Not all of us live in Africa or have the luxury of very attentive mentors or parents to keep us on track. Also, even some initiates did not get adequate training, or simply prefer to do private observance aside of community gatherings. So here is a set of suggestions for daily observances for independent Orisha adherents.
Before we begin though, let me make it clear that I do not believe that there is one way for everyone. Also, I don’t believe that personal ritual is a replacement for initiation and community involvement. I do believe however, that there are things a priest can do for you, and things you need to do for yourself. When you choose to or have to do things for yourself, you should do them as correctly as possible.
Another thing, because many of us in the diaspora are of mixed ancestry, and have benefited from contact with non African belief systems, the Yoruba ways are a sort of guideline, but you are not totally limited to that. If you do mix it up though, please make sure that all deities are given their due attention and respect. If you are not an Orisha adherent, but have come here for guidance, you may benefit from my article Daily Observance Ritual for Witches at Witch University. Once you’re done here, the more concise and clear instructions for people of any belief system may be helpful.
Why You Should Do Daily Observances for the Orishas
For the same reason we digest our food, we sweat, and we sneeze when we have something irritating our nose, we need to do regular observances to channel the energy. This keeps things flowing well, and in a positive direction. When we don’t do regular observance, we create blockages, bottle-necks, and other energetic problems for ourselves.
We need to show actual appreciation for the gifts we are given, and to use what we are given to positive ends. Part of worshiping a deity is actually doing their work and allowing them to live through us. Regular observance gives us opportunities and ideas for how to make this happen. Contrary to colonial slander, there is no quid pro quo in African belief systems, at least any known ones. We do observance for alignment and to some degree appeasement of forces that live both within and outside ourselves. It is for us to align ourselves with nature, not for nature to bend herself for us.
Orisha Days of the Week
Originally, and still in many if not most temples in west Africa, they are on a lunar calendar with a four day week. The month begins on Ose Ifa on the new moon, and the next day is Ose Ogun, then Ose Shango (or maybe Jakuta, depending where), Ose Obatala, and then back to Ose Ifa. The days are named according to their ruling Orisha, but other Orishas in their family or category are also given special attention on those days.
Even if you keep a seven day week, you should be mindful of the lunar week because of the flow of liquid or water energy in the body and the Earth. You have a sort of a tide in your body that keeps time with the moon, especially if you are female or feminine. Being mindful of both solar and lunar cycles helps you to stay harmonized.
A seven day week is an adaptation for those who live and work in places where a lunar month isn’t the normal schedule. These will vary a bit from place to place, depending on how much Christian influence there was in the African diaspora population. You can read about that here. There is also a convenient Vodun calendar that you can use to keep track of what day it is. Add it to your site calendar or subscribe to it using Google Calendar. In this article, we focus on the details of how to go about doing daily observances for the Orishas.