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Generic Syllabus for: Obi, Oracle of Cuban Santeria

Instructor: Ócháni Lele (B. Stuart Myers)

Meeting Time: This class meets once a month on Sundays for 2 hours each session. It is a five-session course, which means the class will run one Sunday a month for five months. Exact dates and times will be given before each class begins.

Textbook: Obí, Oracle of Cuban Santería (Destiny Books, 2001). The textbook is required.

Cost: $150.00 for the complete five-session course. Current divination students (basic and advanced) may attend class for ½ the tuition cost -- $75.00. Registration deadlines will be announced for each class, and full payment of tuition guarantees one’s seat. Tuition is not refundable.

Please remember that exact lessons are fluid and changeable; some topics, depending on student participation, might run longer than the allotted 2 hours. If this happens, in the next month’s class the lecture will pick up where it left off and continue.

Class One, An introduction to obi divination:

Preparation: Come to class having read the following material from Obi, Oracle of Cuban Santería:

  1. Introduction – Beyond the Middle Passage: pages 1 – 8;
  2. Chapter One – Understanding the Orisha Obí: pages 9 – 31;
  3. Chapter Two – The Principles of Casting Obí: pages 32 – 40.

Please note that these are not the only patakís that support the Lucumí system of obí divination. Throughout the diloggún are proverbs that speak about the system of obí divination. In addition to exploring the information published in the book Obi, Oracle of Cuban Santería we will discuss those odu, proverbs, and patakís supporting divination with obí.

Lecture: During class, we will begin with students introducing themselves to each other. For the remainder of the class we will study the concept of God and who or what God is. The names Olódumare, Olorún, and Olófin will be pulled apart and examined in depth by both their etymology and metaphysical expressions. Likewise, we will examine, in depth, the Lucumí concept of orisha by pulling apart and examining in depth the word’s etymology and metaphysical expressions. The Lucumí word orisha, truly, has no equivalent in the English language, and through lecture students will come to understand this concept. One-by-one, we will pull apart and examine the etymology and metaphysical implications of the faith’s pillar orishas: Elegguá, Ogún, Ochosi, Obatalá, Oyá, Oshún, Yemayá, and Shangó.

Homework assignment: Read the following: 1. pages 40 – 54 (regarding opening the oracle and casting obí); 2. Chapter Three, Interpreting the oracle – pages 55—79. Begin memorization of Lucumí prayers. Everyone should begin memorization of the Lucumí prayer to open the oracle; aborishas should begin memorization of Lucumí prayers to Elegguá, Ogún, and Ochosi; priests and priestess should begin memorization of all the above mentioned prayers plus Lucumí prayers for their crowning orishas.

Class Two: Initial Assessment and Interpreting the Oracle

Lecture: The concept of context. The oracle obí is one that depends on context. This class will be a discussion on appropriate questions that obí can address; likewise, we will speak about context and appropriate layers of interpretation with the oracle of obí. Specifically, we will discuss how to handle obí before offering an ebó, adimú or animal offering. We will discuss how to handle obí when divining with the orishas about a major life decision (and what types of decisions are appropriate for obí and which should be handled by other forms of divination). We will discuss how to handle obi for weekly petitions with Elegguá, and monthly petitions with one’s crown. Also, study with the myriad patterns falling during a session with obí will begin.

Homework Assignment: Continue memorization of the prayer used for casting obí (memorization should have begun when preparing for class two). Aborishas should continue memorization of appropriate Lucumí prayers for Elegguá, Ogún, and Ochosi (and, please note, aborishas need verifiable godparent permission before taking this class. I WILL need to speak with your godparents to verify this). Priests and priestesses should continue memorization of all the above plus appropriate prayers for their crowning orisha (first) and other pillar orishas (second). Read and study chapter three again, pages 55-79. Read chapter four, “Interpreting the Oracle: Apere ti, Obí” (pages 80-120).

Class Three: Interpretation by Apere, the symbols of Obí

Lecture: For more advanced work with obí divination, use of symbols (apere) is a lost art. Today, most santeros and santeras who use obí to give greater insight during divination fall back on the symbols of Ifá when interpreting the oracle. This is incorrect, and in my opinion, is a violation of the initiatory boundaries between babalawos and orisha priests. Only babalawos have the right and the initiatory status to use obí, in an emergency, as an òpèlè to mark legs of Ifá. Orisha priests, however, when divining with Elegguá and when used in context do have the right to interpret a cast of obí according to the apere, the symbols, that have fallen on the floor in front of Elegguá. Not every type of question, however, is appropriate for this style of interpretation. It is all about context. Please note that for aborishas, it is never appropriate to use obí in this manner – it is a tool of the priesthood only; however, aborishas with godparent permission to attend the class will be exposed to this material for the personal illumination.

For this class, we will study the following aperes in depth (beyond the material presented in the textbook): Elegguá, Ogún, Ochosi, Babaluaiye, and Aganyú.

Homework assignment: Continue memorization of Lucumí prayers; and, continue study of chapter four, “Interpreting the Oracle: Apere Ti Obi.”

Class Four: Interpretation by Apere, the Symbols of Obí

Lecture: This is a continuation of the study of apere. We will focus on the aperes for Shangó, Obatalá, Oyá, Oshún, Yemayá, and the Ibeyi (not covered in the textbook at all).

Homework assignment: Continue memorization of Lucumí prayers; read chapter five, “Closing the Session with Obí.” There are many special ebós and considerations used to clear negative patterns from one’s house. These are not covered in the textbook, and we will study these in class.

Class Five: Closing the Reading

Lecture: Obi is an oracle whose ashé is to help us evolve and avoid danger; and to facilitate this, the oracle is designed to always close on a positive note. A session cannot, must not, end on a negative letter. Through lecture we will examine how to work with Obí to not only remove negativity from our homes, but also how to close on a positive session so that each divination facilitates harmony, balance, and evolution. Also, with this final class on obí divination we will close up any loose ends and unanswered questions students might have.

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