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 safe. You’ll want to refer to it from time-to-time whenever issues arise with your client, who just might become a godchild if he sticks around long enough.”
With that said let me share a huge secret with everyone: Divination is not just for the client or godchild; it is for the diviner as well, and the first time you see someone on that mat, even if that client has been to dozens of diviners before and had dozens of odu dropped for him, the only letter that matters to you is the first time your Elegguá opens and speaks to the person for whom you are consulting. True, Elegguá is speaking to the client, and when he speaks he talks about the client’s past, his present, and the future that is before him. The future, however, is malleable. Elegguá shows the most likely path this person travels, and if he does not like where he is heading there are ways to change it. The most powerful way to change both the present and future is behavior modification, especially if the odu comes with an osogbo. Human nature being what it is most clients don’t like to hear that they need to change their behaviors. But it follows to reason that if something hurts only when you do it, stop doing it; the pain goes away. The second way to change both the present and the future is through ebó. Ebó is an act of worship, an offering of something sacred to the orisha. Sometimes it’s simple: a basket of fruit, a candle, an oil lamp. There are times ebó is more complicated, a series of offerings and prayers that take both time and dedication to complete. Ebós are also cleansings, and using things sacred to the orishas we remove negativity, osogbo, and dark entities that have bound themselves to us. Sometimes ebó is an animal sacrifice, but in truth such a thing is rare in practice (beyond the birth of a new orisha or the consecration of a priest).
Finally, a skilled and talented diviner has a gift that is coveted but rarely possessed – the power of afudashé. There are some orishas who can accentuate this power, like the orisha Agidai (born in the odu Oché Merinlá, 5-14). It is a gift that gives the diviner not only the ashé to speak the truth about the past, present, and future but also gives him the ashé to speak a new future into existence for his client. With carefully spoken words, he molds the vortex of energy we know as odu, and much as an artist creates a bright, vivid portrait imagined in his mind and brought to life on canvas, the diviner successfully manipulates his ashé through his words to create beauty in the client’s life. It’s a rare gift. Many divine, but few have it. And those who have it often abuse it to the point that they drain it; and once gone, it can never be reclaimed.
Ashé is a fragile thing. But that’s a discussion for another day.
What most don’t realize is this: when Elegguá speaks in an odu, he’s addressing not only the client but also the evolving relationship between the diviner and his client. Since Monday begins our study of Okana’s odu, let’s look, briefly, at what Elegguá has to say to the diviner when a composite of Okana falls on the mat.
Okana has an interesting image: the rope, and the noose made with it. It’s not a message relayed to the client; and, sadly, so few diviners know this metaphor. But when a composite of Okana falls on the mat Elegguá reminds the diviner of this rope. If the entoyale (the opening odu) comes with osogbo, Elegguá tells the diviner that there is something dishonest in the client’s heart; and while it might not be readily apparent to the priest casting diloggún, the orishas assures him, “I am giving this client enough rope to make his own noose. Be careful with this person. If he does not change his ways, he will make his own noose and hang himself in front of you.” It is a warning that the priest needs to be careful with this person, keeping the relationship both professional and cautious. Of course if the composite comes with iré, blessings, the danger is not as great but Elegguá warns, “You must keep this person on a tight rope. Don’t give him too much free reign in your life. Be cautious with this person. Something is not right.” This warning not only applies to the 16 composites found in the family of Okana, but also any entoyale in which Okana is a part: 2-1, 3-1, 4-1, 5-1, 6-1, 7-1, 8-1, 9-1, 10-1, 11-1, 12-1, 13-1, 14-1, 15-1, and 16-1.
The first reading being the most important reading a diviner will ever give a new client, the record of that reading’s entoyale and intori must be written someplace safe; having a special notebook for all your new clients’ first readings is a brilliant idea. People do change, but it takes an incredible amount of work and effort on the individual’s part; and as people get older, instead of changing they tend to become more of what they are, truly, on the inside. It is with that first reading on the mat that Elegguá sets boundaries and parameters for the budding diviner/client or godparent/godchild relationship, and the priest needs to have that reading safe so he can review it from time-to-time to make sure he is still acting wisely under the guidelines put in place by Elegguá.
Aleyos, aborishas, olorishas: if your godparents know odu, and if they know it well, they know you better than you think they do. They have a unique insight into your psyche; they have a spiritual guide that details what makes you tick and what motivates you. Of course the olodu Okana gives the well-studied priest more insights into your life than I’ve mentioned here, but it’s not the point of this post to detail them all. Do realize, however, that through that first reading Elegguá specifies what the diviner is or is not allowed to do with or for that client. Diviners: if you learn your odu well and pay attention to this first reading, most of the dramas, traumas, and misunderstandings we go through with our clients and godchildren can be avoided. Simply, you have to save those readings for future reference, and you need to know your odu.
They are the ultimate guide to life.