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Oracle

In the Afro-Cuban religions there are three main oracles: the Biawe, the Diloggún and the Ifá.

The Oracle Biawe it is made through shell of the coconut, which substituted the original African Obi Kola in Cuba.

It has four main positions that can turn into some other answers, but its range goes up to 96; according to the image formed on the floor, the shades reflected by the pieces of shell, and the position they adopt considering the surface, either concavo or convex. Despite the fact it is the simplest, at least in appearance, only few can read the Biawes range.

The practitioners only use the five simple answers:

- Alafia (four pieces facing up). The orisha requested replies: "everything is fine"

- Itaguo (three facing up and one facing down). "Something is missing". With this reply is compulsory to ask again and shoot the pieces.

- Eyeife (two and two). "The obvious thing should not be asked". It is the most certain affirmative answer of the oracle.

- Okana (three facing down and one facing up). "Nothing is worthy".

- Oyekun (four facing down). A dead or the death itself is speaking.

It is necessary to underlined that in the Ñangareo, meaning the consultation to Olofin, the Supreme Creator, in the first moments of an initiation ceremony, slices of bread are used instead of the coconut shells.

The Oracle of Diloggún is consulted by the sea shells or cauris. Their rear of the opening is flatten in order to have them fall correctly on the straw or esparto grass mat where the babalocha makes the register. Besides, through the resulting hole "dead speak ", as if it were required to complete the predictions made by the saints, who communicate through the natural hole of the shell.

At the end of the initiation, every consecrated receives a hand (set) of 18 shells. In the case of Elegguás children, they take 21. During the consultation only 16 are used, the other two or five remaining are considered "the witnesses" of the oracles communication.

The santero has an ample range of patakies (stories) and proverbs related with each of the numbers.

The interpretation according to the alternatives of the Ibo (stones) "if black, osogbo (wrong), if white, ire (fine) ", is the situation of the consultant, which solution, established with a variety in the stories, will be précised in the following shoots.

The babalocha can read up to 12. If he has a higher number he should sent the person interested to a babalawo, the only one with the faculty to do so.


The Oracle of Ifá is the most complex and extended of the divination system and its content is part of the Holy Book of Ifá or Treaty of Oddun. It has 16 signs or major odduns, and 240 others resulting of the combination of the first ones, each with their own content.

The exchange between the 256 initial signs go up to 4096 tertiary combinations, that interrelation achieves a cipher higher than 38 thousand possibilities. A statement of the cult says everything happened once, and was written in the Holy Book of Ifá, it is only required the material or the action to fill the space we inhabit for a moment." In order to obtain the signs, the ministry of Ifá, the babalawo, has two means: the opele, a chain stitch of eight sources (which could be coconut, the shell of the turtle, silver or iron plates, according to the requirements) , and the board (atepon), the ikies (coconut crust of Obi Kola).

The first was used in "the registration" of those asking for the service or just for private interrogation, the second it is only used in major rituals with the presence of at least other two; this is called Session of Babalawos. When Awo shoots the opele on the mat, the position of the shells determines the sign.

Two shoots more will complement the consultation and then the combination of the three will permit to obtain the necessary answer. The ceremony of the board or alefado is much more complicated.

The babalawo invokes knocking the Irofa (deer horn or piece of bamboo cane), on the Ate to have the spirits and entities coming down to assist in the search. Afterwards, he will spread the rigor, Yefa (roots powder) on the surface, waving in circles a little broom while he says a pray. When he achieves the necessary vibrations, he will pass the ikinis from the left hand to the right, and will count only the ones remaining in the latter.

Afterwards, he will write down on the Yefa with his finger tips the numbers in pairs form the right to the left. This kind of consultation is only used in new consecrations to "have Orula coming down" ( the top orisha of the cult) and determined the saint that will go to the head of the initiated, or the research of the letter of the year" (characteristics of this period), or any other matter.

The most distinguish characteristic of the oracle of Ifá is its complex symbolism of many of his stories and sentences. For example "the casting net does not reach the hippopotamus", the nose is the only one that never sleeps", "blinds arrived and lames left".

Their signification only appears after lot of examination and imagination.

The ample information gathered in the Holy Book makes the ministry or priest to have a methodical life devoted to studies and meditation. Thats why he receives the name of Olúo (wise man).