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Book details
  • Genre:RELIGION
  • SubGenre:Spirituality
  • Language:English
  • Pages:292
  • eBook ISBN:9781877845123

Obí Agbón: Lukumí Divination with Coconut

by Miguel "Willie" Ramos

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Obí Agbón is a ground-breaking exploration of Lukumí (Yoruba) divination with coconut and its historical evolution in Cuba and the Cuban diaspora. This study reviews the existing scholarship on the topic, offering critical and profound observations that are of major importance and relevance to the state of affairs of Lukumí religion in the XXIst century.
Obí Agbón is a ground-breaking exploration of Lukumí (Yoruba) divination with coconut and its historical evolution in Cuba and the Cuban diaspora. This study reviews the existing scholarship on the topic, offering critical and profound observations that are of major importance and relevance to the state of affairs of Lukumí religion in the XXIst century. In the process of analyzing the primary subject, the author book examines some of the more salient debates, internal discrepancies and worrisome, unprecedented trends that have challenged the Lukumí community through the years, and continue to do so in the modern context. Furthermore, while not dismissing the role of mythology and tradition, the author’s exploration presents a series of fundamental considerations, significant for both devotees and the scholarship, which are founded upon historical archival evidence as well as oral “texts”—the accounts of the members of the Lukumí community themselves. In the process, the reader gains valuable insight about the role of human capriciousness and inventiveness that so often lead to confusion, discrepancies and contention amongst Olorishas, and repeatedly upset or alter religious practice. The author’s dominion of the subject matter is supported by four decades of active participation as an Olorisha and Obá Oriaté, in the religion that has been part of his own family tradition for at least four generations. Moreover, fieldwork in Cuba and the Cuban diaspora, scholarly research and publications, participation in many conferences and symposiums, and contributions to several museum exhibitions, corroborate the author’s expertise and command of the topic. Surely, Obí Agbón will be an invaluable guide for the Olorisha and an important contributor to the scholarly literature on Lukumí religion. Given the book’s strong foundations, this study will certainly—and hopefully—lead to other levels of discussion that are of extreme importance given the growth, expansion and continual transformation of the Lukumí religion since the Cuban Revolution, which has allowed the religious system to respond to the needs of greater and significantly diverse national and ethnic communities that have joined its ranks. Undoubtedly, all forms of Yoruba religion are living traditions that, by their very nature, cannot remain static. Stagnation clearly presages the system’s demise. As a “living” entity, the Lukumí faith will—in fact, must—continually grow and evolve, actively and incessantly encompassing those elements that expand the religion’s character and applicability to the modern world, while simultaneously supporting its perpetuity. As Lukumí and all variants of Yoruba religion continue ascending as universal faiths, the custodians of each tradition have a responsibility and an obligation to safeguard the religion’s essential core, whether or not its margins pursue (hopefully) positive interaction with the other traditions. Ultimately, whether these custodians accept or reject any transformative movements is immaterial, given the unrelenting character of the natural evolution that the various traditions must inevitably follow to respond to the modern world. At these junctions, it is vital that the community guarantees the constant and unremitting scrutiny of the fundamental components that make up the religions’ core as these elements interact with the concerns, changes and directions that will shape ritual and practice for generations to come. This book contributes to the ongoing debate, but most importantly if does so by ensuring that actively defending and guarding a religious legacy that must withstand the test of time and unremittingly demonstrate its capacity to advance beyond the obstacles that it encounters in its journey.
About the author
Obá Oriaté Miguel “Willie” Ramos, Ilarí Obá, Lukumí, olorisha of Shangó, was born in Havana, Cuba and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Ordained into the Lukumí priesthood at the age of thirteen, he has been an obá oriaté for over thirty-five years. Ramos is a student of Lukumí/Yoruba religion in Brazil, Cuba and the Cuban Diaspora. He holds a Master of Arts in History from Florida International University where he has taught courses on Anthropology, Sociology and History. Present Ramos is working on a PhD at the same institution. His dissertation will focus on Lukumí and Afro-Cuban history and culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Over the years, Ramos has participated in numerous conferences in the U.S. and abroad. In 2001, he was a guest curator for an exhibit on Lukumí Orisha arts held at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida in Miami. That same year, Ramos travelled to Dusseldorf, Germany where he collaborated with the Museum Kunst Palast, inaugural exhibition. Ramos has published several books for Lukumí devotees. He has contributed to several scholarly texts and journal articles, including his important “La División de La Habana . . .,” which was based on oral history and fieldwork conducted in Cuba and the U.S. during the 1990s. Two of Ramos’ recent publications, Orí Eledá mí ó…Si mi cabeza no me vende (2011) and the recently edited and revised English-language edition of Adimú: Gbogbó Tén’unjé Lukumí (2012) have received considerable praise from the Lukumí community. Presently, Ramos hosts Eleda.Org, a website about Lukumí religion and culture, and is president of the Diaspora Cultural Center in Miami. For the past thirty years, Ramos has conducted fieldwork in Cuba and Brazil, and is a pioneer in defeating passé ideologies about learning the religion by offering seminars on Lukumí rituals and consecration ceremonies for ordained olorishas. The current book is another of Ramos’ continues undertakings and his firm belief in the tenets of the odu Ejiogbé Odí that emphasize the need for the distribution of knowledge.
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