Initiation In Santería
Q. How Do I get Initiated?
A. In La Regla Lucumí or Yoruba, initiation is a major undertaking and not to be taken lightly. When your are initiated you become a member of your Godparents’ Ilé or House. This makes you a member of an extended family known as your Godfamily. This includes Godparents, Grand Godparents, sisters and brothers. As part of the Godfamily it places both the Godparents and the Godchildren in a position of mutual responsibility. The Godchildren are expected to respect their Godparents and their authority as their elders in the religion and as your Godparents. Certain ritual observances are also included. The Godparents are responsible for the guidance and teaching of their Godchildren. And before anything happens we must get the approval of the Orishas. This exclusivity is not based on an attitude of superiority, but is instead based on the wishes of the Orishas and the continuity of the tradition as it has been practiced for ages. This is how we as Priests were taught by our Godparents and their Godparents before them.
We aren’t trying to scare you away, but we do want you to know what you’re getting into so you can make an informed decision.
Q. OK, I understand. Now How Do I Get Initiated?
A. Well, first you will need to be seen with Ifá or with Elegba’s shells to see what the Orishas have to say regarding becoming initiated. You will find that there is little that we do in this religion without the permission and approval of the Orishas. As priestesses and Priests we are servants of the Orishas and it is the Orishas who call the shots. Sometimes, the Orishas will say no, sometimes they will say yes. It’s up to them. Sometimes a person is simply not ready at that time. Or perhaps another Ilé would be more suitable. And the Santera or santero must have the Orishas permission to perform the ceremony. Again it’s up to the Orishas.
Q. What are those pretty colored necklaces about?
A. The Ilekes or necklaces are usually the first initiation in the religion. Receiving your Ilekes puts you under the protection and blessings of your Godparents’ Orishas and makes you a part of their Ilé or Orisha House. The Ilekes are sacred and are the banners of the Orishas and act as a sign of the Orishas presence and protection. The preparations usually take several days to a week as several complex ceremonies are involved. The ceremony of receiving your ilekes itself takes several hours as it is made up of several rituals, and the new initiate should be prepared to ‘make a day of it’ as they will be expected to go home and rest for the remainder of the evening. In many ways this ceremony is an equivalent to the ceremony of Baptism practiced by some religions. It is the ceremonial entrance into our religion and into a new life as a follower of the Orishas. Only Santeras and Santeros can perform this ceremony and this ceremony cannot be performed by Babalawos.