Sometimes life brings to us the most unexpected and delightful challenges. This time I got one of those knocking at my door thanks to http://blog.themysticcup.com where Ronnie Kantorik found me while doing a search on line on Afro-Caribbean spirituality. I do meet a lot of people through the blog, but something about his emails got my attention. There was an inherent sensibility and honest curiosity about Hoodoo, Santeria and Spiritism that I found quite refreshing and endearing, particularly coming from someone with very little background on any other of my chosen spiritual and magical paths.
So it is that Ronnie and I started to exchange emails and soon he shared that he was starting his career in acting. Acting is a difficult and demanding professional path, one that I do not profess to fully understand but that I am somewhat familiar from my times as news anchor. Well, TV and Hollywood are not the same thing, but they are at least good cousins. In any case, Ronnie had come to an opportunity recently that landed him some very good recommendations due to his earnest work on set as a stand-in actor for the movie Lawless (just about to be released this month). Professionalism, punctuality and an intense hunger to learn and better himself as a professional fuels this gentleman of strong vivacious character, bright hazel eyes and mischievous sweet grin.
I am not sure if you are aware that Georgia is becoming the darling of Hollywood as many movies and television series are being shot here, partly because of the huge incentives being offered to studios and producers such as huge tax breaks and availability of talented actors and ready to shoot crews. One of them, a favorite of mine, is AMC’s series The Walking Dead. Other recent movies that come to mind and were shot in Georgia are What to Expect when you are Expecting, Joyful Noise, and Flight starring Denzel Washington (to be released in November). In any case, Ronnie shared with me a bit of good news; he was going to a casting call for a film to be shot literally in his own hometown, Rome, GA. Excitement, passion and conviction were on his side. However, I suggested an additional step in preparing for this audition: Building a Mojo Bag.
The only kind of love that hurts is the one that is left unexpressed, unsaid, unlived. This week a dear friend died, Mark Moellendorf also known as Aboudja Bo Houngan Asodwe kidi Rakonte DaGuinea La Menf’o. I wish I would have had more time with him, but life is not always as we want or wished for. So we are left holding on to the hope there will be a tomorrow to share which in this case is not a possibility. The only tomorrow we have now is the intersections that may or not open between the world of the spirits and the living.
I first met Mark in Austin, Texas 18 years ago. We met through Karelina Hartwell (ibae baye n’tonu, my sister in Osha also known as Osha Lobi). I got along with Mark right away; he was a fascinating character, vibrant, unique and had a wicked sense of humor. However, what most impressed me then, and it still does to the day he died, was his deep love for the Lwa.
There are many stories I could tell from Mark and his interaction with spirits and Lwa, but I will tell two that stand out from all. It was a cool evening in the Hill Country in Texas where we gathered at Dripping Springs for CMA, a camping festival held around Samhain. Mark had arranged to have a Servi Lwa in public and we were busy about helping him and Karelina to set up. It was fun, colorful and so very well organized. Towards the middle of it, Mark got mounted and he was gone in a flash. His body was taken by what believe was Lwa Ti-jean Petro. The impressive thing that I remember is that during possession he approached a bonfire and pulled a piece of red hot wood and started to chew up on it as it was candy. I could not believe my eyes; I could see the pieces of ember being chewed up and no blisters, no burns, not even the sound of flesh being charred away as it should have been. This Lwa was relishing every bit of it. Then he stuck his arms on the fire and pulled them out like two torches, I had to contain myself as my instinct was to run for the hills and get a fire extinguisher to put him out. But of course that was my logical mind speaking. I did none of that, I just watched mesmerized and learned about the mysteries of the Lwa and their power over our bodies.
Mark also consumed a great deal of rum spiced with very hot peppers…I was wondering how drunk he would be after that trance, but to my surprise he was fully coherent after it and was chatting away enthusiastically with me as he prepared a mean pot of gumbo over a coal fire. I distracted him with a silly joke and he touched a hot coal by accident and stepped back screaming some choice words and laughing at the same time. Yes, this was the same guy who had not even a half hour before chewed up on hot coals and who drank like a fish all that hot spicy rum. He was now holding a rag over his fingers and checking out his burn.
There was a time where I considered taking Mark as my godparent and initiating in Voodoo, but the Orisha was my true calling and he knew this better than anyone from the start. So my devotions to the Lwa were limited to attendance to some festivities, most of them held by Mark and Karelina. One of them stands out in my mind because it had a funny moment to it.
We had gathered at Karelina’s place in Austin and were celebrating a fete for Dambalah. The set up was really nice and he had just finished doing the veves on the floor when the police showed up, no doubt ‘invited’ by the neighbors who saw all those ‘strange’ people dressed in white and decided we were up to no good.
The police officer was Hispanic and walked in sort of unceremoniously onto ritual space. Upon realizing that he was standing over the veve Dambalah, he jumped back one step with a horrified expression on his face, the color had drained from his tanned face and he was making the sign of the cross over and over. Poor guy, he thought he was going to be cursed or die or something horrid.
Mark assured him that no harm had been done and he would be just fine. However, the neighbors where not going to have the same luck because Mark was very pissed. When the cops left for good, Mark diligently set up to do a little working to let’s say “reward” the nosy neighbors.
Over the years that followed, life took us on different directions. I got initiated in Osha, he got deeper into Voodoo and he was happy about it. We stayed in touch but never really had the opportunity to share again like we did back in the days where we both lived in Texas. Karelina who was a nexus between us passed away and we were both again joined, this time in grief.
Loosing friends is never easy. However, knowing they have gone to live with the ancestors and that they somehow watch over us from the other side makes matters a bit more tolerable.
Wherever you are old friend, I hope you are happier. Wherever you are, devoted priest, I hope you are blessed. You will always find a place at my home, particularly now that you can visit at will, no airplane fares, no bus routes, just drop in and enjoy the candles and water at will.
Overall, I try to walk a pretty straight line when it comes to doing workings. I try to use momentum to aid my workings, to research carefully the ingredients and to outline a clean and organized path of action before I put the work in motion. Within all of these preparation steps I balance out the negative and positive impacts that my actions will unravel. In general, I try to do the least negative workings possible and to use the grace I have been given for good.
However, sometimes there are folks that cross me not once or twice but repeatedly. In those cases, far and few in between, I have no issues setting the balance back to zero…just because I can.
So here is a little something from the arsenal of simple and nasty little workings that I am willing to share, for the greater good of course. I hope you have a cool head to carefully evaluate if you really need to use it…or not. It is all in your hands.
This is a rather simple working to do. All you need is to place all ingredients together in a mortar and pestle and grind them to fine powder. As you add each of the ingredients, visualize discordia emerging like a fog and filling out the space where you will lay this powder on. If it is a house, then imagine the area filled with disgust, discomfort and in general, visualize lack of peace and a strong desire to argue.
If you intend to use this say in an office environment, visualize people grumpy, short tempered and unfriendly finding reasons to argue for just any little thing.
Please do be careful NOT to drop any of this powder in your own home. If you are going to use it in your place of work, know that you will not be exempt from its impact, thus, use your logic. Do you really want to lay this trick on your own place of work? I think not.
Good luck on creating havoc. Remember, just because you can, it not always mean you should, but I leave to each of you the ethics of creating discord.
Love is a child of Chaos. Its energies once released are impossible to gather back. Everything touched by love is unequivocally changed forever. Some people think that love needs sometimes a little bit of help. I would differ; it is love the force that helps us along the way. However, there is nothing wrong with enhancing time spent with a beloved one and with sharing cleanliness of body, mind and spirit.
Here is a bath that is meant to be shared with a special someone.
1 blood orange sliced
1 stick of cinnamon grated (yes freshly grated)
1 pomegranate (just the seeds)
5 cardamom pods (just the seeds)
5 drops of clove oil or 5 cloves crushed to powder
2 teaspoons of honey
1 red candle
Slice the orange, place it in a deep container, then grate the cinnamon over the orange slices, add the pomegranate seeds, cut open the cardamom pods and extract the seeds, mince them with a knife or crush them then add them to the container, add the rest of the ingredients and pour 5 cups of warm water over the ingredients.
Since this is a bath for lover, one thing you could do is to pour each other’s energies and intentions onto this bath by holding hands over it and speaking at loud your intentions or petition.
The slices of oranges are meant to be used in the bath as scrubbers. Light the candle once you are done speaking your mind while holding hands over the container with the ingredients.
At one point or another most people that get a reading with a Spiritist and for that matter with a Santero, Palero, Mambo, Houngan, or any other African Traditional Religion practitioner, will be told that there is a spirit that walks with them, or that protects them, or that is creating trouble for them. Why? Face it, we are material beings driven by spirit. We are Spirits in a Material World, yes Sting is right and he can put the right tune to it.
In any case, testing the validity of spirits is a complex process that cannot be achieved overnight. There are a series of qualifying elements that are necessary to be proven in order to categorize the spirit. You want to work with a spirit that is beneficial and advanced enough in its evolution as to provide good advice and be a good partner. Here is the list of elements to be considered:
2. Origin and history
4. Nexus to the person
5. Evolutionary needs
6. Preferred means of communications
7. Validity and quality of information presented
Now, how to we go about applying this list? Research is the key element. You will need to have not one but several experienced spiritists to assist you as the spirit must be tested in various ways. Usually spirits manifest first on séances, readings and sometimes for gifted people, they simply show up or allow themselves to be heard or felt.
Interest in spirits, ghosts, Spiritism and spiritualism has been on the upswing the past decade or so. There has been a torrent of books, films, websites all about these subjects. But, we need to pause and ask ourselves if trafficking with spirits is always a safe and beneficial practice.
There is a tendency these days to assume that spirits (with a little work) are eager to help us and that contact with them is a necessary and beneficial process. For example, I have seen many instances where an individual visits a spiritist, santero or palero. The individual is told they have a “spirit close to them” such as a gypsy. The person is instructed to pay attention to the spirit, giving it prayers, candles, coffee, etc. But what no one may realize, is that yes, the spirit is indeed close to the person, but that it is not a good thing the person is giving attention to the spirit.
In the instance of the gypsy spirit, she in life may have had a difficult upbringing that pushed her to be conniving and rather resourceful in obtaining goods or thieving. By working with that spirit, one is strengthening it. The person is giving it energy to be able to intervene in this world, and to influence thoughts and behavior. Soon the person is experiencing problems in his or her life. The person may even start to exhibit behaviors the spirit was partial too in life. The spirit may even drag down and ruin the person’s life.
Before I ever considered getting seriously involved in Santeria, I had already started to have the need to ‘see into the future.’ When I was in my teenage years I came across a book on Dowsing and Pendulums. I was fascinated by the fact that people could use very simple tools to find water, find lost items and in general, to answer questions in a rather simple yes or no format. So I read the book eagerly, and, since it came with a basic pendulum I started to use it to answer simple questions.
What is a pendulum? A pendulum is simply a small weighted object hanging from a string, chain or wire. The object may or may not have significance to you. It could be a perforated stone or a nut or bolt you find on the sidewalk. It could be a diamond ring passed down to you as an heirloom, or it can be store bought.
Ideally a pendulum should be a small object of about 1 inch in diameter with a string attached to it. The string should be about 12 inches long and although it should be thin, it also needs to be strong.
There are things that are revealed to orisha initiates as they go along in their life’s journey. Tradition has it that libretas (notebooks) would be the resting places of those discoveries. Those libretas would be guarded with great zeal and only passed along as a treasure chest of knowledge to one or few selected initiates in the ilé (Orisha household). However, some orisha initiates take their secrets to their grave.
I may not have very many pieces of information to share, nor many years yet to have accumulated a significant treasure chest of data, but I am about to share one which I sincerely hope can ease the pain of many who have loved and lost a loved one for whichever reason. Sometimes life deals us tough hands, but Olofi has mercy and also gives us the means to ease pain.
This is not the panacea for all love inflicted heartaches, but I have indeed seen it work like a charm twice in the last 20 years. I call this petition to Olokun, The Oubliette of Emotions.
The term oubliette originates from the Latin oblivisci to forget or oblivion. An oubliette is a construction in a dungeon where there is only one opening from the top. Does that sound familiar? Traditionally an Olokun is housed in a ginger jar or a tall Chinese style jar with an opening at the top. That was my first hint of inspiration to put together this petition, but more inspiration came from a trip to France, exactly to Mont Saint Michel in the Normandy coast.
Oggun is simplicity and he is also splendor. He is splendid in his love for his omó, in his strong and handsome disposition and in the way in which he devours life with great passion. Oggún is the simple pleasure of a hard day of work, of a task well done. Oggún is in the sweat rolling off the hot arms that forge humanity’s character.
Seven years ago my son had the blessing of becoming for life a member of the household of Yeguedé José Merced and his oyugbonakan Omíkuya, Modesto Martínez. His godfather worked tirelessly to ensure that every aspect of Oggún Addá Araí’s yoko osha was done by the book. I ran the kitchen, made the clothes for the iyawó and lots of brothers and sisters participated in the ceremony. Ventura Santana did a wonderful job with the pretty gourds painted as gifts for participants in the ceremony and we had really a wonderful time bringing Oggún into my son’s life. Every bit of work was worth it.
Today, I have left Oggún Addá Araí and his papa Elefunké do the shopping. Normally I do it, but this time around, the guys took over. They have been most of the afternoon running around markets brandishing their long list of fruits, candles and other things for tomorrow’s family feast. Traditionally we would do a huge to do about this day, but this year, since we are newly arrived to a new state and have yet to connect with the local Orisha community we have decided to keep it a family affair.