Outsiders to the religion immediately assume this means animal or blood sacrifice, because popular television shows and movies tend to focus on that aspect of the religion whenever a Santero makes his way into the plot. Newspapers and the internet publish "human interest stories" that link Santeria to abandoned animal carcasses found in a park and a deranged individual trying to do "witchcraft" to his neighbors or boss. In fact, most forms of ebbó don't involve blood at all, and they certainly don't involve witchcraft.
Ebbó Can Be Simple
In a modern, urban world, this can become complicated. Obviously, food left sitting out can attract rodents or insects. Common sense dictates that things be done in a way that won't cause health hazards to people in the house or the community. Above all, our religion is practical and can adapt itself to conditions such as crowded city life. Many offerings of food, especially fruits and candies, can be consumed by humans after they have been given to the Orishas. The food takes on the aché of the Orishas and brings blessings to those who consume it. Another destination for many ebbós is simply the garbage can. After the offering is made, it can remain in front of the Orishas for a specified time and then be thrown away. Divination determines what's needed, and how to deal with it.
Making Changes from Within
The diviner has to be diplomatic and deliver the information in a way that the individual will accept. It's not always easy to hear the truth, that your problems are at least in part of your own making. It's important that the person coming for the reading understand that it's not the diviner who is passing judgment on him or finding fault with his character. The diviner speaks on behalf of the Orishas, and the Orishas know people better than we know ourselves. They can see what the problem is and tell us how to fix it, but we have to be willing to listen and take action. Like parents who guide their children through difficult moments in life, the Orishas help us avert disaster by asking us to make ebbó.
Sometimes There's No Solution
Health problems, for example, deserve a separate mention. Responsible diviners will always tell people who have a health issue: go see a doctor. A consulta can reveal you have a health problem, but it's something a doctor needs to verify. You may need medication. You may need surgery. You may be told to offer ebbó to make sure the surgery goes well or the medication resolves the problem, but the religion alone never replaces medical care. Many santeros are talented herbalists and can offer recipes for infusions and folk remedies to help with minor health complaints. However, they are not doctors, and they don't try to pretend they are.
So, can you avert disaster? Yes, many times you can. If you catch the problem early, get good advice through a consulta, and make ebbó, you can make osorbo go away. If you keep your life in balance, you can avoid attracting more osorbo into your life, and you can enjoy more blessings. However, even the most fortunate of human beings will face problems at some point in life, and sometimes those problems are part of their destiny. They can't go away. We have to learn to live with them. A consulta with a good diviner will help you know if the problems can be remedied and how. The goal of all humans is to live out our destiny on earth, and die at the time we are meant to die, not before our time is up. We make ebbó so that our life won't be cut short, and we can enjoy the time we have here.