When I was a young priest, I was preparing to give Olocun, the mysterious oricha of the bottom of the sea, to one of my godchildren. We had the vessel, the tools, the shells, and the beaded necklace. As we waited for the date of the ceremony to arrive, he dreamed that he was wearing a bracelet for Olocun on his left wrist. It was like the multistranded idé that priests get when they are initiated but it had only one strand of blue and clear beads. I was a young priest, so I asked my teacher, Ernesto Pichardo, how to deal with this dream. He explained to me that the Earth Deities often communicate through dreams; furthermore, they often suggest more variations in their ceremonies than other orichas. His advice was to divine with Elegguá’s shells to see if the dream really was a revelation that should be followed. I no longer remember what sign came out, but when I divined for the addition of this bracelet it was approved by Elegguá. So we made the bracelet and when the ceremony came, we washed it and fed it with the eleke. My godson still wears it.
Now in a tradition where some people claim that we should always do ceremonies in the same way that they were done for us, this raises some questions. Certainly no one would say that every aspect of a ceremony is open to this kind of revision. In fact, the addition of a simple adornment is a relatively minor change. But how do tradition and revelation interact? Was this revelation meant for my godson’s ceremony and no other? Or should he institutionalize this change and give the bracelet each time he gives Olocun? Or should this become some kind of optional element that requires divination each time he gives Olocun?
This situation also points to the hierarchy of revelation. Dreams often serve as a vehicle for revelation, showing people specific dynamics at play in the spiritual world that oricha people call orun. However, people also recognize that dreams are not always a perfect reflection of the spiritual as they can be clouded by emotion or desire. So the simple solution is to use cowry shells or Ifá divination to verify revelations from dreams.
Some people say that this practice reflects the hierarchy of the spiritual world. They say that dreams come from the ancestors, some of whom are evolved and some of whom are not. So dream revelations must be checked with the orichas, who are by definition more evolved.
All this begs the question of what to do with a dream revelation about an oricha who could not be considered an Earth deity. Would Obatalá never communicate via a dream or is it just much less common? While many houses agree that all orichas communicate through dreams, it seems to be the special purview of the Earth Deities.