Obatala is the king of all Orisha, sometimes known as the king of the white cloth. Obatala is associated with purity, peace, and tranquility. While often depicted as an old man, there are younger versions or paths of Obatala in which he is a young warrior riding a horse with a scimitar. Santeria practitioners appeal to Obatala for health and to bring balance to one’s life. We honor Obatala through dance, ritual songs, and specific food offerings.
What is Obatala energy? What Does Obatala Help With?
As already mentioned, Obatala is associated with peace, tranquility, and purity. Obatala’s energy is serene and one of balanced clarity. Obatala is a creator. In some stories, Obatala is the one that formed the human body. Obatala is the essence of growth and life. They say priests of Obatala are the examples by which others are to follow. At their best, Obatala’s priests portray an aura of clarity and understanding. Because of his balanced nature, many people appease Obatala and ask for healing, both spiritually and physically. We can approach Obatala in a variety of different ways, whether it be through prayer, song, divination, or offerings.
What offerings does Obatala like?
People give Obatala offerings on different occasions, such as during religious ceremonies or in response to divination. There are several fresh foods that are commonly offered to Obatala, including rice pudding and balls of cooked white yam. A food offering that is not specific to Obatala, but offered to all Orisha, is Obi Omi Tutu (coconut and cool water). Outside of food offerings, we can also offer Obatala white cloth and white beads. A common theme is white, which is a symbol of purity and life.
What offerings should I give Obatala? How to give offerings to Obatala.
We often leave offerings at the foot of Obatala, meaning on the floor next to his altar holding his sopera. But how do you know what offering to give? A priest may use divination to mark the specific offering, such as an adimu, which is a food offering chosen by the practitioner. If the practitioner does not know what Obatala likes, they would ask the priest performing the divination. This offering is prepared and placed on a white plate. Because of Obatala’s nature, it is important that the plate be clean and the offering pure. Sometimes we give Obatala offerings at the top of a mountain. For example, a person could bring 8 white flowers to a mountaintop and pray to Obatala for health and long life. You can give offerings to Obatala and pray he help you find clarity with one’s life.
When we feed Obatala blood, it is important to make sure the area on the floor is clean as well. Before we offer a sacrificial animal, he is told what is being offered and we perform divination to make sure the offering is acceptable. Similarly, when we prepare his ritual herb water, we ask if we prepared it the way Obatala likes. If he says no, maybe we need to add something simple, such as efun, a white powder made from eggshells.
What does Obatala like to eat?
As mentioned above, Obatala likes foods that are white. White yam, white rice, and coconut all have the sacred color associated with Obatala. When cooking for Obatala, it is fine to offer sweet foods, but do not add salt to anything. Obatala does not take salt. Coconut is more of an offering that became popular in Cuba, where kola nut was not readily available. In Yorubaland, they offered kola nut instead of coconut. In fact, the name for kola nut in Yoruba is obi, whereas coconut is agbon. With time, they used the coconut in place of kola nut, and took on the name obi. The foods we offer Obatala have changed over time, but many traditional dishes, such as boiled white yam, are still in place in many regions.
What does Obatala drink?
One liquid you can offer all Orisha’s, especially Obatala, is asara eko, which means a feast of white corn. Asara eko is beverage prepared by placing white corn in a gourd with water. You break up the corn with a fork to release the starch. This is left for a few days to allow the starch to release. Then you remove the corn chunks and add ori (coco butter), efun (powdered eggshell), and oni (honey). You can also add pieces of prodigiosa, a herb sacred to Obatala. You can serve this liquid to Obatala in a gourd. Asara eko is a beverage that has a cooling and serene energy, similar to Obatala.
Obatala does not take alcoholic beverages. There are stories of Obatala becoming drunk from palm wine and disfiguring humans as he created them. It is said that all children with physical defects are his children, and they look to him for protection. The most basic liquid offered to Obatala is cool water, omi tutu. We often use water for cleansings, but is also essential in every ritual. For example, before praying to Obatala, we sprinkle cool water on the floor to cool the path between you and the Orisha.
How do you honor Obatala?
Food offerings are one of the most common ways to show gratitude to Obatala. We offer him the organs of sacrificial animals to keep us healthy. Before we perform divination to ask for advice, we must say Obatala’s sacred prayers. We perform Obatala’s sacred dances in a way that mimics an old man walking. We adorn his shrines with white cloth, silver accents, and sometimes splashes of red, depending on that path.
Obatala fruit offerings
We often give fruit to the Orisha after we feed blood. We consider fruits to have a cool energy, whereas blood is hot. Obatala likes fruits that are light, such as green pears, green grapes, or green apples. However, there are some paths of Obatala that take a hint of red, such as Ajaguna. We sometimes give this path of Obatala a plate of red pears or red apples. They are white on the inside, but red on the outside. All fruit offerings represent abundance, prosperity, and a cool nature.
Every Orisha has a sacred number. Obatala’s sacred number is 8, the same number of shells speaking in the Odu Eji Ogbe. When giving Obatala offerings, give them in multiples of 8. For example, a plate of 8 apples, 8 pears, or 8 balls of white yam. For grapes, we just give him a bunch. You can give 8 bunches of grapes, if there are enough people to eat them later! Which brings us to the point of eating the fruit after we offer it. At Osha celebrations, we give people a bag of fruit and candy from Obatala’s throne or altar. This food has Obatala’s blessing and is sacred. We offer the fruit and candy to Obatala, and later we give attendees fruit and candy at the end. We normally discard foods like boiled white yam rather than eat them.