When I started to develop a relationship with my Eleguá at first I was very much buttoned up, then as time went by, I started to feel as though this mysterious orisha was pointing things out to me in subtle ways. Then I decide to just let go and listen, it is not like I became wildly experimental. Of course, as an aleyo I made sure to follow my godfather’s instructions to provide the basic service every Monday first thing in the morning.
However, there is a great deal of uncharted territory that aleyos must discover when it comes to managing their very first orisha, and having Eleguá is a trial by fire. I have not seen an aleyo yet that stays within set parameters of a traditional service and does not try to go overboard to please Eleguá. It is just part of the developmental process of that aleyo to learn to listen to its first set of orishas and to discover what is his or her own inspiration and what are clues placed out there by that particular Eleguá. It is also an important task to learn to differentiate between whimsical ideas and what is logical and reasonable. Aleyos are open to many influences as they are still trying to sort out spirit voices, inspiration from orishas and their internal voice.
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!
When I met my husband, I was not initiated in Santería. However, our passion for the religion became a common ground that helped us to further cement our relationship. But what happens when one of the partners in a relationship is an olosha and the other person is not a believer?
Dating is a natural process of discovery which in the case of people who do not share a same faith can become even more interesting and pose additional challenges and opportunities. Take for example the fact that not everyone has the verbal grace to explain a religious system where animal sacrifice is a fundamental need at one time or another. To that add the fact that there are no fixed Sunday services where your to invite your parents to share with your intended, and that at some time or another your date may need to dress in white and wear a bunch of beads around his or her neck making it impossible to stand inconspicuously in a crowd.
Shango’s prowess is depicted in many patakí not only related to female orisha but also related to his mouth. He is the mouth of fire, a gift given to him by Osaín. His voracity can be seen partly the representation of the inner mechanisms of a machinery that moves society to consume, proliferate and advance.
In war he is represented as the strategist that advances troops wisely and conquers. As the figure of the lover he is the driver of women’s passions and devotions. As a ruler he is highlighted for the applied fairness of his wisdom, and furthermost, he is the unstoppable force of a joy for life that is seen in his every action, from his dancing to his passion for food.
I have yet to meet an Oní Shangó in one way or another did not reflect one of these fundamental traits but mostly I have noticed that Shangó folks can certainly put down a good amount of food. Even if they are careful about the amounts they eat, they certainly do it with relish. We are not talking about gluttony, no; we are talking about a sheer enjoyment of what is being consumed. Since to me, cooking is an act of passion and love where one should give of oneself when cooking so each ingredient is highlighted, celebrated and transmuted from plain food into a feast for the soul, then what better way to honor Shangó than through food.
Cooking has always been one of my favorite activities. The scents, colors and flavors of a well run kitchen have a way of creating lasting memories or flooding our senses with the joys of days gone by.
One of my first memories of Yemayá comes from a dark night by the beach; I can recall the ocean breeze, the drums, and the flickering images of people dancing around a bonfire. Out of nowhere she came, a cloud of billowing blue skirts seemed to surround me for I was still a little girl and she seemed so tall to me. Yemayá looked down at me, our eyes locked and I felt as though nothing mattered but the darkness of her eyes and her smile. She then placed a piece of coconut candy in my wide opened mouth, for I was entranced by her and stood feet rooted on the sand. She said, “Eat, it is good for you omokekere emí.” She was gone as fast as she came surrounded by an entourage of people carrying a calabash of water and plates molasses and coconut candy, and I was left chewing on a very tasty piece of her favorite adimú adún (sweet offering).
She stole my heart right on the spot, so much I had not forgotten this memory in nearly 40 years.