A Correction on Terminology: On “Omieros”

In the last post, I described my method of a general spiritual bath for purification and the removal of spiritual impurities, and in the process used the term “omiero”, which has caused a minor stir online for some people.  Let me talk about this term here, and if you’ve used it or seen it used in the past and you’re not an initiate in Santeria, then please read this.

I first encountered the term “omiero” in a post by Aaron Leitch, one of the better-known ceremonial magicians of our time.  In that post of his, he described the method of making a blood substitute for Solomonic workings for those who are unwilling or unable to obtain blood from animals for the use in certain rituals, like the consecration of the black-handled knife which calls for the blood of a black cat.  Sometimes, getting blood from animals can be a problem for one reason or another, and many people (“especially those of American WASP heritage”) disprefer the use of blood generally in ritual.  I’m not one of those people, but I know of many who are.  To get around these problems and still continue on with Solomonic ritual as traditionally as possible, Leitch talks about making a substitute using water, herbs, and prayer.  He calls this a “Solomonic ‘omiero'”:

Omiero is a liquid used in Santerian traditions, whenever an Orisha (or  god) is born into a new vessel.  (These vessels are urns, filled with consecrated items, that become the center-pieces of altars to the Orishas.)  The Orisha will quite literally live inside the vessel, and offerings and sacrifices will be made to him or her upon the altar.  However, the Orisha’s very first meal is not blood at all – it is omiero.  Because of this, omiero can be considered even more potent (in its way) than blood.

Of course, the secrets of making true omiero are a closely guarded secret. I only know it involves the ripping and tearing of sacred herbs and plants beneath running water, so that a green-tinted water is collected. And there are mystical songs that must be sung during its preparation.

Meanwhile, the concept of herbally-infused holy water is not unheard of outside of these mystery religions. We can especially find it within the practice of Hoodoo – a folk practice that originated in the American south, and was itself heavily influenced by the ATRs. In this case, the process is much simplified – usually involving little more than steeping sacred herbs in water to produce a “tea” or extracting the scent of a plant and infusing it into water (such as the very popular Florida Water – which is named for its sweet floral scent, not for the US state).

He goes on to describe how one might make such a “Solomonic omiero” with the praying of psalms and the like, which is indeed a useful substitute for ritual magic.  After all, it’s basically the same thing I did for my rituals when I can’t get blood from a certain animal.  After getting involved with several African diasporic traditions, including Palo and Santeria, I’ve encountered the term “omiero” in a proper context, though I’ve also seen this same term used in ceremonial magic and other Western traditions since.  Since it seems to be part of the lingo, I used this term in my last post to describe an herbal wash one might use after or during the process of a spiritual bath.

I’ve since amended my post to remove the term “omiero” because, in short, I was wrong to use it.

The same Tata Quimbanda I mentioned is also a Santero, an initiate in Santeria, and I noticed shortly after my post that he started a discussion on Facebook about what an omiero really is.  After reading that discussion and talking with several other Santero friends of mine, I’ve since learned that what Aaron Leitch describes as an “omiero” is no such thing.  The term is strictly relegated to the practices of Santeria and Ocha, pretty much, and it is something far more than an herbal wash or herbal water.  Even with the praying of psalms or other incantations, it’s not an omiero unless it’s done in a Santeria manner.  To call something a “Solomonic omiero” is crossing the streams too much to be correct, and it’d be like saying something is a “Tibetan rosary” (the rosary being relegated to Catholic practices) or a “European shaman” (shaman being relegated to Central Asian religions).  Yeah, you might get your point across, but it’s not a proper use of the term.

What I was describing was an herbal wash or an herbal water: water with herbs crushed into it, perhaps with prayers said over it as one might do with many things in many traditions.  An omiero isn’t just that: the process of making an omiero and the precise nature and uses of it are oathbound knowledge kept by initiates in Santeria, but it’s made in a specific manner that isn’t found outside Santeria.  Plus, while an omiero can be used as a bath for some purposes, that’s not what it’s usually made for, and can be described as a type of “amniotic fluid” for the orisha in Santeria rituals.  If you’re not an initiate in Santeria, you’re pretty much guaranteed to not know how to make an omiero and are not supposed to use it on your own.

I admit I was wrong to use this term, and I’d like to correct the use of this term in the broader occult blogosphere, much as Kalagni over at Blue Flame Magick did with the term “tulpa” (if you think you know how this term works, think again and read Kalagni’s post).  It pays to be correct, guys.  Appropriating this term isn’t really doing yourself, your work, or the original tradition it came from any favors.

PSA: Ritual Baths

Just a heads up for you all, darlings: when you next want to take a ritual bath in preparation for some ritual, event, or other, feel free to try any of the following:

  • Pray over the water.
  • Mix in a powder, salt, gel, or some other dry or semi-dry ingredient that is water soluble.
  • Mix in holy water, a tincture or tisane or hydrosol of some herb, or some other liquid.
  • Mix in consecrated oil, ritual soap, or body wash.

Do not:

  • Mix in herbs or crushed dry petals.

Because let me tell you, having to comb out tiny flecks of rose petals from your pubes and ruin the lovely scent of sandalwood in the air with the odors of Draino after the bath is not a pleasant experience.