One should not forget the steps taken when traveling on the road of spirituality. For as long as I remember I have been a creature of the Orisha. However, there are times in life when we stop listening. Times of searching for meaning in things and places, in people and faces, when all along meaning has been branded in our soul by the forces of spirit, it is a matter of discovering it. To get on the path of discovery or re-discovery, depending on your case, it is imperative to first remember to listen to those forces.
In my early-twenties I had forgotten to listen to the voice of spirits. There was no time for church (not that I ever really enjoyed my days as Catholic, nothing against those days, it is just not my cup of tea), there was no time for Spiritism or any other spiritual devotion. I was pretty much spiritually aimless and my existance was entirely devoted to studies, work, and my life as a newly wed.
Spiritual Resonance is important to the pursuit of mystical and esoteric practices. It is a state of mind, an experience as well as a technique that can directly be put to use developing our abilities. Spiritual Resonance is also a corresponding set of emotions that we have when we have made a connection or spiritual rapport with something. Accompanying this contact or connection is a lessening of the awareness of self, a loosening of the ego. How do you know what a resonating emotion feels like? It is sweeping emotion that can be deeply felt in your body. Spiritual Resonance carries the same description but it deepens because the emotion is understood by the body, mind and spirit. These sensations are usually experienced in the chest or solar plexus as pulses or vibrations that can be quite intense. Almost always this resonance is experienced and carries with it a deeply felt sense of meaning.
Spiritual Resonance is important because it can uncover areas in which we have hidden interests and abilities. It can sometimes orient us towards those directions and paths that we need to be on. It can be a spiritual alarm clock that wakes us up and gets our attention. Resonance imparts meaning in our lives because it points us in the direction towards what is uniquely and individually meaningful to us. In addition to these things, resonance can be a tool that connects us directly with spirit and the spiritual. In a later essay I would like to explore the various uses of resonance. I would like however, at this moment to share with readers how the experience of resonance set me upon my own spiritual path. My story is a zig-zag encounter with the subject of spirits and magic.
Practicing Vodou in a Metropolitan area can be challenging. There is so much misunderstanding when it comes to Afro-Caribbean practices as all of them tend to be seen from the Christian point of view as cults for ignorant people. That is one of the challenges practitioners face, particularly those who live in the Bible Belt of the United States where I was invited to participate in a Sèvis Lwa to Dambalah. My husband and I showed up dressed in the appropriate color: White. We came bearing appropriate gifts to be placed at Damballah’s altar in honor of a lwa associated with purity and wisdom and represented by the snake.
After I handed to the Houngan the white flowers and the white cooked rice in coconut milk I had made, we took seat nearby to watch him draw expertly the sacred veve of Damballah. The place was buzzing with energy and laughter, folks were busy about in the kitchen, others were greeting guests and making feel welcomed. We were happy to be there, happy to come and join our hearts and spirits with this community and praise a powerful Lwa.
To be lost somewhere and everywhere. To be suspended in time and space, away from thoughts and form. That is what some spiritists describe the process of trance possession is like. For me it is more like having the lights dimmed all around and feeling as though I am falling into a deep dark well. Falling without hitting the bottom. But that is as far as I go. You see, not every spiritist has the hability to simply let go and allow the process of trance possession to simply happen.
As a medium I consider myself like lighting rod, condensing energy around me and dissipating it or directing it to another medium who can simply let go, for I cannot. I have to remain in control at all times, I guess it is the nature of my being. My job is that of caring for a medium in trance, guiding him or her in the search for ingredients, items and keeping record of the every move and message of the manifested spirit. Becoming a record keeper can be at times frustrating. Spirits can be demanding and dictate fast and often times using dialect that is not known to the auxiliary medium. Anyone who has seen a talented medium at work has observed that normally the spirit could request a cigar, water, a beverage (alcoholic or not) and even food. Some spirits still yearn for material things, for what was familiar to them. In any case, when working with a medium in full trance one has to be ready for anything.
Spiritism is a practice is based in the belief that spirits exist as non-physical beings and can indeed communicate with the living in many different ways. In the Caribbean this communication often times takes the form of a Spiritual Mass or a seance type of gathering where mediums pray, offer light and water to the spirits and await for mental or physical mediums to establish contact with beings that no longer have physical form.
This is of course an extremely simplified description of what Spiritism is. It could take pages upon pages to write about its origins, leaders, advocates and practices. But for now it is sufficient to say that Alan Kardec was one of its most famous pillars and that in the New World there are many talented manifestations of spiritism, from Jane Roberts and her Seth channelings, to Edgar Cayce and his healing through trance channeling.
The Spiritual Mass is a reunion of mediums in search of contact with non-corporeal entities. A series of variations on spiritual masses are observed in the Caribbean and in the United States, but some common elements include the use of a white candle, a large glass bowl filled with water, a cross, florida water, and a book of prayers. Additionally, white flowers or plants associated with spirits are also used for cleansings during a spiritual mass.
Holding a spiritual mass is not unlike a séance, as it requires that mediums and expectators are concentrated and have a sole purpose: Spirit communication. To that extent spiritists take pride in working for the good of people, in seeking to do charity by helping others elevate their spiritual knowledge, learning about their ‘cuadro espiritual’ or their assigned guardian spirits, and by lifting negative spiritual influences or helping to improve physical conditions.
Inspired by the famous and profound words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who while facing his moment of doubt in confronting the adversities in his life; I am drawing a parallelism with the adversities and challenges that many of us have faced as oloshas, babaloshas and iyaloshas in the Yoruba Religion. Although we could apply this statement to multiple subjects in our religious surroundings, I propose that we take a look at what we can do to BE better godfathers and godmothers.
We live in an era of fast communications, of Internet sites, social networking, iPads, digital telephones and thousands of other technological marvels. The accelerated pace and commercialization of life, which are intrinsic characteristics of modern culture in the United States, has had a profound influence on the entry process of neophytes to Osha houses or ilés. Nowadays, those who wish to be part of the religious community can search for godfathers and godmothers online, go to a botánica or simply attend a few Orisha related events and then in mere days, weeks or perhaps a month later they already have Osha crowned. It seems as though everything has a price, every head seems to have a “path” towards the Yoruba priesthood.
It has been nearly 20 years since I started to walk on this path. However, for the sake of newcommers and of folks gathering wool and comparing notes about the subject, I will retrace some of my zig-zaggy steps into what is my main religious system.
At first, when one tries to explain a non-main stream religious system to an aleyo (a non practitioner or believer) there is always a fear factor that the ideas exposed will sound really off the wall. However, I am parting from the premise that if you are here, reading my words, there is a spark of interest that leads you to be open about the subject while I pour you the first Mystic Cup of personal Santería knowledge.