Today has been a day in which I have thought long and hard about the concept of fairness and equality. When I think of fairness, the image of Shangó comes to mind. A king must always be fair to its people, and orisha followers should strive to follow in his steps. When I pledged my life to service of the Orisha, 12 years ago this winter, fundamental changes took place inside of me. Whereas in the past I could observe an unfair situation and remain simply an observer, after Kariosha I can’t remain impassive when I see situations that involve blatant unfairness.
Life is a continuous act of balance, the mere act of breathing brings balance to our internal environment. The life of an Orisha initiate is an act of balance between coolness and hotness. We strive to remain with orí tutu (cool heads) and to avoid acts that heat up our orí. But sometimes heat is necessary to achieve balance. Heat makes us go into motion, coolness helps us to direct the actions and make them purposeful.
This brings us to our fourth misconception when entering a house of Orisha.
4. I will be treated fairly and equally.
There is no inherent equality in a system where there are spiritual hierarchies. Your godmother and godfathers are not your equals they are your spiritual superiors and that is the end of it. A new comer is expected to respect this. However, in order for fairness to prevail in the interaction between godparent\godchildren there has to exist a constant, a dynamic of respect fueled by communications.
Sadly, this is not a model upheld by all elders.
The same way there are favorites in the average family, there is favoritism in ilés (orisha houses). I have seen this play up in numerous ways. Preferences are shown from who gets lifted (recruited) to work on initiations, to which tasks are assigned at them, to the time people get to interact with their godparents. Most times all of these have elements of favoritism interwoven one way or another.
Once I had to sit down with a new comer to our ilé who complained of being treated unfairly because this person was not allowed to proceed through initiations with the speed she wanted. This person was rather upset because she saw others who came shortly after her arrival received the Elekes (necklaces) when she was made to wait. In her mind the immediate availability of funds to pay for the initiation and her intense desire to get them where the equivalents to an inalienable right: I want them therefore they must be mine.
There was reasoning behind making her wait. Her Diloggun readings to that point did not call for Elekes, they called for working on issues of character and negative behaviors, mainly promiscuity and the abuse of alcohol. Those were truly the hindrances the Orisha was pointing out as areas of trouble to be corrected.
Why would a godparent-to-be care about promiscuity? When a person is too free with their bodies, this brings the dreaded word OSOGO (misfortunes). Anyone can see the logic behind this. A woman, who is willing to bed married men, will eventually create trouble for herself in more ways than one. Say the wife finds out and she decides to get someone to put a ‘working’ on the god-child-to-be. Who has to ultimately deal with that working? The future godparent! Cleaning after someone’s careless mistakes is not my idea of proper use of spiritual energy, time and talents. I would much rather invest my time in nurturing people who are willing to live productively and who appreciate the time and spiritual energy put in them.
Did she eventually wise up and amend her behavior? Yes she did. Did she get the Elekes in our house? No she did not. Ultimately that is up to the Orisha to decide as the new comer must petition to enter the house. If the Orisha in question refuses, the new comer must look for another godparent. Was she upset about this? She was disappointed but she was happy to have had the guidance she needed to surpass obstacles in her life. Ultimately we pointed her out to another olosha whose Orisha accepted her. Each person must seek the right fit in the house selected, and the same goes for the godparents with the people they represent.
I have seen oloshas accept godchildren left and right without bothering to even ask their tutelary Orisha. Even if the olosha has ‘a license’ given by the Orisha to accept whomever comes his or her way, is this fair to the new comers? I don’t consider it fair or wise. Each person brings individual challenges and character issues that may result in conflicts with the godparent or with other members of the house. Careful examination of new comers results in more balanced and productive ilés.
Granted, the Orisha’s approval does not mean the new comer will be a perfect fit. It may only mean the person belongs to the house with his or her lot, but this lot will be one that the godparent and house brothers and sisters will be able to deal with proper guidance, patience and nurturing.
There are many other examples of unfair and unequal practices; however, most of them can be resolved with tact and communication, except in cases as those explained in the prior post.
In the next article I will tackle a lovely issue: The entitlement mentality.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá