In 1573, Thomas Tusser wrote the following:
A foole & his money,
be soone at debate:
which after with sorow,
repents him to late.
In today’s world of shysters, scammers and Internet merchants of religions—all religions—it is easier than ever to feed the entitlement mentality of ‘the right to initiation.’ In the case of African Traditional Religions, we are observing an influx of people who come to collect titles and then set shop as soon as they ‘feel’ they are elders. What a joke! Some of them have not even bothered to have a good understanding of the cultural background, the language or the history behind their intended target religion. Some others have only a superficial Internet relationship with their godparents –to-be, perhaps aided by some Skype or a few telephone conversations…
The bottom line here, it is up to elders to determine who is ready or not for initiation. The Orisha, Lwá, Npungos or whichever ruling force is behind the religion selected can say ‘yes’ to aspirants through readings, but without the hands of competent practitioners, there is no initiation. To be a competent practitioner one has to go beyond the knowledge of the craft, one has to learn to spot weak points in candidates, deficiencies that can be addressed and improved before initiation, study the dynamics of the candidate and other members of the house and have the time to get to know who is requesting initiation.
It is not disrespectful to a spiritual power to delay an initiation until a candidate is ready. Here is not a matter of ignoring divine forces, it is a matter preparing properly the head that ultimately will contain that force, and ultimately, have the license to continue the chain of perpetuating the religious tradition.
These are not wistful opinions, these are opinions based on observing fools that have been initiated and ruined their life. The initiations were done right, the practitioners were respectful elders, but the heads were not ready. This is due to the lack of a selective philosophy in our religions. It is an endemic problem in many houses to accept any person for initiation once the orisha, in the case of santería, gives its blessing without first using logic and analysis to determine if the person is ready or not.
I have observed that people who come in with issues that could have been addressed before initiation sometimes tend to exacerbate pre-existing character flaws. Bring a good head to an initiation, come out improved. Bring in someone with issues, and the risk is great to come out with a person with the same issues and a superiority complex to top it off.
Yes, yes, some will always raise the point that there is some ‘emergency’ to deal with, a life to save, that the initiation needs to be conducted due to health issues, and that an evil has to be avoided. List me the excuse, I guarantee you that I have heard them all. An initiation is not always the solution to the multiple life’s crisis that some santeros and initiates in other systems use to persuade neophytes to initiate. Most problems in life start with bad choices. Must we continue to pollute our ATRs by furthering bad choices and bringing in folks who come in with hidden agendas, gross misconceptions about further fusing their New-age practices with ours, and so on? NO.
No one is entitled to initiation. It is as simple as that.
If someone wants to be initiated, let the case be proven. Let the person commit to due diligence, to investing time in relationships with godparents-to-be, with future siblings, coming to open activities, learning the language if it is not their primary language, and proving they have the commitment to preserve the lineage in which they are to initiate.
However, there will continue to be shysters and fools. That is the way of the world. But there is no worse fool that those who still in the face of evidence blissfully continue their crooked path by the hand of shysters.
May Olodumare protect us all from the chaos of poorly made and raised ‘priests and priestesses’.
Oní Yemayá Achagbá