InitiationsWhile the power of the Orishas is legendary, one doesn't becomeinitiated for power or for money. Instead initiations inSanteria help the person to move forward in their lives, oftenin specific ways and impart the aché or spiritual powerof the Orishas into your life. There are a number of levels ofinitiation, and the knowledge you gain deepens as well as thecommitment expected of you by the Orishas and your Godparents. First aperson will generally receive their Guerreros or warriorsand/or their ilekes or their Necklaces. Later, they may receive La Mano de Orulaor Hand of Orula. When the person is ready, they may be go through the kariochaor Full Initiation as a Santera or Santero if that is their path inlife. Finally, if the person's sign in their Mano de Orula callsfor it they may be fully initiated as a Babalawo (Father of theSecrets) and serve as a High Priest in the religion.
Initiations are recommended according to the needs of the personas determined by the Orishas themselves through divination.
Guerreros (Warriors)In the initiation of the Guerreros or Warriors, you actually receiveseveral Orishas: Echu Elegguá, Ogún, Ochossi andOsun.They live by your front door and will need to be taken care ofevery Monday as well as whenever they ask for something via divination.As your knowledge deepens in the religion, the more you will be able towork with these Orishas. Over time, you will be taught how to give obíor coconut to your Guerreros to ask them simple yes or no questions.
Echu Elegguá whois the Messenger of all the Orishas and is the Owner of all the doorsand roads. Eshu Elegguá has literally over a hundred paths withdifferent 'specialties' for each path. He is received so that he canopen your roads in life and close the doors to all the forces thatmight harm you. Elegguá can be received from Santeros orBabalawos. When you receive Echu from a Babalawo, divination is done todetermine which of all these paths of Echu accompanies you, andthe secrets with which he is prepared differs for each path. When youreceive your Guerreros from a Santero, the path is not determined untilyou are initiated as a Santera or Santero if that is your path in life.
Ogún is the Orishaof War and is the blacksmith of the Orishas. As Elegguá opensyour path, Ogún clears your way of obstructions and gives youthe tools with each to build a better life. He is also a might defenderready and willing to take on all comers.
Ochossi is the Hunter ofthe Orishas and represents the Enforcement of Justice in this world. Hehelps you to hunt for the good things in life. He helps you to avoidfalling into traps and to ensure you are never lost in the wildernessof life. He also comes to your aid and ensures Justice is served whenyou are wronged or to defend you when falsely accused.
Osun represents your headand 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 Ilekes or Necklaces (Collares in Spanish)
Receiving your Ilekes or Necklaces puts you under theprotection and blessings of your Godparents' Orishas and makes you apart of their Ilé or OrishaHouse. The Ilekes are sacred and are the banners of the Orishas and actas a sign of the Orishas presence and protection. The preparationsusually take several days to a week as several complex ceremonies areinvolved. The ceremony of receiving your ilekes itself takes severalhours as it is made up of several rites, and the new initiate should beprepared to 'make a day of it'as they will be expected to go home and rest for the remainder of theevening. In many ways this ceremony is an equivalent to the ceremony ofBaptism practicedby some religions. It is the ceremonial entrance into our religion andinto a new life as a follower of the Orishas. Only Santeras andSanteros canperform this ceremony and this ceremony cannot be performed byBabalawos.
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 ofIfá. This initiation puts the person under the protection andcare of Orula (Orunmila) and is a very serious ceremony thatlasts three days. Women who have received Ikofá areconsidered Apetebís or Wives of Orula and are regardedas the elders of those men who have Awofakan since they havegone 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 fullyinitiated as babalawos. During this ceremony, the deepest form ofdivination is performed usingthe Table of Ifá and the Odu or Sign that comes up willaccompanies that person for their entire lifetime. This Odu,one of a possible 256, reveals the initiates path in life and givesadvice by which they can fulfill themselves and prevent hardship. Youmight say it is a kind of Individual Users Manual for your Life andpoints out patterns and events which will surely play themselves outduring 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 givenbirth to and their tutelary Orisha is 'crowned' on their heads, a termdescribing the ritual wherein the Orisha is actually ceremonially fusedwith the initiates inner head. They can consult for clients, performcleansings and other remedies, as well as perform initiations. They arealso regarded as royalty in the religion, as they are consideredrepresentatives of the Orishas and are vested with the power to workwith the forces of those Orishas in full. This initiation also requiresa great lifelong commitment on the part of the initiate. For instance,the newly initiated Santera or Santero must pass through a year long Iyaworajeor apprenticeship,where the Iyawó or Bride of the Orishaand must follow a strict regimen of wearing all white, avoiding thetouch of non-initiates and following a host of other rules during thattime. The ceremonies are extremely involved, requiring a large numberof Priests.
This is the initiation ceremony wherein a person is fullyinitiated as a Babalawo or Father of the Secrets who specializein the deepest forms of divination and the remedies that accompanythem. It is extremely restrictive and involves a huge commitment intime, learning and responsibility. The Babalawos are consideredthe highest form of Priesthood in our religion.
How Do I Get Initiated?
In La Regla Ocha, when your are initiated you become a member ofyourGodparents' Ilé or Orisha House. This makes you a memberof anextended familyknown as your Godfamily. This includes Godparents, Grand Godparents,sistersand brothers and so on. As part of the Godfamily it places both the Godparentsandthe Godchildren in a position of mutual responsibility. The Godparents are responsible for the spiritual well-being, growth and teaching of the Godchild.The Godchildrenareexpected to respect their Godparents and as theireldersin the religion and as your Godparents. Certain ritual observances arealsoincluded, depending on the initiation. And before any initiation we must get the approvalofthe Orishas through divination. This exclusivity is not based on an attitude ofsuperiority,but is instead based on the individual's level of development, the wishes of the Orishas and the continuity ofthetradition as it has been practiced for ages. This is how weweretaught by our Godparents and their Godparents before them.
It is impossible to properly initiate aperson at any level in Santeria via mail or theInternet. All the ceremonies involved in these initiationsrequire the initiate to be physically present and without theseceremonies being done, the so-called 'initiation' is invalid andworthless. No serious practitioner of the religion will recognize themand they are considered unethical in the extreme. If you come uponanyone offering such 'initiations' run, don't walk away from them.These initiations would harm you if they actually had any power in thefirst place.
Well, first you will need to be seenwith Ifá or with caracolesto see what the Orishas have to say regarding becominginitiated.You will find that there is little that we do in this religion withoutthepermission and approval of the Orishas. As priestesses and Priests weareservants of the Orishas and it is the Orishas who call the shots.Sometimes,the Orishas will say no, sometimes they will say yes. It's up to them.Sometimesa person is simply not ready at that time. Or perhaps another Iléor Housewould be more suitable. And the Babalawo, Santera or Santero must havetheOrishaspermission to perform any major ceremony. It's always up to the Orishas.