by Ocha’ni Lele (Today’s PRIZE GIVEAWAY is a Copy of Diloggun Tales of the Natural World. Simply leave a COMMENT to enter. See details below)
Andrew Cort’s Mini-Review
The Diloggún, among other meanings, is a ‘library’ of holy oral literature, preserved from the African diaspora. It consists of sacred stories, myths, history and proverbs that brought some sense to the horrors and chaos of life. Just as the Jews of the ancient diaspora collected their oral teachings into the Talmud, so Ocha’ni Lele is a proponent of preserving the oral teachings of the African diaspora. This collection of stories, Diloggún Tales of the Natural World: How the Moon Fooled the Sun and Other Santería Stories is part of that effort.
These are dramatic stories, akin to the familiar stories of ancient Greece and Rome, and like them filled with literary beauty as well as relevant psychological and spiritual meaning. The book is a wonderful and long-overdue addition to the world’s mythology and cultural history.
The Separation of Heaven and Earth
Death is but a journey into lifeand life a journey into death — but this was not always so.
Standing between the spiritual and the material worlds is a gate known as death; we die in heaven to be reborn on earth, and we die on earth to return to heaven. The gate is thin, tenuous, yet crossing it is fatal to material beings.
As with most things in our world, it was not always like this.
There was a time when the gates between the worlds were open wide, and we crossed as easily as passing from room to room in our own homes. When the earth was new and the first generation walked on her face, no great chasm divided heaven and earth.
The first creations lived in both worlds freely, and the path between the two was unguarded. Heaven was home and the earth was the marketplace, and those with time to travel could walk between the two freely. Of course only humans and orishas had this privilege. Animals and plants were stuck in one realm or the other; and between the two, for them, was the gate known as life and death. Animals and plants, however, had one power that humans did not — the power of procreation. Before dying they reproduced, and this replenished their numbers on the earth. It was for this reason, the fact that they created life from their own forms that they could not cross the great divide — creatures born of the spiritual world were perfect, and creatures born of the material realm were less so.
In time two people noticed this: a man and a woman. They thought, “How powerful are the plants and animals — they can create life from their bodies and we cannot.” They wanted to be powerful like the animals so they went into heaven to petition Olófin for this ashé.
Olófin looked at them sadly, “My children — it is true that animals do recreate their own kind from their bodies, as do the plants, but have you not noticed that in the end they die? You do not die. You are eternal in this world.”
The man spoke up first, “Yes, Olófin, we are eternal. Why would our children die like animals?”
“You are not born of earthly parents. Obatalá molded your bodies from the clay of the earth, and Olódumare gave you the breath of life. You are creatures of the perfect earth, created by Obatalá’s own hands, imbued with God’s very breath, the ashé of heaven. You are not bound to one world or the other.”
“But I want to have a child,” said the woman. Her head was bowed before Olófin, and a single tear slid from her eye. “When I see the animals tending their young, I get a longing here,” and she touched her womb, “and a pain here,” and she folded her hands over her heart. “Surely, this is a sign?”
Olófin sighed. He was concerned, but he understood. “So be it. You will have a single child. But remember that this child is not born as you were, and as such, is not a perfect being. Instead of being molded from the sacred earth’s clay by Obatalá’s hands, or imbued with the breath of God, it will grow inside your belly, nourished by your own body, and when it is born it will breathe the air of this world and not the next. As such, you must never show it the gate between heaven and earth; in its earthly form, it cannot be allowed to cross as you do. It would defile and change the ashé of both worlds.”
The man and woman agreed. Before the year turned the woman was with child like an animal. Neither understood the mystery, and neither knew how the child was placed in the womb. But it was there and her belly grew.
The first generation of humans marveled at the mystery of birth. They watched as the woman’s belly swelled; they were afraid when her waters broke, and amid tears and pain, a new life slid from between her legs. Day by day they watched the child grow, and everyone was involved in his upbringing and education. How strange, they thought, that they were created knowing all things, but the young boy had no knowledge of anything, not even language. But learn he did. And they raised him on the stories of the orishas, and the knowledge of God and heaven, but having seen neither heaven nor an orisha the young man thought the stories to be fable and fiction.
When he was grown and able to fend for himself he told his parents, “I do not believe in the stories you raised me on. I believe in neither the orishas nor the heaven of which you speak.”
His parents smiled at each other knowingly. “Son,” said the mother, “You were not born as we were. Obatalá created our bodies from clay, and Olódumare himself gave us the breath of life. We know both worlds. You, however, were born from my womb. You are a child from earth and not heaven, the only one of your kind. That is why you can’t cross and see heaven for yourself.”
“I cannot believe in what I cannot see!” he said. “If this heaven is real, I will find it!”
The world grew dark that day; everyone tried to talk the young man out of his quest. He was unwavering. When night came and the world slept, he left the village of his birth and sought the gate between heaven and earth.
He found the gate as it was in the stories of his childhood; it was beautiful and serene. He saw the path that led from this world into the next. Still he was not convinced. “I will see this heaven for myself, if it is real, and see the orishas with my own eyes.” He took but a single step on the path.
Before him a great figure appeared. It was Olófin. “Child of earth!” he roared, “You were forbidden to cross this gate by your own parents. You are a creature born of earthly parents, not a human molded by Obatalá’s hands and given breath by Olódumare’s lips. You have defiled the ashé of this sacred place!” With those words, Olófin brought down his cane on the earth, hard; it cracked and rumbled like thunder, and the path between heaven and earth was forever broken.
That young man became an outcast that day, and the earth was forever cut off from heaven. With the gate closed free passage was no more. As Olófin warned, the ashé of both worlds was changed when earth’s only child attempted the crossing — for flesh born of flesh cannot travel into the spiritual world.
Ócha’ni Lele has been immersed in the underground culture of orisha worship since 1989. He made Ocha in 2000 and was crowned a priest of Oya. His other books include Teachings of the Santería Gods, The Secrets of Afro-Cuban Divination, Obí: Oracle of Cuban Santería, and The Diloggún: The Orishas, Proverbs, Sacrifices, and Prohibitions of Cuban Santería. He lives in Winter Park, Florida.
Ocha’ni is offering a Free Copy of DILOGGUN TALES to today’s lucky winner.
Today’s Prize Giveaway has the same rules as the other giveaways:
1.To enter to win, simply COMMENT ON THIS BLOG, leaving an email address so we can contact you if you win. All names of commenters go into the ‘hat’.
2.The giveaway period runs for ONE WEEK from posting. The winner will then be chosen by random drawing and contacted.
3. Only one entry per giveaway. (But you can enter as many different Daily Giveaway Contests as you want!)
If you don’t win this one, be sure to order a copy of Ocha’ni’s book from Amazon;