This beautiful being, upon contact with the witchcraft, was turned into a serpent with two bodies. Terrified, she called her father Olokun. Upon seeing what had happened to her, he cast himself over the land with boiling whirlpools of fury and a thirst for vengeance.

Osain and Ogún, terrorized, went to the house of Orunmila, who made osode to them, and this Ifá came out, Ogundá Leni, and he told them, “you have to fix the evil that you have done; we are going to the house of Olokun.” When they arrived, Olokun roared with rage over what happened to his daughter Oroná. Orunmila spoke with Olokun and told him that his daughter would be accepted by the world.

Orunmila called Oroná, and without being terrified, ordered her to kneel, and he applied his powers of ebomisi eyebalé abo to her. He covered her with the skin and Oroná was turned into sea foam.

Ogún and Osain begged Olokun’s forgiveness and he calmed down and no longer continued to devastate the earth.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

PATAKI: The "Glasses of Elegbara" (Ojuani Shobe)

In this path Elegbara lived in the Bankele country. He had neither voice nor vote. He lived a disgusted and sad life because he knew that he represented nothing in the world, and so he spent his life sokú.

One day Oyá, who lived in the Obarioda country, where everyone lived well, and from where she could keep watch over all the neighboring territories, went to visit Elegbara, who was her son. When she got there she found him very sad. Oyá took a rooster and cleaned Elegba and gave him his secret, which was a stone. She took out the eyes of a rooster and put them on top of Elegbara. When Oyá was making this ceremony she sang:

Elegbara Ni Laleo Ojuani Shobe,

Feshuba Oyá Odara,

Elegbara Ni Otá Odara Ojuani Shobe Ni Laleo.

Elegbara asked Oyá for her blessing but he was resentful inside in seeing the great power that Oyá had.

Elegbara went out to the road and said, “I’m going to the house of Olofin, because I can’t continue like this, because I have to have control and do whatever I want, because no one is better than me. The world simply has to live blindly and do whatever I order.” He arrived at the house of Olofin, putting himself humble, very sad, and sokú, and he said, “My Father, please give me your blessing, because I am a nobody in this world.” Olofin sat him down and told him, “if you want to be somebody you will be, but you will never be greater than intori enkan arayé just because you get some iré.” Elegba replied, “no, father, what!, send me to a place where I can rule.” Olofin, who knew him well, and knew what he was capable of—because he never had been anybody—had him there for three days giving him advice. But Elegba could think of nothing else than what Olofin was going to do. Olofin asked him if he was listening and Elegba said yes, of course. “Look, Elegbara, if you don’t do what I say, you will soon go blind and crazy. At the end of three days Olofin sent him to the Obainile country.

Elegba thought, I’m not going there. I’m not going to be able to dominate in that place. In order for me to dominate in the world I have to go to the Obarioda country. So Elegbara left, since at that moment Oyá was visiting the Obanile country. I’m going to take advantage of this and go to the Obarioda country, because there’s a lot of sand there and my powers are the plants that I’ve got; I’ll let the whole world intorí arún oyú; I’ll rule and will be the owner of the whole world, because there will be an epidemic that will spread throughout the world.

Elegbara got to the Obarioda country, called the whole town together, and began to wash everyone’s head and do ceremonies to them, and because of this the people began to get illnesses in the head and the eyes.

However, there was one man there named Oyú Obariodé Ojuani Shobe, who was an awó of Orunmila.

He left looking for Oyá and on the road went along singing, sounding a bell, and shaking a vaina of framboyán.

Oyá Nile Umbo Obara Boda,

Oyá Nile Umbo Obara Boda

Ojuani Shobe Feshuba.

Oyá heard the song and went immediately to her country, and when she found Awó Obariodé Ojuani Shobe, she asked him what had happened. He told her what Elegba had done and that everyone was blind and had lost their memory. Oyá went running and from the bag that she carried she started collecting eñí adié.

She got to the town and began to pick up sand, mixing it with the egg whites--making a dough. Then she called all of her children so that they could clean themselves with what she had prepared. At that moment Olofin sent down a lightning bolt and the sun’s rays, and the dough that Oyá had made calcified with the heat and glass formed so that eyeglasses could be made. This brought back the sight and the memory of everyone, including Elegbara who had also gone blind.

For that reason glasses were born; indeed Elegbara himself needed them. Thus glasses are represented in the figure of Elegbara by the shells that are his eyes; they signify that Elegba sees everything that happens in the world and then tells all to Orunmila and Olofin. [Oyá told Elegbara]: “here you have a great power that you already had; you needn’t have done all the things you did. All you had to do was to speak with me. Although you are young, you have to use glasses, because with time and age, everyone will need to use them—youth, old people, and even children—because that is my curse for what you did,” and in this way Elegbara got the world he wanted.

Note: the glasses of Elegbara represented by the shells that are put on him as eyes signify that he sees all and then tells all to Orunla and Olofin.

English Translation (C) Copyright David H. Brown, 2013.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Why You Have to Pray to San Lázaro When You Are Going to Move Him From One Place to Another

San Lázaro lives in the Lucumí country but the people detested him because of the pestilence of his body sores and because of their fear of contagion they kicked him out of their territory. When Oluó Popó went on the road he met his younger brother Shangó, who greeted him and asked him what had happened, because Shangó saw him very grave and worried. Oluó Popó related what the people of his country had done to him and Shangó replied, “look, I just won a war and I have a place where you can reign and this place is the Arará country. It’s a small territory and it’s separated from the Lucumí country by a river.

Oluó Popó accepted and went on his way there. When he arrived Shangó told the people, “this man is going to govern you. You must love him.” Before leaving, Shangó told Oluó Popó, “the people who kicked you out are going to need you, but before going back there make sure you pray well." A while later a great epidemic spread through the Lucumí country and many people were dying, and as they didn’t know what to do they were desperate. While they were in this state Shangó passed through and told them, “the only one who can save you is that leper who you threw out. You have to call him back.” Immediately they went to the Arará country and begged Oluó Popó to save them, but he denied their pleas. Therefore they got on their knees and began to pound the ground with their palms, praying to Oluó Popó that he save them, and that they would not get up until he forgave them and went with them. After so much supplication and prayer Oluó Popó decided to go and cure all of the sick; and thusly it was that Oluó saved them from the epidemic in their country.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Treatise of Shango from a Cuban Elder

Shangó is not given offerings when egun ceremonies are going to be performed. And when it is raining, you cannot dance egun, because Shangó emanates death; he is the cloth of death. Therefore his red cloth is always present in paraldos.

Shangó died in the marketplace and was resurrected in his house. Shangó has the power granted by Olofin to know what humans say in secret.

Shangó kneels in the cemetery, but not to look for the yams of Orisha Oko. He is called Aulua and he buried his crown. Upon not being able to find it, he gave it [to the cemetery] his eduará and the crown of kereketé.

Shangó has three messengers: Araun (thunder), Manamana (lightning), and Biri Aymeyo (darkness).

Shangó receives the name Elitimo, which means, Owner of Knowledge and the Brilliant Eye.

The mortar is turned over for Shangó, because there is a sentence in Ogundá Masá that says:

Olorisha egun tete baten labayedo fún.

The powerful daughter of the cemetery for whom we invert the mortar.

Shangó has an essence that everyone must know as this:

Ilé Gbogbo Shangó Loyé.

Shangó makes every land shine.

This is because fire and lightning are known by everyone.

The omó of Shangó are always the leaders of the Yoruba religion.

Shangó engages in combat from the top of a tree, odan (jagüey macho). From this tree he saved Odudúwa with his oshé when his enemies pursued him.

Shangó is the owner of the tree called ewé iré, Caucho de Lagos, which he calls tente-en-pie, and with this and the moruro and the puesta-del-sol, he prepared the secret of osun.
It was he who prepared the pot of Osain with an eduará. Moreover, Shangó knows the remedy for curing leprosy.

Shangó feeds the mortar and he buries it in order to consecrate it.

Shangó is emblematized as a leopard or a tiger that bathes itself in the blood of the ram.
The name of the sorcerer of Shangó is Lakín Shokún, and they say that with his food he kills and saves lives.

Shangó bathes in the Ibakán country with a large jícara of epó and lives atop the ceiba.
Shangó is a secret and to placate him, the plate on which you serve him his adimú is painted with a circle of añíl with otí. This is to remind him of when his sister, Igbañi, raised him from childhood, because she prepared dyes of indigo from the roots of the añíl cimarrón.

Orisha Oko and Osain blessed the house of Shangó.

The anvil that Obba takes, which is made of ácana wood, was made by Shangó, who gave it to her as a gift. The Yoruba say that he made this anvil the same day he made his oshé.
Shangó loves ñame, in fact, ñame seeds, with a lot of epó.

Shangó rules Wednesdays and enjoys Sundays.

In Eyilá, Shangó prohibits smoking, because it is in this odu where Shangó cooked all of the ñames with the air that shot out from his nose.

Shangó hides by night. He loves the light of day.

There is no road that is closed to Shangó. He has an epithet that says:

Shangó ni ena gba dadagui laza.

Shangó is a crazy person who goes to every place and open road.

Shangó is called Ogango and you put ostrich feathers on him.

Shangó loves the higo [prickly pear], both fresh and dried [i.e., a fig].

The osain of Shangó always takes the leaves of the odan (jagüey macho).

Shangó was the first one in the forest to make inshe osain. He cut the [wood] with his eduará. For this reason the igüí of Shangó’s inshe osain have their points burned.

The eduará of Shangó do not go to the head of the iyawó because the old Yoruba say in one of their legends:

Shangó arukutu mashe eshuke.

Shangó carries a stone on his head without it burning.

This is because the otá of Shangó should not be collected in the forest or plain as this brings misfortune to the godparent and iyawó it is said:

Shangó ekan ekuta nigbe kosheje.

Shangó picks up a stone in the forest and blood flows.

Shangó called all of the osains and then sent them all away. For this reason, when an inshe osain is born it is put to eat with Shangó, as when ceremonies are made at the foot of Shangó.

Shangó uses the antimony stone*, and it is said that his eyes are made of this mineral. Shangó is the descendant of Okukese and it is said that he learned to use a turban when he went among the trees. [*Translator’s note: antimony stone, the “stone of the philosophers,” used from biblical times for medicine and cosmetics.]

Shangó lives in those trees that have curujey on them. Shangó and Elegba speak to the alba.

The true mother of Shangó is Troni, daughter of Elempo—king of Nupe Takuá. She died upon Shangó’s birth. The first wife of Shangó prior to Oyá was Omó Sanda from the Mina Popo people.

In Eyilá, you put a white and red necklace on Shangó with four dilogún and four blue glorias.

Note: In Cuba, as in many parts of Latin America with Afro-American populations of Yoruba origin, Shangó is rendered special worship. This orisha is popularly sincretized in some places as Saint Barbara, as in Cuba, Saint George in Brazil, and Saint Geronimo in Trinidad.

Translated from the Spanish by David H. Brown Eguin Kolade.
(c) Copyright David H. Brown 2013