Ocha'ni Lele,
The Diloggun:
The Orishas, Proverbs,
Sacrifices & Prohibitions
of Cuban Santeria

(Destiny, 2003)

My first impression of The Diloggun was: "Holy cow! What a book!" It is oversized and thick, containing 618 pages. My final conclusion about it is: "Holy cow! What a book!"

This book is the most in-depth study ever published of the diloggun, the cowrie-shell oracle used in the Cuban Santeria or African Lucumi religions, one of the most rapidly expanding religions in the world. This divination system uses 16 cowrie shells, known as the parent odu families. Each has a letter and number assigned to it. These are subdivided into 192 omo odu (children of the odu). Each of these patterns has its own meaning, proverbs, legends and lore, prohibitions and sacrifices. This book details all of the 256 possible omo odu combinations.

The divination sessions are the most important facet of this religion, for they promote transformation within the person, both on an inner level and within their external life. The diviner uses the cowrie-shells to determine the omo odu then uses eight other divination tools, known as the ibo, to learn the blessings, ire, and misfortunes, osogbo, that are being represented. Once they have determined these ire and osogbo, the diviner must rely upon memory to recall the details.

The author is the first to ever put into print the proper way to close a session and ground negative energy instead of releasing it into the diviner's home. He is also the first to provide details about factoring all the elements that affect the client's spiritual development into a reading, including the things that require a sacrifice. He has revealed things that have been kept secret for centuries. This secrecy is, in part, because the Catholic church waged such an intense war on African beliefs and religion in Cuba. It was illegal to be a santero or santera.

Lele informs the reader that this book is meant to be used only as a study guide and reference and that "to properly learn the oracle one must undergo an apprenticeship with a competent italero or a period of study with an oriate."

This religion began in Yoruba in the southwestern portion of Nigeria. In this system, the Creator, Olodumare, is divided into orishas. Each is a living, spiritual deity with limited power. They specialize in distinct areas of life; for example, Ochosi has dominion over hunting.

Do not plan to absorb this book completely in the first three readings. Like the Bible, The Diloggun becomes easier to understand with each reading ... but there are a couple hundred more deities involved in Santeria.

I am not sure which portion of the book I enjoyed most. The first, which tells the history of the religion and the people involved, is educational and quite interesting. I learned a lot in just a few of the huge pages. I was impressed by and relied heavily upon the 20-page glossary. The index is also extensive, handy, and a welcome help.

The proverbs are so cool! Often they made me sit and ponder before continuing reading. For example: "A newly sprouted frond is straight from tip to base" or "The one who circumcises the tortoise must not circumcise the snail."

The lore contained within these covers is priceless! Whether it is the pomegranate spiritual bath or cleansing with coconuts or guinea eggs, this portion of the book is positively fascinating.

The Diloggun offers unlimited hours of thrilling reading. It is far more than simply a reference book. It is downright addictive. The more you read it, the more you want to read it. The proverbs will stick in your head and you will enjoy discussing the lore with others. Although the divination system may be a shock to you at first, it is easy to understand once you absorb the basic concept. This is a most enjoyable read.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 27 March 2004

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