- Orisha Oko (also spelled Orishaoko or Orishaoco) is the orisha of agriculture, farming, fertility and the mysteries associated with the earth, life and death. He is one of the hardest working orishas for it is his job to work the earth, feed humanity and the orishas and keep the cycles of growing working year-round. Orishaoko gives his followers stability in life, health, vitality, fecundity and is often petitioned for work, to keep death at bay, for health issues and for assistance with conceiving a child.
- Orisha Oko teaches us the mysteries of life and death, as it is he who feeds us in life, but it is we who feed him at death when our bodies are buried in the earth. There is a pataki called “The Pact Between Orisha Oko and Olofi” found in the odu Irosun. Orisha Oko was one of the first orishas to discover his ashé when they arrived on earth but he was tired of toiling all day in the fields to feed humanity and the orishas. He complained to Olofi about his thankless task and Olofi explained that his children are like the fingers of the hand, when they work together they are stronger and get more done. Olofi promised Orisha Oko that each of the other orishas would discover their ashé and contribute to the world in time, and that it was Orisha Oko’s job to work the fields and feed humanity. In return for this work, humanity would feed the earth when they died by being buried in the ground. This way, Orisha Oko is rewarded at the end of all things for all he sacrifices for humanity. Echoing this mystery is an ebó that is often performed in honor of Orisha Oko: feeding the earth sacrificed animals and foods. This averts an untimely death and can be marked through divination when Orisha Oko speaks to warn a client that ikú (death) is looking for a victim to take.
- Orisha Oko’s name means “orisha of the penis” or “orisha of the farm” (depending on the tone) and his shrine is notably phallic in its symbolism. The two coconuts and dowel represent the male genitalia, and in Africa his shrines are often depicted with a large phallic rock or a phallic sculpture that is venerated with offerings. The curved, painted tile represents the earth with plowed furrows and is used for placing offerings to Orisha Oko. His ritual objects are painted red and white to represent the fertility of blood and semen – the two fluids of life and conception. As Orisha Oko plows the earth, he plants his seed deep within it, and the crops for the year are born to feed all of mankind. Orisha Oko was married to the orisha Yemayá Aganá in what many people consider the perfect union (of land and sea) in the odu Ogbe-di (8-7). Orisha Oko can be crowned by initiating the priest through a special ceremony called “Yemaya oro Orisha Oko”, although initiation to Orisha Oko is very rare these days. Association of agriculture with forced labor in the times of slavery made his sect’s popularity dwindle over the centuries. Most people receive Orisha Oko as an orisha addimú.
Symbols, Numbers, Colors and Attributes of Orisha Oko
Sacred Place in Nature: plowed fields, fertile black earth
Color: (shrine) red and white, (eleke) pink and light blue
Tools: A farmer pushing a plow, pulled by a team of oxen
Temperament: Hard-working, dutiful, practical
Syncretized Catholic Saint: St. Isidore
Orisha Oko’s Caminos (Avatars or “Roads”)
While many orishas have roads or caminos, Orisha Oko does not. He is singular in nature.
Offerings for Orisha Oko
Orisha Oko eats all of the crops a farmer would plant in his fields, namely root vegetables. These include yams, sweet potatoes, taro root, corn and the like. He enjoys eating hearty foods that are seasoned with palm oil, smoked fish and toasted corn. Orisha Oko’s animal sacrifices include roosters, pigeons and guinea hen.
Ñame balls for Orisha Oko
Cooked addimús are a wonderful offering for any of the orishas. With Orisha Oko, any cooked root vegetable like yams, potatoes, or taro root would be appropriate. But the most powerful and effective root vegetable that you can offer Orisha Oko would be the ñame (NYA-meh). Ñame is sometimes called white yam and is available at most Cuban or Asian markets. These large root vegetables are a staple in the diet of the Yoruba people and the Lucumí in Cuba. They have a rough brown exterior and a white, starchy, slimy interior.
To make this addimú for Orisha Oko start with a large ñame. Cut the ñame into 2 inch chunks and boil them in water until fork tender. Drain the ñame in a strainer and allow them to cool. Mash the ñame into a paste (much like dry mashed potatoes) and add in a teaspoon of red palm oil. Mix the blend together and form it into 7 balls. Place the balls on a plate and decorate each ball with a dab of palm oil, a drizzle of honey, a sprinkle of dried and smoked fish and jutía (bushrat), and sprinkle with toasted corn. This plate can then be offered to Orisha Oko and it is left for the appropriate amount of days (as marked through divination), then disposed of in a place in nature that would be appropriate for Orisha Oko – like a plowed fertile field, or a hole dug into the earth.
Roasted Sweet Potato for Orisha Oko
Another great addimú you can make for Orisha Oko is to roast a whole sweet potato for him. You can also use a sweet yam (the orange ones) for this addimú. Start by pre-heating the oven to 375°F. Thoroughly wash and clean a large sweet potato, then prick it all over with a fork. Lightly oil the entire surface of the sweet potato with a bit of red palm oil, then wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil, making sure the foil is well sealed. This will allow the sweet potato to roast and steam in the foil to tenderize its flesh. Place in a pan or on a cookie sheet and put in the oven. Cooking time can vary from 30 to 60 minutes. Check the sweet potato by squeezing it with an oven mitt or by poking it with a knife. The interior flesh should be very soft, and the knife should easily slice in and out of the potato.
When fully cooked, remove the sweet potato from the oven, cut open the foil taking care to not burn yourself with the steam, and allow it to cool to room temperature. When it has cooled, “butter” the sweet potato with a bit of red palm oil and season it with a drizzle of honey. Serve in a gourd or in a bowl and place it on Orisha Oko’s painted tile, on top of his shrine for the appropriate amount of days as marked by divination. When the offering is done dispose of it in nature either in a fertile plowed field or by digging a hole in the earth and feeding the earth with it.