Oyá, my Adoptive Mother

Oyá, mother of the river of 9 tributaries, the cemeteries and the marketplace

Born out of the waters of the eternal blue. I am a creature of water, of the twin waters where the river meets the sea. Thus, I always thought that my main nourishment would flow from the waters of Yemayá and Oshun, but I was to discover differently.

Years after I went through Kariosha, the initiation into the ranks of orisha priestesshood, I found myself without a house where to grow and flourish. The reasons that came to drive a wedge between my godfather and I were few, but one was truly a strong factor. For him women in orisha worship belonged in the kitchen, in front of a sewing machine and as collaborators in some rituals, but certainly not as diviners or in roles that went deeper than aesthetics. My point of view is that women in the orisha ranks are precious and should not be limited but cherished. Female counsel should be coveted and respected for its instinctual and survivalist nature, the unique powers of creation, nourishing, and tradition keeping should be as appreciated as the talent many women have as diviners, be it with the diloggun or the obí.

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Spirits in the Material World: An Everyday Affair for Practitioners of any Discipline

Basic bóveda set up

Call them what you will. There are lots of types of spirits and they are around us in our material world every single day. Their force is felt in our magical rituals, in our moments of solitude and meditation and sometimes, while we are surrounded by every day people.

Dealing with spirits is second nature to me. There is no longer a fear factor involved to conquer, and through the years the sense of awe has faded away. But I am not jaded or take their presence for granted. There are spirits that are malevolent and one must be truly careful in our dealings with them, but fear should not be part of the equation, only preparation and discipline. I am still in awe of the things they can help us accomplish, but I am not longer in awe because they exist.

Since I started the blog, I have received several emails and instant messages from people who know I am a Spiritist and want to integrate spiritist practices and technology into their own practices and rituals. I am all for that. Every person has guardian spirits. However, most are not aware of them and go about life rationalizing odd feelings and sensations. Have you ever felt hair standing on the nape or you neck when visiting a place or meeting someone and touching them for the first time? Have you felt a chill and goose bumps or even a dizzying sinking sensation in the pit of the stomach while visiting an old place or a nature spot? Well, that is more than likely because your body has reacted like an antenna to spiritual presences, but you were perhaps none the wiser.

So how do we turn on this antenna? How do we apply spiritist techniques and concepts to your own practice?

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Yemayá and the Keepers of her Mysteries: Part IV

An artistic representation of Yemayá and an offering of water melons.

The ways of the Orishas are mysterious indeed. It has been years since I saw my godfather for the last time, we parted ways in Dallas, Texas shortly before my son was to be crowned Oggún. We, the children of Yemayá, need to learn to bend with the currents that sweep through our lives, to be flexible enough to understand that there are no need for breaking points, that all is as it should be…a continuos flow of energy.

I was lucky enough to have José Bravo, Jr and José Bravo, Sr. (Igbaé Bayen Ntonu) be my godfather and Oyugbona respectively, however our life and spiritual paths led us in different directions. My love and respect will always be with both as they are part of who I am and will always be in my heart and prayers.

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Yemayá and the Keepers of Her Mysteries: Part III

Yemayá's waves shape the life of her initiates

December 12 arrived sooner than I thought it would. When one is on the right path, things have a way of sorting themselves out. For me of Kariosha, the process where the energy of the one’s tutelar orisha is seated inside the head, was a dream about to materialize. Money was a big obstacle, but a present from my father made two dreams happen, I got my first home and had enough to pay for most of my inititation. The rest of the money came also as a gift.

This gift came to me as a surprise from my elder Orisha sister Kareline Hartwell Ocha Lobbi, Igbae Bayen Ntonu (prayer said for those who have died). Without my knowledge, she contacted on-line a series of iyaloshas and babaloshas who were kind enough to send gifts to me for my initiation. Karelina, who was an Olo Obatalá (initiate of Obatalaá) send me a package filled with letters wishing me well and checks that I was not expecting. I praise each and every one of those initiates, they know who they are, for their kindness to someone that they had never even met. May my elder sister be at the foot of Olodumare (God) and found the peace she longed for in life…but that is another story.

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Yemayá and the Keepers of Her Mysteries, Part II

Crown for my mother who made Yemaya in January 2010. Made by Omimelli.

The way to the Igbodu (initiation room) is not an easy one for most people. Those of us who were raised in other religions must first be at peace with the fact that in order to truly surrender ourselves to Yemayá we must be willing to empty the cup, for it to be filled again with new content. Asides from the issue of surrendering, there are oftentimes family issues to square away and the one I hear most people talk about: Money.

In my case, surrendering was not an issue. I don’t remember how or when but I found myself as in love with my Yemayá as I was with my husband, minus the sexual attraction, of course. I could no longer wait to be part of her, to place all of me at her service. Yemayá was the missing link to my happiness, I could hear her call in every cell of my body.

What was a challenge for me at the time was the money. But I had faith that She would provide when the time was right. I had started to save, but I was not even near having all my resources lined up. However, further challenges and opportunities would arise soon for me, but I was non the wiser.

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Yemayá and the Keepers of Her Mysteries

Iddé of Yemayá Okute. To wear an iddé is the equivalent of a badge of office for an iniate.

This month The Mystic Cup dedicates this area to the exploration of the experiences of those who have made a lifetime promise to learn the mysteries of Yemayá, Orisha of the Oceans and embodiment of Motherhood in the Yoruba pantheon.

No two spiritual paths are alike, however some are joined by common themes, experiences and devotions. In such light, I want to share with you how I came to be a priestess of Yemayá. Mine is but one story out of tens of thousands, and I hope, it is but the first to be shared in The Mystic Cup.

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Santería and the Shakespearean Paradigm

To be or not to be, that is the question

Inspired by the famous and profound words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who while facing his moment of doubt in confronting the adversities in his life; I am drawing a parallelism with the adversities and challenges that many of us have faced as oloshas, babaloshas and iyaloshas in the Yoruba Religion. Although we could apply this statement to multiple subjects in our religious surroundings, I propose that we take a look at what we can do to BE better godfathers and godmothers.

We live in an era of fast communications, of Internet sites, social networking, iPads, digital telephones and thousands of other technological marvels. The accelerated pace and commercialization of life, which are intrinsic characteristics of modern culture in the United States, has had a profound influence on the entry process of neophytes to Osha houses or ilés. Nowadays, those who wish to be part of the religious community can search for godfathers and godmothers online, go to a botánica or simply attend a few Orisha related events and then in mere days, weeks or perhaps a month later they already have Osha crowned. It seems as though everything has a price, every head seems to have a “path” towards the Yoruba priesthood.

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Santería 101


Throne for an Iyawó Obatalá

It has been nearly 20 years since I started to walk on this path.  However, for the sake of newcommers and of folks gathering wool and comparing notes about the subject, I will retrace some of my zig-zaggy steps into what is my main religious system.

At first, when one tries to explain a non-main stream religious system to an aleyo (a non practitioner or believer) there is always a fear factor that the ideas exposed will sound really off the wall.  However, I am parting from the premise that if you are here, reading my words, there is a spark of interest that leads you to be open about the subject while I pour you the first Mystic Cup of personal Santería knowledge. 

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