The Beauty of a Daily Prayer or the Return to Our Collective Mothers

Each moment in prayer contribures to a lifetime of peace

Since our first days in this world, we find ways to self-soothe our anxieties and fears. As babies, some find piece sucking their fingers to replace the primal nirvana: the mother’s breast. As adults, we no longer have that particular luxury. But the oral fixation still prevails in our culture. We abuse our mouths in so many ways, some binge drink; some of us overeat. Others abuse words spilling their vile onto the world in a million ways. Some others hold their words and let them fester inside until one day it all comes out like Krakatoa. All of it reeks of fear and insecurities.

However, tonight, when I had the needed to spill out my heart to my mother, I felt it was best not to call her to ease my mind on her because I wanted to spare her from things I could manage. No. I wanted to have my words carried where they truly would make a large impact: To the land of my female ancestors, my collective mothers. Tonight, I called upon the roots of my feminine heart as has done my mother, and my grandmother before me and her mother and her mother’s mother.

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Ancestor Staff

Egungun masquerade costume

I had started gathering materials to dress my ancestor staff. It is currently unadorned and was made by my own hands six months ago.

Inspiration has now spurred me to finish the staff by dressing it.

I recalled that I needed nine coloured ribbons, bells, beads and such, and as I described to my friend how I intended to use ribbons of about 12” in length, she looked shocked.

“No,” she replied. “That would look like a hula skirt!” She then proceeded to explain to me that traditionally dressed staffs have long ribbons completely covering the length, resulting in a look similar to Cousin It from the Addams family.

The Egun Staff (Opá Egun) is traditionally received from godparents and prepared with various ceremonies. However, until I get to that stage, mine is a representation, thus I call it Ancestor Staff.

After a search on Google for images of Egun staffs returned nothing like she had described, Omimelli went on to explain where the ‘dressing’ for the Egun staff seemed to have derived from.

The ‘dressing’ of the Egun Staff mimics the costumes worn by the Egugun during the Egungun masquerade in Nigeria, and more recently, in Trinidad. The Egungun represent the spirits of the dead, and as such, are clothed completely from head to toe in multicoloured cloth, disguising the fact that a living person is underneath the costume.

My ancestor staff is meant to call on my own lineage of ancestors and now that I have more of a logical explanation as to why use more length on the ribbons, I am quite set to start my handy work.

Janus

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Part 4: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should not make

Shango

Shangó an Orisha King, he embodies the concept of justice

“Unfairness is one of the things that bother me the most. However, I do recognize that life has always mysterious ways to impart lessons even to those who think themselves beyond and above teaching and reproach”.

Today has been a day in which I have thought long and hard about the concept of fairness and equality. When I think of fairness, the image of Shangó comes to mind. A king must always be fair to its people, and orisha followers should strive to follow in his steps. When I pledged my life to service of the Orisha, 12 years ago this winter, fundamental changes took place inside of me. Whereas in the past I could observe an unfair situation and remain simply an observer, after Kariosha I can’t remain impassive when I see situations that involve blatant unfairness.

Life is a continuous act of balance, the mere act of breathing brings balance to our internal environment. The life of an Orisha initiate is an act of balance between coolness and hotness. We strive to remain with orí tutu (cool heads) and to avoid acts that heat up our orí. But sometimes heat is necessary to achieve balance. Heat makes us go into motion, coolness helps us to direct the actions and make them purposeful.

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Part 3: 10 Assumptions New Comers to ATRs should not make

Homosexuality and ATRs a Quest for Balance

Assumption #3: The entire ATR community is gay friendly.

If you are a gay man or woman or a transgender this article will present some down to earth point of views on how you will be perceived by various African Traditional Religions, which paths are open without struggle and confrontation and which will certainly create heartache and strife.

It is not our place to judge spiritual callings, but as elders in at least one of the ATRs that exclude homosexual participants, traditional Palo Mayombe, we do have some points to make to contribute to this subject. It is our role to uphold traditions while trying to help gay brothers and sisters who have a simpatico for a particular path closed to them to find alternatives where to express their devotion.

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PART 2: 10 Assumptions New Comers to ATRs should not make

Were you expecting instant acceptance into an ATR?

One stumbling block discussed 9 more to go. There are many reasons why new comers to African Traditional Religions (ATRs) could have an interesting transition into these systems, some of those have to do with the way they see things and the way they are perceived.

The second most common stumbling block on a list compiled from years of observation has to do with acceptance and understanding, two words often times abused and taken for granted.

Assumption #2: The community will accept me and understand me.

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Are Re-initiations Healthy?

Initiations: A Delicate Subject

In the past few weeks a troubling issue emerged in the Florida orisha community. Elders took matters at hand and gathered to create a treaty or agreement. This is how issues must be addressed, with respect, civility and with the support of elders at large.
The issue was re-initiations. Since The Mystic Cup is not a place to be dogmatic but to share experiences, as blog administrators we have decided to simply provide the information and let any users visit the link enclosed, read it and draw their own conclusions.
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Why are more Westerners drawn to African Traditional Religions?

The Lure of the African Traditional Religions

Orisha, Ifá, Voodoo, Umbanda, Candomble, Kimbisa, Kimbanda, 21 Divisions, Sanse, 7 Divisions, Kumina, Obeah, Hoodoo, Palo Mayombe and the list keeps growing. What is it that is making followers of Western magic and other traditional religions become the new practitioners of African Traditional religions (ATRs)?

It is certainly not because they are thrilled to have to learn in many cases a foreign language, or because the practitioners of these spiritual traditions are very open to accept people outside their communities and culture. No, as a matter of fact, there are many shifts that a newcomer to these religions would have to make to accommodate and understand fully any of these systems. So, if the path is not particularly rosy, what keeps making Jane and John Doe want to become an Houngan, a Tata, a Babalosha, an Hounsi, a Yaya, an Iyalosha and to claim in due legitimacy any of these hard earned and until rather recent times hard to get titles?

The answer is as complicated as the question itself.

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Honoring Ancestors: The Dead do not Diet

My Grandmother Gloria

My grandmother Gloria passed away in 1987. She was a devout believer of Spiritism and believed strongly in the power of prayers. From this strong woman of impeccable character I learned many things, including how to make a mean Sancocho (stew with meats and root vegetables also known in the Caribbean as Ajiaco). This peasant dish fed our family many times, not because we lacked means, but because it was powerful.

 The act of cooking for my grandmother was one of communion with her roots, with her spirits and with her family. Many in the family chose to ridicule her for being a devout believer in Spiritism while at the same time staying true to her Catholic roots. She saw no compromise in striding that religious fence to her spirit was spirit. I remember how she would sing the Hail Mary whenever she lost something. I would giggle at her singing, not because she could not carry a tune, but because it was strange to think that a Catholic prayer could act as a charm. For a charm it was, she would sing that song and things that were lost started to appear. Now, I catch myself doing the same unconsciously when I misplace something, and I think of her, my heart feels her, my spirit is caressed by her memories and what was lost shows up.

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Personal Experiences with Chinese Spiritism – Part 3

Spirit Money with the image of the Jade Emperor surrounded by the the Eight Immortals.

On a more personal level, I did have one direct experience with Daoist spiritism, which I’ll narrate without commentary. This happened in the late 1990s (probably 1998; I’m sure this happened prior to the huge Jiji earthquake of September 21, 1999).

A big social aspect of Daoism is the religious procession. In Taiwan, the idols of a temple are placed on palanquins and wheeled through the streets, to the accompaniment of live bands playing drums, gongs and a kind of Chinese trumpet called a suona, which is extremely resonant. There are also people who wear god costumes that are twice the size of a normal person. Finally, religious processions very often include groups that are called the “Eight Generals,” which are usually (but not exclusively) young men who put on colorful, intimidating face paint, and wield hand weapons, such as hammers and saws and pikes. They often flog themselves with these weapons, drawing blood, and enter trances. As the name implies, they tend to gather in groups of eight, and often form circles, facing inward, where they dance and wield their weapons in circular motions.

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A Medium: Could You Become One?

Influence Mediumship Development Starting with Your Mind

Mediumship is not a fantastic gift that only a few special people can develop. Mediumship is a birthright that we all as humans possess in various forms and degrees. It is a meant to connect us with divinity. But our societal norms and upbringing, seldom allow for this expression to flow and develop naturally. Quite the opposite, mediumship and anything related with psychic skill development is systematically stomped out of a child by the age of seven. Have you ever seen a child have an imaginary friend? Did you have one? Children have the ability to see further spiritually because they are closer to the source of creation, they have passed through the veil much recently, they have less filters, they simply live, enjoy and observe. This begs for deeper debate and sharing of observations about why we see more children gifted with psychic skills as of late or those so called Indigo Children, but for the purposes of this post I will continue on.

I am not a child development expert or a psychologist, but my husband and I do have two children whom our family has openly raised in a nurturing spiritual environment allowing them to experience a wide variety of religious activity not restrictive to just Orisha practices, Palo Mayombe or Spiritism. Our children have Christian family members as well, and, are versed in Bible studies and currently working through learning about other main religions around the world. It is crucial for a child to understand that religious practices emerged out of the fundamental need to understand that which unites and moves us: Spirit.

What is Divinity but the Great Spirit? Call it what you will, no matter what religious inclination or magical practice you follow, there is a fundamental need to either embrace or deny this force. But the force of the Great Spirit (and I am using this term for Divinity as to try and remain neutral and respectful of anyone who reads this article) calls us to communicate. Observe those around your spiritual group, are they not yearning to hear and be heard by this magnificent Source?

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