ABOUT THE DILOGGUN
“Diloggun are consecrated cowrie shells used for divination in the Santeria and Palo faiths. The Diloggun are considered to be a part of the Orishas, their "voice," and are kept on the altar with the otanes. The shells, which usually number eighteen (Eleggua has twenty one), are used in a complex system of divination that is similar in many ways to the I Ching. The shells are read according to how many land face (mouths) up during a reading; all of the possible outcomes are called Odu. The Diloggun is consulted to discover the will of the Orishas- what sacrifices, or ebbo, they desire, guidance and advice, etc.”
Generally the Diloggun is reserved for initiates who seek the guidance of the italero in times of adversity, trouble, sickness, confusion etc. Recommendations for follow up action (egbo) to resolve the santeros situation may involve specific ceremonies, rituals, sacrifice etc. (Some of these practices may seem wierd & alien according to western doctrine) It is up to the querent to follow through with the egbo. It is unwise to petition the Orishas for guidance and then fail to fulfill their recommendations. Therefore if you are not prepared or are unfamiliar with the customs/practices of the Yoruba Religion you need to understand the consequences of the process before becoming involved.
Diloggun or Mediloggun -The Table of Ifá
“The seashells (los caracoles) are, . . . the most important divination procedure in Santeria. Although the Diloggun is composed of eighteen seashells, only sixteen are used by the ilatero in interpreting the oracle . . . [one side of the cowrie shell] vaguely resembles a tiny mouth with a miniscule set of teeth. [This is the side used in reading the Diloggun.
During a registro with the Diloggun, the santero, or italero, after special invocations to the orishas, holds the . . . shells in both hands, rubs them together and throws them on an estera. He repeats this action several times, interpreting each pattern of seashells according to the position in which they fall. Each pattern is known as an oddun, and has a name and a number assigned to it. The shells are read according to how many of them fall with their top (mouth) side up. If only one seashell shows its topside, it is said to be the first “letter” of the Diloggun and the first offun. Each letter or pattern “speaks” of the Diloggun and the first offun. Each letter or pattern “speaks” of tone or several of the orishas, and is interpreted according to the legend or proverb that is traditionally associated with it. The proverbs or legends are applied to the particular problem faced by the querent, and based upon the circumstances of each individual case. The italero gives his interpretation of the oracle.
The Diloggun is very similar to the ancient Chinese system of divination known as the I Ching, which used a number of sticks that are thrown on a table and interpreted according to the positions in which they fall. As in the Diloggun, the I Ching uses proverbs to render judgment in the situation faced by the querent.
Santeria – Migene Gonzales-Wippler