How Media Perceives the Orisha Community: 2015 a Turning Point for Santeria

Oloshas at CLBA Press Conference
Oloshas at CLBA Press Conference

The eyes of the world will be focused in the months and years to come on the evolution of the relationship between the United States and Cuba.  The intent of changes announced under the current Obama administration have already started a ripple of effects at many levels.  Of chief interest to me as an olosha is the impact that this re-establishment of relations will have in our Santeria community at large.

If you have been following The Mystic Cup, you would realize that I have never been one to mince words or to shy away from expressing my concerns and ideas.  In this case I have some areas of concern which deserve careful consideration and discussion amongst the leaders of our religious houses, no matter if they are Ifa or Osha-centric.

Perception is Reality

On January 2, Oba Ernesto Pichardo gathered media in Miami to announce that the Church of Lukumí Babalú Ayé (CLBA) will be fostering open relations with over 500 fellow oloshas in Cuba. The Church seeks to open the door for equal treatment to Oloshas as initiates with regards to the freedom that other churches have to carry on their missionary and religious work in neighboring island.  The conference also served to announce this year’s Letra del Año in Miami, which is a yearly reading used by Oloshas to guide their actions with the advice of the Orishas.

The Letra del Año is determined in many countries including Cuba.  The Island, the bastion of the Orisha religion in the Americas, could not fall short in announcing the most expected results of the yearly reading.  This time the reading highlights the importance of socio-political changes between the United States and Cuba.

There were two media powerhouses that reported on the Cuban Letra del Año announcement: Reuters and AP.  However, I will not limit myself just to those two, I am also going to analyze coverage done by local newspapers and TV stations in Florida.

Let’s start with the lack of professionalism and disrespect exhibited by the editors of the Associated Press.  Let me highlight the deficiencies of the article which even lacks a byline.

  1. The opening paragraph does not mention which is the group that called the press conference. Last time I checked, Who, What, When, Where, Why were of importance when reporting stories. There were two groups that called for a conference, one in Miami and one in Cuba. Attention to details, and, proper reporting generates credibility.
  2. The word babalawo is placed in quotes, this denotes a lack of respect for the religious status of an Ifá priest. Have you ever seen an AP story using quotes for the words “Bishop” or “Minister” unless they are questioning the validity of the rank or initiation? The appropriate course of action is to use italics for a word in a foreign language.  By the way, this is as stated in the Associate Press Manual of Style and I do keep a copy on my desk.
  3. On the same paragraph there is the use of a question mark that in my appreciation denotes either lack of proper editing, or a nonchalant attitude towards the information presented by the Ifá priests who determined the Letra del Año. I leave you to that consideration.
  4. The skimpy paragraph mentions the intent of a restoration of ties between priests in Cuba and the U.S. However, the reporter falls short on doing proper reporting by omitting the fact that the Church of Lukumí Babalú Ayé had a conference on January 2 and that the conference in Cuba amplifies the message of unity.
  5. The stroke of genius comes in the form of a closing paragraph that truly denotes how media continues to perpetuate the ignorant concept that Orisha practitioners are in fact all syncretic in their practices. We are not a mix of Roman Catholicism and African Yoruba. African Yoruba is not a religion, it denotes a people.

Talk about irresponsible journalism, the AP has truly done it this time.  However, if we do not raise our voices to point out these ‘tiny’ monstrosities, we will be all guilty of continued to have our image shaped by outsiders.

In any case, here is the original link, feel free to read it and leave a little comment to the AP editors if you feel as I do and like to protect the image of our religious practices.  I am also posting the article so you can see the reasoning behind my comments.

Original link: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/cuban-santeria-priests-closer-ties-us-27979514

—Beginning of AP’s Story—

Cuban Santeria Priests Welcome Closer Ties With US

HAVANA — Jan 3, 2015, 3:55 PM ET

A group of Afro-Cuban Santeria priests said Saturday the path is clear for improved dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba following the two governments’ announcement of plans to renew diplomatic ties.

The “babalawo” priests’ annual “Letter of the Year” also foresaw dangers of epidemics, conflicts, environmental imbalances and the loss of religious or political leaders ? general projections that have been common in past such Letters.

Lazaro Cuesta, one of the founders of the Commission of the Letter of the Year, said the planned restoration of ties, announced on Dec. 17, with the U.S. opens a period “of hope for all the world.”

“Our Cuban brothers who are there (in the United States) will avoid being victims of the walls that separated us until yesterday,” he said. “Those walls collapsed to create a bridge.

The commission represents about 1,000 babalawos and is independent of the government. Another Santeria group, the government-recognized Yoruba Association issued its yearly message on Thursday. It did not mention ties with the U.S. and urged people to “avoid social indiscipline.”

Santeria is a mix of Roman Catholicism and the African Yoruba.

—End of AP Story—

Continuing to break down the day’s coverage of news, let’s take a look at how Reuters, another media powerhouse reports the story.  Reuters is of importance because a lot of newspapers and Internet media pick up stories done by them and replicate them all over the world.  The same is the case for the Associated Press stories.  In the case of Reuters, the reporters are listed and their story is free of huge mistakes.  However, let me point out a few things that could have been reported better.

Opening paragraph fails to establish who these priests are. Credibility is key and the writers should present a context. Who, What, When, Where and Why…remember?

  1. On the second paragraph there are two factual errors. Cubans are not the only ones who honor the orishas and there are far more than 3 million around the world that are involved into what the media calls Santeria.
  2. On the fifth paragraph there is a huge mistake: Baba Eyiogbe is not a deity, it is an odú. However, it is even worse to attribute such faux pas to one of the most respected awós, Lazaro Cuesta.

Here is the original link followed by the article: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/03/cuba-new-year-predictions-idUSL1N0UI0EH20150103

—Beginning of Reuter’s Story—

 Cuba’s Santeria priests hail U.S. detente in New Year forecast

By Rosa Tania Valdés

HAVANA Sat Jan 3, 2015 2:45pm EST

Jan 3 (Reuters) – Priests offering New Year’s prophecies from Cuba’s Afro-Cuban religion urged old Cold War foes Havana and Washington to continue rebuilding relations, and forecast that detente would bring economic benefits in 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced last month they would move to renew diplomatic ties, potentially paving a way to end decades of hostility.

Many on the Caribbean island eagerly await the annual forecast from the Santeria religion, which is practiced by 3 million Cubans and uses animal sacrifices to contact Yoruba deities originally worshiped by slaves brought over from Africa.

This year the priests, known as babalawos, predicted more conflicts between nations worldwide, the deaths of religious and political leaders, ecological strife and storm surges, as well as fatalities from inter-generational struggles.

One of the priests, Lazaro Cuesta, said building bridges for dialogue was key for the coming 12 months.

“All those who are involved in that, in all aspects of life, are called to victory,” Cuesta told a news conference in Havana. “Those who put up walls and break down bridges are doomed.”

The priest said the ruling deity, Baba Eyiobe, is applauding the rapprochement announced on Dec. 17 by the U.S. and Cuban governments.

Cuesta said Baba Eyiobe was telling world leaders, particularly those in Washington and Havana, “to use their heads as a fundamental basis for relations, their own intelligence, and not to be influenced by the past, nor by circumstances created by some ill-intentioned people.”

He added: “God wants the dialogue to continue for everyone’s benefit.”

The Santeria priests said one of the slogans for 2015 chosen by the faith was: “Wisdom is the force that moves the Earth.”

They also prophesied that 2015 would offer economic benefits thanks to the Cuba-U.S. talks, but gave no other details. Cuba said in December that it expects GDP growth of 4 percent in 2015, following years of economic slowdown. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)

—End of AP Story—

Local coverage of the CLBA news conference had good and bad reporting.  The exception was El Nuevo Herald.  Kudos to Alfonso Chardy for having his facts straight and writing with respect.  Here is the link to the article:  http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/sur-de-la-florida/article5371977.html#/tabPane=tabs-228efa30-1.  El Nuevo Herald also provided a video which allows visitors to obtain more background on the importance of the announcement.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMjPg168iDs&feature=player_embedded

So sad that the comments done by the readers (here is the link http://www.elnuevoherald.com/noticias/sur-de-la-florida/article5371977.html#/tabPane=tabs-228efa30-2) reflect so much ignorance and lack of courtesy.  These are the Christians that think of themselves as high and mighty but cannot be civil on a public forum and exhibit the respect and tolerance that they would demand to have afforded if the shoe was on the other foot.

America TeVé, a Miami TV station, also covered the conference live, however the anchors cannot help themselves and interjected their ignorant jokes.  Attention News Anchors, if you do not want to look like a bubble head, shut up and stick to introducing your story with dignity.  Please, by all means take a look at the video, it is in Spanish, but I have translated the dialogue in question so you can see what outrages me.

The male anchor, Juan Manuel Gaos: “…some have been mounted by the Santo in this beginning of the year Olance, no?”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_14TTg4xIRU

Fortunately reporter Olance Noguera had the intelligence not to follow the lead of the anchor who was trying to be “funny” and make light of an important story for the Orisha community.  He continued to report with dignity and introduce his story from the field.

In the story, which is actually pretty fair and balanced, reports Ogbe-Sa (8-9) as the Oddú ruling in Florida.  One of the refrains associated to the oddú says, “If the perception others have of me does not kill me, not even a king can kill me.”

I rest my case, perception is king.  If we want to be perceived properly by the world we need to start by examining and questioning the way in which media reflects our actions.  Furthermore, we need to be cognizant of who we place in front of a camera or to give an interview. Fortunately, the spokespeople that reporter Noguera selected for his story were eloquent, but this is not the case all the time.

Brothers and sisters of stone and blood, perception is reality.  Take care of your actions, think carefully before you express yourself in public, but most important, let the head lead the body and act according to your rank and status.  What you do or not do reflects on all of us and this year can be a turning point for our religion if we do not take care of portraying ourselves with dignity and propriety.

To those who are leading, lead on.  To those who are good at questioning the actions of others looking in, continue to raise the right questions. To those who like to talk and not think before speaking, keep quiet until you know what to say, who to say it and when.

 

Omimelli

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

The Oddú of the Year for 2015

Flag for Puerto Rico 2015
Flag for Puerto Rico 2015

One of the most anticipated events for the Orisha community worldwide because it establishes the pattern that its practitioners will follow for the next 12 months.  When the Santeria community was less globalized, the Oddú of the Year or Letra del Año would be done only in Cuba.  With the migration of Cubans and Cuban Ifá priests to the United States, there was the unavoidable additional Oddús of the Year determined.  Nowadays, you can find groups of Ifá priests in countries around the world, and thus, the Cuban Oddú of the Year is no longer the only voice to guide Orisha followers in their daily life. I see nothing wrong with having regionalized readings, it is quite logical that what impacts one region may not necessarily be the reality for others regions, not to say other countries.  Even in Cuba, there used to be one official group of Ifá priests, now there are more than one.  Granted, the emergence of multiple voices is due to various reasons.  One of them is the proliferation of Ifá priests, in the past the numbers of Ifá initiates were limited.  Another reason is the desire to establish a powerful voice and presence in the community and to influence thought currents and households adhered to the Ifá group in question.  Also, there could be political reasons at play, and the list goes on. I will post as many of the Oddús as I can find.  However, since I post the articles both in English and Spanish, the process is time consuming and it may take me a few days to round them all up and translated them.  I will also post the original sources of the different Oddús. Oddú of the Year as per the Templo Yoruba Omo Orisha in Puerto Rico The original post comes from their blog and it is solely in Spanish.  I have translated the salient parts for the benefits of the readers of The Mystic Cup and made a few edits not in content, but in style. Here is the original link: http://temployorubapr.com/?p=922 Oddú of the Year: Otrupon Koso Prophesy: Osogbo Eyó Kafetileri (conflicto or discussions generated by one’s own head) First Witness: Irete Ká Second Witness:  Ogbe Wale Ruling Orisha: Yemayá (adimú of fruits with ice and molasses, on the same day the offering is place is taken to the ocean). Assistant Orisha: Shangó (adimú is amalá ailá with opolopo epó, this offering is also taken to the ocean on the same day in which is offered). Defending Orisha: Obatá (Obatalá receives a female goat as well as the other feathered animals that go with feeding the King of the White Cloth). Flag: Rectangular flag with white background.  Inside it has another rectangle divided in two triangles.  The top one is blue and the bottom one is red and white, there is no specification on the pattern of the red and white side, I have taken some aesthetic liberties to illustrate it. Flag: Rectangular flag with white background.  Inside it has another rectangle divided in two triangles.  The top one is blue and the bottom one is red and white, there is no specification on the pattern of the red and white side, I have taken some aesthetic liberties to illustrate it. Orí: Prayers over the head with obí, omí tutu. This should be repeated several times during the course of 2015. Ará: Ebbó misí ewefá (baths with omiero of plants consecrated to Ifá, must consult a babalawo). Ebbó: Akuko fifeshu (feed a rooster to Eshu), ailá ará (measure your body-height), ailá lerí (measure your head), malaguidi okuni y obini (use a doll representing a male and a female), atitán batá (soil from your shoes), ashó timbelara (colored fabric: white, red, yellow and blue), gbogbo tenuyén Ifá (all the basics ingredients to be used for an ebó with Ifá.  It is recommend to consult with your babalawo of preference or the one affiliated to your household. Working for business:  Kasheoro gbogbo tenuyén Ifá (a working with little packages on the Ifa board or Tablero de Ifá), 3 baby chicks for Eshu-Eleggua and deposit the small packages on the four corners of the building where the business is situated. Introduction:  2015 must be faced with lots of patience, with conviction and perseverance and being very aware of your actions.  The challenges announced on the oddú Otrupon Koso represent a year of many trials, tensions and hard situations.  The prophesy determines that there will be debates or discussions and discord caused by one owns head.  This refers to conflictive situations that could arise due to the way in which we behave, the decisions we take and how we treat others. Ifá says that when facing conflictive situations it is better to be calmed.  The key of success lays on temperance, one cannot be impulsive or capricious.  It is advised to avoid imposing one’s will on an abusive manner.  How we treat others will make the difference in how day to day situations can be improved or worsen.  There will be a need for great perseverance, sacrifice and patience to improve those circumstances that surround us.  Ifá advises to try to be understanding and have compassion instead of judging others.  Ifá points out to the need of self-flection to improve and enhance our won spiritual development. It is important to be an example of good values for our children, so they can learn to solve situations using dialogue.  For our children, the best lesson is to be learned is how to live a healthy life for the good of all.  It is important that children learn to recognize their limitations and the repercussions of their acts so they stay on track. This year will be very hard for relationships between couples.  Economic, social and day to day circumstances are creating a lot of lack of tranquility, anxiety and unrest.  This is why it is important to treat each other with great respect, to be understanding and have solidarity.  Trying to be forceful or to impulse one’s will would create more losses than winnings.  In other words, treat others as you would like to be treated. Puerto Rico needs to learn to live with atmospheric phenomena related to climatic changes.  The sign talks about atmospheric changes, particularly cold fronts.  It is important to have lifestyles that honor a balance with Mother Nature. The resolution of conflicts of social and economic nature in the country will depend on the good will of all parties involved.  If there is no will to solve difficult situations, all will continue to be in a state of putrid stagnation.  Our wellbeing depends on focusing in productivity and what is for the common good of the people.  We exhort all of those in a position of authority in political and economic matters to transcend their own interests and to seek a dialogue with the commitment to achieve concrete solutions for the wellbeing of the country. Finally, good character, patience and perseverance will be the tools that will help us face those difficult situations that will arise throughout the year and will help us keep peace and tranquility.  It is with this mental balance, with a cool and clear head that will be able to find solutions to the problems that impact us on a personal level and in society. In this oddú are born the following:

  1. The poles of the earth and ice
  2. Yemayá Okute

Expressions associated with the Oddú:

  1. Do not do to others what you would not like done to you.
  2. Respect others as you respect yourself.

General Advice:

  1. Oddú speaks of mistreatment between couples
  2. Avoid all manners of vice because they will bring physical and moral destruction
  3. Tamarinds were sweet and how to turn sour to survive
  4. Avoid exaggerated ambition
  5. Respect your elders
  6. Couples need to treat each other with respect
  7. Communication and dialogue is fundamental to solve conflicts and problems
  8. It is a good year to receive the Warriors, to make Kariosha and for those who have a path of Ifá to become priests
  9. Have a more calm life
  10. The oddú speaks of traveling to other countries
  11. Do not be proud
  12. Be careful with stairs steps
  13. Do not pay attention to gossips
  14. Avoid arguments and disagreements
  15. If you promise something keep your word
  16. Beware of falls and of heights
  17. Be careful at night

—Oddú for 2015 in Cuba— For the full oddú, click on this link to the PDF file in Spanish: http://www.14ymedio.com/nacional/letra-del-ano-2015-Comision-Miguel-Febles_CYMFIL20150103_0002.pdf As more oddús become available I will provide links to the source and summarize the readings.

—Oddú for 2015 for Miami— For the full  oddú, in Spanish follow this link:

http://www.kolaifamiami.org/?p=530

Omimelli Oní Yemayá Achagbá

Start the Year Refreshed: Baths for Cleansing, Love and Peace

Days of Wine and Roses Love Bath

Days of Wine and Roses Love Bath

2015 is upon us and there are many ways to start anew and here is how I like to receive the New Year: Clean, at peace and surrounded by love.

I am going to share with you three bath recipes that I have tested and work like a charm. They are for cleansing, to bring sweetness and love to your life and, if peace is what you need, do try the other baths outlined below.

Remember to pray as you prepare the bath and to stay focus on your intention, be it cleansing, love or simply to obtain some peace.

 

 

Days of Wine and Roses Bath

If romance is what you are needing, here is just the thing to start a good spark. Now, bear in mind that the best way to find love is to love thyself and a bath like this gives you ample reason to pamper yourself and to give love to the person who deserves it the most: You.

For this bath I like to use red wine, however, rum can be a perfectly good substitute. I like to set this bath on my bóveda overnight or at least for a couple of hours, but you can simply prepare it and use it right away. I find it that it is more effective to set a candle and pray on it and let it be for a few hours before using it.

The process to make a bath is simple. Place all ingredients in a bowl, pour some of the water and macerate the rose and leaves with your hands until they are a pulp. Set the bath on your bóveda or if you do not have one set up, place a candle and glass of water by the bath atop a table. Call upon your protector spirits to bless your endeavor and ask for love and happiness to come to your life.

Ingredients:

2 sprigs of fresh mint or spearmint
8 to 10 large sweet Basil leaves (Queen of Siam is also very good)
1 stem of Basil flowers
1 large red rose
8 to 10 Sage leaves (I had regular Sage and also Pineapple Sage, so I used both)
2 large sprigs of Tarragon
½ cup of Bledo Blanco or white Crape Myrtle flowers
Cinnamon powder (if possible, grate your own)
¼ cup Red Wine
1 teaspoon honey

rose bath 3
Ingredients ready
Bath at the bóveda
Bath at the boveda

 

Remember to strain this bath and to wrap the solids in a piece of brown paper. I like to use them to cleanse myself by passing them over my body and discarding them in the trash before showering. Once you are done with the shower, wash your face with this bath and the back of your neck and pour it from the neck down. Air dry as long as you can and then pat dry.

 

Shiny Penny Cleansing Bath

This bath makes you feel like a shiny new penny once you take it. Yes, it is very simple but it is quite efficient in its simplicity. The difference between this bath and the other ones that I am recommending is that this one requires soaking in your tub, while the other ones are simply poured over you.

You will find variations of this bath recommended by Spiritist and Hoodooists alike. I have seen it done with both ½ of alum as well as 1 teaspoon of ammonia. However, I prefer just to use the alum powder as it is an ingredient geared for protection. Ammonia in general is a powerful cleanser and some old fashion folks like to substitute it with an equal portion of their own urine. However, I don’t quite fancy taking a soak on pee, not for New Year’s Eve.

Ingredients:

A full tub of warm water (make it as hot as is comfortable to you)
½ a teaspoon bluing or a small ball of bluing
2 tablespoons white sugar
½ teaspoon of alum powder
5 tea light candles (white or blue, your pick)

Omimelli’s Little Helper: Make yourself a delicious libation, in my case I made a cup of warm chocolate milk to sip while I soaked in the tub.

Sit on the tub of water and simply relax and enjoy time to think, have a nice warm or cold drink and pray for protection and to have negative thoughts stripped away from you. Time is a wonderful thing to have and to use wisely and meditate on those things that are negative and that need to be left behind or set aside in order to leave a better and more peaceful existence.

Cleopatra’s Milk Bath

Cleopatra, the last Egyptian pharaoh, used to bathe in Donkey’s milk to keep her skin soft and beautiful. However, donkey’s milk is not a runoff the mill item at most Walmart’s. Seriously, it is pretty hard to get, so in my book, this bath received a makeover. As you will see, Cleopatra is not really the center figure here, because she was not a particularly pacific historic figure. However, she is a fascinating one and I could not resist the story telling on the use of donkey milk for baths. The bath described below is mostly for peace, but is also does wonders for your skin. The elements are associated with Obatalá, King of the White Cloth and ruler over all white things in the body, amongst them the brain and bones. Obatalá blesses us with knowledge, patience and intelligence. Hopefully if you have some or all of those, you will also have peace of mind.

Ingredients:

2 cups of warm whole milk
2 cups of coconut milk
2 cups of goat milk (if you can find donkey milk all the better)
1 cascarilla grated
2 tablespoons of cocoa butter grated

Combine all ingredients on a large bowl and wash your face, the back of your neck and pour the rest over your body once you have showered as usual. Let this bath dry over your skin as long as you can and then towel dry.

I like to pray to Obatalá before pouring it on me and I do like to dress in white after I take it and go to sleep if possible. You can offer a glass of water and a candle to the orisha as a thank you for his protection.

I sincerely hope that the New Year blesses you with love, joy, stability, health and that time is always kind to you and those you love.

Omimelli
Oní Yemayá Achagbá

Continue reading “Start the Year Refreshed: Baths for Cleansing, Love and Peace”

Musings on Dates, Relations and the Future of Afro-Cuban Religions

Babalu Aye
Babalu Aye
I have been meaning to write this post for days now, but lately time has been at a prime for me as you may have noticed by the reduced frequency of my posts on the blog.

A week has gone by since the U.S. Government announced its intention to resume relations with the Cuban government.

It was clear to me that the date for the announcement had not been selected at random. December 17th holds a very special place in the mind and hearts of Cubans and of anyone who professes faith in the Orishas because it is on this date that we honor Babalu Aye (syncretized with San Lazaro) and the patron orisha of those who are sick or suffering misfortune.

The relationship between Cuba and the U.S. is one that has been ailing for quite some time, since before I was born. It has been one that has created so many tear, hardships and list of horrors far too long to account and even harder to forget.

Continue reading “Musings on Dates, Relations and the Future of Afro-Cuban Religions”

15 Years of Blessings

15 Years of Blessings
15 Years of Blessings
Today, December 12, is a special day for me. 15 years ago I gave all of who I am to Yemayá. There are so many lessons I have learned from her, so many blessings I have received. She along with Aganjú my father are the center of my spiritual life.

There is not one day I have regretted of this journey. Every day since she became my North has been one where I have had purpose, direction and love. She is at the heart of who I am.

I do not have a lot of time before I head to work today, but I can’t let this moment go by without publicly sharing it with all who read this blog. I also want to send blessings to my godfather Jose Bravo Jr. (Omioké) and to my oyugbona Jose Bravo, Sr. igbae (Adé Kolá). There were many who touched my life on that day, many more who helped me along the way, including my adoptive godfather Jose Merced, Yeguedé to whom I always am thankful beyond words. My husband, Elefunké, my children Oggún Addá Araí and iyawó Elegua (Ayótomiwá), and my mother, Omí Eshú Adé are my strength, than you for being with me every step of the way.

Thank you for sharing my life, this spiritual journey and for reading my words. These few lines are but a pathways to the depths of my brain, to the core of my soul where today there is nothing but happiness.

You are welcome to enjoy it with me.

Omimelli
Oní Yemayá Achagbá