Plagiarism and Santeria: Blatant Disrespect for Intellectual Property©

PLAGIARIMSI 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that potential authors are trying to sell as ‘new and fresh’ recently discovered collection of materials from unpublished libretas (notebooks kept by oloshas), you are excited and eager.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.
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Honoring Oshún and her Sacred Pumpkins

A plate of goodness, oven roasted pumpkin seeds.

A plate of goodness, oven roasted pumpkin seeds.

One of the best lessons I ever learned from my godfather Awó Jorge Puig Kaiser, Iwori Oddí is that it is a blessing to share a meal with family, friends and godchildren. Some of my best moments with him have been while having dinner. He not only enjoys the meal and always thanks the cook profusely, but he also likes to reminisce about his life back in Cuba, his friends and my favorite is to listen to stories about his godparents and other elders from the Island.

Often times when I am in the kitchen working on dishes for the orisha, I think of him. He does not cook, but he is always ready to offer to sample whatever is bubbling on the pot or roasting in the oven. Of course, you can imagine that I have no issues indulging the old man and letting him sample whatever he wishes.
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Oddú of the Year 2013: Organising Committee for the Oddú of the Year in Cuba

Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.

Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.

This is the version that is used in my ilé, it comes from the Organising Committee for the Oddú of the Year in Cuba by the Miguel Febles Padrón, Awó Odí Ká House. It has been a practice for this group to gather for the last 26 years at their temple in Ave. 10 de Octubre #1059 and Josefina y Gertrudis, Víbora in the City of Habana, Cuba.

Once again, I believe this to be the first translation posted in English. Please have the courtesy to refer to blog.themysticcup.com if you use this translation.

—For Cuba and the World—
To all priests of Ifá, Oriatés, babaloshas, iyaloshas and iworos.

The ceremony was presided by priest of Ifá, David Cedrón, ‘Otura Sá’ with the support from priests of Ifá from all families in Cuba, their descendants around the world, the oddú was determined by the youngest priest present.
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Oddú of the Year 2013: United States by the Temple of Ministers Shango Eyeife

Letra del Año sacada en Miami

Oddú of 2013 determined in Miami, FL

The following oddú was done in Florida by the Temple of Ministers Shangó Eyeife in Miami.

Main Sign: Eyila y unle (12-8)
Arayé elesse eleddá (problems that emerge due to bad choices) Osobbo

It is recommended to always consult with godparents.

Main Orisha: Shango
Secondary Orisha: Yemayá
Accompanying Orishas: Eshu and Oshún
Refrains:
1. When my memory fails I will go back to the secrets
2. A king goes to war and wins.
3. Without a head there can be no crowning.
4. A spider does not let go of its web, it stretches it.
5. When a whistle rejects a voice it makes no sound.
6. If you do not speak no one will understand you.
7. If you do a favor that harms you, you act against yourself.
8. When there is no respect all is lost.

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Sign of the Year 2013 Musundi from Cuba

Sign of the Year 2013 by the Bantu

Sign of the Year 2013 by the Bantu

It is not my common practice to re-post articles from other blogs on The Mystic Cup, but this one is of particular interest to me as a Palera. It has the Sign of the Year 2013 from the Palo perspective. You can find the original post on hedgemason.blogspot.com.

However, nothing has been altered from the original post and I did request permission before re-posting here.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Originally, the Letra or divination reading of the year in Afro-Cuban traditions was an event which occurred within the confines of a spiritual temple, intended specifically for and shared only among the members of each individual house. It was a tradition which developed in Oricha temples and also in some Bantu (Congo religion) temples.
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Appropriation from African Traditional Religions

grew up in the hood (2)In the modern internet-based society, cultural appropriation from African Traditional Religions occurs often in my opinion. Everything from eclectic Paganism adopting deities, to commercial Conjure claims of being an expert on Orisa traditions, to Neopagan Vodou have collectively jumped on the bandwagon of adopting practices derived from African religions. The argument can be made that persons seeking or claiming enlightenment do so with a clean heart and good intentions. There is nothing wrong with seeking truth.

Unfortunately seeking truth is not always what happens. If you need a tooth pulled, going to a student intern who read a book on dentistry and decided to begin yanking teeth for pay with rusty vice-grips seems to me like asking for pain and trouble. Appropriation is a spiritual equivalent.

One symptom of appropriation is the monetary aspect. Yes our beloved ATR faiths do charge for certain things and rightly so. It takes time, hard work, and experience to learn the correct way of doing things within each House or group. Derechos (fees) have to be paid. Would a person consult an expert in any other field without having to pay, or a doctor? However, monetary goals seem to be at the forefront of appropriation-based issues especially from commercial internet shop owners. Fraudulent “Damballah Elekes”, “Oya grave dirt bottles”, “Yemaya La Sirene Mojos” and “Pomba Gira Homosexual Love Gris Gris bags” among other silly things seem to be increasing on the internet in my opinion. This is an unfortunate aspect of appropriation as far as fabrication of things that do not exist within the traditions being supposedly drawn upon. Caveat Emptor, indeed.
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Oddú of the Year 2013: A Glance at Lukumi Communities around the World

Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.

Ó fe jèkí té Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé, ó fe jèki tè Olúwo sè èla awo, èrí ikin la wa sé èla awo.

The Oddu of the Year is an interesting subject that gives us Santeros plenty to talk about for the month of January and the rest of the year. I remember when it was only one Oddu, the one done by the Comision de la Letra del Año in Cuba and we all waited eagerly to hear which Orishas came ruling for the year, that was before the Internet. Now, there are many different versions of the Oddu, in Cuba there are a couple and there are groups that prefer one over the other. There are also versions done by region which is quite reasonable because each country has particularities and their own sets of social and political issues that are addressed on those oddú. I guess you can look at it almost like a barometer for collective karma for the year…even if karma is a concept foreign to the Lukumi, or not part of our culture.

In any case, I like to do a comparison between the different oddús because it is interesting to see the trends and what common subjects emerge for santeros and the community at large. I will start by posting the full readings this year, whenever available and then run the comparisons as I have done before.
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One Bread Pudding, Two Happy Orisha

 

A delicious creation for Aganjú or for Oggún.

A delicious creation for Aganjú or for Oggún.

In our ilé we celebrate two anniversaries in the month of December. Mine is on December 12th and my husband’s is on the 13th. As you can imagine, there are tons of offerings set on the altar, particularly lots of fresh fruit. It is tradition in my ilé to share fruit with guests as they leave to go home, but having a double anniversary and a double shrine we had so much fruit that I had to find a way to use it creatively. Of course, some people pick pieces and use them for cleansings, but there are so many cleansings one can do. So I decided to create a few sweet treats for the Orisha and some to share with my family with the remaining fruit.

Since my father in Osha is Aganjú I always have plenty of pineapples and they usually take a bit to ripen, so I had 3 delicious pineapples in my hands today and inspiration to cook and offer a nice dish to my orisha and to make enough for my family to share. One of them, BBQ Pineapple Hot and Sweet Chicken, was only for the dinner table. The other one, Hawaiian Bread Coconut and Pineapple Pudding was a dessert and a sweet offering to the orisha. Pineapples are a favorite of to both Aganjú and Oggún, so you can certainly say that you can have One Bread Pudding and two happy Orisha.

By the way, it is good to mention that bread pudding is also a favorite of Obatalá. You can adapt a basic bread pudding to please most any orisha, substitute the fruit with mashed fruit bread for Obatalá. If you want to please Oshun, try using freshly roasted pieces of butternut squash and for Yemayá try substituting the coconut milk with fresh watermelon juice and serving it with watermelon simple syrup.

Hawaiian Bread Coconut and Pineapple Pudding

Ingredients:

1 Package of Pineapple bread (12 pack dinner rolls)*

3 eggs

1 cup of coconut milk

2/3 cup of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of rum flavoring

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon of nutmeg

½ teaspoon of lime zest

3 teaspoons of melted butter

1 cup of chopped pineapple

* You can substitute this kind of bread by any sweet bread rolls.  I used King’s Hawaiian Bread Rolls.

Procedure:

Peel, core and mince the fresh pineapple.  You will only need one cup of it.  Place it in a large bowl along with the sugar, rum flavoring, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, coconut milk and eggs.  Break rolls into pieces and add to the ingredients.  Mix with your hands, do not over mix.  Pour batter into a greased soufflé mold (I used an additional 2 tsps. of butter for greasing the mold).  Use the zest to top the mixture and then bake on a pre-heated oven for 50 to 60 minutes at 350°F oven.

This recipe is fairly simple and the results are quite delicious.  You can add some chopped macadamia nuts to top the pudding for additional texture.  If you want to make the offering extra special, try doing simple syrup (equal amount of sugar and water cooked together) spiked with rum and serve poured over the warm pudding.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did working in the kitchen with my family and children, after all there are some offerings that are extra special when they carry the combined ashé of several santeros, and more so, when a family of santeros come together to work and thanks the orisha for the many blessings received over the last year.

Omimelli

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

 

 

 

 

 

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A Few Notes on St. Cyprian

The Sorcerer Saint

The Sorcerer Saint

Someone recently posted some questions on the blog in response to my previous article on St. Cyprian. Instead of simply answering the question, I decided to write an essay to be posted on the blog, since others may find it of interest. St Cyprian of Antioch was on the rolls of officially venerated Saints until a few decades ago. Like many other folkloric saints such as Saint Barbara there is little actual evidence that they ever existed.

Folklore has it that Saint Cyprian was a Magus or Magician until his conversion to Christianity and later martyrdom. Part of the folklore has it that he never completely gave up the practice of magic. It is said that he continued to practice the magical arts in secret. If St. Cyprian did exist ( and I suspect that the legend is based on an actual individual or individuals), then what he practiced was likely some form of Theurgy and/or Hermeticism. Those who are looking for a good overview on this subject should see the book Hermetic Magic by Stephen Edred Flowers.

Assuming he did exist, I have I have serious doubts as to whether he had “dealings with demons” or he was “working with Lucifer” as one poster worded it. This perspective was simply Church propaganda, which tended to smear any type of involvement with magic, spiritual healing and divination as “demonic” or “Satanic”. Lets face facts, the church still labels any spiritual entities outside of official Church dogma as being of demonic or fallen origin. Thus they continue to label the Beings that we routinely work with in the ATR’s, such as the Orishas, the Lwa, the Mpungo, Nkisi, Eggun etc as being “demonic”.

The ancient peoples such as the Romans, Greeks, Chaldeans, Egyptians etc. tended to not make such hard and fast distinctions between “demons” and “daemons” unless the entity in question was overtly malevolent. The entity Lucifer historically was not identified with either Satan or with demons. The Church however was quite eager to do so and for it’s own reasons, which was to extend it’s control over the minds of all people everywhere. It could not tolerate any other forms of belief outside of it’s control. A good book that delves into how the myth of the Devil was created and developed over time is Elaine Pagel’s work The Origins of Satan. For the record I do not believe in the existence of the Devil, although I do concede that it is a powerful Jungian psychological archetype.

Getting back to the subject at hand – St. Cyprian, I believe that he can be regarded in Lucumi terms, as a type of Eggun, a “Muerto” or form of Spiritual Guide. Even if he did not actually historically exist, he could still be seen as a useful spiritual entity, falling into the category of “Egregore.” This is a mass thought form which has been energetically empowered and sustained for centuries by continuous prayers and devotions. Either way, St. Cyprian represents a vibrant spiritual entity.

In folklore, St. Cyprian was seen as the patron Saint of diviners, magicians, spiritists and spiritual workers. He therefore is appealed to and petitioned to increase one’s knowledge and abilities in such areas. One person on the blog asked me if I thought it “would be positive/beneficial to communicate with this Saint?” My answer is that it depends. As the old saying goes “if i do not know you then why are you calling me?”. I see no reason for just anyone to attempt communication if he or she has no direct business with this Saint. In other words, if an individual is not a spiritual worker of some type and does not have a strong affinity for this Saint, then the communication should not be attempted. A second instance would be in those cases in which the Saint himself has initiated contact. A third instance would be if during the course of a registro or reading it came down that one should start working with this or any other entity.

In my case, it appears that it is St Cyprian that attempted contact. I was not even thinking about him when this occurred. It was an out of the blue occurrence. As to why he contacted me, well I have my suspicions, but I will keep those to myself for the moment, and continue to slowly work with him over the course of time.

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The orisha does discriminate and so must we!

One Elegua tells the other..."Let's add a little chaos into the registro to see if the diviner is awake!"

Years ago, I was at a Batá to Oyá and while she mounted my godfather and dispensed advice to those at the event I was pleasantly surprise to hear her assert her discriminatory powers upon those who are part of the ilé. I remember quite clearly that she said to the crowd, “In this household there is one door to come in and two doors to leave.” There was no question in my mind that she sets the rules as the head orisha of the house. She made it crystal clear; those who do not conform to the rules of the ilé can expediently leave. To come in the house, there is a filter, one door, to leave…don’t let the door slam on your rear end…whichever door you choose. If I was to further analyze the implications of her statement, one could say that even leaving a household has a procedure. Either we leave in disgrace or we exit properly and following procedures.

Procedures are precisely what will save us from making mistakes. I am glad to see that the first post strokes a nerve on many who were inspired to post a response. I will address some of the points made by readers on this second part, starting with divination and its role on the discriminatory process of initiation.

Divination is not an absolute

The role of divination in the process of admittance to an ilé is never an absolute; it should not be the only guiding principle or the litmus test to admittance. Here is why. Divination in itself is an act of selective discrimination on the sharing of knowledge applied to a situation through the energy of Oddu. Meaning, for divination to be effective, it must first encounter an imperfect filter, the diviner him or herself, who is only human after all.

The diviner must not only be well versed in the oddú and its meaning, but also learn how to discriminate what information to apply and share with the person seeking advice. Of course, I have seen very good diviners advising someone to make osha and giving them a step by step approach on what to do to prepare. I have however, seen with more frequency the Spiritual Terrorism approach to induction into the Santeria ranks. You will find more often those diviners who warn of tragedies, illness and chaos if the person does not run right away to make kariosha.

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