A few words about Palo by Ta José
I have dedicated these last few years of my life to investigate and study Afro-Caribbean beliefs and practices. I am initiated in some of these practices, and, as an initiate I am amazed about the level of profanation and the selfishness that exists in many of them. People want to initiate others, but they seldom take the time to teach.
Thanks to the research I have done I have met a few Paleros and the information I am about to share is essential to help others to distinguish between a real Palero and a shameless charlatan.
Palo comes from the Kongo region and has nothing to do with Santerismo or with Santería. Santería comes from Nigeria and has very little in common with Mayombe, if nowadays there are points of comparison is because of syncretized practices created when practitioners of Mayombe married to Lucumi folks and practices were mixed. Palo alike Santería is learned orally from elder to new initiate of Pino Nuevo.
There are many that say they practice Palo and have Ngangas which they put together themselves with ‘help’ from their spirits or the dead. This is wrong, the dead do not have the power to teach paleros how to put together a Nganga, those have to be constructed according to the Rama or branch where that Palero comes from. The Kongo did not believe in deities like Shangó or Yemayá, the Kongos venerated their ancestors and would worship according to their tribal customs. The first Ngangas in Cuba did not had names like 7 Rayos, Mama Chola, etc. These are names given to Prendas after being syncretized with elements from Santería using borrowed tools that are typical of Orisha pots.
Continue reading “Palo Mayombe 101©” »
I hardly need to establish my authority on this matter to write about it with full propriety, however, for the record I will. My professional and academic training is as a journalist. My career has afforded me ample on the job training and experiences in meeting people from all walks of life, from politicians to artist to everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. They all had one thing in common; they trusted me to tell their stories with accuracy and respect. Besides being a journalist, I have also have the privilege to work with a well-respected publishing house and its writers in the field of religion, metaphysics and new age-oriented material to edit their books.
I have been editing books on the subject of Santeria and Afro-Caribbean religions for over 10 years. This has been an educating experience, and at the same time, one that has filled me at times with rage and indignation. I have come across manuscripts submitted to the publisher that were cut and paste versions of already published books. At first, when you start reading one of those manuscripts that potential authors are trying to sell as ‘new and fresh’ recently discovered collection of materials from unpublished libretas (notebooks kept by oloshas), you are excited and eager. Then suddenly you start to realize that these words are a touch familiar. A sinking feeling takes over me, then outrage as I walk to my personal library and find the book from where this ‘so called author’ has lifted word by word, chapter by chapter his/her new material. Of course, I make sure to document the plagiarism with the editorial house and the book never gets published because to do so is to honor a common thief, and of course a publishing house can be sued for plagiarism.
Why do people feel entitled to steal intellectual material and think they can get away with it? In the past it was easier to get away with this. Someone would go to Cuba and bring back a book published there, re-print it under their name and no one was the wiser. But today, we have the Internet, and at our fingertips a powerful search mechanism. Furthermore, it is easier to order books on-line in sources like Amazon from other countries.
Continue reading “Plagiarism and Santeria: Blatant Disrespect for Intellectual Property©” »
Religious Confusion and Theft
There are few things in this life that truly get me angry. One of them is abuse, the other one in fraudulent practices misrepresenting African Traditional Religions. There is absolutely no excuse for silence when confronted with a case of abuse and fraud.
The story which I am about to share happened in Venezuela, nearly four years ago. The person came to me through the blog, and after a series of personal emails, I learned the details I am about to share. I will call her Alicia in respect to her request for privacy. Her sole intention in contacting me was to learn the truth about her initiation status and what steps to take to correct the spiritual predicament which she now faces.
Here is what happened. Alicia met a spiritual worker, I am not calling her Spiritist, as I do not want to sully the practices of thousands of legitimate practitioners who may take offense as they read further. This woman claims to be able to transmit messages from the dead as a horse of spirits. In her spiritual channelings she seems to have persuaded Alicia that without kariosha her life was in danger and she would die. Nothing like spiritual intimidation to motivate a person who has health issues and is desperately seeking to improve her life.
Continue reading “Fraud Alert: Spirit Medium in Venezuela conducts Kariosha through Spirits of Alleged Deceased Babalawo and Santero ©” »
The process is seating the orisha inside of the ultimate stone, one’s head, is called kariosha. Also known as yoko orisha, asiento (to be seated) or crowning, the process involves ultimately a spiritual and biological symbiosis where an external living spiritual force is aligned to one’s orí for life. Once the process is successfully completed, a chain reaction of changes should accelerate the development of the spiritual and physical life of the individual who has undergone kariosha.
Now, this is not the way in which most people understand the transformation that kariosha means. For most, the simpletons, the process is one of crowning. It is one of ego and of the creation of a king or queen that now will ‘have Shangó crowned’ or ‘Yemayá crowned’ or whatever orisha was it that was called upon guiding the life of the iyawó or bride of the orisha. Here is where I part ways with those practitioners who go about on a rather unbecoming manner, boasting of having ‘orisha crowned’ thinking that somehow they are now a god or newly created royalty. Titles be damned. Every initiate, no matter the rank, is nothing but a servitor of the orisha. I don’t care if you are an olosha or if you are (as most considered and I beg to differ as well) on the top of the chain as al oluwo, every person who goes through initiation is nothing but a servant of the orisha. If we remember this simple fact, we do much better as a religious community because we keep the mentality of humility and servitude with love to the orisha and to our fellow members. The word servant is not demeaning in this case, it is an honor to serve.
However, I before I continue on my tangent, even if much needed, I will refocus on the subject at hand: Transformation.
Continue reading “Kariosha Journal: A Journey of Transformation©” »
Do we use Eleguá’s dilogún or not?
This is a complex subject that in all fairness requires more than a simple article to properly lay it out with all its pros and cons. However, the purpose of this post is to provide a quick set of references for those out there searching for guidance because they do not understand the process of determining the orí. I have recently gotten quite a few emails from folks who have faced this situation and rather than responding to many emails, I am laying out some no-nonsense parameters to help them find their way and determine what is best for them.
I will be very clear about one important fact, determining the guardian orí is not a game. This is a crucial step in the life of a person that is preparing seriously to be a priest. This is not done lightly just to find out which orisha claims your head and to go about boasting that you are an omó this or omó that orisha. This is not about belonging to a club. If a person does not have the need to become an olosha, then this person has no business going out to seek who rules or not their head as it is a waste of time and resources.
That said, history tells us that there is a way in which things are done in Yorubaland and there is also evolution in our practices in the New World, but then again we are a hybrid as Lukumí, thus we must be careful to stride the fence between Old World traditions and the legacy of our elders in the Americas.
Continue reading “Determining the Guardian Angel or Tutelary Orisha: Dilogún or Opón Ifá?” »
Santeria for Sale!
There are many reasons why people come to the orisha. And there are some very particular motives that would determine the entrance of a chosen few to the ranks of initiates. Those days seem to be over, days when some would give their life as the ultimate offering of servitude to the orisha. However, the days of the chosen few can come back again if we are conciencious. But in the meantime anyone with some money can find a shyster or even a reputable initiate to sell a piece of Lukumi-heaven for a few thousand. This makes me so sick to my stomach, sick to my soul, sick beyond description.
My day started busy, you know I have to work to earn a living. I do not live off the religion. There are many who do, but that will never be my case. I am a professional and I want to stay that way, free of greed for power emanating from how many godchildren I can amass, or from having to make this or that many initiations to pay the rent. I want to be free to love the orishas just because it makes me happy, because deep down without my Yemayá my life is incomplete. I want to be free to practice my religion for love, this is why I refuse to live off of it, even when I have special skills that would make me quite unique if I was to merchant them.
Don’t take me wrong, I am not against legitimate oloshas who have a passion for business and have a botanica or sell their services as awos and oriates or cooks or seamstress or thronemakers to name a few jobs one is glad to pay for during initiations or for materials. What truly bothers me are those jerks like that one who today tried to post on this blog a poorly written advertisement selling the mystical powers of his so called Temple. This ‘temple of miraculous solutions’ seems to consist of an email address and not much else. What really killed me is the incredible amount of stuff this person claims to be able to fix. Here is the ad this person tried to post, minus the name of the temple of course. Notice the lack of skills peddling his/her wares. I have refrained from editing it (yup, that took quite a bit of willpower as I hate bad advertisement).
Continue reading “Power and Money Hungry Merchants Sell Santeria Legacy as a Panacea” »
Squash could be an ewé but it is oh so tasty…
Much is said about the ewés or prohibitions that oloshas and awós have to respect once they are initiated. I have seen some become so fanatical that once they have their orí determined they start immediately self-prescribing food prohibitions based on what the orisha favors as offerings. Thus, you see someone who is going to do kariosha Yemayá avoiding watermelons and ram, or you may see a person about to do kariosha Shangó avoiding red colored foods. In the case of Oshún, one of the most commonly seen food ewes or prohibitions is pumpkin and eggs.
I find it absurd to forbid yourself to eat something when it has not been determined that you need to indeed take it out of your diet.
So here is my proposal, godparents. If you know you have a godchild to be crowned Oshún, as I have her on my sights in this case, let them enjoy what they can while they can. Furthermore, if you are talented in the kitchen, spoil your iyawó-to-be with a few good recipes. It is not just the food; it is the opportunity of communication that food provides. When families eat together, they have time to sit at the table, talk, discover things about one another, teach and learn as well.
Here are two awesome recipes that I developed with ingredients sacred to Oshún. Warning, these recipes are addictive and they are not light in calories. I don’t think the Orisha cares much for calorie counting!
Continue reading “Oshun’s Pumpkins: Enjoy them while you can!” »
Rules are crucial to keep traditions alive.
Some years ago, when I was still living in Texas my godfather Yeguede and I sat down to work on the content for some of the pages of the Yoruba Temple Omo Orisha. During the process, I brought up a set of rules I had drafted thinking of my own little ilé and my godchildren. Upon reading them, godfather thought they articulated overall the thinking and teachings of our lineage, thus they came to ‘live’ in the page for the temple.
This morning, as I woke up and did my moyugba and prayed for my godparents, godchildren and thought about the future, it occurred to me that I had never shared these rules on my blog. Granted, the blog is not an ilé, however in a way it has become for many a place to come and learn and share about their spiritual journey. Therefore, I consider that since I see so many people floating adrift without proper guidance, perhaps these rules may ease their spiritual journeys. Each line has been drafted with a purpose, not to be authoritarian, but because when we stray from the path we create arayé and that eventually becomes a problem for godchild and for the godparent who then needs to spend additional time fixing a situation of unbalance that could have been avoided by adhering to a simple set of regulations.
I have used some portions of the original essay as posted on the Temple, as I consider that it is still very much timely. I have made a few edits to make the text applicable to the blog, as well as some additions to the rules based on my experiences over the last 7 years.
Today our religion confronts new and diverse challenges such as the quick diffusion of information through both traditional methods of knowledge, like books, and non-traditional means such as the Internet.
Continue reading “When the Head leads the Body: The Importance of having Orisha House Rules.” »
This is ready to be enjoyed!
My first memory of Yemayá is forever linked to the sticky sweet flavor of Coconut Candy. I can’t remember exactly how young I was, but it must have been before my parent’s divorce and I was 6 then, when I attended a party offered to Yemayá by the ocean. It was at night, it was dark like molasses and I remember this santera coming to me and placing a piece of coconut candy in my mouth. “Eat this child, it is full with ashé and blessings and you will like it.” I will never forget the flavor and its nice crunchy consistency. I have been a fool for coconut candy ever since. Since I have no prohibitions about eating coconut, I can satisfy my craving for this treat occasionally.
There are many ways to do a good batch of coconut candy. Some prefer to make it almost like a brittle, some like to do it a bit moister; I am an equal opportunity appreciator of coconut candy.
Here is my version of it prepared on small and easy to distribute portions for those who do orisha bembés and like to share treats. Dealing with sugary treats is an exact science, but I recommend allowing yourself the space to experiment and have fun. In my book, flavor wins always, even if the consistency of your candy does not turn out perfect.
Continue reading “Yemayá’s Favorite Treat: Coconut Candy” »
This week I had a dream that left me thinking about ethics. Here is what happened in my dream. I was finished setting up my altar for my anniversary. All was ready to receive guests, when suddenly my husband comes to me and tells me that there is an unexpected person at the door. In my dream an imaginary foe that had made our existence miserable was at my doorstep wanting to present an offering to my orishas and make amends.
In the dream, my first reaction at seeing this awó was one of anger. I could feel my blood boiling at the sight of his face; my mind was riling and baffled at the audacity he had to show at my doorstep after having—in my dream— tormented us for so long. Wars between initiates are never fun; they are like dueling with grenades. Thus, my first instinct was to simply kick this unwelcomed visitor out, to deny him entrance to my house, to the sacred space of my shrine to Yemayá. Then, years of conversations with my godfather Awó Iwori Oddí about ethics, potential of change and development of character kicked in. These concepts have become so ingrained in my every day pursuit of Iwá Pelé that they now are permeating even into the fabric of my dreams, or at the moment, nightmare.
Continue reading “Do Oloshas need to have open shrines?” »