Reflecting on the Iyaworaje

Another summer by the wayside, a fresh new semester upon us, and yet more questions than answers for my research. While in July I found myself contemplating the diverse backgrounds of Santería practitioners, my exploration of the topic during the past month has led me to a fascination with a similarity that they share in entering the religious community: the iyaworaje. The iyaworaje is the year long period of liminality following one’s kariocha initiation into the religious tradition. Despite the diversity in backgrounds from which practitioners of Santería hail, the iyaworaje renders each individual an equal, subjected to a more or less universal set of rules and regulations in accordance with which they as iyawos, or new initiates, shall abide for the following 365 days.

The concept of the iyaworaje as a liminal state, a “rite of passage” is fascinating in its on right, but I find myself particularly intrigued by the adherence of iyawos to its restrictions. Whereas before I inquired into the draw of a diverse group of individuals into the service of the Orisha, now I ponder why subjugation to such limitations is a standard practice and continues to be so.

I feel confident that when I sit down to reflect on my progress a month from now that the air shall be cooler and my research notebook a little more filled. Will I have an answer? It’d be nice. But a new question would be more interesting.


  1. Hi there! Your project is so interesting, especially because I don’t know anything about this religion. I know that this type of initiation period is fairly common across religions, and it makes me thing that individuals who practice Santeria must be extremely dedicated to the religion, and that it must be a huge part of their life if they adhere to the strict restrictions of the the iyaworaje. I was wondering how large this religious community is, and whether the diverse individuals you have looked at typically come to the religion through family or through other means?