THE FIRST STEP
What are Elekes/Collares/Necklaces in the Afro-Cuban tradition of Santeria? Why do we wear them?
These are some of the questions that are asked of me often. Before I can offer a response I first explain who the five fundamental Orishas are in the Afro-Cuban/Yoruba tradition.
In the ritual of the Elekes/Collares/Necklaces we install the five fundamental Orishas:
Elegua – The opener of roads, the messenger of all the Orishas.
Obatala – Chief of the White Cloth, Creator of the human form, owner of all heads.
Yemaya – Mother of the universe, mother of fish, mother of the 7 seas.
Ochun – The youngest of the fundamental Orishas. She is considered the River Goddess, she represents sweetness and calm.
Chango/Shango – The Orisha of fire, thunder and lighting, owner of the drum and dance. He is the only Orisha that is a King.
HOW DOES ONE RECEIVE THE ELEKES?
There is only one way in which to receive them, and that is by an initiated priest or priestess of Santeria. You should not buy them in a shop or on line. I have seen many people wearing the elekes that they have bought on line. Those have not been consecrated to the Orishas and in fact can work against you over time. I have also seen online that “Santeros” sell consecrated sets. Don’t trust that. To receive the set of Elekes is a process. They should almost never be mailed. As a godfather myself I have had to replace some elekes for my godchildren who live in other countries. The difference is that I know the person/persons, and they have gone through the initiation process.
I myself make each set prior to the ritual of initiation. The beads should be made by a Santero or Santera. It is a meditation I do to make them with the intention of installing positive energy and the blessing of each Orisha for your protection.
When you visit a Santero or Santera to have a reading with the mouthpiece of the Orisha (normally conducted with the shells of Elegua-the Road Opener). You visit the Santero/Santera because you may be having some difficulties of some kind, whether it be spiritual, emotional, and economical or maybe a great deal of negative energy around you.
The Santero will read the shells known as Diloggún in front of you. When they cast the shells the Orisha speaks and provides you with advice and sometimes solutions to your particular problem. Sometimes the Orisha will recommend that you receive the Elekes.
The ceremony of the Elekes is an intermediate one. Although it is an intermediate ceremony it must be taken seriously. You are receiving the energy of the five Orishas. Too many times I have seen people receive them and after a while, they lose all interest. This is not a FAD! We don’t want to offend the Orisha, do we?
I will say this: do not be forced into receiving the Elekes. Although the Orishas recommend that you receive them you need to feel it in your heart and soul. Think deep about it and the commitment you will have, ask questions. Entering into this tradition should not be taken lightly. Receiving them does not mean that you have to go farther. There are people in my spiritual house that have only the Elekes and have had them for more than 30 years. Their path was not to become a priest or priestess. Instead, it was for spiritual protection.
Without going into great detail regarding the ceremony:
You will need to take with you one set of NEW white cloths, a skirt for women, pants for men, including undergarments, a t-shirt for men, shoes or sneakers, socks, a shirt or blouse long sleeves, 2 white towels. I am often asked about white clothes you may already have that have been used. The answer is NO. The reason is very simple you are being “baptized” with sacred herbs and dedicated to the Orisha Obatala (Chief of the White Cloth). It represents purity. Depending on the spiritual house you are joining you will wear white cloths for 3 to seven days. Of course, if you are working as a banker or in a uniform service you are exempt to wear white at work however you should in all your free time.
The cloths in which you arrive with the ceremony should be old clothes that you no longer want, they should have been worn at least 24+ hours before the ceremony. The old clothes represent your past and the new white clothes represent the new beginning or new birth.
There are always 2 people conducting the ceremony. They will be your godparents, your teachers if you will.
The Elekes are placed on you with the blessing of your godparents and the Orisha. The ritual is one of beauty and love, or at least that what the intention should be. The Elekes are “fed washed in sacred herbs.
They should be worn for the 7 days after your ceremony as a set. After that, you can wear one or more depending on what you are feeling. They should not be worn during the minstrel cycle for the simple reason that they can pull a great deal of energy from your body. You do not sleep with them, or bath with them on, engage in sex while wearing them. By no means can someone else wear your Elekes, also they should not be touched by anyone other than you or your godparents. When you take them off at night they should be wrapped in a white cloth and placed on a table NOT ON YOUR ANCESTOR ALTAR.
If for some reason one of the Elekes should POP or break while you have them on don’t panic. Pick up as many of the beads as you can, contact your godparent they will prepare a new one for you. Sometimes they pop because you may be in a negative place or negative energy is being directed to you. When this happens the Orisha is showing their protection. The beads absorb the negativity instead of you. The Elekes are like a talisman and defense that we have for protection from possible bad influence from envious people or enemies.