During the initiation of the Iyabó (the person becoming holy), they must follow a set of rules that include not exposing themselves to direct sunlight. This is especially true around noon, because death prowls at that hour (despite the belief that the sun is a gift from the creator, Olofi).
Nor can they get wet from the rain or come in contact with the nighttime dew, because the night is tragic and evil. They must not mingle among crowds because they are vulnerable, nor can they sleep in total darkness.
The convert receives a new name, which they must keep secret since the use of it could cause them harm.
Following the path of the Iyabó carries with it the obligation of possessing “The Book of Ifá,” which contains the recommendations indicated to them during the first week of their initiation. This book must accompany the person for their entire lifetime, as it serves as a kind of Bible. It is consulted “in good times and bad,” as its teachings must be remembered and kept in mind during each daily task.
The sanctified individual also has social duties, such as maintaining good relations with their nearest relatives, not starting arguments or participating in them, and respecting their godmother or godfather unconditionally.
However, among these people -as always occurs among humans- each rule has its violators and the general disrespect of tradition. The impulse of fast living, full of vicissitudes, results not only in those who comply with their commitments, but also a good number of converts who don’t fear the consequences. They disregard what was agreed to or negotiated with the intermediation of their godparents, though this benefits their saints in that they receive better sacrifices.
You can now walk down any street and see how fashion has impacted what was previously the traditional humble attire of converts, who dressed entirely in white (symbolizing purity).
Today their outfits are accessorized with Nike caps or designer shoes – even white, black or red headsets for their MP3s.
They struggle to get on the bus squeezing their way within the crowd; or they can be found seated enjoying a movie at the cinema.
All of this is contrary to what is dictated to those who must be in spiritual retreat, covered by the protective veil as they remain in the “grace” of gods as converts in worship.
Some shamelessly eat foods that are forbidden to them, only to proclaim innocently in all directions that they ate something else, and that they don’t savor or miss other delicacies so much – as if their gods don’t have the powers these proselytes say they have as omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent deities.
My neighbor, for example, allowed all of her ritual to be photographed and recorded on video so that her sister in Spain could see it. Similarly, I found myself warning another neighbor in a cement warehouse to not let the noontime sun beat down on her, because she had forgotten about being a Iyabó six months after being anointed.
It’s a shame to see the way in which everything that defines us and has lived with us for centuries has been made banal and suffered irretrievable transformation. Although there exist babalawo priests who are aware of the harm that can be done by these practices in terms of the future health of Regla Ocha (the Yoruba religion), they are tied hands and feet before what is devouring -little by little- a still living religion.