The concept of death and rebirth is one shared by many religions; Santeria is no exception to this ritual. Crossing the threshold of the Igbodu and coming out successfully from Kariosha means massive changes for the iyawó. The crucial change is one of re-birth and every newborn needs a name. The process of selection of the name of an iyawó requires careful consideration and not just the alliteration of words that sound cool in Yoruba or in Lukumí depending on the linguistic knowledge of the Oriaté (officiating priest) and the godparents.
There are two main elements that must be considered when naming an iyawó:
Today, as my mother, who has barely come out of her iyawó year and prepares to become a godmother doing kariosha to her first goddaughter, I woke up thinking about her, about my own godfather and all the turns of events which lead me into my religious path, nearly 15 years ago.
Why must we struggle so in our ilés? Why must we have chains of dominance and control? Why must we amass people like they are collection items and then, relegate them as soon as new person comes into the ilé? Why must we deny ourselves the grace of self-assurance and collaboration between godparent and godchild? These are questions I like to consider. Particularly when relationships are at their best, it is wise to ask the difficult questions as communications are open between godparent and godchild, rather than later on, when struggles emerge and ears are shut tight to reason.
Let me start by setting some perspectives:
Godparents: Do not yearn to keep your godchildren obedient and subservient for life. Provide them proper and diligent guidance- as you would do with a child of your own loins -then, give them the world to explore and discover armed by the solidity of religious conviction and knowledge.
First things first, Spiritism is not a part of the Orisha practices in West Africa. However, in the great melting pot from which the practices of Santería emerge in Cuba and the Americas, Spiritism has come to fill out a void that emerged from the lost of the traditional practices of Egungun practices. The integration of Spiritual masses prior to kariosha also serves other functions that Spiritism fills in for those who follow it. Spiritism in many communities goes beyond its natural spiritual development functions and extends its reach to serve non affluent communities with alternative medicine and psychological functions. Yes, there are many who come to Spiritists to seek healing from physical maladies and emotional wounds.
There are several functions that spiritual masses accomplish depending on the skill level of its practitioners: (1) Research (2) Development (3) Crowning.
Research: The ideal research mass should have at least a talented clairaudient, a clairvoyants and at least a physical medium in addition to the person presiding the mass. This Spiritual Mass is meant to investigate the spiritual framework or cuadro espiritual of a person, be it an iyawó-to-be or not.
One of my godchildren wanted to talk to me today. His conversation was not a surprise; I had seen it coming for a while. He wanted to know the best steps he could take to prepare for kariosha.
Additional to the fundamental steps of (1) determining the orí of the individual, (2) taking the person formally to Yemayá (my guardian angel) for permission to initiate as priest in her house and then (3) repeating that process with head orisha of the oyugbonakán, there are a series of additional procedures that are customary. Some of those procedures can be done early on and some are done close to the kariosha day.
Before I dive into those steps, I want to share some things I told my godchild to financially ease the burden that kariosha will place on him. Most things to simplify your path can be summarize in one word: Preparation.
If kariosha is impending, the logical thing is to start gathering white clothes. In the case of my husband, I got a couple of large plastic containers and started filling them out with the items he would need during the seven days of the initiation and for the year after it. These things included mainly clothes, utensils and items that were harder to find out of season, such as summer and winter wear in white. If I knew there was a sale on sheets and towels, I was there to buy the best value items. If there was a sale in socks and underwear I made sure to get some and check them out off my list. By the time the date of the kariosha arrived, I had the equivalent of a trousseau but for a different kind of bride, a spiritual bride. I packed all items in a nice wicker trunk as it is traditional to have the iyawó present his clothes in a basket.
“A child has no wisdom, only potential. It is up to their fathers to give them wisdom so they may grow.”
– A northern Bantu proverb.
The relationship between godchild and godparent is a very important affair. The survival of our respective traditions depends upon the effective teaching and training of godchildren – of which everyone, regardless of what title or rank we hold, are. There is a frightening trend that seems to only be getting worse as time goes by, and that is the trend of not properly educating those who wind up at your door step. All that this does is waste the time and potential of the respective parties, and only serves to degrade our traditions.
Something that I have been hearing for quite a while is that the parents won’t properly raise their children for fear that the child will outshine the parent. This is ridiculous. We could all only hope that someone we raised grew to be a spectacular priest, filled with a great depth of knowledge, understanding, and good character. If a godparent is not striving to make someone at least their equal – then the time of both parties is wasted. If they are not trying to have their child outshine them, then we are wasting our future. The true genius of all godchildren may very well not be being a priest or an educator. Some godchildren may not grasp some concepts as quickly. Some people may very obviously be in it for selfish purposes. However, it is up to the godparent to assist them through these problems and evolve. There is always a reason, whether obvious or not, that the person wound up in your house.