The power of the alásè

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!]


2 thoughts on “The power of the alásè

  1. For those of you who need a few great recipes, or need some help learning to cook, there is a free service on the internet provided by CLBA: Adimu Network. I’ve used some of those recipes very frequently lately, and when it was still a pay site, I paid for one of my goddaughters to take the classes (she wants to be an alásè). Here is the link:

    And for the record, it’s so wonderful to listen to an aborisha say, “I want to learn to be an alásè!” instead of, “I want to be an oriate!” Being an oriate is overrated. Knowing how to access ashé and move ashé is as important (if not moreso) as knowing how to scrape heads and read itá!

  2. One final thought: it’s important to remember that every èjebalè orisha ends with the work of the alásè. She has to prepare the ashéses of each animal offered for the orisha; and, she has to know how to turn those meats into the delicious meals we enjoy . . . especially on the middle day of the asiento. The oriaté might be the master of ceremonies, but it’s the alásè who completes all the hard work. And make no mistake – a good alásè has spent years apprenticing with an older cook to learn her (or his) craft. You can’t find these recipes in Paula Dean’s or Rachel Ray’s cookbooks, folks. It’s very specialized knowledge!

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