In the modern internet-based society, cultural appropriation from African Traditional Religions occurs often in my opinion. Everything from eclectic Paganism adopting deities, to commercial Conjure claims of being an expert on Orisa traditions, to Neopagan Vodou have collectively jumped on the bandwagon of adopting practices derived from African religions. The argument can be made that persons seeking or claiming enlightenment do so with a clean heart and good intentions. There is nothing wrong with seeking truth.
Unfortunately seeking truth is not always what happens. If you need a tooth pulled, going to a student intern who read a book on dentistry and decided to begin yanking teeth for pay with rusty vice-grips seems to me like asking for pain and trouble. Appropriation is a spiritual equivalent.
One symptom of appropriation is the monetary aspect. Yes our beloved ATR faiths do charge for certain things and rightly so. It takes time, hard work, and experience to learn the correct way of doing things within each House or group. Derechos (fees) have to be paid. Would a person consult an expert in any other field without having to pay, or a doctor? However, monetary goals seem to be at the forefront of appropriation-based issues especially from commercial internet shop owners. Fraudulent “Damballah Elekes”, “Oya grave dirt bottles”, “Yemaya La Sirene Mojos” and “Pomba Gira Homosexual Love Gris Gris bags” among other silly things seem to be increasing on the internet in my opinion. This is an unfortunate aspect of appropriation as far as fabrication of things that do not exist within the traditions being supposedly drawn upon. Caveat Emptor, indeed. Continue reading “Appropriation from African Traditional Religions”
In our ilé we celebrate two anniversaries in the month of December. Mine is on December 12th and my husband’s is on the 13th. As you can imagine, there are tons of offerings set on the altar, particularly lots of fresh fruit. It is tradition in my ilé to share fruit with guests as they leave to go home, but having a double anniversary and a double shrine we had so much fruit that I had to find a way to use it creatively. Of course, some people pick pieces and use them for cleansings, but there are so many cleansings one can do. So I decided to create a few sweet treats for the Orisha and some to share with my family with the remaining fruit.
Since my father in Osha is Aganjú I always have plenty of pineapples and they usually take a bit to ripen, so I had 3 delicious pineapples in my hands today and inspiration to cook and offer a nice dish to my orisha and to make enough for my family to share. One of them, BBQ Pineapple Hot and Sweet Chicken, was only for the dinner table. The other one, Hawaiian Bread Coconut and Pineapple Pudding was a dessert and a sweet offering to the orisha. Pineapples are a favorite of to both Aganjú and Oggún, so you can certainly say that you can have One Bread Pudding and two happy Orisha.
By the way, it is good to mention that bread pudding is also a favorite of Obatalá. You can adapt a basic bread pudding to please most any orisha, substitute the fruit with mashed fruit bread for Obatalá. If you want to please Oshun, try using freshly roasted pieces of butternut squash and for Yemayá try substituting the coconut milk with fresh watermelon juice and serving it with watermelon simple syrup.
Hawaiian Bread Coconut and Pineapple Pudding
1 Package of Pineapple bread (12 pack dinner rolls)*
1 cup of coconut milk
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of rum flavoring
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of lime zest
3 teaspoons of melted butter
1 cup of chopped pineapple
* You can substitute this kind of bread by any sweet bread rolls. I used King’s Hawaiian Bread Rolls.
Peel, core and mince the fresh pineapple. You will only need one cup of it. Place it in a large bowl along with the sugar, rum flavoring, cinnamon, nutmeg, melted butter, coconut milk and eggs. Break rolls into pieces and add to the ingredients. Mix with your hands, do not over mix. Pour batter into a greased soufflé mold (I used an additional 2 tsps. of butter for greasing the mold). Use the zest to top the mixture and then bake on a pre-heated oven for 50 to 60 minutes at 350°F oven.
This recipe is fairly simple and the results are quite delicious. You can add some chopped macadamia nuts to top the pudding for additional texture. If you want to make the offering extra special, try doing simple syrup (equal amount of sugar and water cooked together) spiked with rum and serve poured over the warm pudding.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I did working in the kitchen with my family and children, after all there are some offerings that are extra special when they carry the combined ashé of several santeros, and more so, when a family of santeros come together to work and thanks the orisha for the many blessings received over the last year.
Someone recently posted some questions on the blog in response to my previous article on St. Cyprian. Instead of simply answering the question, I decided to write an essay to be posted on the blog, since others may find it of interest. St Cyprian of Antioch was on the rolls of officially venerated Saints until a few decades ago. Like many other folkloric saints such as Saint Barbara there is little actual evidence that they ever existed.
Folklore has it that Saint Cyprian was a Magus or Magician until his conversion to Christianity and later martyrdom. Part of the folklore has it that he never completely gave up the practice of magic. It is said that he continued to practice the magical arts in secret. If St. Cyprian did exist ( and I suspect that the legend is based on an actual individual or individuals), then what he practiced was likely some form of Theurgy and/or Hermeticism. Those who are looking for a good overview on this subject should see the book Hermetic Magic by Stephen Edred Flowers.
Assuming he did exist, I have I have serious doubts as to whether he had “dealings with demons” or he was “working with Lucifer” as one poster worded it. This perspective was simply Church propaganda, which tended to smear any type of involvement with magic, spiritual healing and divination as “demonic” or “Satanic”. Lets face facts, the church still labels any spiritual entities outside of official Church dogma as being of demonic or fallen origin. Thus they continue to label the Beings that we routinely work with in the ATR’s, such as the Orishas, the Lwa, the Mpungo, Nkisi, Eggun etc as being “demonic”.
The ancient peoples such as the Romans, Greeks, Chaldeans, Egyptians etc. tended to not make such hard and fast distinctions between “demons” and “daemons” unless the entity in question was overtly malevolent. The entity Lucifer historically was not identified with either Satan or with demons. The Church however was quite eager to do so and for it’s own reasons, which was to extend it’s control over the minds of all people everywhere. It could not tolerate any other forms of belief outside of it’s control. A good book that delves into how the myth of the Devil was created and developed over time is Elaine Pagel’s work The Origins of Satan. For the record I do not believe in the existence of the Devil, although I do concede that it is a powerful Jungian psychological archetype.
Getting back to the subject at hand – St. Cyprian, I believe that he can be regarded in Lucumi terms, as a type of Eggun, a “Muerto” or form of Spiritual Guide. Even if he did not actually historically exist, he could still be seen as a useful spiritual entity, falling into the category of “Egregore.” This is a mass thought form which has been energetically empowered and sustained for centuries by continuous prayers and devotions. Either way, St. Cyprian represents a vibrant spiritual entity.
In folklore, St. Cyprian was seen as the patron Saint of diviners, magicians, spiritists and spiritual workers. He therefore is appealed to and petitioned to increase one’s knowledge and abilities in such areas. One person on the blog asked me if I thought it “would be positive/beneficial to communicate with this Saint?” My answer is that it depends. As the old saying goes “if i do not know you then why are you calling me?”. I see no reason for just anyone to attempt communication if he or she has no direct business with this Saint. In other words, if an individual is not a spiritual worker of some type and does not have a strong affinity for this Saint, then the communication should not be attempted. A second instance would be in those cases in which the Saint himself has initiated contact. A third instance would be if during the course of a registro or reading it came down that one should start working with this or any other entity.
In my case, it appears that it is St Cyprian that attempted contact. I was not even thinking about him when this occurred. It was an out of the blue occurrence. As to why he contacted me, well I have my suspicions, but I will keep those to myself for the moment, and continue to slowly work with him over the course of time.
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