I am a fanatic of Frank Herbert’s Dune and it is through the words of his character Rev. Mother Ramallo that I have summarized an issue facing us as religious community, the tendency to prostitute religious practices for material gain and the inherent lack of judgment it unchains in many.
The original quote reads “When religion and politics ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows,” however, in our case, there is yet another volatile element added to the mix, it is called MONEY.
Everything we do in our religious practices is under a magnifying glass. This is a reality that we cannot escape. Our struggle to defend religious freedom and the right to animal sacrifice have seen its day in court not once but two times. The first time was in the Supreme Court case of the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah and recently, in the Merced v. City of Euless. Both cases meant blood, sweat and tears for those who championed them, Oba Ernesto Pichardo and my godfather Jose R. Merced. It is thanks to their efforts that we can seek shelter in the law to practice animal sacrifice, but this must be done within the boundaries of the same law that protects us.
Here are more realities we have to live with, African Traditional Religions (ATR) are misunderstood, stereotyped and perceived by the greater majority of people in the world as superstitios practices and not real religions. Therefore, when practitioners of Palo, Santeria and Voodoo or any other ATR step out of boundary and commit acts that shine a negative light over our communities, it is imperative to take action and to analyze the situation as a community. Only those who are initiates and who belong to our communities have the right to determine the course of action that will steer us. Outsiders are free to their opinions but to me that is where the buck stops as I do not rule myself by their criticism, motivations or ideas.
Furthermore, money is not a motivating factor in my religious convictions, practices or blog opinions. I do not use my religion as money-making machine, nor I have clients or read for clients. Fine if others do, but know that when they peddle religion as a good or service they run the risk of missteps and colossal lack of judgments like the one I am about to discuss.
Santería is a religion with a great deal of complexities, protocols and a rather systematic developmental approach related to the formation of its oloshas. However, ambition, communication trends and the hurried pressure of modern life are taking a rather dangerous toll on our communities.
The issue at hand is the hurry that new oloshas have to scratch the itch to ‘crown’ or initiate individuals, when they have barely come out of their own iyawó year. There are steps that iyawós must complete in order to even show their faces inside of a room where an initiation is about to take place. Continue reading “Becoming a Godparent in Santería, What´s the Hurry?”
The orishas manifest themselves in many ways. Some people are talented diloggún readers; they can divine with ease, grace and go beyond traditional interpretations to find new perspectives to help others see their way in life. Some others have a flair for ritual or a blessed memory to remember and share knowledge those who surround them. Then there are those whose sense of style and eye for colors help us to add elegance in the form of gorgeous thrones, initiatory tools, beading and clothes.
However, there are many more ways to express creativity in our ilés and certainly elders initiates should set a living example either by finding ways to manifest their creative gifts as well as by motivating godchildren and abures (olosha brothers and sisters) to express themselves.
As I prepared to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with my family, I started to device ways of having fun with my children. This household is always busy with either secular or religious activity, thus it is seldom that we get time to share and I wanted to make it special. I headed to the nearest art supply store with the boys and decided to encourage their artistic side. As I watched the youngest one select an immense box of crayons, coloring books and a sketch book I started to remember how much I enjoyed doodling when I was little.
The success rate in Santería marriages has not been, to my knowledge, officially studied and measured. However, it is common wisdom that people who share a common faith have more chances of success than those who do not.
Over coffee this morning, my husband and I started to reminisce about our life together. It has been nearly 16 years since we married. Our journey together started by with a simple question. “Do you know anything about Santeria?” We had just met at a party and he learned that I was from Puerto Rico. The conversation took off to a great start. We discovered many spiritual and mundane common interests and our relationship bloomed both spiritually and romantically.
In time I devoted my life to Yemayá and him to Obatalá. Life has tested our marriage in many ways and it is the Egun and the Orishas who keep us strong together as a family by providing us the guidance to overcome obstacles and the wisdom to follow advice even when sometimes it may not be exactly as we have foreseen.
Life´s lessons come from unexpected sources. Recently I had the opportunity to learn a most unexpected and valuable lesson from a person who I entrusted to be my teacher. I was surprised by an overreaction that can only be described with one word: Rudeness.
Rudeness in my book is simply an inner reflection of fears and lack of spiritual advancement. Rudeness does not know the value of temperance; it also does not know when to seek clarification and when to lash out like a bull in a china shop. Rudeness is weakness.
However, in the face of such reprehensible behavior my reaction which can be hot tempered surprised me even more, for it was one of forgiveness. Once the initial shock of the outrage wore out, I felt truly sorry for my teacher. Here is a person with so much to share yet blinded by ego and a fundamental lack of care in the way lessons and corrective courses of action are shared with students.