Candomblé Priesthood

Within Candomblé, there are two categories of initiates; those who are eleguns (people who can possess Orisa) and those who are not.

Eleguns are called Iyawo (bride of the Orisha), even when they are done with their initiation and period of restrictions. In Candomblé, Iyawo does not refer to the period a new initiate wears white and follows restrictions. There has been some confusion about Candomblé eleguns being Iyawos for 7 years; people began to think that an initiate must wear white and follow restrictions for 7 years. This is not so; a Candomblé initiate only wears white for the 3 months after their initiation (or more, depending on specific circumstances), and is “liberated” after the obligation.   Although the Iyawo is “liberated” after the first 3 months (usually), there are still some restrictions to be followed such as not going to the beach, certain color or food restrictions, and others that vary depending on lineage. They do not become elders/priests, however, until they are 7 years old and have completed the 7th year obligation.

It is important to note that one can complete their 7th year obligation without receiving Deka/Igbase/Cargo/Oye/Title within the house. Usually the two happen together, but they are not synonymous. Also, many people complete their obligation after their actual ajodun/anniversary of initiation – be it by a few months or several years.

Therefore, one is considered an elder after their 7th year obligation, whether or not they received Deka/Igbase/Cargo/Title. Being an elder alone, however, does not grant one the right to function as a Babalorixa or Iyalorixa or to run their own house. Babalorixa and Iyalorixa are titles within Candomble that are given to those who receive Deka; not all elders receive Deka.

Ogans (male) and Ekejis (female) are initiates who do not possess Orisa, but are still elders.  Their roles within Candomblé revolve around taking care of the Orisa manifested. They also become experts on the inner workings of a Terreiro. If you are initiated as an Ogan or Ekeji, you are already an elder within the Terreiro before your 7 years. The initiation period and process for Ogans and Ekejis varies between lineages. Ogans and Ekejis do not read merindinlogun, perform rituals like boris or ebos without their Baba/Iyalorixa; they also do not have godchildren or perform initiations.

If you are initiated as a Iyawo, you neither become an elder nor can be considered a full priest until you complete your 1st, 3rd, (in some cases, 5th) and 7th year obligations if your path is to be a priest. You cannot function as a Babalorixa or Iyalorixa until receiving Deka/Igbase if that’s your destiny.


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