Category Archives: Vodou

The Challenges of Raising Children in an African Traditional Religion

We are supposed to be living in a time where there is freedom of expression and religion. However, the reality is that as a parent raising children in an African Traditional Religion (ATR) I know that my children will be treated differently if I openly would have said during the enrollment interview in their non secular school, “Oh yes, by the way, one of my children is an Olosha and the other one is preparing to become a Palero.”

I can see the polite smiles and the colors dancing on their faces as they try disguise surprise, contempt and a way to reject a perfectly good check of a few thousand dollars for their tuition. The first reaction for most teachers and school directors is to jump to their own religious roots and to snap quick judgments based on their religious programming, it is a natural reaction. What is not natural is to let that religious programming obscure the fact that all families have the right to religious self-determination and that not always parents are Christians, Jewish or Muslims to name three mainstream religions.

This issue however, goes beyond tolerance. The existence and persistence of African Traditional Religions spits on the face of those who have been programmed to see us as evil heathens who worship the devil. We are not evil, we are not heathens and certainly we do not worship the devil. Nonetheless, our existence challenges their narrow understanding of good and evil because quite frankly, we do not fit the mold of with God and against the devil.

Most private schools, even if they are non-secular, will have some form of ‘values’ included in their curriculum and those as I have seen unequivocally are modeled after Christian values. There is nothing wrong with Christian values, if your child is a Christian. Mine happen not to be, they are Lukumí and they have the right to not be exposed to values contrary to their own, at least during the formative years when they are more impressionable and prone to confusion.

How do we as parents manage to obtain a good education for our children be it in public or private schools, and still keep them away from the religious goody two shoes that believe that proselytizing is their divine right and that our children are a great target to ‘convert’? Here is what I have found to work for my family.
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Palo, Santería, Vodou and other ATRs: Religions or Cults?

It pays to read a dictionary when you practice an ATR!
I promise you a quickie here. I was reading a post done by Amigos del Palo Mayombe y Conocedores de la Briyumba Congo (Friends of Palo Mayombe and people who know about Briymba Congo) where the question of cult vs. religion was raised. The post asked, what are Paleros, a cult or a religion?. However, I think the question has been applied at one time or another to many other African Traditional Religions.

The answers did not surprise me. They show at large several things:

1. Some have never stop to ponder what a religion is, yes, as in pull out your dictionary.

2. Others have never wondered why they should be defined by those who want to denigrate us.

Outsiders who see us as secretive, occultist and therefore, a ‘cult.’ I think they should likewise examine the meaning of the word ‘cult’ its context and how it should or not apply to African Traditional Religions.

It is important not to just have a passion for our religious practices but to also take the time to reflect, analyze and then express informed opinions in public forums. After all, the way in which we express our inner core beliefs helps to shape the way in which we are perceived and understood by outsiders and by our very own brethren, no matter what ATR you follow, or not.

A friendly and enlightening research is in order. Look up the words “religion”, “cult”, “occult”, then write what you understand of each as they relate to your practices and come to your own conclusions which you are kindly welcome to share below, this is after all an open forum. Have fun!

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

Article reference:!/pages/Amigos-Del-Palo-Mayombe-y-Conocedores-De-La-Briyumba-Congo/111153688912316

Of Royal Titles and Religion

They wear the crowns, we do not.
Today I find myself pondering about humility and love of God. When I came to the orisha, I had one driving desire. I wanted to give my life to the service of the Orisha. For some time, I was eager to find out who would be my main orisha. I fancied myself a daughter of Shangó for some time, and then I discovered that Oyá had some pretty neat attributes. Time went by and I fell in love with Oshún and finally, I came to find out that Yemayá was to be my orisha. I felt lucky and honored to be chosen to serve her. Truth be told I would have been happy with any of them. The force of orisha was what moved and touched me.

However, I never set myself on this path in search of self-greatness, nor to claim or lead anyone. It is not my desire to be better than my fellow practitioners, just to serve the orisha and be a keeper of traditions. Thus, when I see how much folks love to claim lofty titles I get really concerned. Where did humility go? When did being a queen or king got to be so important for my fellow practitioners? I even dislike the term ‘to be crowned’; I rather see it simply as a process, the process of seating the orisha in my head. Not as a status symbol to be shown off. I really despise those who go on and on talking about their “crowns” as if they were pretty shiny tiaras sitting atop their fat heads. Get real people, the orisha is inside, let your actions show for it and not your imaginary desire of grandeur.

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Lava over the Ocean

Yemayá and Aganjú at their best

Recently, Willie Ramos (Ilari Oba), one of my most admired oriatés sent me an article from Modern Ghana. The article spoke about the preponderance of foreign religions in Africa and its impact on tribal and native religions. The author, Farouk Martins Aresa, also pointed wisely that the Santería community had managed to become a storehouse of faith and resilience that apparently seems to be lacking in today’s Africa in the face of growing Christian and Muslim spiritual domination. This is due to the fact that the people who came through the Middle Passage fought tooth and nail to preserve their religions. They were ingenious, tenacious and indomitable in their convictions.

Thanks to our ancestors, we have the jewels of practices like the Lukumí, Kimbisa, Umbanda, Macumba, Voodoo, and many other African Traditional Traditions (ATRs) in the Diaspora. I am including a link to the article at the bottom of the post, because I want you to read it and make up your own mind about this subject. However, here are two key paragraphs to whet your appetite.

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Waste Not, Want Not: Collecting Materials for Spiritual Work

Marie Laveau probably collected many items to make her famous packets and workings

Oftentimes I like to think about those who have paved our way for our religious practices. Some names are paramount for me in Santería, such as the great iyaloshas who now belong to the realm of the ancestors, like Aurora Lamar, Timotea Albear, Ferminita Gómez and many other great women that shaped Santería in the New World. Other great ladies distinguished themselves in Voodoo like the famous Marie Leveau and like her, countless other two-headed women have lived as root workers, voodoo and hoodoo practitioners . What did they all had in common, dare I ask, when putting workings together?

Well, I seriously doubt it was a well stock Botánica or Spiritual Curio Shop around the corner! No, they more than likely wasted not, wanted not. In other words, they collected items and kept a good supply of tools available to carry out their spiritual workings.

After all, Oyá teaches us that the world is a great market filled with fascinating items to help us further our spiritual journeys. However, commercialism and fancy wrappings simplify a process that should involve more forethought and dedication. Intention is key part of the process of doing a successful working and if when we lose touch with the process of gathering resources we also diminish a vital element of will.

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Final Chapter: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should not make

Leaving an ATR is a process that requires much finesse
10. I can get out as easily as I can go in

Coming into a religious group can be easy, leaving can sometimes be more difficult than just walking out on those people you have met and whom you perhaps saw as a family. Perhaps, it is not so much that you are leaving personal relationships behind you, if you ever decide to terminate a relationship in an African Traditional Religions (ATRs); it is more a matter of those spiritual connections you would also attempt to sever.

Too much too soon
One of the reasons why people leave Santería and other ATRs like Voodoo or Palo is perhaps because they come in with such passion and they want to have it and learn it all at once. That is a recipe for disillusion and disaster.

Tom Savage (this is a pseudonym to preserve his family’s privacy) was a most beloved friend and one of the best astrologers I have ever met. Tom was also Kal’s godson; he died of heart problems nearly five years ago at the age of 48. He came to the Orishas nearly two decades ago when we both still were affiliated to our ilé in San Antonio. Upon meeting our godfather Tom decided he wanted to receive the elekes, warriors and Olokun, as it had come up in a reading. I remember warning him about taking things one step at a time and spacing out initiations to allow the energies of each step to settle, but he had lots of money and an impatient heart. A few months after he got this triple initiation, his life was not doing great. I remember I went to visit him and I felt this nagging feeling to go and check on his Eleguá. I nearly fainted when I discovered that “Mr. Personality” as I like to call all Eleguás was surrounded by stale cakes, mountains of candies and was covered in ants, cockroaches and other unsavory creatures.

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Part 9: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should not make

Initiations should never be taken lightly
9. Nothing really bad can happen to me when entering an ATR

There are lines that should never be crossed and things I would really rather not address. However, practicing a religion no matter which religion is selected, should lead each practitioner to not only spiritual enlightenment but also moral and personal advancement. Therefore, I consider it an obligation to discuss pitfalls and realities that emerge when lines become blurry and are eventually crossed.

The Way of the Orishas, Santería or the Lukumí faith has plenty of success stories, so do other African Traditional Religions (ATR) such as Voodou and Palo; however, these are also littered with stories that give our religions a bad name. If you have read some of the posts on this blog, you have already noticed that people that rush into unfamiliar practices/cultures, can be the perfect victims of charlatans who want to make money out of commercializing our beliefs. Perhaps the hardest blow is to those who fall prey to unprepared initiates that are ill-equipped to lead their own spiritual lives, much less the life of others, but alas, they have an initiatory title and charm to amass followers.

What is the worst thing that can happen to someone? Material loss is chiefly what I have witnessed; but there is loss that sometimes not even time can mend, the devastation that comes with a loss of faith and a tarnishing of the purity of what started as an honest search for spirituality.

Let me give you a couple of examples and the outcome I have witnessed. One relates to Palo Monte and the other one to Santería.

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Part 8: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should not make

Secrets for Sale?
8. There are no secrets to be kept; all knowledge is shared and readily available on books and online.

Once upon a time, in a very distant land, there was a seeker who wanted to obtain the secrets of a mysterious and alluring spiritual tradition; they called it The Way of the Orishas…

Well, little has changed. There are hundreds of people who every day come in contact with the spiritual practices of the African Traditional Religions and thanks to the willingness of many to make some profit and position themselves as authorities, there is a proliferation of books, social networks and many other avenues to disseminate knowledge that otherwise was obtained upon entering as an initiate in any ATR. Not that everything that is printed or posted on-line is trustworthy material.

The lack of patience, and quite frankly of respect; coupled with a feeling of self-righteousness is the compass for the new seekers who stop at nothing to gorge on what we initiates consider secrets.

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Part 7: 10 Assumptions that New Comers to ATRs should Not make

A Keeper of Traditions cultivates a Passion for Learning

#7 Everyone in the ATR communities is well read, stable and trustworthy.
There is not one religious group with a congregation that will homogeneously possess or manifest these 3 attributes: Education, stability and trustworthiness. Every religious congregation will be formed from people with different levels of education, and the African Traditional Religions (ATRs) are not the exception. African Traditional Religions base the core of their knowledge on oral tradition; therefore, anyone can claim expertise, stability and trustworthiness. After all, who is there to police them?

The availability of books on a myriad subjects on ATRs and the increasing reduction of the digital divide, has made increased exposure to knowledge that before was only transmitted from godparent to godchild, and only as newcomers were considered ready to learn. Does this make our religions any better and our leaders any more educated? We can make arguments on both sides of the fence. Quantity and availability of educational materials not necessarily imply their quality and not everyone can assimilate and analyze theology and theosophy at the same level, nonetheless apply it or for that matter, teach it.

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Planning a Working for Love? Give Venus in Taurus a Chance in 2011.

The Beauty and the Bull
Astrology is the first system I had studied full time when I began with Haitian Vodou I have found it to be a limitless source of wealth when it comes to solving issues. Ironically it took many years to appreciate it as more than just a horoscope forecast. I began to embrace the essence of astrology when I began to conduct certain rituals, according to the position of a particular star.

One particular I would like to take the time to discuss is the famous star known as Venus. It is the second planet from the sun and it is named after the Greek goddess of love and romance. Her energies also represent femininity, motherhood, and marriage. The metal that corresponds with her energy is copper and bronze. Copper was also used to make a mirror for Venusian entities. Her elemental energy is Fire; her gemstones are emerald, malachite, jade, coral and amber.

No matter the African traditional religion we practice everyone receive a positive or negative affect from planetary energies. This is why it is very important to know the basic transition of planets if you going to do a serious ceremony spiritually.

Often we have heard of the term zodiac signs, zodiac come from the Latin word zodiacus which mean circle of animals. It is also a coordination of stars and there position within the galaxy. The characteristics of the zodiac are studied more in depth by astrological chart which is divided into twelve houses. Each house is ruled by a planet and a Zodiac sign. The second house is rule by the zodiac sign Taurus, according to Wikipedia “In Greek mythology, Taurus was identified with Zeus, who assumed the form of a magnificent white bull to protect Europa, a legendary Phoenician princess. In illustrations, only the front portion of this constellation are depicted; in Greek mythology this was sometimes explained as Taurus being partly submerged as he carried Europa out to sea.[29] Greek mythographer Acusilaus marks the bull Taurus as the same that formed the myth of the Cretan Bull, one of The Twelve Labors of Heracles.[30]”

The zodiac sign Taurus is rule by the planet Venus making it among the most feminine sign. The second house in an astrological chart is called the house of possession. In the second house it talks about an individual personal resources, talents, personal strength, wealth, emotional state, and what is valuable to an individual.

Venus in Taurus is the best time to do spiritual work for love, finance, marriage, to strengthen harmony within a family or home, employment, to achieve success in your life, to gain property, to work on self-love, and to remove negative romantic patterns in your life.

In 2011 Venus will be in Taurus on June 12, 2011 if you have the time you can plan a ritual that need attention in your life.

Good luck, let me know how it goes for you.

Ginea Jacmel