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.
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.
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.
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”
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.