One of my students wrote to me today asking, “Why do you promote the usage of food, especially cooked food, before the usage of èjebalè orisha or èjebalè egun as ebó?”
I think it is important to remember that food has odu; and the patakís of the diloggún tell us more about the usage of food as ebó than it does animal offerings. Everything that we eat is born somewhere in one of the 256 sacred odu. And, likewise, I think it’s important to remember that everything in this religion has a reason, a metaphysical principle, born somewhere in the corpus of the odu.
The act of cooking and the role of the cook, known as the alásè, is born in the odu Oché Irosun (5-4) of the diloggún. It is a both a sacred duty and a sacred mandate of Olódumare and the orishas. Especially in the coronation ceremonies, or any major ceremony in which food is involved, the alásè is considered sacred; she controls a major segment of the orisha ceremonies. If we break down the etymology of the Lucumí word, the prefix al– means, “one who has,” and ásè means, “power.” The alásè is the one who has power. Understand this: the one who cooks for the orishas has power. That means if you want power, ashé, you must learn to cook for your orishas (and egun).
There is also an alternative spelling for the word ásè. When it is spelled as àsè (please note the difference in the diacritical marks), it is a word meaning feast or dinner, so the role of the alásè denotes one who has power (because) of the feast or dinner served to the orishas (and the priests and priestesses). Truly, the way to ashé and the way to the orishas’ hearts is through food.
So if you want to master and move ashé, you must learn the craft of the alásè; only then can you hope to become the master of ashé. It is through the mastery of ashé that we create changes in our lives and changes in the world.
Now, my friends, be like the alásè and cook up some ashé for yourself! [And me, if you don’t mind a dinner guest!]