Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu

Overview

At the core of the dilogg?n-the sacred divination system of Santer?a-are the sacred stories known as the patak?s, narratives whose themes are as powerful and relevant today as they were in the minds of the ancient Yoruba who safeguarded them. Each patak? is connected to one or more of the 16 odu, the principal creative forces of Santer?a. Some recount the lives of orishas on Earth, others the lives of individuals in Heaven, and some tell of the odu themselves, for even they once...

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Teachings of the Santería Gods: The Spirit of the Odu

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Overview

At the core of the diloggún-the sacred divination system of Santería-are the sacred stories known as the patakís, narratives whose themes are as powerful and relevant today as they were in the minds of the ancient Yoruba who safeguarded them. Each patakí is connected to one or more of the 16 odu, the principal creative forces of Santería. Some recount the lives of orishas on Earth, others the lives of individuals in Heaven, and some tell of the odu themselves, for even they once walked the earth as mortals.

The first book to explore these ancient African stories in English, Teachings of the Santería Gods recounts more than 100 of these sacred parables, including many stories reassembled from the oral tradition of the African diaspora. Ranging from creation myths to what happens when a love potion works far too well, these stories share the wisdom and spirituality of the Yoruba people of ancient Africa and form the living, oral bible of one of the world's fastest-growing faiths.

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Editorial Reviews

Ivy Queen
“There is no more magical way to feel close to the orishas than through the patakís. It is there that one is transported to one’s imagination. Ócha’ni Lele has a very spiritual manner in elevating my imagination through his writing, which reveals a special touch. ¡Maferefun orichas! What is seen is not questioned! This is a special book for those of us who go forth from the heart, without malice. Ócha’ni Lele, my dear, I congratulate you!”
Oba Ernesto Pichardo
“This book is a page turner. Ócha’ni Lele relates these sacred stories with the ease of a knowledgeable narrator while drawing clarity and meaning out of the religion’s complex chorus of voices. This book moves the deep spirituality of the religion away from ethnography and connects the sacred to religious studies where it is well overdue.”
Star Foster
"If you have any interest in Santeria, or in a story well-told, then you should pick up Ocha'ni Lele's Teachings fo the Santeria Gods. Don't simply read it, savor it. Each of these stories is a gem worth examining, and Lele is the wise jeweler joyfully pointing out each facet."
Anna Jedrziewski
"For the first time, one hundred of the ancient African stories known as pataki have been made available in English. It was a gargantuan labor of love for the author."
The Magical Buffet
"Loaded with stories that provide entertainment and unique perspectives, Teachings of the Santeria Gods is an excellent book for those looking to learn about Santeria or African folklore."
Facing North
“Two words sum up Teachings of the Santeria Gods: Spirit of the Odu . . . ‘Beautifully Written’.”
May 2011 - SpiralNature.com
“. . . well-written, informative, possessed of rare clarity, and a joy to read.”
May 2011 SpiralNature.com
“. . . well-written, informative, possessed of rare clarity, and a joy to read.”
October 2010 The Magical Buffet
"Loaded with stories that provide entertainment and unique perspectives, Teachings of the Santeria Gods is an excellent book for those looking to learn about Santeria or African folklore."
Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye Oba Ernesto Pichardo
“This book is a page turner. Ócha’ni Lele relates these sacred stories with the ease of a knowledgeable narrator while drawing clarity and meaning out of the religion’s complex chorus of voices. This book moves the deep spirituality of the religion away from ethnography and connects the sacred to religious studies where it is well overdue.”
January 2011 Facing North
“Two words sum up Teachings of the Santeria Gods: Spirit of the Odu . . . ‘Beautifully Written’.”
From the Publisher
"For the first time, one hundred of the ancient African stories known as pataki have been made available in English. It was a gargantuan labor of love for the author."

"If you have any interest in Santeria, or in a story well-told, then you should pick up Ocha'ni Lele's Teachings fo the Santeria Gods. Don't simply read it, savor it. Each of these stories is a gem worth examining, and Lele is the wise jeweler joyfully pointing out each facet."

"Loaded with stories that provide entertainment and unique perspectives, Teachings of the Santeria Gods is an excellent book for those looking to learn about Santeria or African folklore."

“. . . well-written, informative, possessed of rare clarity, and a joy to read.”

“There is no more magical way to feel close to the orishas than through the patakís. It is there that one is transported to one’s imagination. Ócha’ni Lele has a very spiritual manner in elevating my imagination through his writing, which reveals a special touch. ¡Maferefun orichas! What is seen is not questioned! This is a special book for those of us who go forth from the heart, without malice. Ócha’ni Lele, my dear, I congratulate you!”

“This book is a page turner. Ócha’ni Lele relates these sacred stories with the ease of a knowledgeable narrator while drawing clarity and meaning out of the religion’s complex chorus of voices. This book moves the deep spirituality of the religion away from ethnography and connects the sacred to religious studies where it is well overdue.”

“Two words sum up Teachings of the Santeria Gods: Spirit of the Odu . . . ‘Beautifully Written’.”

Ivy Queen
“There is no more magical way to feel close to the orishas than through the patakís. It is there that one is transported to one’s imagination. Ócha’ni Lele has a very spiritual manner in elevating my imagination through his writing, which reveals a special touch. ¡Maferefun orichas! What is seen is not questioned! This is a special book for those of us who go forth from the heart, without malice. Ócha’ni Lele, my dear, I congratulate you!”
October 2010 The Magical Buffet
"Loaded with stories that provide entertainment and unique perspectives, Teachings of the Santeria Gods is an excellent book for those looking to learn about Santeria or African folklore."
January 2011 Facing North
“Two words sum up Teachings of the Santeria Gods: Spirit of the Odu . . . ‘Beautifully Written’.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594773327
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
  • Publication date: 7/28/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 636,687
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Ócha’ni Lele has been immersed in the underground culture of orisha worship since 1989. He made Ocha in 2000 and was crowned a priest of Oya. His other books include The Secrets of Afro-Cuban Divination, Obí: Oracle of Cuban Santería, and The Diloggún: The Orishas, Proverbs, Sacrifices, and Prohibitions of Cuban Santería. He lives in Winter Park, Florida.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 8

EIGHT MOUTHS ON THE MAT

The diloggún is one of the most complex yet most beautiful systems of divination practiced not only by adherents of the Lucumí faith but also by the Yoruba people in Nigeria. It is a living, oral body of wisdom that took on flesh when the sixteen principle odu (patterns of cowrie shells that can fall in the diloggún) became mortal, living beings, each in one of the sixteen ancient kingdoms of the Yoruba Empire.

When a diviner casts the sixteen shells on the mat, he obtains a numerical value from zero to sixteen. The number corresponds to a particular odu in the divination system, and the associated orisha (spirit) uses this odu to speak to the priest. Each of the odu forms a spiritual organism that forebodes various blessings (known collectively as iré) or misfortunes (known collectively as osogbo). Depending on the question asked, the diviner and client determine the ebós (offerings to the orishas) necessary to restore harmony.

Unle Is Born

It was early morning and Olódumare [God] was alone, standing motionless on a balcony overlooking both Heaven and Earth. His eyes were closed to what lay before him: his mind was focused on things in other worlds. So deep was his concentration, so motionless was his body, that he seemed a black marble statue, permanently poised over creation. A light breeze lifted the diaphanous robes swathing his body; they filled the room behind him with their fullness as they twisted and turned in the night air.

God took a deep breath and opened his eyes as if he had only blinked. He lifted his arms to the sky and felt warmth as the sun rose above the eastern horizon. The sun, the body of Olorún, trailed above as it had for thousands of years, slowly dispensing ashé [energy, power] throughout creation.

“As above, so below,” he whispered, knowing that as Olorún spread ashé through Heaven, he was also spreading it on Earth.

Then came the predictable morning knock at his chamber’s door: every morning, there was a knock at his door, some new soul who yearned to travel to Earth, experiencing life.

In a single motion as fluid and effortless as breathing, Olódumare withdrew from his balcony, and seated himself on his throne. His light, gauzy robes were still drifting and trailing through the air as he extended a hand toward the door and bid it open.

It was Unle, and the odu stiffened with awe as he stood in the doorway and saw God for the first time. Sitting in state, Olódumare’s statuesque quality returned, and had it not been for the supple sheen of his face, or the soft glow of omnipotence in his eyes, Unle would have thought him a statue. But most impressive to Unle were Olódumare’s white robes. It seemed God wrapped himself in all that was pure and clean, a tapestry of white light, not cloth.

For what seemed an eternity, Unle stood and gazed at his creator. Ashé filled the room; it suffused everything in it, and swallowed Unle like a hungry beast. It was love; it was life; it was power, and it was thick. He could barely move.

Olódumare smiled, and that simple acknowledgment brought tears to Unle’s eyes. Finally, he knew God was seeing him face-to-face. Having no words to express the feelings welling up in his heart, Unle approached the throne and put himself on the floor in reverence.

He felt strong hands on his shoulders that sent currents of ashé through his body as the rich, elderly voice intoned, “May you be blessed. Arise!” Strong arms lifted him, embraced him, and for a moment Unle forgot he was Unle, and he was one with Olódumare.

Gently, Olódumare broke the embrace, and Unle shivered; it was loss, it was sadness; it was separation, and for a moment he couldn’t bear it until God spoke, “Why have you come, Unle?” It was an invitation to speak, not a question. God knew everything.

“I have come to request my destiny on Earth.” Unle’s voice wavered, and it ended in a whisper. A destiny on Earth meant a separation from Heaven. Here, in God’s presence, he couldn’t bear that thought.

Olódumare touched his chin firmly and lifted his head so their eyes met. “What would you like to do on Earth, my son?”

A thousand and one desires rose in Unle’s thoughts, but Olódumare’s voice plunged deep inside, pulling Unle’s true destiny to the surface. And before he could answer willingly, Unle found himself saying, “I want to help others.”

“How would you help others, Unle?”

Again Olódumare’s question touched something deep inside him, and Unle found himself saying, “Teach me how to divine so that I may know how to divine. Teach me how to appease the orishas so that I may appease the orishas. Teach me how to prescribe sacrifices so that I may prescribe sacrifices; for wisdom is all that I am seeking, and this wisdom will be my wealth.”

“Wisdom and knowledge are your grace. But what you accomplish with your long life and wisdom is in your hands. As a diviner, you will know how to avoid all manner of misfortune and bring all types of blessings to yourself. Use those gifts wisely.”

Olódumare stretched out his hands, taking Unle’s head into them. Unle felt a powerful ashé flowing; it was warm, like fire, yet liquid, like water, and he shuddered as God cried,

“Fun mi ashé lenu lati nsoro. Ashé tó, ashé bó, ashé bima! Ashé ishe’mi!”

“Give my tongue the ashé with which to speak. Ashé is sufficient; ashé envelops all; ashé is born. Ashé, work for me!”

His voice caused the very fabric of Heaven to rumble and shudder, and in his hands appeared a wizened, humbled head. It was Unle’s new head, the one that would accompany him to Earth. Olódumare whispered,

“Good luck, my son.”

Unle was in Heaven no more.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xv

An Introduction to the Diloggún 1

1 Okana-One Mouth on the Mat 11

Okana Brews a Love Potion 12

Okana's Seduction of Shangó 17

Okana's Curses 20

Okana's Lesson in Love 22

The Story of the Cat and the Rat 25

2 Eji Oko-Two Mouths on the Mat 31

The Birth of Ikú 32

The Marriage of Ikú and Ejioko 37

Ejioko Loses His Friend Iré 42

Ochosi Feeds Olófin 45

3 Ogund&aacute-Three Mouths on the Mat 50

Why the Rooster Was First Sacrificed 51

How the Crocodile Became Powerful 57

King Olushola Makes Ebó 58

4 Irosun-Four Mouths on the Mat 67

How a Man and a Woman Found Love 69

Irosun Discovers His True Friends 71

The Story of the Cat and the Leopard 73

The Pact between Orishaokó and Olófin 78

The Tail (Tale) of the Little Monkey 80

Obatalá Rewards Odé 84

5 Oché- Five Mouths on the Mat 88

The Birth, Death, and Rebirth of Oché 90

How Oshogbo Became Dedicated to Oshún 92

How Oshún Came to the New World 98

A Foolish Merchant's Tragedy 100

I Will Give You a Small Thing 103

6 Obara-Six Mouths on the Mat 108

The Farmer and His Ebó 111

The Best Food: The Worst Food 113

Ochosi Learns to Build a Trap 116

Ochosi's Curse 118

The Story of Elegede 120

7 Odí- Seven Mouths on the Mat 130

The Creation of Copulation 132

Where the Hole Was First Opened 133

He Who Fights Knows about War 143

8 Unle-Eight Mouths on the Mat 145

Unle Is Born 147

Unle's Ebó to Elegguá 150

Unle Builds a Home 152

Unle Becomes a Farmer 158

Obatalá Eats Heads 160

9 Osá- Nine Mouths on the Mat 167

The Death of His Love 169

A Beggar's Story 172

A Son's Loss 173

The Brag of the Boastful Boy 177

Shangós Imprisonment 181

10 Ofún-Ten Mouths on the Mat 186

Life and Death 187

The Story of Iré and Osogbo 188

Ofún, the Godchild of Ikú 191

The Loss of Ofún's Daughter 198

How the Leopard Gained His Strength 202

The Spinning of the Web 202

Obatalá Makes Ebó 204

11 Owani-Eleven Mouths on the Mat 206

Eshu at the Crossroads 209

The Climbing Vine and the Okra 211

The Death of the Egungun Priests 213

Disobedience Becomes the Road to Death 219

Oshún's Ebó 221

How Osain Saved the Ill-Prepared Man 223

12 Ejila Shebora-Twelve Mouths on the Mat 226

Shangós Losses 228

The Marriage of Oshún and Orúnmila 230

Yemayá's Quest 239

Yemayá Learns to Cast Òpèlè 243

Glossary 247

Index 261

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Inspired Mystery

    Book Title: Teachings of the Santeria Gods: The Spirit of the Odu
    Author: Ocha' Ni Lele
    ISBN: 1594773327
    Publisher: Inner Traditions
    Reviewer: Vonnie Faroqui, Firesong for http://weareoneinspirit.blogspot.com/

    Ocha'ni Lele's Teachings of the Santeria Gods is an essential addition to the spiritual library of anyone
    who is pursuing a study of or with interests in the practices of orisha worship and Santeria. With this
    work the author begins what will be a life-long pursuit to preserve and pass on the living and sacred
    stories or patakis of the Santeria and Lukemi. The volume includes more than 100 stories and histories
    about the odu and the orishas; breathing life into what was becoming a disappearing oral tradition.

    With great skill and care Ocha'ni Lele, begins by giving an insightful introduction to the dilloggun, the
    sacred system of divination practiced by the Santeria. He goes on to share the patakis, whose themes
    are as relevant today as they were in the past, more so in the modern age of technology as people
    move farther away from authentic spiritual communion. For each odu or pattern in the diloggun, the
    author has written a chapter explaining the major theme or teaching of the odu and shares several
    illustrative patakis. In this way the knowledge revealed is more easily understood, remembered and
    applied. Ocha'ni Lele's writing is both timeless and inspiring. The formatting of the book makes for easy
    reading. The presentation of each story's thread is deeply satisfying as well, providing food for a growing
    understanding in the wisdom teachings and the diloggun.

    I found more insight and information regarding the practices and teachings of the Santeria through
    this one book than I have found in all the previous years of searching, and I am deeply gratified to the
    author for his work. I especially enjoyed the stories of Okana, whose journey through the tales serves as
    a powerful lesson for many practitioners and energy workers of both the right and left paths. 'Obatala
    Eats Heads' and the patakis for odu Osa are among my favorites.

    Himself a Priest of the religion and child of Oya, Ocha'ni Lele opens the door of understanding and leads
    the reader in to the mysteries, delivering the telling of the tales with a love and enjoyment that shines
    through. A skilled writer with personal experience and passion for the work, Ocha'ni Lele's treatment of
    the stories is not simply academic, but flows from the heart and in so doing reveals more than scholarly
    acumen.

    Those who have a deeper interest and motivation to discover the stories and the truths held
    within will be especially gratified as Ocha'ni Lele imbues new life and vigor into the telling of these
    traditional patakis. This inspired work has become a treasured volume in my personal collection.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 3, 2012

    Being Orisha initiate and having the experience of listening to

    Being Orisha initiate and having the experience of listening to elders retell patakais, I would have to say this is one on the best book I've ever read in regards to Odu. The writer has not only told the patkis in away that is true to generations passed but also writes in away how we can see that these stories are still very much a part of our current world. I am very impressed with all of Ócha'ni Lele's books. He has given us the opportunity to read something that has been passed down generation to generation oral for hundreds of years. His text is easy to understand and very insightful to what is the Lucumi religion. If you really want to understand what Santeria is then you must have Ócha'ni Lele as part of your library.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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