Recently, Willie Ramos (Ilari Oba), one of my most admired oriatés sent me an article from Modern Ghana. The article spoke about the preponderance of foreign religions in Africa and its impact on tribal and native religions. The author, Farouk Martins Aresa, also pointed wisely that the Santería community had managed to become a storehouse of faith and resilience that apparently seems to be lacking in today’s Africa in the face of growing Christian and Muslim spiritual domination. This is due to the fact that the people who came through the Middle Passage fought tooth and nail to preserve their religions. They were ingenious, tenacious and indomitable in their convictions.
Thanks to our ancestors, we have the jewels of practices like the Lukumí, Kimbisa, Umbanda, Macumba, Voodoo, and many other African Traditional Traditions (ATRs) in the Diaspora. I am including a link to the article at the bottom of the post, because I want you to read it and make up your own mind about this subject. However, here are two key paragraphs to whet your appetite.
“Out of all the continents, only Africa has predominantly accepted religions that are not indigenous to Africans as the rule of worship while Christian, Muslim, Indus, Jew and Buddhism remain the principal religion of their areas. The only exception is the Africans Santeria in Diaspora. This is very important in the analysis of human behavior that calls for adherence to our culture only in the face of adversity. The same is true about African food outside Africa. Do all Africans have to be deprived to appreciate our God given blessings?
Just for the sake of those unfamiliar with Santeria. These are Africans free men and women before Columbus and slaves after Columbus that still refuse to allow their religion to die. Even in the face of punishment to adopt the religion of other continents, these Africans used symbols of Christianity to deceive their captors while actually praying to Sango, Oya, Oduduwa, Ogun or Orisha. When the Africans at home and those in Diaspora meet, we can guess who are more surprised at which religion the others are practicing.”—Religions of Mass Destruction by Farouk Martins Aresa
I am a child of two opposing forces, Yemayá, the ocean, and, Aganjú, the volcano. Why does that matter? It is through the violent encounter of such magnificent forces that rich land is created. This balance of powers also creates some of the most wonderful and mysterious creatures inhabiting deep down in the realm of Olokun.
It is a fact that evolution and creation are two of Olofi’s favorite entertainments, but it is also a fact that it is through our diligence as practitioners that balances are kept and religions sustained. If we turn our backs onto tradition, time will wash over our systems and eventually even the greatness of the Creator as we understand it in the Lukumí practice will be but dust in our memories.
Times of challenges never ease for those of us who value tradition. This brings me to a second point. Whereas in Africa foreign dominant religions keep eroding ATRs, in the rest of the world a similar trend is taking place, it is spearheaded by people who are starving for religious practices such as ours because their own are denuded of the passion and conviction our systems posses. I am plainly speaking about members of other religions and beliefs systems that are opening their eyes at one reality: Their religions as currently practiced are empty shells where all the power is poured onto selected few individuals or kept in elitist intellectual groups leaving the masses hungry for true spirituality.
It is not a bad thing to have an influx of new believers in ATRs, the issue we face is that a great deal of these believers come with strings attached. They see themselves as superior and would wish to fuse their concepts to fit our religions to their view of the world. They would like to infuse their own magical practices, from whichever walk they come, with the heart of our Orishas, Lwá and Nkisis in a sickening white-washed goulash of their own concepts that only serve their own interests. Some of the arguments I have heard leave me in complete disgust. I am well aware that our practices have elements of syncretism, but this syncretism was a natural part of a process of survival.
Nowadays, we need not to worry about surviving from the oppression of slave traders and masters. We need to worry about the oppression of people who perceive themselves as intellectual superiors ready to harness the power of our traditional religions. That is the true danger of this encounter between lava and ocean. This is not a matter of natural evolution; this is a matter of intellectual revolution.
Read these words carefully. Those of you who are oloshas, oluwos, mambos, houngans, maes and paes who cherish what you have been handed to protect as a legacy of blood, sweat and tears. Be careful of those who seduce you with cash to sell a way into your ilés, munansós, terreiros and peristils. Do not be glamour by seductive words promising hoards of godchildren and to make your name shine and glitter across the world when your practices are published in their books and journals. Open your eyes to one simple fact, it is not about what they can contribute to our future as religious communities, for these people is all about what they can and will take from you for their own glory here and now.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá
Source: Farouk Martins Aresa
Story from Modern Ghana News: