Aguanile is a Yoruba word incorporated by the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion. Yoruba is a West African language. The population of Cuba is culturally mixed, and it is also mixed in the religious field, where various liturgical beliefs converge. Santeria is the most important religion of African origin brought to Cuba by African slaves. The slaves managed to keep their religious beliefs alive: they demonstrated resistance toward their masters, and they also cunningly managed to identify their Orishas with the saints of the Catholic religion thanks to some common characteristics.
The Orishas are demigods (human beings who did great things in life and, once they died, were awarded the rank of deities) who personify nature and act as messengers of the primordial divinity. There are about four hundred Orishas in the original Yoruba religion and about forty in Santeria, of which only about fifteen are known by the majority of the faithful. The Orishas recall Greek mythology with its various anthropomorphic deities who both fight with and protect each other. The mythological accounts of the Orishas, often in contradiction with each other, are called “Patakìn” and are of considerable anthropological interest.
Often the word “Aguanile” is accompanied by “mai mai” (water). In general, the word is originally written with double “g” (“Agguanile”) and appears in the songs dedicated to the Orisha Ogun. “Agguan” means cleanliness, and “ile” generally refers to dwelling places or property. Depending on which Orisha is venerated, holy water is used to clean the house or the property; hence, people use the expression “Aguanile mai mai.” We could interpret this phrase as “Please purify my house and all my earthly possessions,” or, more broadly, as “Please offer me spiritual cleansing.” The use of holy water to bless people's houses is frequent among Catholics, too.