SAFE Alert – Fraudulent Orishas Sold Online

SAFE Alert! Fraudulent Orishas Sold Online!

It was recently brought to our attention that there is an Ifá foundation claiming to sell orishas online, and what is being sold is little more than concrete sculptures. This organization offers an entire line of Eshus, each of which is attributed different magical properties, or Eshus said to be aligned with different orishas‘ energies. This is not only incredibly outside the tradition of Santeria Lukumí or even traditional Yoruba Ifá practice, but is entirely unethical and fraudulent. This organization claims to be Ifa-centered and descended from Lukumí origins, although they are well-known for their reinvention of religious practice to the point that their current practice is no longer Lukumí nor traditional Yoruban Ifá.

Selling Eshus Like Hotcakes

The baffling Eshu Sigidi sold by this foundation is nothing more than an Nkisi statue from the Congo – not Ifá.

This organization’s online store claims to sell spiritual tools that “ignite your power within”. The area that drew the attention of SAFE (Santeros Against Fraud and Exploitation) is a section claiming to sell Eshus or Elegguas. The site offers Eshus like: “Eshu Obatala“, “Eshu Ogun“, “Eshu Yemonja/Olokun”, “Eshu Oke”, “Eshu Chango“, “Eshu in a Locket”, and even “ElegguaEshu Ogun Keychain”! They also offer the baffling “Eshu Sigidi” that appears to be a hybrid between a Congolese Nkisi statue and an Eshu. You will notice in all these instances, they are blending together the names and apparently the attributes of two, sometimes three, orishas‘ energies.

Eshu is Eshu, Eleggua is Eleggua. Eshus are constructed by Babalawos. Elegguas are birthed by Olorishas. They are made in different ways and with different items. While they may be related orishas, it is important to understand that one is not the other. Calling something an Eshu-Eleggua is a red flag that this foundation is operating in the waters of Joseph Campbell’s “similar gods are the same god” philosophy which is not traditional Yoruba nor Lukumí.

Eshu has roads (caminos) with specific names: Eshu Bi, Eshu Laroye, Eshu Barakikeño, Eshu Alawana, etc. not names like “Eshu Ogun” nor “Eshu Obatala“. That is a whole-cloth invention that is outside the scope of traditional Ifá practice.

Orishas Cannot Be Received Through The Mail

Eshu Oshún Ayé – a mish-mash of three different orishas sold by this fraudulent foundation. Notice it hasn’t been fed any animal sacrifice and it is painted green.

Additionally, this foundation of Ifá sends these Eshus through the mail, and never presents them to the intiate on the holy mat “até”. Every orisha or initiation is received by that person while kneeling on a mat (with the exception of the kariocha where the initiate is seated on the Odó which is on top of the mat). The godparent is supposed to pray over the newly consecrated item (be it an Eshu, elekes, idé of Orunmila, Orisha Addimú, etc.), place it in the godchild’s hands and explain what the item is, how to use it, and then bless that initiate that the orisha may serve them to bring iré into their life and keep away osogbo. Babalawos also often chant the songs and prayers for the various odu associated with that initiation. The grass mat “até” is a holy place for us in the Lukumí and Yoruba faiths. This is where the orishas come down to earth and are present in the world. You must receive an orisha or item on the grass mat for that is the meeting place between humankind and the orishas. Receiving something through the mail does not qualify as a legitimate reception of any orisha. That person hasn’t received a thing.

Improperly Constructed Orishas

The Orishas given by this foundation of Ifá were also found to have the wrong items or improper items inside of them. For example, all of the orisha shrines use naturally rounded stones found at the river or ocean (or occasionally pieces of coral – like Eshu Afrá or Babalú Ayé). These are typically metamorphic rocks, not crystals.

The Oshun this individual received from this foundation contained 5 multicolor tumbled quartzite stones, 18 cowries and no tools. Oshun’s otá (stones) must be yellowish or orangish in color and are river rocks, not tumbled quartzite stones. When the foundation of the orisha – the otá (stones) – is incorrect, the very body of the orisha is not properly prepared to receive and seat the spirit of that orisha in the physical form.

The above pictured “Eshu Oshún Ayé” contained nothing more than shredded dollar bills.

The Ogun that this individual had been given contained nine multicolored quartzite rocks, and two out of seven of the proper tools along with a handful of nails. Ogun’s shrine received in the Warriors has one rock (some lineage give two rocks – one for Ogun and one for Ochosi), but certainly not 9. Nine isn’t even Ogun’s ritual numbers. His rocks should be black smooth stones, not multicolored rocks. Additionally, this foundation instructs people to grease Ogun’s shrine with olive oil on a regular basis. There are no olives in Africa. This is an outright invention and is totally illegitimate practice. Ogun’s shrine should be greased with red palm oil (epó) which is easily obtained at any African store or online. We’ve even purchased it on Amazon.com! There is no excuse for using olive oil on our orishas.

The Eshus distributed by their online store had lots of problems too. They had no aches inside, no herbs and none of the expected items required in an Eshu. First, a stone must be present as the resting place for that orisha’s spirit in every orisha shrine. The odu Oshé Meji requires that “The orishas are stone, shells, water and herbs”. No stone, no orisha. Even if the Eshu is constructed of cement, there must be a stone within it or beside it. This person’s “personal Eshu” did not have a stone in it… in fact it had NOTHING inside of it. It was little more than a cement sculpted head. Personal Eshus are supposed to be the most custom of all Eshus. They are tailored for a person’s specific spiritual energy and needs. Sending someone a personal Eshu that is completely empty is not only a fraudulent and unforgivable practice, but can seriously harm someone spiritually.

This victim was sold a “Personal Eshu” that was completely empty and devoid of any required items for empowerment.

The “Eshu Oshun Ayé” this individual bought had shredded dollar bills inside of it, and nothing more. First, Eshu Ayé is made in a conch shell, not as a sculpted cement head. Next, there is no such thing as “Eshu Oshun” – that is an invented name. Eshu is certainly not painted green. Additionally, if any money is to be put inside of an Eshu it would be coinage as the metal of the coins has a real value. Paper does not have a real value for this use. This Eshu had no ashé inside, no herbs, no items of value or spiritual significance. It was a blatant fraud.

Without Animal Sacrifice There is No Orisha

Animal sacrifice seems to be the greatest point of contention with the Santeria and Ifá religions. This foundation which claims to follow an Ifá practice in the more traditional African way, sends out these orishas without having given them any blood sacrifice. You’ll notice the items are sparkling clean. No matter how hard to try to clean an orisha‘s shrine that has been fed, you will always see evidence of some blood left. These never received blood sacrifice.

Animal sacrifice is a necessary and defining part of traditional Ifá and Santeria practice. The blood of animals is sacrificed to the orishas‘ shrines so that they become a concrete and physically rooted incarnation of a spiritual being. The orishas are transcendently spiritual. Creating their shrines makes them physical and gives them manifestation in the physical world so that we can interact with them. Without the act of feeding these items the blood of sacrificed animals they are still ephemeral and not anchored in the physical location of those consecrated items.

Improperly prepared Ogun with nine stones and incomplete tools.

The practice of animal sacrifice was first prescribed by Eshu in the diloggún odu of Ofun Meji. The 16 odus were tasked by Olofi to descend to earth and make it a suitable place for humanity, but Oragun (Ofún) said to Olofi that it was an impossible task for there were too many obstacles to overcome. Eshu stepped forward and prescribed ebó: sacrifice 101 white pigeons to the earth. He explained that the earth was like a leopard that would eat anything on its surface, so to tame it the blood of these sacrificed animals had to touch the earth, cooling it so that humanity could live in peace. Thus was born the act of animal sacrifice as part of our religious practice. Additionally in the diloggún odu Edigbere we are reminded that animal sacrifice not only benefits the person doing the ebó but also helps all of humanity – even those uninvolved in our practices, for it keeps osogbo at bay and helps better our lives.

There are those who would try to modify our religions to remove the act of animal sacrifice. This is a grave mistake. We have ritual requirements both in odu and through the spiritual technology we use, to implement blood sacrifice. No blood sacrifice = no orisha. The blood feeds them and fixes their ephemeral energies into the physical items of their shrines. Additionally, animal sacrifice is a normal part of Yoruban culture which naturally is found in the religions that originate with their culture, namely Lukumí, Ifá and even Brazilian Candomblé. To remove the animal sacrifice is a disrespect to the countless African ancestors who risked their lives to hold to their culture and religion in the face of adversity and persecution from slavery. They felt it was a critical part of our religion to the point that it was worth dying for, should they be discovered. For us to deviate from that practice is a disrespect to their sacrifice and doesn’t hold with the Yoruban cultural value of honoring your ancestors and their efforts; it removes the social component of a religion that is strictly social in nature.

Beware of anyone who claims Santeria Lucumi or Ifá orisha worship without animal sacrifice. Shrines and Eshus given without any animal sacrifice are definitely not orishas and certainly not part of the traditions of Ifá nor Santería Lukumí.


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  1. seeta

    would you be able to translate to spanish!!!!

  2. Charles Spencer King (Baba Awo ogbesa)

    aboru aboye
    Mo dupe (I thank you) for this important article. Mr. Philip Neimark’s IFA foundation has been a concern of elders both in greater Yorubaland and Cuban Lucumi in diaspora for years. The “foundation” having a 501C tax designation is in itself a travesty. Mr.Neimark and his minions tout a Cuban Lucumi lineage, that has never been verified. In fact, it is the responsibility of any practitioner to produce their lineage, tenure and education when asked. Mr. Neimark’s strategy has always been to fabricate what he deems is convenient and what his considerable marketing talents deem the public wants (or can be hoodwinked into buying). Several years ago, he reportedly converted to Yorubaland traditional practice (ATR), he did this at sometime after he helped publish Dr.Afolabi A. Epega’s “The Sacred IFA Oracle” in 1995. Interestingly, is we did not hear about this shift in philosophy until after Dr. Epega’s death in 2006. Thus there is noway tp confirm, what Mr. Neimark claims to be the case. Furthermore, there is no way possible that Mr. Neimark could have been educated properly in Yorubaland and earned sufficient rank to lead ceremonies, let alone work them. Up until the last year, Mr. Neimark was claiming to be qualified to preform (lead) both Cuban Lucumi and traditional Yorubaland ceremonies. During the last year he is now claiming to have a hybrid form of IFA / Irunmole/ Orisha worship, yet of course continues to offer either Cuban Lucumi credentials or Traditional Yoruba credentials.

    A few years ago he fabricated the practice of “bloodless sacrifices” and while this concept appeals many prospective customers, it is strictly what the Cubans call “invento” or an invented practice by this marketing wiz. For those outside of our various branches of our religion there are many sacrifices that are bloodless, and the well trained Babalawo or oba can do many ebo without blood, yet for certain aspects of our religion blood is required, period. It is true, that under trained often use blood more than is needed in some cases, yet blood is and should be reserved for our most important sacrifices and ceremonies. I often say a junior Awo or oba sometimes uses an atom bomb to solve a problem when a flyswatter will do. But this is all part of the learning curve. The more we learn the more options are at our disposal.

    Mr. Neimark also claims to be able to give IFA readings over the phone or Skype, another practice that I am a harsh critic of. If there has been a significant amount of face to face (on the mat) divination, this can be done, but certainly not with someone Mr. Neimark or other Internet diviners have not met personally and divined for face to face. The same is true for any ceremony involving rank, such as a mano or cofa de Orula (isefa), this is not done except face to face and with at least three trained and qualified Awo. A santero/a can not preform this ceremony, so if a santero/a tells you that you are a child of a certain Orisha in Cuban Lucumi, it is a guess, the same is true if they assign a personal odu to you, it is a qualified guess. There is absolutely no way to become a full santero/a (crowned) without participating in this ceremony, so beware. Mr. Neimark claims to give ori through the mail as well as various Orisha suck as Eleggua or Esu, this is also invento. Face to face only. Now, there are other forms of divination that can be done over the phone or Internet, just not IFA. Mr.Neimark claims he can give ashe/ase over Skype more hogwash. It goes on and on with his manipulations, fabrications and inventos.

    I am delighted to see SAFE firing some significant salvos at the IFA Foundation and Mr. Neimark. I am happy to throw my support and credibility to support these ongoing investigations.

    Awo Ogbe Osa (Lucumi Baba Awo kunaldo/wanaldo/ cuchillo) Author of “Nature;s Ancient Religion” and “Ifa y los Orishas: La Religion Antigua de la Naturaleza” Rama Che che: José Asunción Villalonga Ogunda masa / Bonifacio Valdez, (Ogbe Wene)/ Gerardo de las Mercedes Valdez Montalvo, (Che Che, Ojuani Alakentu)>>>>Norberto Díaz, Baba Ejiogbé,Norberto Díaz, Baba Ejiogbé >>>> Isidro Hernandez Ogbe Osa >>>>Jose Ramon Medina Oyecun Otura>>>>Alfredo Lima Oche Ogbe>>>>>>Lazzaro Pijuan Ogunda Juani ( Leader 100 Awo strong Che che rama La Habana, Commission de letra del ano, Miguel Febles Padron) >>>>>> Charles Spencer King Ogbe Osa ( I am one of only three Awo’s Padrino Lazaro made in 28 years of IFA)

    1. Grecia

      Some oriates know how to crown Obba dcetirly. Most do not. I was crowned direct in September, not through Oshuns mysteries. I am a newly iniated priestess of Obba. Obba is a queen. The perfect woman, that did not know it. Oshun is actually her best friend. Depending on the writer, in most stories, it is Oya who tricked her. Obba was in fact pretty, sensous, and a fighter. She was intelligent, taught the other Orishas to read and use the sword. Her first choice in marriage was actually Babaluaye, not Shango. However, Shango was chosen.

  3. Christina Alava

    I too was elated to read this article. It is well written, and backed by odu which gives it great credibility. Aleyos (uninitiated practictioners) and olorishas alike need to be protected and only by educating ourselves can we begin to do so. I passed this article on to my godchildren. Thank you for your dedication to our community. Modupue

    Christina Alava Iya Igbinkeke Obatala

  4. kandkproductions

    Hi Just had a question.
    I wanted to know if there are any groups or Orisha churches in New York City?

    1. Santeria Church

      I’m sorry but we cannot refer you to anyone in NYC.

    2. Ogundokun

      Try getting a hold of the Church Of The Lukumi Babaluaye. Google their name and you’ll find it. It was founded by Oba Ernesto Pichardo.

  5. Ifa Leti

    Alafia I am a priest of Ogun. I have practiced the orisha faith for over 12 years. I practiced both sides Santeria and Traditional Yoruba Orisha worship. I do have to agree that selling Orishas online is totally wrong and unacceptable. I do have to say that following the traditional path I learned that every egbe and village in Yorubaland do things different. Esu are given for every Orisha you receive. Also Esus are given on the odus that Orisha is born under. I am not saying that the Santeria way is wrong at all. Just that there is a difference. The Oluwo that is of the Ifa Foundation says he was trained by the late Baba Epega. I had the honor to meet him. He was a kind man with so much ase and knowledge. I could not tell you is this is true but if it is I am sure he was trained well. On the other hand we see in both sides of the tradition people who claim to be Priest yet do not act like them and use the Orishas as a cash cow. I can not stress how much this breaks my heart. I feel that these people are taken over by greed. I understand that coming from the Lucumi path that the faith is much more structured in the one way of doing it. In Africa this is not the case at all. Some differences are that Olokun is crowned directly and in santeria it is not. Again I do not want to say that crowning Yemaya instead is wrong but there is the difference. All orisha in Africa is crowned or put to the head. If you were to receive any orisha adimu they would chant the ofo ase and put you in possession with that orisha. I know you also mentioned the Ogun pot. In Africa people do not recieve Ogun most of the time. From my understanding generally there is one communal shrine for Ogun at the entrance of the village. This is where everyone does whatever ebo is needed. The man from the Ifa Foundation says he does traditional practice so there is many differences I have met Orisha priest who were intiated to Oshun by the Oshogbo lineage and they give three pots with different secrets. Our faith was born in the bush. That being said I think we can all agree that the people there only had clay rocks water wood ewe and blood to make the orisha and we can agree that the most important part of any fundamento is the otas. Without that there is no orisha. I am sure that is people are doing this wrong that Orisha will see that they are taken care of. I think what saddens me the most is that people come with faith and a open heart to our faith and these “Priest” are not thinking of helping them and just end up setting a bad name for us. I think that as a community we should come together and learn from each other and support each other so that the truth may always come out and carry ourselves with the basic fundation of Orisha which is Iwa Pele (good character). I can speak for myself only and in my own experiences that there is no right way of doing things. I could write a whole book on the differences in Lucumi Candomble and Traditional. I think that if you feel orisha that is the most important thing, and if all fails divine on it and at least we know what to directly from the orishas. Although I do agree sending Santos by mail sounds fishy to me. You kinda have to be there to receive the ire. I want to thank you for teaching people about our faith.

  6. Ifa Leti

    By the way i think the worst ive seen is people claiming to intiate you over ebay they send you your ita and pots and all the lovely things like mazos and what not or give you readings by submiting your questions and they will send you an email with the “word of the orisha”

  7. rowerowysport.blog.com

    yay google is my queen aided me to find this outstanding web site ! .

  8. Gerry Zaragemca

    Saludos hermanos. Jose Asuncion Villalonga,(Ogunda Masa), trabajo en coordinacion con, Jose Getrardo de las Mercedes Valdez Montalvo, (Ojuani Alakentu), pero no son de la misma rama de Ifa.

  9. Iya Ekundayo

    Aboro Aboye!
    While I agree with most of what is written in this article, I have to disagree with certain arguments. I was raised in the “Xango” tradition of Northeastern Brazil and after my initiation as Iyalorixa I was guided by my Esu to Yorubland where I initiated as Iyanifa and have residence with my family as well as shrines in brasil and the U.S. I feel I have a good perspective on many different traditions as I deal with clients/friends who come from different backgrounds or who have had experiences with different traditions-both good and bad.
    While blood sacrifice is absolutely necessary to install orisa as far as initiation, it is possible to furnish someone with ritual implements and otas in their name using proper sacrifice, provided that person has already been initiated or Ifa says it can be done so. And in the case of a family needing to feed their lineage orisa, it can be done. Mind you this is not the same as becoming initiated, but talking of ritual implements to feed the family lineage or personal orisa. Same with Aje pot, which is not of course Iyami Osoronga I am talking of, but certain implements, as long as the person has been asked or given permission to receive, AND those implements have been sacrificed to PROPERLY using their name, it can be done.
    I also disagree that you cannot give readings via Skype or some other means. This is just not true. When one has a client. you attend to them all over the world, and the oracle of Ifa Orunmila,, Esu and the orisa know no boundaries. Truth is truth, and if you are capable, you have access to it no matter where you are. If this were truly the case, than how did I manage to divine and pass the remedy/ebo to take a baby out of a month long coma in a distant foreign country? Take someone out of jail? Stop spirit possession and return bad works? How does my own husband divine for me when I am away from Nigeria and take care of my sacrifices and problems? How is it that I take care of my clients in brasil when I am not there? I consult people from as far away as Malaysia and I can see very clearly which ewe oogun they need, which ebos etc. I do not need someone in my physical presence to see and know about their life to bring order and harmony back to it or simply give them a snapshot of what is happening. That is why we were given the tools of the ikin, the cowries, the opele, and any other means to divine. If all I had was a pile of garbage to stare into, I could find the means to help others. We are not bound by the material plane. To state that a qualified priest or priestess cannot help whoever comes to them from however far away, is not logical. Ifa and the orisa know no physical or material boundaries, only humans put those boundaries up. I am praying for the day we can all come together and work as one. Ase O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Anonymous

      I absolutly agree with you Iya Ekundayo. I’m a Babalorisa in traditional Yoruba Orisa worship. My lineage goes through Ehlin Benin which is between Ketu Benin and Oyo Nigeria. My Oluwo is Oluwo Falade Fatimilehin Osuntola who is also known as Tim Landry and Houngan Tim. The most senior elder in my Ile’ who was present for my crowning is Awo Falokun Fatunmbi who was initiated in Ode Remo back in the early 60’s. From what I’ve seen, what you say is very much true and do-able. Aboru Aboye Abosise!!! 🙂 Ire!!!

      1. Santeria Church

        Not Iyá … Babá. I’m a man. hehehe.

        1. Anonymous

          The only people I hear called Baba in my tradition are Babalawos 🙂 I’m just Babalorisa for now 🙂

  10. Anonymous

    I was replying to Iya Ekundayo above. Sorry for the confusion 🙂 I hit reply and think you see it as a reply to someone else 🙂

    1. Santeria Church

      My mistake… Ekun Dayo is my ocha name too so I got confused. 🙂

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