I hardly need to establish my authority on this matter to write about it with full propriety, however, for the record I will. My professional and academic training is as a journalist. My career has afforded me ample on the job training and experiences in meeting people from all walks of life, from politicians to artist to everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. They all had one thing in common; they trusted me to tell their stories with accuracy and respect. Besides being a journalist, I have also have the privilege to work with a well-respected publishing house and its writers in the field of religion, metaphysics and new age-oriented material to edit their books.
I have been editing books on the subject of Santeria and Afro-Caribbean religions for over 10 years. This has been an educating experience, and at the same time, one that has filled me at times with rage and indignation. I have come across manuscripts submitted to the publisher that were cut and paste versions of already published books. At first, when you start reading one of those manuscripts that potential authors are trying to sell as ‘new and fresh’ recently discovered collection of materials from unpublished libretas (notebooks kept by oloshas), you are excited and eager. Then suddenly you start to realize that these words are a touch familiar. A sinking feeling takes over me, then outrage as I walk to my personal library and find the book from where this ‘so called author’ has lifted word by word, chapter by chapter his/her new material. Of course, I make sure to document the plagiarism with the editorial house and the book never gets published because to do so is to honor a common thief, and of course a publishing house can be sued for plagiarism.
Today is the one year anniversary of the launching of the mystic cup. During this past year we have seen a steady and rapid growth in our readership. We have also experienced a growth in the number of contacts with both individuals and groups. We have been encouraged by the many instances of positive feedback from readers. Our aim has always been to write about spiritual experiences, and most of us who are on the Mystic Cups writing crew are in some manner involved with African Traditional Religions (ATRs). Thus, most of our articles reflect this involvement. We also work towards connecting with other members of the broader ATR community and to discuss our shared issues, opinions, gripes and things learned along the way. We have also striven to provide clear and truthful information about the ATR experience so that people outside that community can get a better understanding and a sense of the flavor of practicing an ATR.
We have been especially pleased to see an increase of readership from outside of North America and the Caribbean. We have noticed an increase of interest in ATR’s and Spiritism within Ceremonial Magick, Wiccan and Neo-Pagan circles. We hope that our articles have been informative, thought provoking and entertaining.
In the coming year we will tackle some topics that we initially envisioned writing about but have not yet addressed, some will be rather hot and volatile so be prepare for some healthy debates, after all…the unexamined life is not worth living and certainly spirituality deserves careful and constant examination.
We would also like to see more submissions of articles from others about their own spiritual traditions and experiences. In closing, our core team Janus, Omimelli and I, would like to say thank you for your support and readership. Stay tuned… there is more to come.
Kal Olo Obatalá
P.S. Since Omimelli is our main writer, I want to post one of her favorite songs as a little present for all the long hard hours of gathering and preparing materials for The Mystic Cup.
#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.
A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.
In today’s world of shysters, scammers and Internet merchants of religions—all religions—it is easier than ever to feed the entitlement mentality of ‘the right to initiation.’ In the case of African Traditional Religions, we are observing an influx of people who come to collect titles and then set shop as soon as they ‘feel’ they are elders. What a joke! Some of them have not even bothered to have a good understanding of the cultural background, the language or the history behind their intended target religion. Some others have only a superficial Internet relationship with their godparents –to-be, perhaps aided by some Skype or a few telephone conversations…
I am watching with concern and alarm the growing trend to offer consultations, initiations, seminars and introductory workshops on African Traditional Religion (ATRs) on Social Networking sites dedicated to lure newcomers into the ‘mysterious and fascinating’ world of Santería, Voodoo, Kimbisa, Palo, Macumba, Umbanda, Candomble or whichever other ATR you can list.
In my times, if you were interested in becoming part of an ATR, it was your spirits that guide you to the right place. Now, the new ‘spirit messengers’ are social networking channels such as Facebook, Websites and even Twitter that gather the spiritually curious.
On one hand I do understand the need to make a living; on the other hand, it sits like a rock on my stomach to see folks plunder the sacredness of African Traditions Religions to make a buck from every spiritually hungry person they can get their hands on.
Misconception Number 5. I am entitled to learn and be trained.
Let us analyze one of the definitions of the Merriam-Webster dictionary for the word entitlement, it is the “belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges”.
If you are new to the African Traditional Religions, in this case to Orisha or Santería, I want you to do yourself a favor. Repeat after me: “I am not entitled to learn anything; I have to earn the privilege to be taught and trained and to be accepted into the house by both my godparents as well as by the Orisha that rules the house.”
I am absolutely flabbergasted to see so many newcomers so big for their breeches and so full of this delusional and irreverent attitudes that makes them think that elders of the religion need to open up all their libretas (notebooks) and place them at their feet on top of a red carpet and absolutely commit to share every secret of the religion because they deserve it. Yes, I have had people tell me that there should be no secrets and that all knowledge should readily be made available to them because they are worthy. When lobsters sing, cows fly and snakes walk!
“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.
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.
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.
Here are 10 interesting stumbling blocks that have put a halt on many well-intended seekers of African Traditional Religions (ATRs).
1. The community is pagan and thus understands all schools of thought in modern and ancient magical systems
2. The community will accept me and understand me
3. The entire ATR community is gay friendly
4. I will be treated fairly and equally.
5. I am entitled to learn and be trained
6. I am entitled to initiation
7. Everyone in the ATR communities is well read, stable and trustworthy
8. There are no secrets to be kept, all knowledge is shared and readily available on books and online
9. Nothing really bad can happen to me when entering an ATR
10. I can get out as easily as I can go in
Two perspectives, Kal as a Westerner and mine as a Hispanic will tackle 10 common assumptions related to African Traditional Religions. Over the next few days Kal and I will share with you some of the lessons we have accumulated from the perspective of both seekers and initiates with a combined experience of over two decades into two of the most popular African Traditional Religions: Orisha and Palo Mayombe.