Patakís are Used in Divination
Changó Learns about the Importance of the Tongue
When Obatalá put Changó in charge off governing people, Changó was very young. No one respected him or took him seriously, so of course they never obeyed him. Every day somebody from the village went to Obatalá to complain about Changó as a way to make Changó look bad. Obatalá called Changó and spoke very bluntly to him, because Obatalá has never been one to beat around the bush. There were so many bits of gossip and malicious stories about Changó that one day Changó went to Obatalá and asked him: "Papá, why do people tell so many stories about me? Every day they say something different, and none of it is true!" But Obatalá knew that Changó was very hardworking and smart, and that he took his responsibilities seriously. He told him: "My son, I want you to prepare a dinner for me and all of my children. I want you to make the most delicious food you can imagine." So, Changó prepared a feast for Obatalá and all his children, just as Obatalá had requested. He served them beef tongue as the main dish. Obatalá asked him: "Changó, is tongue the best food in the world?" Changó answered: "Yes, papá, it is full of ashé, the best in the world." After some time went by, Obatalá asked Changó to prepare another feast for him and all his children. But this time, he instructed him to serve the worst food in the world. Changó once again prepared beef tongue, and Obatalá asked him: "Changó, son, if the last time you prepared the same thing and you said it was the best food in the world, why are you now serving tongue and telling me is the worst thing in the world?" Changó replied: "Naturally, papá, a good tongue can save a village and a bad tongue can destroy it." Obatalá said to him: "You're right, Changó. That's where you were born, in Obara Melli, and that's why you find everyone is always talking about you all the time. It doesn't matter what they say, good or bad, because whatever they say about you will make you great. Only on the day they stop talking about you will you cease to be Changó."
How to Interpret a Patakí
There are multiple patakís associated with each odu, and it's the job of the diviner to know which one is most applicable in the case of the person who's come for a reading. A godparent might also tell patakís to godchildren as a way to advise them about their behavior and conduct, or simply as a way to pass on knowledge about the religion.
Today, with the breakdown of traditional communities, there are many Lucumí practitioners who don't know patakís. To address this problem, some writers have started to collect and publish patakís on the internet and in book form. Remember, if you find these in your research, they are just one version of how the patakís might be told. In order to understand them on a deeper level and know how to apply them to situations in life, it's still very important to talk with your elders about them, and ask them to share their thoughts with you. The oral tradition creates bonds between people, and storytelling is an important part of Lucumí culture, even in the 21st century.