Offerings to the Orishas
Animal Sacrifice is just a small part of the much larger definition
of ebbó (sacrifice or offering) in the religion. There are many categories
of ebbó. There are offerings such as addimú which can include candles,
fruits, candy, or any number of items or actions that may be appreciated
by the deities or orishas in the religion. In divination, the orishas
may ask for a favorite fruit or dish, or they may call for the person
to heed advice given. At times they may ask that a person give up
drinking or other practices that are unwise for that individual.
They may request a person to wear certain jewelry, receive initiations
or any number of other things. Or they may request an animal, usually
a chicken or a dove, so the orisha will come to that person's aid.
As a rule, animal sacrifice is called for only in major situations
such as sickness or serious misfortune. Animals are also offered
when a new priest is consecrated in service of her or his orisha during the birthing process of
initiation. In every birth there is blood.
In our modern society we have become separated from the concept
of death. Even our dead are embalmed and made up to appear living.
When we purchase meat to eat or leather to wear it is pre-processed
to remove the shopper from the fact that a life was taken in order
that another may live. Meat wrapped in plastic with a little paper
towel to soak up any blood that might remind the buyer of the fact
of the animal's death. The buyer is also kept unaware of the circumstances
surrounding the poor animals life and, of course, its death. When
animals are killed in the slaughterhouse there is little respect
or regard for that animal, the only matter of importance being that
the animals are killed cheaply and in great quantity to supply an
ever growing market. In other words, these animals too are sacrificed,
though the only deity revered here is greed. We should also take
into account that the poultry industry alone kills more animals
in one day than the religion has sacrificed worldwide in the last several hundred years!
On the other hand, when an animal is sacrificed in La Regla Lucumí
it is first and foremost done with respect. respect for the orisha
being offered this life and respect for the little bird whose life
is taken in order that we may live better. The animal must be well
cared for because it is the property of the orisha. In fact, sometimes
the orisha will state that the animal must not die but live with
the person, and the orisha expects that animal to be well cared for and pampered as theirs.
At the beginning of the sacrifice, when the animal is brought forward,
there is a song and action that we perform in acknowledgement that
one day our lives will be taken suddenly in much the same way as
the animals. In this way, our religion differs little from the beliefs
of the Native Americans. Here there is a respect for all life, and
a respect for the death that must come to all, including ourselves.
Afterwards, if the animal wasn't used to cleanse a person of illness
or misfortune, it is eaten by all the participants. If, on the other
hand, it was used for a cleansing, the animal is taken to the place
requested by the orisha to complete the offering. These animals
cannot be eaten as we would be eating the sickness or misfortune
that was removed from that person.
Whether the ebbó is a simple apple or a little chicken, it should
always be offered with both hands and an open heart.