Title: Teachings of the Santeria Gods
Author(s): Ocha’ni Lele
Published 2010 by Destiny Books
ISBN: 1594773327
ISBN-13: 978-1594773327
Paperback, 256 pages
List: $16.95
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Reviewer: Mike Gleason

There are those who will look at this books and say, "What's the big deal? It's only a collection of stories." These people have little knowledge of what goes into being a storyteller and collecting stories (let alone stories in a foreign language. Add to that the fact that many of these stories were fragmentary to start with, and the difficulty increases. Then one needs to consider what it takes to be an effective storyteller.

Telling a story orally is one thing, conveying the same story on the printed page is another whole set of skills. These stories have be passed down by word of mouth for centuries and have been influenced by generations of storytellers. They tell us as much about Yoruban culture and beliefs as do the myths and stories of classical civilizations and the mainstream religions.

These stories are a vital part of a Yoruban divinatory system (the diloggun) and operate on several levels. If they are seen ONLY as stories, they tell us one thing. If they are seen as providing guidance as well, their significance expands.

The author has begun a service to the Lucumi with this book. I say he has has begun it because there are many more stories to be salvaged and reclaimed. For every pataki presented here, dozens (if not hundreds) more remain in the minds and handwritten notebooks of oriates around the world. It is the work of several lifetimes to relate them, but a start has been made.

Each of these pataki is connected to one or more of the 16 odu. Each odu has 16 potential variants, leading to 256 possible outcomes. So, at a minimum, there are 256 patakis to know (even though some of the odus have dozens or even hundreds). From the odu come the orisha, and their stories are a vital part of the patakis as well.

This current volume presents 58 patakis associated with the first 12 odu (all that the average oriate is permitted to interpret). Even so, there remain 134 patakis untold - at a bare minimum. More than two- thirds of the patakis await us. To relate more, in a manageable manner, and in a format less than several thousand pages of small type, will take several volumes. Each volume will expand our knowledge of the odu.

For those individuals who are not followers of the faith of Santeria, these stories will serve as an introduction; for those who are followers, they will help to increase our knowledge and understanding of the odu and orisha. Both are worthy goals, and the author succeeds is helping everyone have more understanding.

I could feel myself settling into my godfather's chair and hearing the patakis as the diloggun was cast for me. I didn't always understand how they related to my questions, and I sometimes left more confused than when I entered, but down the road things would make themselves clear. I would have been very pleased to have this volume of patakis available then, so might have gotten more of a feel for what was being conveyed.

I most heartily encourage this author to continue to produce future volumes, so that more of the patakis may become better known. Much more than mere mythology, they convey a living sense of the religion, and the orisha and odu which inspire us. He is an excellent storyteller, and there need to be more like him. Perhaps others will also take up the task of sharing their versions of the patakis with us. Our knowledge and enjoyment will certainly benefit for it.

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