Eleggua is the keeper of Coconuts. He's got plans for them. Not only are they food for his Children, but they soak up negative energy, carry messages, provide protection for magical activities, and identify a person as a Yoruba, or someone who knows about our practices -all this and they're from a tree, which does what other trees do. Coconuts can travel in the ocean for years before landing and deciding to grow a new source for adventuring offspring.
You don't have to be an initiate of any particular tradition to partake of the talents of a Coconut, but it does help to know what you're doing. For reasons of keeping yous in your whole pieces, and because some things are best left for experts, I'll keep this simple. Now, if you're guided, or advised by someone you know and trust to try other things with your coconut, that's your business. Don't name me in the clean-up, and we'll be OK. :)
If you're planning to eat your coconut, you can follow these instructions, too. Your work may not be simpler, but at least you'll have less of it.(?)
My trial of late has been to find a coconut that is not molded inside and still contains liquid. It seems many stores aren't as knowledgeable about coconuts as we connaiseurs would have them be. The hallmark of a fresh nut is a full rattly feeling when you shake it. You want it to feel heavy, which means the flesh is thick, but there is fluid in there. A light or quiet nut is old, and has been working too hard already to feed or work for someone else. Should I name my source? I'll be kind to them, as they recently had a new shipment, and those nuts were great, but it took months to get fresh nuts. What I will say is that box grocery stores don't pay attention to -or maybe they don't recognize- signs that their nuts need to be replaced, and leave them until some hapless (or willing, but that's a no-no for beginners) customer has taken the last one home. 'Ethnic' stores can be misleading, as I found while hunting nuts for a specific project. You need well-trafficked stores with tastes for what you need in order to ensure it's fresh, know what I mean? I NEVER had this problem in NYC at any of my favorite bodegas. Here is another matter, entirely. So, if you notice a box of new nuts waiting to be shelved, get one of those. Guaranteed fresh. Likely no mold, and therefore no dissapointments. If you have no other source than 'big box' get friendly with the produce people and ask them how long the coconuts have been there or find out when new ones will come in. Tell them you're making macaroons... Somehow I've never gotten good results by saying "I'm a Witch, and my current coconut is worn out with all the Halloween traffic." lol
If this is a house nut, you want it whole. Once you've placed it where it can collect/protect, you don't want anything leaking out, know what I mean? So, the 'score' on a ready-to-eat nut is OK, but anything else is a reason to try another. You can wash your nut in Agua Florida so that anything it picked up from outside stays there. This will also 'wake it up' to start collecting when you place it. Resting it on a sprinkling of salt or decorating it with cascarilla designs are other options for cleaning and dedicating a new nut. Remember that Eleggua's colors are black and red if you want to make a nest for your nut (a 'nut house') or lay it on a cloth. Once you've cleaned it, pass it over the four corners of the main door of your house, starting with 6 o'clock and moving and moving clockwise all the way back to 6. Stamp your feet as the nut moves past them to stir up the energy. This tells the nut where it's working and cleans the doorway of anything 'hanging around.' Then you place your nut in it's house and go about your business.
About nut houses:
You don't need one, really. It's a courtesy, and can be an artform if you're inspired, but not a necessity. The place where your nut rests is it's 'house.' Any embellishment is per your or your Spirits' direction. Mine sits in a wooden bowl on my mantle, where I can rub it periodically. In houses past, it stayed behind my door, which is where they're traditionally kept, but sometimes concessions have to be made. If your Spirits understand, or direct, you can keep a house nut anywhere. Do consider that coconuts do other things, though, and take that into consideration before, say, putting it under your bed. :) If you're being directed to do this, give some thought about why so. You may have some Work to do elsewhere in your life or home.
It is possible to have more than one nut. A house nut, an altar nut, hearth nut... Sometimes you'll see an altar with many coconuts on it. This is a place where a lot of Work is being done. A person with need for that many coconuts is someone to be fastidiously respected. Never touch someone else's coconuts. If you find yourself needing more than one, keep them all focused on their specific tasks. Putting them together is generally not a good idea, but as I mentioned, it's done, and should be seen as Work being done by someone who really knows what they're doing. As a rule, a house nut will work within a cast boundary, or fixed walls, whichever is stronger. Other nuts can be more finely focused, but if you're working for a specific goal, keep your corresponding coconut within that smaller field. You don't want a Fertility Messenger picking up the quirks of Auntie Vernita when she visits, for example.
Coconuts are tenacious about their activities. If they're there to collect energy, they will soak it up until they crack open. If you have a message to send, they will do so. If it takes them years to deliver it, then so be it. Keep this in mind when planning a message. A coconut is not for impulse actions. Remember also that they serve Eleggua. They are sacred to Him. If offended, He can 'lose your mail' for years, as it were.
Changing your house nut is the culmination of your Work with this nut. Essentially, you are 'sending the message' when you no longer need a coconut, regardless of how you used it. I was initiated in NYC, and was taught accordingly that proper disposal of a used coconut was taking it to a moving body of water and tossing it over my shoulder without looking back. Believe me, the East River is Santeria Postal Service Central, as I'm sure the Hudson, any public beach and likely most sewers are as well. Arguments about pollution and littering aside, if any of them survived to find a welcoming shore, we certainly did enough re-foresting of some island to counter any damage done by those who didn't finish the journey. For those, including myself these days, without a river passsing blocks from their houses, a few ideas occur to me as I write. Composting, far from your house, and well away from your doorway, in an area ringed by white stones would be a good idea. Burying them in a forest would also be a good alternative. I don't reccommend fire. The things you'd have to do to keep it from blowing up would defeat it's purpose. If you have shell pieces, or uneaten flesh, this would be a good idea, but not a whole coconut. Returning them to as close to their natural habitat is best. If you have no other choice than the trash, apologize for the indignity. I can think of a multitude of reasons why this would be the only way to dispose of one, and I understand the necessity, but it is also necessary to be accountable for your actions. Ask the Spirits to help you find a better alternative.
Conservation ...Community nuts:
I did this with a few of my friends in college. We had one nut for a few rooms, and sometimes took turns keeping it. One little dorm room is a cake-walk for a coconut, so five or six isn't out of the question. A whole floor would have been ambitious in my dormitory, but a smaller building, or group with less diversity among the members might make it possible. The goal was to reduce what we produced in the way of Spiritual trash. NYC was going through changes on the issue of religious freedom and animal sacrifice while I was there -probably still is. As a city, we were also trying to think of ways to reduce our garbage load. Conversely, the rats were having conventions in the heaps of uncollected trash along the curbs. Still, we began to reframe our perceptions of necessity and sharing a coconut was one of the outcomes.
By the same token, consciously thinking of ways to reduce the need for interventions is a good way to reduce the need for so much Work. Intentions and actions can be retrained to promote Spiritual cleanliness. Try working at it from that angle, especially if you find yourself needing more than a month to find a satisfactory replacement coconut. Consider that in the 'olden days' a whole Village could be cleaned with ONE coconut, which was cared for by the Village Eleggua. No others were needed. Coconuts were seen as tools used by the 'higher ups' for purposes that were only known to those doing the Work. Our population is such that we need as many skilled Workers as we have -and more, really- but if we reduce the reasons for needing 'mundane' cleanings, we can focus on bigger issues. We will never be back to the 'olden days' but we can learn from them.
Now, GO GET YOUR COCONUT!!! :)
May the Orixas bless you and your home with health, light and love.