The world over, Yoruba beadwork—necklaces, staffs, and crowns—are rightfully worn by orishas, kings, and priests.

Orisha priests wear necklaces not only for “protection” and identity as children of orishas. As well, we wear necklaces to announce that our heads are consecrated. Priests are representative of the orishas in the ile aye.

Necklaces are the royalty, wealth, and the irés we pray for every day.

In Yorubaland, Benin, and Brazil, necklaces always announced these traditional values in their beauty and size. African kings are covered from head to toe in beads. Priests in Yorubaland and Brazil wear thick necklaces that reach the navel to indicate powers of procreation.

Cuba bequeathed us a tradition of smaller ilekes. This is the result of economics and discretion: the need to hide religious participation for fear of persecution. Wood carvings and all orisha regalia were made smaller for lack of resources.

With the recent turn toward African and Brazil for world perspective, beyond what we learned from our beloved elders and egun, it seems appropriate to reclaim our right to nobility and wealth—what Osha wants us to have.

Our orishas take large thick mazos. We can and should start to publicly wear thick ilekes of gorgeous beads, colors, and stones that reach the navel—especially the orishas we are born from.

Reprinted from an email received from Folkcuba.

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