Obatala Chooses his Helpers

Ócháni Lele

As we close day two of Project 256, I thought I’d share a patakí from the odu Okana Ejioko (1-2). Read the story and think about its theme; it presents yet another side to the odu Okana Ejioko rarely discussed or thought of.

Obatalá stood before all the orishas. A quiet murmuring filled the room as they whispered among themselves. Silently, he counted all their heads, and when he was sure everyone was present, he raised a hand to silence them. Bit-by-bit, the murmuring died.

“This world is a world of laws, of ethics, and of morals!” Obatalá said, speaking loudly so everyone could hear him. “Olódumare made me the orisha of laws, ethics, and morals. But the world is a big place, and I cannot do my job alone.”

He looked at each orisha with questioning eyes. “Who here shares my love of laws? Who here shares my love…

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A special ebo from Okana Meji

Ócháni Lele

When the water with which you washed your hands touches the earth, you cannot reclaim it; the earth will drink it.” From the odu Okana Meji.

Okana Meji is an excellent example of how babalawos and olorishas often work together to complete an ebó. This odu is ruled by the Ibeyi, and when it comes in osogbo babalawos and olorishas work together to restore the luck that was lost. This ebó uses a malanga leaf and the Ibeyi’s omiero. If the client has not received the Ibeyi, now is the time that they are to be received.

After washing the Ibeyi and before giving the client the dirty water to wash himself, the olorisha prepares a leaf of malanga by cutting off the three points on the leaf. This is a ritual action that destroys the influence of Eyo (tragedy), Ikú (death), and Arayé (wickedness) in the client’s…

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Project 256: What it is

Ócháni Lele

“If we would listen to the teachings of odu, we would last like our ancestors lasted; if we would follow the teachings that odu has to offer us, we would grow old like the ancient ones did,” from Unle Irosun (8-4) in the diloggún.

It’s no secret that I’ve been studying diloggún and its odu for more years than I’ve been a priest. I learned of the religion in 1989, and my obsession with this sacred knowledge began around 1992. It was a strange time in my life, and I, I’m ashamed to say, was a divination addict. I grew up with tarot cards and crystal balls, and the first time I went to a botanica in Miami and had an elderly woman cast a handful of cowries on the mat I was hooked. Perhaps it was because the language she spoke was so exotic; and I loved the sound…

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Project 256: The Importance of Keeping Records

Ócháni Lele

We had an interesting discussion in divination class this week. While giving a lecture on the olodu Okana (1 mouth) one of my students interrupted with a comment and a question: “My padrino keeps two notebooks when he divines. The first time he sees a client, he writes everything from that first reading in a hardbound notebook. He keeps it locked up in a safe place and guards it as jealously as his own itá. After that, he has a loose-leaf binder that he keeps all subsequent readings in for his clients and godchildren. This one he does not keep under lock and key. Why does he do that?”

“I do that myself,” I said. “I didn’t do it when I began my career as a diviner (but I wish I had), but I do it now. It’s a very important practice. You want that first reading to be someplace…

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Project 256, Day Two: A few random thoughts

Ócháni Lele

While reviewing my own notes on the odu Okana Ejioko, I had a few random thoughts regarding the study of divination that might help diviners become a bit more organized. Remember in an earlier blog I spoke about how odu is often as much for the diviner as it is the client, and when these letters open on the mat, if the olorisha is well studied he gets direction as to how to deal with the clients and godchildren who come to him for spiritual guidance. In your private notes on odu it is wise to keep a section labeled: “The Special Precautions of [odu’s name].” It is something I do for every pattern of the diloggún, and it is something that I teach to all of my students in each class. These special precautions, these warnings, should be kept to the front of your notes for quick access and…

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Project 256, Day Five: Okana Oche (1-5)

Ócháni Lele

Ochosi’s Confusion

Ochosi sat alone in the dark, his hands covering his ears; he rocked back and forth, muttering to himself, trying to drown out the voices’ onslaught. “Do this,” some demanded of him, and others insisted, “No, Ochosi, don’t do that. Go out and do this instead.” Often they came at once, a cacophonous roar, and he screamed in desperation, a primal roar that shook the walls of his home. “You shouldn’t scream so loudly,” warned one voice, “or the neighbors will think you are mad,” and another voice countered, “but if you scream, we might go away.” Finally, unable to handle them anymore, Ochosi stood up and said into the darkness, “Enough! None of you know what you want. None of you make any sense. Just go away!”

It was quiet inside his head.

Ochosi grabbed his crossbow and walked into the forest; silently, he treaded the undergrowth…

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Project 256, Day Four: Okana Irosun (1-4)

Ócháni Lele

It’s been an insane day, one of unreasonable demands and ridiculous entitlements (can we say O-K-A-N-A?) but I managed to get this blog done. It’s not my best writing, but when it comes to Okana Irosun it’s probably some of my most important writing. So, please, don’t be too critical of its style. Just accept the teaching and have a wonderful evening!

Ócháni Lele


Okana Irosun: it’s one of my favorite odu in the corpus of Okana. In this odu, Okana no longer occupies the role as the victimizer (you can read some of her stories in my volume “Teachings of the Santería Gods); she becomes the victim, and she transforms herself into a heroine.

This is how I remember the story as it was told to me; here, I tell it to you:

There came a day that Okana woke from her bed and felt ill. She didn’t…

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