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

Saturday, November 2, 2013


In Africa they are the two hands of Ifá: Amonsio (the first that consecrated Osun by the order of Olofin) and Amoro, the assistant blacksmith of Ogún. They were boys, but the history began thusly.

In the earliest times in which Ifá came down to the earth and the spirit of Igunukún—great spirit of Ifá-Inú (telepathy)—made the ceremony of Ifá to Oshanlá, Orunmila also gave the divination tray to Shangó for him to mark the sign that he read for her with his tree leaves (para que éste marcara el signo que registrara con sus hojas de árboles). What resulted was the Shangó had many godchildren and was a great womanizer. One day when all the awó were meeting with Shangó and speaking of the powers of woman, Losé was there – Eleguá-Losé – who referred to one of the women that Olofin had in his garden as his “preferred flower” and who had eyes only for Olofin. Obalube [Shangó] asked, “what is the name of that woman and where is she?”

Losé said that her name was “Yewá” and she could be found in Olofin’s garden.
Dressing himself in his finest clothes, Shangó went to the garden determined to make Yewá his. As soon as he arrived, all the flowers became their most coquettish—all but a beautiful flower that moved away with its head lowered, looking at the ground. This was Yewá. Shangó, by the indications Losé gave him, recognized her. He put himself at his most appealing and began to woo her with big words in making time with her. Yewá raised her eyes at Shangó, lowering them immediately and blushing. That made Shangó feel satisfied at having attained what had only been reserved for Olofin. Losé, who was hidden, came out running to Olofin to tell him what had happened in the garden.

Olofin stood before Yewá and upon seeing that she didn’t lift her face to him said to her, “child, I put you in this place so that only my eyes would make you happy, but you have deceived me.” To this she replied, “Father, I have failed in what I promised; I beg you that, so I can’t look into the eyes of other men, you send me to a solitary place so I can rest.” Olofin answered, “since the sons of Ikú have no eyes—the cadavers—only empty sockets, I will send you to live with them from now on; you will supervise and rule them, and so it will be forever…Ashetó, Ashebó, Nachebima. To Ibán Eshú.”

From then on Yewá has been the goddess of the dead and Death. After leaving Yewá in her new home, Olofin went to look for Shangó in order to settle accounts, since Olofin had had enough complaints about the behavior of Shangó. He found him in the Ekete Alafi country and condemned him, saying, “I won’t take away your ashé, because what Olodumaré gives is not taken away, but I am prohibiting your use of the atepón-ifá and never again can you use it, nor will you divine with leaves” (tirar las hojas).

And he took the tray and gave it to Oshanlá, who was the other orisha consecrated by Olodumare as Igunnukú (Irole) -- with Ifá on earth, but Oshanlá was not authorized to give these powers to anyone. However, Oshanlá, upon finding herself with the tray, was filled with temptation and one day brought together Amoro and Amonsio, and beneath the arabá—ceiba—made Ifá to them on earth.

When Olofin found out he took away the tray and gave it to Odudúa. He took Amoro and Amonsio to the garden of Lodí Lará and gave them to Oragún, who sacrificed them at the base of two ikín palm trees that were in the garden.

For this reason [in the Lukumí tradition] women are not initiated in Ifá.

Finally, Orula arrived and Olofin gave him Ifá Inú and the divination tray, but there was nothing to take out the sign with. They had only alabashé (coconut). Orula said that the coco was unsuitable and there were two spirits of Ifá that were going to demonstrate a better way to divine. The old awós remembered Amoro and Amonsio, the godchildren of Oshanlá, who Oragún had sacrificed under the two palm trees; they asked if these two spirits were the ones Orula meant, since at the time they were sacrificed, the palms were filled with seeds that looked like coquitos but they had never opened up.
Orula asked if those seeds were suitable and could be used, and alabashé answered with eyeife, ordering everyone who had Ifá to make ebó; and he took sixteen coquitos from the palm of Amoro and sixteen from the palm of Amonsio, he consecrated them, and later atefó [divined with them, beat ikín]. The odu of Ifá Ogbetuá Nilara came out. It mandated ebó made to all who had Ifá given to them by Shangó so they would not be lost. Everyone had to comply with Orula as the new Mofá of the Lukumí country.

Note: The two hands of Ifá: the first, Amonsio, was consecrated by Osun with the mandate of Olofin. The second, Amoro, was the assistant blacksmith and was consecrated  by Ogún.

Note: There are other stories that speak of this odu and how Orula traveled to the garden of Oragun to select the nuts of ikín, speak of all that happened, and what he had to do.