Coming into a religious group can be easy, leaving can sometimes be more difficult than just walking out on those people you have met and whom you perhaps saw as a family. Perhaps, it is not so much that you are leaving personal relationships behind you, if you ever decide to terminate a relationship in an African Traditional Religions (ATRs); it is more a matter of those spiritual connections you would also attempt to sever.
Too much too soon
One of the reasons why people leave Santería and other ATRs like Voodoo or Palo is perhaps because they come in with such passion and they want to have it and learn it all at once. That is a recipe for disillusion and disaster.
Tom Savage (this is a pseudonym to preserve his family’s privacy) was a most beloved friend and one of the best astrologers I have ever met. Tom was also Kal’s godson; he died of heart problems nearly five years ago at the age of 48. He came to the Orishas nearly two decades ago when we both still were affiliated to our ilé in San Antonio. Upon meeting our godfather Tom decided he wanted to receive the elekes, warriors and Olokun, as it had come up in a reading. I remember warning him about taking things one step at a time and spacing out initiations to allow the energies of each step to settle, but he had lots of money and an impatient heart. A few months after he got this triple initiation, his life was not doing great. I remember I went to visit him and I felt this nagging feeling to go and check on his Eleguá. I nearly fainted when I discovered that “Mr. Personality” as I like to call all Eleguás was surrounded by stale cakes, mountains of candies and was covered in ants, cockroaches and other unsavory creatures.
You see, Tom had some basic instructions given to him on how to handle the Warriors, but he never actually got a visit from our godfather to check up on his progress or to do the Entrance Ceremony for the Warriors. The results, mismanagement of a precious spiritual resource and a setting off a poor start in the relationship with Eleguá which should be the foundation of an aleyo’s life (lesser Santería initiate).
To make the story short, he cleaned up Eleguá, serviced his Warriors properly under my guidance and I recommended he spoke to godfather immediately. I knew this was not going to happen, thus I also informed our godfather. I was told to leave him be to learn his lesson. I did not agree with what I had been told but followed instructions. A month later Tom brought his elekes, Warriors and Olokun back to our godfather. I warned him against the dangers of abandoning his Eleguá, but he did not pay any attention. Within days, Tom had a near fatal car accident on a crossroads, he had no idea he was diabetic and after binding on sugar he fainted while driving. Was it a coincidence? I don’t believe in them.
Tom came to us years later, his health was very poor. Opira (Odú where no shells come up speaking on behalf of the person, this is the most inauspicious odú) came down on the reading and he was sent to a babalawos for a reading. Part of his ebbó was to receive again that which he had abandoned. This time, he was to proceed step by step and watch his heart and eating habits carefully, go to a doctor right away and follow other advice. The babalawo did a Paraldo and other ceremonies to shore off his health and Kal and my adoptive godfather gave him the elekes sometime after. His life started to improve. However, he did not pay attention to his health as he should have. He died of heart complications months later. Had he been subsequent from the start and not get too many initiations too soon, perhaps his life would have been prolonged as the readings did give him the steps to care for his health.
His was a very painful example of how NOT to leave the Orishas behind. But he was also an example of renewed devotion and potential of chance, as I remember how happy he was when he got the elekes for the second time around. It is not enough to get initiations; we must heed warnings and learn to live with the advice given.
Leaving a godparent
Both Kal and I are sticklers for protocol. He was about to make Kariosha when he discovered that his Oyugbonakán to be was trashing him with vicious gossips which also included our son, a child of only 4 years of age at the time. Kal had heard in the past that his Oyugbona had a tendency for spreading rumors but he liked her and respected her skills as a spiritist. Therefore, he was deeply hurt to see this unbecoming behavior and consulted his godfather about what to do. Kal was instructed to prepare a grand offering to Oshún, the guardian angel of this lady who I will call Matilda, and to make an appointment to visit her shrine, bring the offering to Oshun and explain in front of the orisha his reasons for selecting another Oyugbona. When trust is bridged, it is best not to pursuit a relationship so crucial any further.
Matilda was enraged and refused to listen to him. Instead she took the huge basket with the offerings for Oshún and shoved them onto Kal’s chest nearly making him fall over. She said he had offended her and thus Oshún, as if they were one and the same. Kal, being a gentleman, said nothing further to her, briefly prayed to Oshún and took his offering with him to be placed at Ilé Ibú (the river).
Her slanders continued but this time openly. She also started a war doing all sort of nasty workings against Kal and my family. We took the high road with her and simply allowed the Orishas to sort matters out. Kal’s new Oyugbona did a wonderful job at his Kariosha and shortly after, our son did Kariosha to Ogún. Engaging in a war with Matilda would have been unbecoming and honestly, sort of like dueling with grenades. If you are ever in a situation where you do all things by the book, and yet you are attacked, do not feel justified to attack back. Stick to ethical behavior and your life will move on with the blessings of the orishas.
Going back to Christianity
This is another common reason why people leave an ATR, they simply can’t handle animal sacrifice, guilt conditioning from prior religious affiliations or simply, because they dabbled on a path not meant for them.
It is fine to change the course of our spiritual path, what is not fine is to trash an ATR as devil worship simply because a person happened to return to Christianity. Our words are a reflection of our inner world and a Christian person should not allow her/himself to fall into slander, it is most unbecoming to talk about “God is Love” and thrash thy neighbor in the process.
Leaving abusive relationships
There is a fool born every minute and a shyster willing to take advantage of them. However, always remember that a person may be leaving an abusive relationship behind when breaking with a bad godparent who treats godchildren as a business, but…the orishas are above that. It is imperative not to throw the baby with the bath water, the Orisha will develop attachments to people and if abandoned they could create all sort of interesting circumstances to be noticed once again.
If you decide to leave an abusive godparent, do it properly. Talk to the orisha of that godparent, pay your respects and ensure the orisha you are not abandoning your belief, simply severing a tie with an unfit person.
There is much more to be said, but when leaving an ATR common sense dictates to stick to etiquette, simplicity and a clean break. I do hope you never have to learn any of these lessons in the flesh.
Thank you for having read the series and feel free to send me any questions you have below or in private at email@example.com
May Yemayá always guide your steps.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá