In the dream, my first reaction at seeing this awó was one of anger. I could feel my blood boiling at the sight of his face; my mind was riling and baffled at the audacity he had to show at my doorstep after having—in my dream— tormented us for so long. Wars between initiates are never fun; they are like dueling with grenades. Thus, my first instinct was to simply kick this unwelcomed visitor out, to deny him entrance to my house, to the sacred space of my shrine to Yemayá. Then, years of conversations with my godfather Awó Iwori Oddí about ethics, potential of change and development of character kicked in. These concepts have become so ingrained in my every day pursuit of Iwá Pelé that they now are permeating even into the fabric of my dreams, or at the moment, nightmare.
I tell my husband to allow this man into the house; my stomach hurts at the sight of him proceeding to my orisha shrine. He comes in and kneels at the foot of Yemayá. He places an offering down on the ground and gets ready to start chanting his moyugba. Why have I let this wicked person into my shrine? Why am I allowing him to make amends with my orisha? It is clear to me that he is not coming here out of his own initiative. He has been sent out by his Ifá as part of an ebó to clear him of his past wrongdoing. He wants to be at peace with his own orí and thus he is here swallowing his own pride to do what is asked of him as a priest. This is not an easy moment for either. No words are exchanged.
I hand him a jícara with fresh water so he can start his prayers. Can someone who has tried to hurt my family be trusted? The instinct in me screams out, NO! However, there is a quiet place deep inside that urges me to allow the process to take place. The moyugba begins and the room feels strangely energized, slowly emotions are released. Anger, frustration, crossed words from the past; they all start to flood me. In their place, an eerie calm starts to take hold of the place. I can sense the awó relaxing as well; I can hear it in his voice. I can’t take my eyes off him. I stay there, standing still not wanting to leave the room and leave this man there alone with my orishas.
In my dream, many things are going through my mind. I am questioning my manners. I should offer this person a glass of water at least. The dream ended with me startled and I am left sitting on my bed with a million questions going through my mind.
Do we allow access to our shrines to anyone, particularly to someone who has or could have sent you a dreaded ‘brujería’? Are our temples to be open to anyone on the day of our anniversary, during a día del medio, a batá or wemilire? Do we allow access to someone who has wrong us to our orisha so they can make amends? These questions speak to the heart of the ethics of character development.
I learned with my godfather Iwori Oddí that people have potential of change. I suppose that when someone takes the step to make amends with the orisha they have attacked— for no doubt when a person attacks an olosha he or she attacks the orisha that protects that olosha— they go back to ask forgiveness and expose themselves to have the score balanced at the will of the orisha. Who is to say how the energy of the orisha is going to react. Ideally, we would like to think that the orisha is all forgiving but that literally would be transposing a Christian perspective onto the Orisha.
If we think about Ochosi for example, we know that this orisha has been highlighted in apatakis for balancing scores with impartiality, fall who what may. Ochosi’s arrows are notorious for hitting the mark. So can be the arrows we release when we seek to hurt a person out of spite using the orisha as weapon. Eventually the chickens come home to roost.
I leave you to ponder these questions, I am sure you will have your own set of answers based on your stage of character development and no doubt, on your own experiences. Do share.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá