Iyawó: Bride of the Orisha - The New Initiate
On the first day of their initiation the new Iyawó and her orishas
are given birth to. His or her orisha is put to their heads and
therefore received internally so that the Iyawó and her orisha are
inseparably linked for life. On the second day, or the Day in the
Middle the Iyawó is dressed in the splendid silks and satins that
can only hint at the royalty that is now present on the throne to
receive the visitors who have come to bask in the presence of the
orisha and her new bride. On the third day, or Day of the Itá, the
new Iyawó learns what the future holds in store for her. One at
a time each of the orishas he or she has received speaks to them
and gives them their sage advice. The Iyawó then spends the rest
of the week on the orisha's throne resting and contemplating the
new life that is just now beginning.
For the rest of the year the Iyawó remains in a protected state
as befits the royal bride of a god or goddess. They must not allow
anyone who has not been initiated to touch them or take anything
from their hands. They cannot go out before noon or after dark and
must only wear clothes of the purest white color. They cannot wear
makeup or any jewelry except the bracelets and necklaces received
during their initiation and for the first three months they must
eat sitting on a mat which denotes sacred space in the religion.
They are also babies in their new life and therefore cannot eat
with a knife or fork for the year or go into crowds or the marketplace.
They must not look in a mirror or have their picture taken. Nothing
should interfere with the Iyawó's communion with their orisha. He
or she must always be called Iyawó and not by their old name and,
in fact, each time they are called Iyawó they are cleansed and separated
a little more from the old life which they abandoned upon
The Iyawó is pampered and babied by the santeros they come in contact
with. They are also watched very carefully as the Iyawó is must
be protected at all costs and the they must not be allowed to violate
their sacred taboos. Outsiders and those who have not been initiated
often seem somewhat confused by them, as they are thinking of the
Iyawó as a person in some sort of limbo between being a 'normal
person' and being a santero and not the sacred personage that they really are.
During the Yaworaje (pronounced "ya-woh-RA-hay") or year the Iyawó
follows his or her orisha as the two get to know each other intimately
and thus forms the foundation for a life 'in Santo'and the understandings
that are so innate to the santero. An understanding based on a sacred
communion that lasts a lifetime..and more.