Category Archives: Santeria

Santeria: A Diseased Community

Elegua opens the road to healing
Elegua opens the road to healing
I have been quiet as of late, partly because of my heavy day-to-day workload. Yes, I do work for a living in something not related to Santeria. The other reason for my reduced frequency on posts has been introspection.

Elegua opens the roads to the world, to the mind and to the spirit. The recent initiation of my youngest son to Elegua allowed me to take the time to observe patterns and to reflect upon them. The pattern I refer to is the one of creation, the creation of a new priest. It is truly amazing to observe a young person initiate the steps towards a rich and rewarding spiritual life. Kariosha is not the end of a journey; it is the beginning of an arduous road of self-improvement and spiritual fulfillment. This is what my son understands from his commitment at the age of 8. This is what his godfather, my eldest son, who is 15, is instilling in him as the days go by. It is a blessing to be able to be there to guide and support them. I will make sure that my children carry on a spiritual legacy, but furthermore, that they become the pillars to new houses. In time those new houses will be able to change some of the things that are eroding our current practices.

Here we go to the crux of the matter. Our Santeria communities are polluted with sick people, and I mean sick people in the spiritual sense of the word. In order to heal our communities we need first to confront the malady with open eyes and then to take bitter medicine. Once we are done with the treatment, we need to stay faithful to a rigorous and vigilant regime to make sure we never again allow illness to creep into our houses.

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Ashó Eleguá: Initiation Garments as Art, Ritual Object and Textile Codex

Elegua Master of Roads
Elegua Master of Roads
June 1st was a day of transformation for my youngest son. He completed his initiation ceremony as an olosha at the hands of his godfather, Ogún Addá Araí and his Oyugbonakán Yegedé. The months leading to the kariosha were busy with preparations and planning. There are many elements that must be carefully sorted out to have a smooth kariosha. The initial steps involve coordinating dates for officiating oloshas, then come sorting out materials, planning meals, inviting participants, and then comes my favorite part, planning for the ashó orisha or the initiatory garments.

The ashó orisha varies depending on the orisha. However, in the New World initiatory clothes have become a textile codex. The ashó orisha can narrate a story, represent the symbols associated with the orisha or be a simple garment depending on the level of skill and imagination of the seamstress or tailor. For me, beyond a textile codex, the ashó orisha is an opportunity to prepare a spiritual armor for the new initiate. This armor will have elements sacred to the orisha, the appropriate colors and will indeed surround the iyawó with all the energy and good wishes I will imbue in them. In a sense, the ashó orisha is a ritual object of importance because it shows the stately position of the iyawó and it represents the presence of the orisha, the history and tradition behind the orisha and it becomes the focus of attention during the Throne Day.

Vest and pants for the crowning of an iyawó Eleguá
Vest and pants for the crowning of an iyawó Eleguá

I am particular about who I work an ashó orisha, when and why. Since being a seamstress is not my occupation, but rather a devotional activity and it involves a great deal of my personal time and energies, then I select carefully when and who I create for. Also it is crucial for me to know the iyawó, to be able to study their body, the way they move and their own sense of style. If the iyawó is to wear the ashó orisha properly, then she or he needs to be able to move well in it, to be free to dance in them and to feel comfortable to for one day, be the embodiment of an orisha on earth.
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The Story of Diana Rosado: Santeria Fraud and Extortion in Orlando, FL

SAY NOThe story you are about to read is an example of why people need to research carefully before becoming involved in a Santeria house or ilé.

It has been about two months since Diana Rosado contacted me on email wanting advice. I am overly cautious to learn slowly the facts before sharing advice with a person or even recommending their case to a fellow orisha practitioner near the individual seeking assistance.

First, I want to make sure there is a real spiritual need. Second, it is important to match properly the level of skill of the olosha to be recommended to the needs of the person seeking help. If possible, I do try to find people whose temperaments are suitable to provide assistance to someone who has faced abuse. Dealing with someone who is hurt, whose faith has been shattered and trust violated, requires kindness, knowledge and a great deal of patience and empathy.

Maybe some would consider this too much caution, but when someone has been victimized, the least they need is to place their shattered faith and their mounting problems they face, in the hands of someone who can’t lead them to a proper solution.

In a nutshell, Diana made a few errors in judgment which lead her to trust an alleged Palera and Santera. I have no way to validate the initiation of the person who conned Diana. However, I can say that from Diana’s emails, the woman describes herself as gay and Palera. There lays the first warning bell for me, as no legitimate Palo house would initiate a gay woman or man. If you want to read more about that subject go to the area which highlights Palo articles, as this in itself is a complex and controversial subject.

The second warning sign I want you to pay attention as you read Diana’s story is about the ‘initiations’ and the constant feeding scheme the alleged Santera devised to conn money out of Diana. The third item of interest is the modality this person wanted to establish of having Diana pay ‘rent’ or ‘upkeep’
I do have photos of the person who allegedly extorted money out of Diana as well as documents (bills) the woman sent charging for payments to ‘feed’ her orisha. However, I have agreed with Diana to simply present her side of the story as a warning for others and not to make an accusation through the blog using names and evidence. If Diana wishes to place a claim, she can certainly do so through a Small Claims Court, she is in her right to do so.

This in itself should serve as a warning to those who may be out there abusing others and defrauding them of their hard earn cash, as they are legally responsible and can face the law for their actions.
Her story is still unfolding and hopefully it will have a good end as she now is being properly advised by an obá oriaté of solid reputation and experience.

Having made these observations, I leave you to her story:

“I write this story with the hope that my experience will prevent another person from making the same mistakes.

Four years ago I was having problems with my daughter. There was a lot of discord between my daughter and my husband. We had decided to let our daughter live rent free in our house in Orlando, Florida. She was struggling working part time and going to school part time and unable to keep up with rent and utilities on her apartment. In return, we wanted her to finish school and only pay her utilities and the property taxes on the house.

We added her to the deed so she could get homestead on the house’s property taxes. These taxes are due once a year and the homestead gave her a break on the amount of taxes charged on the house.
It all started out well. However, she soon quit working and was not maintaining the property as we had done. My daughter wasn’t taking care of the pool properly or keeping the grass mowed. The inside the house was no better than the outside. It was like she didn’t care about anything. This was the source of all disagreements between us and I became desperate about this situation.

I found myself seeking guidance from someone with a spiritual background. I found someone who claimed she was an active participant in the Palo and Santeria religion. She convinced me that she would be able to help me with my problems and I agreed to let her help me.

Soon I found myself receiving Warriors and Yemayá. My daughter also ended up with the same (Warriors and Yemayá) and also ‘received’ a Gitana.

Keep in mind that no ceremony was performed prior to us receiving the Warriors and Yemayá and my daughter’s Gitana. This should have been my first clue that something was not correct.

My first major mistake for not researching the person (who also happens to be gay and supposedly practices Palo) and what to expect before receiving the Warriors and Yemayá. The funny thing is a part of me felt uncomfortable but I thought I had found someone to help me.

My second error was not listening to my instincts. At first she was very understanding and comforting, but things changed. I could not keep my Warriors and Yemayá at home because my husband does not support my religious practices. He had a bad experience with a spiritualist he thinks that anything spiritual outside of the church is ‘evil voodoo stuff.’ I was unable to keep the Warriors and Yemayá in my home and she offered to keep them at her apartment for me. Thus, this woman was ‘tending’ to my Warriors and Yemayá and feeding them every three months with animal blood. This started a series of hefty payments done to keep up the Warriors. I had to pay both for my daughter’s as well as mine every 3 months. Whenever I could not meet the payments a fine or multa for ‘disrespect’ was added as well. The average payment each three months was of $2,600, plus a fine for alleged disrespect of $421. Continue reading “The Story of Diana Rosado: Santeria Fraud and Extortion in Orlando, FL” »

Legal Employment for the Dead: Gathering Cemetery Dirt for Magical Purposes from the Hoodoo and Santeria Perspectives

Hoodoo Payment: Candle and Whiskey (coins not shown in the photo)
Hoodoo Payment: Candle and Whiskey (coins not shown in the photo)

It must have been nearly three decades ago when I had to gather dirt from a cemetery for the first time; it was nerve wrecking to do so because I am not really fond of cemeteries. Besides, I felt like the whole planet was watching every single step I took on that morning. Little I knew back then that I would have to repeat this operation many times in my life. Well, it does get easier when you know what you are doing and why and not just following someone else’s brief instructions and getting it done, because it has to get done.

Let us begin with the ethics of cemetery-dirt gathering. Do it with a purpose, do it respectfully and without enslaving spirits. Let me address point by point these two guiding principles.

Purpose:

There are some practitioners of magic that simply go about from cemetery to cemetery collecting dirt from famous graves just to have them in their arsenal in case the needs arises to use them.

Here is what I think of that practice. Would you fill up your pantry with food that will expire and ingest it no matter what a decade later? I happen to think that when you operate with a purpose, an immediate purpose, the dirt you gather has more power and it will yield more effective results. If you do not believe me, then test it out yourself. Gather dirt, let it sit on a shelf and then, when the need arises, say 5 years later, use that dirt and see if you can solve the situation at hand just as effectively. There is a process of conscious gathering of strength and momentum as you prepare a magical working which should not be interrupted; it is like putting together a cake. Would you mix the batter and let it sit on a shelf a day or two before putting it in the oven? It could very well be that being a dirt collector is just your thing, ok then so be it, but the purpose and energy behind each collection must then be carefully catalogued and noted so when you finally decide to use that dirt you can recall that particular state of mind and get again into that groove to impart the working with the appropriate energy.
Continue reading “Legal Employment for the Dead: Gathering Cemetery Dirt for Magical Purposes from the Hoodoo and Santeria Perspectives” »

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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Fraud Alert: Spirit Medium in Venezuela conducts Kariosha through Spirits of Alleged Deceased Babalawo and Santero ©

Religious Confusion and Theft
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 ©” »

Kariosha Journal: A Journey of Transformation©

idde elegbaThe 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©” »

Determining the Guardian Angel or Tutelary Orisha: Dilogún or Opón Ifá?

Do we use Eleguá's dilogún or not?
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.
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Power and Money Hungry Merchants Sell Santeria Legacy as a Panacea

Santeria for Sale!
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” »

Oshun’s Pumpkins: Enjoy them while you can!

Squash could be an ewé but it is oh so tasty...
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!” »