While attending a wemilere recently, I was chatting with an iyawó that was all pumped up about having been singled to be an oyugbonakán as soon as the year in white was over. I tried to keep my opinions to myself while listening to the ego trip of this new initiate go in overdrive as he yakked on and on about how great a job he could do. When I asked some basic questions to find out the level of knowlege obtained by the iyawó on his nearly finished year, I realized he did not even know his moyugba yet, not to mention his ancestry. So the conversation went on with me mainly listening while wondering, what is wrong with this person’s godparents? Why has he not learned this basic stuff? Where in the world is his oyugbonakán and what role has she this person taken to educate this clueless iyawó?
And there I am trying to chill the Aganjú explosiveness in me while hearing a question pounding on my temples… what is wrong with some of our religious leaders? Why are we not allowing new initiates to mature in knowledge and practice before us trusting them with the development of others? Yes, I know, some will argue that they have seen iyawós crowning others even during their year. Yes, there is precedent of that, but I argue that only people with extraordinary capacity and extremely responsible elders to support them should assume such risks. For handling someone else’s religious life is not without peril during and after Kariosha.
It all boils down to maturity and understanding of the role of the oyugbonakán.
First let us look at the meaning of the word. Functionally it means nursemaid, but the oyugbonakán it is much more than a person to bear the brunt of the demanding work inside and outside of an igbodu.
Firstly, the oyugbonakán must have a relationship as deep with the neophyte as the one that hopefully has been established between the neophyte and the main godparent. Why do we need a relationship of trust and of mutual respect and admiration? The reason is because the oyugbonakán is in charge of the upbringing of the iyawó and serving as support in years to come under the guidance of the godparent.
In some houses the oyugbonakán is imposed on the neophyte by the main godparent. I disagree with them 100%. No one should have an elder imposed on them. Sometimes this is done because the godparent wants to make an allegiance with another house, or to honor someone of respect or simply because it is time to train someone…and the opportunity arises. There could be endless reasons, but there is none at all to justify imposing an elder on anyone.
Iyawós-to-be, wake up!! Select with your eyes open and knowing that an oyugbonakán is not a disposable item in your spiritual life. Study the person, make sure there is solid knowledge to help you grow and that the person indeed is a good teacher, someone you can count on when you need it.
Speaking about the selection of the oyugbonakán, it is important to consider carefully the stability of a marriage when selecting the spouse of your main godparent as oyugbonakán. We all know that spouses share most things. What if you are upset at either of them? Will you feel free to trust your issues to one of them and know the person will not side with his/her spouse? What happens if your godparents get separated? While some may argue that husband and wife team communicate better…and they are naturally equipped to be mother and father, I say, consider your options carefully. If they move away from the city where you live, you lose both in proximity at once. Consider your reasons carefully and only commit once you are reasonably certain of your choice.
Perhaps one of the best ways to make this choice is to fully understand all the aspects of the life of an iyawó in which the oyugbonakán has an impact…stick around, the second part is coming.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá