By Mike Gleason
Obi: Oracle of Cuban Santeriaby, Ocha’ni Lele (B. Stuart Myers)
Destiny Books, 0892818646, 2001
This book, by a priest of Santeria, who also holds initiations in the religion of Palo Mayombe, offers a look within a divination system used in Santeria. Like his previous work, The Secrets of Afro-Cuban Divination, it presents information unavailable before now, except through oral transmission within the structure of the religion. For this we owe him a debt of gratitude. While it is not possible (nor would it be desirable) to reveal all the intricacies of a system of divination in a book, the author provides much valuable information, and gives a good foundation for understanding the background and history of this little-known (and even less-understood) system of divination.
Like the system outlined in his previous work (the diloggun), it is advised that one use this book as a training tool, as an accessory to learning from an accomplished practitioner of the art. There is much which cannot be conveyed except by experience and guidance from a more experienced individual.
Even though this system of divination is simpler than the previously explored one, it is by no means simple. A great deal of information must be committed to memory, including prayers in an unfamiliar language, ritual gestures, and an assortment of requirements and prohibitions.
This book contains all the basics needed to begin using this method of divination, but there are many nuances which can only be learned by observation and by doing. While it would be possible to begin using the Obi system without having a more experienced practitioner available, I don’t feel it would be advisable. Unless one has been raised in the faith, and is thoroughly familiar with the orisha, their likes and dislikes, their requirements, and their interactions with humanity, there is a lot of room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Where this book will be of greatest value, besides being a valuable resource for one being trained by an experienced diviner, is as a reference for the novice who has a reading done using this system. It would be possible to return home and, assuming one was paying close attention during the reading, look up the signs that appeared as a way of obtaining further insight. Nothing in this book, of course, should be considered as a contradiction of the advice given by the diviner, since the book contains merely the bare bones, and an experienced diviner calls upon his/her experience and deeper knowledge of the orisha.
Once again, as I said in my reviews of The Secrets of Afro-Cuban Divination, this is not a must-have book for the average reader. For one wishing to learn about this particular system of divination, it is the best book on the subject I have seen. It is clearly written, easy to read, and the author does not talk down to the reader. It is easily affordable, and well worth the effort to obtain and read it.