Santería Devotees, Eternal Children?

A Nice Place for Contemplation by Yemayá's Cool Waters
Today, as my mother, who has barely come out of her iyawó year and prepares to become a godmother doing kariosha to her first goddaughter, I woke up thinking about her, about my own godfather and all the turns of events which lead me into my religious path, nearly 15 years ago.

Why must we struggle so in our ilés? Why must we have chains of dominance and control? Why must we amass people like they are collection items and then, relegate them as soon as new person comes into the ilé? Why must we deny ourselves the grace of self-assurance and collaboration between godparent and godchild? These are questions I like to consider. Particularly when relationships are at their best, it is wise to ask the difficult questions as communications are open between godparent and godchild, rather than later on, when struggles emerge and ears are shut tight to reason.

Let me start by setting some perspectives:

Godparents: Do not yearn to keep your godchildren obedient and subservient for life. Provide them proper and diligent guidance- as you would do with a child of your own loins -then, give them the world to explore and discover armed by the solidity of religious conviction and knowledge.

Godchildren: Realize that your role is not one of subservience but of voluntary apprenticeship. Allow yourself the benefit of learning first who your godparent is. Make sure this person is the expert you want to apprentice with and that there is depth of knowledge and willingness to share.

To both: Communicate, communicate, communicate. Do not hoard painful words, situations and experiences. If something bothers you, speak your mind on the spot whenever possible. It is highly unfair to carry on with resentments if addressing matters at the right time or as immediate as possible can be key to save energies and heal wounds. Learn to assess and address situations and then move on.

Let me tell you a bit about my own relationship with my godparents. My kariosha godfather is not a avid communicator, as a matter of fact not speaking in time has been the death of many of his relationships with godchildren, mine included. On the other hand, I do understand he is a man of deep emotions and loyalties and has a horrid time letting lettign down the macho façade that plagues Latinos to open up and express what is in his mind and soul. No matter the turn of events, I am born from his orisha and I am forever thankful to him, wherever he may be. I harbor no ill feelings; I just wish I could tell him in person and not have to blog it. But what to do when folks move on, when they do not leave a phone number behind and don’t care to make an effort to communicate? There is only one thing to do. Pray for their wellbeing and stability.

Had I stayed under his wing, I would have been an eternal child. What is that? It is the control that some godparents exert where no matter how much you grow, learn, flourish and strive to become an adept in the service of the orisha, you are still kept a step under, seen as a young one and always having to cow tow to the big chief. This religion should not be about dominance. There should be no queen mothers, no kings to loom over imaginary towns. It should be a place of nourishment and equality. A place where we honor those who have come before us and respect them because they first have shown the world they are honored to have us as apprentices, for who can call themselves a master without having students?

This is what I have learned from my adoptive godparents, Yegedé and Iwori Oddí . Speak out what you feel, do not hoard emotions, allow yourself the benefit of their counsel and act according to high ethical standards.

However, this blog today is not just about my relationship with past and current elders. I would like you to consider the state of affairs in your own ilé. How do you feel about your chances of growth there? Are you being allowed to learn by stages? Are you presented with opportunities to develop gradually or are you thrown in the deep end under the guise of learning by doing? Is the method of learning to your satisfaction? Are you progressing or are you stagnated? Do you feel valued and respected? Do you respect and value the advice of your godparents? Do you have expectations that are not being met? Do you feel as though at some time you will be considered a partner and a godchild and not always an eternal child?

There are more questions than answers here, because the answers are yours to find. May you have the strength of character to look deeply into these and other issues and come out the better. Stronger individuals and deep thinkers make for stronger ilés.

Oní Yemayá Achagbá

6 Replies to “Santería Devotees, Eternal Children?”

  1. I am able to relate to this post, as I am one of those eternal children. My godfather holds on tightly to his godchildren, and complains if they show any inclination to cut loose from him. Although I am 6 years old, what I know is still very little. I have learned more from you than I have from my godfather. My main reason for remaining with my godfather is I have yet to find another house that I trust. Miami may have many reputable iles, however finding them is not an easy process, so I stay for now until Yemaya leads me else where I am at.

    1. William,

      Good or bad, you will always belong to your babá. I miss mine dearly, no matter the distance and the things we did not agreed upon, the spiritual conection is undeniable. I am blessed to have the protection of Oyá and to have found a mentor, confidant and godparent in Yegedé, my adoptive godfather.

      Don’t be so eager to leave, instead, may I suggest…open a path to communication. Speak from your heart and perhaps matters will start to change for the better. If you feel you are not learning, make a list of what you want to know from him and schedule formal time to learn. Remind your godfather of his duties by doing your part and seeking his counsel and training.

      Thank you for the kindness of your words. Sharing knowledge is but a way to perpetuate tradition and to contribute back to the community. I feel it is what Yemayá place me on this earth to accomplish.


  2. My understanding of Lukumi culture is from an outsiders perspective at best, but from that perspective, i can see an advantage to its more rigid structure. If Lukumi is built around the Oddu and their corresponding pataki, then it has a clean and clear method of education built into it. By following the principles in the Oddu, the knowledge, wisdom, structure, and order can be taught in a gradual and step by step fashion that could very well remove the need for mindless obedience and replace it with familial respect. Respect is heavier than domination. The development of a deep understanding replaces the type of obedience most people try to exert over others, and which people willingly submit. Not knowing better should never have to be an excuse – only an opportunity.

    A king is always given respect, but when the king becomes a tyrant, his people gain the courage to drag him through the streets…

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