Iyawo Protocol and attire


Ø  Dress or skirt and blouse. The skirt must reach below the knees and the blouse should have little to no cleavage. Sleeves must reach below the elbow. Clothes must be loose-fitting.

Ø  The famous/infamous shawl.

Ø  Slips, bras, petite pants.

Ø  Head covering—turban, hat, or wrap, with a “quilla” or cloth headscarf, and a piece of cotton under that.

Ø  Closed shoes.

Ø  Stockings or socks.




Ø  Pants and long sleeved shirts.

Ø  T-shirts.

Ø  Boxer shorts (mata pasión/passion killers)

Ø  Head cover, which consists of a cap or hat, and a cloth cap under it, and a piece of cotton on the head.

Ø  Closed shoes.

Ø  Socks.

Iyawós must salute Elegbá, egún, and their orishas daily. Godparents need to explain the process.

Iyawós must always try to remain spotless, even when white can be such a difficult color. Typically, iyawó should always have an extra set of clothes for attending religious rituals so that they may change clothes if they get soiled.

Iyawó’s attire should not be excessively transparent.

For sleeping, iyawós must never go to bed nude or in “minor” garments. Women should wear robes and men should use pajamas.

When showering, which they must do often, avoid having the water strike the head directly, and especially when recently released from the throne.

Iyawós must “throw themselves”—yinká for those who are ordained to a female orisha and dobalé for those ordained to a male orisha—to all older olorishas, and they must salute directly on the floor. Placing a mat before the olorisha to salute him or her, as many often do today, was considered highly offensive.

Iyawós must pluck, clean, sweep, and do whatever is necessary to help in the ritual functions of their ilé osha. As a pecking order that it is in some ways, everyone starts from the lowest rungs on the ladder and works their way up.

Iyawós—and all godchildren for that matter—do not need invitations to their activities that take place in their ilé osha. It is their obligation to be there even if the godparent, for whatever reason, did not invite or inform them.

Iyawós must always ensure that their ilé osha is the object of respect, and they should ensure to attend to all guests to that ilé with the greatest respect and courtesy, despite peoples’ shortcomings and attitudes.

Iyawós should never use disrespectful tones with elders, nor speak back, and especially when moved by rage or other sentiments. It is often best to allow things to pass until the opportunity arises to clarify any disagreements.



Iyawós do not wear shorts to be in public places. They may be admissible for men while in the home, but not in public, and much less when participating in ritual functions. Many modern olorishas need to understand this as well, and especially those coming from Cuba where this custom has become more relaxed. Olorishas can wear shorts to the beach and for other social events, but not to a ritual or a drumming celebration. Tank tops are proscribed as well.

Iyawós cannot use perfume or cologne, bathe with perfumed soaps, or used scented deodorants.

Women are not supposed to shave their legs or underarms, or pluck their eyebrows. They cannot use make up, nail polish, cut or dye their hair.

Men cannot cut their hair or grow facial hair.

Iyawós cannot get wet in rain water.

Iyawós should never walk barefoot.                 

Iyawós cannot look in mirrors.

Iyawós should not wear jewelry. In some cases, though, women are sent from itá to wear coral earrings. In this instance, and I stress, sanctioned by itá, they can wear small, bud-sized earrings, but nothing extravagant.

Iyawós should not be outdoors, exposed to strong sunlight, and especially at Noon. Five minutes before Noon, iyawó is supposed to take refuge in a house, business, or anywhere possible so as to avoid being outdoors at this time.

Neither should be outdoors after dark, unless accompanied by an elder, and especially during humid, misty, or foggy nights. The prohibitions described for the Noon hour also apply to Midnight.

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