Feeding the Earth: What is it? Benefits, ceremony and more

Feeding the land

The food to the earth is a traditional ritual in the practitioners of the rule of Osha and Ifa (Santeria) that enjoys great popularity and acceptance by its followers. In this ceremonial it is customary to offer the earth all kinds of elements to pay tribute to it and thus have the blessing of the spiritualities that live in it. The Odu of Ifa Irete Kutan says that: «the earth gives everything and likewise, everything can be taken away».

What is feeding the earth?

Basically, feeding the earth consists of placing in a hole that opens in the earth, in the open air, a quantity of food and animals, with which the astral of those present are cleaned and then buried. Feeding the land is based on the premise that says that everyone who sows, also reaps. In other words, what we sacrifice will be rewarded in the same proportion.

This ceremonial means that we are feeding mother earth. We do it with all the elements that it offers us and that serve us for survival. Through this ritual, the participants have the conviction that the earth will return their sacrifice to them through fruits transfigured in different ways. The most important thing is that it bestows health blessings, even when we know that our inevitable destiny is death, this ritual represents the opening of that hole where we will one day be buried that closes as a sign that we will not die before our time. In addition, thanks to the intervention of the honored spiritualities, we will enjoy good health, since we are burying illnesses, tragedies and misfortunes in that hole.

When should the earth be fed?

Usually, the religious houses organize the ceremonials of the food to the earth at the beginning of the year. This is done with the intention of starting this new cycle with the appropriate energy to promote a year full of life, health and development. Also, it is a way of thanking the fact of having lived one more year and being present in the one that begins.

However, this ceremony is not mandatory for the first days of January. It can be executed at the time that is necessary or that is indicated by the Orishas through divination, becoming the ebbo that could even save the life of the officiant.  

What Orisha is fed in the ceremonial of the food on earth?

food down to earth

Orisha oko

Orisha oko He is the first Orisha who intervenes by nature in the ritual of eating the earth. Indeed, one of its first attributions is the intervention on human beings to help them preserve their health and avoid premature deaths. The energy of this Orisha also helps us to attract economic prosperity and stability, since it is the representation of effort and fruitful work. There is no doubt that Orishaoko is an excellent provider of abundance and fertility, in addition, she is the owner of the land, agriculture, the harvest, and the cycles of nature.

Ile Oguere

Another spirituality that intervenes in this ritual is: Ile Oguere. She is the female Deity of the earth's crust, she is the daughter of Olodumare (God). Her story tells that before coming down to earth she had to make the corresponding sacrifices to remain firm in the world, but she ignored the recommendations of Ifá, which is why, when settling on this plane, humans (her children) they usually destroy it. An example of this phenomenon is observed in our daily activities, where the deterioration to which the environment is subjected is evident thanks to the pollution caused by people, in many places on the planet.

Feeding the land consists of making offerings to Orisha Oko and Ile Oguere. It is an act of homage to these important deities, in which respect is shown and honored for what we receive from them on a daily basis. Let us remember that most of the fundamental things that we use in our life come from the earth, such as: food, plastic, oil, wood, metals; in short, all essential raw materials for the manufacture of our tools and survival.

Why is the ceremonial of feeding the earth performed?

In the rule of Osha and Ifa there are many stories that support the importance of performing this ritual as a tribute to the spiritualities that live in the earth's crust. However, it is interesting to note that in the past it was customary in some African tribes when one of their members died, to practice a ceremony in which all kinds of fundamental elements for life were placed in a hole in the ground and proceeded to bury the corpse of the deceased, sacrificing a rooster on his grave. This symbolizes that every time an individual dies, the earth feeds on him. Given such reasoning, it was established that all kinds of food would be offered to Mother Earth, periodically, so that she would be satisfied and thus, prevent death from reaching the members of the community before the corresponding time.

Benefits of feeding the earth

Both Orishaoko and Ile Oguere are attributed a series of powers that benefit human beings. Through this ceremonial we can attract those energies that become luck or blessings in the following aspects:

  • It helps us to drive away Iku (death).
  • It provides protection against phenomena related to tragedies, illnesses, delays and serious losses.
  • It encourages material and economic evolution; the positive culmination of our projects, the appropriate reward for the efforts made.
  • It generates spiritual blessings, since it cleans and energizes our astral.
  • It allows us to connect with mother earth, strengthening our spiritual bonds and harmonizing the ability to connect with our destiny.
  • Provides an effective purification of negative energies caused by wars of witchcraft and evil spirits.

Food to Earth Ceremony

Feeding Mother Earth directed by Olorishas (santeros):

For this ceremonial, food is prepared with all the elements to offer. In an appropriate place to perform this ritual, where the earth can be dug without any problem, a joro joro (hole) is opened wide and deep enough to place everything that is going to be sacrificed.

The foundation of OrishaOko is placed in front of the hole and using a set of views (5 pieces of coconut) a moyugba (prayer) is made, informing the deities involved of the work that is going to be done and the reason why it is done.

Once the sacrifice is accepted, the animals are presented to him and the person who performs the ebbo is cleaned. Later, everyone present is cleaned and immolated, depositing their bodies in the hole.

Then, and in order of hierarchy, all the attendees will pass to the hole where they will pour a little of each of the elements offered, previously performing sarayeyeo (dispossession) with each one of them. At the end, it is asked again if the sacrifices were accepted, and if so, the gap is closed by covering it with the same earth that was taken from it.

Notably this is a very delicate ceremony, the iworos who perform it must have full knowledge of its direction, as well as all the prayers and sacred songs that are used to perform it, otherwise, they could generate phenomena totally contrary to those that are being promoted.

Feed the Earth led by Ifa (Babalawos):

In the case of being directed this ceremonial by an Awo of Orumila, although it conserves the same structure and most of the elements for the sacrifice, it incorporates some additional ones. For example: to begin the ritual, a chicken will be given to Eshu by each of the participants; in the center of the hole will be placed a pumpkin (auyama) in which a series of Odu de Ifa have previously been written; and in some cases it is also accompanied by a tile to which, in the same way, some signs are painted.

For the moment of immolating the animals corresponding to the earth, both feathered animals (birds) and animals with "4 legs" (goats) can be offered. Cleaning with the content of the food occurs in the same way, in the company of the respective songs. At the end, among all those present the gap is closed and 2 white candles are placed on top of the place, once it has been verified that the sacrifices were received in a positive way.

Items used to feed the earth

The elements that are used to feed mother earth are the following:

  • The animals that are going to be sacrificed, which can be: goat, chickens, roosters, hens, pigeons, or guineas.
  • 7 different types of beans (without black beans). Grains since the beginning of time have been considered a gift from the Gods. It is believed that thanks to them, the human spirit can connect with mother earth and the spiritual world.
  • 7 different types of fruits. Fruits are a symbol of fertility and immortality. Its seeds represent perpetual regeneration, a legacy for the next generation. Also, it is spiritually associated with the representation of the tree of life, which provides food for the gods, and in the case of earthly trees, the sustenance of the living. It is an element that is used to attract the fluid of life itself.
  • Chopped vegetables (without squash). This element symbolizes the simplicity of life, the vital energy that heals and prospers. It also represents fertility, descent, legacies, and ancestry.
  • 2 eggs Eggs from very ancient times represent the germ of life, as well as the universal creation. They attract an energy of regeneration, good luck, abundance, wealth and spirituality.
  • 2 whole fish. Fish are elements used in sacrifices, since they are a symbol of protection and salvation. They also promote abundance and represent faith.
  • Beef and pork. It represents the fragility of living beings that is corrupted and dies. It is an element that replaces the human being as food from the bowels of the earth.
  • Coffee powder. This is an element that is very effective in counteracting negative energies. It also represents the habits, customs and practices of human beings.
  • Sugar. This ingredient makes a balance with the rest of those used. Sweetness as a symbol of the good things in life, which are offered to spiritualities to attract back those same blessings.
  • Honey. This is a symbol of abundance and wealth. Represents the benefits after the sacrifices "the promised land." It attracts the pleasures, happiness and luxuries of life.
  • Husk It is a basic ingredient for the practice of Santeria. It represents whiteness, cleanliness, it is an element that promotes purification. 

Pataki: What the earth gives, the earth takes away

It happened that for a time, Ikú (death) kept complaining because he couldn't find what to do with the corpses after taking people's lives. On the other hand, the earth also constantly complained, because all living beings walked on it, stepped on it without any kind of consideration even though they took everything it produced from it to maintain themselves.

One day, death stumbled upon the land and while talking about their problems, it occurred to Ikú that they could make a deal to solve the conflicts that both were going through, making a proposal to the land. Then, the earth said: «I agree with the pact, but in order to receive the bodies of the deceased, from this moment on everyone will have to pay tribute to me and pay me for my benefits, therefore, they will have to offer me everything that they eat, and if someone does not comply with me, you will be in charge of collecting the debt ».

It was from that moment that it was established that: "What the earth gives, the earth eats." That is why we must entertain mother earth with all the elements that benefit us, for the optimal development of our lives.

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