The Letter of the Year is an ancient tradition with Yoruba roots, deeply ingrained in Cuban Santería. It consists of a ceremony where the babalawos, Ifá priests, gather at the end of each year to consult the oracle and receive predictions about the coming year.
The exact origin of this ritual is uncertain, but historians date it back to around 1900. At that time, prominent Cuban babalawos began meeting before each new year and through their revelations they could foresee important events in the months ahead.
Over time, this practice took strong popular hold and transcended the purely religious sphere. Today it is a much awaited tradition for believers and the general public alike, who trust the predictions and advice of the babalawos to prepare for the upcoming year’s challenges.
The Two Letters of the Year: The Official Version and the Independent One
Since 2021, two different readings of the Letter of the Year take place in Cuba. On one hand there is the version by the Yoruba Cultural Association, linked to official institutions. On the other, an independent commission of babalawos led by the priest Miguel Febles Padrón.
This is due to disagreements between the religious authorities on the island. Some consider the independent reading more critical and faithful to tradition, as opposed to the institutional version that would avoid confrontation with the government.
In any case, both are eagerly awaited and taken into account by most Santería practitioners in Cuba and the diaspora. Let’s see what they revealed for 2024.
Predictions by the Yoruba Association of Cuba for 2024
On January 1st, the Yoruba Association of Cuba issued its 2024 Letter of the Year in Old Havana. According to it, the ruling orisha for this year will be Elegguá or Elebara, in charge of opening life’s paths, accompanied by Oyá, orisha of cemeteries and winds.Jazz Plaza Festival to be held from January 18 to 23, 2022 in Havana
The ruling sign is Irete Otura or Irete Suka, pointing to the need to defend against false testimonies, take care of children, and leverage personal skills for the common good.
Among the most worrying predictions are an increase in criminal activities, abuse against women and children, and skin and sexually transmitted diseases.
They also warn about a possible decline in birth rates, as well as circulatory and vascular problems among the population. They advise caution during domestic trips to avoid theft.
Revelations by the Independent Commission for 2024
On January 2nd, the commission led by Miguel Febles Padrón independently issued its own Letter of the Year. In this case, the named deities are Elegguá and Yemayá respectively.
The sign is Iroso Umbo and the prophetic prayer speaks of possible tragedies and health problems globally. While it mentions increased homicides and thefts, it calls attention that the tone is generally less critical and confrontational than in previous years.
This version calls for respecting trade agreements, increasing imports and foreign financing. It also urges protecting children, pregnant women and dogs from possible abuse or neglect.
Its vision seems more conciliatory, asking people not to fall into unnecessary discord and to respect differences.The 10 best Cuban movies of all time
Despite their differences, both Letters of the Year constitute a guide of recommendations in the face of 2024’s challenges for Cubans, both on the island and in the diaspora. They reveal concerns around social issues that require attention, from respecting differences to protecting the most vulnerable.
Time will tell how much of these predictions actually comes true. But without a doubt, the Letter of the Year remains an ingrained tradition and an opportune occasion for collective reflection on the future.