Unlike other forms of divination like tarot or runes, there are some very significant considerations and preparations to make before seeking out a formal reading from an Orisha tradition (e.g. Ifá, Santería, Candomblé). I’ve created this step-by-step guide to help you find a legitimate diviner and know what to expect from a reading.
I’m using the term “Orisha traditions” on the broadest level to include all relevant religions and paths such as Santería/Lucumí, Candomblé, and Ifá / Isese. Orisha traditions come from the same source in Yoruba culture, but each one also has very different traditions and ways of going about Orisha worship. There are also different variations in the priesthoods and in the methods of divination.
Before going to a diviner it’s helpful preparation to read some credible books on Orisha traditions and understand the differences between the various traditions to know who you are going to for a reading.
One of the biggest . No other form of divination performed by anyone else is a traditional reading from an Orisha tradition or can properly verify your path in an Orisha tradition except certain priests and priestess using specific methods.
The only people who can read for you within an Orisha tradition are the following:
- An Orisha priest or priestess, who are called olorisha, babalorisha / iyalorisha, santero / santera (for Santería only), can perform erindinlogun (Ifá / Isese) / diloggun (Santería / Lucumí) divination using sixteen cowries or Obi divination using four coconut pieces (Lucumí / Santería only) or kola nuts (Ifá / Isese only).
- Iyanifas / iyalawos (in Ifá / Isese only) and babalawos can perform forms of Ifá divination such as with ikin (palm nuts) or the opele chain.
Unfortunately, even with this information, it’s possible to get scammed or duped. There are dozens of “babalawos” on Instagram, Facebook, and across other parts of the web who will happily take your money in exchange for false information. Or websites like the Ifa Foundation that promise ceremonies and initiations in exchange for money through online transactions, but they step so far outside of tradition that they cross over into cultural appropriation.
Preparations for the Reading
Every reading depending on the Orisha tradition and the individual diviner may be a little different, but there are some common things to expect going into a reading that you will want to be prepared for.
- Bring the requested amount of cash for payment of the reading exactly in paper money, as it will likely need to be physically placed somewhere
- There’s often a lot of information given during a reading, and it will really help to have a journal or notebook to take notes in so that you remember as much as possible after the reading is over
- You might be prescribed things to do from your reading. If that happens, you may want to schedule ceremonies, cleansings, or other events, so make sure that you have a sense of your availability and access to your calendar
- You may be asked to come wearing a skirt (or a skirt over your pants) if you are a woman, femme, or woman-aligned person or to wear pants if you are a man, masc, or man-aligned person
- I recommend wearing white or light colored clothing as opposed to dark-colored clothing (in Orisha traditions, light is reflective and protective while black is absorbing of energies)
- In case you are sprinkled with powder or you receiving a cleansing right after your reading, wear clothes that you wouldn’t mind getting a little dirty!
- Be aware that you may not just hear messages from the reading about your own life, but also about family or friends. You might find out that someone is or will be pregnant, near death, or something else on a major scale. These readings are not like tarot or runes readings where events on that level are not often detected or communicated to the querent.
Costs & Sacrifice
I’ve had a lot of friends and folks online come to me with concerns when they receive a reading and are asked to make ebo. In Orisha traditions, ebo is an offering that is given to the spirits in an exchange of ashe (energy and intent). When ebo is called for, it absolutely must be made as soon as possible. If it is not completed by the recipient of the reading or performed on their behalf, at best the reading’s results won’t come through and at worst horrible things could be invited into your life that you don’t want.
Ebo simply means offering and can be in many forms including food, alcohol, flowers, incense, powders, and live animals sacrificed in a traditional way. When ebo is in the form of animal sacrifice, it is done very swiftly and humanely by priests very well trained to do so. You can read more about this topic here.
If you are morally or otherwise fundamentally against the notion of killing an animal for religious reasons, you absolutely should not seek out a traditional reading from any Orisha traditions. Ebo in the form of animal sacrifice is not always prescribed from a reading, but it is not an uncommon outcome and should be anticipated. This is something you should be prepared for both emotionally and financially before seeking a reading.
Finally, it’s important to note that readings for an Orisha tradition (not including potential ebo costs) can be pricey. It is common for a single Ifá reading to cost $100+, and for erindinlogun / diloggun readings to cost $40-$60 or more. During your reading, you may be prescribed certain ceremonies, cleansings, or initiations. Depending on what it is, these can range from $30-$50 (e.g. for a cleansing or head rogation) upwards to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. As things are prescribed to you, it’s okay to respectfully ask about the costs and what they are for. Don’t ever let yourself be pressured into spending more than you have, but also be prepared for the possibility of these outcomes.