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.