SANTEROS AND BABALAWOS


Santeros are Priest of Santería (initiated). To become a Santero or Santera, the initiator must go through an intensive week-long initiation process. To begin with, the initiator goes through what is called a cleansing ritual. The initiator's Padrino (godfather) cleanses the head with special herbs and water, rubs the herbs and water in a specific pattern of movements into the scalp of the head. In order to heal initiators is done the rogación de la cabeza (blessing of the head), in which coconut water and cotton are applied on the head to feed it. Once cleansed, there are four major initiation rituals that the initiator will have to undergo: obtaining the elekes (beaded necklace), receiving Los Guerreros (the Warriors), making Ocha (Saint), and Asiento (ascending the throne). The relationship with the Santeros is beneficial to the orishas—they only continue to exist if humans worship them.  People of all ages can choose to follow Santería, with an initiation process that sets the follower on la regla de ocha (the way of orishas). The initiations are ritualistic and involve elaborate ceremonies. Followers are required to stay inside at night for an entire year and only dress in white. No one is allowed to touch the follower aside from family members or lover. Babalawo, which in the Yoruba language literally means 'father of the mysteries', is a spiritual title that denotes a priest of the ifá oracle. The female counterpart is known as an IyanifaIfá is a divination system that represents the teachings of the Òrìṣà Orunmila, who in turn serves as the oracular representative of Olodumare. The Babalawos ascertain the future of their clients through communication with Ifá through the interpretation of either the patterns of the divining chain known as Opele, or the sacred palm nuts called Ikin, on the traditionally wooden divination tray called Opon Ifá. Babalawos and Iyanifas undergo training in the memorization and interpretation of the 256 Odu or mysteries, as well as in the numerous verses or Ese of Ifá. Their primary function is to assist people in finding and understanding their individual "Orí" (one's spiritual "destiny") until they experience spiritual wisdom as a part of their daily experience; they help people develop the discipline and character that supports such spiritual growth called "Iwa Pele" or good character. 


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